Latest News from BPCA

01 April 2020

UPDATED: Advice for pest professionals operating during Covid-19 pandemic

This article is not a replacement for the guidance given by medical professionals nor official advice provided by the UK Government on Covid-19. You must always follow the latest Government advice on Covid 19. 

covid 19 advice for pest professioansl

The outbreak of New Corona Virus 2019-nCoV, commonly known as Coronavirus or Covid-19, in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei Province, has had a major impact across the globe.

While this is a serious disease, the majority of people seem to have effects similar to seasonal flu.

Only a small number of people, typically the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions, are likely to experience a significant medical outcome as a result of contracting Covid-19.

The UK Government is posting daily updates on the situation in the UK, including the risk level and advice for travellers, which can be found here.

In this guide:

Position statement: Covid-19

BPCA is fully aware of the importance of protecting public health. Our members make their living by protecting homes and businesses from public health pests.

Covid-19 presents a very real threat to public health and to the most vulnerable in our society.

It is everyone’s responsibility to help protect the nation from the spread of the virus by following official government advice, particularly by avoiding all unnecessary contact and practising social distancing.

However, pest management requires professionals to visit sites and deal with clients face-to-face.

In some situations, pest professionals will be around the most vulnerable to protect them from public health pests.

Professional pest management is a critical service that supports public health, however the risks of spreading Covid-19 need to be balanced against the risk of inadequate control and management of pest species.

This should be done on a case-by-case basis and is a business decision for individual pest management companies with their client.

What has BPCA done to protect its members?

BPCA has written to Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, Secretary of State for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on behalf of our member organisations.

The letter asks that:

  • The Government recognises that the pest management work that our members do is critical
  • The Government acknowledges pest control and management cannot stop amid this pandemic
  • Asks the Government to commit to protecting SMEs in the short term, and accelerate the role out of all announced business contingency plans.

BPCA has also produced this guidance and distributed it amongst all members and affiliates.

BPCA's Technical and Compliance Officer, Natalie Bungay, hosted a webinar on 24 March, to help pest management businesses understand how the pandemic will affect their work, and offer suggestions for mitigating risks involved in doing pest control work.

Our Staff team has put together a comprehensive resource pack, designed to help in a number of ways. See 13 resources for pest professionals during Covid 19 pandemic.

We've also published a frequently asked questions article, to answer some of the queries we've been getting since the outbreak began. 

Should I keep trading/go out on a job?

Update: The Government announced a partial lockdown today (23 March 2020).

The announcement means that UK Citizens can only leave home for one of the following four reasons:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this "absolutely cannot be done from home”.

Source: gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others

The guidance is very clear that you can continue to go to work if you cannot do your work from home. Most professional pest management cannot be done from home.

The guidance does NOT state that only key workers can travel to work.

To be clear, at present pest management professionals can go to work during the Government’s partial lockdown.

More information can be found on our article "Can I go to work? Guidance for pest management professionals".

BPCA has developed a four-step thought tree, to help you decide if you should go on a job.

Download advice sheet here 

Should I go on a job during the Covid-19 pandemic pest management BPCA (002)

The Government also announced its list of key workers (20 March 2020) which does not include pest management professionals, despite our efforts to have it recognised as a key public health service during the pandemic. 

This list of key workers is designed to help schools and local authorities decide which children will need to continue to attend school during the pandemic. 

In light of the Government not explicitly adding pest management to the list of crucial sectors in their guidance, BPCA has produced a letter template for members to help ensure their employees' children can continue to go to school. 

It is expected that this list may change, and as such we are continuing to lobby the Government to have pest management recognised officially as essential work. 

You can read our blog post here on why pest management professionals are key workers. 

The guidance slightly differs in Scotland, and can be found here.

You can read the full letter from John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, regarding the protection of key interests during the pandemic.  

What if my customers cancel/refuse access for routine contracts?

You should respect the decision of your clients to refuse your access to a site to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

You can discuss with the client the importance of public health pest management, even during the pandemic.

Explain to them what mitigation practices you have or will put into place to reduce the risks to their staff.

Offer pest awareness training and advice over the phone or via video conferencing. Video calling might allow you to do an inspection or survey with the support of a client on-site.

Remind the customer that they can’t use professional use products and shouldn’t touch any bait points.

If you or your client choose for you not to conduct a visit, make sure any glue boards are removed and any live capture traps are deactivated.

Refer to your individual contract, as they might be liable to pay for the visit if they choose not to allow you on-site.

Try and come to mutually agreeable variations and payment terms following the provisions for this made in the contract at all times.

If in doubt, seek professional advice. Remember, this pandemic is going to particularly hit small to medium-sized businesses, especially in the hospitality and events sectors.

Will the Government compensate my business for any loss of work?

England and Wales

In the Chancellor’s Budget on 11 March 2020, a package of measures was announced to provide support for public services, individuals and businesses in England and Wales, to attempt to minimise the impact of Covid-19.

The main message to take away from these measures is that you should not be laying off staff until you are certain of what financial support is available for your business. 

1. Wages protected
The government has agreed to cover 80% of the salaries of retained workers up to £2,500 per month, and defer the next quarter of VAT payments due from all businesses. It is understood that the wage subsidy will apply to firms where bosses have already had to lay off workers due to the coronavirus, as long as they are brought back into the workforce and instead granted a leave of absence. This scheme will be backdated to the start of March and is set to last for three months, but will be extended if necessary (Updated 23 March 2020)

2. Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable businesses to apply for a loan of up to £5 million, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees. Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments

3. Statutory Sick Pay
Businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full. This will provide 2 million businesses with up to £2 billion to cover the costs of large-scale sick leave

4. Tax helpline
A dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities receive support with their tax affairs. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to Covid-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559

5. Cash grants
There will be a £10,000 interest-free cash grant to the smallest businesses in the UK, delivered by Local Authorities (Updated 23 March 2020)

6. Small business rate relief
Small businesses that pay little or no business rates and are eligible for small business rate relief (SBRR) or rural rate relief will be contacted by their local authority - they do not need to apply. The funding will be provided to local authorities in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly

7. VAT break and self-assessment income tax
VAT payments by companies deferred until the end of June and self-assessment income tax payments for July 2020 deferred for six months (Updated 23 March 2020)

8. Business rates holiday - retail, hospitality and leisure (exc. Wales)
Finally, the government is introducing a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. A £25,000 grant will also be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority. Guidance for local authorities on the business rates holiday will be published by 20 March. (Updated on 18 March 2020)

In addition, the decision to lower interest rates announced by the Bank of England on 11 March 2020 mean that banks are in a better position to provide additional credit to smaller businesses.

A number of private lenders are making funds available to small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including £2 billion from Lloyds Banking Group, £5 billion from NatWest and £7 billion from Barclays.

Self-employment income support scheme

The Government has announced it will pay taxable grants worth 80% of average monthly profits over last 3 financial years, up to £2,500 a month.

The scheme will be open to businesses across the UK for at least three months, and may be extended if necessary. This scheme will be available no later than the beginning of June.

This support will be available for self-employed people making profits of up to £50,000 per annum and to minimise fraud, will only be open to those whose majority income derives from self-employment and who have a tax return from 2019. Those who missed the January filing deadline will have four weeks to submit a tax return in order to be eligible. 

HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online. (Updated 27 March 2020)

More information is available on the Government's Self-employment Income Support Scheme FAQs.

Wales

A £1.1bn support package for the economy and public services in Wales has been announced

  • £500m economy crisis fund for businesses, charities and social enterprises 
  • £100m will be administered by the Development Bank for Wales to help firms with cashflow problems, including loans between £5,000 and £250,000 with minimal interest payments attached
  • £400m will form an emergency fund, giving £10,000 to firms employing fewer than nine people, grants of £100,000 to business with 10 to 250 employees, as well as support for larger companies that are significantly important to Wales and have their headquarters there. (Updated 30 March 2020)

Scotland

New measures to limit the impact of Covid-19 on the business community in Scotland have been announced by Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes.

The following steps will be put in place to support businesses during the 2020-21 financial year:

  • A 75% rates relief for retail, and leisure sectors with a rateable value of less than £69,000 from 1 April 2020 (Updated: 19 March 2020)
  • Hospitality businesses will be given 12 months of business rates relief (Updated: 19 March 2020)
  • An £80 million fund to provide grants of at least £3,000 to small businesses in sectors facing the worst economic impact of Covid-19
  • 1.6% rates relief for all properties across Scotland, effectively reversing the planned below inflation uplift in the poundage from 1 April 2020
  • A fixed rates relief of up to £5,000 for all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 from 1 April 2020
  • Small and rural businesses will be able to apply for a £10,000 grant (Updated: 19 March 2020)
  • A grant of £25,000 available to retail, hospitality and leisure business ratepayers with a rateable value between £18,001 and £50,999 (Updated: 19 March 2020).

Applications are now being taken for the grants mentioned above, which you can read about here. (Updated 24 March 2020)

The Finance Secretary will also write to all local authorities urging them to respond positively to requests from ratepayers for payment deferrals for a fixed period.

Additional information is expected to be announced today (19 March 2020) regarding measures to reduce cost pressures on businesses include tax holidays through PAYE, VAT reduction and the suspension of the apprenticeship levy, plus help for the self-employed, freelancers and those on contracts.

The helpline number for businesses in Scotland is 0300 303 0660. The helpline will be open Monday to Friday 8.30 am to 5.30 pm.

Callers should select option one to speak to the Covid-19 team.

Northern Ireland

Businesses in Northern Ireland are being advised to carry out a business impact analysis and draw up a business continuity plan.

Other financial support available:

More decisions are expected to be announced on support for businesses in Northern Ireland.

Ireland

The Irish government offers the following support which will help businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic:

  • The Credit Guarantee Scheme supports loans up to €1 million for periods of up to 7 years. Applications can be made to AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank. Eligibility criteria apply
  • Microenterprises can access Covid-19 loans of up to €50,000 from MicroFinance Ireland. Loans are available at an interest rate of between 6.8% and 7.8%. Businesses can apply through their Local Enterprise Office or directly at microfinanceireland.ie (Eligibility criteria apply)
  • The €200m SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme for eligible businesses will be available within the next week. Maximum loan size will be €1.5 million (first €500,000 unsecured) and the maximum interest rate will be 4%. Applications can be made through the SBCI website at sbci.gov.ie
  • A €200m Package for Enterprise Supports including a Rescue and Restructuring Scheme is available through Enterprise Ireland for vulnerable but viable firms that need to restructure or transform their business.

What financial support will I get if I have to self-isolate or if I am diagnosed as having Covid-19?

covid social distancing advice

Eligible for SSP

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now be available for eligible individuals diagnosed with Covid-19 or those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with Government advice.

This is in addition to the news that SSP will be payable from the first day of absence instead of day four for affected individuals.

People who are advised to self-isolate for Covid-19 will soon be able to obtain an alternative to the fit note to cover this by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor.

This can be used by employees where their employers require evidence. Further details will be confirmed by the government shortly.

Not eligible for SSP

Those who are not eligible for SSP, for example the self-employed or people earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week, should make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

  • For the duration of the outbreak, the requirements of the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor have been temporarily relaxed for those who have Covid-19 or are self-isolating in accordance with government advice
  • Increase in standard Universal Credit of £20 a week, with the same rise for those still on the working tax credit scheme
  • Nearly £1bn for those struggling to pay rent, through increases in housing benefit and Universal Credit
  • People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre if they are advised to self-isolate
  • Contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable, at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, for eligible people affected by Covid-19 or self-isolating in line with advice from Day 1 of sickness, rather than Day 8
  • Local Authorities will be given access to a £500 million Hardship Fund so they can support economically vulnerable people and households. It is expected that most of this funding will be used to provide more council tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes, or through similar measures. More detail is expected to be released by the government on this funding, including allocations, shortly.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

From Friday 20 March 2020, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced government support in the shape of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, allowing employers to ‘furlough’ staff, rather than lay them off or make them redundant.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme open to UK employers for at least three months, starting from 1 March 2020.

Employers can claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, which includes Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions.

Find out more about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme here.

How do I keep my staff safe?

As the numbers of new cases are climbing daily, there are several suggestions below for pest professionals to consider relating to employee health and safety.

Review staff security and safety

This should include looking at where there has been potential exposure or quarantine risk.

Before agreeing to survey a potential client’s home or business, find out whether anybody in the household has shown Coronavirus symptoms.

You should not insist that a staff member enter a property where an individual or household is in isolation.

Before agreeing to survey a potential client’s home or business, find out whether anybody in the household has shown Coronavirus symptoms.

Assess emergency business continuity and staff remote working areas

For office staff, this can be done according to location, with many companies already implementing remote working policies for office-based staff in high-risk areas.

Consider cancelling foreign travel arrangements

Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is currently advising against all but essential travel to some countries, cities and regions.

This includes unnecessary business trips and meetings, which could otherwise be conducted via Skype, Zoom or other video conference calling facilities.

If you have travelled recently you must follow the current isolation guidance, which also applies to anybody who has not been abroad:

  • if you live alone and you have symptoms of Coronavirus illness (Covid-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started. (See ending isolation section for more information)
  • if you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of Coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill
  • it is likely that people living within a household will infect each other or be infected already. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community.

For full guidance visit the gov.uk website.

Emergency contact information

Make sure everyone's contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date.

Staff information

Provide staff with regular updates on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace.

Do not advise your employees to go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital, particularly if they are showing symptoms or have come into contact with anybody showing symptoms. They will risk spreading the virus.

Employees should use the 111 online Coronavirus service if their condition gets worse, does not clear after 7 days or they cannot cope with the symptoms.

Consult relevant government advice

The UK government is updating its advice regularly relating to Covid-19, including holding daily press conferences.

Below there are links to several different government information websites, including advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on travel and Public Health England on Coronavirus symptoms and advice for employers.

Mental health support

There are, rightly, many concerns about mental wellbeing and how people are coping during this unprecedented time.

Here are some of the ways experts suggest you can limit the impact on your mental health:

  1. ‘Facts minimise fear’. Misinformation and uncertainty can cause stress, so it’s important to make sure that, if you’re looking for information on Covid-19, you use trusted sources. These include the World Health Organisation and the government
  2. If you are in isolation, try to stay in contact with people using technology such as video calling
  3. Keep to your routine as much as possible, exercising regularly and practicing hobbies or interests.

If your employer is a member of the Health Matters Assistance Programme, you can receive free mental health support by visiting their website or calling their helpline number on 0800 988 8809.

You can find more mental health and wellbeing support on the following websites:

nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/seeking-help-for-a-mental-health-problem/where-to-start/

rethink.org/aboutus/what-we-do/advice-and-information-service/get-help-now/

mentalhealth.org.uk/getting-help

How do I keep my clients safe?

With pest professionals regularly visiting client’s premises, it’s essential that they follow best practice.

coronavirus-hr-advice-bpca 2

If you have decided that you do need to go into a client’s premises (see Should I keep trading/go out on a job? section) then you should follow this best practice.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • Always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • Wash your hands before and after visiting a client’s site
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • Pay particular attention to situations where you are undertaking actions where items may have passed through many hands, eg cash handling.

What's happening with BPCA events, training courses and exams?

The UK Government has advised against all unnecessary gatherings to help minimise the spread of Covid-19.

BPCA has taken the decision to postpone all events, training and exams until at least the end of May 2020.

It’s our first priority to keep everyone safe, including our visitors and staff.

We’ll be rescheduling training courses and examinations when we’re advised by the UK Government it is safe to do so.

Our team will still be in touch to rearrange your exam or course as soon as we can.

Additionally, the CIEH Pest Control Conference: Safeguarding Public Health, organised in partnership with BPCA, has been postponed. More details on when this willl be rescheduled to follow. 

BPCA technical and business support is still available to all BPCA members. Members are encouraged to contact our team for support if they need it.

If you’re worried about recording CPD points, take a look at our free webinars and our CPD quizzes, which can be taken online.

Alternatively, if you’re on BPCA Registered, you can record unstructured CPD points for activities like reading articles, watching videos, personal research and technical discussions over the phone.

What's happening with the BPCA AGM?

BPCA has, after due consultation with our advisors on the correct process, taken the decision to cancel the BPCA AGM to take place on 2 April 2020, for which due notice had been served to Members on Tuesday 10 March 2020.

It’s our first priority to keep everyone safe, including our members, visitors and staff.

Please disregard the Notice and Accompanying Documents previously issued.

We’ll be rescheduling the 2020 AGM when we’re confident that the advice from the UK Government that it is safe to do so.

In the meantime, the Annual Report can be read in PPC98, and Audited Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2019 are available in the Members Documents Area (login required).

Nomination forms for the Executive Board vacancies can no longer be accepted until Notice has been served for the new AGM date and the statutory deadlines revised for nominations.

If you had already submitted a nomination form and/or expressed an interest, then our Company Secretary – Lorraine Norton – will be in direct contact with you.

Can I still visit the BPCA office?

We will be doing what we can to ensure business continuity during these challenging times. 

All BPCA staff are now home working and so visits to BPCA offices in Derby cannot take place.

The health and wellbeing of the BPCA Staff team, as well as your own, needs to take priority.

You can still contact the BPCA team and we will be on hand to help as always. 

How can I help?

Every single pest management professional understands how vital it is that the work we do continues as much as is reasonably possible in these circumstances.

In order to add your voice to the call for pest management to be designated as key work, write a letter to your local Member of Parliament.

You can download the letter template here. 

Download

Resources and links

UK Government Information on Covid-19: gov.uk/coronavirus

Coronavirus in Scotland: gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

Northern Ireland: Coronavirus overview and advice: nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-overview-and-advice

Ireland Coronavirus updates: gov.ie/en/campaigns/c36c85-covid-19-coronavirus/

Travel Advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Travel Advice: China: gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/china

Latest News from Public Health England: gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england

Latest News from Health Protection Scotland: hps.scot.nhs.uk/a-to-z-of-topics/covid-19/
Latest News from Public Health Wales: phw.nhs.wales/topics/latest-information-on-novel-Coronavirus-covid-19/

Latest News from Public Health Agency (NI): publichealth.hscni.net/

NHS Advice- Coronavirus: nhs.uk/conditions/Coronavirus-covid-19/

World Health Organisation- Covid-19 Outbreak: who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-Coronavirus-2019

Support for those affected by Covid-19 gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

Guidance: Further businesses and premises to close: assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/874732/230320_-_Revised_guidance_note_-_finalVF.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2_6-t3nwRGjamNdW1XonlIMMa132l9F5N6HlFKNigLV40gOXBJccqSOnE

Coronavirus - what it means for you
moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/Coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you

Guidance for Employers on Covid-19: gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-covid-19

Advice and guidance from British Institute of Cleaning Science: bics.org.uk/bicsc-update-to-the-outbreak-of-covid-19-coronavirus/

COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings: gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings

Disinfection of environments in healthcare and nonhealthcare settings potentially contaminated with SARS-CoV-2: ecdc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/Environmental-persistence-of-SARS_CoV_2-virus-Options-for-cleaning2020-03-26_0.pdf

Guidance on respiratory protective equipment (RPE) fit testing: hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg479.htm

Which?: Advice for small businesses and the self-employed: trustedtraders.which.co.uk/for-traders/articles/coronavirus-advice-for-small-businesses-and-the-self-employed

You can find more advice and information about how Covid-19 could affect your business on the following websites:

Federation of Self-Employed and Small Businesses
Confederation of British Industry
Gov.uk

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