Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We are here to help you

We know this is a difficult and unsettling time for everyone and we are closely monitoring the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Our priority is to ensure the ongoing delivery of our customer services and we’d like to reassure you that all teams are successfully working from home and that Zurich Corporate Risk remains fully operational and is continuing to support our normal business activities. However, there may be occasional delays as people get used to new ways of working and we’d like to thank you for you for your continued support and patience in these unprecedented times.

In the meantime, we’ve created some online support and answers to frequently asked questions which may help.

To help us deal with any queries efficiently, please send all communications via email where possible. We appreciate that that’s not always possible (Original Death certificates for example), but whilst our offices are closed, communication via email ensures we are able to deal with your query quickly.

Maintaining cover

Will you maintain full cover where employees are temporarily furloughed or working reduced hours / receiving reduced pay?

Group Life – Yes, provided the full benefit continues to be declared in the membership data and the appropriate premium is paid.

Group Income Protection – We will maintain full cover temporarily for up to 3 months (from 16th March), provided the full insured salaries continue to be declared in the membership data and the appropriate premium is paid. This position will be reviewed after 3 months or beforehand if there is a change in Government support.

Intermediaries should communicate this position to customers and notify us if the employer doesn’t wish us to take this approach, or if they have implemented specific arrangements that they would like us to support.


What do you consider ‘actively at work’, in light of the fact that people are being told to work from home and self-isolate?

Where an individual is self-isolating at home:

  • If they are sick and not working, we would not class them as being actively at work as they are absent from work due to an illness.
  • If they are self-isolating as a precaution, following mild symptoms or contact with someone who has tested positive, we would class them as being actively at work unless their medical record shows that they were suffering from a medical condition that would reasonably have been expected to prevent them working normally.

This applies to group life and group income protection, as appropriate.


Will you maintain cover for employees who volunteer for the NHS or any other UK organisation that is supporting the national effort to combat the Corovavirus pandemic?

Yes, we will continue to provide cover for these employees, providing this has been agreed with the employer.


If an employee is a ‘reservist’ in the military and is called up, please would you confirm there will be no impact on their GLA, or GIP cover and that they will continue to be covered under the standard Temporary Absence terms of the client’s policy.

There will be no impact as our standard Temporary absence terms apply.


Is Government recommended self-isolation considered a period of incapacity from a Group Income Protection deferred period perspective?

If an employee is suffering symptoms and isn’t capable of work, then we would consider them to be unable to work as a result of illness or injury. However, periods of precautionary self-isolation without symptoms are not regarded as a period of incapacity.


Are you implementing any changes to how you cover overseas employees/secondees?

There are no changes and our standard Terms and Conditions will continue to apply.


What is your stance on employees taking on alternative/voluntary work during the lockdown period such as people becoming temporary delivery drivers, hospital support, shelf stackers etc.

Cover under our policies for any employees who undertake voluntary/alternative work for a short-term period during lockdown will not be impacted, providing it has been agreed with the employer.


What is your position on Business Travel?

In accordance with our standard policy terms, cover will not be provided whilst a member of the policy is travelling on business against Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice, unless otherwise agreed by us in advance.

Consequently, new business travel to a territory against FCO advice would result in the member not being covered whilst travelling. Cover would resume upon the member’s return. Cover remains in place for members who were already in or were travelling to these territories prior to the FCO advising against travel. Members choosing not to return, even if they had an opportunity to do so, wouldn’t result in their cover ceasing.

This approach applies in respect of all FCO advice, on the date travel commences.


Please confirm if there would be any impact on a Group Life or Group Income protection claim if government advice regarding isolation was ignored?

There would be no impact and our standard terms and conditions would continue to apply.


Do you have any specific exclusions relating to death or disability caused by Coronavirus within your policies?

There are no exclusions under our Group Life or Group Income protection policies specifically relating to Coronavirus.


Are there any changes in informing you of absenteeism during this period?

No, please continue to notify us of any employee absences as soon as possible.


Will you be introducing Coronavirus exclusions to Group Life and Group Income Protection policies in the future?

Our policies currently have no exclusions in relation to Coronavirus and we have no plans to introduce them, however our Group Life policy includes a Catastrophe Limit.


What are the event and catastrophe limits for Zurich Corporate Risk customers and how does it work?

Coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, therefore it is classed as a ‘Catastrophe’ as defined in our policy terms and condition and the catastrophe limit would apply. Our standard catastrophe limit is £100 million, however, where we have agreed a different limit this will be shown in the policy schedule. In the event of a scheme reaching its policy Catastrophic event limit, we will assess and identify the underlying reason for each death claim and then aggregate them in respect of the ‘Catastrophe’ when applying the limit. We would share the assessment of each claim with the scheme.


Are employees, who aren’t British citizens, who return to their home country to continue to work remotely for the UK company still covered?

Cover would continue provided this is a temporary arrangement and doesn’t impact the employees contractual terms.


Can redundancy cover be added to an existing Group Life policy?

Upon request we will provide cover for up to 6 months for members who are made redundant at no additional cost.


Is there any impact on the Spouse Partner Group Life cover?

No, there is no impact on Spouse Partner cover.

Administration

All Zurich Corporate Risk staff are successfully working from home and all activities are being completed without delay. This will continue until we are able to return to the office.

The vast majority of our communication is electronic, either through DocuSign for medical underwriting (if selected) and our paperless approach to Group Income Protection Claims - with all being managed telephonically and electronically.

We continue to accept scanned copies of all required documents where possible, however where necessary we can still receive posted documents. We can even accept scans or photos of wet signatures, medical evidence and claim forms and we are currently looking at developing eSignatures for proposal forms, including the Master Trust proposal form, and for the Notice of Participation form.

For Group Life claims, we can often verify deaths using the online death register.

We will work pragmatically with what we receive in order to verify the death, however we cannot guarantee we will not require the original Certificates. If the death occurred overseas, along with sending us the Certificate please complete and return the death abroad questionnaire.

Due to our offices being temporarily closed, any certificates received by post will be scanned, kept safe and secure until we are able to return them.

Medical Underwriting

How are you managing requests for medical evidence and information?

We have updated our Health and Activities form so we can now gather more information directly from the member and this form can now be completed electronically. In addition, we are expanding our use of electronic medical reports and exploring different ways of gathering information that is normally obtained via a medical examination.


Are you automatically allowing an extended period of temporary cover?

In most cases it will not be necessary to extend temporary cover, which is provided for up to 120 days. The majority of cases will be assessed based on the health and activities form, and through GP notes which are still available to us. Where it is considered necessary to obtain further evidence we will consider each case separately and advise accordingly.

Claims

Where claims and helpline teams are working from home, do you have a structure in place to manage all internal and external claims and helpline calls remotely?

Our claims teams have been working effectively from home now since the government imposed the restrictions. We are managing business as usual but there may be occasional delays as people get used to new ways of working and we’d like to thank you for your continued support and patience in these unprecedented times. We are making use of the available software to enable regular case discussion, with the relevant people (case manager, rehab consultant, technical claim manager for example).


If a Group Income Protection client stops trading will you continue to pay benefit for any valid claims you were paying at the cancellation date, subject to normal rules?

As per our standard terms and conditions, we'll continue to pay any current claims and asses any new claims received and the definition of incapacity will remain the same. If the policy is cancelled, we'll consider any valid claim if the Incapacity happens during the Policy Year.


How will you manage the anticipated delay in obtaining medical reports due to the NHS being under strain?

The majority of group income protection policies have a 26 week Deferred Period and if we're notified early in the process it should leave us with sufficient time before end of deferred period to gather the information we need to accept a claim. We will work with the claimant to make use of information available to assess the claim appropriately and be able to make a decision before the deferred period has ended.

Payments and invoicing

Are you noticing any delays in you issuing invoices, and for clients in processing payments, are you offering extensions on settling invoices?

There are no delays in issuing invoices and as a result there is no change to our standard payment terms of 30 days. Any extension to these payment terms need to be agreed on an ad-hoc basis.


Will you consider offering a payment holiday or deferred payment for customers struggling to pay their premiums or perhaps a deferral of payment for a period of time?

We are not able to offer 'payment holidays' but we can consider requests for payment plans when its agreed that all the premiums due will be paid in full over an agreed period of time. If the policy (ies) is paid to date at the time of the request, we will continue to pay claims during the payment plan period.

Pricing

If companies make employees redundant, will you carry out a rate retest where the reduction in membership exceeds that set out in the policy?

We will normally review our terms should there be a change in membership which breaches the policy tolerance, however, we will review this on a case by case basis.


Are you considering closing any benefits to new business?

No, we are very much business as usual.

Third party services

Are you confident that services and service levels of your third-party providers for your add-on services are unaffected e.g. EAP providers?

All our third-party services are operating as normal.


Are you confident that third party providers for any other services you utilise are unaffected e.g. if any claims assessment aspects occur out of house?

We do not outsource our administration, we have an in-house claims and rehab team, so this service is not impacted. Where GP reports are usually requested, we are looking at alternatives, as well as utilising online virtual or telephone assessments instead of face to face meetings.


How can I access the WorldAware service?

We understand these are uncertain and unprecedented times, and that you are likely to have questions related to the coronavirus Pandemic and its impact. WorldAware have a Coronavirus Intelligence Centre on their website to provide you with the latest intelligence, travel and airline restriction information, health and hygiene guidance, and additional resources from WHO, CDC and other third parties.

This service is available to all our customers, you can find out how to access it here:

Business continuity ‘Pandemic’

Zurich has produced a business continuity guide ‘Organisational Resilience: Guidance on Pandemic’, which we hope you and your clients (our customers) will find helpful.
In the event of a pandemic, all organisations have a key role to play in managing the risks to the health and safety of employees and maintaining essential operations. Effective planning is essential to help mitigate the risk and impact of a pandemic and to manage the response and recovery in the event that a pandemic occurs.

This guide has been developed to provide an overview of the steps that an organisation can take to prepare for a pandemic.


Zurich Business Continuity Management

Within Zurich the importance of Business Continuity Management (BCM) is recognised and reflected in the Zurich Risk Policy. BCM offers a way to manage some of the operational risks that arise from people, processes, systems and external events. Zurich has a robust BCM framework in place; This is managed by a team of business continuity professionals including Business Continuity Managers. The BCM framework is in line with Group Risk policy and the British Standard for Business Continuity ISO 22301.

The team look after all elements of Response/Recovery – BCM/Crisis Management and Incident response. Zurich’s business continuity planning incorporates four major impact categories; loss of building/ denial of access to buildings, loss of IT and/or telephony, loss of key staff (including pandemic) and loss of key suppliers. Business continuity plans are reviewed at least quarterly and exercised at least annually. We maintain a comprehensive set of BC plans covering all critical aspects of our operations; All aspects of customer impact are considered in these plans to specifically ensure we deliver fair outcomes, even in the event of a serious incident causing business disruption.

The BCM process is reviewed regularly to ensure that changes in the business requirements are reflected in the strategies and incorporated into BC plans.


Recovery Strategies

Various business continuity strategies have been developed to successfully mitigate the impact of these types of events in order to ensure that critical business processes can continue to operate to acceptable levels. In circumstances where locations are affected and/or are likely to be unavailable, our plans provide for a work area recovery (WAR) site to be brought on-line – with provision for sufficient seats to enable service provision to be sustained to acceptable levels. We also look at the following:

  • Relocation to another office and Working from Home strategies are also in place
  • Transferring work between alternative teams
  • Manual Business workarounds
  • Disaster recovery capabilities for IT applications

Testing

We regularly test our ability to effect recovery as planned (including WAR site implementation, disaster recovery testing, working from home etc.) which underpins our confidence that we can maintain services for our customers in the event of any serious incident.


Awareness and training

Awareness and training are fundamental within Zurich on the topic of Business Continuity, it is done in the following ways:

  • Drop in presentations are held
  • More recently Zurich have set up eLearning modules covering the basics of BC and Crisis Management, which can be accessed by all employees within the organisation
  • Actively participating in Business Continuity Week
  • All levels of the business are encouraged to take part when exercises/ tests are conducted
  • BCM professionals spearhead appropriate and relevant comms into the business on a regular basis regarding Business Resilience.

Monitoring and Reporting

Further assurance of the BCM programme, including our key 3rd parties and outsourced providers, is provided by a formal reporting process and audits undertaken on a regular basis. In addition, a BCM self-assessment is performed by the business quarterly to evaluate the current BCM competence and capability. An overview of the reported status along with any associated business continuity risks and issues are then escalated to the relevant risk and audit committees.

Zurich is dedicated to yearly testing and exercising of its business continuity capability; Results of exercises are reported, and improvement actions tracked and implemented.


Crisis management

The Crisis management structure is based on the Gold, Silver, Bronze model used by the Emergency Services. These teams are tested on at least an annual basis and a report is produced for each exercise with any learning points or improvement actions documented and implemented.

If there is an incident that poses a potential threat to health and safety, the Incident Response Team (IRT) for that location would form immediately. Each location has an IRT chaired by the Senior Manager for health and safety. Depending on the type of incident, the relevant Crisis Management team would be informed and a decision would be made to invoke. The Crisis Management structure is based on two key levels:

  1. Silver Team: Takes the strategic view of any major incident and is responsible for providing tactical management to protect and recover the business
  2. Bronze Teams: Assigned to each business area and responsible for managing the operational response to a major incident and coordinating the recovery process

Rehabilitation services

I have an employee who fractured her ankle and has been regularly visiting a physiotherapist. The physiotherapist has been unable to offer ongoing appointments due to the pandemic and as a result, their progress and prospect of a return to work has halted.  What can I do to help my employee in terms of a safe return to the workplace?

Whilst outpatient physiotherapists have stopped seeing patients on a face to face basis, most are still working in some capacity either on hospital wards or by holding virtual appointments via skype. The employee should be encouraged to contact the physiotherapist via telephone or email to seek advice. Guidance can also be sought from our in-house rehabilitation team who will review each individual case on its own merits to identify the barriers to returning to work or increasing work hours.


One of my employees hasn’t had a government letter, but I think they are ‘at risk’, what should I do?

The letters recommending 12 weeks isolation have been sent to those identified to be at the very highest risk.  For everyone else, it is important that they follow the most up to date government guidance, particularly careful handwashing, social distancing, going out as infrequently as possible for essentials and exercise and isolating if they develop any symptoms. They should be directed to www.gov.uk/coronavirus for advice.


I have an employee who travels nationally and internationally to visit clients and has recently agreed to return to work after suffering some ill health. Sadly, due to logistical concerns brought on by the current situation, they are now not able to return to work as planned. Are they able to continue to claim until we can fully implement the return to work process?

Unfortunately, whilst we are sympathetic to these circumstances the benefit is payable on medical rather than logistical incapacity. It would be best for us to have a conversation with you and your employee to identify what projects, tasks, proposals can be considered during this period of lockdown. This is a good time to develop and enhance projects, policies and procedures that ordinarily we would have little time for. The fact that your employee is medically able to return to work but logistically challenged should not delay the return to work proposal.


I have an employee who struggles with anxiety ordinarily and since the coronavirus outbreak, has experienced an exacerbation of their symptoms such that they are more intrusive than ever. They have spoken to their GP and he is unable to make any referrals for support at the moment. Is there anything you can suggest anything that might help?

Charitable organisations such MIND www.mind.org.uk, Anxiety UK www.anxietyuk.org.uk, No panic www.nopanic.org.uk all have great tips and hints for managing anxiety during these difficult times. They provide information, exercises and self-help care plans all are free. The NHS, www.nhs.uk also has some positive links and suggested reading material. And of course if you have an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme), you should encourage your employee to make contact with the service, either via telephone or the website, as the support available is invaluable.


My employee has told me that her GP says that she is not quite medically ready for a return to work. Is there anything I could suggest to help her prepare?

Yes. Building mental and physical resilience and stamina prior to starting a return to work is very important and helps lay the foundations for a successful and sustainable return to work. Your employee could consider physically attempting to increase their daily activity, (irrespective of whether their role is sedentary or manual), starting with a daily 10 minute walk and aiming to increase this to 20 minutes each day. Walking at a moderate pace will increase their heart rate and improve feelings of wellbeing and improve sleep. They should think about eating small amounts regularly to maintain a healthy blood sugar and avoid eating when bored or anxious. They can also look at their sleep pattern and start to ensure a routine with getting up and going to bed. Also mentally improving their cognition with ‘brain work outs’, doing crossword puzzles, brain teasers can also help with memory, problem solving and processing information.


What should I tell employees that have started to think deeply about concerns, worry and become preoccupied with the global pandemic?

They need to limit their news exposure to once a day and focus on headlines that give an overview of fact but avoid in-depth analysis. They should only listen to or watch the news first thing in the morning or at lunch time and avoid catching up on the news at bed time. Limiting general social media exposure and focussing instead on distraction activities such as a mindfulness walk, computer app or a craft activity can also help. Ideally, they need to take control and utilise practical strategies to manage exposure to the things that cause them worry. They should consider the things that are in their control and work on those and remember that they can do nothing about the factors they have no control over. They could, however change their perception of these things by considering some on line cognitive behaviour therapy, (CBT) www.therapyforyou.co.uk. Referring them to your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) if you have one is also recommended.


I do not have private health care and NHS waiting lists are very long, where else might I get talking therapy support?

Your employer may have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which will provide a limited number of telephone or face to face counselling sessions. There are also several online programmes that you can self-refer to and the NHS website has links to these. Self-help books (endorsed by the NHS) are readily available from Amazon and you might consider a course of self-funded treatment


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