Most commercial insurance policies are unlikely to cover pandemics or unspecified notifiable diseases, such as COVID-19.
However, those businesses which have an insurance policy that covers government ordered closure and pandemics or government ordered closure and unspecified notifiable disease should be able to make a claim (subject to the terms and conditions of their policy).
Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers.
Notifiable diseases are certain infectious diseases that registered medical practitioners have a statutory duty to notify the ‘proper officer’ at their local council or local health protection team about when they come across a suspected case.
The government keeps an updated list of notifiable diseases. On 5 March 2020, the government added COVID-19 to its list.
Many insurers use diseases on this list as triggers for the activation or exclusion of insurance cover. For example, insurers’ policies that cover notifiable diseases will typically only cover a specific subset of notifiable diseases (such as Cholera or Anthrax) that the insurer will reference in the policy documentation. These policies will exclude any notifiable disease not on the insurers list, as well as future/unknown diseases (such as COVID-19). The price that the insurer charges for the policy is modelled against the risk posed by this set list of diseases.
Unspecified Notifiable Diseases
Some businesses will have purchased add-ons for their insurance that cover for ‘unspecified notifiable diseases’. These policies effectively cover any disease listed as a notifiable disease, enabling the business to claim for losses for all notifiable diseases as well as from diseases that are unknown at the point the policy is written.
The effect of the government adding COVID-19 to its list of notifiable diseases is to ensure that businesses with unspecified notifiable disease cover can make a claim – subject to the terms and conditions in their policy. For example, someone infected with COVID-19 may need to have been on the premises.
Government Ordered Closures
The government asked a number of different businesses and venues to remain closed from 21 March onwards.
Insurers have agreed that this advice is enough for businesses covered for COVID-19 losses to make a claim (if the only barrier to them making a claim was a lack of clarity on whether the government had ordered businesses to close). As such, intervention by the police or any other statutory body is no longer required to trigger cover in the current circumstances.
However, most businesses’ commercial insurance policies (including for denial of access) are unlikely to offer cover for COVID-19. Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers.
To find out more, click here.
Protection from Eviction for Commercial Tenants
Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction.
These measures will mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30 June.
There is the option for the government to extend this period if needed.
This is not a rental holiday. All commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent. Commercial tenants are protected from eviction if they are unable to pay rent.
To learn more, click here.
Guidance for UK Businesses Trading Internationally
The Department of International Trade can support British businesses who trade overseas in the following ways:
- Aiding with customs authorities to ensure smooth clearance of their products
- Offering advice on intellectual property and other issues with business continuity
- Helping you to find alternative suppliers. The department has relationships with a global network of businesses across the world and will be able to advise you on the options available.
To read more, click here.
The Chancellor announced (17 March 2020) an unprecedented package of government-backed and guaranteed loans to support businesses, making available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of GDP.
This was on top of a series of measures announced at Budget 2020, where the government announced £30 billion of additional support for public services, individuals and businesses experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19.
On 20 March 2020, the Chancellor announced a further workers’ support package to protect millions of people’s jobs and incomes as part of the national effort in response to coronavirus. A new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be set up to help pay people’s wages; Universal Credit and tax credits will also be increased as part of an almost £7 billion welfare boost; and to ease cash flow pressures for UK VAT registered businesses, VAT bills from now until the end of June, will be deferred until the end of the tax year.
Your business may be able to get support to lessen the cost or financial effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) through:
- The Business Interruption Loan Scheme from the British Business Bank as part of the Enable Finance Guarantee
- Changes to Statutory Sick Pay
- The UK-wide Time to Pay scheme for tax payment relief
- An increase in the Business Rates Retail Discount in England to 100% for a year, now expanded to the Leisure and Hospitality sectors
- Cash support to all business in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) and funding for Local Authorities in England to support businesses
- The temporary lowering of the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) for Universal Credit for those who have COVID-19 or are self-isolating
- Cash grants of up to £25,000 for Retail, Hospitality and Leisure businesses with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000
To find out more, please visit the Government’s website.