Business Insurance and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As the global population prepares for increasing infection rates of COVID-19, many health officials are warning that we should do what we can to main optimal health through measures such as social distancing, self-isolation and hospital quarantine. These measures may be the key to slowing down infection rates but have left many concerned about the impact this could make for the local and global economy.  COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, is defined as a communicable disease which is a disease that can spread from person to person. Back in 2003, a communicable disease named SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) changed how insurance policies excluded compensation for communicable disease outbreaks.

These exclusions were designed to protect the insurance industry from financial collapse due to a probable large-scale event such as a pandemic occurring. Without these restrictions, it was forecast that insurers would not have the financial capacity to pay the significant financial losses that would be incurred in such an event. This would subsequently lead to the insurance industry not having the capacity to service losses from other natural disasters or insured perils.

So where does that leave businesses with insurance cover?

Coronavirus and Business Interruption Insurance 

Business interruption insurance is designed to help you get through a catastrophic event by getting your business back up and running by covering your ongoing cash flow which enables you to continue paying your ongoing business expenses. Unfortunately, due to the removal of coverage for communicable diseases from these insurance policies after the SARS outbreak, this has left businesses unprotected from the impact of COVID-19. For many businesses, the best advice is to prepare for the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace as well as be aware of any government assistance which is delivered during subsequent stimulus packages.

How to prepare your business

Getting your business prepared is one of the best ways to ensure that your business receives minimal disruption as possible. Here are a few tips to implement in your business:

  • Encourage hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette – provide hand soaps, sanitisers and paper towels and remove tea towels or sponges that can easily carry the virus.
  • Enforce sick or at-risk employees to stay home – Employee with symptoms of the virus should immediately go into self-isolation and get required testing over a period of 14 days. 
  • Implement remote work policy – Get your team prepared with the necessary tools and resources they will need to continue work from home. 
  • Minimise face-to-face appointments – If your business has clients that schedule face-to-face appointments you should seek alternative communication channels such as phone calls or webcam conference call to conduct the meeting. Alternatively, if you work in an industry such as retail or hospitality, enforce no touching policies (for example no handshakes), wear masks and try to provide a safe space of a minimum distance of 1 metre from the customer whenever possible.
  • Postpone nonessential travel – Any travel required regardless if it business or leisure should be postponed or make alternate arrangements such as webcam conference calls for meetings. 

In the case of a lock-down, businesses should have prepared a business continuity plan so that business interruption is minimal.

It’s important to remember to be prepared, and keep your team informed of any changes to the business’ normal activities.

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