Employer Reference Number

Putting ERNs in plain English, what they're for, why you need them and where to find them

ERNs and Employers Liability Insurance

Insurers and insurance brokers, such as Qdos, will request your ERN when you apply for Employers Liability Insurance.

This is because Employers Liability underwriters are required to submit Employers Liability and policyholder data to the Employers Liability Tracing Office (ELTO). ELTO then stores this information on the Employers Liability Database, a log used by insurers, policyholders, and claimants to search for an Employers Liability Insurer in the event of a claim.

Such measures have been taken with Employers Liability Insurance due to the potential for claims to be made some time after their cause. For example, where employees were exposed to asbestos, their illness may not be known until some 40 years later. In this time period, it is not uncommon for employers to change ownership or cease to exist altogether. Therefore, the Employers Liability database can be searched to find the appropriate Employers Liability Insurer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is commonly known as an Employer Reference Number or ERN, might also be referred to as a PAYE reference number or employer PAYE reference number depending on who you ask.

In essence, if you were to register with HMRC as an employer, you will receive an ERN. This is something you should ensure you keep safe as it is a useful piece of identification for your business, showing that you are an employer.

An ERN is separated into two parts. The first being a 3-digit HMRC office number and the second section is your businesses unique reference number.

An example of what an ERN looks like is: 140/B12345

With the use of your unique ERN, the Treasury can identify your company.

First, you must be registered as an employer with HMRC. Upon registering you will receive a welcome pack which will include your ERN and confirmation of your registration. Upon receipt of this letter, you should store it in a safe place.

If you can no longer find your documentation that includes your ERN, your next port of call would be to take a look at any tax forms/reminders or payslips. You will also find this information on any P45 or P60 documents.

Thoughtful contractor

What if I don't have an ERN?

It's true that a small number of employers don't have an ERN, however, where PAYE is operated an ERN is provided to the employer. An ERN is applicable to any UK businesses employing one or more workers.

If your business does not work under PAYE, it won't have an ERN. The following additional exceptions detail the circumstances in which you would not be required to register or have an ERN:

  • If your employees are paid via an agency or are self-employed
  • If your employees are volunteers and receive no pay
  • If your employees earn less than the current Lower Earnings Limit
  • If your business is based in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man

It's important to note that if you are your limited company’s sole director and employee, you must still register as an employer.

This aside, you are still able to purchase Employers Liability Insurance with Qdos without an ERN. Get in contact with a member of our team to discuss your options.

Contractor smiling with laptop

More than one ERN? No problem

If your business has multiple locations, you might operate more than one PAYE scheme and therefore have more than one ERN.

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