For current information regarding insurances and COVID-19: we are regularly updating this landing page as the situation progresses, please check here for guidance.

Business Interruption insurance

The Association of British Insurers’ (ABI) view

From the very beginning, the ABI’s stance is that only very few insurance policies include Business Interruption (BI) cover for COVID-19. Their view is that:

  • It’s never been the intention of the insurance market to pay for the consequences of a pandemic
  • It’s unlikely that insurers have sufficient funds to cover such losses  
  • Protection ought to be provided by Governments or separately funded schemes*

*Similar arrangements have been put in place for Terrorism and Flood in the UK and other countries. Interested parties have already held preliminary discussions to work out how pandemic insurance might be provided in the future.

Legal action & effects on the financial security of insurers

The reality is that some policies contain exclusions or terms which mean COVID-19 is not covered but others are less clear. This has led to some well publicised legal challenges, particularly from the hospitality sector where businesses were forced to close – please see ‘Questions about Business Interruption (BI) cover’ below, for further information.

When placing your insurances, we take all reasonable steps to use insurers capable of meeting their future liabilities. The ABI has highlighted that insurers are unlikely to have sufficient funds to pay for the consequences of the pandemic, so the financial solvency (ability to pay future claims) of any that lose future court cases might be affected. This is something that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will continue to closely monitor and we'll contact you if we believe you could be adversely affected.

Questions about Business Interruption (BI) cover:

I’ve seen in the press that some insurers are facing legal action?

The media have reported various responses made by insurers. The FCA have applied and succeeded in running a test case to resolve contractual uncertainty around Business Interruption (BI) insurance.

Whilst the FCA acknowledge that the majority of policyholders don’t have any cover, their focus is on the Non-Damage BI extensions of some insurer’s wordings that may have some potential cover.

Below is a timeline of what’s happened so far and how the FCA envisage the test case investigations will proceed. Please note; there remain a number of uncertainties to the timeline, including the consent of the court:

15th April FCA wrote a letter to the CEO's of London market insurers, specifically in relation to SME BI insurance.
1st May FCA announced intention to obtain a court declaration for a test case to resolve contractual uncertainty around BI cover.
1st June FCA announced they’ve identified the representative sample of policy wordings to be examined in the test case, the insurers that use those wordings, and which of those insurers they have invited, and have agreed, to participate in the proceedings.
9th June FCA start claim in the High Court.
16th June Case management conference, at which the court will be invited to fix the timetable for the case and other procedural matters.
23rd June Insurers file Defences.
26th June  Further case management conference, at which the court dealt with outstanding procedural matters.
3rd July FCA filed Reply.
10th July FCA and Intervenors’ skeleton arguments served.
14th July Defendants’ skeleton arguments served.
20-23rd & 27-30th July  8 day court hearing before Lord Justice Flaux and Mr Justice Butcher.

The overall aim of this investigation is to speed up the process for customers making claims if they do have some cover and to protect the integrity of the industry - click here for further information.

Information correct as of: 30/07/2020

What is Sutton Winson's response to this?

In the best interest of our clients, we’ve set up a specialist team to review all our commercial policies to find those which may have a small element of cover. We’ve completed the first part of the project and are now reviewing again in light of the FCA’s announcement on the 9th June.

When this is finalised, we’ll be contacting those clients whose wordings are on the FCA test case list or have an element of cover.

Information correct as of: 17/06/2020

Can I claim for COVID-19 under the BI section of my policy?

A standard BI policy doesn’t cover you for the losses relating to the impact of COVID-19. It’s designed to respond to losses following damage to property by e.g. a fire or flood. COVID-19 does not constitute “damage”.

Some policies have extensions for:

  • Denial of Access (non-damage)
  • Notifiable Diseases (non-damage)
  • Actions of Public Authorities (non-damage)

Information correct as of: 17/06/2020

My policy includes a Denial of Access (non-damage) extension, can I claim?

The cover is normally for damage to neighbouring property and may exclude actions to suppress and/or control the spread of a disease.

A small number of wordings have a wider extension and have been included as part of the FCA test case. At the moment, the insurers have denied there is any cover and await the outcome of the FCA test case to obtain a judgement.

Information correct as of: 17/06/2020

My policy includes a Notifiable Diseases (non-damage) extension, can I claim?

As COVID-19 is a new disease, it’s unlikely it will be specified under any policy.

Some policies aren’t specific and allow for 'Notifiable Diseases'. In cases where cover may apply, this will be again subject to the individual policy wording and circumstances.

A small number of wordings with this wider extension have been included as part of the FCA test case. At the moment, the insurers have denied there is any cover and await the outcome of the FCA test case to obtain a judgement.

Information correct as of: 17/06/2020

My policy includes a Public Authority (non-damage) extension, can I claim?

It will depend on the exact wording.

Information correct as of: 17/06/2020

Am I able to claim for loss of rent under my Commercial Property Owners policy?

If your policy has Denial of Access (non-damage) and Disease extensions it may respond due to:

  • An outbreak of a notifiable disease at the premises.
  • Denial/prevention of access by the UK Government, Police or Local Authority.

If there is cover, it will only be for contractual loss of rent. Rent not paid because a tenant decides to suspend payments or your agreement to reduce or discount the rent may not be covered.

Information correct as of: 17/06/2020

Can I get cover for COVID-19 mid-term or at renewal under a BI policy?

As has been referenced previously, the majority of insurers don't intend to cover pandemics and many policies have a specific exclusion to this effect. Where there is any doubt, endorsements are being added at renewal to make this clear.

Pandemic Re was launched in April and is following the same template set by the government backed terrorism mutual, Pool Re set up in 1993. The steering group are working closely on a number of possible different approaches to providing cover for future losses from pandemic risks.

Information correct as of: 17/06/2020

Useful links

  • For the latest public information from the UK Government click here

  • For health advice and guidance from the NHS click here

  • For up-to-date travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) click here

  • For the most recent information from the World Health Organisation (WHO) click here

  • For further information about UK Government support for businesses, click here

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