As all of us continue through the pandemic with all of the social and business adjustments that have been made, we are distracted by what appears to be the “new normal” — the continuing shutdown of certain activities and limitations on others; children going to school or attending by Zoom; and, of course, the effort and desire to re-open businesses and simply to get back to work. No matter what we do, we are conscious of risk. But, are we adequately looking at the array of risks we face and adapting, adjusting or insuring against them in some fashion?
We have seen COVID-19 is no respecter of person or place; it moves almost invisibly and can be transmitted by persons who are completely asymptomatic. While it seems more dangerous in crowded living or social conditions, and statistically is impacting communities of color disproportionately, it has not missed at least one representative of any slice of humanity one could identify. It draws our attention, and it disrupts and disturbs our lives.
We strongly recommend that in those calmer moments everyone and, in particular small businesses, take some time to evaluate the business and life risks they face. Failure to do so leaves the effort to recover in a more difficult posture. For example, many people that have lost their job have also lost their employer–based health insurance. A health insurance specialist can direct that individual to find coverage elsewhere, including the state’s health insurance exchange. Sometimes this can simply be a phone call or a link to a website.
We strongly recommend that each small business check in with as many business advisors as they have access to such as accountants, insurance agents and lawyers who are qualified to evaluate and manage the wide variety of risks faced by small business. Most of these professionals will take a preliminary look without cost and often will let the business owner know when they need a different type of professional. Any adjustments or additions to existing programs would probably entail a cost. While one is working to make their business survive, overlooking an opportunity for security is counterproductive. Always be sure to ask if the review is free and if recommendations are made, ask about the cost to make those changes. If you know there is a risk that could be mitigated, and you know the cost to mitigate it, it will be your decision whether the mitigation is worth the risk. There is an old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” There is also an old insurance maxim that you don’t buy insurance for a risk you are willing to take. It will be your choice, but you will make it with the information to make the best decision for your individual business.
In this world of COVID, there are new regulations that affect almost every element of the workplace. Some of those regulations are COVID related and are specific to the hygiene standards to be met by different types of businesses. A competent business lawyer should be able to identify the areas where updates, either temporary or permanent, need to be made to your business operation. If your business has insurance policies, these should be reviewed annually to ensure they are up to date in coverage and terms. Workers compensation and employer liability are two areas that deserve particular attention from your insurance broker. As has been mentioned in news stories, there are some policies that have language covering business interruption. Most do not cover the COVID pandemic, and the only way to verify that is to have an attorney review them.