August Covid-19 Client Update

28 August 2020: Whilst we issued numerous updates during and immediately following the relaxation of lock down, as we have all now settled into a new (hopefully temporary) regime comprising social distancing and remote working it now seems appropriate for us to update you on a few relevant matters.

Office Re-openings

As lockdown restrictions have been easing, we have been carefully considering how we best transition back into our core office locations in Bolton, Birmingham (Head Office), Belfast, Glasgow, London, Northampton and Maidstone.  The main driver behind this, is to facilitate a more interactive and inclusive working environment for those staff who work best in an office and for those people that find working from home more of a challenge, either ergonomically, from a mental health perspective purely because they miss the day to day buzz of being in an office and all the benefits this brings.

A lot of work has gone into the logistics of putting the appropriate measures in place and initially we were looking to have a maximum of 25% capacity in each office, focusing on those staff who would most benefit from moving back into an office environment, as highlighted above, combined with those who are able to travel to and from the office without the need for public transport. However whilst risk assessments were undertaken and preparations made (including social distancing measures, sanitisation stations, avoiding un-necessary internal meetings and the receiving of visitors, through to ensuring that the office water supply and critical services are safe and operational ) due to the recent localised, we have decided to push back the planned re-openings to at least September although our London, Belfast and Glasgow offices are now operational and we are keeping matters continually under review.

In the meantime, we continue to work remotely, utilising the existing processes and technology that have helped us to maintain a seamless level of service in recent months although in most cases physical visits are now possible. However, if you have any issues or concerns in this regard, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your usual QuestGates contact.

FCA Test Case

The FCA test case continues, with a decision not expected until September.

In the meantime, detailed planning and preparation has taken place to ensure that QuestGates has additional capacity via both recruitment and engagement with overflow accountancy resources to support our clients in what could be a very busy period.  COVID BI claims can by their very nature be complicated and require careful and expert attention to ensure that customers receive quick assistance and prompt settlement.  Accounting experts together with experienced adjusters are required together with a coordinated team approach to ensure that there is consistency of approach.

So far, we have concluded in excess of 70% of the Covid BI claims received since April and our focus is to ensure the remainder are settled quickly to ensure that we are ready to handle any potential tidal surge in instructions.  We have concluded circa 50% of the claims on a “first and final” basis.

We have also ensured that the teams are carefully recording and detailing furlough costs as we believe it highly likely that at some point in the future discussions will be held between Insurers and the Government with regard to the level of furlough savings applied to settlement. The FCA test case may provide some clarity on the validity of reducing settlement and taking furlough payments as savings but, regardless, we expect further discussions between insurers and Government bodies.

Impact on Building Repairs

Our experience is that supply of labour and materials has largely returned to pre-Covid-19 conditions, with availability more widespread and repairs progressing at the usual pace, although the availability of some more specialist suppliers is still affected.

There are still repairs to some properties which have been delayed due to the volume of claims placed on hold as a result of the lockdown and some customers have reported difficulties in sourcing contractors in local “hot spots” to undertake works after they had taken the reinstatement option.

Subsidence claims continue to be more heavily impacted by delays due to COVID-19 due to the large proportion which go to repair, as the customer’s preference.  Many repairs which were due to commence or ongoing were placed on hold whereas investigations on claims not yet at repair stage tended to progress without any impact. The industry is now in a position where there are a larger number of repairs due to commence shortly, as summer months tend to be the preferred time to undertake this type of work.

We are working with our repair partners to understand their capacity to programme in subsidence repairs, identify and mitigate delays and ensure that customers remain fully updated at every stage of the process.

We are now six months on from storms Ciara and Dennis, which saw Flood and Storm damage across large swathes of the country. Many claims were delayed due to contractors shutting down, lack of availability of materials and customers self-isolating at their properties. Some claims have only very recently started moving forward as customers have ceased self-isolation where it is safe to do so. We have now settled 60% of claims as a result of these weather events.

One of our customers in Goole, North Yorkshire experience extensive flooding and had to move out of their property.  The claim was delayed for around 6 weeks as contractors in the area shut down.  We settled the contents claim promptly and worked with suppliers and contractors to strip out and dry the property by May 2020 and complete reinstatement works in July to allow the customers to move back into their home.

We are also dealing with a large Flood claim at a manufacturing business in Wales, where there has been damage to the building, machinery, computer equipment and a claim for business interruption.  Repairs are now complete as the contractor and suppliers were able to continue working safely at the premises.

The insurer was helpful and agreed to use a single contractor instead of tendering to move the claim forward more quickly, and the broker was also supportive and has been engaged throughout.  Repairs to the building are now complete and we are settling the final equipment and business interruption aspects.  The position however may be exacerbated by recent damage from storms Ellen and Francis.

And Finally…

As we see businesses gradually reopening their doors to both staff and customers, our Liability and Corporate Claims Solutions teams are gearing up in readiness for a potential influx of Covid-19 claims, with adaptations having been made to our claims systems and enhanced training rolled out to Claims Handlers and Loss Adjusters.

Indeed, one of the first directly Covid related claims to arrive provides a stark reminder to businesses that they should not only protect visitors and employees against the foreseeable risks of infection, but they must also protect against the risks posed by the protection itself – as one unlucky customer learned, when a Perspex screen erected around the counter or their safety, unfortunately fell over striking them in the face!