How do unoccupancy and changes to business activities affect your insurance?

Coronavirus restrictions have caused businesses across the UK to change the way they operate or close their doors for the foreseeable future. Tiered lockdowns and a lack of financial support are adding an extra layer of uncertainty to what is already a stressful time.

You may not realise it, but lockdown rules could also affect your business insurance as well as your finances, especially if you’ve had to leave your business premises empty or make changes to the way you work.

Here’s more on how government restrictions and guidelines could impact your insurance if your business premises are unoccupied or you’ve had to change your business activities.

What if your business is forced to close temporarily?

If your business premises are currently unoccupied or your business isn’t trading as usual, you need to contact us so we can let your insurer know. This is because any period of unoccupancy can affect the terms of your cover as your business will now be deemed a higher risk than if it was business as usual.

Even if you’re regularly checking on the premises while it lies empty or no business is being done there, you still need to let us know so we can inform your insurer.

If your insurer is unaware of this change in circumstances, this can affect your rights under the policy, which could be bad news if you need to make a claim during this period as you could find it’s rejected.

This information is usually located under an ‘Unoccupancy clause’ or ‘Unoccupied Condition’ within your policy wording.

This condition contains two elements that you need to know about, should you be forced to close your business at any time either by the government or by your local authority:

1. The number of days you can be closed, or the business premises aren’t in use, before you need to notify us.

2. The conditions that you need to adhere to whilst your premises are unoccupied.

If your business premises remain unoccupied for any length of time beyond the permitted number of days specified in your policy, you need to let us know by calling 0800 158 5263 or by emailing us at existingbusiness@bionic.co.uk.

Given how the range of lockdown restrictions can affect different businesses in different ways, there are a number of reasons why your premises might be unoccupied, including:

  • You are not permitted to open under the current government lockdown rules
  • All your employees are working from home
  • You have chosen to remain closed for your safety and the safety of your staff
  • You are not receiving the same volume of customers and have decided to remain closed
  • You are unable to operate in a Covid secure manner
  • Your tenant has closed / moved out or are currently not trading (for property owners/landlords only)

If your business property is unoccupied for any reason, you need to let us know by calling 0800 158 5263 or by emailing us at existingbusiness@bionic.co.uk. Once we have the necessary information we can then let your insurer know so your policy can be amended accordingly.

What if you have changed your business activities?

If you’ve changed your business activities, any insurance claims you make could be declined if your insurer hasn’t been told about these changes. This could cause issues if you’ve had to make any changes to keep trading through lockdown and beyond. 

This is why it’s vital you notify us of any changes to your business activities, so we can let your insurer know and update your cover. 

Since the start of the pandemic we have seen many businesses change and adapt to survive and remain successful. The types of changes we have seen include:

  • A café that changes to a takeaway service only
  • A shop that only opens at weekends to cut midweek overheads
  • A catering company that has started to offer takeaway and home delivery services

If you’ve changed your business activities in any way that means you’re operating differently to the business activities initially described to us, you need to let us know. This includes any changes since you either took out the policy or last renewed your insurance with us. 

If this is the case, we’ll need to update your insurers with this information so please do get in touch by calling 0800 158 5263 or by emailing us at existingbusiness@bionic.co.uk.

Further information on coronavirus restrictions

Sadly, we can’t cover every eventuality, nor can we anticipate any future restrictions, so it’s vital that you make sure you’re fully aware of the latest government guidelines and how they could impact your business.

If you’re unsure which restrictions relate to you and your business, click on the following government website links to confirm the restrictions that apply in your area:

England: https://www.gov.uk/find-coronavirus-local-restrictions

Wales: https://gov.wales/local-lockdown

Scotland: https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

There are likely to be further government updates regarding coronavirus restrictions, so it’s important that you keep on top of them. 

If any of the current restrictions have affected your business, whether because your business activities have changed, your office premises are empty or you have to close and your policy restricts cover for this, please contact our Insurance Team to let us know.

Likewise, if any future regulations and announcements look likely to affect your business activities and your cover, get in touch to talk things through.

How to get in touch with Bionic

Here’s how to get in touch with the Bionic Insurance Team and discuss your current situation and policy:

When you get in touch, please have the following information to hand:

  • Your business name
  • The date you initially closed
  • When you anticipate reopening (we understand you may not know this yet)
  • Any details of changes to your business or activities.

Our Insurance Team is on hand to answer any queries or concerns you might have. If you’re unsure about any area of your policy, it’s best to get in touch to ensure your policy remains valid, especially if you’ve had to make changes to the way you trade or if your premises is unoccupied for any length of time not outlined in your policy.