Covid-19 – BEIS update for workers in the renewable heat sector

The following advice was received from BEIS officials on Friday 27th March.  Please also see our previous communication on the classicification of Critical Worker Status for employees working in the wood products supply chain.

The Government continues to do everything possible to protect the public from coronavirus; it is committed to doing whatever it takes to support businesses and households through these unprecedented times. We want to use this opportunity to explain how the current package of measures announced by the Government will support the heat sector.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme
We know that many of the professionals working in the heat sector are self-employed. The Government has announced the Self-employment Income Support Scheme which 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. For more information, please refer to the Government’s business support website.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
For businesses and employees in the sector, the Government has published guidance on how to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Under the Scheme, all UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. For more information, please refer to the Government’s business support website.

Business closure
To reduce social contact and to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the Government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close. A list of these businesses can be found here. The majority of the heat sector is not included in these measures which means they do not need to close, therefore, where it possible to do so it is important for the sector to carry on. Businesses should take every possible step to facilitate working from home, although we know for many in the sector it is not possible. Where workers need to go into their workplace, Public Health England guidelines should be followed, including maintaining a two metre distance from others and washing their hands.

Key workers
We are aware that members of the heating sector have sought clarification on whether their workers are deemed ‘key workers’. It is important to clarify that this definition applies for the purposes of childcare provision and is not an indication in itself of whether someone is able to continue to work or whether a business should remain open. We acknowledge that a lack of childcare will prevent some from working and that is why the Government has announced an extensive support package. Workers who are not impacted by childcare provision should continue to work in the heat sector where possible and as long as they are well and none of their household are self-isolating.

Travelling to work and home visits
Based on current medical advice and as mentioned above, workers who cannot work from home, who are well, and none of their household are self-isolating can continue to travel to work. Work can be carried out in people’s homes, as long as it is undertaken in accordance with Public Heath England guidelines, which includes maintaining a two metre distance from any household occupants. We know the sector is seeking additional advice on procedures to follow when entering homes. We encourage members to regularly check for the latest advice. 

It is up to companies to self-declare their necessary workers as needing to come to work because it is impossible for their work to be done from home or they are listed as critical workers with access to education provision. We are seeing some companies issuing workers with letters to this effect. A company can issue their own letter.