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COVID19 FAQs

This page will be updated with FAQs as we develop further guidance for members. Keep checking back as this will be updated regularly.

This page will be updated with FAQs as we develop them. If you have any other COVID-19 specific questions not answered here related to COVID-19, please email covid19@thebesa.com

 

EMPLOYMENT

Is partial Furloughing on and off a possibility?

Unfortunately, there is not enough detailed guidance regarding the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to answer your particular question. We will post updates to the coronavirus section of our website www.thebesa.com as and when further guidance becomes available.   

Do I process the pay minus contributions e.g. National Insurance if my employee is furloughed?

The advice is to process payment in the normal manner subject to the normal deductions including national insurance – the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme provides some details.

We agreed to increase wages in March for certain employees, can we temporarily postpone implementation of this increase as a result of the pandemic? If so, how?

Yes, we are operating in exceptional circumstances.  If, as a result of the current pandemic, your business is experiencing financial uncertainty, this would be sound justification for taking reasonable steps to minimise your costs.  You should write to those affected with an undertaking to implement any increase once your financial position allows. 

If staff are self-isolating due to the illness or suspected symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus), is it reasonable to expect them to work from home, if practical for the role? 

It is good practice for employers to treat such absences as sick leave and follow their usual sick pay policy.  However, if an employee is generally feeling well, confirms this status to you, and is able to work from home, then this is a justified and sensible approach (particularly for those receiving statutory sick pay).   

I have an apprentice lined up to start in the summer. Can they start now?  

Yes, provided they consent to the revised start date. 

Can employers require an employee to honour pre-booked/pre-approved holiday even though they [the employee] may wish to cancel? 

Yes, unless the contract of employment or handbook states otherwise, there is no legal requirement for an employer to cancel annual leave that has been approved. It would be difficult to argue that the employer is being unreasonable in these circumstances, particularly as temporary cover may have been arranged to deal with this previously approved holiday. 

LEGAL & COMMERCIAL

My company carries out TR19 cleaning of commercial kitchen extract systems. Jobs that have been booked for some time are now cancelling. Will their insurers allow them to still be covered if their certificate of conformity is out of date?  

We would advise that the client should contact their insurers to ascertain the number and frequency of cleans required to ensure their coverage stays in place.    

What financial help are we able to get if these works are being cancelled by the client and not by us? Do we follow our usual terms & conditions procedures and charge them a late cancellation/abortive fee or do we empathise and hope that the government will reimburse us even though contracts are being broken between us and our client?  

It is a commercial decision for you as to whether you impose the contractual penalties described here.  We would advise that you maintain an open and honest dialogue with clients and look at your long-term relationship management before making a decision.  

Do we have any rights if a customer is with-holding payment because the person that ‘signs the cheques’ is off self-isolating?  

Your contractual rights with regards to payment will still stand, however we would advise that you have an open and honest dialogue with your customers at this stage to ensure a commercial approach can be taken. 

 

TECHNICAL, HEALTH & SAFETY

Should construction sites be closed?

Construction sites should continue to operate if they can do so in a manner consistent with Public Heath England  guidance, recognising that the vast majority of construction work cannot be undertaken from home.  The Construction Leadership Council have issued Standard Operating Procedures which should be followed on all sites.  We recommend that you conduct a risk assessment for each site you currently have employees working on and for each employee. In the first instance, the site manager should be contacted with a view to obtaining guidance on the individual site safety requirements needed, relating to COVID-19. The reason for the above is that most sites will have different rules in place depending on size, work completed and numbers of personnel. It is reasonable to expect that the sites that stay open, will have individual safety requirements because of this.

We have an employee returning from 8 days leave in the Maldives on Monday. The Maldives I see from the GOV website is under public health emergency and there has been confirmed cases of COVID 19. We are of the opinion that we should suggest to her that she self isolates for a period of 14 days. Are we correct?  

Staff returning from abroad must self-isolate for 7 days if:  

  • They are showing symptoms  
  • If they have been in contact with anyone showing or know to have symptoms  
  • If the staff member lives with others, then the period of self-isolation must be increased to 14 days isolation for all members of the household. 

Are there any specific Health & Safety guidance to follow? 

Visit the HSE for Health & Safety Guidance 

All our planned maintenance at restaurants, hotels, care homes has been put on hold as the premises are closed.  When they start again we are going to have all the cancelled cleans as well as all the ones that are then due.  Is there a plan to suspend the timeframes whilst the premises are closed because as they are not cooking no additional grease will be in the system? 

This is where the client needs to receive confirmation from their insurance company/broker that they are happy for the planned works not to go ahead as scheduled. 

 Just because there is no new grease accumulation the current levels of grease accumulation may already mean that a clean is required so I would imagine that most insurance companies will still want a clean to go ahead. At that point it comes to the customer to make the final decision based upon risk and this is what protects the vent hygiene company from any come back re incorrect advice given. 

 

What is the best method to clean ventilation systems to ensure a through and effective clean?

Fogging Applying chemical disinfectants to production areas as fogs or mists, can be the most effective method to thoroughly clean whole rooms, ventilation systems etc. 

The high-level disinfection (HLD) process kills all vegetative microorganisms, mycobacteria, lipid and nonlipid viruses, fungal spores, and some bacterial spores. 

Our staff are providing services that are not necessarily relating to the food production and distribution system/public utilities/health & social care services sectors - some of our work is outside of these sectors. Educational establishments and offices for example. Does this mean that we are not classed as essential workers at this time?

The Government have left it deliberately flexible on interpretation so as to allow business to execute good judgement on a case by case basis, so the guidance isn’t clear on the full scope of what is and isn’t essential and we are advising members to apply their own judgement as they have the best grasp on the impact of not performing their tasks.

Fire safety systems or water services not being maintained may have insurance implications so that would most probably be classed as essential work. Even if a building is currently unoccupied there are sound H&S reasons for maintaining FM checks as normal, as there may well be occasional visits to the offices for the collection of mail, etc.

It should also be remembered that even if an office is unoccupied for the time being, the tenant or building owner may well be relying on a secure server on site with operational broadband links to enable the company to stay operating with their staff all working from home – so again, even if that office building is unoccupied, there may well be examples of the work being necessary.

It is essential, that members consider the implications of not carrying out their regular work in a realistic manner and determine if the work can wait a few weeks or not.

Is there an alternative to antibacterial wipes?

Use either a combined detergent disinfectant solution at a dilution of 1,000 parts per million available chlorine.

or

a household detergent followed by disinfectant (1000 ppm av.cl.) Follow manufacturer’s instructions for dilution, application and contact times for all detergents and disinfectants

or

If an alternative disinfectant is used within the organisation, this should be checked and ensure that it is effective against the virus

  • Avoid creating splashes and spray when cleaning.
  • Any cloths and mop heads used must be disposed of and should be put into waste bags as outlined below.
  • When items cannot be cleaned using detergents or laundered, for example, upholstered furniture and mattresses, steam cleaning should be used.
  • Any items that are heavily contaminated with body fluids and cannot be cleaned by washing should be disposed of. (See BESA waste advice before disposal)

How do you clean clothes that may be contaminated with COVID-19?

Washing Clothes & COVID-19

  • Wash items in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Use the warmest setting you can as per the manufactures guidance
  • Dry items completely
  • Dirty laundry that has been in contact with an unwell person can be washed with other people’s items
  • Do not shake dirty laundry before washing, as this minimises the possibility of dispersing virus through
  • the air
  • Clean and disinfect anything used for transporting or storing  the laundry
  • Items that cannot be cleaned should be disposed of  (See BESA waste advice before disposal)

 

When do my staff need to self-isolate?

Employees should stay at home for seven days if they have a high temperature and/or a new continuous cough. If someone lives with other people with these symptoms, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms. Employees don’t need to call the NHS 111 number unless they cannot cope with their symptoms at home, their condition gets worse or their symptoms don’t get better after seven days.

If an employee comes to work who may be infected, can I insist they go home?

One of the main duties of employers is to protect the health and safety of its employees in the workplace.

If an employee becomes infected with COVID-19, or there is a chance they have been infected (for example if they have returned from an infected area abroad), the employer would have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect its employees. So, asking the affected employee to stay at home would be seen as a reasonable step to prevent the virus from spreading to other employees.

 

Are there any things I should be considering when organising home working for my staff?

Considerations could include

  • Look at how you will keep in communication with your employees while they are working from home. Regular skype/team meetings.
  • Homeworking risk assessment, to include a fire risk assessment of the home working equipment and location.
  • Display screen equipment assessment to ensure the employee has their equipment set up correctly.
  • Regular catch ups with employees to discuss any issues they may be having.

 

We are complying with the social distancing rules, but others on our site are not. What can we do?

In the first instance the site manager must be notified.

Consider the following, for further controls

  • Further training for all staff
  • Markers to denote the 2-metre distance
  • Provision of posters around the site to remind workers
  • Consider a COVID-19 Ambassador to ensure social distancing rules are adhered to.
  • Regular toolbox talks on social distancing on site
  • Use of phone apps/warning systems to remind staff when they get too close.

 

Do we have a legal right to take employee's temperatures at work?

The legal position concerning taking employees’ temperatures in connection with the coronavirus is similar to the medical testing of employees for other reasons.

Given the increased focus on this particular preventive measure, it is important for employers to ensure that when they take employees’ temperatures, they do so safely.

You must communicate clearly in advance with your employees regarding temperature checks and related implications (e.g., being sent home). The employer should seek the employees consent to take their temperature.

Set a temperature screening threshold over which employees will not be permitted to enter the site. 

Temperature testing must be facilitated in the least invasive way possible, including by attempting to procure devices that can register temperature without exposure to bodily fluids.

 

Do general face masks protect you against coronavirus?

Face masks cannot, in themselves, protect you from catching coronavirus. Face masks play an important role in clinical settings, but there is little evidence of widespread benefit when wearing masks outside of this environment.

The fibres in the mask are too big to stop the virus, the virus is smaller and, they will just pass straight through them. Masks will not protect your eyes.

The resounding preventative advice is to wash your hands regularly, with alcohol-based soaps or soap and water. This advice is echoed by the government and CLC who advise against using face masks and instead urge people to focus on good hygiene and on avoiding contact with anyone affected.

GENERAL BUSINESS

What things do I need to consider to keep my business going? 

Please refer to Incident Response Checklist

What is the latest medical advice on Covid19? 

Please refer to NHS Covid19 Medical Advice 

With the VAT payments due at the end of March being delayed until the end of June and the payment for this 3 month period to be paid before the end of the financial year can you advise if we still send the 3 months VAT report as normal. 

The advice from HMRC is that you are to submit the VAT return as usual but the payment does not need to be made.  If you have a Direct Debit set up you will need to cancel this and then reinstate it when you submit the next VAT return. 

VAT payment deferral

  •  VAT payments for the next VAT return (meaning payments due up to 30/6/2020) can be deferred until 31/03/2021.
  • VAT returns must still be submitted as normal via MTD, where appropriate.
  • Clients must cancel their direct debit to ensure the VAT payment isn’t taken by HMRC
  • We understand the deferral also covers payments on account but are awaiting an official update
  • Repayments of VAT will be made by HMRC as normal

Here to help...

if you cant find the answer you are looking for, please email us at covid19@thebesa.com and we will respond as quickly as we can.

Or contact your regional manager or membership services here.