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The coronavirus pandemic, and the ensuing 21-day national lockdown, has seen many South Africans working from home for the first time. But while employees celebrate working in their pyjamas and not commuting, it’s important for employers and business owners to make sure they’re covered against the potential risks of remote working.

Wynand van Vuuren, customer experience partner at insurer King Price, says there are 3 main areas that businesses should look at to mitigate their risks around remote work: Loss, damage and theft; cybersecurity; and physical security.

Lost, stolen and damaged equipment

Generally, business insurance covers valuable items like cellphones, tablets, laptops, and other equipment that employees use to do their jobs, whether they’re at the office, at home, or anywhere inbetween. If they’re going to be using desktop computers, copiers, and other not-so-portable office equipment, this may need to be specified with the insurer.

It’s vital for businesses to check that their policies cover losses outside of the office, and not just at the physical business premises, says Van Vuuren. What this means is that businesses may have to extend their insurance to include all risk cover outside of the office. This will probably attract an increased premium to cover the higher risk.

“A business insurance policy will be clear on where valuables like computer equipment are covered, and from which perils or insured events. Our advice is clear: If you’re a business owner who has employees working from home, you should read your policy carefully, or ask your broker to check for any limitations on where company assets will be covered,” said Van Vuuren.

Cyber security

When it comes to cyber security, remote working brings its own set of liabilities that need to be managed. There’s a far higher risk of unauthorised access and data leakage when accessing corporate networks remotely, and people also tend to engage in behaviour they wouldn’t do at the office, like sharing a device with other family members or using the same device for both personal and work activities.

If unauthorised people access an employee’s system and steal client information, the company may be held legally liable. Companies could also become the victim of a ransomware attack, where their systems are blocked by cybercriminals until you pay a ransom. Or employees working on their own systems can infect the company’s systems with viruses – or even worse, other companies’ systems.

“Businesses should be mitigating their risks in this regard with specific cyber insurance policies, which can protect them from the after-effects of a breach by covering the costs of data recovery, damage to computer systems and data, and disruption that results in loss of income,” said Van Vuuren.

Physical security

There are some basic measures that should be put in place for employees working from home, says Van Vuuren. If possible, the home office should be locked when the employee isn’t working. If that’s not possible, work valuables and sensitive documents should be secured in a safe or locked cupboard. It’s also important to stop other people living in the house from using the employee’s laptop or office equipment.

It’s also good practice to keep a detailed description, including serial numbers, of any equipment that is used at an employee’s home. In case of theft or loss, the business will be able to blacklist the items and provide the insurer with comprehensive details of what was lost.