New risks: Unoccupied properties and remote working
06 April 2020
14 April 2020
What risks are emerging because of self-isolating and remote working due to COVID-19?
Now that many firms and organisations have either closed or reduced their operations, more people are working remotely. The result of this is that there are far fewer people commuting or on business premises because of the lockdown. While business interruption claims are expected to increase, other types of claim may see a reduction, such as road traffic collisions, accidents in the workplace, vandalism and theft.
However, this does not mean insurance claims will decrease. With people spending more time at home, this could increase the chances of accidents indoors. There are also issues about how to define workplace incidents, as who is liable when the place of work has now changed?
It is unlikely that every single person will have undertaken a thorough workplace assessment from their home. Plus many people will not have the equipment or facilities that would need to meet the minimum health and safety standards if working in an office environment. If someone has an accident while working from home is it the responsibility of the organisation or the individual to make sure the area has been assessed as safe to work in? There is also the dilemma about liability for office equipment, such as computers and monitors. Could a temporary removal of contents extension to cover work equipment in the homes of employees be a workable solution?
As these boundaries blur, so will responsibilities. However, employers should be doing as much as they can to ensure that their staff are safe and well in all respects. Maintaining the wellbeing of staff remotely should also be regularly observed. Pressures will increase over time, so while a member of staff may be coping well at first, it shouldn't be assumed they will continue to do so. While employers are not expected to be counsellors, providing appropriate levels of support are encouraged. With reports of domestic violence increasing, it is important to monitor situations carefully to see how people are coping, and the additional pressures they face at home, to be able to flag important issues.
With people spending more time at home, it is also likely that there will be other accidents and breakages. Damage to contents and property will no doubt increase. However, repairs and replacements may take longer than usual. But will the increase of these claims affect premiums in the future?
In contrast to this, there are now many unoccupied business properties. Will their premiums be reduced to a lack of claims? And how will insurance respond to their lack of use? Will the rules around unoccupied property inspections be relaxed by insurers, waiving their right to have them inspected? Similarly, will unoccupied property conditions be waived due to lack of time and resources imposed by the lockdown? The same is also relevant for contract sites where projects have been halted. Usually there is a limit of an amount of days before which the insurer no longer provides cover for works. Some wordings have 90 days. For those clients with where the wording can be just 30 days, could there be an agreement due to the current circumstances that the cessation of work cover is extended?
The current situation is beyond the control of many, raising whether reasonable adjustments can be made to recognise this. Businesses and employees have had to react very quickly, leaving them no time to make proper arrangements or to have the correct types of cover to reflect this.
As the lockdown increases there will be more issues that need addressing where insurers or clients will be limited in what they can do with the products they have. Insurance will be relied on by many, however the existing terms and conditions may no longer acknowledge the extreme circumstances we are currently under.
This document is believed to be accurate but is not intended as a basis of knowledge upon which advice can be given. Neither the author (personal or corporate), the CII group, local institute or Society, or any of the officers or employees of those organisations accept any responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the data or opinions included in this material. Opinions expressed are those of the author or authors and not necessarily those of the CII group, local institutes, or Societies.