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Covid-19 Information For Contractors

Covid-19 Information For Contractors

As the government steps up measures to respond to the Covid-19 epidemic, we select updates that might be of particular relevance to contractors.

Current Situation

On March 23 the Prime Minister placed the UK into lockdown, meaning that people can only leave their homes to shop for essentials, exercise outdoors once per day, receive medical treatment or provide care, and travel to and from work if it home working is impossible.

General

Symptoms of coronavirus may include fever, shortness of breath, a dry cough and tiredness, although other symptoms such as a headache and muscular pain are also being reported. The best precaution against infection is regular handwashing with soap and water and staying at home whenever possible. The NHS guidance on coronavirus advises avoiding being within two metres of an infected person for more than 15 minutes. People who think they may be affected by coronavirus need to call the NHS 111 phone service for further advice. They should not go to their GP, or A&E. It’s important to remember that 80 per cent of people who contract the virus will only develop mild symptoms and will not need medical treatment. However, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of compilations, therefore precautions should be taken to protect those who are vulnerable by social distancing and staying at home wherever possible. The Government is issuing regular updates on the virus, which you should check here.

Travel

From the 17th of March the government advises British Nationals against all non-essential travel. This initially applies worldwide and for 30 days. If your assignment is classified as essential you should check travel advice for you destination on a regular basis.

Where possible, contractors working abroad should return home now, as further travel restrictions are likely. This advice was published on 23 March and takes effect immediately. If you are usually based outside the UK, you should follow the advice of the country you are currently working in.

If you have recently been in a country affected by the virus you may need to be quarantined. Full details of the countries concerned and whether you need to self-isolate are available here. If you have symptoms upon return you should self-isolate for 7 days, or if you live with others, the whole household should isolate for 14 days. See the Public Health England stay at home guidance.

Contractors should also check what measures and policies their client is putting in place and what the expectation is for continued contracts. In many cases, contractors may be able to work from home with the use of remote technology.

Impact on Contracting Sector

As many business experience rapid decrease in demand, contracts many be terminated. However, many industries are rapidly diversifying to meet current requirements, and contractors who are able to adapt and move between sectors may find that they are able to find work. There will also be a need for contingents workers to cover sickness for employees. Some sectors, such as healthcare, require urgent contingent staff, as do many organisations who undertake essential operational tasks. Contractors should also keep in mind that many of the worst affected sectors, such as tourism and leisure, are likely to experience an increased demand once the threat of the virus passes.

Contractors unable to work as a result of the coronavirus epidemic may be able to access relief courtesy of the Job Retention Scheme (JRS), or an equivalent measure currently being discussed within the House of Commons, depending on their trading model.

The government has also announced a deferral of VAT and Income Tax payments for all businesses, including contractors who work through their PSC, for three months. This means that those experiencing financial difficulties won’t have to make payments until June.

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this article, Contracting Scout has a range of options to help you. Check our news pages for updates and tips on how to stay positive and focused, plus suggestions on how to use your downtime productively. To talk to a member of our team call: 0203 603 1878

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