There is no question that COVID-19 has changed the way we live, work and transact in 2020. The impacts of these changes may yet be felt for many years to come.
While we are all rapidly adjusting, it is important to consider the actual or potential business insurance impacts. Some questions that may assist you in starting this review process are:
- Have you changed the way you work or do business? Has your business grown or contracted?
If the answer is ‘Yes’, a comprehensive review of your business insurance program may be necessary. The following are just a few examples of how your business, and correspondingly insurance needs, may have changed in recent months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social distancing and other protective measures: You may have had to increase measures taken to protect your service providers, customers and workers from COVID-19 exposure such as:
- Informing service providers, customers and workers of the risks of COVID-19 and keeping that information up to date;
- Directing and ensuring isolation for those who have returned from travel or who have been in contact with a known COVID-19 case or have a respiratory illness.
- Providing PPE, masks and/or sanitisation products; and
- Extensive cleaning protocols.
It is important to consider what the potential exposure of your business is if the above fails and someone contracts COVID-19 through that failure. You should ensure that not only your business, but the businesses of those in your supply chain, are appropriately covered for any liability that may ensue. For example, there may be some interesting liability exposures following the Victorian Quarantine Royal Commission.
Working from Home:
Working from home (WFH) has become the new normal for many businesses. As an employer, you retain a primary duty of care and must do what is reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of your workers, including when allowing workers to WFH. This extends to ensuring that your worker WFH has:
- A clear understanding of work and workload expectations;
- Established boundaries between work and non-work time to avoid stress and fatigue;
- Encouragement and a means of remaining in contact with the worker’s team to avoid isolation;
- A safe workspace in the home, including an ergonomic desk set up
- Equipment that is safe, well maintained and in good working order; and
- In home safety such as operational circuit protectors and smoke alarms
The exposure of employers to workers who are injured when working from home was highlighted by a recent, widely publicised decision in Workers’ Compensation Nominal Insurer v. Hill  NSW CA54. In that case, the worker was executed by her paranoid spouse when working from home and the employer’s insurer was found liable to pay her children benefits. The New South Wales Court of Appeal found that the spouse’s paranoia related to the way she worked from home and therefore “the fact of her employment …. was a predominant and potent cause of the injury”.
You should also consider whether your workforce has contracted or expanded, whether you have moved workers to contracts and whether they are working fewer or greater hours, as this may impact the premium you are paying for workers’ compensation insurance.
Unused Business space and assets:
There are so many potential impacts of COVID-19 on your business premises and other assets, including the following:
- If your premises are currently not operational – can you seek a reduction, deferral or payment plan for premium?
- If your fleet or machinery are not currently in operation, can you seek a reduced rating on the basis they are ‘laid up’?
- If you have increased or decreased stock, are your premiums impacted?
- If your turnover is affected, are you paying too much for business interruption cover?
More than ever, businesses are heavily reliant on technology and connectivity as part of their daily operations. Cyber insurance policies are designed to provide pre and post incident support to businesses against the growing threat of cyber events and ensure operational continuity throughout any cyber event. This is essential cover for businesses who are primarily relying on technology to stay in business.
You may reconsider the need for travel insurance for the next 12 months given travel restrictions are likely to be in place in some form or another until a vaccine for COVID-19 is discovered.