How to write a business continuity plan

Growth and strategy

2 March 2021

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Even some of the most experienced business owners can be caught short when they’re faced with the unexpected. That’s why it’s important to have a tried-and-tested plan ready and waiting should the worst happen. Whether it’s a heavy snowstorm or a sudden broadband outage, business continuity is about keeping your business up and running when things go wrong.

According to the Office for National Statistics, over 10% of UK businesses fail each year. And while there are lots of reasons a business can go under, many fail because they’re unable to recover from a single event that suddenly devastates their business.  Here, AXA explains more about business continuity planning and you’ll find an easy-to-follow checklist and template so you can start thinking about your own plan.


What is business continuity planning?

Business continuity planning refers to the systems and procedures that allow businesses to maintain or quickly resume functions in the event of a major disruption. Essentially, business continuity is like having a back-up plan.

A business continuity plan should outline procedures and instructions for staff members in the event of a disaster. The plan should cover things like:

  • Business processes
  • What to do with equipment and/or stock
  • Who is responsible for what
  • Emergency contact details
  • Back-up power arrangement

Business continuity plans are commonly used when businesses experience disruption during extreme weather. But they also come in handy for day-to-day problems like your customers not paying on time, a staff member being off sick, or a supplier letting you down.  


How to write a business continuity plan

Here, AXA shares some tips and advice to get you thinking about what your own business continuity plan might look like. However, when it comes to putting your plan down to paper, we recommend consulting with professional bodies or other experts. The Business Continuity Institute and the ISO – Business Continuity Management Systems can help with business continuity planning standards and frameworks. They also provide training and resources (many of which are free) to businesses who need help with continuity planning.

Carry out a risk assessment

Before writing your business continuity plan, you’ll want to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment to identify the areas where your business is more vulnerable. Here’s a brief risk assessment checklist with the most common things to consider…

  • Employees
  • Premises
  • Customers
  • Suppliers
  • Business partners
  • Systems and processes
  • Finances
  • Cashflow
  • IT
  • Equipmenrt (e.g. computers, vehicles, tools)
  • Legal compliance
  • Logistics 

Top tip: Get your staff involved in the risk assessment because they might be able to identify things you’re not aware of.

AXA offer a range of Risk Management guides which you can access guides here.

Write the BCP: what to include

For smaller businesses and sole traders, business continuity plans (BCP) don’t need to be as complex as the BCPs large corporations have.  In your risk assessment, you will have identified several key areas of vulnerability and they be the focus of your plan. For example, your key areas might be things like ‘burglary’, ‘flooding’, ‘fire’ or a ‘staff member leaving’ and therefore the main body of your BCP will be made up of checklists in each of these key areas. The checklists will detail different scenarios and explain who’s responsible for what and provide timescales for different tasks.

A comprehensive contact list of all the important people you might need to speak to in an emergency is an essential part of business continuity planning. This will include key customers and suppliers, staff members, local emergency services and insurance providers. It’s good practice to update your BCP contact list regularly. And remember, any personal information about your employees must be kept secure and only shared with those who have a need to know.

You’ll also want to include an action and expenses logbook which is a great way to understand what worked well and what didn’t so you can improve your processes in the future. Equally, it can be a useful tool to document any essential expenses to show your insurance company

Top tip: Write your BCP in plain English so it’s easy to understand and everyone knows what’s expected of them. Instead of jargon and long-winded explanations, use simple sentences and bullet points.

Test and communicate the BCP

Good communication is essential when it comes to business continuity. Everyone who works for your business should read and understand the BCP before it’s fully implemented. This means you’ll have time to plan any additional training the staff might need.  To test your BCP, you might want to rehearse your responses to the key areas you identified in your risk assessment. This will give you time to iron out any issues and ensure everyone knows exactly what to do and when.

Some businesses choose to send their BCPs to key customers and suppliers so everyone’s on the same page. It also means if you do encounter an emergency or disaster, you won’t need to waste your time sending it to all the relevant people. 



Business continuity plan checklist

This business continuity plan (BCP) checklist template is a simple outline that you can build on and make specific to your business. When you go to create your own BCP, we recommended consulting with the Business Continuity Institute or other professional bodies.

  • Introduction
  • Key area checklists
  • Contact lists
  • Action and expenses log

Business continuity plan example for UK business


The introduction to your business continuity plan will include company information and contact details as well the overall objectives for the BCP. It might look something like this…

    • Company Name’ Business Continuity Plan
    • Date
    • Name of person responsible
    • Phone/Email/Address
    • (Include details of a secondary contact in the event of annual leave/sickness.)

This Business Continuity Plan has been designed to prepare ‘Company Name’ to cope with the effects of an emergency. This document will provide instructions so ‘Company Name’s’ business functions can be maintained or quickly resumed in the event of a major disruption. 

Key area checklist

For every area of vulnerability you identify in your risk assessment, you should complete a checklist to outline what the response should be.  Here’s an example of a checklist to give you an idea of what to include…

Key area: (e.g. flooding, burglary, cyberattack, staff member leaving)
Responsibility (Who is responsible?)


Impact (How would this impact the organisation?)


Likelihood (How likely is this to impact the organisation?)


Timescale (How quickly must this be resolved to avoid lasting damage?)


Resource Action
Staff List the number of staff, naming specific individuals. 
Data Process for data backup and recovery.
Premises Relocation or working-from-home options.
Communication Methods of contacting staff, suppliers and customers.
Equipment Process for recovery or replacement of equipment.
Supplies/Stock Process for replacing stock and important supplies.
Contact lists

When you’re creating a list of contacts for your BCP, it’s important to consider who you might need to speak to in an emergency. Most continuity plans have contact details for staff members, suppliers, customers, utility companies, local emergency services and insurance and banking companies.

Contact What to include
Staff Name / Job title / Work number / Personal number / Email / Address
Suppliers Company name / What they provide / Phone / Email
Customers Name / Brief description (e.g. what they buy, how much they spend) / Phone / Email
Utilities Company name / Utility / Phone / Email
Local emergency services Ambulance, Fire Service, Flood line, NHS Direct, Police
Insurance and finance Company name / Service / Phone / Email
Action and expenses log

When you’re dealing with an emergency and following your business continuity plan, it’s a good idea to document what you’re doing and when. Not only will it help you understand what worked and what didn’t in your BCP, but it could also act as evidence of the costs incurred during an emergency or for any potential insurance claims.

Your logbook might look something like this…

Date/Time Action Actioned by Authorised by Costs


Insuring your business against interruption or unforeseen events

 Having business insurance should be an integral part of any business continuity plan. AXA’s business insurance gives you protection from everyday business risks to large, unexpected compensation claims. It can protect your work, your people, your reputation, and ultimately, your future livelihood.

 With AXA’s business insurance you can easily combine different covers and choose from a list of add-ons. So you only pay for the cover you need. You’ll leave with business insurance unique to your business, no one else’s. Click here to find out more about business insurance and how much the level of cover you need might cost. 


Running a small business isn’t easy. Protecting it is.

Running a business is hard work. That’s why we’re doing all we can to make your insurance a bit simpler. From working to pay claims quicker to cutting down on business insurance jargon, find out what we’re doing to help.