Celebrating...10 Years of ELTO

It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the year 2012. More enticing events like the London 2012 Olympics, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the first Briton to win the Tour de France or even the opening of The Shard might be more forthcoming, but, in April 2022 it will be 10 years since Insurers began to supply details of their Employers' Liability(EL) policies to the Employers' Liability Tracing Office (ELTO). 

Events of 2012

ELTO was created as a response to criticism that Insurers were unhelpful when it came to helping people who had been injured at work or who had contracted occupational diseases find out who had been the insurer of their employer at the time when they were injured or contracted their illness.

Whilst insurers were not deliberately obstructive, it could not be denied that the process of contacting all the insurers in the market and asking if they had ever insured a particular company was time consuming, expensive and frustrating.

ELTO was brought about to improve the process by creating the Employers' Liability Database (ELD) that holds details of all the EL policies issued by UK insurers.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regards the maintenance of the ELD as sufficiently important to make supplying information to ELTO a condition of a licence to operate as an insurer in the UK. (ICOBS8.4) This condition applies to any insurer operating in the UK not just ELTO members. A big part of FCA’s Treating Customers Fairly requirements is removing barriers to those who have a right to make a claim.

The identifier that was chosen was the Employee Reference Number (ERN) issued by HMRC in relation to PAYE returns. This was chosen because the reference number is issued by a single source and is therefore consistent. The number is readily available to someone searching the ELD via documents such as P45, P60, P11/D and very often on payslips. The ERN also has the advantage of being widely used.

Almost all employers will have one, unless


  • All their employees (including Directors) are paid below the current Lower Earnings Limit, and;
  • None of the employees (including Directors) have another job, and;
  • None of the employees (including Directors) are in receipt of a State or Occupational pension


  • The Company has no tax presence in the UK (including the Isle of Man or Channel Islands)

If either of these situations apply the employer will be exempt from having an ERN number.

So has ELTO worked?

  • In the 9 years prior to ELTO’s launch the previous tracing service (the Employers' Liability Code of Practice or ELCOP) dealt with 105,631 enquiries and successfully found 45,495 records or 43%.
  • In the 10 years ELTO has operated it dealt with 1,386,333 and successfully found 1,211,010 records or 87%. In the past 4 years ELTO’s success rate in tracing policies has been 92% of all enquiries.
  • So whilst there remains room for improvement, ELTO has been able to deal with 13 times as many enquiries and with double the success rate of ELCOP’s tracing service.

This success could not have been achieved without the co-operation of the broking community. Collecting the ERN is yet another piece of data that has to be collected by brokers. Requesting this from your clients and following up that request to ensure a reply adds to your work load without bringing immediate financial benefit. Knowing that you have helped improve the performance and image of the industry generally is some reward for your efforts. But there are also more direct benefits. With the low success rate under the ELCOP tracing service, claimants’ solicitors would approach broker looking for details of the insurers of existing and previous clients. This could be a time consuming and expensive exercise particularly as the historic records could be paper based. Having made the upfront effort to collect the ERN you can now quickly direct enquirers towards ELTO with a confidence that their enquiry will, in most cases, be satisfactorily dealt with.

On that note, we'd like to say 'thank you' for the efforts that you have made on behalf of the Insurance Industry over the past 10 years and we look forward to the continuing success of ELTO in the years to come.

If you would like to more about ELTO and the work that it does including detailed breakdowns of the enquiries that they receive and the success they have in dealing with those enquiries please go to https://www.elto.org.uk/