Frequently asked questions

A selection of key questions and answers relating to the Emergency Services Levy (ESL), the deferral of the reform, and the role of the Insurance Monitor are provided below. 

Fact sheets: 
What the ESL is and how it operates,[Pdf size: 47KB] 
The ESL- Budget increase (2019-20) [Pdf size: 163KB]

If your question is not answered by the information provided, please contact the Insurance Monitor by phone on: 1300 607 723 or via our contact us form. 

The Emergency Services Levy (ESL)

What is the ESL?

  • The Emergency Services Levy or ESL, sometimes referred to as the Fire Services Levy or FSL, goes to your insurer to help fund the fire and rescue emergency services in NSW.
  • Insurance companies are required to contribute almost ¾ of the total budget for these services in NSW each financial year.
  • Most insurers reclaim this amount from their policyholders by charging an ESL with your insurance policy premium.
  • The remainder of the emergency services budget is funded by the NSW Government and local councils.

What does the ESL fund?

Who pays ESL?

  • Policyholders taking out property insurance in NSW may be charged an ESL.
  • Insurance companies may add ESL to the cost of various insurance policies, including: commercial property, residential home and/or contents and motor vehicle insurance (not CTP).
  • The ESL charged on commercial and residential home and/ or contents insurance policies must be itemised on your policy invoice or any other statement.
  • The ESL you pay goes towards funding the emergency services budget for the financial year in which the policy starts, irrespective of whether the policy runs into the next financial year.  (Financial year runs from 1 July to 30 June the following year.)

Which insurance policies may charge ESL?

  • ESL may be charged with certain types of general insurance policy, including house and contents insurance policies, where it must be itemised separately.
  • A small amount is also included in motor insurance policies ( see below)
  • Generally, the Insurance Monitor would not expect insurers to charge ESL on those classes of insurance where the contribution ratio is zero.

Policies which may include ESL

Insurance policy categories which may charge and ESL:

  1. Commercial Property & ISR
  2. Residential building and or contents insurance
  3. Personal combined on personal jewellery & clothing, personal effects and works of art
  4. Motor vehicle and motor cycle
  5. Marine & baggage
  6. Combined fire & hail on growing crops & live stock
  7. Aviation hull (contribution amount zero)
  8. Any insurance solely covering:(a)  loss by theft, (b) Plate glass, (c) Machinery - confined to mechanical breakdown and/or resulting consequential loss (d) Explosion or collapse of boiler and pressure vessels and (e) Inherent or latent defects - confined to damage and/or loss arising out of  defective design, defective workmanship or defective materials (excluding loss from fire)  (contribution amount zero)

*The exact impact of the ESL on total premium costs varies depending on the type of insurance policy and the insurance company.

There is an ESL charge on my rates notice

  • Every NSW council contributes each financial year to fund fire and emergency services.
  • While the majority of councils do not itemise this on their rates notice, some do. Some councils will call it ‘ESL’. Others may call it something slightly different.

Cost of ESL

Who decides what ESL I should pay?

  • The amount of ESL you are charged is determined by your insurance company. It is not set by the Government or otherwise a government charge.
  • The NSW Government requires insurers to help fund fire and emergency services in the State, and determines how much each insurer must pay.
  • Each insurance company decides how much of that contribution it would like to pass on to its policyholders, and sets the amount of ESL it should charge on each policy to achieve this. 
  • This may result in different ESL rates being applied by different companies and to different products.
  • Your insurer should be able to provide more information about how much ESL they have decided to charge you.

What is the ESL rate?

  • There is no ESL rate that is prescribed.  
  • ESL is not a set government rate or charge, rather it is a charge that is set by each individual insurance company to reclaim funds they must pay to the NSW Government to fund the fire and emergency services. 
  • Each insurer sets a rate of ESL that it believes will be sufficient to reclaim its contribution amount from its customers.
  • This means that different companies may charge different rates of ESL for similar insurance policies.

Why is my ESL higher this year?

  • If your ESL charge is significantly higher this year than previously, ask your insurance provider for an explanation.  You may like to request a response in writing.
  • In 2019-20 the ESL that insurers are required to contribute to fund the fire and emergency services is to increase by 15% to $897 million.  (Increases are principally to fund increased workers compensation access for firefighters & volunteers. See: Changes to the ESL for details
  • As your insurer's contribution requirement has risen, there may be a corresponding rise in the ESL your insurer charges you.  See fact sheet
  • Each insurer decides what rate of ESL to charge their policyholders, and significant variations exist in the ESL rates charged by different insurers for similar products.
  • If after speaking to your insurer you remain concerned, please contact the Insurance Monitor providing copies of your policy documents and any other relevant correspondence.


How much ESL should I be charged?

  • There is no fixed ESL amount that an insurance company is required to charge each policyholder.
  • The NSW Government requires insurers to help fund fire and emergency services in the State, and determines how much each insurer must contribute each financial year.
  • It is up to each insurance company to decide how much of that contribution it would like to pass on to its policyholders (in the form of an ESL charge).
  • Your insurer will set an ESL rate at a level it believes will allow it to reclaim an amount similar to the contribution it must make to the Government.

How much do insurers pay to fund the emergency services?

  • Insurers are required to contribute about ¾ of the total fire and emergency services budget each financial year.
  • In 2018-19 insurers contributed $780 million.  
  • Insurer contributions are due to increase by 15% to $897 million in 2019-2020.  
  • The increase in ESL budget is principally to fund changes to workers compensation legislation, designed to assist firefighters and volunteers who develop certain types of cancer due to their firefighting work. 
  • For more information, see: Changes to the emergency services Levy

How can I complain to the Insurance Monitor?

  • You may call the Monitor’s hotline on 1300 607 723 or lodge a complaint online.
  • Complaints may be lodged via our contact form. The  Insurance Monitor encourages you to contact your insurer prior to lodging a complaint. Please attach all relevant documents & correspondence.

The Insurance Monitor

What is the role of the Insurance Monitor?

  • The Emergency Services Levy Insurance Monitor's role is to oversee the continuation of the ESL contribution scheme.  The Monitor will ensure there is no over-collection, unreasonable pricing or false and misleading conduct in relation to the ongoing collection of the ESL.
  • The Monitor was initially put in place to oversee the removal of the ESL from the insurance system and to ensure consumers received the full benefits of such removal. However, the ESL contribution system continues as the move to a replacement system was deferred.
  • The Insurance Monitor is in place until 30 June 2020.

How can I contact the Insurance Monitor?

The best way to contact us is by phone or electronically.  We also accept enquiries via post at: L18, 1 Margaret St, Sydney 2000.

  • Electronically: please use the contact us page on this website.
  • Phone: call the Monitor’s hotline on 1300 607 723.
  • Please ensure you contact your insurer prior to lodging a complaint with the Monitor, and attach all relevant documents & correspondence.

How can the Insurance Monitor help me?

  • The Monitor can investigate concerns or complaints made in relation to the ESL reform.
  • If you are unhappy about the explanation given by your insurer in relation to ESL or premium charges, or the information provided by your insurance company, you may contact the Insurance Monitor for further information and assistance.
  • Please see our contact us form on this website.

What powers does the Insurance Monitor have?

  • The Insurance Monitor may use its statutory powers to take action against insurers who charge unreasonably high prices or provide false or misleading information about the effects of the ESL reform.
  • Penalties may be sought of up to $10 million dollars for corporations and $500,000 for individuals that are found to have contravened the relevant legislation.

Emergency Services Levy (ESL) reform

What's happening with the FESL?

  • The introduction of the Fire and Emergency Services Levy (FESL) has been deferred by the NSW Government.  
  • The FESL was due to be implemented on council rates notices issued from 1 July 2017.  
  • The Emergency Services Levy (ESL) will remain on insurance policies.
  • Insurance companies will continue to help fund the fire and emergency services agencies.