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Stop the confusion: How to know if your business may be insured against COVID-19

By Alex Balcombe, Partner at Harris Balcombe

The last few months has seen businesses in hospitality, tourism, retail, leisure and more forced to close their doors following the Government’s orders that they should close to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

While this was in order to flatten the curve and reduce the number of coronavirus cases, it’s of course having an impact on businesses and employees alike.  For small businesses especially, there are still many concerns about how they can claim on their insurance to weigh the fall of this impact.

Mixed Messaging

In response to calls to help struggling businesses, the Government has informed the public that companies who are facing turmoil will be able to claim on their business interruption insurance during this difficult time. For most, this is wrong.

The insurance industry has also been extremely vocal that there is no cover for any coronavirus-hit businesses during this tough financial period. This isn’t strictly true either.

How can businesses see through the mixed messaging and best secure their future and their livelihoods and reduce money worries? It’s an extremely stressful time for many companies, and confusion over whether or not they can be covered can only cause more unnecessary stress.

Since it’s a new disease, most businesses will not be covered for business interruption due to COVID-19. In fact, the vast majority of policies do not cover anything related to COVID-19.

That said – don’t rule out the idea that you may be covered. There is a chance that you will be covered against COVID-19, but not know it. This is a very small chance, but your current cover may already protect your business against the consequences of coronavirus, and the nationwide response to it – though those with this cover are unlikely to realise it.

How Could I Be Covered?

Alex Balcombe
Alex Balcombe

Not everyone has business interruption insurance, as it’s not a legal requirement. It is entirely up to the policy holder to weigh up the benefits of having it, and their ability to trade should a disaster happen.

To be considered for cover for COVID-19, there are two types of policy extensions to your business interruption cover that can potentially cover you for this situation:

  • Infectious Disease Extension 

 Many policies expressly state which diseases fall within the realm of being an infectious or notifiable disease. If this is the case, your policy will not provide cover. As it is a new disease, these policies will not have included COVID-19.

Other infectious disease extension policies will define the disease with reference to the actions of the government. Since the UK Government has named COVID-19 as a notifiable disease throughout the UK, it is possible that your business may fall into this definition, thus meaning you may be able to make a claim.

However, again, it’s not always that simple. Many policies require the disease to have been on your premises, while others specify a radius from your premises in order to qualify.

  • Denial of Access Extension (non-damage)

Denial of Access Extension (non-damage) policies may cover you if you’re prevented from accessing your property. This could be due to an event, or by the actions of a competent authority, which could cause your business interruption cover to engage.

If covered by this clause, there are often very subtle differences in wording in your policy. This could depend on the insurer or policy. You may well be covered, but it will depend on your particular circumstances, and the specific policy wording.

What now? 

It’s clear that the Government needs to do more in ensuring there is clear messaging for businesses, and to help the insurance market look after policy holders. This is an unprecedented situation, and with many people looking to claim on their insurance, we’re already seeing major delays which could have a domino impact.

People throughout the world are understandably facing all kinds of worries because of the current pandemic. Our ways of living have changed, and many business owners will not have experienced a situation like this in their lifetimes. If you own a business and are unsure about whether you can claim for business interruption, or are confused about ambiguous wording, get in touch with a loss assessor.

These claims are not simple, but loss assessors will be experts in business interruption insurance, and will specialise in large and complex claims. They will be able to help and guide you along the way, check your wording and work on your behalf to make sure you get everything you are entitled to.