Coronavirus is quickly spreading through the UK, having already infected almost 100,000 people globally to date. It’s leading many venue owners to ask the question: what happens if I need to close my venue?
Already we’re seeing instances where nightclubs and bars are taking the decision to temporarily close their doors. This is happening for several reasons:
- Licensed venues are often key hubs of social activity, encouraging a condensed, large gathering of people
- Some venues are responsible for serving food and drink. If staff members are exposed to coronavirus, it could easily be passed on to customers
- Venues are often based in city centres with a high population of people where instances of coronavirus spreading quickly is more likely
When should I close my venue, and how long for?
Businesses are advised not to close unless specifically told to do so by a competent authority.
You are unlikely to be able to claim on your insurance if you voluntarily close your venue. It may seem like the right thing to do to protect both staff and customers from potential infection. But the reality is, unless there is an actual manifestation or occurrence at your premises or an official advises you to shut down operations, you’re unlikely to be covered. Simply “preparing for the worst” or being swayed by public anxiety isn’t a good enough reason to close your premises.
If you are advised to close your venue, or an occurrence of coronavirus happens at your premises or in its vicinity then you may be covered. As coronavirus is now officially registered as a Notifiable Disease, some insurers may cover you for Business Interruption or Non-Damage Denial of Access.
What losses will I be covered for?
If a competent authority advises you to close your business entirely then you may be covered for loss of revenue during this period. Your insurance policy is unlikely to cover you for loss of attraction or low footfall due to public anxiety over coronavirus, however.
Should someone with coronavirus enter your premises and you must decontaminate and sanitise your venue, you may be insured for loss of revenue or associated costs.
Please always check the Terms and Conditions of your policy, or speak to your insurance broker to ask specific questions.
My staff are ill or under quarantine – what do I do?
If member of staff has become unwell at work:
- Send unwell members of staff home until they have spoken to an NHS professional if they develop respiratory symptoms – though they should be helped with arrangements to leave the workplace to ensure public exposure is minimised
- Isolate the member of staff, keeping them at least 2 metres away from other people. Where possible, allow them to go into a separate room and encourage them not to touch anything
- The staff member should call 111 for official advice on next steps
If a member of staff or customer has confirmed coronavirus:
- The local Public Health England (PHE) health protection team will get in touch with you to advise on next steps.
- Follow their advice – health professionals will be able to help you identify people who have been in contact with the affected employee, and assist you in carrying out a risk assessment
What do I do if staff members are advised to self-isolate?
- If a member of staff is advised to self-isolate by health officials, you must allow them to stay off work for the period of time advised (normally 14 days)
- Staff members are entitled to Statutory Sick Pack from day one of self-isolation. However, if you do offer contractual sick pay it is good practice to pay this
My employee is not ill, but doesn’t want to come to work
- Be reasonable with your workforce. If there’s an opportunity for flexible or remote working, you should accommodate this. If this isn’t possible, you could arrange with employees to take time off unpaid or as part of their holiday allowance – but employers do not have to agree to this
- If an employee refuses to come into work, it could result in disciplinary action. Try to avoid this where possible, instead keeping lines of communication with your employees open
I need to close, and tell my staff not to come into work
- If an employee is not sick but you tell them not to come into work, you should pay them their usual wage
- Arrange for employees to work remotely. In the hospitality and night-time industries this is unlikely to be possible, but you should never expect employees to come into work if it may compromise their health and safety
My employee needs time off to look after someone with coronavirus
- All employees are entitled to reasonable time off work to help a dependant in an emergency, such as if they contract coronavirus
- You won’t need to offer pay for this time off, though this may differ depending on your contract or individual policy
Educate your team
Make sure informative posters and education material is prominent at your venue. Employees should know to regularly wash their hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds each time.
Provide hand sanitiser, tissues and other protective equipment if needed (such as protective face masks).
Ensure all managers are trained on your workplace policy regarding coronavirus – they should know your staff’s legal rights and be able to communicate this effectively with all team members. Everyone’s contact details (including emergency contacts) should be up to date and easily accessible to people who may need them.
Helping your venue survive
The best thing to do to protect your venue is develop and test a Business Continuity Plan. Develop new ways to keep your business afloat in case the coronavirus does impact your business.
Ensure your communication plan is adequate and effective. A member of your team should be responsible for monitoring the latest reports and advice, and communicating this information to the rest of your team. If a member of staff does contract coronavirus, you should have a plan to communicate this with the rest of your team without creating panic or breaching confidentiality.
You should also keep track of all personal and business-related travel plans, to ensure employees who have travelled abroad don’t pose an unnecessary risk to the rest of your workforce.
Be flexible with your team. Consider how staff can get to your venue without public transport – or allow these team members to arrive early / or finish early to avoid crowded areas.
Your Business Continuity Plan should consider a number of scenarios:
- Understand how you will manage your premises if a member of staff contracts coronavirus, such as identifying who else may be at risk and what precautions / actions you will take
- How your venue will run with a reduced number of staff, such as training a higher number of staff to perform essential tasks in case a key member of staff is absent
- How you will communicate with all staff members in case of an emergency or temporary closure
- Changes to your policies, such as temporarily reviewing your sickness absence policy
- Increased hygiene measures, such as performing regular deep cleans
- Ensure risk assessments are completed on an ongoing basis. Risks are constantly changing and evolving – so you must have plans in place for anticipated scenarios (for example, suspending at risk employees on full pay)
Check your policy wording
The information in this article is intended to be informative and helpful, but only contains general advice. To be crystal clear on your own insurance policy and the related implications for your business, you’ll need to check your policy wording. Get in touch with your insurer or insurance broker to discuss your insurance coverage.
If you have any specific questions related to your policy, contact the NDML team.