NCHA Member update: New Covid-19 guidance and updates on furlough and SEISS – 1 June 2020

NCHA Member update: New Covid-19 guidance and updates on furlough and SEISS - 1 June 2020
  • 1
    Jun

NCHA Member update: New Covid-19 guidance and updates on furlough and SEISS – 1 June 2020

  1. New Covid-19 guidance and FAQs 
  2. Staff management – test and trace 
  3. UK Covid-19 guidance 
  4. CJRS and self-employment income support scheme 
  5. How to navigate the lockdown – a short guide for members                      
 

1. New Covid-19 guidance and FAQs

AIHHP, BAA, BSA and BSHAA have today published an updated version of their joint guidance and added a new FAQ document.

The main change to the guidance is adding anosmia symptoms to the screening questions following the updated Covid-19 case definition on 18 May.

The organisations reiterate that the “emphasis remains on providing care remotely first and whenever possible only offering face to face care where it is clinically necessary and safe to do so”. Read the full statement.

 

2. New: Staff management – test and trace (England)

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published NHS test and trace: how it works guidance.

The DHSC directs all health and care workers to Public Health England (PHE) guidance. PHE updated this guidance on 31 May, and it now includes how to respond to test and trace notifications and what to do if there’s a PPE breach.

It advises that all staff should self-isolate in line with official guidance and also:

  • If the employee develops symptoms at work, they should put on a surgical face mask immediately, inform their manager and return home. They should then comply with all requests for testing. It explains that testing is most sensitive within three days of developing symptoms
  • If NHS Test and Trace or another national system – i.e. Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales – has notified staff of their contact with a Covid-19 case outside a healthcare setting, they should self-isolate for 14 days in line with test and trace guidance
  • Section 4.4. sets out how to identify and manage a potential ‘PPE breach’.

The guidance also covers a range of other situations, and we recommend all members in England read the full guidance.

In the guidance, it advises essential workers and employers to access a test via the following routes:

The general public is advised to book testing using the NHS website. People without access to the internet are advised to order a test by phoning 119.            

 

3. UK Covid-19 guidance

Healthcare providers should follow the UK wide infection prevention and control (IPC) guidance. In addition to this, UK governments have published Covid-19 guidance to help businesses mitigate risks in different settings. You might find the following guidance helpful with local planning:

 

England

 

Northern Ireland

 

Scotland

 

Wales

Has not yet issued updated guidance, but you can still access the 7 April guidance here.

 

4. New: CJRS and self-employment income support scheme

Here is an update on the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) and self-employment income support scheme (SEISS).

 

CJRS

The chancellor has announced three changes to CJRS:

  • 30 June: the scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June. From this point onwards, you can only furlough employees who you furloughed for a full three-week period before 30 June. The final date you can furlough an employee for the first time will be 10 June – i.e. if they are to complete the current three-week furlough period by 30 June. You will have until 31 July to make any claims in respect of the period to 30 June.
  • From 1 July 2020: you can bring previously furloughed employees back part-time and still receive a grant for the time when they are not working.For example, if a full-time worker returns two days a week, they will receive full pay from you for those days, and the furlough scheme will fund three days at 80%.

    These arrangements must cover at least one week, and you must confirm them in writing to the employee.

    You can then report and claim on a weekly basis (minimum), or you can choose a longer period – e.g. two weekly or monthly cycles.

    You will need to submit data on the usual hours you’d expect an employee to work in a claim period and the actual hours worked.

  • From 1 August 2020: you will have to start contributing to the wage costs of furloughed staff. This contribution will increase in September and October.This change means the government is tapering CJRS slowly.
  • June and July: the government will continue to pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 and employer National Insurance (ER NICs) and pension contributions for the hours the employee does not work.
  • August: the government will continue to pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 for hours the employee does not work. However, you will have to pay ER NICs and pension contributions. You will also pay the full cost of hours worked.
  • September: the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee does not work. You will pay ER NICs, pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% of the total up to a cap of £2,500. You will also pay the full cost of hours worked.
  • October: the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee does not work. You will pay ER NICs, pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% of the total up to a cap of £2,500. You will also pay the full cost of hours worked.

The government does not expect smaller employers who have NIC bills covered by the Employment Allowance to be significantly affected by that part of the tapering.

Please note, HMRC has advised that “If employees are unable to return to work, or employers do not have work for them to do, they can remain on furlough, and the employer can continue to claim the grant for their full hours under the existing rules”.

We expect more detailed guidance by 12 June.

Members can email us at [email protected] if you have any questions or need further support with this or other employment law questions.

 

SEISS

On Friday 29 May, the chancellor also confirmed the extension of SEISS. Eligible self-employed people will be able to claim a second and final SEISS grant in August.

The grant will be taxable and worth 70% of the average monthly trading profits for three months. It will be paid out in a single instalment and capped at £6,570 in total.

The eligibility criteria for the second grant will be the same as for the first grant.

Please note:

  • Claims for the first SEISS grant, which opened on 13 May, must be made no later than 13 July
  • If you did not claim the first grant, for example, because your business was not adversely affected by Covid-19, but are eligible and want to claim a second SEISS grant you can do so
  • You must claim yourself. HMRC says that if you advise an agent to claim on your behalf, it “will trigger a fraud alert and will result in significant delays to payment”. However, you can still seek help from your accountant, for example, in preparing the information you need to claim.

We expect more information about the second SEISS grant by 12 June.                                              

 

4. How to navigate the lockdown – a short guide for members

If you are struggling to navigate out of the lockdown, you are not alone.

The pandemic is a complex issue and made more complicated by the fact all UK governments have used different language, key tests, and priorities to describe how they plan to ease restrictions locally.

To help you navigate out of the lockdown, we have analysed 100s of pages of government and NHS plans and provide a summary below.

 

What the plans have in common

Each country in the UK might have its strategy for easing lockdown restrictions, but there are some important and universal themes.

Coronavirus is not a short-term crisis.

All UK governments agree; coronavirus is not a short-term crisis, but a long-term challenge.

As a society, we need to follow all standard infection control procedures for some time to come. These procedures include social distancing, best-practice hand and respiratory hygiene, and official self-isolation guidance. In hearing care, these procedures will be enhanced and include PPE and other protocols to manage Covid-19 risks. We are developing some training resources and tools to help members with this and will publish these shortly.

 

No fixed route to the ‘next normal’

The infection rate (R) is at the heart of risk management strategies, and all UK governments will be monitoring the ‘R rate’ closely. The R, in part, explains why each UK country is easing restrictions at different times. You can learn more about R here.

Governments will use R data to help inform when restrictions can be eased and whether new restrictions should be put in place. Using the data could lead to delays in implementing the phased reopening of society and the economy, or some services will open only to be asked to close temporarily again.

Also, R estimates are based on modelling assumptions. As testing and tracing improve it should be possible to have more localised estimates of R. So, we could see more localised planning in the months and years ahead – with some services allowed to open in some parts of the country but not others.

That is why there has not been a fixed timeline or route back to the ‘next normal’. It is also why the NCHA advises members to plan a dynamic response to Covid-19 related risks. We will be issuing more detailed guidance on this shortly.

 

One step at a time

All UK government strategies explain a phased approach which we broadly summarise as:

  • Plan – a framework setting out a route map through various stages of the pandemic
  • Assess and review – as time progresses, data will be reviewed and, if safe to do so, the journey along the route map will continue. These reviews will typically take place on a three-weekly cycle, or sooner if necessary
  • Act – if at any time new evidence emerges or the R-value suggests there could be an exponential spread of the virus, the governments will consider urgent actions to mitigate a full lockdown.

The governments will do this because, as explained above, it is not possible to know what impact each phase of reopening will have on R.

To simplify further, all UK plans for easing the lockdown include the same goal: to slowly ‘reopen society’ and assess the impact each stage has on the spread of the virus:

  • If R is stable and other tests set by each UK government are met (see below for country specific information), we will continue along the path to easing other restrictions in that country
  • If R increases and the government needs to control it, further restrictions are possible in that country. This might happen nationwide or at a more local level
  • If R fluctuates, we might have a ‘yo-yo’ effect.

In all scenarios the optimal strategy for community audiology is to have clear plans in place based on the local Covid-19 risk stratification approach.

 

Variation in UK plans

Although there are common themes across all UK plans on easing the lockdown, there are also important differences and yet-to-be-confirmed details. For example:

  • Each country will use different tests to determine when to progress to the next phase of pandemic planning. In England, the government will continue to use the five tests it has since the start of the lockdown period. However, Scotland will use the World Health Organization’s six criteria and some but not all transition points. Northern Ireland (NI) will use a modified version of the WHO criteria and Wales its model.
  • England, NI, Scotland and Wales describe their route out of lockdown differently. In England, there are three phases, and we are entering phase two, within which the government will take a step-by-step approach to restart society. England is likely to remain in this phase until there is a treatment or vaccination for Covid-19 in phase three. In NI, there are five steps out of lockdown, while in Scotland, there are five phases (Phase 0 to Phase 4), and Wales is using a traffic light model applied to different sectors.
  • It is unclear who will make use of the independent UK Joint Biosecurity Centre, which will be responsible for developing and maintaining a pan-UK Covid-19 alert system. The UK government announced the scheme in May, and the system is now sure to inform the decision-making process in both England and Wales. It is less clear whether NI will use the same alert system. In its 21 May plan, the Scottish government said: “In time we may decide to make use of the assessments made by the Joint Biosecurity Centre that was recently announced by the UK government to inform moving between phases. Scottish Ministers will retain decision-making over any formal movement between levels for Scotland and the associated package of responses required in moving to a new level.”

To talk to a member of the NCHA team about any of this in more detail, please email [email protected]. We will arrange a tailored session to discuss your specific planning needs.

Meanwhile, you can access the full documentation below:

Fully strategic documents: