Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation Ltd

The Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation was incorporated on October 25 1880. The company became a subsidiary of the Northern Assurance Company Ltd in 1960, which merged with Commercial Union Assurance Company Ltd in 1968.

Company History

Employer Hamilton house

Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation, Hamilton House

Employer bookmark

Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation bookmark

Employer liability staff

Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation staff, 1882

The corporation was established in 1880 to offer employers' liability and general accident insurance in the United Kingdom. The foundation of the corporation was the result of a conversation between Leopold Salomons and Samuel Watson of the firm of solicitors Watson, Sons & Room concerning the Employers' Liability Act, which was before parliament at that time.

Prior to the act, an employee had no right to claim for compensation if he was injured at work, except in cases of undisputed negligence. This lead to instances where a member of the public would be able to claim for injuries sustained in a railway accident but an employee of the railway company travelling on the same train going about his private business would not.

Employers' Liability was the first company established to offer employers' liability insurance, thus giving employer and employee peace of mind. The company's aim was set out in its first prospectus, which stated that

"the establishment of this company will enable employers to dispense with the necessity of endeavouring to arrange with their workmen to contract themselves out of the act and, by offering insurance facilities to both masters and men, will solve a question which has already caused a certain amount of ill-feeling between them."

The corporation's first policy was issued to Frederick Parke of the Withnell Fire Clay Works near Chorley, Lancashire, on May 12 1881.

In 1885, the corporation entered the fire reinsurance business but withdrew after only six years. The company decided to re-enter the fire business in 1907, appointing T E Keysell manager of the fire department. By 1913, business had expanded again to include plate glass, burglary, motor car and property owners insurance. In 1917, the corporation began to transact marine insurance, expanding its marine business with the acquisition of the Merchants' Marine Insurance Company in 1919.

In the same year, the corporation acquired a license to transact life assurance business. However, the acquisition the following year of the shares of the Clerical Medical and General Life Assurance Society meant it no longer needed to pursue life assurance on its own account. The two companies worked in association until 1961 when Clerical Medical was mutualised. The corporation sold its business (apart from its holdings in the United States) to the ELAC Insurance Company Ltd before ceasing business in 1980.

Key dates

Year Event
1880 The Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation is incorporated
1919 Acquires the Merchants' Marine Insurance Company
1920 Acquires the Clerical Medical and General Life Assurance Society
1960 Becomes a subsidiary of the Northern Assurance Company
1961 Clerical Medical is mutualised
1968 The Northern merges with the Commercial Union Assurance Company
1980 The corporation ceases business

Did you know...?

  • Lord Claud Hamilton MP was appointed as the corporation's first chairman on March 10 1881. Lord Hamilton was also deputy chairman of the Great Eastern Railway Company and High Steward of Great Yarmouth, and served on the board for 35 years. He firmly believed that the corporation was more than a money-making concern, and insisted that it compelled employers to take better care in preventing accidents by refusing to insure those it did not consider to be taking proper precautions.
  • Another early member of staff, Francis Norie-Miller, was a clerk in 1882. Norie-Miller left the corporation five years later to take up a post with General Accident and Employers' Liability Assurance Association Ltd, where he was destined to become general manager.

Subsidiaries and constituents*

Year Company name
1882 - 1884 National Employers and General Accident Assurance Association (liability business)
1871 - 1919 The Merchants' Marine Insurance Company Ltd
1824 - 1920 Clerical Medical and General Life Assurance Society (allied 1920 - 1961)
1921 Employers Fire Insurance Company
1923 American Employers Insurance Company
- 1954 The Halifax Insurance Company of Massachusetts

* Please note the first date given is the date of the establishment of the company and the second date is the date the company was acquired or became a subsidiary. Where only one date is given the company was established as a subsidiary of the parent company. Where one date is preceded by a hyphen the date of the establishment of the company is not known.

Head office premises

Year Address
1880 - 1881 5 Lothbury, London
1881 - 1901 84-85 King William Street, London
1901 - 1967 Hamilton House, on Victoria Embankment, London (designed by W Emerson)
1967 - 1968 1 Moorgate, London
1968 - 1969 24 Cornhill, London
1969 - 1980 St Helen's, 1 Undershaft, London

Staff and officials

Company secretary

Year Name
1880 - 1908 Stanley Brown (Commercial Union secretary 1874 to 1880 and later president of the Insurance Institute and instrumental in the institute achieving chartered status)
1908 - 1921 William E Gray
1921 - 1931 William Jordan Ralph
1931 - 1946 E F Lewis
1946 - 1965 A E Gover
1965 - 1968 D A Mills
1968 - 1969 H T Frost

General manager

Year Name
1881 - 1911 Stanley Brown (also secretary)
1911 - 1931 William E Gray
1931 - 1933 T E Keysell and William J Ralph (joint general managers)
1933 - 1935 R J Crowe and S H Palmer (title changed to manager)
1935 - 1949 R J Crowe (title changed back to general manager from 1946)
1949 - 1954 Viscount Knollys (title changed to managing director)
1954 - 1968 C E Keysell (title changed again to general manager)

Homes branches and agencies

By April 1882, the company had 780 agents.

  • Glasgow (1881)
  • Belfast (by 1882)
  • Birmingham (by 1882)
  • Bristol (by 1882)
  • Cardiff (by 1882)
  • Liverpool (by 1882)
  • Manchester (by 1882)
  • Nottingham (by 1882)
  • Plymouth (by 1882)
  • Ipswich (1884)
  • Newcastle (1884)
  • Dundee (1891)
  • Edinburgh (1891)
  • Leeds (1889)
  • Brighton (by 1910)
  • City of London (1919)

Overseas branches and agencies

  • Dublin, Ireland (by 1882)
  • Canada (1883)
  • New South Wales, Australia (1884)
  • South Australia (1884)
  • USA (1886)
  • Holland (1888)
  • Johannesburg, South Africa (1893)
  • Sweden (1893)
  • Denmark (1897)
  • Belgium (1896)
  • Bombay and Calcutta, India (1912)
  • Rangoon, Myanmar (Burma) (1913)
  • Madras, India (1913)
  • Karachi, Pakistan (1913)
  • Colombo, Sri Lanka (1913)
  • China (1913)
  • Philippines (1913)
  • Egypt (1913)
  • Straits Settlements (1913)
  • Cyprus (by 1938)

History of operations in America

Operations in America started in 1886 when an office was opened in Boston, under Messrs Endicott & Macomber. The introduction of this class of insurance into America was ambitious as there was no employers' liability act in the United States until Massachusetts adopted a liability law in 1887. The first US offices were located at State Street, Boston, and were staffed by Mr Endicott, Mr Macomber, W R Freethy and Mr Moon, who had previously worked for the London office.

By 1905, the offices had moved to Kilby Street and, in the same year, they moved again to Broad and Water Streets. In 1924, the company relocated to a new building in Liberty Square, Boston. The building was named for Samuel Appleton, the then American manager, who had replaced Endicott in 1898.

The American branch undertook elevator insurance in 1888, public liability insurance in 1889, general liability in 1890 and fidelity and vehicle insurance in 1891. Like its parent company, the American branch was proud of its reputation for straightforward dealing and prompt and liberal settlement of claims. The logo of the company in America displayed an owl with the slogan.

"service that satisfies".

In 1921, an American subsidiary, the Employers' Fire Insurance Company, was established to overcome rules in some states prohibiting accident companies to offer fire insurance. To circumvent a law preventing English companies from writing bonds another subsidiary, the American Employers' Insurance Company was established in 1923. In 1928, the parent company transferred ownership of these two subsidiaries to the Employers' Group Associates.

Published History

The Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation Ltd Jubilee, 1930 by Sir Harry Perry Robinson. London, 1930.

In the archive

The Aviva archive contains records relating to the running of the Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation between 1881 and 1980. The collection includes board minutes, annual report and accounts, balance papers, board of trade returns, committee minutes, policies, specimen policies and promotional material.

Other resources

Records related to Employers' Liability Assurance can be found at the Guildhall Library

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