What you need to know about coronavirus if you have employees

Insureon Staff.
The ongoing coronavirus outbreak is hurting small businesses across all industries. Companies with employees have even more at stake.
Woman at home sanitizing hands

Economic uncertainty has been ongoing as the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) has persisted. And small business owners have been forced to adapt to the rapid changes in the economy, lest it threaten their livelihoods for the long run.

A recent McKinsey & Co. survey found that 59% of companies have needed to adopt new supply-chain risk management practices over the past 12 months in response to consistent strains from the pandemic.

Business owners have naturally been wondering if their insurance policies cover any financial losses caused since the start of the pandemic. Unfortunately, business insurance probably won’t cover losses related to the coronavirus. For example, business interruption policies typically exclude losses due to infectious diseases (unless you have a communicable disease rider).

Sole proprietors in some industries may not have to change their business practices. But small companies with employees must take action to protect worker health and safety, consider how to assist any potential laid-off staff, and plan for future pandemics and disasters.

Implement employee health and safety measures

As state and local governments continue to reevaluate regulations around small gatherings and beyond, "business as usual" has needed to adapt to a new normal. To help keep your employees and customers safe moving forward, take these simple steps.

Suspend nonessential employee travel

Limiting close contact and crowds for your employees is key to avoiding their risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Avoid nonessential business travel until further notice.

Many popular conferences or events you or your employees may plan to attend are now available online, have been postponed, or canceled all together. If you or an employee had planned to attend an event, check with the airlines, hotels, or events themselves, as many will now offer flexible scheduling or refunds for cancellations due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Some business insurance policies will also cover the costs of travel cancellations or itinerary changes.

Certain special event policies also reimburse you for event postponement or loss of deposit coverage. But to apply, those policies may need to have been in effect at a certain point in time. Check with your agent to see if you’re covered.

Encourage employees to work from home

Ask employees with symptoms of a respiratory illness or who have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for the coronavirus not to come into your business or meet with customers or clients.

Whenever possible, allow employees to work from home and collaborate using phone, email, and videoconferencing. If they’re not used to working remotely, encourage them to:

  • Create a dedicated workspace.
  • Stick to a set schedule.
  • Routinely check in with their colleagues.
  • Regularly take short breaks.

With schools continuously adapting to outbreaks across the country, employees may have their children with them at home at any given time. Some workers are also dealing with sick family members or relatives who need care.

Business owners must understand these challenges and give employees some leeway. For example, flexible hours can help employees manage work and life responsibilities more effectively.

While remote work may come with some inherent risks, ultimately putting the health of you and your staff first should be a top priority for continuing to run a successful business in this current environment.

Encourage safe practices in your workspace

If your business has employees regularly coming to your workplace, it's important to encourage employees to wear masks, avoid nonessential contact, and consistently sanitize equipment and frequently touched surfaces. The Centers for Disease Control coronavirus prevention guidelines recommends that the public wear N95 and KN95 respirators in indoor spaces outside of their home, and that companies should sanitize high touch surfaces like doorknobs, tables, desks, light switches, faucets, and sinks with household cleaners and disinfectants.

Employees who must travel to client offices should following government recommended safety precautions, such as remaining six feet away from others and washing their hands regularly.

No matter how hard you try to protect your business, your employees, and your customers, COVID-19 may still take a financial toll. Reduced revenue, closures, and continued spread of the virus may mean you’ll have to let some employees go.

Assist employees who lose jobs because of the coronavirus

The coronavirus has already caused layoffs in some industries. Declining sales and closures could eventually force more businesses to reduce staff again.

Government research reported that at the worst point for job loss in the pandemic, the unemployment rate rose to 14.8%.

If your business has struggled or is continuing to struggle with loss of funds from the pandemic, you can look into forms of financial aid and changes to unemployment benefits to help your business and laid-off employees alike by applying for a government-sponsored loan.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) had previously offered COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which provided financial relief to help small businesses and nonprofits that suffered from a loss of revenue from the pandemic. The SBA is no longer considering new applications, but will accept requests for loan increases, reconsideration, and appeals as long as funding is available.

Existing borrowers can monitor their loan status by setting up an account with the SBA’s Capital Access Financial System and request an increase through the agency’s COVID EIDL portal.

If you are looking for other financial help for your small business, the SBA still offers its traditional SBA loans and backs loan forgiveness through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Prepare for future disasters and pandemics

The overall impact and scope of the pandemic may look extraordinary, but unexpected events are nothing new. Events like natural disasters, armed conflicts, and diseases have all had a catastrophic impact on businesses throughout the years. The important thing is to prepare and plan for future risks to minimize the effects of these events.

Create a business contingency plan

The coronavirus is a prime example of why you need a business contingency or disaster recovery plan.

This plan outlines how your business will proceed when unexpected events occur. A business contingency plan typically includes:

  • Potential risks, such as disease outbreaks, natural disasters, workplace harassment, building collapses, and civil unrest
  • Resources needed to continue business operations, including employees, supplies, utilities, and equipment
  • Lost revenue estimates and costs of recovery
  • Action plan for each risk scenario

The Department of Homeland Security’s Business Continuity Plan guidelines show how to evaluate your business’s risks as you create your plan.

Manage finances online

Many small businesses have transitioned from paper paychecks and in-branch bank deposits. But those that haven’t should consider the benefits of going digital should an emergency arise.

Bank branches are considered essential businesses and are currently open across the country, but that may change. Managing finances online allows you to move money between accounts without visiting a physical location or coming into direct contact with others.

If your business mostly accepts cash payments, now is a great time to set up accounts with online services like PayPal and Venmo.

And if you still pay employees with physical checks, talk to your bank or payroll company about setting up direct deposits. That way your workers won’t have to visit a branch to deposit their paychecks.

Assemble a disaster recovery kit

Your employees will thank you for taking the time to create this kit before the next emergency strikes.

Supplies will depend on the event, your location, and how quickly authorities can respond. But in general, items to consider include:

  • Bottled water
  • Canned goods and a can opener
  • Flashlights and spare batteries
  • First-aid kits
  • Face masks
  • Personal sanitary supplies
  • Extra cell phone chargers

You can’t predict or prevent viral outbreaks, disasters, or other crises. But you can prepare to give your employees a better chance of preserving their livelihoods – and their lives.

The coronavirus outbreak serves as a reminder to re-examine your business insurance coverage and what your policies will cover the next time the unexpected happens. Insureon agents can help you understand your options and how you can best protect yourself from future catastrophes.

Give our experts a call at (800) 688-1984 with questions about insurance coverage or policy options. You can also complete Insureon’s easy online application today to compare quotes for business insurance from top-rated U.S. carriers. Once you find the right policy for your small business, you can begin coverage in less than 24 hours.

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