What do the upcoming Covid updates mean for your business?

 

Could May 17th be the beginning of the end of Lockdown? We certainly hope so! Initial indications are that there will be increased freedoms as we enter Step 3 of the roadmap, but it’s not carte blanche to do as you please. You still need to make sure that controls are in place to protect your staff and visitors. We’ll discuss below exactly what the changes mean for most businesses:

 

  • BusinessesMost businesses can now reopen. This includes all retail outlets, indoor areas of hospitality venues (cinemas, theatres, amusement arcades, bingo halls and snooker / pool halls amongst others), indoor attractions (such as museums and galleries, adventure playgrounds, water parks and soft play areas, stately or historic building) and hotels. Remaining gym areas, such as saunas and steam rooms can also re-open.
  • Events – Indoor and outdoor events may be arranged. Capacity will be restricted to 50% of capacity up to a maximum of 1,000 persons for indoor events and 50% of capacity up to a maximum of 4,000 people for outdoor events.
  • Gatherings – Outdoor gatherings of 30 people are now permitted. Indoor gatherings of 6 persons or 2 households will also be allowed. Indoor meetings for larger numbers of people for work purposes are permitted, however social gatherings with work colleagues are not. Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 persons and this may be held indoors (those working, such as waiters and waitresses are not included in the capacity numbers). Weddings can be held with a maximum of 15 persons (again those working do not count towards this total).
  • Organised SportIndoor sport can now be organised for all, including gym classes.
  • SchoolsPupils will no longer be required to wear face coverings in classrooms or communal areas in any school environment. Face coverings will not be required for staff in classrooms (but they will still be required in corridors and communal areas). Domestic residential visits can be under-taken, however children should remain within their bubbles for the purpose of the visit. International visits are not recommended for this academic year. All other controls remain.

 

 

Some rules will stay in place until we reach Step 4 of the roadmap which will not occur until the 21st June at the earliest. These are:

 

  • Social DistancingThe need to stay 2m apart (or 1m with enhanced precautions such as facial coverings) remains in place. Workplaces and hospitality venues must still adhere to these rules at all times. This remains a legal requirement. This should be communicated to your staff by use of floor markings and posters as applicable. Social distancing should also remain in place when sharing transport, such as vans or cars for commuting purposes.
  • Face Coverings These must still be worn in most indoor settings, such as shops and public transport, as is currently the case. Care should now be taken with transparent face shields. There is now evidence that they are not as effective as facial coverings and should be worn in combination with a covering if possible.
  • Working From HomeEmployees should continue to work from home if possible. This guidance has not changed. You may wish to make exceptions to this on mental wellbeing grounds.
  • Employees who are CEVThose who are clinically extremely vulnerable have not been required to shield since the 1st April. It would still be appropriate for them to work from home where possible, however if this is not possible the individuals are permitted to return to work provided adequate precautions (such as social distancing) can be enforced. Those living with any person who are CEV are not required to shield and can attend the workplace. They should be encouraged to follow enhanced hygiene controls such as regular handwashing and cleaning.

 

It is important that you don’t fall into the misconception that a perceived ‘relaxation’ of the restrictions allows you to change your current working practices. Penalties for not obeying the rules remain in place. There is a fixed penalty notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences to a maximum of £6,400. Illegal gatherings of over 30 people can result in fines of £10,000. The HSE are still maintaining their campaign of checking that workplaces remain COVID-Secure and will no doubt be checking those businesses which are permitted to open from the 17th May.

 

By Ian Clayton CMIOSH, Managing Director of Risk Management  

 

Mental Health Awareness Week: 10-16th May 2021

Did you know that next week, 10th to 16th May, is Mental health Awareness Week, the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health?

The pandemic and lockdowns have had a negative impact on many people’s mental health, and we are seeing stories in the news everyday about the impact on schoolchildren, young people, older people, those working from home, those shielding, people living on their own or in flat – in fact anyone at all!

 

Anything you can do in the workplace to raise awareness about all aspects of mental health, provide help and advice and inspire action to promote the message of good mental health for all, must be a good thing!     

Poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year. But for every £1 spent by employers on mental health interventions, they get back £5 in reduced absence, presenteeism and staff turnover. (Deloitte, 2020)

All the major UK mental health organisations are running campaigns that you can get involved in next week with easy to download resources. Here are links to a selection of them:

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 | Mind

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 – Mental Health UK (mentalhealth-uk.org)

At ProAktive we also offer the Mental Health First Aid England accredited training courses to equip your people with the knowledge and skills to manage health and wellbeing proactively, minimise the impact of mental ill-health on your business and your people, and promote and maintain healthy workplaces. If you would like more information on this course and our availability, please call us on 01302 341 344 and ask for Ann Granter or myself.

By Angela Stancer ACIIHR Manager

 

The risk of underinsuring: a philosophical perspective

Getting your ‘sums insured’ accurate may seem like an inconsequential task to some, however, this is extremely important and can have a significant impact on any future claim settlement.

Often your sums insured for physical assets such as buildings, plant and machinery will be index linked to afford some protection against underinsurance. This is to account for general inflation, rising building costs and professional fees amongst other market increases. Whilst this is a useful tool to combat underinsurance attention should be paid to the underlying values that are selected.

Particular attention should be paid to buildings and high-valued contents items and regular valuations and reviews should be undertaken to ensure that the full reinstatement values are adequate. In the event they are not, insurers will proportionately reduce any claims payments by the amount of underinsurance. It is important to note that the responsibility for accurate values is the policyholders and the policyholders alone. Neither insurers nor brokers are professional valuers.

Of course the sum insured reflects the premium to be paid and it may be tempting to try and reduce costs by reducing the amount to be insured but the quotation by Victorian artist and philosopher, John Ruskin, springs to mind…

 

“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money — that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.”

Giving due consideration to asset values is definitely time well spent.

By Molly White Cert CIICommercial Account Handler

Why are jewellery valuations so important?

As the price of precious metals and gemstones is constantly fluctuating, it’s important that you are insured for the correct value in the event of a claim.

The graph below shows the price of gold over the last 5 years and, as you can see, 2021 is significantly higher than 2017.  Therefore, if you haven’t had a valuation in the last 5 years then you may be underinsured.

 

* the price of gold in the UK on 16th April 2021 was £1291.87p per ounce.

 

Underinsurance can creep up on us all and before we know it 10 years have passed since we last had our jewellery re-valued.  A couple of examples of items underinsured are shown below –

 

2ct diamond platinum ring     2014 valuation £48,000           2020 valuation £60,000
South Sea pearl necklace       2014 valuation £17,000            2020 valuation £25,000
Gents Rolex Datejust             2014 valuation £6,850              2020 valuation £10,050
Cartier Panthere ring             2014 valuation £14,000            2020 valuation £24,300

 

Not only does a valuation ensure you have an up to date written document assigning a monetary value to a piece, it also describes the item in detail which usually includes weight, size, quality, any visible & measurable facts and a photograph of the item.  All of these things can prove invaluable in replacing an item should it be lost or stolen.  It can also assist in its recovery by the police.

When carrying out valuations, jewellers often discover damage to settings, chipped stones or damaged clasps which the client was unaware of.  These problems can then be rectified before a gemstone falls out of a ring, due to a cracked claw for example, or a tennis bracelet is lost due to a damaged safety catch failing.  This prevents upset for the client and a claim occurring.

In respect of the luxury watch market, the replacement cost of some brands is changing on a daily basis, particularly Patek Philippe, Rolex and Richard Mille as these are in such demand.  If you own one of these brands, please research its current replacement cost and adjust your insurance accordingly.

Please remember that specified pieces of jewellery are only insured for the amount shown in your policy schedule.  It is your responsibility to ensure the values are kept up to date.

If you would like me to recommend a number of registered Jewellery Valuers, please feel free to contact me on 07966 240530.

By Clare Bingham – Private Client Manager

 

 

How would your business fare following a cyber attack/data breach?

Over the last year I’ve had a number of conversations with colleagues and clients about IT and the phrase “data is the new oil” inevitably gets thrown in by one of us with a knowing nod. This sounds impressive but all it likely shows is we’ve watched the same Netflix documentary

Joking aside, it is a striking term. And one that quite accurately reflects the growing importance of data as both commodity and currency in today’s business environment.

The insurance industry has been slightly ahead of the curve in this realisation and for a while, have fine-tuned propositions designed to protect companies who suffer a loss in the short and long term because of cyber-attack/data breach.

The importance of such a solution is demonstrated in a very recent example involving a ProAktive client, which through no fault of their own, suffered a data breach that might have had serious implications on their ability to function day-to-day.

In this example, the client was notified by its IT provider of a large fire having had occurred at the offshore data centre that held its servers and cloud storage. To further compound the issue there was a possibility the fire had also destroyed the managed backups that were stored in an adjacent site.

  • The immediate problems – no access to cloud storage, limited IT functionality and no way to keep track of work done, invoiced transactions etc.
  • The long-term problems – how to pay salaries, accept new business, service existing clients, reputational damage and also how to pick up on retroactive work without aid of backups?

Without going into the specifics, I am pleased to say a potentially disastrous outcome was avoided without use of the insurance, although it is worth noting a comprehensive Cyber insurance policy (such as this client held) would have offered a degree of protection in respect of the business interruption short fall and associated crisis management/reputational impact.

All of this begs to ask the question: how would you fare in the same circumstances? Where is your cloud storage and how secure is it? Such data centres are typically state of the art facilities, however the above shows nothing is certain.

As processes increasingly become automated and IT becomes more sophisticated, data will become one of the key assets for all companies and so by extension. All companies are exposed to the same risks – targeted attacks, ransomware and pure accidents!

By Simon Wright Dip CII Account Executive

 

Probate Property Insurance: problem solved!

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is a very difficult and stressful time and knowing what to do when their home becomes unoccupied will be the last thing on their minds.  Many will often have no idea what the reinstatement cost of the building is and generally will have very little information about the property.

We can help you with peace of mind by asking a couple of simple questions; we can provide a specifically designed insurance policy to protect empty homes under the following circumstances:

  • The property is unoccupied due to the owner passing away
  • The property is unoccupied due to the owner moving into care
  • The property is unoccupied due to the owner moving in with family members

All we would need are the answers to these 4 simple questions, which will enable us to provide a quotation:

  • The property address
  • Approximate year of build
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Type of property (e.g. Semi-detached)

Below are some of the Key features of the policy:

  • Buildings cover – £1,000,000 as standard including accidental damage
  • Contents cover – £10,000 as standard FREE of charge when the buildings are insured including accidental damage (we can quote for a higher amount if required)
  • Cover can be provided on a 3, 6, 9 or 12 month basis with a pro rata refund for 9 & 12 month policies (no return of premium for 3 & 6 month policies)
  • The policy includes carefully selected covers that are relevant to unoccupied properties, with a host of commonly claimed for risks included as standard
  • No excess to pay in the event of a claim
  • No inspection requirement for the property
  • Upon completion of probate, cover may continue up to the natural renewal date of the policy subject to no change in circumstances at the property

 

 

 

 

If you would like to discuss this type of protection with ProAktive, please call me on 01302 346 830 when you’re ready.

By Emma Wake Cert CIISME Account Handler

 

Are your LEV Systems COVID safe?

The last 12 months has seen an ever-increasing infection rate of COVID -19. With vaccination programmes now in full force and the road map out COVID-19 laid out in front of us. Businesses will be hoping that their workplaces may begin to open back up to their normal operation and now is the time to ensure your working environments are safe, as the health of employees is paramount during this time.

If you work in an industry where dust and fumes are commonplace, you will already be familiar with the challenges that the Covid-19 outbreak has had on safety inspection and compliance, including how important it is to ensure a robust Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) system. But have you considered the impact that a poorly maintained environment will have on your employees in today’s climate, and how that will ultimately impact the efficiency of your productivity?

 

Why ventilation is essential

Over time, the performance of LEV systems will naturally decline due to blockages and wear and tear, meaning that the poor filtration of dust and fumes from industrial equipment could begin to contaminate the air and affect the health of your workforce. Respiratory diseases like asthma, lung scarring, and cancer can all be exacerbated by poorly ventilated working environments, therefore leaving employees vulnerable to airborne viruses like Covid-19, ultimately impacting your workforce capabilities and financial aspects of your business.

Your Duties

To ensure your LEV system complies with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations, inspection and testing is recommended to be done every 14 months, yet because of local and national lockdowns many companies are finding it challenging to prioritise inspections due to limited resources.

Recently, The HSE released a Covid-19 safe guide to inspection and testing of LEV systems during the Coronavirus outbreak which states that they “expect duty holders to make all reasonable efforts to arrange thorough examination and testing to be carried out within the statutory time limits.”

Organisations operating at limited capacity with fractions of their workforce limited to home working or due to imposed government self-isolation may find this difficult, therefore widening the gap between legal requirements and compliance.

 

If you would like some further advice please contact the health and safety team on 01302 341 344.

By Aaron Moxam Risk Services Assistant

April 2021 National Minimum and Living Wage Increases

The original plan to boost the wages of lower paid workers from April 2021, with an increase of over 5%, has been scaled back with more modest rises of around 2.2% overall. This is more in line with inflation and seeks to protect the living standards of lower paid workers. Even this prudent increase will be a challenge for some businesses suffering the economic effects of the pandemic.

For the first time the National Living Wage has also been extended to 23 and 24 years olds. Previously the rate has only applied to people aged 25 and over.

Here are the new rates which apply from 1st April 2021:

National Living Wage (now 23 and above) £8.91
Aged 21-22 inclusive £8.36
Aged 18-20 inclusive £6.56
Aged under 18 (but above school leaving age) £4.62
Apprentices aged under 19 £4.30
Apprentices aged 19 & over but in first year of apprenticeship £4.30

 

The Low Pay Commission remains committed to the Governments goal of ending low pay and have not recommended any changes to the target of the National Living Wage equating to two thirds of median earnings by 2024. The full effects of furlough and the impact of the pandemic have yet to be assessed though and will be considered later this year when the Low Pay Commission make their recommendations for 2022. Hopefully, business may be starting to recover by then.

Please contact one of our HR Consultancy Team if you have any questions.

By Angela Stancer ACII HR Manager

 

 

Have your premises become unoccupied in Lockdown 3?

We are finally seeing the finish-line of what is hopefully the final lockdown and the end of all the restrictions we’ve been living under for the past year.  Unfortunately we’ve still got another few months of restrictions with a number of businesses unable to trade or working remotely leaving their business premises unoccupied for longer periods.

The occupancy of a property is a material fact in insurance which must be declared to your insurers.  It is essential that your insurer is kept informed if your property becomes unoccupied.  Most insurers are allowing more leniency than normal due to the pandemic and will allow for at least 30 days unoccupancy before applying any additional conditions, however it is vital that insurers are notified as soon as practicable of any changes in occupancy.  

 

Most insurers have their own unoccupied property conditions that will be applied when a property is unoccupied for a certain length of time.  These do vary by insurer and we can discuss the conditions with your insurer if you are struggling to comply with certain aspects.  The conditions will often include the following precautions:

 

  • Existing premises security protections and alarm to be activated
  • Carrying out internal and external inspections every week
  • Repairing  any issues detected in the inspections (e.g. removing graffiti) as soon as possible
  • Keeping a log of the weekly inspections
  • Where possible turn off electricity and water at the mains
  • Removing all waste and gas bottles from the premises – either within or outside the premises

 

If you have not notified your broker that your property is unoccupied or are unsure of any additional conditions that may apply, please contact your insurance broker and who will be able to advise you accordingly.

By Kate Bacon ACII – Chartered Insurance Broker & Commercial Account Handler

Covid-19 Update for Schools

No doubt you’ll have been glued to the TV to hear the UK Government’s plans for a route out of lockdown. The main factor that we’ll deal with today are the updates required to allow children to return to school, in England, on the 8th March. There are some changes that will be needed, with the main focus this time around being on secondary schools.

 

 

Changes for all schools

  • From the 8th March, attendance at school will now be compulsory for all school children in England.
  • Some members of staff will still be required to shield if they have been identified as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable, even if they have received the vaccine. The government will keep this under review with the expectation that most of this group will have been vaccinated by group 6 of the Vaccinate Priority Group list. You may be able to provide alternative work for these persons to allow them to work from home. The identification of these groups will be via a shielding letter which the school is entitled to request sight of.
  • Classes will remain in bubbles. There are no requirements to reduce class sizes from normal sizes.
  • Wraparound care, such as breakfast or afterschool clubs are permitted to operate. Care should be taken to ensure that mixing between bubbles does not occur unduly.
  • School transport should continue. Consideration should be given to: maintaining social distancing, keeping bubbles together, organising queueing and boarding, and the use of facial coverings for all person aged 11 and over.
  • Educational visits are still not advised.
  • PE should be undertaken externally wherever possible, however indoor lessons can be used providing that additional precautions over hygiene and cleaning are implemented. External facilities can be used provided that guidance on transport, and the site rules for the facility, are followed.
  • Temporarily, there is no requirement to follow up a positive lateral flow test with a PCR test. A positive lateral flow test is sufficient to confirm that the individual should isolate. Isolation periods remain at 10 days.

 

Primary Schools

  • Your current controls will continue from the 8th March.
  • There is an acceptance that younger children will find it difficult to social distance and so this is no longer required within these bubbles.
  • Lateral Flow Testing for staff should be continued as implemented presently. There are no plans to test children in primary schools at the present time.
  • Face coverings should be worn by staff wherever possible in circulation areas.

 

Secondary Schools

 

  • Mass testing, using Lateral Flow Testing, must be undertaken on every pupil returning to school from the 8th March. This must be completed every 3 / 4 days for three iterations. Schools will be able to stagger the return to school to accommodate this testing.
  • Once the mass testing has been completed, students can move to home testing. We would urge you not to underestimate the administration burden of doing this. The test subject will be required to submit results via the NHS portal, however as schools do not have access to this system, the results will need to be shared with the school separately. This will require a system of registering results, which for a large student population could be a substantial task.

 

  • Facial coverings should now be worn by staff and pupils throughout the school, including in classrooms. If ease of understanding is required, for example due to lip reading or similar, then a face shield should be worn by the staff member. There is an appreciation, however, that face shields are not as effective as facial coverings and will need to be cleaned regularly.
  • Facial coverings are not required in lessons such as PE where the wearing of them would prevent the impact on the ability of pupils to take part.

 

Special Schools

 

  • Your current controls will continue from the 8th March.
  • School now have flexibility in allowing children who are identified as clinically extremely vulnerable to return to school if there are at risk from wider issues such as vulnerability, inability to access remote learning, or that their may be an impact on their wellbeing. In these cases we would strongly recommend that a risk assessment be undertaken so that any additional controls required are identified and that this is agreed in conjunction with the pupil / parents.
  • If a pupil is required to isolate due to COVID symptoms, and they have a social worker, then the social worker must be notified and a contact plan agreed for the child.
  • Where a pupil has an EHC, all therapies that would normally occur should be provided.
  • There is flexibility to utilise lateral flow testing, where possible, based upon the needs of the pupil and to include assisted testing. Swabbing for pupils can be limited to nasal swabbing if necessary. This should only be extended to pupils over the age of 11.

 

 

The updated guidance in full is available from these sources:

 

 

The guidance for asymptomatic testing and for providing school meals is under review at the present time and we expect revised advice to be published in the coming days.

ProAktive will be updating the risk assessments for primary, secondary and specialist settings which will be communicated shortly. If you do require specific advice, however please call our consultants on 01302 341344.