COVID-19 Insurance Questions Answered
The rapid spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), which originated in Wuhan City in China at the end of 2019, has caused significant disruptions worldwide. On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a Pandemic¹.
Not only has this become a human tragedy as a growing number of lives are lost, the COVID-19 outbreak is now posing a significant threat to businesses and their suppliers, particularly given China's role as a global manufacturing superpower.
As the situation continues to develop, businesses are understandably seeking to determine how their current insurances respond to COVID-19 related loss. The following article looks to answer some of the most common queries
Will my Business Interruption Insurance policy cover financial losses arising from the Coronavirus outbreak?
Many businesses, particularly those who deal with China or rely on Chinese suppliers, are asking whether they will be able to claim for business interruption and revenue losses as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and its associated disruptions to travel, import and export activities.
We can confirm Business Interruption coverage under Property Insurance, where Gross Profit cover is selected does not respond to COVID-19 claims. COVID-19 was listed under the Biosecurity Act 2015 on 24 January 2020, triggering an industry wide exclusion.
Furthermore, on a general note, human infection with COVID-19 will not, of itself, constitute as 'physical damage', which is the triggering requirement for cover under traditional business interruption policies.
Do Corporate Travel Insurance policies cover cancellations due to Coronavirus?
A typical Corporate Travel Insurance policy will provide cover for cancellation costs where the travel destination has reached DFAT Advice of Level 4 - Do Not Travel and was not at this level at the time of booking.
You can check the current DFAT Advice Levels on https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trades website.
Fear of travel is not a covered event under a Travel Insurance policy. This includes travel to areas that have known cases of COVID-19 but have not yet reached DFAT Advice Level 4.
The coverage provided on each policy and the position taken by different insurers can vary. If you have concerns, it's a good idea to contact your insurance broker or insurer directly.
Important Notice: COVID-19 became a known risk on 24 January 2020, and as such, some insurers may look to decline claims arising from COVID-19 if the trip was arranged on or after 24 January 2020. Whilst not all insurers are taking this position at this time, it should be taken into consideration when making future bookings.
Is Coronavirus covered under a Workers Compensation policy?
Yes, under specific circumstances.
According to the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) COVID-19 can be covered under Section 4 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 as a disease injury². A claim would be successful where the virus is contracted during the course of employment and the employment is found to be the main contributing factor to contracting the disease.
Proof that employment is the main contributing factor is likely to be difficult to determine and each claim would need to be considered on its individual merits and evidence.
Employers are advised to take all appropriate preventative measures to eliminate the risk of employees contracting COVID-19 in the workplace, as with any other workplace health and safety risk.
Where employees are potentially exposed to the virus as part of their employment, employers should provide guidance and assistance to the employee to make a claim for workers compensation.
Should you have further enquiries about Workers Compensation or managing WHS risk in respect to COVID-19, contact our Coverforce Workplace Services team directly on 02 9098 5500
How can I help to manage my business' risk?
As with any other threat, it is important to consider what risk management procedures you can introduce to help mitigate your exposure.
Some ways to manage your business' risks with respect to COVID-19 include:
- Keep up to date with any official alerts and guidelines from relevant public health officials and governments. The Australian Department of Health updates their COVID-19 alerts every day with the latest medical advice and official reports. You can access these updates and other useful information here.
- Review and promote business policies to reduce the chance of the virus spreading through your workplace. Plan your immediate response and actions required in the event of a suspected outbreak. For example, fitness for work policies, home quarantine regimes for those who have travelled to an infected country or come into contact with someone who may have been infected, flexible working arrangements, corporate travel rules etc.
- It is important that you inform all employees, including contract staff, on how best to report any potential exposure or the development of virus symptoms. If one of your employees does present with symptoms of illness or report that they have been officially diagnosed with COVID-19, you must act quickly to avoid the virus spreading throughout the workplace. If you are unsure on how to respond, The Australian Department of Health has a helpful guide for employers.
- Arrange hand sanitiser and other workplace hygiene measures such as signs to encourage all employees and visitors to practice good personal hygiene and to manage the spread of the virus.
- If possible, limit any non-essential business travel. Where an employee is travelling overseas, it's a good idea to check any relevant travel warnings or restrictions on the Smart Traveller website.
- Design a business-specific continuity management plan to identify and plan your response to any immediate or prolonged impacts on business operations and continuity, supply chains, productivity, reputation and cashflow should your workplace be impacted, or the global outbreak continues to worsen.
- Protect the mental wellbeing of employees who may be concerned about contracting COVID-19. Maintaining clear and frequent communication can help to provide reassurance to employees regarding their welfare. Beyond Blue has released helpful information about mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak. You can access this here.
The impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak to your business could be significant. Planning and preparation is key to minimising the impact on your business, employees and those you do business with.
Health Alert, Updates and Reports
Information Sheet for Employers regarding COVID-19
Managing Workplace Risks during the Coronavirus Outbreak
Safework Advice for PCBUS
Latest DFAT Travel Advice and Updates
About your insurance
For further information in relation to your insurance, please get in touch with your Coverforce broker directly, or contact your local Coverforce Office.
For the latest updates or enquiries in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak, you can contact the National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. Calls can be made 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.
The information provided in this article is of a general nature only and has been prepared without taking into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. If you require advice that is tailored to your specific business or individual circumstances, please contact Coverforce directly.
This information has been published as at 13 March 2020 and may change over time as new information is made available.
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