Zurich Financial Services and Norwich Union have broken ranks with much of the industry to open up their books to offer new liability cover.

Zurich's initiative, called Zurich Difficult Risks

(ZDR), is aimed squarely at those businesses finding it hardest to find liability protection under current crisis conditions.

The shortage of cover has left companies, such as roofers and scaffolders, desperate for compulsory insurance or facing the prospect of having to cease trading.

Head of channel management for Zurich London, Tim Parish, said ZDR would cover roofers, scaffolders, chimney shaft work and other big construction tasks. Mines would be considered, subject to the client having a good record on claims and health and safety.

"These are the ones we are trying to help," he said. "There are some risks we will avoid if we feel we can't underwrite them, but we will try to quote on as many risks as come in.

"Having never been in those trades before, we are having to underwrite these risks as carefully as possible.

"We're hoping we won't lose too much money."

The product became available last week and two orders had been placed as Insurance Times went to press. The highest premium quoted so far was £100,000. Parish expected the average to be about £50,000.

Brokers' commission rates have been cut from 15% on property and PL.

Norwich Union (NU) is offering employers' liability (EL) to existing customers.

NU director of underwriting John Seaton said: "Customers have a part to play in dealing with the EL situation. Risk management needs to be higher up the agenda."

What the cover costs

Employers' liability cover up to £5m

Public and product liability up to £1m ,but up to £5m might be available in special cases

Minimum premiums:
Employers' liability £15,000
Public and product liability £10,000
Property liability £10,000

Brokers' commission
All business will be quoted net (before commission) with commission allowed up to:
Employers' liability 7.5%
Public, product and property liability 10%