Latest News from BPCA

27 March 2020

FAQ: Pest management and Covid-19

Frequently asked questions for pest management professionals amid the Covid-19 pandemic

FAQ Pest management and Covid19

Q: Why is BPCA saying I should go to work when the Government says we shouldn’t leave home?

We’re not. It’s up to you (and your employer) to decide whether to leave your home to go to work or not on a case-by-case basis and only when you can sufficiently mitigate the risks.

The Cabinet Office allows people to go to work if the work cannot be done from home. See: Can I go to work? Guidance for pest management professionals

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that only essential work should be carried out, however it is up to every sector to decide what essential work is.

You might find this guide useful for deciding what is essential pest management work.

Q: What is “essential work”?

Essential work is when the actual risk to public health from a pest infestation, is higher than the potential risk of spreading Covid-19.

Ultimately it’s up to you, your risk assessment and your client to decide this.

If in doubt, don’t go.

You might find this guide useful for deciding what is essential pest management work.

You can find an example risk assessment in the BPCA Member Area (login required).

Q: Is a pest controller a key worker?

Yes, we think so. The guidance the Government published is very vague, but pest management seems to be covered in several sections.

See: Pest professionals are key workers - here’s why

BPCA is campaigning for pest management to be explicitly included on the list of key workers.

Following our lobbying, Northern Ireland’s Department of Education recently confirmed that pest management is recognised as essential or ‘key’ work there, and so we’re confident that the rest of the UK will follow suit.

Q: Can only key workers go to work?

No. Currently anyone can go to work, whether they’re on the list of key workers or not, as long as they aren’t able to work from home or are on the list of businesses ordered to close.

The new measures, in place for at least three weeks, tell Britons to only leave home to go to work "where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home".

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Mr Hancock, later said those who cannot work from home should go to work "to keep the country running".

If further lockdown measures are enacted, this could change, which is why BPCA is prioritising gaining confirmation that pest management is on the list of key/essential work.

See: Can I go to work? Guidance for pest management professionals

Q: What if I get stopped by the police?

Currently, if you get stopped by the police while on your way to or from a job, explain you’re going to work.

This is perfectly legal.

Having your BPCA Registered lanyard and badge with you may help explain the importance of what you’re doing.

Q: Can I go into people’s houses?

Yes, you can - although you should try to avoid this wherever possible.

The Government has banned public gatherings of more than two people, but an exception is made where the gathering is essential for work purposes.

Try to keep 2m apart from clients and make sure you’re wearing your PPE.

See this guide on how to keep yourself and clients safe.

Q: Can we carry on with routine work or only cover call outs/emergencies?

Our advice is for you to make that decision on a case-by-case basis.

However as it is vital that you minimise potential contact with other people while carrying out your work, it may be prudent to limit the types of calls you carry out to essential work only, and only when you feel like you're safe to do so and can properly mitigate the risks.

If in doubt, say no and stay home.

We’ve put together a flow chart which should help you decide whether or not it’s necessary to go out on a job.

See: Should I go on a job during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Q: Have specification requirements on food sites been suspended or amended because of the pandemic?

The general consensus is that visits to food sites need to take place, however only if this is agreed with the client and is safe to do so.

BRCGS gave their position on the matter, which is that in spite of current challenges sites still need to be adhering to specification requirements where possible.

“Sites still need to meet the requirements of the Standard and CBs need to see evidence of compliance and raise NCs where this is not the case. It is recognised that access to sites is currently challenging for many service providers due to the ongoing circumstances relating to Covid-19.

“The site is responsible for reviewing their processes to ensure the continued production of safe products. The site must therefore have sufficient controls in place to ensure continuation of safe production. It is the site’s responsibility to ensure they look at options and decide how this happens.”

Jeff Wilson, AIB International, has confirmed with us that as long as the site in question has reviewed their procedures and put measures in place, based on advice given by you to ensure continued production of "safe food", non-conformance notices will not be issued if physical visits are not made due to Covid-19.

However just cancelling pest control without alternative documented processes and procedures would not be acceptable.

Although it is recognised that access to sites is currently challenging for many service providers, sites still need to meet the requirements of the AIB Standard and auditors will need to see evidence of compliance.

If you have any questions regarding AIB sites and what you need to do, Jeff Wilson is more than happy for you to contact him directly: jwilson@aibonline.org

Q: Customers are asking if pests can be carriers of the virus? Or even their own pets?

The World Health Organisation issued updated information on Thursday 13 March saying "at present there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus".

Source: oie.int/en/scientific-expertise/specific-information-and-recommendations/questions-and-answers-on-2019novel-coronavirus/

Q: What should be the minimum PPE that we wear to call outs during the pandemic?

Extend your use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) wherever reasonably possible.

There are certain items such as safety glasses, gloves and face masks, which are frequently a part of a pest controllers toolkit.

Let your customers know that you will be extending your use of these to include your arrival on-site. If at all possible, use disposable items so you can wear a new set on the next job.

Let your clients know of any additional costs because of precautionary measures taken at this time, making it clear that you are taking these steps for your own safety and that of your clients.

Q: The NHS website states not to allow someone into your home who is not part of your household. So how can we tell techs to go into other peoples homes and what does BPCA regard as an emergency call?

During the pandemic it is advised not to allow social visitors into your homes, however exceptions will need to be made in the event of an emergency.

Emergencies should be decided on a case-by-case basis and we’ve created a flow chart which may help you make that decision, although the ultimate choice is down to you and the client.

If you do attend someone’s home, you should consider what PPE you need to protect yourself, such as gloves and a mask.

Refer to your own risk assessment for further PPE requirements.

Q: In your guidance relating to whether or not to carry out a visit, you mention “vulnerable people”. Can you clarify what a vulnerable person is?

For the purposes of our guidance, we’re referring to anyone who is more susceptible to or deemed “at risk” from Covid-19.

You can find a list of people who are considered high risk on the NHS website here.

Q: What are the BPCA doing to secure supply lines for essential visits?

BPCA remains in contact with Manufacturer and Distributor members. They will get new stock, however there is obviously an increased demand.

Contact your distributor for lead times.

Q: Some clients are cancelling visits until further notice - how quickly will we get business support from the Government?

Take a look at Will the Government compensate my business for any loss of work?

Q: Are BPCA requesting the Government only accept BPCA members as essential workers or are they asking for all pest controllers to be classed as such?

BPCA will always prioritise it's members and represent their interests above all others, however in this situation we've asked for pest management professionals in general to be considered essential.

You can read the full letter to the PM here.

Q: Is there any guidance for managers who may need to put London foot technicians onto public transport?

Firstly, we recommend that you make sure the job you’re going on is essential. See: Should I go on a job during the Covid-19 pandemic?

If you have followed the thought process above and will be attending a necessary call out, all advice is to avoid public transport where possible, arranging alternative transport. If travelling on public transport is unavoidable, you should do so at less busy times if possible.

Q: Are pest control companies allowed to carry out sanitizing or disinfecting treatments? If so, what chemicals can we use?

The BPCA Technical team is not able to give specific advice on disinfection services for Covid-19 as this is out of our area of expertise. Disinfecting following a pest infestation and for a virus have important differences.

You can read our full statement regarding disinfecting services here.

In regards to which chemicals you can use; if you decide to go ahead and offer disinfecting services, then you should check with product manufacturers before proceeding.

Q: What would you suggest in cases where we would normally recommend that people leave their properties during the treatment? For example, spraying for bed bugs.

Firstly, follow the hierarchy of risk control, to help you assess the need for toxic methods of control in the first place. If you can find a non-toxic alternative, such as heat treatment, then this negates the need for clients to leave the premises.

You may also want to consider things like diatomaceous Earth (DE) and other non-chemical applications. Using these methods alongside any chemical treatment will reduce the amount of chemical used and associated risks.

If you follow the hierarchy and still determine that toxic methods are required, then the client will still need to leave until the insecticide is dry, and we usually recommend 2 hours is the minimum.

Currently lockdown rules state that people can leave their house once a day to exercise, as a family unit, and so this time should be used to allow the treatment to dry.

Otherwise you may have to recommend remaining in the garden for the duration, if the client has this space available.

Q: Gull Season is upon us: is there any dialogue with Natural England on general and individual licensing, and maybe a relaxing of the rules given the current situation?

BPCA is not currently aware of any plans to amend legislation around general licensing arrangements, so we would advise that if you need to carry out emergency bird control work, then you must continue to work within the current legal framework.

Q: How can we continue to follow label requirements or CRRU guidelines regarding checking toxic baits?

Most companies, if following current legal requirements and CRRU guidelines, will not have rodenticide down unless they have a current issue or are baiting on sites with high risk of reinvasion.

Internal baiting: If rodenticide is down then it suggests there is a problem and so it should still be necessary to visit at appropriate intervals - this decision should made by the technician in charge.

External baiting: Externally you are much safer to inspect, from a Covid-19 risk view point, as you will be able to keep the 2m minimum distance and are less likely to come into contact with people. Baits are also too much of a risk to non-target species if left in an external environment, so they should either be attended to as per the label or removed from site.

For more information regarding best practice and permanent baiting, you can download the CRRU guidelines here.

Q: Will BPCA be putting on any more training courses and webinars to keep us learning and engaged over this period? And will BPCA look into facilitating more online exams or courses during the lockdown?

To help support members and their employees during the Covid-19 pandemic, BPCA has released eight microlearning courses to all members and their employees on a free of charge basis. The courses will remain free for three months initially. Once completed CPD points will be added automatically to user accounts by BPCA.

Our current online training courses, such as the Foundation Certificate in Pest Management and Using Rodenticides Safely are still available.

For anyone who takes the Level 2 Award in Pest Management online learning course, in place of the residential or modular courses, we will be offering our Technical team as support should you need any clarity on any of the topics covered..

If you book and pay for a classroom Level 2 Award in Pest Management course, we won’t be able to guarantee a date for the course to take place yet but we will extend access to the online learning so that you are able to continue your studies whilst waiting to attend the course.

We’re also in the process of looking into the following options:

  • Additional webinars – we’re looking at topics identified by members and will announce dates and subjects within the coming weeks
  • Toolbox talks - our Technical team is developing a range of toolbox talks that you can share with your employees. Following the toolbox talk, technicians will be able to complete a short quiz. CPD points will be awarded for both the toolbox talk and the successful completion of the quiz
  • Online technical surgeries - these will be an opportunity for member companies and their technicians to take part in a technical surgery where our Technical team will support you with any guidance you may need around pest management. Details on how to book your technical surgery will be available soon
  • Online chats – the BPCA Registered and Technical teams will make themselves available to cover an online chat facility to answer any of your questions. Once available, you will be able to chat with the Technical team on Tuesdays between 10am and 2pm and the BPCA Registered team on Thursdays between 10am to 2pm. Look out for an announcement from us when this service is available
  • CPD resource page - this will include a range of web-sourced video content, links to free online learning courses and published articles for members to access as part of their CPD.

These are all in the early stages of development, and we’ll keep our website and social media updated with any news regarding online training and CPD resources.

Q: What will BPCA do when/if a member company cannot pay subscription fees, due to cancelled contracts or clients being unable to pay us in the short term?

BPCA has put certain support measures in place as we understand that these are difficult times and we're here to help. Email membership@bpca.org.uk for support.

Q: How do I defer my VAT payments? 

As mentioned by the Chancellor, if you’re a UK VAT registered business and have a VAT payment due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, you have the option to defer the payment until a later date. You can still pay the VAT due as normal, if you wish.

You do not need to tell HMRC that you are deferring your payment.

If you normally pay by Direct Debit, all you need to do is contact your bank to cancel your Direct Debit as soon as you can, or you can cancel online if you’re registered for online banking.

HMRC will not charge interest or penalties on any amount deferred as a result of the Chancellor’s announcement.

You will still need to submit your VAT returns to HMRC on time.

HMRC will continue to process VAT reclaims and refunds as normal during this time.

Q: What should I do if I can’t pay for my leased/rented vehicle?

The advice from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association is to contact your lease company if you think you may have difficulties paying your lease.

However in cases of dispute, the motor ombudsman may be able to help:

themotorombudsman.org/knowledge-base/leasing-or-rental-vehicle-issues

Q: As a Director who owns 50% shares of a Ltd company and is paid by dividends, plus only takes a basic salary for my tax allowance, can you tell me if I am classed as self-employed or employed, and if any benefits will be coming from the government to help me if not?

You're employed, occupying the role of director and employee. This is a complex area and you should be seeking advice from your own accountant/advisor.

Dividends are investment income and are unlikely to be regarded as earnings if you were looking at being furloughed (if that is the case), for the company to be eligible for funding through the Job Retention Scheme.

The Ltd company could top up the 80% of earnings in a furloughed position if it is in a position to do so. Of course, being furloughed means you can't work, so as a sole director you'd need to be certain you can still run the company if you're not working, which may be difficult to do.

You should therefore be looking into support available in the Government's provisions for Employers (the company), Small Businesses (the company) as well as exploring personal benefit claims as an employee.

It's quite common in 'one man' companies for the partner to be in the same situation; remember that all Directors and Officers (Company Secretaries) are employees, so make sure you explore all avenues for your partner too.

Seek professional advice - this is an area that we will start to see lots of examples and clarification over the coming days no doubt.

Q: Do you think that membership to a trade organisation such as BPCA will help with Government recognition of professional pest control technicians as key workers, should the lockdown continue with further restriction of movement?

Almost certainly. The work that BPCA already does with government departments means that we're on their radar.

As a relatively small sector, being able to talk in a unified way helps amplify our voice. The professionalism of our members (training, qualified, insured and audited to the British Standard for Pest Management BS EN 16636) helps prove we're a key part of supporting public health

Q. Should I start offering a disinfection service for Covid-19?

Proceed with extreme caution! Read our full position statement here: BPCA position statement of Covid-19 disinfection

Q. Do you have a risk assessment template for Covid-19?

Yes, it’s in the Member Documents Area (login required).

Q. What is Furlough Leave?

From Friday 20 March 2020, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a raft of measures to protect businesses, including 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.

This includes limited companies, sole traders, LLPs, Partnerships, charities etc, allowing them to access financial support to continue to pay part of their employees’ salaries. This would enable employers to retain their employees for at least the short term, without having to worry about possible redundancies, also giving employees comfort around their ongoing status and pay for the short term.

Affected employees would be classed as furloughed workers. These employees would have to be notified of their changing status which would remain subject to existing employment law and depending on their contract, may be subject to negotiation. It’s crucial for an agreement to be made between the employer and employee as to whether the employee becomes ‘furloughed’.

More information on how to do this here.

You can now apply using the HMRC portal, here: gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wages-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme (Updated 20 April 2020)

Q: What are the qualifying criteria for furloughing employees? Does this need to be for the duration set out by the government? What if we need to attend emergency call outs?

Advice received from Stallard Kane makes it clear that furloughed staff cannot work:

Furlough is a measure the company can take when there is a genuine situation of layoff or redundancy. Any employee carrying out some work cannot be furloughed and alternative arrangements made between the employer and the employee.

It may be that the employee is put on short time working if the company has the contractual right to do so. This could be in the company T & Cs or handbook, in the form of the below clause:

2. Temporary Lay Off/Short Time Working:

2.1 In the event the Company is faced with a potential redundancy situation due to a shortage of work/unforeseen circumstances, e.g., flood, fire/external influences or changes in market needs, it may be necessary to consult with you in an attempt to safeguard your employment. The Company reserves the right to introduce short time working or a period of temporary layoff without pay where this is necessary to avoid redundancies or where there is a shortage of work. Any short time working would have pay reduced proportionately.

2.2 If a lay off situation arises after all efforts have been exhausted, you may be entitled to the current statutory guaranteed payment.

If the company does not have the above clause to lay off, short time working or furlough employees, the company would have to seek express agreement before any changes can be made to their working contract.

For more advice, members have free access to BPCA Business Shield, Stallard Kane’s online portal which gives you access to Health and Safety, Environmental and Employment Law advice and guidance.

GOT ANOTHER QUESTION?

If you have a question that wasn't answered in the FAQ here, please get in touch. 

enquiry@bpca.org.uk 

Source: Online

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