Can I still have my domestic gas appliances tested during the coronavirus outbreak?
Yes. The Health and Safety Executive has stated (as quoted from the Gas safe register site):
“Landlords have a legal duty to repair and maintain gas pipework, flues and appliances in a safe condition, to ensure an annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue, and to keep a record of each safety check.
“If you anticipate difficulties in gaining access as the Covid-19 situation progresses, you have the flexibility to carry out annual gas safety checks two months before the deadline date. Landlords can have the annual gas safety checks at their properties carried out any time from 10 to 12 calendar months after the previous check and still retain the original deadline date as if the check had been carried out exactly 12 months after the previous check.
“You are encouraged to arrange your annual gas safety checks as early as possible, as a contingency against tenants being in self-isolation for 14 days (in line with current guidelines), or gas engineers being unavailable due to illness. The two-month period to carry out annual gas safety checks should provide adequate resilience in most situations.
“In the event you are unable to gain access to the property, e.g. persistent refusal of access due to vulnerable tenants self-isolating, you will be expected to be able to demonstrate that you took reasonable steps to comply with the law, and that you are seeking to arrange the safety check as soon as all parties are able. This will need to include records of communication with the tenant, and details of your engineers attempts to gain access.”
Many Registered Providers have been suspending all gas and electrical testing where internal access is required, continuing checks in communal areas and are carrying out emergency repairs only, whilst void works are suspended and staff are working from home. This does not comply with the legislation, or the guidance.
Although these measures fall short of the level of assurance given to employees both in terms of eligibility for an immediacy of access to payments, they are a vast improvement on the support for self-employed workers that has been put in place until now. Current support includes:
- Access to business interruption loans
- Self-assessment tax payments that were due in July 2020 have been deferred until January 2021
- VAT is deferred until the next quarter
- The introduction of Time to Pay arrangements under which deferrals for HMRC payments can be agreed
- The minimum income floor for universal credit has been suspended which will allow self-employed workers to access the equivalent of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
- Universal credit and tax credit payments to increase by £1000 per year
As long as you can demonstrate that you have exercised reasonable care in determining status you have discharged your obligations in that respect. However, if you are unable to demonstrate this, you may as the end user client be responsible for the contractor’s tax and NIC’s.
Failure to comply with the collective inform and consult obligations could impact on the fairness of any dismissals – see next question. In addition, a Tribunal can award a protective award of up to 90 days gross pay for each affected employee. The purpose is intended punish the employer for not complying with the obligations, not to compensate the employee for their individual financial loss.
Whilst many employees may now have the resources and equipment to work from home, an employee may struggle to effectively work from home for a number of reasons. For example, an employee may not have a suitable working environment where they can work without being disturbed or alternatively, working from home for prolonged periods of time may be having a detrimental impact on the employee’s mental well-being.
In circumstances such as these, employers must carry out a careful assessment. Unfortunately, there is not any specific guidance as to when an individual cannot ‘reasonably’ work from home – it is likely that each case will be fact specific.
In relation to employees who are struggling with their mental well-being, employers owe their employees a duty of care. It is crucial that procedures are in place which will enable an employer to recognise the signs of stress as early as possible. In the circumstances, it may be appropriate to allow an employee to attend their place of work if this would help alleviate work-related stress or to prevent mental health issues.
For those with variable pay, if the employee has been employed for a full 12 months before the period claimed for you, can take the higher of:
- The same month’s earnings in the previous year; or
- Average monthly earnings from the 2019/20 tax year.
For those who have been employed for less than one year you can use the average of their monthly earnings since they began their employment until the date they were furloughed.
If they have been employed for less than a month, work out a pro rata for their earnings so far, and claim for 80%.