Supporting Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) through COVID- 19 : Frequently asked questions

 As the situation with COVID-19 continues to develop we want to let you know that we’re here for you.

We've introduced support measures for our small and medium business (SME) customers experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. This includes maintaining expiring premiums, deferred premium payments, continued insurance cover for vacant business premises and cover for commercial motor policies where vehicles are no longer on the road. For more information, read our full statement, including eligibility and other details.

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Eligibility

We will use the turnover or asset information we have on file for the current policy period, or next policy period in the case of renewals.
We will accept notifications from our brokers/agents that a customer requires support due to financial hardship without any further evidence being required. Where we have a reasonable belief that financial hardship has not been suffered, we will discuss with our broker/agent and review on a case by case basis.

Renewals

We will maintain expiring premium where sum insured hasn’t changed for all Business Package (BPK or APK) or Commercial Motor (MVA) policy renewals issued to an SME customer with an effective date 9 May 2020 and onwards.

Renewals from 15 March 2020 to 8 May 2020 will be considered for premium maintenance on referral for SME customers in financial hardship.

There are some exemptions from renewal maintenance, including:

  • Some scheme or other non-standard insurance arrangements with pre-agreed rating. Your Relationship Manager will be in contact to discuss, where applicable.
  • Claims adjustment.
  • Exposure adjustment – including, but not limited to, increased sum insured, amended business description, vehicle numbers.

We will maintain the current rating methodology for Individual Personal Accident policies which have an expiry date up until 30 September 2020. The exceptions to this are some scheme or other non-standard insurance arrangements which may be reviewed during this period. Your Business Relationship Manager will be in contact to discuss, where applicable.

Our rating methodology automatically accounts for changes in sum insured, exposure or claims experience. If your customer’s exposure or claims experience has changed:

  • For ebusiness policies, please update the customer’s policy
  • For manually rated renewals, please contact your Underwriter.

 

Where financial hardship exists for renewals, effective from 15 March 2020 to 8 May 2020, refer these to us for consideration. For eBusiness policies, please select ‘Financial Hardship COVID19’ where available or use the words ‘financial hardship’ in the referral comments when processing a manual referral.
Where brokers/agents are unable to obtain renewal information or receive instructions from customers due to COVID-19 impacts we will provide a 30-day hold covered extension where requested (excludes Claims Made policies).
Where brokers/agents are unable to obtain renewal information or instructions from customers they should request the hold covered extension by contacting their Underwriter or Business Relationship Manager.

Deferred premium payments

Where platforms allow, we can offer instalment billing arrangements for SME customers, as well as deferred payment on their annual or monthly premium for up to six months. Insurance policies will provide continuous coverage during this time. This is available to SME customers with an annual turnover or asset value of less than $10 million who qualify for COVID-19 support payments from the Government. If an SME customer makes a claim during the six-month deferral period, the cost of their premium will be taken as part of their claims cost.

To defer annual payments please:

  1. Extend your credit terms to the customer
  2. Email Payment Solutions via creditteam@qbe.com detailing the credit terms offered so we can make a note of the action that’s has been agreed
  3. Remit payment to QBE once you receive it from the client.

To defer monthly payments please contact QBE via instal@qbe.com to discuss the deferral plan before confirming with the customer so we can advise on the best way to support each request. We appreciate that some of our partners are not setup for instalment billing and prefer to use premium funding, however, if you would like to discuss being setup to offer instalment billing, please contact your eBusiness Advisor.


We support our brokers/agents in looking at the best payment options to support customers, including the use of premium funding.

Where platforms allow, we offer instalment billing with no additional fee. For brokers/agents who are not currently set up to offer instalment billing, we are happy to work with them to begin the process of setting this up, where practical, so that they can offer this as a payment option. Please contact your eBusiness Advisor or Business Relationship Manager to discuss.

QBE’s standard process applies. For annual policies, commission is deducted via the remittance process from broker to insurer.

For instalment policies, once policy payments resume, commission shall be applied on a pro-rata basis over remaining policy period and settled with brokers as per normal process.


Where we have a policy in force and have agreed to defer payments, we cannot backdate cancellations to the deferment start date and void the contract. We are, however, within our rights to cancel the cover from the end date of the agreed deferment period. We will take each customer’s circumstances into account when determining how we approach premium debt should the customer decide to cancel at the conclusion of the deferment period. We will not be automatically writing-off time on risk premium for polices cancelled at the conclusion of the deferment period.

We will soon be adding a new drop down option for Cancellation and Lapse reasons in c.change/sunrise to allow our brokers to select ‘Covid 19’ as the reason for the Cancellation/Lapse. Please select this option where appropriate. Note – this is not available on all broker platforms.


Unoccupied premises

SME customers that close their businesses due to COVID-19 restrictions and consequently have unoccupied premises can maintain cover on their premises with no increase to their premium due to vacancy. Specifically, we will provide existing SME customers continued cover on the premises with no changes to terms, conditions, premium or excess while relevant COVID-19 restrictions affecting their businesses remain in force.

For best practice risk management considerations for temporarily unoccupied premises during COVID-19, please read our risk management guidance. Any premises that remain unoccupied after relevant Government directions are lifted will be considered subject to the policy’s unoccupied building conditions after a period of seven days.


For eBusiness policies:

  • Where the insured is the Property Owner:
    • and the tenant is not operating due to COVID-19 restrictions and intends on returning to open once the restrictions are lifted – no changes are required
    • and the tenant is not operating due to COVID-19 restrictions and does not intend on returning once the restrictions are lifted – please change the ANZSIC to ‘Property Owner, Commercial – Unoccupied’
    • and the premises is vacant with no tenant – please change the ANZSIC to ‘Property Owner, Commercial – Unoccupied’

Where the policy is endorsed to change the ANZSIC to ‘Property Owner, Commercial – Unoccupied’ our team will action the referral request and remove the relevant endorsement where applicable.

  • Where the insured is the Tenant and is not operating the business due to no COVID-19 restrictions – no changes are required

For manually underwritten policies, please let us know by emailing your Underwriter so we can update the policy.

If the customer repurposes the premises to undertake different activities during the period of unoccupancy due to COVID-19 restrictions, please contact us to review the policy and cover or, in the case of eBusiness policies, brokers should update these policies themselves.


We will extend the duration of cover for temporary removal of property in Commercial Package policies to align with COVID-19 Government directions.

We will not be automatically increasing the current policy limits in regard to ‘value of cover’. We understand that COVID-19 Government directions may result in the value exceeding the policy limit.

Brokers do not need to endorse policies to this effect. We will take both of these points - extending duration and increase in value - into account when assessing any claim.


Laid Up cover - Commercial Motor

For SME customers where vehicles are ‘laid up’, ie no longer in use, we will offer a return premium (RP) on referral for the impacted vehicles. There are some exemptions from this ‘laid up’ cover, including:

  • Some scheme arrangements with pre-agreed rating (your Relationship Manager will be in contact to discuss where applicable)
  • Farm machinery, campervans and caravans are excluded
  • An additional excess will apply if the vehicles are used.

For eBusiness policies, brokers will need to ensure they note “LAID UP” in the Manual Refer comments and include details of the vehicle registration/vehicle identification numbers that are no longer in use and the address where the vehicles will be laid up. For all manually underwritten policies, please contact your Underwriter.

Laid Up cover - Marine: Commercial Hull

For SME customers where vessels are ‘laid up’, ie no longer in use, we will offer a return premium (RP) on referral for the impacted vessels at a reduced rate subject to usual pricing adjustments for claims experience and exposures.

Please contact your local QBE Marine Underwriter with the following risk information to assist when calculating any RP due:

  • Location/details of where the vessel(s) will be laid up/stored
  • Security measures in place at the laid up/storage location
  • Details of routine maintenance plan for the vessel(s) while laid up/stored.

Laid Up cover - Aviation

For customers whose aircraft are grounded and no longer require flight risks, we will offer a return premium (RP) on referral. We also offer the option of processing the RP upfront rather than at the expiry of the policy.

There are some exemptions from this lay-up credit, including, some scheme arrangements with pre-agreed rating. Your Business Relationship Manager will be in contact to discuss, where applicable


Please contact your Underwriter noting impacted aircraft and the date the grounding commenced.

Workers Compensation

We’re providing premium support through a combination of rollovers and reduced premium increases for SME customers in Western Australia, Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Tasmania. SME for this Workers Compensation option is defined as businesses with a premium of less than $30,000 in Western Australian and $50,000 in other states.

For WA SME policies:

  • Claim free or low claim cost (and no more than two claims) in the past three years – 90% of policies (based on ANZSIC) will receive a rollover of rates
  • Other policies – premium is based on claims experience – no increase will exceed 20%.

For other states policies:

  • Maximum claim cost of $10,000 (and no more than one claim) in the past three years – 90% of policies (based on ANZSIC) will receive a rollover of rates
  • Other policies – premium is based on claims experience
  • We’ve empowered our teams with increased authority so they can better support requests for extending policy periods, enabling instalments and processing mid-term adjustments for wage reductions.

Rates for renewals will be auto-generated so there are no actions required. Any requests for extensions, enabling instalments or mid-term adjustments should be referred to your Underwriter.

Claims

We will continue to accept and process claims received during the deferral period.

For cash settled claims:

  • Where there is a total loss or partial loss during the deferral period, we will deduct the total outstanding premium from the claim payment
  • Where the cash settlement is less than the outstanding premium, we will deduct the full amount and the balance will be an ongoing debt payable at the conclusion of the deferral period.

For repair or replacement:

• We will commence discussions with the broker to discuss how we can best work with their customer to recover outstanding premium up to the date of loss.


Our supplier network is operating and we are continuing to process natural disaster claims, however we understand that some customers may prefer a cash settlement so they can manage their own repairs. We will assess each of these requests on a case-by-case basis taking into account the individual circumstances of each case and the status of repairs.

Brokers/agents should contact their Claims Officer to request consideration for an accelerated cash-settlement in lieu of repairs.


We’ve taken actions to minimise risk to our customers and to our network of suppliers. Our supplier network will now be asking screening questions before any customer visit and will continue to follow the latest health and safety advice.
Brokers/agents can support us by letting us know when they become aware of any customers who have people with compromised immune systems or people currently in isolation, as well as referring any customer concerns in relation to health and safety to their Claims Officer.