The insurance implications of working from home

Australians are increasingly working from home, with the most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicating at least a third of us choose to work from home at least part of the time.

study by future trends research house McCrindle shows there are lots of different reasons why people work from home. In total, 45 per cent of Australians want the flexibility to juggle other things while working, while 25 per cent of us want a better work/life balance. Additionally, 15 per cent want to work without distractions and 12 per cent want the freedom to also look after children while working.

There are also many different models when it comes to working from home. Some people run their own businesses. Others have negotiated to work from home with an employer part-time. Another group works for an employer full time from their home.

Whichever model someone falls under, there are lots of different insurance implications when people choose to work from home. Here, Michael White, who is Steadfast’s broker technical manager, explains what some of those are.

“Home and contents policies do provide some cover for people who work from home, although it’s usually limited to the assets you’re using to do the work. Usually, a computer is the main asset and this is typically covered by your home policy, with a limit of about $10,000,” he explains.

As a result, it’s important to make sure the cover limit in your insurance policy on the assets you use to conduct work from home is adequate.

Says White: “In contrast to a commercial insurance policy, which may be negotiated, this is not the case with home and contents policies, whose limits cannot be negotiated.”

For instance, if your insurer provides cover for a home computer with a value of up to $10,000, you won’t necessarily be able to negotiate for a higher cover level of, say $20,000, even if you have business assets to this value. This has implications for businesses that operate a business with a higher value of assets from their home.

Let’s says someone is running a hairdressing salon from the basement of their home. The home and contents insurance policy won’t necessarily provide cover for expensive equipment such as chairs and basins above the limits specified in the policy. If this is the case, the business owner may look into buying a business pack insurance policy, which may provide more comprehensive cover.

Also, while they include limited cover for the tools of the trade, home and contents insurance policies won’t cover personal and professional liability.

“So, if people are operating a business from home, they need to take out a separate liability cover for that business,” White explains.

In general, White stresses it’s essential to first ensure if you’re working at home, you do have a home and contents policy that will provide cover for assets such as the computer on which you conduct the business.

In addition to that you need to make sure you’ve got liability cover. This will provide protection in the event that, for instance, a courier delivers a document to your home and trips and has an accident while making the delivery.

Important note – This article is provided by Steadfast.

The information provided here is general advice only and has been prepared without taking in account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Steadfast Group Ltd (ABN 98 073 659 677, AFSL 254928)

Telematics continues to evolve in insurance

Telematics technology has proven benefits when it comes to encouraging more responsible driving, with research indicating better driver behaviour is one of the main advantages in using this innovation.

Black box or telematics technology is a way for businesses to collect data on how their employees are using company vehicles. Using telematics, businesses can collect information such as whether drivers are speeding or driving dangerously, as well as how long they spend on the road. This is important, as research indicates driver fatigue is one of the main causes of road accidents.

According to the most recent Telematics Benchmark report, improved driver behaviour, peace of mind and regulatory benefits are some of main pluses to using telematics. The research found when drivers use telematics devices, businesses achieve peace of mind knowing where their vehicles are on the road and can also plot more efficient routes, leading to reduced costs such as lower fuel bills.

Importantly, data shows businesses that use telematics can improve the safe driving record of their vehicles. Mercurien Insurance specialises in providing insurance to businesses that use tools such as telematics to manage their fleet of vehicles. One of its clients, a not-for-profit organisation with a vehicle fleet, saw speeding events per kilometre drop from 0.14 to 0.07 across two-and-a-half years. Additionally, at fault claims fell from just over 60 to just over 20 a year thanks to telematics.

As this shows, businesses that use telematics may experience a commensurate improvement in driver safety. As a result, some insurers look favourably on businesses that employ telematics in their vehicles.

Businesses collect the data and may provide it to some insurers, who then use it to make decisions on the policy and its conditions. Insurers may approve more favourable policies, including more cost-effective premiums, based on data showing better driver safety.

Turning to the public sector, the National Transport Commission is reviewing how telematics is used across the transport industry, especially among vehicles that are required to comply with the Heavy Vehicle National Law, as well as vehicles that are required by law to use telematics, such as taxis and buses.

Michael White, Steadfast’s Broker Technical Manager, explains telematics may be used by businesses to better manage how their fleets are operated and to also provide this information to their insurer.

“In the case of heavy motor vehicles, telematics can provide information on how the vehicle is being driven, speeds, how brakes are used and whether drivers comply with road rules,” he says.

Zurich Motor Fleet Underwriting and Risk Engineering is one insurer that has a telematics-based insurance policy. Zurich Fleet Intelligence (ZFI) uses telematics data gathered from its policyholders vehicles through black box technology. Subsequently, Zurich uses this information when assessing insurance policy applications and claims.

Often, Zurich’s clients already have devices in place in vehicles so they can monitor vehicles for logistics purposes. ZFI can draw on this data to assess how individual drivers behave when they are on the road. The technology also provides information to drivers about their driving performance, online and in real time.

However, another insurer, QBE, has exited the market, closing its Insurance Box product it launched in 2014. This technology provided people with a Drive Score and helped them become better drivers, by providing feedback on driving habits and tips on how to improve driving performance. It was the first product of its kind in Australia but will no longer be offered as a standalone product.

Despite QBE streamlining its telematics offering, this technology is likely to become more popular with insurers, businesses and regulators as it becomes more sophisticated over time.

Important note – This article is provided by Steadfast.

The information provided here is general advice only and has been prepared without taking in account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Steadfast Group Ltd (ABN 98 073 659 677, AFSL 254928)

What is Volunteer Insurance?

Whether you run a charity, a not-for-profit, or regular live events, volunteer insurance exists to protect both you and the volunteers that work for you. From music festival ticket collectors to ongoing charity work, volunteers are often the most important part of your organisation, and they need to be protected from accidents. Volunteer Insurance will cover them for personal accidents, and they and your organisation will be at a serious disadvantage if you do not have the right coverage in place. If you want to attract the right volunteers and keep your vital volunteers safe and confident, this specific insurance is going to be an essential requirement.

Who Needs It

Many types of organisations will need to have the right volunteer insurance policy in place.  Community groups, charities that provide healthcare for the elderly or disadvantaged, religious organisations, recreation clubs, and any charity or organisation that runs events, all make use of volunteers. These workers will not be covered by a standard business insurance policy, as they are distinctly different from salaried employees. Volunteer insurance policies protect the volunteer, but they also protect the organisation from public liability claims caused by the volunteers.

Did you know?

  • There are an estimated one billion volunteer workers worldwide, and Australia has just under six million of them. (Volunteering Australia)
  • The Australian economy receives approximately $290 billion from the work carried out by volunteers. (Pro Bono Australia)
  • According to the 2016 census by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the largest volunteering demographic for men is those aged between 45-54. Women make up the largest numbers, with females aged 35-44 amounting to just under 400,000 volunteers. (Australian Bureau of Statistics)

What does it cover?

Employee insurance is very different from volunteer insurance, and you need to be aware of the protection that you are missing out on if your community group, non-profit, church, or charity makes use of volunteers. Volunteer insurance coverage means that you will get protection for:

Personal accidents: If a volunteer is injured while being involved in authorised volunteer activity, they will get protection and may receive weekly payments until they have recovered. This protects volunteers who are engaged in other work, as they may lose out on regular wages if they are injured while volunteering. It can even cover expenses caused by the accident and medical expenses.

Public liability: A well-tailored volunteer policy will also cover public liability. This type of policy will have a broader goal, and will offer protection for the organisation, any paid employees, and volunteers in cases of third-party personal injury or property damage. Not all volunteer policies will include public liability, so you need to confirm your coverage with your provider.

Voluntary Boards: If you have directors and board members that are categorised as volunteers, then you may want to include Professional Indemnity Liability. This will protect directors and officers from negligence by volunteers, defamation, slander, and sexual harassment. This is not usually included with a standard volunteer insurance policy, but may be a valuable addition if you make use of high-ranking professional volunteers.

What you need to know about landlord insurance

If you’ve scrimped and saved in the hopes of achieving financial security through an investment property it makes sense to insure such a valuable asset.

It’s no secret that Australians are among the most real-estate obsessed people in the world.

Around two million Australians own an investment property. A disproportionate number of these people have their own business. They are typically hoping to set themselves up financially through what they see as a safe, easy to understand investment (and perhaps reduce their tax through negative gearing).

Buying property might be less complicated than attempting to play the stock market, but all investments have the potential to end in tears. Ian Mabbutt, the Head of Personal Lines at Steadfast Underwriting Agencies, explains why it’s a good idea for investment property owners to make sure they have the right landlord insurance.

What is landlord insurance?
“Landlord insurance is the home and contents insurance you take out on a property you own but rent out rather than live in,” Ian says. “It’s a policy that will cover you for most things – public liability, storm damage, fire, theft and so on. That noted, these policies don’t cover wear and tear. Also, if owners want to be covered for loss of rental income they need to choose – and pay extra for – the rent-cover option. Loss of rental income is the biggest issue owners face but rent cover isn’t standard on landlord insurance policies.”

Read the full Steadfast article here.

How to minimise being underinsured

Many Australians, especially those who own businesses, discover they don’t have the cover they need in the worst possible circumstances.

Insurance is one of those subjects that many people glaze over. So, just to test how knowledgeable you are about this important but unsexy topic, see how many of the following you can answer.

Questions

  1. What type of insurance can provide cover if a natural disaster results in my business having to shut down for a period of time?
  2. What type of insurance can provide cover if a client takes legal action against me? In what industries is it mandatory to have this insurance?
  3. What type of insurance can provide a payout to cover costs relating to everything from a broken window to a tax audit to a light-fingered employee?
  4. What type of insurance is legally required if you employ staff? What is the penalty for failing to take out this insurance?

Answers:

  1. Business interruption insurance.
  2. Professional liability insurance (also called professional indemnity insurance). Those working in the medical, accounting, law and financial advice industries.
  3. Business insurance.
  4. Workers’ compensation insurance. It varies from state to state but you’ll typically be at risk of jail time if an employee has been injured (or worse). NSW imposes a ‘double avoided penalty’ equivalent to double the amount you should have paid in workers’ compensation premiums.

One in ten businesses have no cover

If you failed to get all (or any) of the answers right, you can take solace in being a typical Aussie. Survey after survey has shown that Australians don’t have a good grasp on what insurance policies might be relevant to them. Unsurprisingly, Australia is one of the most underinsured nations in the developed world (underinsurance is when an individual or business has no or inadequate insurance to cover their legal liabilities, or the cost of loss or damage to their assets).

The Insurance Council of Australia’s 2015 report on non-insurance in the SME sector showed a non-insurance rate of 12.8 per cent. Paul Nielsen, director and chair of the Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA), says many SMEs are in denial. “Business owners tend to think it won’t happen to them. Because of this, some SMEs view insurance as dead money,” he says.

Read the full Steadfast article here.

Why small businesses use an insurance broker

Small business owners tend to be born optimists with little inclination to think about what could go wrong. That’s why it pays to have an insurance broker in your corner to safeguard what you’ve worked for.

Paul Harrison’s family-owned shoe shop in Sydney’s Neutral Bay has operated out of various locations for more than half a century. It’s used insurance brokers for the past 35 years.

“When I came on board, we already had insurance but not at the level we needed,” says Harrison. “Most of the insurance we had was good, but it took time. If we made a claim, an assessor would come along; then he’d send you forms to fill out before repairs could begin. All that time you’re not trading.”

Save yourself time

Anyone who has compared car, home or health insurance policies to try to find the best deal knows how time consuming it can be. Choosing a business insurance package is even more complex because of the range of risks requiring cover.

A business insurance broker will not only save you time sourcing the right policy, they can also save time and money if you need to make a claim.

That was Harrison’s recent experience with his long standing Steadfast insurance broker.

“We had a leakage from the residential unit above our premises that ruined our ceiling, stock and floor. With rent and wages to pay, you can’t afford to be out of business for two months. Our business insurance broker was onto it straight away. We were able to replace our flooring within two days and probably missed five days’ trading in all”.

Utilise your business insurance broker’s experience

Small business owners are great at what they do, whether it’s running a café or a consultancy. But they are rarely insurance experts. “What they may not understand is the broad range of risks they face,” says Dallas Booth, chief executive of the National Insurance Brokers Association(NIBA).

A business insurance broker will help identify the risks your business faces, then get the insurance package that matches those risks. “There’s no point buying a business package off the shelf if it only covers some of your risks,” says Booth.

“I don’t think you can do that on your own. You may think you know what can go wrong but you never realise how much [an adverse event] impacts on your business going forward,” says Harrison.

Read the full Steadfast article here. 

Why your business needs an extreme weather action plan

Extreme weather conditions are increasing around the world, and Australia is no exception. Experts predict this summer will, again, be one of the hottest on record, with severe bushfires, storms and floods all set to increase.

In the absence of the vast resources of larger organisations, there is an urgent need for small businesses to have specific plans in place.

Preparing your property and fully understanding the risks in the event of extreme weather events, in both regional and urban areas,  such as storms, fire and cyclones is vital. However you also need an overall strategy to protect your business and its assets to ensure its survival.

Building a support network

After Cyclone Larry hit Queensland in 2006, a National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility report found businesses and individuals with strong community ties recovered better, as they relied less on overburdened government systems and their workers were less inclined to leave the area.

“Individuals, households and groups who have strong social networks are able to draw on shared material and social resources to sustain them during and through the aftermath of a cyclone,” the report said.

In both urban and rural settings, banding together during a crisis can be mutually beneficial. Having a plan for how small businesses can help each other can be the key to survival.

After the northern NSW town of Murwillumbah was ravaged by flood in 2017, locals led the recovery effort and a database of hundreds of volunteers was created to help those in need.

“Constantly we’re expecting governments and services to fix things for us,” organiser Carmen Stewart told the ABC.”I’m interested in what happens when a community is engaged first, then bringing government and services in as a partner, not as the leaders.”

Be prepared

Complacency and a failure to adapt to the increased likelihood of extreme weather is a real danger for small businesses. Research conducted by James Cook University revealed 90 per cent of cyclone-related insurance claims could be avoided through proper preparation.

Ensure you have formulated an emergency action plan for your business in the event of extreme weather, such as flooding. Educate your employees so they understand the risks and know how to react.

There are other vital proactive measures you can take. Regular maintenance on your property ensures it is as well placed as possible to handle and recover from extreme weather events. Contracting an expert to assess the structural integrity of your dwelling ensures any weak or degrading materials particularly vulnerable to damage can be repaired.

Clearing your property of refuse, such as fallen branches and bushes can help to ensure any damage severe storms can cause is limited. This includes securing outdoor items and garaging vehicles and machinery.
Read the full article on Steadfast well covered.

How to reduce your business insurance costs

More expensive premiums, higher excesses and narrower coverage are set to become an insurance reality for many Australian businesses. Here’s how SMB’s can prepare for a hardening market.

Australian businesses have benefited from a soft insurance market for some years now, but it’s time to prepare for a change.

We spoke with Steadfast Broker Technical Manager, Michael White about the cyclical nature of the market, the factors that drive it and how you can prepare for a harder market.

What is a hard or soft insurance market?

The nature of the market is driven by the availability of insurance, explains White.

“If there’s a lot of capital coming into the insurance market, it’s easier to get cover – so in a soft market insurers will chase business,” he says.

A soft market can therefore mean lower insurance premiums, discounts, broader coverage, smaller excesses,  narrow exclusions and insurers writing more policies with higher limits.

A hard market, on the other hand, is experienced when there is a decreased availability of insurance capital.

With decreased availability can come higher premiums, lower policy limits, bigger excesses, wider exclusions, narrower policy coverage and less competition between insurers.

Which pockets are hardening?

Certain parts of the Australian insurance market are showing signs of hardening already.

“We’re certainly seeing insurers not supporting certain kinds of risks such as for directors and officers generally, but in particular, D&O Side-C coverage for investor claims,” says White, referring to products that protect companies from claims made against it and its directors and officers.

High-risk property is also becoming harder to place.

“These are property risks where they have a lot of issues around the building – buildings that are unoccupied, poorly maintained or generally in a distressed condition,” White says.

Professions and businesses with a history of losses are also likely to find it harder to secure the kind of coverage they’re seeking, White adds.

The two main ways you can take advantage of a soft market are through locking in savings on premiums and excesses, or by securing higher policy limits or broader cover now if you will need it later.

Taking advantage of a soft market

The two main ways you can take advantage of a soft market are through locking in savings on premiums and excesses, or by securing higher policy limits or broader cover now if you will need it later.

“For example, if you have cover for $5 million and you know you are soon going to need it expanded to $10 million, it may be easier to get now and cheaper in the long run,” White says.

Your insurance broker may also be able to lock in future renewals on a favourable basis.

How to prepare your business

There are two main ways in which you can ready your business for a hard market.

The first is by factoring in increased costs. If you’re aware of the cyclical nature of the insurance market, you have probably been taking advantage of its current state and may have prepared by saving for the inevitable: more expensive premiums, higher excesses, lower policy limits or narrower coverage.

If not, start factoring in these costs now.

“The cost is going to be significant,” White says. “So businesses must budget for the increases if they want to maintain their cover.”

The second way is by having a long-term relationship with a good insurance broker. No matter what stage of the cycle the market is at, a good broker will understand it and your business, have good long-term relationships with insurers and be able to secure you the best cover for your individual circumstances, as well as being able to advise on likely future changes to insurance costs.

A good broker is also invaluable in a hard market when policy wordings are narrower, limits are lower and excesses are bigger  – as we’ve previously discussed, brokers can be your advocate should a claim be rejected.

For expert advice on insuring against the risks your small business faces, talk to us today.

Important note – the information provided here is general advice only and has been prepared without taking in account your objectives, financial situation or needs.

Four steps to appeal a rejected insurance claim

Few things are more devastating in business than thinking you’re covered for a loss only to find out your insurer has rejected your claim. Here’s how to appeal that decision.

Just because you’ve received bad news, doesn’t mean you should give up.

There are a number of avenues for appealing such a decision, and a good broker can be your best ally.

How you appeal a rejected insurance claim depends on the nature of the rejection, which usually comes down to one of two things.

“It’s either rejected because it doesn’t fall within the operative clause or an exclusion applies. So that’s a wording type issue,” says Steadfast’s Broker Technical Manager, Michael White.

“Or it might be a factual issue.”

White provides the example of a rejected claim for storm damage to a property – the owner may claim that damage was the result of a storm, while the insurer argues that the damage is caused by gradual deterioration.

“It’s hard to believe, but lots of people make claims when they don’t actually have insurance,” says White. “Or they’ve insured their business but they haven’t insured themselves for theft or business interruption.”

1. Broker advocacy

If your claim is rejected, your broker can be your advocate.

“You should be getting the broker’s opinion on whether there’s any grounds on which you can challenge the rejection,” says White.

If the rejection is based on a factual issue your broker may be able to help secure competing factual evidence, reports and documentation.

“For example, the insurer is going to rely on the building report – they don’t actually go out and look at these things themselves – so you could consider getting another building report,’ White says.

If the rejection is based on an exclusion, a Steadfast broker can reach out to White for his technical expertise.

“I’ll tell them whether they’ve got a grounds for arguing it or not,” he says.

2. Internal dispute resolution

If your broker can’t get the insurer to overturn the decision, the next step is requesting your insurer launch a formal internal dispute resolution process.

The internal review structure varies between insurers, but all are legally required to review the decision within 45 days. In some instances, they may choose to overturn their original decision based on a fresh look at the claim.

If not, they must give reasons why they have rejected your claim.

“Again, your broker can be your advocate throughout this process,” says White.

3. External dispute resolution

If the outcome of the internal dispute resolution process is unsatisfactory you then have every right to pursue an external scheme.

From 1 November 2018, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority will handle disputes over rejected insurance claims. If you’re making a complaint before 1 November 2018, it should be lodged with the Financial Ombudsman Service Australia. Thereafter the Australian Financial Complaints Authority will be handling disputes.

However, these bodies only have jurisdiction over certain insurance products and require other criteria to be met. Here is what’s within the scope of FOS and AFCA.

4. Court proceedings

For insurance matters that do not fall within the jurisdiction of FOS or AFCA, your final recourse is to launch legal proceedings.

“The final option is pursuing the matter in court or, depending on what state you’re in, you’ve got the Fair Trading Tribunal,” White says.

No claim without cover

While the steps we’ve outlined above may very well help you overturn an insurer’s initial negative decision, there’s very little that can be done if you don’t have appropriate insurance in the first place.

“It’s hard to believe, but lots of people make claims when they don’t actually have insurance,” says White. “Or they’ve insured their business but they haven’t insured themselves for theft or business interruption.”

Contact us for expert advice on insuring against the risks your business faces.

Important note – the information provided here is general advice only and has been prepared without taking in account your objectives, financial situation or needs. 

5 tips for insuring a shopfront

When you’re ready to push your home business from the nest and into a shopfront, it’s an exciting time. It can also expose you to a whole new world of risk that could cripple your fledgling business before it can soar.

Running a business from home is one thing, but taking the leap to a shopfront is altogether another. Fortunately, as millions before you have proven, it can be done.

But not only does it require planning, budgeting and a solid understanding of the risks you’ll face, it also requires you to take out the right insurance, says John Clark, Steadfast’s Broker Support Manager.

“If you have a computer that has your records on it and they’re not backed up properly, then you’re risking interruption to your ‘from home’ business that you can’t easily deal with”

1. Theft

First cab off the rank is ensuring you have adequate security measures in place to protect the equipment, stock and cash within your new premises.

Depending on what’s most suitable for your business, that could include a safe, bars on windows, a security guard or advanced alarm systems.

It’s also worth considering insurance against theft and property damage.

“What happens in most burglaries is that, not only do they come in and take stuff, but they damage things” Clark says.

2. Fire

No one wants to see their dreams go up in smoke.

Not only do you need to identify fire risks within your business, such as electric radiators, but you should install fire extinguishers and smoke alarms.

Speak to an experienced broker about appropriate insurance and backup all your business documents and files off-site.

If you have a computer that has your records on it and they’re not backed up properly, then you’re risking interruption to your ‘from home’ business that you can’t easily deal with” says Clark.

3. Public liability

Let’s say someone strolls into your store and trips over something you’ve accidentally left on the floor, injuring themselves badly in the process.

“She’s on a big income so she sues you for $200,000. What do you do then? You’d need Public Liability insurance” says Clark. “All those exposures should be fleshed out when you talk to a broker, and an appropriate insurance solution found.

4. Business interruption insurance

Whether it’s a roof-raising storm, a wall-shattering earthquake or a car through your shop window, it’s important to help protect your business against things that can suddenly and unpredictably bring your income stream to a halt.

“If you’re an owner/operator or a single tradie, how would you pay your expenses – the rent, the wages, the electricity – without an income?” he asks. “That’s why you need Business Interruption Insurance.

5. Ask an expert

While you can always take steps to mitigate against worst case scenarios, the fundamental risk mitigation strategy is to have an expert review your insurance and ensure it is appropriate.

“That helps transfer the risk from you to the insurance company” Clark says “and underscores the importance of seeking the advice of an experienced broker

If you’re ready to make the move to a shop of your own, consult your local Steadfast broker to ensure you’re covered.

Important note – the information provided here is general advice only and has been prepared without taking in account your objectives, financial situation or needs.