COVID-19: Best Practices to Help Your Business Clients Prepare for a Safer Reopening

Reopening Businesses During COVID -19Since mid-March, nearly 95% of the U.S. has been under some form of lockdown as a result of governors issuing stay-at-home orders to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Understandably, businesses that aren’t considered essential have anxiously awaited the day when they can open their doors again. But as your clients prepare to reopen, it’s critical that they understand the necessary measures that must be taken to help keep customers and employees safe. The following are best practices that can help your clients prepare for a safer reopening.

Know and follow local, state and federal mandates

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and state and federal mandates are in place to protect customers and employees. These requirements cover everything from personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing requirements, to the number of people who can be in a location at any one time to a business’s physical layout. Your business clients should stay informed as to the guidelines in their respective states, and to federal mandates. The National Safety Council’s website is an excellent resource to help businesses understand new laws and safety compliance issues as they relate to COVID-19.

Establish and enforce new cleaning and disinfecting safety policies

Reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by cleaning and disinfection is an important part of reopening public spaces and will require careful planning. This is part of the larger U. S. government plan that focuses on the sanitation of public spaces, workplaces, businesses, and schools. According to the CDC, cleaning and disinfection of public spaces will require businesses to develop, implement, maintain, and continually revise their safety programs. For guidance on cleaning and disinfection best practices, your clients should visit the CDC website.

Monitor the health of employees

With everything businesses need to be doing right now, it can be a challenge to keep a close eye on the health of each and every worker. When possible, businesses should consider designating a point person to regularly monitor the overall health of employees. This person (or several people, if necessary) can help ensure that protocols, such as regular temperature taking and issuing proper PPE, are followed in order to maintain a safe working environment as the business slowly gets back to “new normal” operations. If an employee becomes ill, have a plan to isolate them and to provide them with the required care.

Slowly bring back employees

For many businesses, working from home isn’t an option for their employees. For retailers and restaurants, reopening means the return of employees to the workplace. When bringing workers back, businesses should start slow and consider bringing back only the minimum number of employees they need to operate with at any one time. This strategy could include staggering shifts, alternating work days, and offering part-time work options.

Your clients with brick-and-mortar businesses will no doubt be challenged as they continue to battle COVID-19 and get back to work. You can support your business insureds as they reopen by being a resource to help them better understand how they can practice COVID-19 safety and mitigate potential risks. Now is the perfect time to review policies with your clients and let them know that you’re here to help.

This is a challenging time for everyone as we learn how to navigate changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. At FastrackCE, we’re pleased that we can make it easy for you to maintain current CE licensing requirements so you can continue to serve your business clients. When you need us, we’re here to help. For more information, call 800-544-3605 or visit us at fastrackce.com.

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Your Insurance Agency Website: 3 Tips for Converting Online Visitors

Is your agency’s website experiencing a lot of online traffic but not enough conversions? If your answer is yes, take heart in the fact that you are not alone. Today’s insurance agency websites aren’t set-it-and-forget-it marketing tools.

As the face of your agency, your website requires monitoring and attention not only to drive visitors to your page but also to get them to convert. In the insurance industry, a conversion is often associated with a quote or sale. However, in the online marketing world, a conversion happens every time a visitor completes a dwebsite conversionsesired action on your website and can include:

  • Reading, liking, sharing or commenting on a blog post.
  • Making a payment or policy change online.
  • Subscribing to your agency’s newsletter/blog.
  • Completing a customer service or contact form.
  • Clicking on a social media link.
  • Downloading policy forms.
  • Filing an online claim.

If you think that your high-traffic website needs a boost in the conversion department, the following three tips can help.

Get your website optimized. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a great way to improve conversion rates because it’s aimed at increasing your website’s visibility on search engines. This is important because if someone searching online needs help, your website can be the solution. SEO can also help make your website more user-friendly and keep visitors sticking around a bit longer. Take the time to have a discussion about SEO with your web-hosting service or to consult with a digital marketing expert.

Push out great content. To engage with website visitors, especially on an insurance agency website, post content that is helpful, provides solutions and demonstrates your expertise. For example, if your agency is in an area where certain climate issues are a challenge for homeowners (say, a coastal community that is prone to flooding, high winds or nor’easters), post informative content to help visitors learn more about products, services and resources to help mitigate losses. Do you specialize in a specific industry, such as agriculture or manufacturing? If so, post content relevant to what your agency does best, and include a strong call to action to request more information, get a quote or download an industry-specific white paper or brochure.

Design a website with a clear and simple call to action. What do you want visitors to do when they come to your website? A CTA can be a single word, phrase, image or button that asks visitors to take a specific action. Put even more simply, it’s a key element that asks visitors to do something. For example, do you want them to learn more about your agency’s multiline discount policy? If so, provide a button that, when clicked, directs them to the page where they can learn more. On that page, include another button for them to click to get a quote. You get the idea. But whatever you do, make sure your CTA is clear, concise and easy to navigate, and use simple language.

When attempting to increase website conversions, you should expect to deploy a number of strategies to experience the best results. Once you get started, give your new changes some time, and be sure to monitor your results to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Now you can spend more time converting online visitors to your website and less time sitting in a classroom completing your continuing education credits. At FastrackCE, we offer courses on a broad range of topics, including most state-mandated courses, such as ethics, flood, long-term care and annuity training. For more information, call 800-544-3605, or visit us at fastrackce.com.

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Cybersecurity and Working Remotely: Are Your Business Clients at Risk?

Cybersecurity RisksThe COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to either temporarily shut down, or remain operational and adjust to employees working remotely in order to protect the health and safety of others. Even as the country begins to slowly reopen, some major companies have already announced that they will have employees work from home until at least 2021. In fact, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, approximately 17% of the HR leaders in 2,284 U.S. companies surveyed said they will very likely allow employees to work from home on a permanent basis in the very near future.

Unfortunately, cybercriminals are taking full advantage of the pandemic and our new normal. And while it’s very likely that your business clients have been diligent in safeguarding their systems and data from cybercriminals, the pandemic has created additional exposures that are putting cybersecurity protocols to the test.

Remote access risks
Simply put, remote access is the ability to access a computer or network, at home or in an office, from a remote location. The risk of remote access services and software is that they can allow a hacker to gain access to a business’s system, exposing it to a host of IT security threats. Once a hacker is inside the system, it can be very difficult to prevent data loss and phishing attacks, or protect against ransomware and other threats.

The following are three remote access risks for businesses to be aware of and guard against.

  • Browser-based attacks. By compromising web browsers (e.g., Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer), hackers gain entry to end-user systems. Once inside, cybercriminals spread malicious code throughout the company network and steal sensitive data. Web attacks often use social engineering to persuade users to take actions that launch the initial attack. For example, an employee clicks on a link in a phishing email that directs them to a web page where malware downloads to their device.
  • Systems being exposed to unsecured and unreliable wireless networks. Home office internet and Wi-Fi connections aren’t always as secure as those used in the office environment. And the more mobile devices — PCs, tablets and phones — that employees use to conduct company business, the more opportunities there are for cybercriminals. Even smart speakers and virtual assistants pose a significant risk, as cybercriminals use silent ultrasound waves to trigger smart devices in prompting users to reveal their credentials and passwords.
  • The inability to remediate security incidents on remote workstations. Most businesses have network monitoring and security tools to protect their systems and to catch hackers before they gain access to employee computers. Some businesses even have dedicated on-site IT experts. However, all that protection goes away when an employee works remotely. With employees away from the business network and its security safeguards, the attack surface for hackers is increased. When a system compromise is suspected, having off-premises employees can make it difficult for businesses to immediately identify and respond to the threat and prevent further damage.

As cybercriminals actively take advantage of employees working remotely, businesses are at increased risk of losing valuable intellectual property, sensitive data and financial information. And while no cybersecurity solution is foolproof, businesses can better mitigate damage from an incident with a layered approach that includes employee education, industry best practices and cyber liability insurance.

At FastrackCE, we make it easy for insurance professionals like you to maintain current CE licensing requirements so you can continue to serve your clients. When you need us, we can help. For more information, call 800-544-3605 or visit us at fastrackce.com.

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Is COVID-19 a Compensable Workers’ Compensation Disease?

COVID Work Comp ClaimThere is always a risk of an employee getting sick or injured at work, which is why state workers’ compensation insurance systems exist. The employer pays insurance premiums for a workers’ compensation insurance policy that provides employees coverage and benefits for any illness or injury arising out of and occurring in the course of their employment. However, COVID-19 is throwing employers and employees a curveball when it comes to what is and isn’t considered a compensable workers’ compensation claim as it relates to the pandemic.

What’s not covered and exceptions

Influenza and other infectious diseases are not typically covered or accepted under a workers’ compensation claim. In fact, many states specifically exclude disease from workers’ compensation policies. Therefore, an employee who is diagnosed with COVID-19 and unable to work would typically not have a compensable workers’ compensation claim.

However, there are exceptions that can be made for occupations in which the exposure is considered an occupational disease. For coverage to apply under this exception, employees must prove that the disease or illness was contracted within the capacity of their employment, either because they contracted it at the workplace or because it arose out of or was caused by conditions related to the employee’s scope of work. A good example would be a healthcare worker who contracts COVID-19, becomes ill and is unable to work.

The reason for this sticky area in workers’ compensation coverage is that COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease that can easily be spread outside the workplace. Because of this, and because there is typically a delay before symptoms begin, it can be difficult to determine just where the exposure originated. Therefore, the burden is on the employee to prove that the disease was indeed contracted within the scope of his or her employment and as a direct result of being on the job. Whether a claim is compensable will be based on the facts surrounding each individual case, evidence found during the claim investigation and the jurisdiction’s governing law. In some instances, it may even be decided by a court or the state’s workers’ compensation board.

Recent legislation changes in several states

Federal legislation has recently been enacted for disability and unemployment related to COVID-19, and each state applies its own jurisdictional statutes to occupational illness/disease. Individual states should be consulted for specifics as they consider what, when and how COVID-19 might be a compensable claim under workers’ compensation.

In March, Washington and Michigan issued specific directives on workers’ compensation coverage for the quarantine of healthcare workers and first responders. In April, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission approved an emergency rule that guarantees that essential workers diagnosed with COVID-19 are automatically presumed to have contracted the illness at the workplace, even if they’re working remotely or are not currently on the job.

This month, California’s governor essentially flipped the switch and issued Executive Order N-62-20, creating a rebuttal that an employee’s COVID-19-related illness that arises out of the course of employment for workers’ compensation purposes is a compensable claim, but only if the employee tests positive or is diagnosed within 14 days after a day that the employee performed labor or services at his or her place of employment at the employer’s direction. The presumption does not apply if the employee was working from home. In addition, the date of illness must occur between March 19, 2020, and July 5, 2020. For employees who become ill, the Executive Order assumes that any test-confirmed COVID-19 illness is compensable under the employer’s workers’ compensation policy unless otherwise disputed.

This is a challenging time for everyone as we learn how to navigate changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. At FastrackCE, we’re pleased that we can make it easy for you to maintain current CE licensing requirements so you can continue to serve your business clients. When you need us, we’re here to help. For more information, call 800-544-3605 or visit us at fastrackce.com.

Disclaimer: Every claim situation is different, and coverage under a workers’ compensation policy will be based on specific policy language and the facts and circumstances surrounding the evidence of the claim. Policyholders should always refer to the specific language of their insurance contract when determining if they have coverage for a loss.

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Is There Coverage for COVID-19 Claims Under a General Liability Policy? 

General Liability During a PandemicThere is no question that both large and small businesses have been negatively affected by COVID-19. As an insurance professional, you may have already experienced a tsunami of questions from business clients as to how their commercial general liability (GL) is going to help mitigate losses associated with the pandemic.

Today, with many states allowing businesses to begin to slowly open their doors to the public, business owners may wonder what coverage they have under their GL policy should a patron allege that he or she has contracted COVID-19 while at their establishment. The fact is, there are a number of ways a claimant could have been exposed to the coronavirus; therefore, the burden of proof is on the claimant to establish that the business was specifically liable for his or her contracting COVID-19.

Another consideration is whether allegations of people who contracted the virus are considered an occurrence or an accident. In a GL contract, a policy pays for harm for a covered loss caused by an occurrence that is typically defined as an accident – this includes the repeated exposure to harmful conditions. In most normal situations, this most likely wouldn’t be an issue; however, the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be anything but normal. As a result, whether a business’s liability due to an alleged failure to safeguard patrons from being exposed to COVID-19 was caused by an accident will depend on whether the business owner anticipated the possibility of the claimant’s injury. This can be a gray area, as it could be argued that the business knew there might be a chance that a consumer could be exposed to COVID-19 and therefore, there is no occurrence/accident. *

We are living in unprecedented times and are having to navigate myriad new challenges due to the pandemic. Decisions about how coverage will respond to claims relating to COVID-19 will be made by each insurer and based on the facts of claim, individual policy and applicable laws. As an insurance professional, you play a vital role in helping your clients better understand specific facts about their coverages and ensuring that they have the protection they need.

About FastrackCE

Ensuring continuity in business in the midst of a crisis situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic is vital. At FastrackCE, we make it easy for insurance professionals like you to maintain current continuing education licensing requirements so you can continue to serve your clients. When you need us, we can help. For more information, call 800-544-3605 or visit us at fastrackce.com.

*Whether a claim is covered or denied is based on the facts involved in each particular claim and will play a large role in determining whether a particular COVID-19 illness was caused by an occurrence. Policies and claim situations will differ.

Disclaimer: Every insurance contract must be reviewed to determine the extent, if any, of coverage for COVID-19. Coverage will vary depending on the jurisdiction and circumstances. The information contained herein is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with your own legal and/or other professional advisors.

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