We need help too, say businesses left out of insurers' relief plans

Many businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors don't qualify for relief that insurers have offered.
Many businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors don't qualify for relief that insurers have offered.
  • Since last weekend, insurers have been announcing relief or offering settlements to their business interruption clients.
  • However, the relief and settlements are only being offered to smaller businesses.
  • Most insurers have not paid business interruption claims for clients who were forced to close their businesses because of the lockdown.

Businesses that do not qualify for the relief that insurers are providing to some of their customers are questioning why, as they argue their closures would put more jobs on the line.

Since last Saturday, when Hollard announced that it would be making settlement offers to its smaller business interruption clients, all other big insurers who had contagious disease extensions on their policies have made similar announcements – offering either limited relief or settlements.

However, such relief is only offered to clients who generate a certain level of revenue or whose insured amounts don't exceed a stipulated cap.

In many instances, the businesses also need to still have their business interruption cover in place, even if they were not able to afford their policies during the period that they were forced to close their doors.

'Mid-size businesses also need help'

"I'm not denying small businesses need help. They need a lot of help. But medium-size businesses also have a lot of staff and those people have families. They are no different to people who work in small businesses," said Glynis Hyslop, MD of conference and events company, The Forum Company.

The company that she is insured with Old Mutual announced that it will offer settlements to clients who have an annual sum insured of R5 million or less.

With R2.6 million fixed monthly expenses that The Forum Company has had to continue paying without any income since early in March when clients began cancelling their gatherings, Hyslop said a relief while insurers await legal clarity would have gone some way in stalling retrenchments.

"Eventually this month we decided that we have to retrench about 80% of our staff because, after five months, we just don't have any more cash," said Hyslop.

Wynand du Toit, founder of Tented Adventures, has a different gripe. After generating no income as the hospitality and tourism sector was forced to a standstill, he could no longer afford to pay his business' insurance premium from June 2020 onwards and now he does not qualify for relief.

"I no longer had funds, my bank account is empty," he wrote in a letter addressed to Santam.

In the letter, Du Toit said reading the fine print of Santam's R1-billion relief package had left him devastated.

"What I saw as a light at the end of the tunnel, a relief that could make it a bit better for those around me – employees, creditors, and guests – are no longer available to me. This all because I could no longer afford to pay you, not intentionally, purely because I had no more money, the bank account is empty," he wrote.

This is what are insurers offering

Ryan Woolley, CEO of public loss adjustment firm, Insurance Claims Africa (ICA) said many of the 600 businesses he represents are in the same boat.

"The difficulties are, with Old Mutual for instance, the cap is so low at R5 million. We've only got four clients that can potentially get that of our 600-odd clients. With Hollard, there's so much information that you have to supply to get R200 000 and people are getting frustrated by the process," he said.

Woolley said the offers differ significantly between insurers.

He reckons Santam's cap of which businesses qualify is reasonable but the offer to pay a portion of only two months-worth of losses will only go so far. Guardrisk on the other hand is offering full and final settlements minus savings the businesses realised due to inactivity and premium holidays. Woolley said some smaller insurers have simplified processes but are only offering R100 000.

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