Advice for SMEs : Coronavirus COVID-19

13 Mar 2020

Business continuity, insurance policy wording and your duties as an employer; we explore this and more to help SMEs prepare for COVID-19.

Firstly, it is important to be informed and follow the official guidance from the Government, which can be found via the following link: COVID-19: guidance for employers and businesses. This will assist businesses in providing advice to staff on:

  • Information about the coronavirus, COVID-19, its symptoms and signs
  • How to help prevent spread of all respiratory infections including COVID-19
  • What to do if an employee or a client becomes unwell and believes they have been exposed to COVID-19
  • What advice to give to individuals who have travelled to specific areas, as outlined by the Chief Medical Officer 
  • Advice for the certification of absence from work resulting from Covid-19

Secondly, it’s important you have an up to date business continuity plan in place, which accounts for a potential virus-related situation. Some of the issues you may need to think about are supply chains, employees, cash flow and travel.

Then you also need to think about how your business insurance will work if your business closes due to an outbreak of the virus.

Review your policy wording, noting that standard policies may not include any protection if your business suffers due to an outbreak of disease, regardless of circumstance. The Federation of Small Businesses has provided the following advice relating to your insurance documentation:

1. Check your policy or confer with your broker to see if you have Business Interruption cover in your commercial insurance policy. Business Interruption insurance covers the income that you lose after a disaster, and often comes up when discussing terrorism cover (for example, after the London Bridge attack, local businesses that were forced to close for a period of time would have been able to claim for revenue lost under this clause).

2. Once you have confirmed that you have Business Interruption cover, you will need to check whether you have an extension for “notifiable diseases”. If you have this in your policy wording, you will need to reach out to your broker/insurer to confirm whether coronavirus is covered. On 4 March, the UK Government announced it will declare COVID-19 as a notifiable disease, to “help companies seek compensation through their insurance policies in the event of any cancellations they may have to make as a result of the spread of the virus.”

3. If you do not have this extension, you may be able to ask for it to be added by your insurer, but they are within their rights to refuse, or to ask for an increased premium.

Having the right level of insurance is absolutely vital for SME businesses in helping them get back on their feet and trading again should the worst happen. If you have any queries relating to this matter, we are able to put you in touch with companies within our extensive network of contacts who will be able to assist. It’s part of our commitment to supporting SME businesses by providing holistic business advisory services.

It is also important to know your duties as an employer. Under health and safety legislation, employers have a duty to take steps to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all their employees, so far as reasonably practicable, including those who are particularly at risk for any reason.

Keep an eye on the government advice and to refer employees to it where they may be concerned about their individual risk. This advice is reviewed by the Government on a daily basis: number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and risk in the UK

In short, the best way to protect against infections like coronavirus is to encourage everyone to follow simple hygiene practices, such as washing hands frequently with soap and water. It’s also worthwhile placing sanitiser gel around the office, especially at entrance points to the office building. Tissues should also be carried at all times to catch sneezes, and they should be disposed of appropriately.

A Government campaign has also been launched to provide advice on how to slow the spread of Coronavirus. The poster can be displayed in public areas around the office and can be accessed via the following link: CORONAVIRUS: PUBLIC INFORMATION

If you have any concerns or queries relating to your SME business, we are here to help. Get in touch with Steve Govey or your usual Beavis Morgan Partner.