National Insurance Indemnity on Covid-19 needed to get Ireland working again
Labour Party TD for Wexford Brendan Howlin has called for a general insurance indemnity against Covid-19 related claims, using the State Claims Agency, to help get Ireland back to work and save jobs.
Insurance companies are refusing to provide cover for COVID-19 related claims, and far too many businesses won’t be able to reopen because they might be sued by a customer or employee who catches the disease.
Jobs are at risk – action is needed now.
Deputy Howlin said:
“Workplaces and businesses are being told they can’t get insurance cover for Covid-19-related claims. It is the issue of liability, and the duty of care, and any renewal of insurance will not cover that. It will be impossible for businesses, and some public bodies to open without that insurance.
“I am being told this directly by childcare providers, hotels and restaurants. They cannot take the risk of being liable for their employees or their customers becoming victims of Covid-19 if they are not insured against it. We must have a solution to that, some sort of indemnity or insurability. A person can’t sue if they get the flu when visiting the local supermarket. We need to address that issue or businesses will not re-open when this phase passes.
“I flagged this in the Dáil with the Minister for Business two weeks ago. We need urgent action now. I asked her then to look at the issue of insurance liability as a matter of urgency. I am really worried that this issue will hold up thousands of jobs coming back.
“Labour is calling on the Government to provide a general indemnity for COVID-19, using the State Claims Agency. This would remove the immediate risk from insurance renewal. There would still be the usual reasonable care provision meaning the State could pursue reckless employers. The UK’s independent Office for Budget Responsibility has backed a similar plan there saying there is a ‘very good argument that the state should essentially be the insurer here’.
“The long-awaited childcare scheme for health workers fell apart within a day when insurers told providers they would not be insured for any claims related to Covid-19.
“Shops, Hotels, pubs and restaurants are worried about the same thing. It is a major worry.
“We also don’t know if schools can reopen in September, and one of the main reasons will be insurance cover.
“The Government now needs to step in and use the State Claims Agency to indemnify against the risk of people getting Covid-19. The costs of any future claims can be recouped through a levy on insurance profits, but what’s most important now is to get Ireland reopened once it is safe to do so.
“Workers and customers also have to feel safe so there must be a very robust inspection regime from the Health and Safety Agency, and those found breaking the rules must be held to account. That’s why under our proposal, the Government must ensure that businesses that flout health and safety guidelines will pay the cost, not the State.
“The sooner we get the country back up and running in a safe way, the quicker we can get people back to work, once all the rules on social distancing and stopping the spread of Covid-19 are followed.”
Notes to Editors:
INSURANCE AND COVID-19
The Government needs to solve a growing insurance crisis that will block any return to normal economic activity. Insurance companies are refusing to provide cover for COVID-19, which means that businesses can’t reopen in case they are sued by a customer or employee who catches the disease. This not only undermined the proposed scheme of childcare for healthcare workers, but it will prevent many shops and offices from re-opening as long as COVID-19 is still in the community.
Labour is calling on the Government to provide a general indemnity for COVID-19, using agencies such as the State Claims Agency. While this will incur a cost, the Government must also ensure that businesses that flout health and safety guidelines will pay the cost, not the State. The overall cost of a general insurance indemnity can be recouped over time through a levy on future insurance profits.