COVID updates

coronavirus

Clients experiencing financial difficulties

On the 18th May 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority introduced new measures for insurance and premium finance firms to help clients in financial difficulty. Should you be experiencing financial hardship, or if things change at work or home, we may be able to help by:

  • Re-assessing your demands & needs
  • Reviewing levels of cover
  • Adding or removing optional covers such as legal expenses
  • Adding or removing people on your policy

Where amendments to your insurance cover does not alleviate your payment difficulties, you should contact your finance provider directly as further support may be available, which could potentially include:

  • The possibility of deferring payments (refer to FAQ’s)
  • Reduced repayments, or rescheduled term
  • Waiving missed or late payment fees
  • Amending your repayment date without any cost
  • Reducing interest payment

It is important that customers do not leave themselves uninsured, so we encourage you to contact us to discuss the options available if you are struggling to afford your payments during this uncertain time.

FAQ’s on Payment Deferrals

Q – What is a payment deferral?

A – A payment deferral is an arrangement under which a firm permits a customer that pays their insurance premium in instalments to make no payments for a specified period

Q – How do I apply for a payment deferral?

A – You should contact your insurer or finance provider direct

Q – If I am granted payment deferral, will I be classed as being in arrears on my payments?

A – No, nor would the provider or any third party such as broker or debt collector be allowed to cancel the policy or collect payment during the deferral period

Q – How long can I defer payments?

A – One to three months however, the provider can grant a longer extension should they wish

Q – Will I have to pay a fee?

A – The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) would not expect a customer to be liable to pay any charge or fee in connection with the granting of a payment deferral

Post and paper-based documents

We continue to handle all post (incoming and outgoing), and paper-based documents such as cheques, as quickly and efficiently as possible to ensure they are processed in a timely manner to safeguard policy cover. Should you have any concerns about instructions or cheques you have sent

which may not have been processed, or documents you believe you are due from us, please contact us urgently.

What’s an ERN?

ERP3

What’s an ERN?

An Employer Reference Number (ERN) is given to every business that registers with HMRC and serves to identify you as an employer for employee income tax and national insurance (NI) purposes. It’s a unique set of letters and numbers used by the Treasury to identify your company and is sometimes referred to as an ‘employer PAYE reference’ on tax forms.

This reference is made up of two parts: a three-digit HMRC office number, and a reference number unique to your business. It will be provided to you in your employer’s welcome pack when you register with HMRC, and will also appear on a range of correspondence from the taxman.

When do I need an ERN?

You’ll need your ERN in a few different circumstances – the most important of which will undoubtedly be when you come to complete your end of year PAYE return. An invalid or missing ERN is one of the most common (and easily avoidable) reasons for tax return rejection; you’ll need this number to hand to fulfil your reporting obligations.

You should also make sure you know your ERN if you have an employee. Employees often need their employer’s reference number when applying for tax credits and Student Loans, plus you might be required to include it on payslips, so the likelihood of them asking for it at some point is high.

Another time you’ll need your ERN within easy reach is when purchasing certain business insurances, most notably Employers’ Liability (EL). This is in order to identify and prove where an employee has worked in the event of a claim, particularly if the claim comes a significant time after the employee worked for you. This is usually the case when it comes to health and safety claims – for example, those who worked with asbestos for years claiming after developing mesothelioma.

The Employers’ Liability Trading Office has set up a database specifically for this reason.

 

Where can I find my ERN?

When you registered as an employer with HMRC, you should’ve received a letter confirming your registration and supplying your new employer reference numbers. This is the best place to find your ERN.

When you registered as an employer with HMRC, you should’ve received a letter confirming your registration and supplying your new employer reference numbers. This is the best place to find your ERN.

ERP

If you don’t have this letter to hand, you can find your ERN on tax forms, payslips, P45 and P60 forms instead. It will usually be in the format: 123/A12345 and could also be referred to as an ‘Employer PAYE reference’.

ERP2

Image source: Allianz Insurance PLC

If you don’t have any record of your ERN it may be that you are not registered as an employer. If this is the case, but you are employing or intend to employ someone, it’s of utmost importance that you register as a matter of urgency.

In some cases you may not have to register under PAYE and therefore won’t have an ERN. You don’t have you register for PAYE if:

·        Your employees are paid as self-employed or paid via an agency

·        Your employees each earn less than £113 a week

·        Your employees are unpaid volunteers

·        Your business is based in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man

We offer competitive Employers Liability Insurance solutions.

 

Covid-19 Update

coronavirus

COVID-19: Potential exposures to directors and senior managers

Claims culture and worker safety are hitting the headlines with some parts of the UK starting to return to work. Companies House data in February and March shows the emergence of 45 newly incorporated limited companies that contain the words ‘corona’ or ‘COVID’, with many focusing on compensation.

As a result of COVID-19, business owners have had to be increasingly agile to ensure the continued survival of their businesses, but every decision that you make has the potential to be scrutinised by clients, employees and shareholders.

Employee welfare and perceived dangers

As a director, you will keep the health and safety of your employees at the heart of your decision making. Understanding risks that are “serious and imminent” would previously have been well-established and documented procedures that would already be in place to reduce potential harm to employee welfare. The emergence of COVID-19, however, requires specific risk management consideration in respect of

The extent to which employees can be expected to bear an increased degree of risk at work because of the pandemic and employers should have to go to protect them from the new danger of COVID-19 is considered in this legal guidance from Gus Baker.

It is important to remember It is the employee’s perception of danger that matters, not the employer’s.

Alteration to contracts of employment

In an effort to ensure business continuity there may be a need to make changes to your employees’ day-to-day work. This could include.

  • Reducing salaries (furlough or otherwise)
  • Change of work location/hours
  • Change of job role/duties

Before making any decisions, careful consideration is required and the ACAS website will provide invaluable support.

Shareholder and investor relations

The directors and senior management, collectively and individually, could face increased scrutiny in respect of how the business is managed, such as:

  • The government amended the insolvency act to allow businesses to trade insolvently. This is unchartered territory and decision making could be challenged.
  • Shareholders may allege negligence in respect of business continuity planning
  • Investors may argue that disclosures about the impact of the coronavirus on the company were misleading or inadequate

Management Liability (MLP) Insurance

Management Liability is designed to protect directors and senior managers in the event of allegations by employees, shareholders, third parties, and others. It can be extremely costly to defend against allegations, which could put the financial stability of a small business or the personal assets of individual directors at risk.

A Management Liability Insurance package can include cover for the following areas;

  • Directors and Officers Liability. Personal liability for legal costs and awards in defending any civil, criminal, regulatory claim or investigation against directors, officers and senior managers.

and companies in the form of;

  • Employment Practices Liability. Cover for claims from current and former employees alleging a breach of employment law.
  • Corporate Legal Liability. Cover a company’s liability for legal costs and awards in defending any civil, criminal, regulatory claim or investigation.

Claims can be made by suppliers, employees, shareholders, creditors and other stakeholders, so now, more than ever, it is important to have financial protection in place.

Call us to review your existing policy or to discuss MLP cover for you and your business.

Unoccupied premises

Unoccupied premises

With the UK being in lockdown for the last couple of weeks, many business premises are currently no longer in daily use. Business owners should be aware of unoccupancy conditions on their insurance policy that may apply as a result of this.

General guidance around this topic:

· It is important to distinguish between temporarily closed premises due to COVID-19, and previously longer terms unoccupied premises which are likely to have more stringent conditions applied at inception or renewal.

· For properties that are temporarily closed due to Covid-19, there will be policy conditions applied which should be adhered to in order to safeguard cover.

· There has been varied responses from the insurance market in reaction to the current climate, including extending the usual period before any unoccupied cover restrictions or terms apply, and waiving or delaying weekly inspections that are usually required. The best advice is to contact your insurance advisor to clarify your current insurers response.

· The Association of British Insurers have provided the following guidance for policyholders.

The ABI guidance to clients is as follows:

If a business has to temporarily close because of Covid-19, where customers are taking the appropriate steps to mitigate the risk of damage to the property whilst unoccupied, insurers will be flexible around the period of un-occupancy specified on the policy document.

Policies will often include conditions that are intended to ensure good practice in protecting buildings of damage caused by the risk of fire, theft and escape of water, which are often increased when a building is empty. It is important that business owners continue to follow risk management advice and ensure they understand what steps they need to take.

Some insurers have also waived requirements for their business customers to immediately notify them of their unoccupied status, (depending on the individual business circumstances). This should help those customers concentrate on managing their businesses and allow insurers’ call centres to focus on managing the significant number of insurance claims being processed.

If there are any specific requirements as part of your insurance contract that you are unable or unlikely to be able to comply with, such as on-site security, speak to your insurer or insurance advisor/broker.

Some additional guidance notes and advice are shown below:

Risk Management Guidance

• Waste – Remove all external waste, pallets and empty skips before closure of the premises.

• Waste bins – Empty all waste bins and move to a secure area, ideally at least 10 metres from the building. If it is not possible to keep at least 10 metres, then these bins should have lockable lids.

• Fire Systems – Ensure all fire and/or sprinkler systems remain fully operational.

• Fire Doors – Check to ensure that internal fire doors are closed.

• Building Utilities – Ensure all non-essential electrical devices and building utilities are turned off.

• Inspections – Arrange for a weekly inspection of the building (internally and externally and only where it is safe to do so), risk assess for any lone working issues. Comply with existing government guidance regarding vulnerable people and lone worker risk assessments. Consider the provisioning for alternative skilled personnel.

• Physical Security – Check that physical security measures are in place and effective. For example, fences are fit for purpose and in good repair, windows are locked, shutters are in place, gates are locked.

• Intruder Alarm – Set Intruder alarms and ensure that the remote signalling is in place. Make sure there is a sufficient number of key holders available to respond to an activation within 20 minutes.

• Maintenance – As long as it is practical, continue essential maintenance and complete any remedial measures. Continue to respond to all Building Management Systems (BMS) alerts.

If you wish to discuss your specific situation, please do get in touch with us and we will be happy to assist.

Stuart, Mike, James

Statutory Engineering Inspections

engineering inspections

Following the government decision to put the UK into lockdown, inspection service providers sought guidance from the HSE and SAFed on the approach required for statutory inspections. As of Thursday 26 March, inspections will be conducted in accordance with the latest HSE and SAFed (The Safety Assessment Federation) guidance.

Engineer surveyors are categorised as ‘Key workers’ and agreement has been reached across the UK inspection industry for the continuation of inspection services for essential services, which are as follows

· health care settings (hospitals, GP practices and essential NHS hubs) and pharmacies

· schools used for essential workers childcare

· services and utilities (power, gas, water, sewage, waste)

· retail, manufacturing, port services and transport serving essential provisions (food, medical supplies, fuel etc.)

· maintenance and repair serving essential provision, as above

· social / economically vital sites and services (construction, large employers)

· essential commerce including Government / local council hubs of activity, banking.

In respect of individual insurers stance on non-essential service inspections, clients are advised to contact their insurance advisor to discuss this.

Please get in touch if you require any advice surrounding this.

CORONAVIRUS FINANCIAL SUPPORT – IMPORTANT NEWS UPDATE

coronavirus

We hope this post finds you well during these extremely trying times.

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19. We have collated these for your information. Read on for the detail of these announcements, including our recommendations on the key areas you could address.

The package of measures to support businesses are as follows:

CORONAVIRUS JOB RETENTION SCHEME

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month for each employee. HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers and they expect this to be available in April 2020 – no fixed date has yet been announced.

In order to prepare for this, please follow the below instructions so that you are ready to submit this information to HMRC.

  • designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change – changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation
  • submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required).

As this system has not yet been deployed, businesses will have to continue to pay employees, furloughed or not, as normal and wait for further updates.

Please note that if employees continue to work, the job retention scheme will not apply.

INSURANCE

Please note that the government have issued advice to state that those whom have purchased pandemic and government closure insurance policies, will be able to make a claim. However, please note that most businesses have not purchased insurance that

covers pandemic related losses. As such, any affected businesses should note the government’s full package of support, including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and business rates holiday mentioned below.

THE CORONAVIRUS BUSINESS INTERRUPTION LOAN SCHEME OFFERING LOANS OF UP TO £5 MILLION FOR SMES THROUGH THE BRITISH BUSINESS BANK

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value.

A STATUTORY SICK PAY RELIEF PACKAGE FOR SMES

New legislation to allow small-and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee (including directors) who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19

A 12-MONTH BUSINESS RATES HOLIDAY FOR ALL RETAIL, HOSPITALITY, LEISURE AND NURSERY BUSINESSES IN ENGLAND – This includes cash grants of £10K & £25K.

  • No rates payable for the 2020-2021 tax year for any shops, nurseries, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues or for assembly and leisure

Properties that will further benefit from a cash grant will be occupied hereditaments that are wholly or mainly being used:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
  • for assembly and leisure
  • as hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation

if your rateable value is between £15,000 and £51,000, you’ll also receive a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property.

Any business which gets small business rates relief, including those in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors, will receive a cash grant of £10,000

The rates holiday and cash grants will be administered by local authorities and should be delivered automatically, without businesses needing to claim.

VAT PAYMENTS

The next quarter of VAT payments will be deferred, meaning businesses will not need to make VAT payments until the end of June 2020. Businesses will then have until the end of the 2020-2021 tax year to settle any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period.

The deferral applies automatically, and businesses do not need to apply for it. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

INCOME TAX PAYMENTS

Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

Income Tax Self-Assessment payments due on the 31 July 2020 will be deferred until the 31 January 2021. This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

HMRC have also scaled up their Time to Pay offer – see below.

THE HMRC TIME TO PAY SCHEME

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has established a “time to pay” (TTP) service available for businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, to work with the taxpayers to deferred payments of tax (including corporation tax, value added tax (VAT) and pay-as-you-earn (PAYE)). TTP arrangements are agreed to on a case-by-case basis. Considering current circumstances, the TTP scheme has been scaled up and HMRC set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline for advice and support on this.

If you think you or your business is eligible for support through Time to Pay, you can call the following helpline number to get practical help and advice: 0800 0159 559. For more information, please follow this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19

THE PLANNED IR35 CHANGES HAVE BEEN POSTPONED UNTIL APRIL 2021.

AND FINALLY,

If you own a pub that serves food or a restaurant in England, you will be able to operate a hot food takeaway to serve people staying at home, without going through the usual planning process:

  • The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will shortly legislate to bring forward a temporary Permitted Development Right to allow for change of use from A3 (Restaurant) and A4 (Pub) to A5 (Hot Food Takeaway).
  • The intention is that once the legislation has come into force a pub or restaurant will be able to notify their Local Authority that they are now operating as a takeaway without any prior approval.

Now more than ever, we wish you the best over the coming months. We are here every step of the way and are happy to assist in way which we can.

Covid-19 – Am I Covered?

insurance cover

The spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus is beginning to affect every element of daily life and commercial activity. Many businesses will suffer from the precautions and impositions that have been put in place in order to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, and it is fair to ask, ‘Am I covered?’

The wordings and conditions on policies vary and each case may have to be discussed on its own merits.

Business interruption

Business interruption insurance covers businesses for a loss of income during periods when they cannot carry out business as usual due to an insured event (such as fire or flood). It aims to put you back in the same trading position it was in before the event occurred.

BI cover will usually only be triggered where property damage has occurred which is unlikely to be relevant in these circumstances.

Some policies may be extended to cover instances of interruption that are not a consequence of physical damage, but the availability of cover will be entirely dependent on the specific wording of your policy.

Notifiable diseases

Unfortunately, coverage as a result of Covid-19 is likely to be rare. The UK Government has declared that Covid-19 is a notifiable disease, but it does not mean that coronavirus-related losses will be covered under the business interruption extension. In many standard contracts, there is no cover under the specified diseases extension as Covid-19 is not one of specified diseases covered.

Some infectious disease extensions are broader and do not specify the diseases but insist on them being notifiable.

If coverage is afforded, there would be applicable sub-limit contained in the policy, usually restricting to a maximum of £50,000 or £100,000. In addition, a lot of policies require there to be an outbreak at the business’ premises or within a specified proximity of the business premise (e.g. 10-mile radius).

Denial of access

Some policies include a ‘non-damage denial of access’ extension. If your business is forced to close or is told to close by a local authority/cordoned off, you may be able to make a claim under this extension. It is important to note that a lot of policies require there to be an outbreak at the business premises or within a specified proximity (e.g. 10-mile radius) of the business premises for you to be able to make a claim.

Closure of your business

Recent coverage in the media has suggested that insurance policies will kick in should the Government force closure of the premises. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most businesses.

The ABI has today released the following statement: “Irrespective of whether or not the Government orders closure of a business, the vast majority of firms won’t have purchased cover that will enable them to claim on their insurance to compensate for their businesses being closed by the Covid-19.

Standard business interruption cover – the type that the majority of businesses purchase – does not include forced closure by authorities as it is intended to respond to physical damage at the property which results in the business being unable to continue to trade.

A small minority of typically larger firms might have purchased an extension to their cover for closure due to any infectious disease. In this instance, an enforced closure could help them make a claim, but this will depend on the precise nature of the cover they have so they should check with their insurer or broker to see if they are covered.”

Event cancellation insurance

If your policy includes communicable diseases and the government or a public authority forces you to cancel an event, you may be able to claim for irrecoverable loss of costs or revenues. Conditions will vary so individual policies would need to be looked at.

Corona virus is now a standard market exclusion on new event cancellation policies.

Motor Trade

We have undertaken a review of the market and can tell you that Axa, Allianz, Covea, Aviva, NIG, Arch and Travelers have all confirmed that Covid-19 would not be covered under the Business Interruption section of their policies. Where these Insurers do provide a Notifiable Disease extension, it would be on a specified basis and therefore exclude Covid-19.

Government support for businesses

The government introduced a several measures in the recent budget to support businesses experiencing increases in costs or financial disruptions. Measures include:

– A Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will enable businesses with a turnover of no more than £41 million to apply for a loan of up to £1.2 million.

– For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full.

– Additional £2.2 billion funding support for those small businesses that pay little or no Business Rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR)

– A dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities receive support with their tax affairs. You can find out about this support in more detail on the Government website. The dedicated helpline number is 0800 0159 559.

a number of private lenders are also making funds available to small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including £2 billion from Lloyds Banking Group and £5 billion from NatWest

Please be aware that these are general observations. Do not hesitate to get in touch to discuss your specific situation and policy coverage.

Coronavirus and Business Interruption Insurance

coronavirus

It was announced on 4 March that the Government will formally register Covid-19 as “notifiable”. Although this is good news in some respects, it does not automatically mean that businesses will be able to claim under their business interruption insurance.

Business interruption

Typically, standard property/business interruption policies do not provide coverage as physical damage is usually required as a trigger.

Special covers for business interruption without property damage are available as an extension, but are not widespread. This type of coverage usually requires an outbreak at the premises itself to claim for notifiable disease, as well as a “denial of access” order by public authorities.

Importantly, most insurers specify exactly which notifiable diseases they cover. It is unlikely that Covid-19 is on this list and so will not be covered.

All policies vary and the situation is changing daily. If you have any concerns or would like to review your policy, please do get in touch with me.

Preparing for a Pandemic

It is important that you develop robust and flexible business continuity arrangements that will help to minimise the impact of any disruption.

The Government has developed a checklist for organisations. It identifies specific activities large businesses can do now to prepare, many of which will also help you in other emergencies. A copy of the checklist can be downloaded here.

You can find an overview of Covid-19, information on outbreaks of coronaviruses and guidance on how to prevent a Covid-19 infection here.

You can read guidance from our insurer partner, Zurich, on pandemic planning here, along with a checklist that can be used to plan for a pandemic and minimise its impact.

We are closely monitoring this fast-changing situation. We are in close contact with our insurers and will keep you informed and up to date with all relevant information as soon as it becomes available. We will do all we can to help you through this challenging time.

Welcome to Cluckie, Paterson and Harle

Cluckie, Paterson & Harle Insurance Brokers are a specialist business insurance brokerage based in Angus and Perthshire.

The business is operated by Stuart Cluckie,Mike Paterson and James Harle who have over 40 years industry experience and various professional qualifications.

You can find out more about our company on our About Us page. Or contact us now to discuss your requirements.