What is your insurer’s current stance on your unoccupied premises?

As the Covid-19 situation develops and more businesses start to work from home, it is essential you are aware of the policy conditions that come into play when leaving your premises unoccupied for a number of days. Insurers are trying to help business by reducing the conditions applied and extending the number of days where it is mandatory to report that the premises are unoccupied. But do you know what yours is saying?

Aviva, NIG, Hiscox and Folgate insurance have all extended the notice period to insurers of unoccupancy to 90 days as opposed to 30 days. Other insurers such as RSA, AXA and Ansvar are still requesting notification but are relaxing the conditions applicable when a property is unoccupied where it is not reasonable or safe to manage. Most insurers, as long as they are informed, are adapting their stance on a case by case basis as to what is reasonable for you and your business.

Despite insurers relaxing their position, there are still conditions that may apply to your premises whilst unoccupied such as:

  • All security such as alarms and CCTV must be activated
  • Regular visits to the premises (where safe and reasonably possible) to make sure the property is secure must be undertaken
  • Mains water to be switched off

If you are unsure of the conditions on your policy, believe you are unable to comply with certain ones or if you don’t know your insurers current stance, please do get in touch with your broker/insurance contact so your insurers can be informed and your cover remains in place throughout this difficult time.

By Rachel Storey Dip CII- Account Executive

Have your premises become temporarily unoccupied as a result of Covid19?

If you are one of the companies who have had to temporality close as a result of the latest government advice, we understand that you will have enough on your mind already.

Most insurance policies do however contain a clause regarding notification to your insurer if your premises/business becomes unoccupied. Every insurers stance is slightly different and therefore we ask in the first instance that you let us know if this affects you and we can discuss with your insurers accordingly.

Our initial advice would be to ensure that all of your existing security protections and alarms have been activated and where possible premises are visited on a regular basis. We realise that subject to isolations this may not always be possible.

We are confident at this stage that there will be no cover restrictions, but we strongly recommend that you notify any change in circumstance.

By Helen ParsonsBroking Manager

Our Mental Health & Coronavirus

As we head into this unprecedented time, it is natural that we concentrate on the physical measures required to stop the spread of the disease. What we may do though, is neglect our mental health during this period. We are not experts in this field, however we thought it might be prudent to bring together some sensible advice that may be of help.

Firstly, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has published an in depth document with advice during the crisis (click here). It gives some sensible brief advice: minimise watching, reading or listening to news that makes you feel anxious; keep updated through official sources only and; get the facts not the rumours.

This might not make much sense initially, but it’s easy during these times to become addicted to Twitter and Facebook messages of doom. Getting advice from recognised official sources means that you’re not participating in misinformation and you are getting the information that you really need. The WHO also advise to maintain social contact, with neighbours and friends, and not to be afraid to express how you feel. Finally, it is important to maintain exercise to aid mobility and ease boredom, particularly if you are in isolation.

The Mental Health Foundation also has some good advice (Click Here). It reinforces the WHO’s advice regarding news, but further advises to: stick to a normal routine if possible, remembering stress management and a healthy diet; try not to make assumptions about who or what is responsible for the outbreak and; try to anticipate distress.

It is natural to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed, so it is important to try and reassure people that you know might be worried or who you know are alone during this time.

Finally, OCD UK has some salient advice for sufferers (Click Here) which includes: limiting hand washing time to the 20 seconds recommended by medical experts; not allowing OCD to dictate self-isolation; and that it is okay to continue any ongoing therapy.

It’s important to end this on a positive note and OCD UK helpfully provides a list of things that we can still do:

  • Listen to music
  • Talk to and video message friends and family
  • Read your favourite books
  • Enjoy the outdoors, even if it’s your garden in the short term
  • Sing or dance at home (sometimes it’s best that these are done behind closed doors!)
  • Smile and laugh
  • Watch your favourite film or tv shows
  • Have hope

Some further useful sources of information includes: The American Centres for Disease Control (CDC), The United Nations (UN), Mind UK, The UK Government and Public Health England.

We’re in this together. Please get in touch with us if you feel we can help you with managing risk in your workplace.

By Ian Clayton CMIOSHHealth and Safety Manager

A message from our CEO, Ian Laycock

“It’s Business as (un)usual”

 

 

Those of us in the business of risk management have long feared the impact of a global virus but if we are honest, we had in mind a virus in our technology rather than in the population. It seems we live in unpredictable times.

During recent weeks we have developed plans to ensure we continue to support you with the least possible disruption. We are receiving many more calls than usual so please bear with us if it takes a little longer than usual to respond. But rest assured, we will respond.

First and foremost, the well-being of our staff, customers and suppliers is paramount. At present we are following government guidelines and, in some cases, where there is some degree of vulnerability, we are taking additional precautionary measures.

We are determined to continue to provide continuity of service and to this end, all client facing staff have the ICT, telephony and therefore capability to work from home. In the light of government advice on Monday night, most staff will operate remotely from Wednesday 18th March 2020.

In the event of further significant disruption we have identified and will prioritise key functions to ensure your cover remains in force and claims are dealt with as effectively as possible. In recent days we have spoken with our key suppliers who share our objectives and have similar plans in place to ensure continuity.Of course, the way we communicate with you in weeks to come may change. We have video conference facilities and intend to use these where-ever possible.

Over the last 30 years we have faced many challenges and each time, thanks to our staff and customers we have emerged stronger. We have planned for the worst, added a large dose of common sense and intend to continue with as little fuss as possible.

Regards,

Ian.

 

Getting your workplace ready for Covid-19

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set out guidance on how businesses and employers can help to stop the spread of the new Coronavirus disease.

How does Coronavirus spread?

When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects – such as desks, tables or telephones.

People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. If they are standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19 they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by them. In other words, COVID-19 spreads in a similar way to flu.

Preventing Coronavirus in the workplace

The guidance stresses that employers should start taking these the following measures now, even if COVID-19 has not arrived in the communities where they operate:

 

  • Make sure your workplaces are clean and hygienic
    • Surfaces (e.g desks and tables) and objects (e.g telephones, keyboards) need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly

 

  • Promote regular and thorough hand-washing by employees, contractors and customers
    • Put sanitizing hand rub dispensers in prominent places around the workplace. Make sure these dispensers are regularly refilled
    • Display posters promoting hand-washing
    • Offer guidance from occupational health and safety officers
    • Make sure that staff, contractors and customers have access to places where they can wash their hands with soap and water

 

  • Promote good respiratory hygiene in the workplace
    • Display posters promoting respiratory hygiene. Combine this with other communication measures
    • Ensure tissues are available at your workplaces, for those who develop a runny nose or cough at work, along with closed bins for hygienically disposing of them

 

  • Advise employees and contractors to consult national travel advice before going on business trips

 

  • Brief your employees, contractors and customers that if COVID-19 starts spreading in your community, anyone with even a mild cough or low-grade fever (37.3 C or more) needs to stay at home
    • Make clear to employees that they will be able to count this time off as sick leave

 

 

For further risk management advice as an employer, please contact our team on 01302 341 344.

By Ian French CMIOSH Risk Consultant

 

 

Coronavirus (Covid-19) within the Workplace

At the time of writing this, the virus has been reported in at least 60 countries around the world and it is not unreasonable to assume that it will spread much further over the coming months. The Government expect the UK to be ‘significantly affected’ and a fifth of workers may be absent from work due to the virus.

Plenty of information on steps to prevent the spread of the virus is now out there in the public domain and can be found here, however questions are now being asked about how to manage employees fears of catching and spreading the virus.

Employees Returning from Holiday

The Government advice currently is as follows. If employers are returning from significantly affected areas i.e. China, South Korea, Iran and some specific places in Northern Italy they should self-isolate themselves until they have a negative test or are symptom free for 2 weeks. For all others they only need to isolate themselves if they experience any symptoms. More info on the symptoms can be found here. This is regularly being updated as the situation changes.

What if the above doesn’t satisfy other Employees?

One of the issues we are finding is that whilst you can follow the Government advice as above, this may not satisfy all employees. For example, if employees have young children, or care for relatives who are deemed vulnerable then they may not feel comfortable working with someone returning from outside the UK. In this scenario it may be prudent to allow those employees to work flexibly from home, take holiday, take unpaid leave or a combination of them all. You should risk assess each case on it’s own merits, in some instances and where possible, it may be sensible to ask a returning employee to work from home to reduce the possible impact on the rest of your business.

What do I have to pay Employees?

Currently, when an employee is off absent from work due to illness, they are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay, or Company sick pay where applicable. However, the Government has advised Statutory Sick Pay can apply to persons who are self-isolated following medical advice. If you ask someone, who falls outside of the above advice, to remain at home due to concerns about spreading the virus, you will need to consider suspending them on full pay.

What’s Next?

At present the UK is in a ‘containment’ stage. If cases rise the Government has confirmed we will enter the ‘delayed’ stage, and it is at this point where they will review their policies and provide advice on whether activities like large scale organised events should take place.

We recommend that all Companies maintain good communication with their employees about Government and World Health Organisation updates, provide information on how to prevent the spread of the virus and make sure all employees know what to do if they are experiencing symptoms as well as listening to their concerns. Where possible and if practical Companies should think about flexible working strategies and plans in case those affected reach significant levels.

By Kris Kerins BSc (Hons) PGC (Tech Mgmt)HR Business Partner

Attack of the drones

I have to pinch myself at times. When starting my ProAktive journey (2012 for the curious reader) the big tech topic on everyone’s lips was how a business can go ‘paperless’. Fast forward and I find myself writing about little flying robots.

On a serious note, it’s incredible the pace in which technology has developed. In such a short space of time advances made in AI, automation and Big Data look like game changers for a huge number of business sectors.

Drone technology is just one facet of this and whilst predominately marketed as a recreational item, its use in commercial enterprises is increasing – Nesta Foundation research for example, shows the number of commercial operators with permission to pilot drones in the UK has increased from 5 to 4,530 in just an 8-year period (2010-18). This will doubtless continue on an upward curve.

But why!?

Because of the commercial benefits! Cast aside the Hitchcockian imagery and consider the application:

  • Sustainability: For consultants and professionals wherein a large portion of activity encompasses site visits and technical surveys on construction projects, in quarries or subterranean spaces. Drone technology offers a cost effective and safe alternative to be used in most instances and so doesn’t involve sticking people in holes or at heights.
  • Speed and efficiency: where we’re going, we don’t need roads” – At a tech conference in 2019, an Amazon executive outlined the company’s goal to roll out a drone delivery service “within months”. Amazon also claim to have successfully trialled this in 2016, delivering a parcel from one of its UK depots to a Cambridge based company in just 15 minutes. Whilst “within months” is a bold statement, benefits are there to be had for retail and transport businesses in terms of offering a faster, environmentally- friendly alternative to conventional forms of transport.
  • Innovation: A sophisticated piece of technology, drones will only become more versatile as the technology advances. Insurance companies are already exploring ways in which they can be used in claims processes to aid loss adjusters in assessing damage and providing pictures. In an article last year, the Insurance Journal stated a belief that industry use of drone tech would sore in aftermath of natural disasters. A belief since proven to be correct following the Australian wildfires earlier this year.

What’s ProAktive’s thoughts?

We take a measured view in that anything designed to allow your business to excel can only be a good thing. That said, be cautious! The technology is still in its infancy, and as with everything, there are risks.

Health & Safety/Regulation:

High profile instances of drone misuse have highlighted the inadequacy of existing regulation and the need for tighter controls. This is something the government has begun to address; albeit as the legislation rapidly develops it can be hard to keep track. As of November 2019, the Air Navigation Order (2018) allows the Civil Aviation Authority to fine businesses up to £2,500 for piloting a drone without the required commercial permissions and registration. From an enforcement point of view, the remit of the CAA seems quite clear cut and will undoubtedly involve the police in more serious cases of gross negligence or corporate manslaughter.

The HSE also have a role in regulation although it looks as if powers dictating drone use rest in the hands of the CAA. This doesn’t mean to say the HSE wouldn’t have an interest though. Theoretically, they could penalise an employer for general health and safety offences if drone misuse is deemed to form part of a company’s regular working processes. Beyond this – who knows? It’s a critical area that bares close inspection as the landscape matures.

Insurance:

A person or company wishing to use drones will find a raft of direct markets if to search online. Such products seem to cover the essentials: i.e. damage to the drone itself and the risk posed to third party property and injury. As with health & safety, deeper questions remain.

For example, how would cover react in response to a privacy breach (say a marketing agency that uses unauthorised footage in an ad campaign) or someone negligently piloting the drone into areas of critical national infrastructure? The ‘rogue drone’ at Gatwick is quite humorous in retrospect and so it’s easy to forget the full scale of disruption it caused from an economic point of view. What if a drone were to accidently enter an unauthorised manufacturing space and result in a protracted business shut down? Would this incident and associated financial loss suffered by the third party be covered under a recreational insurance? What’s clear, is that certain insurers seem to be having these discussions and so in tandem with regulation, the coverage available will inevitably evolve to cover more complex associated risks.

It’s all a fascinating area and one that’s bound to develop sooner rather than later. Keep your heads up!

By Simon Wright Dip CIIAccount Executive

 

 

Coronavirus update for schools

Public Health England (PHE) are issuing good advice for schools on how to deal with Coronavirus / Covid-19. We would strongly recommend that you familiarise yourselves with the guidance provided (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19). PHE are updating this information on a regular basis and this remains the best source of guidance at the present time.

In summary the main advice currently is to increase infection control measures: wash hands often with soap and water or alcohol sanitiser; encourage persons who are unwell to stay at home and; ensure that frequently touched surfaces are cleaned and disinfected thoroughly and regularly. Please note that PHE are not recommending automatic closure of schools, due to potential exposure to travellers from designated areas, at the present time.

Other good sources of information are from the foreign office (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus), ACAS (https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus)  and the NHS (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/).

Unattended machinery

WORK WORK WORK

The need to maximise output in today’s booming manufacturing industries means that machinery is more commonly left in operation when the workplace is vacated or unsupervised. From a business perspective this makes perfect sense as you can start a process going at 6pm and it will be finished when employees return at 6am, ready for finishing and dispatch.

 

INSURERS DO NOT LIKE IT!

However, from an insurance perspective it is important to remember to notify your insurer or broker of any processes within your business that occur out of hours. Insurers usually define an unattended process as one that, once set up, “is required to continue for a prolonged period of time without intervention or periodic monitoring by personnel.”

Unattended processes are typically an exclusion under most policies due to the risk of fire, but cover can be agreed subject to meeting certain criteria.

 

WHAT CAN GO WRONG?

A drop in oil level or other anomaly can result in fires in electrical discharge machining (EDM) equipment. A single spark can cause a flash fire in any machining operation where there’s coolant oil or oil vapour present. A supplementary fire suppression system can guard against machine fires causing a catastrophe. In fact, they represent a small percentage of the cost of investment in a modern CNC machines and a fraction of the cost of repairing major fire damage.

Titanium fires: if hot enough, fine chips of titanium can ignite creating a fire hazard for machines. Fires sparked by titanium and other types of metals are classified as Class D fires. They represent a severe hazard because they burn at very high temperatures and react violently to water and certain chemicals.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Have a plan. Make sure you have a plan to prevent fires. Studies show 43% of businesses closed by a significant fire never reopen. Another 29% fail within three years after reopening.

Make preventing fires a priority concern, especially if you run unattended machines. We highly recommend safeguarding equipment using supplementary fire suppression systems. A typical installation involves mounting a pressurised cylinder containing a fire suppression agent and routing the fire detection tubing to the work zone inside the machine. The cylinder is usually located on the side or rear of the machine out of the way. Systems usually use foam, dry chemicals, water, CO2, FM-200 and 3M Novec 1230 to extinguish fires.

 

FURTHER GUIDANCE

RISC Authority guidance documentation may be downloaded free of charge from https://www.riscauthority.co.uk/free-document-library/RISCAuthority-Library_detail.rc42-fire-safety-of-unattended-processes.html. Please note any fire protection system to be installed to protect unattended process equipment should be subject to a fire risk assessment and consultation with your insurer.

 

CONCLUSION

We have reviewed several insurance programmes recently where a client has innocently not disclosed an unattended machinery process, quite simply because they did not know that this was an issue.

This blog is simply a cautionary note – all manufacturers, machinery and machinery processes are different. At ProAktive we completely understand this, however, what is certain is that you MUST disclose these processes to your insurers and the tide is turning; the general appetite to accept these processes without robust fire risk management procedures in place is significantly diminishing.

If you are in any doubt or have any queries with regards to the above, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01302 341 344.

By Dane Turner Dip CII – Broking Manager

 

Holidays – Frequently Asked Questions

The recent drop in temperature no doubt brings a yearning for some well needed sunshine. With that in mind we’ve summarised some of the more frequently asked questions regarding holiday pay and entitlement.

What Should Holiday Pay Include?

Most companies think of holiday pay as the basic pay however, holiday pay should also include other elements of pay. A number of legal cases have been key in extending the legal definition of holiday pay and as a result, holiday should include overtime pay and commission or bonuses that are intrinsically linked to the performance of the role. This is especially important when it comes to salespeople who sometimes receive a large proportion of their ‘normal pay’ through commission schemes.

You don’t have to include payments that are only paid occasionally, for example, expenses or end of year bonuses based on company overall performance.

What is included as ‘Normal Hours’ when it comes to holiday pay?

Where some employers fall foul, is when considering what is considered normal hours of work and distinguishing between contracted hours and what happens in practice. When calculating holiday pay you should also include overtime; when it is regularly performed, as well as travel time where the employee doesn’t have a fixed place of work.

What is the Holiday Pay Reference Period?

Most employers are now comfortable with calculating holiday pay using a 12-week average. As of 1st April 2020, the reference period will be changed to 52 weeks.

Is rolled-up Holiday Pay legal?

In short – no. Rolled up Holiday Pay is the practice of including holiday pay as an element of an employee’s normal monthly pay and not paying it at the time the holiday is being taken. This practice is no longer allowed, and Employers should review their processes and contracts to make sure that employees receive pay when they are on holiday. Employers should also avoid paying employees instead of them taking holidays.

If an Employee is off work, do they still accrue holiday days?

Yes – Employees who are on long term sick or statutory leave (e.g. Maternity Leave) still accrue holiday pay. Where an employee cannot take holiday due to sickness absence or statutory leave, they are entitled to carry this over into the next holiday year.

Can we have a ‘use it or lose it’ policy?

Whilst it is perfectly acceptable to have a policy that doesn’t allow for employees to carry forward holidays to the next holiday year, employers should encourage staff to take their holiday days and at the very least ensure each employee takes at least 20 days holiday a year (inc. Bank Holidays).

Can we require employees to take holiday or be restricted from taking holidays at certain periods?

If employers have a legitimate business reason, they can ask employees to take holiday at certain times of the year. A good example of this is when a business shuts down over Christmas/New Year. In these scenarios we always encourage employers to give employees as much notice as possible and ensure that this is documented in the Employee Handbook. Employers can also restrict holidays being taken, for example where there is insufficient cover due to other employees being off or in business critical periods. For example, an Accountancy firm may restrict employees taking holidays in the weeks surrounding the start or end of the financial year.

For further information regarding holidays or any other employment issues please contact our HR Team on 01302 341 344.

By Kris Kerins BSc (Hons) PGC (Tech Mgmt)HR Business Partner