Guidance on managing changes to business operations and how we’re extending some aspects of cover.
Inspection of Empty Buildings
Completing empty building inspections personally (or by an employed person) should continue, subject to adhering to social distancing and guidance issued by HM Government. An alternative to undertaking this personally is to engage the services of a security company to do this on your behalf. Our preferred supplier is First Response Group – email@example.com
All activities must only be taken in line with the current guidance issued by HM Government.
Here is some guidance to follow for lone working in temporarily vacated properties.
Physically Inspecting/Checking Premises vacated during the current period on a lone working basis must be in accordance with the current HSE Guidance for Lone Working Conditions.
Some things to consider in ensuring lone workers are not put at risk include:
Further guidance on Lone Working is available from the HSE via https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg73.pdf
AXA’s Business Resilience team is focused on finding new ways to deliver Risk Control information and advice through the crisis, and we outline some of these below.
Remote Risk Assessments
In line with guidance issued by HM Government, limiting travel and businesses restricting access to their sites, the AXA Business Resilience Management teams stopped undertaking site surveys from 17th March.
To ensure we continue to provide the necessary risk management input and added value to support underwriters, brokers and clients during the crisis, we have introduced a remote assessment process:
This will be a high-level review of the risk based on existing information from presentations, previous surveys, web sites and general known trade / process information without contacting the customer, or following a phone call with the client risk where limited information has been available.
This will be a more granular assessment following detailed discussions with the client, backed up where possible with photos and any additional documentation they can supply. The Business Resilience Managers can use various technologies for communication open including traditional calls, Skype and Facetime.
During phone surveys, we can discuss risk mitigation actions where risk improvement can be made in the normal way subject to availability of contractors or materials. The Business Resilience Manager will suggest to the underwriter a realistic re-survey suggestion to undertake a physical site inspection when normal business activity resumes.
We believe AXA is currently the only major insurer to develop this approach and we have had some excellent feedback from customers who welcomed the support the calls have given including:
Motor Fleet surveys (a recruitment company and a site catering company)
“Both recipients of our call were pleased to talk to someone about things other than COVID-19 and loved that they could discuss positive things that they could do to improve their driver safety even whilst working from home”.
Liability surveys (Construction contractor and a caravan park)
“Both clients were very receptive to the process and indeed stated it was a particularly good time for these to be undertaken because they have time on their hands to undertake various reviews of their businesses and make plans accordingly; including any risk improvement requirements put forward”.
Where we believe that a remote Survey could add value or assist in the acceptance of pricing or availability of cover for a client, our Underwriters will advise our brokers in advance. We believe there are substantial benefits for our clients and brokers, as well as potentially helping give our Underwriters the confidence to accept risks they might otherwise need to refuse.
Business Resilience continues to be a vital resource to our branches, brokers and customers and is operating as fully as possible during the pandemic. Completing desktop and phone surveys is one key measure of continued service along with other support for new business and renewal referrals.
Carrying out essential maintenance and repairs particularly for key industries, life safety considerations, fire and security protection or to satisfy statutory compliance continues to be important.
Some businesses may only have reduced services running, such as IT server equipment supporting staff working remotely from home. Maintenance schedules for some aspects within partially or fully shut businesses / premises may be subject to adjustment during this period depending on the operational requirements. Any adjustment should be subject to risk assessment, to determine the necessary and appropriate minimum levels required and should consider the overall work necessary required to reactivate when returning to normal operation.
Further information can be obtained from the following websites:
These guidelines would not override any existing policy conditions.
All activities must only be undertaken in line with the current guidance issued by HM Government.
Further guidance can also be found at
The law for Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and Pressure Systems Safety Regulations (PSSR) remain in place during the coronavirus outbreak.
HSE recognises the potential challenges arising from additional precautions to help reduce risk of transmission of coronavirus when carrying out legal requirements for thorough examination and testing (TE&T) of plant and equipment.
Advice has been issued to help dutyholders ensure that their work plant and equipment remain safe to use, and to help guide decision making to see if TE&T requirements can still be met.
The detailed guidance is available via https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/work-equipment-coronavirus.htm#
Existing legal requirements continue
The Health and Safety at Work general duty under section 2 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all employees is still in force and applies. The risk of contracting Coronavirus is not related to or caused by work activities directly. However, the risk of transmission may be increased by following normal working practices, so employers have a duty to identify and implement control measures to mitigate the risk in line with current HM Government Advice.
Risk assessments for vulnerable people
Risk assessments for vulnerable persons need to be reviewed on a priority basis and in accordance with the current HM Government Advice. Vulnerable employees are classed as:
If an employee reports sick with COVID-19 symptoms, they must be instructed not to report for work and advised to follow the self-isolation NHS guidelines.
Coronavirus and RIDDOR regulations
As of the 3rd April 2020 you must report a case of COVID-19 under the RIDDOR Regulations if it is believed an employee has been exposed through an unintended incident at work. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
If a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID-19, and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by an exposure at work, this must be reported as a case of disease.
Reduced Workforce Numbers
It’s inevitable that the workforce may reduce as employees follow self-isolation advice when symptoms appear, or persons in their households become affected.
The requirement to keep risk assessments under review is vitally important as this may generate other safety related issues.
Impact on HSE visits
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has suspended routine inspections during the Coronavirus outbreak.
It will however, continue to respond to fatalities and serious issues, but has to ensure it is following HM Government advice.
If you hold a first aid certificate that expires on or after 16th March 2020, and cannot access requalification training because of coronavirus, you may qualify for a 3-month extension.
This applies to:
To qualify for the extension, you must be able to explain why you haven’t been able to requalify and, if asked to do so, demonstrate what steps you have taken to access the training.
If first aid cover for your business is reduced because of coronavirus, or you can’t get the first aid training you need, there are some things you can do to still comply with the law.
You should review your first aid needs assessment, and decide if you can still provide the cover needed for the workers that are present, and the activities that they are doing.
If there are fewer people coming into your workplace, it may still be safe to operate with reduced first aid cover. You could also stop higher risk activities.
More Information can be found at: First Aid Certificate Coronavirus
AXA has an unrivalled team of 50 Business Resilience experts with a range of backgrounds including specialists in Sprinkler Installations, Health and Safety, Building Security and Motor Risk Management.
This team continue to be available to AXA underwriters, brokers and customers to offer advice, support and potential solutions to many of the issues that are likely to arise as we all adapt our business models to cope with this highly unusual situation. To access the support of this team please speak to your normal AXA contact.
Further business resilience support for any risk management questions is available via firstname.lastname@example.org
Commercial Motor Exposures
Social distancing and restricting travel have meant large numbers of business temporarily closing and people being restricted to home accommodation. However, many essential businesses continue to operate within the Government guidelines and some legal safety requirements have been relaxed to help with these restrictions.
It is important to be aware of, and continue to operate within, the law and not misinterpret the legislation that has been relaxed.
Drivers’ hours relaxation
The full details of relaxation of drivers’ hours are contained in https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-drivers-hours-relaxations/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-drivers-hours-relaxations.
The main headlines to note are:
Car, van or motorcycle MOTs due from the 30th March 2020
Your car, motorcycle, light van or other light vehicle’s MOT expiry date will be automatically extended by 6 months if it’s due on or after Monday 30 March 2020.
This means that your vehicle will still have a valid MOT certificate for an extra 6 months.
This applies to all vehicles, including those that need their first ever MOT test.
You do not need to do anything for this to happen. However, you must keep your vehicle safe to drive.
Below are several examples and guidance on vehicle management that can be used currently. It is not exhaustive, but simply provides best practice as we know it:
How AXA can help you to help your clients
Suspending or reducing cover for Laid Up vehicles - additional notification and refund option for Laid Up vehicles
In our first Coronavirus Update we stated that we would reduce cover to a ‘Laid Up’ basis for SORN’d vehicles and that this should be administered, and any refunds processed, as part of the normal declaration process under the insured’s policy (immediately for AXA Mini Fleet customers, but quarterly or at year end for MaxiFleet customers).
Customer’s requests for assistance have since become relatively polarised – with clients generally either not laying up any vehicles or SORN’ing a very large part of their fleet.
We have therefore decided to give customers the option to immediately notify us of ‘Laid Up’ and SORN’d vehicles. Subject to the cover required, and the underwriting criteria below, we can negotiate and pay an immediate partial refund on these vehicles for the remainder of the policy year. Please note that your customer would need to pay to reinstate cover to put that vehicle back on the road later in the year.
To take advantage of this method of administering Laid Up vehicle processing please contact our underwriters.
Cover Available for Laid Up Vehicles
In our previous communications we outlined that, upon request, we would offer “Laid Up Fire and Theft” cover for SORN’d vehicles, and negotiate a reduced premium, where:
This was a general commitment to our Motor Fleet customers, without any knowledge of the individual circumstances.
Our underwriters can now consider a more individual approach for clients who have difficulty in fully complying with these requirements, including:
We can then decide whether we are comfortable giving full Fire, Theft and / or Accidental Damage cover based on the overall exposure to theft, removal of catalytic converters, arson or unauthorised use by employees.
To ensure we are treating all customers fairly, if there is any uncertainty or concern about our final stance on any particular risk, our branches can discuss the individual circumstances with our Technical Centre.
*Please note – To SORN a vehicle it must not be kept on any road or public place
Where vehicles are not being used, it is important to ensure that they are secure and protected from theft or damage:
With many more employees now working from home, the HSE has updated guidance about use of Display Screen Equipment in a Home Environment.
They have also reminded employers they have the same responsibilities towards home workers as any other employee – this includes Lone Working situations and Mental Health issues.
When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider:
More information can be found at https://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/workers/home.htm
To provide greater certainty to clients we’re introducing a number of automatic enhancements to our policies, with immediate effect. Please share these details with your clients. These enhancements
Please contact your AXA branch if you have any questions.
Policies with Material Damage or Business Interruption Covers
Buildings that are temporarily closed / no longer in regular use are exposed to different and usually greater risk than occupied premises and premises that are open for regular trading.
Our standard policies define “unoccupied” premises and apply standard restrictions in cover and conditions precedent to cover that need to be complied with.
Normally a higher premium is charged on unoccupied premises.
To ensure customers are not unduly penalised for temporary closures solely due to the COVID-19 outbreak the following applies to affected premises:
Provided the Insured complies with the following condition which details appropriate risk management practices (and is less stringent than the unoccupied premises condition).
This does not apply to premises that
which will be deemed Unoccupied as defined in the policy and be subject to the normal unoccupied premises terms and conditions as set out in your policy.
Temporarily Closed Premises Condition
Temporarily Closed means premises temporarily closed for a period up to June 15th 2020 solely due to the COVID-19 outbreak (and such premises will not be regarded as unoccupied as defined in the Policy).
We would recommend wherever possible normal precautions should be taken – details of these are on the Coronavirus Hub.
Employees working from home
Many of our policies already extend contents cover to include cover whilst away from the premises and / or specifically at the homes of employees.
Where your policy does not already include this cover, the following cover is added:
Contents at Employees homes
Where your policy does not already provide such cover, your policy is extended to provide cover for contents temporarily removed to the homes of employees due to the COVID-19 outbreak up to a limit of £2500 any one item and in total.
Cover under this extension will be subject to the same terms and conditions as your normal policy other than any requirements for Alarms or Fire Suppression systems.
We can confirm that your Employers and Public Liability insurances will not be affected due to any need for employees to work from home. A variety of advice is available from the Health and Safety Executive or Liability Business Resilience experts can be accessed for advice via your Insurance Advisor.
We are all currently in a state of uncertainty as to what restrictions the Government may need to introduce and how that will impact on businesses across the UK.
At the time of writing (March 27th) the key restrictions are around:
Key areas that tend to impact on Policy Conditions within Insurance Policies - such as critical building and maintenance work - is in theory permissible, though finding contractors may become problematic. We believe it is also permissible to visit business premises to ensure they are secure or to conduct small works such as draining down services. It should therefore still be possible to comply with the majority of policy conditions or past risk management improvement actions.
If however there are any situations where clients believe they will be unable to comply with requirements due to difficulties arising out of the current pandemic, we would ask brokers to contact our Underwriting Teams to agree whether a revised approach can be accommodated.
Please remember that where our customers premises are temporarily closed due to the impact of the pandemic, we have extended the notification standard notification period to sixty days. During this period no compulsory terms would apply but we are offering detailed advice on risk management precautions the client may wish to take.
Important news affecting Wages and Turnover Rated Employers, Public and Products Liability Policies with AXA Insurance
Over recent weeks AXA Commercial Lines have introduced several changes to help our Property and Motor Fleet clients whose businesses have been impacted by Covid-19. We have also been considering how best we can similarly assist offer our EL & PL clients who have been affected by actions that limit their normal trading.
One specific area we have been looking at is dealing with “Furlough” payments to employees. Though these are still “Wage” payments from the employer, they can be recovered from the Government provided strict conditions are complied with around work undertaken. AXA therefore feel it would be unfair on our customers and would undermine the principle of these payments if we were to charge our customers premiums based on these payments.
We are therefore with immediate effect introducing the following changes to Wages and Turnover Rated EL, PL and Products Liability policies (and relevant sections of Combined Policies).
Furlough Payments – EL and PL Policies - Wages Estimates and Declarations
For renewals of EL and PL policies / Combined policy sections that are based on an estimate of Wages, we will be asking our brokers and clients to supply us with estimated Wage-rolls that include a full breakdown of the expected or actual Furlough payments the customer is recovering from the Government. AXA will then base the deposit premium, and in due course any declaration adjustment, based on the “Net Wages” after deducting any Furlough payments recovered.
This change will apply to all cases renewed whilst the Furlough scheme is still in operation and will also be retrospectively applied to Declaration Adjustments for existing policies currently in force to ensure our customers do not pay premiums based on Furlough payments that have been funded by the Government.
Declaration Adjustment Clauses & Maximum Declaration Adjustments
Most AXA Employers, Public and Products Liability policies that are based on Estimates of Wages or Turnover include a limit on the maximum return premium that can be allowed of 10%. Some older policies allow a maximum of up to 25% whilst a few policies (mainly Motor Trade plus some lower premium combined cases) are not adjustable at all.
To ensure that all our customers can benefit from the above concessions, for so long as the current restriction on movement and trading activity apply (or until notified otherwise):
Please note – These changes apply at New Business, Renewal and for Declarations. We are sorry but we are unable to renegotiate estimates mid-term – if customers who pay by instalments are having difficulty with making current payments please see our advice on assistance with Payment Holidays.
If you have any questions, please contact your local AXA Branch – and more importantly please talk to your normal AXA Underwriters to make sure we can obtain the more detailed information that will be needed to allow your customers to benefit from this assistance.
Will you commit to level rates on all renewals for claims-free risks?
Even prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, various inflationary issues meant insurers were being forced to seek increased rates across a wide range of commercial insurance sectors. Though we’re not planning to apply any additional rate changes specifically due to the current pandemic, the existing issues remain so we still need to apply our planned 2020 pricing strategy.
In many sectors, especially straightforward SME Property and Liability renewals where the client has a good risk management and claims record, this will normally mean very small, or even no rate increases.
The main price changes will be focussed on clients with an adverse history. There are however other product and industry segments, such as some segments of the Commercial Property market and Financial Lines, where we’ll need to seek larger rate increases in return for the exposures these risk present.
Will you provide much earlier renewal invitation now underwriters are working from home?
We’ve taken urgent action to move as many of our processes as possible to employees who are working from home. Our immediate focus is to start working on renewal preparation around 10 weeks ahead of renewal to ensure:
The start of this process is at the earliest date that we can currently extract the necessary information to ensure that your clients renewal terms fully reflect their risk profile, claims and risk management history. We are investigating whether we can start this process even earlier.
There are some classes of business including Motor Trade, Fleets (especially where run off experiences are needed) and Financial Lines, where we’re reliant on information from you to enable renewal terms to be calculated. Please send these to us as early as you can, to help us to help you.
Will you provide conditional extensions up to 30 days?
Currently we expect to issue renewals in a timely fashion. Brokers and clients have generally put in place systems where key staff are working from home, so we don’t believe a blanket approach of conditional extensions is required. If there are specific issues for an inpidual client, or to your business, please contact our Broker Account Management team to discuss whether a specific extension in cover needs to be agreed.
Will you provide auto-renewal capability for cases under a certain size?
As per the previous question, we expect to manage our renewals in a timely fashion.
Can you offer a waiver of certain non-essential pre-renewal documentation (Fleets in particular)?
Some policies are dependent on clients and brokers supplying us with up to date exposure, and run-off claims experiences, to give our customer the best possible renewal terms. If you encounter difficulties in obtaining this, please contact our underwriters who’ll try to find pragmatic solutions.
Where brokers can’t get up to date information from the customer for renewal purposes, can we base on expiring information?
This will depend on the reasons why. Most customers should remain contactable by phone, video or email and still be able to provide the necessary information. Underwriters should use their judgment and make reasonable enquiries. It’s still the client’s responsibility to disclose material change of fact, so we’ll require confirmation that there are no known material changes of risk.