Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

The past two and half years has seen virtually every industry and company re-evaluate how they conduct business.

 

Readjusting to a post-pandemic world is at the forefront in many of their plans and strategies as they look towards operating in a different world compared to the one we had at the start of 2020.

 

But despite adjusting their operations in substantial ways, many may be using the same insurance coverage they adopted prior to the pandemic, not realizing that COVID-19 could lead to new risks and exposures for them.

 

We reached out to insurance experts Amanda Scheerer at Josslin Insurance and Shelley Sutton at Dumfries Mutual Insurance Company to share their thoughts on what businesses can do to ensure they are properly prepared.

 

 

Q. How has the pandemic changed the approach SMEs are taking when it comes to insurance coverage?

 

Amanda: Post-pandemic inflation has had a huge impact on valuation of buildings and equipment. Before the pandemic, it was common to adjust rebuild, or replacement cost every couple of years, but with current inflation rates we recommend that business owners review the rebuild or replacement costs listed on their policies at each renewal.

 

In addition to inflation, we find rebuild time after a major loss is longer. We’re seeing a few our clients increasing their indemnity period for business interruption from 12 months to 18 months. This accommodates for the extended building periods and will allow business to survive during the rebuild and keep key people from leaving for another workplace.

 

Shelley: It really depends on the type of business. Contractors, for example, are busier than ever, selling work sometimes a year out. If they have stock, they are insuring it at replacement cost to protect themselves from the unpredictability of the market in the event of a loss.

 

SMEs have to protect their assets. Insuring to limits helps to do so and the need for business interruption coverage for insured perils should be considered and weighed out. Limits are higher due to building material increases (inflation) and shortages of both materials and labour. Overall, SMEs are being more careful about understanding the coverage they have and the premiums they are paying.

 

 

Q. Does having a portion or all of staff working remotely require businesses to consider adjustments in their insurance coverage?

 

Amanda: If you have people working remotely as a business owner, you should ensure that company-owned assets like computers and other work-from-home equipment is covered under your insurance with an off-premises coverage extension. That extension was normal in certain industries even before 2020, but with so much company equipment now in people’s homes, it’s more important than ever to make sure your Business Insurance Liability policy has it now.

 

Finally, if your employees are meeting clients in their own homes, you may want to extend your liability coverage as their personal insurance will not cover them in the event a visitor is injured.

 

Shelley: With staff working from home comes more need for cyber security and cyber coverage if the storage of stock and equipment has changed you may need to update your agent or broker to ensure you are covered at other locations (office equipment, stock etc.). Companies need to insure equipment for off premises. If building(s) are unoccupied coverages could be void.  Businesses should check with their insurer.

 

 

Q. What are some new trends when it comes to insurance coverage that businesses may not be aware of?

 

Amanda: As mentioned before, many of our clients are extending the indemnity period on their business interruption coverage to account for the longer rebuild times.

 

Because of cybersecurity concerns, many businesses are now installing multi-factor authentication on any devices that connect to their systems. They are also ensuring that any personal devices their employees use for work (bring-your-own-devices) have sufficient security on them, so they don’t infect the business systems.

 

Finally, more businesses are using contractors to deliver their products and they may not be aware that they need non-owned auto coverage. If a restaurant owner employed an independent delivery driver with his own auto coverage and that driver is in an accident while working, the restaurant would also be named in the claim. Having a non-owned auto extension on the business’ commercial general liability policy with protect the owner in this situation.

 

 

Shelley: As large companies double down on their efforts to protect themselves and their clients, cyber criminals are targeting smaller businesses that do not have the resources to protect themselves. Comprehensive cyber coverage for ransomware, malware, data breaches, phishing attacks, remote desktop intrusion and more is critical for today’s business whether you are an online retailer or a contractor – protecting your own information and the information of your clients is your responsibility.

 

 

Q. What are some of the common concerns or questions you’ve been receiving from businesses regarding their insurance coverage?

 

Amanda: The biggest concern we’ve been hearing from our clients is about the cost of rebuilding. It’s a good idea to ensure that the property and equipment values on your insurance are current. Many policies include a co-insurance clause, which limits the amount paid on a partial claim. If you’re building or contents are underinsured, you may be responsible for any shortfall.

 

Shelley: Saving money is high on their radar as well as having adequate limits considering rising building costs.

 

 

Q. What advice would you offer business owners when it comes to insurance coverage during the pandemic?

 

Amanda: If your people are working from home and your building is partially or totally vacant, please notify your insurance provider as this could void some coverages you may have. The same goes for any building owners who rent to tenants. Many are experiencing challenges in finding tenants, so please let your insurance provider know if you have vacant units to ensure you remain covered.

 

Shelley: We still advise clients to purchase as much liability coverage as they can afford. It is important to read your policy and understand exclusions when day-to-day operations change if you are unsure, call your broker or agent.

 

To learn more, visit Dumfries Mutual Insurance Company or Josslin Insurance.

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It’s been just over a month since the first batch of rapid antigen screening kits were distributed to Waterloo Region SMEs through a pilot program created in partnership with the Cambridge and Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chambers of Commerce and Communitech.

 

And since that time, close to 2,000 of these SMEs (under 150 employees) are now offering their workers the opportunity to screen twice a week, with more placing their orders via our ‘www.chambercheck.ca’ (recent winner of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s Power of the Pivot Award) site every day as businesses continue to look for ways to navigate their way through this pandemic.

 

The program is now being rolled out provincially and nationally thanks to the Canadian and Ontario Chambers of Commerce who are currently working with other Chambers and government leaders to ensure all SMEs have access to this valuable ‘weapon’ in the fight against COVID-19.

 

“In my 20 years with the Chamber, I can’t think of another program in the Chamber Network that has had a much impact on business as this program has had,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher. “I’m so proud to be the Chamber where it started and was piloted because it gives me confidence in our ability to deliver national programs that are innovative.”

 

He says the need for rapid screening to identify those who are asymptomatic was first noted by members of the BESTWR (Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo Region) during the early days of the pandemic. The team, which Greg serves on with representatives from the Waterloo Region Economic Development Corporation, Great Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, Communitech and Waterloo Regional Tourism Marketing Corporation, was formed 13 months ago to assist local businesses address COVID-19-related challenges.

 

“We knew testing and more testing was key when it comes to controlling the spread and understanding its impact on people and the economy,” says Greg, who credits Communitech President and CEO Iain Klugman with procuring the kits from the Federal Government who were distributing them at the provincial level in long-term care facilities and larger essential workplaces only.

 

“They (Province) really didn’t have a mechanism in place to get them out to smaller and medium-sized businesses,” he says, noting the two local Chambers joined forces to assist once the Province approved that screenings could be conducted by non-healthcare providers since the procedure is not as ‘evasive’ as a PCR test. The Abbott Panbio Antigen kits provided through the Chamber program are more than 90% effective.

 

“We knew we were part of a pilot project to determine if this was feasible and acceptable and workable in every jurisdiction in Canada,” says Greg, adding bringing the screening kits directly to workplaces rather than have employees visit a secondary location to be screened, was clearly the best option.

 

He likens the journey to building an airplane during mid-flight.

 

“We kind of built the program in real time, not unlike on what’s happened during the pandemic,” says Greg, adding the Chambers have also developed a ‘playbook’ which is being used as a guide for other Chambers to help them set up their own programs.

 

Locally, orders are placed at www.chambercheck.ca and volunteers prepare the kits for pick‐up at the Cambridge Chamber’s office at 750 Hespeler Rd. A representative from each SME responsible for supervising the self‐screening collection onsite is needed for the initial pick‐up and receives video training to properly supervise the screening process and safely dispose of the used kits. Each SME is required to electronically submit their screening results and the accumulated data is reported to the Ministry of Health bimonthly. If a screen results in a positive for COVID‐19, the employee is required to leave the workplace and notify public health to arrange for a PCR Test at an approved Public Health Collection Site and await further instructions from Waterloo Region Public Health.

 

“This program is not intended for employees working at home,” says Greg, noting Ontario’s current Stay at Home Order clearly indicates even those employed by an essential business, must work from home if they can. “They’re already  safe at home, so they shouldn’t be coming into the workplace.”

 

He says rapid screenings are voluntary and admits that some employees, for personal reasons, may be hesitant to take part.

 

“But you could remind them that it’s not about them, this is about the people who work around them,” says Greg, adding when someone tests negative, they feel more confident and comfortable working around others and being around their own families. “We’ve noticed through this whole process that this has become more of a mental health tool as much as it has become a medical tool.”

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The importance of rapid screening in the battle against this pandemic has been seen as the preferred weapon of choice near the top of the wish-list of health experts and members of the business community since the first cases of COVID-19 were detected more than a year ago.

 

Thanks to the recent introduction of our pilot project that is seeing thousands of Abbott Panbio Antigen screening kits distributed to Waterloo Region SMEs (under 150 employees), many local businesses now have the capability to conduct rapid screening.

 

“If all businesses would jump on board with this process, then we would be able to keep a better eye on the virus as well as the variants,” says Cynthia Fernandez, owner of Accurate Auto Appraisal in Cambridge.

 

She is among at least 1,500 businesses in our region that have utilized the free kits through the www.chambercheck.ca website since the initiative was launched April 5.

 

The goal of the program, created through Health Canada and in partnership with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and Communitech, is to identify asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals in effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, at home and around the community.

 

Volunteers prepare the kits for pick-up at Cambridge Chamber’s office at 750 Hespeler Rd. and in keeping with all the necessary safety protocols, a designate from each SME receives video training when they pick up their kits that explains how to properly supervise the screening process and safely dispose of the used kits.

 

“We know that rapid screening has always been the key when it comes to curbing the spread and having these kits is a great way to assist our SMEs get back on track after a difficult year,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. 

Cynthia agrees.

 

“It is a very nerve-wracking thing to still go to work (outside of the home) and know that it’s still a very real possibility,” she says, referring to the threat of contracting the virus. “Everyone who works for Accurate is very receptive of the screening and it provides a peace of mind for them and their families as well.”

 

Shimco President and CEO Peter Voss has discovered the same after utilizing screening kits for his staff.

 

“Employees have commented that they feel safer now coming to work, and they are more comfortable going home to their families now,” he says, noting they are conducting the recommended two sets of screenings every week.

 

In accordance with safety protocols, if a screen results in a positive for COVID-19, the employee is required to leave the workplace and notify public health to arrange for a PCR Test at an approved Public Health Collection Site and await further instructions from Waterloo Region Public Health.

 

“Our employees see it as a positive addition to our already strict COVID cleaning and screening procedures,” says Sara Chamberlin, Human Resources Manager at Cambridge Hotel & Conference Centre.

 

At Swift Components Corp., Managing Partner Kristen Danson says having the kits has instilled confidence in her employees, including two additional hires the company made after she picked up her first order of kits the day the program was launched.

 

“Initially, when I said to them it was onsite work, they were quite cautious which is to be expected when starting in a new workplace,” she says. “(The kits) have really helped the new people to our organization see that we are taking this seriously and we have a process in place to control things.”

 

Besides helping employees, having a rapid screening process in place has also inspired more confidence for the clients of these businesses.

 

“For vehicle appraisal, it is very calming for the customers that we need to see in person to know that any of our appraisers that come out to see them are in fact negative, as well as vaccinated,” says Cynthia. “We are so very blessed to be able to have access to them; I feel that it has been a helping with anything that we need to see in person.”

 

The majority of those who’ve accessed the kits say the process is relatively easy to navigate in terms of ordering and administering them.

 

“You have to find a way that works in your system,” says Kristen, explaining how at Swift Components the first round of screenings were administered in a boardroom. “It took forever to rotate people through. But then we realized we have a cart with wheels that we were able to take out into the production area and literally do the screenings on the shop floor.”

 

She says this simple change expediated the process considerably.

 

“You just have to look at your process and space and figure out what works.”

 

Kristen says her company has picked up a second order of kits.

The initial orders provide businesses with two weeks of screening kits, but most are interested in obtaining more.

 

 “Should we use the supply we have been given, we will be requesting more as we continue to promote the benefits of the program to our team,” says Sara.

 

Peter feels the same.

 

“I know it’s not possible currently, but I liked to do the screenings daily if there was enough supply,” he says, adding his employees are screened before they even enter the building.

Each SME is required to electronically submit their screening results after each occasion and the accumulated data will be reported to the Ministry of Health bimonthly.

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