CAI Risk Assessment COVID-19 24/06/2020
Working safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak 12/06/2020
The Government has issued guidance around safe working during the coronavirus outbreak. It’s designed to help you make your work and workplace safe (be COVID-secure). It'll help you to manage the risk associated with re-starting or running your business during the outbreak. You should start by updating your risk assessment to manage the risk of coronavirus in your business. This will help you to understand what you should do to work safely and protect people. Follow this guide for an overview of practical measures you can take. It includes help with how to maintain social distancing in your workplace, staggering shifts, cleaning and how to talk with workers. You can find the full guide at https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/index.htm but also find a summary below:
As an employer, you must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others from coronavirus. This is called a risk assessment and it’ll help you manage risk and protect people. You must:
- identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus
- think about who could be at risk
- decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed
- act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk
If you have fewer than five employees, you don’t have to write anything down, but it might help if you do. The Government have produced guidance to help you work safely (be COVID-secure) and manage the risk associated with running your business at this time. It includes practical measures you can take, for example:
- putting in place social distancing measures
- staggering shifts
- providing additional handwashing facilities
Talk to workers and provide information; by consulting and involving people in the steps you are taking to manage the risk of coronavirus in your workplace you can:
- explain the changes you are planning to work safely
- make sure changes will work and hear their ideas
- continue to operate your business safely during the outbreak
Make your workplace secure:
Entrances and exits
- Stagger arrival and departure times so that people do not use entry and exit points at the same time.
- Provide handwashing facilities so people can wash their hands when they get into and leave work (provide hand sanitiser where this is not possible).
Keep work areas 2 metres apart and allocate one person only to each work area. If this is not possible, then keep the number of people in each work area as low as possible.
To help workers to social distance you can:
- use floor tape or paint to mark work areas
- provide signage to remind people to keep a 2 m distance
- use screens to create a physical barrier between people
- have people working side-by-side rather than face-to-face
- limit movement of people
- rotating between jobs and equipment
- using lifts and work vehicles
- in high-traffic areas like corridors, turnstiles and walkways
- allow only essential trips within buildings and between sites
Breaks and canteens
- Stagger breaktimes so that people are not using break rooms, canteens or rest areas at the same time.
- Use outside areas for breaks and encourage staff to stay on-site during working hours to help workers with social distancing on their breaks.
- Providing packaged meals could help to avoid fully opening canteens. Reconfigure seating and tables in welfare areas to maintain spacing and reduce face to face interactions.
Protect people at higher risk
- If a worker is shielding because they are clinically vulnerable you should not ask them to work outside their home. Help them to work from home, if possible, either in their current role or in an alternative role.
- If a worker lives with someone who is shielding, the worker does not need to shield. Talk to your worker and try to agree the best way to protect the shielded person. This may include working from home.
Cleaning, hygiene and hand sanitiser
Use signs and posters to help your workers to practice good handwashing technique and to remind them to cough/sneeze into an arm and avoid touching their faces.
- provide handwashing facilities with running water, soap and paper towels
- provide hand sanitiser at locations in addition to washrooms
- provide hand sanitiser nearby for people getting in and out of vehicles or handling deliveries, if they are unable to wash their hands
- Make sure that surfaces remain clean. This may mean increasing the level and frequency of cleaning as well as cleaning surfaces that you may not ordinarily clean.
Clean equipment frequently
- Set clear guidance for the use and cleaning of toilets, showers and changing facilities to make sure they are kept clean and social distancing is achieved as much as possible
- Clean work areas and equipment between uses
- Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly
- If equipment like tools or vehicles are shared then clean them after each use
We have previously issued the Governments Guidance regarding working in other peoples homes, but if you need a refresher, you can find it here:
and you can find advice about using PPE in the workplace here:
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Update (CJRS) 03/06/2020
The Chancellor has announced further details of the changes he is making to the CJRS in order to achieve 2 aims:
- Tapering the financial support available towards the scheme’s closure date of 31 October 2020.
- Providing for ‘part-time’ furloughing from 1 July so that employees can be brought back from furlough on a gradual basis.
To facilitate the part-time furlough arrangement – which he is bringing in one month earlier than previously expected – there is a critical and early date for employers to bear in mind – 10 June 2020. 10 June is the date by when anyone for whom you want to make continuing furlough claims from 1 July will need to be furloughed. This clearly does not give employers long to decide – particularly if you have not made use of the scheme yet or there are employees you still plan to furlough, or where you have been rotating staff through the scheme. Another key date is 31 July, because by then all claims for the period to 30 June will need to have been made. The government is clearly wanting to draw a line under that period, before the new phase starts.
The new phase also includes the gradual introduction of contributions required from employers, namely:
- To 30 June– claims can be made as normal.
- July – claims to be paid in full, although there will be changes to reporting requirements necessitated by the flexible hours scheme.
- From 1 August until the end of the scheme on 31 October 2020- employer NI and pension contributions can no longer be claimed.
- From 1 September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee does not work; but employers are still required to pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
- From 1 October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee does not work; but employers are still required to pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
- The cap on the furlough grant will be proportionate to the hours not worked, under the new flexible scheme.
Under the part time arrangements, any agreements with employees for part time working must cover at least one week. The minimum claim period also reduces to 1 week and there will be specific reporting required for the part time hours.
Therefore effected members should:
- Reconsider / plan for your furlough requirements and get any ‘first time furloughees’ under furlough by 10 June 2020.
- Ensure the most appropriate employees are furloughed by 10 June, i.e. most suited to being brought back part time.
- Plan for how you will use the option for part time furlough from 1 July and make necessary adjustments to your furlough agreements with furloughed employees.
- Consider the cost implications from 1 August and factor that in to your financial forecasts for the coming months.
- Seek advice in the event you anticipate needing to make permanent changes to your working arrangements or headcount going forward.
Coronavirus Support for the Self Employed 15/05/2020
The scheme to help the self-employed who have lost income in the current pandemic is now available for people to claim from. You can check if you’re eligible and learn how to make a claim at:
Working in people’s homes as a tradesperson, cleaner or nanny 12/05/2020
The Government have also issued new advice for safe working in various settings during the current pandemic:
You are a tradesperson carrying out essential repairs and maintenance in people’s homes, or are carrying out other work in a home such as cleaning or paid-for childcare in a child’s home. You can continue work, providing that you are well and have no symptoms. No work should be carried out by a tradesperson, cleaner or nanny who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild, or when someone in their own household has symptoms.
Tradespeople should assess whether the visit is essential or if the work can be safely postponed. There may be alternatives to a visit, such as a phone or video call. If the visit cannot be postponed you should agree the procedures in advance.
During a visit
You should notify all clients in advance of your arrival. On entry to the home you should wash your hands using soap and water for 20 seconds. You should wash your hands regularly, particularly after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing, and when leaving the property. Where facilities to wash hands are not available, hand sanitiser should be used, and you should carry this with you at all times.
If you are a tradesperson or cleaner, you should maintain a safe distance (at least 2 metres) from any household occupants at all times, and ensure good ventilation in the area where you are working, including opening the window.
If someone in the household is extremely vulnerable or has coronavirus symptoms
No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless your work is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repair, or if a young child’s parents must attend an emergency hospital appointment.
Tradespeople undertaking work that needs to go ahead in a household which is self-isolating or where an individual is being shielded should take additional steps to ensure the safety of the customer and themselves:
- You should ask the householders to stay in a separate room while the work is carried out. If this is not possible, they should stay as far away from you as possible
- Prior arrangements should be made with vulnerable people to avoid any face-to-face contact – for example, when answering the door
- you should be particularly strict about hand washing and respiratory hygiene. Once the work is completed, you should tell the customer which surfaces and areas you have come in to contact with. However, you should carry out this cleaning yourself prior to leaving. Read the guidance on cleaning and waste here:
No work should be carried out by a tradesperson, cleaner or nanny who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild, or where someone in their household has symptoms.
You run a retail outlet which, in line with the government advice on retail, remains open. To protect staff and customers, you should manage entry into the store, only allowing a limited number of people into your store at any given time.
You should put up signage to ask customers with symptoms not to enter the store, and to remind both staff and customers to always keep 2 metres from other people, wherever possible.
You should regularly encourage staff to wash their hands with soap and water as often as possible and for 20 seconds every time.
If feasible, you should also put up plexiglass barriers at all points of regular interaction to further reduce the risk of infection for all parties involved, cleaning the barriers regularly. You should still advise staff to keep 2 metres apart as much as possible.
To protect your staff, you should remind colleagues daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.
Construction work plays an important role in ensuring public safety and the provision of public services. It can continue if done in accordance with the social distancing guidelines wherever possible.
Where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full in relation to a particular activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the site to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.
If you decide the work should go ahead, you should advise staff to wash their hands frequently using soap and water for 20 seconds, and especially after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing, on arrival at work, before and after eating, after using public transport, and when they arrive home. Where facilities to wash hands are not available, hand sanitiser should be used.
You should still advise staff to keep 2 metres apart as much as possible.
You should plan work to minimise contact between workers and avoid skin-to-skin and face-to-face contact. Where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible.
As much as possible, keep groups of workers working together in teams that are as small as possible (cohorting). For example, you keep vehicle crews working together, rather than mixing crew members on different shifts.
Staff should also wash their hands each time before getting into enclosed machinery (such as diggers) with others, and wash their hands every time they get out. To help with this, you should consider adding additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities, providing soap, water and/or hand sanitiser.
Employees should keep the windows of enclosed machinery or enclosed spaces open for ventilation and be careful to avoid touching their face at all times. The inside of cabs should be regularly cleaned, particularly between use by different operators.
You should try to use stairs in preference to lifts or hoists. Where lifts or hoists must be used, you should lower their capacity to reduce congestion and contact at all times, and regularly clean touchpoints, such as doors and buttons.
To protect your staff, you should remind colleagues daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.
The Construction Leadership Council has published more detailed advice on how you might carry out government guidance.
Additional useful information for firms can be accessed on BuildUK’s website.
Manufacturing and processing businesses
Manufacturing plays an important role in the economy. It can continue if done in accordance with the social distancing guidelines wherever possible.
Where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full in relation to a particular activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff.
If you decide the work should continue, staff should work side by side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face if possible.
You should increase the frequency of cleaning procedures, pausing production in the day if necessary for cleaning staff to wipe down workstations with disinfectant.
You should assign staff to the same shift teams to limit social interaction.
You should not allow staff to congregate in break times; you should consider arrangements such as staggered break times so that staff can continue to practice social distancing when taking breaks.
You should communicate to all staff that they should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more at the beginning and end of every break, when they arrive at work and before they leave. To help with this, you should consider adding additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities, providing soap, water and/or hand sanitiser.
When entering and leaving, you should ensure your workforce stays 2 metres apart as much as possible. To protect your staff, you should remind colleagues daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.
Social distancing in the workplace - principles
Social distancing involves reducing day-to-day contact with other people as much as possible, in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Businesses and workplaces should encourage their employees to work at home, wherever possible.
If you cannot work from home then you can still travel to work. This is consistent with the Chief Medical Officer for England’s advice.
The advice on social distancing measures applies to everyone and should be followed wherever possible. Workplaces need to avoid crowding and minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres (3 steps) between individuals wherever possible. This advice applies both to inside the workplace, and to where staff may need to interact with customers. Staff should be reminded to wash their hands regularly using soap and water for 20 seconds and particularly after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing. Where facilities to wash hands are not available, hand sanitiser should be used. Workers should cover any coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then dispose of the tissue in a bin and immediately wash their hands.
The practical implementation of this advice will depend on the local circumstances;
A few general indicators will be relevant to the majority of business settings:
- make regular announcements to remind staff and/or customers to follow social distancing advice and wash their hands regularly
- encourage the use of digital and remote transfers of material where possible rather than paper format, such as using e-forms, emails and e-banking
- provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water, hand sanitiser and tissues and encourage staff to use them
- where it is possible to remain 2 metres apart, use floor markings to mark the distance, particularly in the most crowded areas (for example, where queues form)
- where it is not possible to remain 2 metres apart, staff should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face if possible
- where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible
- as much as possible, keep teams of workers together (cohorting), and keep teams as small as possible
Additionally, for customer-facing businesses:
- use signage to direct movement into lanes, if feasible, while maintaining a 2 metre distance
- regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded
- use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the premises if they have symptoms
- if feasible, place plexiglass barriers at points of regular interaction as an additional element of protection for workers and customers (where customers might touch or lean against these, ensure they are cleaned and disinfected as often as is feasible in line with standard cleaning procedures)
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) 12/05/2020
The Government has announced that the CJRS has been extended until the end of October 2020 and that there are no changes to the scheme at all until 31st July 2020. From August to October the scheme will continue, for all sectors and regions of the UK, but with greater flexibility to support the transition back to work. Employers currently using the scheme will be able to bring furloughed employees back part-time. The Government has said that they will ask employers to start sharing, with the government, the costs of paying people’s salaries. Further detail will follow by the end of May but they have stated that workers will, through the combined efforts of government and employers, continue to receive the same level of support as they do now, at 80% of their salary, up to £2,500.
Coronavirus Bounceback Loan Scheme 05/05/2020
Some more details have been announced regarding the Coronavirus Bounceback Loan Scheme:
ABOUT THE SCHEME
The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) provides financial support to businesses across the UK that are losing revenue, and seeing their cashflow disrupted, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and that can benefit from £50,000 or less in finance.
Coronavirus related cyber fraud 29/04/2020
There has been reported an increase in fraud related to coronavirus, as we’ve previously reported, so we have put together some tips to help you protect your business, so if you have employees working at home;
1. Encourage employees to change their default passwords on their home routers to help prevent malicious access.
2. Protect information with an internal ‘need-to-know’ policy. If storing information on a central file server, manage who has access to these files. This can help prevent accidental or deliberate data loss.
3. Make it protocol across the business for employees to use strong and unique passwords and ensure these are updated regularly. You could also consider using a two-factor authentication as this would make it harder for cyber criminals to access your information.
4. Utilise encryption capabilities to protect your sensitive data so that only authorised users will be able to access it.
5. Invest in, and regularly test, your network security and infrastructure.
6. Revisit your cyber training with all employees so they know how to spot a phishing scam and how to share data / information securely.
7. If you are allowing employees to use their own device review your BYOD (the practice of allowing the employees of an organization to use their own computers, smartphones, or other devices for work purposes) policy.
8. Have a recovery plan in place to ensure you can recover data quickly and keep your business running as efficiently as possible.
Coronavirus Testing 29/04/2020
We wanted to make certain you are aware of the increased capacity that has just been announced by the UK Government to test for COVID-19.
Coronavirus conditions for unoccupied properties 24/04/2020
The following information may help you to prevent a breach of your insurance cover.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) 20/04/2020
The Government has launched the portal enabling you to claim your support for furloughed staff under the CJRS. You can find a step by step guide for employers by following this link:
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) Update 17/04/2020
The Chancellor has said that the portal for companies claiming support under the CJRS should be up and running by Monday, and companies should start getting payments in time for the end of the month, if not before, so we just wanted to remind you of the information you will need about each employee you will be making a claim for:
- Your employer PAYE reference number
- The number of employees being furloughed
- National Insurance Numbers for the furloughed employees
- Names of the furloughed employees
- Payroll/employee number for the furloughed employees (optional)
- Your Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference or Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer Reference or Company Registration Number
- The claim period (start and end date)
- Amount claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of 3 consecutive weeks)
- Your bank account number and sort code
- Your contact name
- Your phone number
As you know you can claim:
- 80% of your employees’ wages (even for employee’s on National Minimum Wage) - up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Do not claim for the worker’s previous salary.
- Employer National Insurance contributions that are paid on the subsidised furlough pay.
Employer pension contributions that are paid on the subsidised furlough pay, up to the level of the minimum automatic enrolment employer contribution. The maximum level of grant for employer pension contributions on subsidised furlough pay is set in line with the minimum automatic enrolment employer contribution of 3% on qualifying earnings. Grants for pension contributions can be claimed up to this cap provided the employer will pay the whole amount claimed to a pension scheme for the employee as an employer contribution.
You can choose to top up your employee’s salary, but you do not have to. Employees must not work or provide any services for the business while furloughed, even if they receive a top-up salary.
Government Support 08/04/2020
In the last part, for now, of our summary of the details of the support the Government have announced so far covers the help for the self-employed.
Self-employment Income Support Scheme
What is it?
The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant. The scheme will be open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000. The scheme will be open for an initial three months with people able to make their first claim by the beginning of June.
Am I eligible?
To be eligible for the scheme you must meet all the criteria below:
- Be self-employed or a member of partnership;
- Have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19;
- File a tax return for 2018-19 as self-employed or a member of a trading partnership. Those who have not yet filed for 2018-19 will have an additional 4 weeks from this announcement to do so;
- Have traded in 2019-20; be currently trading at the point of application (or would be except for COVID 19) and intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021
- Have trading profits of less than £50,000 and more than half of your total income come from self-employment. This can be with reference to at least one of the following conditions:
- Your trading profits and total income in 2018/19
- Your average trading profits and total income across up to the three years between 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19.
How do I access it?
Individuals should not contact HMRC now. HMRC will use existing information to check potential eligibility and invite applications once the scheme is operational. HMRC will then pay the grant directly to eligible claimants’ bank account. HMRC is urgently working to deliver the scheme; grants are expected to start to be paid out by beginning of June 2020. For eligible individuals who have not submitted their returns for 2018-19, they will have 4 weeks’ notice from the date of the announcement to file their returns and therefore become eligible for this scheme.
When can I access it?
HMRC state they are urgently working to deliver the scheme; grants are expected to start to be paid by the beginning of June 2020. This time is necessary to ensure that the scheme is both deliverable and fair. In the interim the self-employed will still able eligible for other government support including more generous universal credit and business continuity loans.
Face Mask Update 08/04/2020
Thanks to all the members who responded to our members request for mask supplies, it’s much appreciated. In fact we got more offers to source masks, or suggestions of companies who could supply them, than we got requests for them. Consequently we did not receive interest in large enough volume to look at placing an order ourselves. This situation could change of we receive more requests but in the meantime both the companies below have stock as I write, and also of hand sanitiser if members need that.
Business Support 06/04/2020
In the second of our updates regarding the support Government is making available to businesses, we’ve produced the below on the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS):
The facility is a Loan Guarantee, the bank loans the business money with the Government providing the bank with an 80% Guarantee. Personal Guarantees will be required for 20% of the loan for loans over £250,000, but lenders cannot take business owners house as security. Below £250,000 the lender is not allowed to request a Personal Guarantee. It is not risk free to the bank but they are likely to be supportive where they can be.
- Businesses with less than £45m turnover
- All businesses affected by Covid-19 are eligible except banks insurance and public sector businesses, only a very few exceptions
- A sound borrowing proposal
- Amount – £1,000 to £5,000,000
- Term – Up to 6 years
- Interest – Interest free for the first 12 months followed by sensible low rates
- Capital repayment holiday (at lenders discretion 12 months on offer from several)
- Fees – No arrangement fees are being levied
- Administered by the British Business Bank
- These are being made available from 23 March 2020 initially for six months
Who is offering this and what finance is available?
British Business Bank operates CBILS via its accredited lenders. There are over 40 of these lenders currently working to provide finance. They include:
- high-street banks
- challenger banks
- asset-based lenders
- smaller specialist local lenders
A lender can provide up to £5 million in the form of:
- term loans
- invoice finance
- asset finance
CBILS gives the lender a government-backed guarantee for the loan repayments to encourage more lending.
What will lenders need from you?
When you apply for a business loan, most lenders will ask you for the following:
- The amount you would like to borrow
- What the money is for — the lender will check that it’s a suitable business purpose and the right type of finance for your needs
- The period over which you will make the repayments — the lender will assess whether the loan is affordable for you
You will need to provide certain evidence to show that you can afford to repay the loan. This is likely to include:
- Management accounts
- Cash flow forecast
- Business plan
- Historic accounts
- Details of assets
The above requirements will vary from lender to lender. If you do not have everything listed here, a CBILS loan could still be an option to provide finance to support your business.
Note: For many customers approaching their existing lenders for a smaller facility, the process may be automated and therefore may not require the same level of documentation.
We’d like to repeat the following, as we’re aware that increasingly convincing emails are being sent:
Please beware of emails and messages pertaining to be from HMRC. Take extra caution at this time and do not click on links or share personal details. Please talk to HMRC if you want to confirm whether any correspondence is genuine.
We’ll continue to provide details of the Government support, in the meantime all of us at CAI wish you and yours good health.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme FAQ’s (provided by Menzies LLP) 03/04/2020
We do not have enough work to keep all employees occupied – should we put the employees on short hours, make some redundancies or use the Coronavirus job retention scheme to furlough some?
This will depend on the specific business circumstances, but commercially the starting point is likely to be utilising the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in preference to either reducing hours or making employees redundant because this is the only option that currently secures financial support from the Government. Therefore in many cases, furloughing some workers and retaining others on a full-time basis is the best commercial choice. However, this may not be practical, for example where each employee has unique skills and taking any of them out of the workforce puts the business in a position where it is unable to operate. In these circumstances, short term working may be the only option, but this will not secure Government financial support and you should ensure the employment contracts allow for this and you have employee agreement to reduce the risks of being taken to an employment tribunal.
How do I determine whether the business is entitled to be classed as “unable to pay” and therefore qualifies for the Government support under the Scheme?
The Government appear to have stopped using the phrase “businesses that are unable to pay” with the inference being that all businesses, etc. are able to claim in situations where the alternative is making employees redundant. The Government have however provided details of the situations where they would not expect businesses to be taking advantage of the scheme. Put simply, if there is not reduction in trading then a claim is inappropriate
As a general point, you should determine what you need to do as a business in order to survive during this period, separate to any consideration of the Scheme. If staff lay-offs or redundancies are financially unavoidable, we would expect you to be covered given the aims of the Scheme.
Do I need to agree this with my employee(s) or can I simply tell them it is happening?
You are likely to be in breach of their employment contract if you simply impose this on them. It needs to be agreed – and ideally signed – so you reduce the risks of a claim from the employee later. Where you have multiple employees and only some are to be furloughed, you need to demonstrate that decisions have been taken on a fair, logical and non-discriminatory basis (see below).
The scheme is not up and running yet – what should I do in the meantime?
You should take the action that is necessary for your business, bearing in mind that the Job Retention scheme is available and can apply retroactively. So, consult with your staff and seek the agreements you need to implement the layoffs, indicating where appropriate that you are seeking to ‘furlough’ them under the government scheme. If you were considering full redundancies rather than layoffs, consider using the furlough option instead.
Can I pay some furloughed employees more favourably than others?
You should be consistent to ensure that you are not at risk of behaving in a discriminatory way. If you plan to top up the earnings of some employees to 100%, then we recommend you do this evenly across your employees. You are not required to top up to receive the grant.
Can I decide which employees are to be furloughed and which will continue working?
Yes; this will depend on the circumstances so can for example retain the staff whose roles or skills are required for the remaining work while furloughing those whose jobs or skills are not needed due to the downturn in work. If you need to furlough just a few out of a group that all do the same work, you should consult with the staff and approach it in a similar way to a redundancy decision. You may find that they provide a solution e.g. because some may prefer to be furloughed because they will have difficulty working remotely, whereas others may wish to remain working.
The minimum period of furlough for an employee is 3 weeks. Other than this you can bring people back from furlough or furlough more employees as work levels vary. The same employee could be furloughed more than once providing each furlough period is at least 3 weeks long.
What can I do if I am in the process of making employees redundant – can I change my mind and opt for the job-retention scheme instead?
The job retention scheme is intended to cover the situation where an employee would lose their job because of the Coronavirus. The purpose of the scheme is to ensure the business can resume activities immediately the issues are overcome. We await the actual legislation, but it is not expected that the job retention scheme will be available in circumstances where the employee was going to be dismissed anyway and there is no intention to retain them in the business moving forwards. However, if the intention is to retain the employee within the business once the crisis has been overcome then it is possible to switch to the job retention scheme. This would also therefore include a situation in which you have already laid off – or are contemplating laying off – your employees providing they were employed on 28 February 2020.
Can directors be furloughed?
In theory directors can be furloughed in the same way as other employees. However, a condition of furloughing is that the individual must not undertake work of any kind for the company during this time. This is harder for a director to justify, particularly if they are the sole director. It may be necessary for a sole director to notify all suppliers, customers and other business contacts that the business has been suspended pending the end of the Coronavirus crisis. In many cases this is impractical and undesirable because the director may wish to use this time working on improving the business so that when trading recommences the business performs well quickly. In these circumstances, furloughing is not permitted. Remember also that this only relates to PAYE income, not dividends.
Should I continue to pay 100% of salary even though the Government are only subsidising 80%?
You need to consider the circumstances as well as the ability of the business to continue to pay the salary. For example, if you have two employees and only furlough one, the remaining employee may be disgruntled if they are working full time for the same pay as the one having time off. The situation may be different if all employees are being furloughed.
Is it possible to alternate the staff members furloughed so they do one month on and one month off?
This will not be permitted because the furloughed employee must not undertake any work in the business. Therefore, an agreement signed at the start to say you will work this week, but not that week is ineffective. It is possible to bring employees back from furlough as demand changes, but a pre-agreed rota is not within the scope of the scheme.
How is payment assessed for zero hours workers or those on variable hours contracts?
Their pay is to be based on the higher of the pay for the corresponding week or month last year, or their average earnings over a period. The period of averaging is the average pay for the 2019-20 tax year, or the period of employment if the employment started later than April 2019.
When will the money arrive and how do I manage cash flow until then?
It appears that a new online portal will be set up to apply for relief. Alternatively, some kind of ‘reverse payroll’, could be established. HMRC are working on this, but early indications are that this will not be available until late April. The claims will then need to be reviewed and approved before payments can be made. It is therefore likely to be several weeks before the funds are provided. In the meantime, you could assess the potential of other government initiatives to ease your cashflow.
Can I start by paying full pay to furloughed workers and then reduce this later as funds decline?
The furlough must be agreed between employer and employee and must not be imposed. This agreement will set out the terms and these must be satisfied. If you agree a furlough based on full pay then you will need to revisit the agreement to vary the payment entitlement later. Word your agreement carefully from the outset if you think this is going to be likely. At the very least the variation would need to be agreed with the employee.
Are furloughed employees allowed to work for good causes while not working for me?
There appear to be no restrictions preventing furloughed employees from undertaking charitable work during this period unless you build such restrictions into the agreement. For example, you will not want them putting themselves at risk. You will however require them to be able to return to work immediately when you need them.
As always, all of us at CAI wish you, your families, staff and suppliers good health. Stay safe and wash your hands.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme 03/04/2020
As you may have heard, the Government has relaxed some of the rules around the already announced loan scheme to make it easier for small businesses to obtain loans.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme supports small and medium-sized businesses, with an annual turnover of up to £45m, to access loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million for up to six years.
The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the Government-owned British Business Bank. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payment and any lender-levied fees, so businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.
In response to feedback received since the schemes launch, the Chancellor is taking further action by extending the scheme so that all viable small businesses affected by Covid-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible. This change is designed to enable all long-term viable businesses experiencing difficulties as a result of the coronavirus outbreak to access finance.
There are 40 accredited lenders able to offer the scheme, including all the major banks.
We expect the scheme to run for an initial period of 6 months. There is no limit on the capacity of the scheme.
Your business must:
1. Be UK-based in its business activity
2. Have an annual turnover of no more than £45 million
3. Have a borrowing proposal which the lender:
a) would consider viable, were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic
b) believes will enable you to trade out of any short-term to medium-term difficulty
Personal guarantees are not required to secure lending below £250,000. For any borrowing above £250,000 personal guarantees will be capped at 20% of the outstanding value of the loan, as the Government is providing the guarantee for the remaining 80% of the finance. This will apply to all customers that have secured a loan under the scheme since its launch on 23rd March.
Please visit www.businesssupport.gov.uk for more details
We’re trying to answer some common questions regarding the various Government Business Support packages over the coming days, and will start with the Job Retention Scheme.
Business Support Update 03/04/2020
Please beware of emails and messages pertaining to be from HMRC. Take extra caution at this time and do not click on links or share personal details. Please talk to HMRC if you want to confirm whether any correspondence is genuine.
Advice Update 03/04/2020
Further to our previous advice regarding members carrying out essential work in customers households, if they’ve lost viewing of the PSB’s or lost internet service, the Ministry of Housing, communities and Local Government have stated:
Work carried out in people’s homes
Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.
Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two-metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.
No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.
No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.
We continue to believe that some domestic work could be considered critical, but also that the decision whether to undertake such work is up to each and every member and their own circumstances, we don’t believe there is a blanket right or wrong answer to such a complex situation, unless of course the Government’s advice or instructions change again. We also believe that no one should be forced to work in the current situation. If you, or your staff, do continue to work in the domestic environment, then the advice of Public Health England, Hand Washing rules and taking the correct PPE precautions remain vital.
The position for our members who work in the commercial sector remains complicated too, but the Government Advice on outdoor sites remains the same – they can stay open as long as you can maintain the 2m distancing rule. Again we believe it’s up to every member to decide whether it is safe to undertake each and every job, and to carry out a risk assessment to be confident that it is, or whether to be undertaking work at all. Again, there is not one universal rule that meets all circumstances. We do also continue to have full confidence in our members ability to make the right judgements at the right time.
Coronavirus Update – CAI Members Update
We hope this update finds you, and yours, well.
As we have previously stated, the current pandemic situation remains a fast moving and complicated one.
CAI Members Coronavirus e-connect 27/03/2020
Now that we haven’t had any major changes to the restrictions on work, travel etc, we thought we should highlight the Governments help that may be available to your business, especially in light of the announcement regarding the self-employed yesterday:
- Self Employed Income Support Scheme. The Government will pay self-employed workers 80% of their average monthly income over the last 3 years up to a maximum of £2500.
- This will initially cover 3 months and is open to existing self-employed workers, who earn the majority of their income through self-employment with trading profits up to £50,000 per annum.
- The Government believe that the system will take until June to set up, when the qualifying workers will get 3 months payment in a lump sum.
- If you haven’t already filed a tax return for 2018/19 you now have 4 weeks from 26th March to do so.
- In the meantime they state that businesses could be able to access funding through the Business Interruption Loan Scheme, or individuals could qualify for Universal Credit.
- People who pay themselves salary and dividend through their own company are not covered, although 80% of the salary element could be covered under the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme below, if you’re part of the PAYE system.
You can find the details announced so far at:
There are also a range of measures designed to support businesses, although previously announced there has been an update to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme this morning, some or all of which you may be able to access:
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: HMRC will pay employers a grant worth 80% of an employee’s usual wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that subsidised wage.
- Income tax and VAT payment deferral: VAT Payments can be deferred for 3 months, for VAT due between 20/03/20 and 30/06/20. Self-assessment payments on account, due 31/07/20 can be deferred to 31/01/21
- If you currently receive Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rates Relief, you are entitled to a £10,000 grant from the Government. This will be paid by your local authority who collects Business Rates and you do not need to apply for it.
- Loans of up to £5 million will be made available in the Business Interruption Loan Scheme
You can find out more at:
TrustMark has released the following on behalf of the National Trading Standards and Friends Against Scams with regards to the coronavirus and how you can access support and safeguard yourself against scams.
As a reminder, we would like to reiterate the government and NHS guidelines about maintaining good hygiene; only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work, and stay two metres away from other people outside of your household.
This is particularly important for people who are over 70 and/or have an underlying health condition. Things such as Facebook Community Groups, WhatsApp Groups and the Nextdoor social network that send neighbourhood alerts can be great ways of staying in touch with those around you, however, it can be difficult to know who to trust. Please be aware that not everyone out there is trustworthy and some people will take advantage of this unusual situation our society is facing.
Here are just some of the scams we are aware of, but please note that criminals come in all shapes and sizes and can contact you at the door, by phone, post or online:
Be aware of people offering miracle cures or vaccines for coronavirus – there is no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19). Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms until you recover.
Home cleaning services
People impersonating healthcare workers, claiming to be offering ‘home-testing’ for coronavirus – this is a scam and these kits are not currently available to buy.
Emails saying that you can get a refund on taxes, utilities or similar are usually bogus and they are just after your personal and bank details.
There are lots of fake products available to buy online that say they can protect you or cure coronavirus. These will not help and are designed to take your money.
There are new mobile phone applications that claim to give you updates on the virus but instead, they lock your phone and demand a ransom.
Your bank or the police will never ask for your bank details over the phone.
People offering to do your shopping or collecting medication and asking for money upfront and then disappearing.
Tips to avoid being scammed:
Be cautious and listen to your instincts. Don’t be afraid to hang up, bin it, delete it or shut the door.
Take your time; don’t be rushed.
If someone claims to represent a charity, ask them for ID. Be suspicious of requests for money up front. If someone attempts you into accepting a service they are unlikely to be genuine. Check with family and friends before accepting offers of helps if you are unsure.
If you are online, be aware of fake news and use trusted sources such as .gov.uk or NHS.uk websites. Make sure you type the addresses in and don’t click on links in emails.
Only purchase goods from legitimate retailers and take a moment to think before parting with money or personal information.
Know who you’re dealing with - if you need help, talk to someone you know or get in touch with your local Council on the numbers below.
Protect your financial information, especially from people you don’t know. Never give your bank card or PIN to a stranger.
If you think you’ve been scammed, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 and if you need advice, call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133. If you are in immediate danger, contact the police on 999. Contact your bank if you think you have been scammed.
To learn more about different types of scams and how to protect yourself and others, visit www.FriendsAgainstScams.org.uk and complete the free online training.
Why not become a Scam Marshal? A Scam Marshal is any resident in the UK who has been targeted by a scam and now wants to fight back and take a stand against scams. Scam Marshals do this by sharing their own experiences, helping others to report and recognise scams and sending any scam mail that they receive to the National Trading Standards Scams Team so that it can be utilised as evidence in future investigative and enforcement work. Visit www.FriendsAgainstScams.org.uk/ScamMarshals for more information and to sign up.
Read it. Share it. Prevent it.
Coronavirus Update 25/03/2020
As we have previously stated, the current pandemic situation remains a fast moving and complicated one.
Further to our update yesterday we wanted to let you know the current situation;
- It is up to each member company to decide whether or not they can safely carry out work, using the Public Health England guidance, and if they cannot they must stay at home.
- The Government has included the following types of worker as among the key worker list:
Telecommunications Engineers, Field Engineers and Broadcasters.
- Sky are recommencing home visits today. The Government have confirmed that they class their field engineers and call centre staff as Key Workers. They are only carrying out work to keep people connected to TV or Broadband services, they are not carrying out non-essential work, such as Sky Q updates.
- We are in contact with DCMS to get some official guidance re TV services but haven’t received it yet, they have however issued guidance re Broadband services:
For engineers who have been designated as key workers, they may go to people’s homes but obviously there is no guarantee the residents will allow them in. We would recommend that whatever workarounds you can agree on an industry basis to avoid engineers having to enter people’s premises but still maintain connectivity to them are used - even if it’s passing cable via a window in some cases.
- DMSL/@800 Are also still visiting people in their homes, if they lose Public Service Broadcaster viewing, with DCMS support. They are limiting home visits to only those who have no other means of accessing PSB’s and only if they’ve lost viewing of one or more of those channels, not if they’ve lost viewing of other channels not seen as core. They are limiting their work to outdoors whenever possible and are following the steps we’ve previously issued around pre-visit contact, not carrying out the visit if anyone has symptoms or is self-isolating. Their call centre staff and field engineers are still directing customers to getmeviewing.org.uk (CAI member listing website) if they do not qualify for help under clearance or 4G mitigation schemes, as always. Their operations are under constant review, however.
- We’re aware that some distributors are closing their trade counters and moving to delivery only services, or closing altogether.
- We remain concerned that if all members cease all work, other, less skilled or less scrupulous companies will carry out the work, putting consumers – especially the vulnerable who most rely on TV for contact with the world – at increased risk.
It remains the case that the Government believe that citizens do need continued access to Broadband and TV services, for home working, home schooling and to receive news updates, as well as for entertainment at this difficult time. So, we feel we need to advise you to take a common sense approach to work:
- If the aerial/dish is the only means for that household (including in MDU’s) to receive PSB’s (i.e./ they do not have cable, satellite or the ability to stream news content) then it might be considered critical to restore their service.
- A broadband service is also critical if anyone is working or learning from home, or if it’s the households only way to receive PSB services.
- If you’re carrying out either of the above tasks, we would class you as key workers carrying out essential works.
If anyone is symptomatic of the virus in the household then obviously an engineer should stay clear.
If they are not symptomatic then an engineer might attend but observe strict social distancing (2m min) and strict hand hygiene (hand washing, disposable gloves, anti bac wipes for remotes etc, as previously advised) before and after the visit.
It's an individual choice for members to take a risk judgement on this. They need to balance the risk to everyone and to be able to justify why they are not staying at home. No one should be forced to go to work if they don’t think it’s safe, or morally the right thing to do.
Regarding site work, it seems that the London Government is going to continue insisting that sites can remain open if they can be operated under PHE guidelines, the Scottish Government (and London Mayor, though he has no power over this) disagree and think they should be closed. Many developers are closing sites. As with domestic work, we believe this is a judgement call for every member involved, and members should only work on sites if they believe they can do so safely and are working outdoors. We believe the chancellor should be announcing new measures for the self-employed today, which may well make this decision easier for you.
We continue to engage with all relevant authorities on your behalf, but hope this advice is useful. We believe it’s unlikely that DCMS will issue guidance that is significantly different to the above – at least this morning – though things change very quickly of course.
Please stay well and safe, and do the right thing for yourselves, staff, suppliers and customers.
Coronavirus Update 24/03/2020
As we have previously stated, the current pandemic situation remains a fast moving and complicated one.
Our previous advice has been based on several factors. Domestically we knew that the Government didn’t want citizens to be without TV if possible. They were especially aware that many of the highest risk group, who were told to stay at home for 12 weeks, were least able to cope without TV services for news updates and for entertainment, especially those living on their own. We were also conscious that many of those people would refuse to live without their TV service for any length of time, and if CAI members were not working they could well end up being taken advantage of by less ethical and scrupulous parts of the trade, or other trades, receiving a poor service and probably paying too much for it. Lastly we were aware that the Government told Sky that as Telecommunications Field Engineers working in the broadcast industry their SHS field staff did qualify as Key Workers, so the same could apply to CAI Members.
From a commercial work perspective it’s also complicated, especially as the different nations of the UK aren’t necessarily following the same rules. So far sites have not been forced to close, although in Scotland they have announced they will be. The government has again repeated this morning that in England work on construction sites, in the open air, should continue. We know many of our members are self-employed, and feel they need to go to work to be able to afford to live. We, like them, really hope the Government announce further financial protection for them very soon, in order that staying at home becomes an affordable option.
The Government, while telling us all to stay at home, have still said that going to work is acceptable if it’s essential. They have not clarified exactly what jobs are essential. They are, and have been, 100% clear that whenever possible you should be at home.
We are urgently trying to get clarity from the Government this morning. Whether they still believe that people should not be without a TV service, and therefore, with the correct precautions, members should still service those customers who are without reception, and any further updates for sites and commercial work beyond what’s already been announced. Many others will also be looking for information – from mechanics who could be working on a NHS employee’s car, to builders, plumbers and electricians so we fear we will not get a very speedy response, but we will do everything we can to get some clarity as soon as possible.
Unfortunately it is therefore impossible to give any definite advice, except to stay at home while we try to obtain further information. Even if you think you are carrying out an essential service, it doesn’t mean you should leave home without further guidance. We know that although they believe they are classed as key workers, Sky field engineers are pausing all home visits this morning while they review the situation, and also talk to the Government particularly regarding vulnerable customers who lose all viewing service.
These are unprecedented times, we continue to try to serve our members to our fullest ability, but please bear in mind we can only pass on the information we obtain, we cannot legally set policy itself in these areas. We sincerely hope you and yours stay safe and well.
CAI Coronavirus Advice and Update 23/03/2020
At this unprecedented time, we are working hard to establish some official advice or guidelines regarding the work you do. However, in the meantime, we’d like to try to help as best we can.
We’ve published a link to the Government help for businesses page on our website, so you can easily research the policies put in place to help you at this difficult time.
In terms of safe working and the types of jobs you undertake, we’d recommend the following, in advance of any formal guidance:
- If you have any staff who can work from home, they should.
- High risk staff, customers and suppliers could include those with compromised immune systems, those with conditions such as diabetes, cancer, chronic lung and cardiovascular disease, older people and pregnant women. Special care should be exercised for these groups and contact avoided.
- Work should be restricted to external/outdoor as far as is possible.
- Ensure staff are aware of all control measures and government guidance re distancing.
- Ensure staff are equipped with the right additional PPE, including gloves, masks, hand sanitisers, anti-bac wipes and tissues/paper towels.
- Contact domestic customers before a staff member arrives and ask covid 19 at risk questions regarding recent travel abroad of any household member and whether anyone in the household has had contact with anyone who has had a confirmed case of coronavirus, has been advised to self-isolate, or is awaiting test results. If none of these apply then you can undertake a visit. Warn customers that engineers may be using additional PPE such as masks and gloves. If the customer has travelled abroad in the last 2 weeks, or answers yes to any questions explain that the engineer cannot visit for 14 days.
- Ensure staff maintain a distance of at least 2m from any members of the household.
- Ensure staff wash/sanitise their hands on arrival and departure, and use anti-bac wipes on equipment they have touched, including remote controls.
We still feel that work to provide customers with access to Public Service Broadcasters, news and entertainment is important and should be completed when possible, especially if the customer does not have access to these services via alternate sources. We also feel that some work is far from essential and you should consider whether to undertake it.
This is a fast moving situation, as you’re all aware, and we will try to keep you updated with our recommended best practice and guidelines as often as possible.
CAI & Coronavirus 20/03/2020
From many of your customer’s point of view, your services could be more important than ever before. Access to TV, radio and broadband, for news and entertainment, has never been more important, especially to the vulnerable groups and older people who’ve already been told to stay at home for at least the next 12 weeks. Hopefully, for those of you who undertake domestic work this will provide some additional business during the economic crisis that is accompanying the health one. If ever there was a 4th emergency service it is our members now, not the AA. We’ve had several queries asking whether our members and their staff could be described as key workers. We’ve had no official guidance on this yet, but have sought it. In the meantime we feel a common sense approach is required. From a schools perspective it’s unlikely that many of our members would be classed as telecommunications engineers and thus entitled to keep sending their children in. However from the perspective of the potential of an increasingly strict lockdown, we feel that the job you’re undertaking is the decider of whether or not you can consider yourself, or your staff, as key workers undertaking essential travel. If you’re restoring the PSB’s and access to news, information and entertainment to an old people’s home or a vulnerable customers house, I don’t think anyone would argue that it’s not an essential task, if you’re upgrading a customer’s home cinema system, then maybe not. Fortunately we haven’t reached the stage when even those who can’t work from home are being told to stay in, but it could yet come.
We also completely recognise though, that this will be a tough time for many members, especially those with contracts in the leisure, hospitality and retail sectors, as well as those working on sites that will close down if there are large numbers of staff absent, or if the developers decide to delay projects due to the economic uncertainty. There are no easy solutions to this, but we hope you’re investigating all the government support available and we’re also hoping there will be more announcements of help to come.
We’re currently developing guidance regarding working in customers’ homes, and contacts with them. But in the meantime common sense and government advice applies – wash your hands or use hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol, whenever you arrive at and leave a customer, and any points in between you feel appropriate, try to keep at least 2m away from them, wear gloves if you feel necessary, and wear a mask if you have any concerns about the customers health or that of their wider household. Clearly your, and your staffs, health and safety is a matter for you alone, but it’s essential you’re all ensuring that everyone stays as safe as possible.
Lastly, for now, as you can imagine we’re having to make changes to the way we work at CAI. As far as we can we need to work from home, and are currently undertaking the steps required to enable this to happen. However our telephone system is not adaptable in this way. Consequently it’s likely that one of us will be in the office answering the phone every day. This means that it may take longer to get through than usual, and as we are not all able to answer all queries we may have to take messages and get someone to call you back some of the time. So please bear with us during this time.
As I said at the top, we’re keen to help in any way we can, so please get in touch if you have requests or ideas for ways we can do this. Lastly we wish you, your staff, families, suppliers and customers good health, and we hope that we all come out of this as quickly as possible.