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What is the guidance for doctors working during the pandemic?

The General Medical Council (GMC) have published guidance online for doctors during this time of uncertainty.

 

Alongside this, their website displays guidance for temporary registration to approximately 15,000 doctors, who left the register or gave up their licence to practise in the last three years.

 

These clinicians have been contacted to assist with the growing pandemic, outlining the process they would follow and informing them of their right to opt-out. The Secretary of State for Health can ask the GMC to grant such registration under Section 18a of the Medical Act 1983, in an emergency.

Related FAQs

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.

Does a sponsor need to report absences from work or study due to Covid-19?

If you sponsor migrants under Tier 2 or Tier 5, you will not be required to report a sponsored employee’s absence if it is linked to coronavirus and you have authorised this absence e.g. they are self-isolating and you have received an online isolation note.

The Home Office has confirmed that sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship for affected employees who have been absent from work for more than 4 weeks if they consider these are exceptional circumstances, which would include absences related to coronavirus. It does however remain extremely important to know where your sponsored workers are and to have up to date contact details.

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will repay employers the SSP paid to current or former employees and will be available from 26 May 2020. See here.

The scheme covers all types of employment contracts and employers will be eligible to claim if they:

  • Are claiming for an employee who is eligible for sick pay due to coronavirus
  • Had a payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020
  • Had fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020

The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks starting from the first qualifying day of sickness, if an employee is unable to work because they either:

  • have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms
  • cannot work because they are self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms
  • are shielding and have a letter from the NHS or a GP telling them to stay at home for at least 12 weeks
  • have been notified by the NHS or public health bodies that they’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus
  • they have been notified by the NHS to self-isolate before surgery

You can claim for periods of sickness starting on or after:

  • 13 March 2020 – if your employee had coronavirus or the symptoms or is self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms; or
  • 16 April 2020 – if your employee was shielding because of coronavirus.
  • 28 May 2020 – if your employee has been notified by the NHS or public health bodies that they’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus
  • 26 August 2020 – if your employee has been notified by the NHS to self-isolate before surgery

Employees do not have to give you a doctor’s fit note for you to make a claim. But you can ask them to give you either:

  • an isolation note from NHS 111 – if they are self-isolating and cannot work because of coronavirus
  • the NHS or GP letter telling them to stay at home for at least 12 weeks because they’re at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus
  • the evidence from the NHS or public health body requiring them to self-isolate

You must keep the following records in relation to a claim you make under the scheme for three years:

  • The reason for the employee’s absence
  • Details of each period the employee could not work, including start and end dates
  • Details of the SSP qualifying days when the employee could not work
  • National insurance numbers for each employee you have paid SSP to

You’ll need to print or save your state aid declaration (from your claim summary) and keep this until 31 December 2024.

Should we issue petitions?

Our advice to you here is simple. It will depend on the circumstances surrounding your debt but for the most part, unless it is crystal clear that there has been a debt outstanding long before Covid-19 and there was an inability to pay prior to the Covid situation we would recommend that you hold off issuing any further petitions until after the 31st December. Unless the criteria set out above is met, a judge is likely to exercise their discretion leniently and could dismiss the petition. This could also lead to cost consequences which would adversely affect you.

We are happy to discuss individual cases to assist creditors at this difficult time, however, generally any cases proceeding to petition would be the exception as opposed to the rule. Even if presenting a winding up petition is not available for now, there may still be other forms of legal proceedings that you can use to collect money owed to you, like county court proceedings.

If, after deploying all control measures the risk is still deemed too great for employees to work safely, then what should employers do?

The law says that if after assessing a risk and considering all the control measures available to you, you cannot undertake a task safely – then you should not undertake the task.

If that means taking BAME workers out of higher risk frontline work, that is what will have to be done.

Beware of workers saying “we’ll accept the risk” – it does not protect you against regulatory/enforcement action or civil claims.