A question that often pops up in the VA Help Desk Facebook Group from new VAs is “do I really need insurance as a Virtual Assistant?”
The short answer is yes. In this guest blog PolicyBee gives examples of why business insurance is vital for your VA business.
A tale of two VAs
Today, we’d like to scotch a rumour you might’ve heard whispered in the deepest, darkest corners of online VA forums:
“Virtual assistants don’t need business insurance. Claims are rare and chances are you won’t ever need to use it.”
That’s not our experience, though. We get phone calls from customers every day – including VAs – who’ve hit a roadblock with their client and need help from their insurer.
So, we thought it might be useful to share some of our own real-life claims with you, sparing none of the gory details. The allegations, the costs and what it took to rectify them.
Besides, who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned tale of triumph and endurance?
The VA and the less-than-tasty typo
A VA transcriptionist found out how the tiniest typo can result in allegations that are hard to stomach.
Her client, a university academic, wanted some of his lectures typed up into a pamphlet on the health benefits of probiotic foods. He was scheduled to speak at a string of conferences that summer and wanted them for the events.
The VA’s brief was simple: two weeks to transcribe the lectures, proofread them, copy and paste into a template and send to the printer.
The VA made the deadline and invoiced the prof for the work, with a 20% cut for her proofreading associate.
Some weeks later, the client called up annoyed. He’d spotted a typo: the VA had inserted ‘macrobiology’ instead of ‘microbiology’ throughout the text. Considering the academic’s specialism was in gut health (and not, eg, mosquitoes), that single misplaced ‘a’ was a bit of a clanger.
By then, 1,200 pamphlets had rolled off the press. The university wanted the VA to reimburse them for all of them. They also refused to pay her invoice, as her work hadn’t met the brief.
This caused the red-faced VA a heap of problems. Not only would she have to fork out £1,824 for printing costs, she’d have to pay her associate from her own pocket (£150) and lose two weeks’ income (£1,000). Making her £2,974 lighter that month.
Wisely, she picked up the phone to her broker (that’s us, by the way). After a quick run-through of the dos and don’ts, we talked it over with her insurer who concluded that the missed typo was at least partly her fault. Her associate couldn’t be blamed either; the university’s contract was with the VA and she’d signed off her work.
The good news though was that the VA’s policy would cover the costs of a reprint, which would be much cheaper and easier than fighting a negligence claim in court.
The VA’s professional indemnity insurance didn’t cover the outstanding invoice, though. However, once the university was satisfied they’d get their reprint covered, they recognised the VA’s efforts and paid her anyway, which meant her associate got paid too. Everyone walked away happy.
The VA and the leaked sales report
An up-and-coming fashion retailer was getting lots of ad space in glossy magazines, keeping it nice and busy with orders. That meant having less time to deal with the associated admin.
It outsourced the admin to a VA, whose job was to compile and send weekly sales and marketing reports.
Unfortunately, a busy morning fielding phone calls and a mix-up with two (very similar) email addresses meant one such report was sent to a competing retailer by mistake.
Lots of confidential sales data was seen by lots of the wrong people. Before the VA knew it, he’d been subjected to a string of colourful language from the company’s head of sales.
Later that evening, still feeling shaky, the VA got in touch with us. After reassuring him and getting all the pertinent details, we liaised with his insurer. They helped draft an email to his client and asked him to keep them updated on any further correspondence with the retailer.
Sure enough, the VA received a stiffly-worded letter several months later from the retailer’s solicitor, threatening to sue for breach of confidentiality. Obviously, the retailer hadn’t wanted a competitor to have access to its data. Nor did it want its planned marketing activity in front of prying eyes.
While it was a genuine mistake, the VA did have a legal case to answer. Essentially, he’d breached his duty of care and was liable.
Luckily, his insurance stepped in to make the experience as smooth as possible. They appointed one of their own solicitors to represent him in court. And they covered both the VA’s court costs and the compensation payout, to the tune of £9,800.
All’s well that ends well
Hopefully, you won’t suffer the same fate as either of our unfortunate VAs. If you do though, it’s reassuring to know your broker is there to help out.
Previous blogs by PolicyBee:
What insurance do you need for your Virtual Assistant business? https://www.vact.co.uk/insurance-virtual-assistant/
5 things you should ask when getting VA business insurance https://www.vact.co.uk/5-things-you-should-ask-when-getting-va-business-insurance/
How your insurance broker can help when things go wrong https://www.vact.co.uk/how-your-insurance-broker-can-help-when-things-go-wrong/