why does it fail to connect each time i open em client, yet when i refresh its ok?

Please check:

Menu > Tools > Settings > General > Synchronization

Then ensure Synchronize items at startup is checked.

Already checked. So problem not resolved

On the accounts setup, right at the bottom of the general tab, is an option Include when sending/receiving email. If this is not selected, the account will not receive email unless refresh is done individually for that account.

Could that be it?

already set up as advised but still fails on start up

I have the same problem. I am using POP3. Seems like a bug.

With IMAP there are some servers that do not provide PUSH IMAP, so it will not work as eM Client does not provide interval syncing with IMAP. eM Client only forces a sync at startup so that is why it works then.

I wonder if there is not some similar problem with your server Stephen, even though you are using POP3. Who is your email provider?