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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance for Apprentices and Employers

The information contained in this guidance has been extracted from the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) guidance entitled Coronavirus (COVID-19):guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers, end-point assessment organisations and external quality assurance providers which was published on 23rd March 2020.

For the full document please click on the following link.  Coronavirus (COVID-19): apprenticeship programme response

It outlines the changes that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is making to the apprenticeship programme during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the introduction of urgent government measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and a rapidly developing situation, these guidelines reflect arrangements applied at the current time. This guidance will be kept under active review and updated regularly with further developments.

General information

These are difficult times for employers, apprentices, and providers of apprenticeship training and assessment. As part of the cross-government efforts to respond to the impact of COVID-19, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is implementing new measures, for the duration of the pandemic, to make it easier for apprenticeships to continue and complete in a different way, if they need to or to break and resume an apprenticeship later when that becomes possible.

This document sets out guidance, and some temporary flexibilities, that we are introducing to the programme during the pandemic. It provides answers to questions related to these changes, and other common questions.

Specifically, we are:

  • encouraging training providers to deliver training to apprentices remotely and via e-learning as far as is practicable
  • allowing the modification of end-point assessment arrangements, including remote assessments wherever practicable and possible
  • clarifying that apprentices ready for assessment, but who cannot be assessed due to COVID-19 issues, can have their end-point assessment rescheduled. Apprentices whose gateway is delayed can have an extension to the assessment timeframe
  • enabling employers and training providers to report and initiate a break in learning where the interruption to learning due to COVID-19 is greater than four weeks
  • confirming that, where apprentices are made redundant, it is our ambition to find them alternative employment and continue their apprenticeship as quickly as possible and within 12 weeks

Our objective for these measures is to support all employers, and apprenticeship training and assessment providers, to retain their apprentices, and to help them plan with more certainty through this difficult period of disruption.

The guidance and measures start immediately and apply until further notice.

As users of this document will understand, this information and any changes we are making, are being developed during a time of rapid social and economic developments. We are keeping the developing situation, and our guidance, under review, and will continue updating this guidance as new information is available and/or the situation evolves.

This will include information on support where an apprentice may face redundancy as a result of COVID-19.

For queries not covered by this guidance, please contact the apprenticeship service helpline by telephone on 0800 150 600 or email helpdesk@manage-apprenticeships.service.gov.uk.

 

 

Overview

Government measures to support businesses and employees

Apprentices and their employers, and training and assessment organisations as businesses, are able to access the government’s package of measures to support businesses to withstand the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

We are working closely with HM Treasury to monitor how the support packages are benefitting organisations, and to consider any further action which may be required.

Apprenticeship programme response

In this difficult time, employers and training providers are doing their best for their workforce. We want to support that by ensuring that, wherever possible, apprentices can continue and complete their apprenticeship, despite any break they have to take as a result of COVID-19. Investing in the support of high-quality apprenticeships is a vital part of supporting the economic recovery that will follow.

Our flexibilities will make it easier for apprentices to continue as an apprentice, by enabling them to take a break from their learning, or do their learning or assessment in a different way to that originally planned. As well as ensuring that employers will still have the skills they need for the future, it means that they can temporarily redeploy apprentices without ending their apprenticeship.

Disruption to training

Because of illness, caring responsibilities, and operational disruption, apprentices may be unable to attend training, and training providers may be unable to deliver training over the coming weeks or months.

This will create significant implications for apprentices and employers, as well as for training providers and end-point assessment organisations whose income may be disrupted:

  • for an individual, this might be necessary due to illness or self-isolation, or challenges getting to their place of employment or location for training provision
  • for an employer, this might be necessary due to a temporary need to redeploy apprentices to different roles
  • for a training provider, this might be necessary due to challenges in providing training or assessment due to staff absences or closure of facilities

Changing apprenticeship learning arrangements

We are encouraging and supporting employers, and training and assessment providers, to make use of distance-learning tools wherever possible and practicable to do so.

Breaks in learning

Apprenticeship funding rules already make provision for disruption in learning:

  • less than 4 weeks – in these circumstances neither the employer nor the training provider needs to report the interruption, the end-date for the apprenticeship remains the same and there is no change to the payment of funding
  • more than 4 weeks – in these circumstances, employers and/or training providers must report a formal break in learning. Where a break in learning is reported, the payment of funding to the training provider will be suspended for the duration of the break in learning

Where breaks in learning are required, it is our goal that apprentices are able to promptly resume their apprenticeship, and continue to successful completion of end-point assessment.

During March, levy-paying employers should not use the apprenticeship service to ‘pause’ or ‘stop’ payments to the training provider, where some training has been delivered in March. Doing so will result in the training provider not receiving any payment for these apprentices.

For the avoidance of doubt, during breaks in learning it is not necessary for apprentices to comply with the minimum of 20% off-the-job training requirement. When the break in learning ends and training resumes, the 20% off-the-job training requirement will apply over the remaining amended duration of the apprenticeship.

Disruption to assessment

Apprentices who are deemed ready for assessment, and cannot be assessed due to COVID-19 related issues, will be able to have their EPA rescheduled. Where there is a specified time limit for EPA post gateway, a further pause of 12 weeks is allowable.

Apprentices whose gateway is being delayed are allowed a break in learning, with an extension to the assessment timeframe.

Disruption to employment

Where apprentices are furloughed (granted a leave of absence) or placed on unpaid leave, or where the nature of their employment changes and no longer supports their apprenticeship, the apprentice, employer and training provider should consider whether a break in learning would be appropriate (See section above on breaks in learning).

Where apprentices are made redundant, it is our ambition that they will be supported to find alternative employment, and continue their apprenticeship as quickly as possible, and within 12 weeks. We will keep under review whether this 12-week period should be extended.

Apprenticeship funding rules already make provision for apprentices who are made redundant so that, wherever possible, they can continue their apprenticeship and proceed to end-point assessment.

Where an apprentice is made redundant, the training provider must support the apprentice to find another employer. In instances where a significant number of apprentices are made redundant (for example, because a large employer faces difficulties), the ESFA will attempt to provide exceptional practical support to the apprentices and training providers to secure alternative employers for the individuals.

It is hoped that the government’s substantial package of financial support for business will prevent such significant redundancies, but we will keep arrangements under review, and consider whether there are circumstances in which the ESFA may need to provide additional support to apprentices and training providers.

Frequently asked questions and further information

These questions and answers will be updated regularly in line with advice from central government, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE).

Changes to learning and employment

This section covers anything that affects how learning will be conducted, and breaks in learning activity.

  1. If I need to self-isolate, what will happen to my apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships have been designed to be responsive to changes in apprentices’ circumstances, for example during a period of illness. If you need to self-isolate, please talk to your employer and training provider about the best way to continue with your apprenticeship, or report a break in learning.

Options include:

  • an increase in e-learning
  • a short pause of less than 4 weeks in your apprenticeship while you are in self- isolation. This will not affect the planned end-date of your apprenticeship
  • a formal break in learning of 4 weeks or more that your training provider should report to the ESFA. This will result in the planned end-date for your apprenticeship being re-planned, upon returning to learning, to take into consideration the duration in line with the length of your break
  • re-scheduling planned assessment activity for a later date

The appropriate steps will be agreed based on you and your employer/training provider’s situation.

  1. I need to take care of myself/a family member. Can I continue my apprenticeship learning at home?

Yes, this may be possible, depending on your apprenticeship and whether e-learning is available from your training provider. Please check their website or contact them to discuss your options.

  1. My employer is enforcing a work from home policy and my classroom provision has been withdrawn. What are my options?

If you are unable to attend scheduled learning events, there are several options available to you:

  • your training provider may provide digital or distance learning
  • you can take a short pause if it is likely your apprenticeship can resume in less than 4 weeks, and you will still be able to complete your apprenticeship by the planned end-date
  • you can take a formal break in learning of 4 weeks or more, which your training provider should report to the ESFA, and will result in the planned end-date of your apprenticeship being re-planned upon returning to learning, to take into consideration the duration of your break

Please talk to your employer and training provider to agree the appropriate steps for your circumstances.

  1. My employer is asking me to take a period of unpaid leave, what happens to my apprenticeship during that time?

Where you are no longer able to work, but have not been made redundant, you can take a break from your apprenticeship and resume when you return to work. Please get in touch with your training provider who will inform us of a break in learning.

Once you are back at work, you can resume your apprenticeship, which your training provider can help with too. You should refer any queries around terms and conditions, including wages, to your employer in the first instance.

The ACAS website may also be a good source of information.

  1. What happens to the apprentice during a period of unpaid leave in terms of monies. Do they have access to Universal Credit?

Universal Credit may be available for both workers and the unemployed alike, as long as they meet the other conditions of entitlement (including that the applicant and their partner have savings of under £16,000 between them). Apprentices may be entitled to access Universal Credit during a period of unpaid leave. They may also have access to Universal Credit even if they were working and being paid. Being laid off or on a lesser number of hours could increase the rate of Universal Credit entitlement.

Apprentices on unpaid leave may also be eligible for other benefits.

Through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

  1. How do I record progress towards my apprenticeship while I am subject to different working conditions like working from home?

You will already be recording your off-the-job training activity using an approach agreed with your training provider. Please continue to use this in the coming weeks. If your work circumstances change because of COVID-19, so that the minimum 20% off the job cannot be met, you will need to liaise with your employer or training provider to agree a break in learning.

 

 

  1. My employer is laying me off/making me redundant. What happens to my apprenticeship?

Please speak to your training provider, if you are made redundant as your apprenticeship training may be able to continue.,Your training provider may still be able to offer training, based on your circumstances, in the short term. They may even be able to support you in finding a new employer.

  1. If I can’t work/attend training, will I still be paid?

An apprenticeship is a job with training, so even when you are not able to do your training, you are still employed. You will be paid in line with the details in your employment contract.

Where you are unable to work, we suggest speaking to your employer about their polices on pay. The government is providing a range of support to employers to help them retain and pay the wages of employees (including apprentices) during the coming months.

  1. Due to business continuity measures all staff are required to be available at their usual place of work. How can my apprentices continue their learning?

If your apprentices are unable to attend their scheduled learning events, there are several options available to you:

  • apprentices could engage in digital or distance learning at a convenient time within their agreed working hours
  • they could be offered additional on-site mentor support
  • they could take a short pause in their learning of less than four weeks while still completing by their planned end-date
  • they could take a formal break in learning of 4 weeks or more and re-calculate the planned end-date upon their return to learning
  1. I am having to move staff into different and/or business critical roles that aren’t related to their apprenticeship. What happens to their apprenticeship?

It is our goal that apprentices can promptly resume their apprenticeship and continue to successful completion of end-point assessment. Funding rules currently state that a break in learning must be initiated by the apprentice. Employers and training providers can now temporarily also report and initiate a break in learning where the interruption to learning is greater than 4 weeks. This guidance document sets out what employers and training providers need to do when breaks in learning are more or less than 4 weeks, and if that break commences during or after March.

If that move becomes permanent, you should look to see which alternative apprenticeship your apprentice can transfer to at Find Apprenticeship Training and liaise with your training provider in the usual way.

  1. What do I do if I think an apprentice is not well enough to work (especially in a health setting)?

Employers should follow the government’s guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19).

  1. I am a non-levy paying employer recruiting for/having apprentices due to start. Can I still go ahead and reserve funds on the system?

Employers who do not pay the apprenticeship levy are able to reserve apprenticeship funding through the apprenticeship service in line with the published guidance.

  1. What happens to my funding reservation as a non-levy employer, if my apprentice can’t start?

Reservations will expire if they are not turned into a commitment within 3 months of the apprenticeship start date, detailed in the reservation. Where a commitment is needed, and a previous reservation has expired, a new reservation must first be made.

 

  1. Should employers use the ‘Stop’ or ‘Pause’ apprentice facility in the apprenticeship service?

In circumstances related to COVID-19, employers should use the ‘Pause’ function in the service. Employers must only use the ‘Stop’ function when they are certain that training will not resume at any point. Using ‘Pause’ will stop payments temporarily and allow the employer and apprentice to resume the apprenticeship at a later date. We are reviewing options to simplify the process of re-starting apprentices on the service, including to facilitate a transfer to a different apprenticeship or employer in due course.

Changes to assessment

This section covers all questions related to completion of the apprenticeship.

  1. I am on a fixed-term contract, which would ordinarily have given enough time to complete the training and the end-point assessment. If the training is delayed, and I have not completed my EPA before I leave employment, can I do the end-point assessment afterwards?

You should be employed when you are taking your end-point assessment so, where a break in learning has been necessary, and the planned end-date for your apprenticeship has had to move back, please speak to your employer and training provider. We’d expect them to work with you to reschedule your training, which may also include reviewing your apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement. We will keep this under review as the situation evolves.

  1. What will happen if I am not well enough to take my end-point assessment?

If you are unwell, or in a period of self-isolation, and unable to attend your end-point assessment, please contact your training provider as soon as you are able, to allow them maximum time to re-schedule your assessment.

  1. Gateways are being delayed and we cannot complete the end-point assessment in the required time frame. Can we extend the EPA timeframe due to the current disruption?

Apprentices who are deemed ready for assessment, and cannot be assessed due to assessor illness, or Covid-19 related measures, are allowed to take a break before taking their EPA, and for the EPA to be rescheduled.

If the EPA timeframe needs to be extended beyond what is allowed in the assessment plan (where specified), EPAOs are responsible for agreeing extensions to EPA timeframes during the current disruption. EPAOs should work closely with EQAPs to ensure quality of EPA is maintained. For apprentices whose gateway is being delayed, the training provider must report this as a break in learning in the ILR.

DfE coronavirus helpline

Telephone 0800 046 8687 Lines are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm and weekends 10am to 4pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 Support for Businesses, updated 24th March 2020

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:

  • a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
  • a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)
  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
  • a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

Check the business support website for answers to frequently asked questions.

Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.  All UK businesses are eligible.

How to access the scheme

You will need to:

  • designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change – changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation
  • submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required)

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.

If your business needs short term cash flow support, you may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.

Support for businesses through deferring VAT and Income Tax payments

We will support businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months.

For VAT, the deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.  All UK businesses are eligible.

How to access the scheme

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. Businesses will not need to make a VAT payment during this period. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020 to 2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return.

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

We will bring forward legislation to allow small-and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force
  • the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

Eligibility

You are eligible for the scheme if:

  • your business is UK based
  • your business is a small or medium-sized and employs fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020

How to access the scheme

A rebate scheme is being developed. Further details will be provided in due course once the legalisation has passed.

Support for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses that pay business rates

Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

We will introduce a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019 to 2020 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.

Eligibility

You are eligible for the business rates holiday if:

  • your business is based in England
  • your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector

Properties that will benefit from the relief will be occupied hereditaments that are wholly or mainly being used:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
  • for assembly and leisure
  • as hotels, guest & boarding premises and self-catering accommodation

How to access the scheme

There is no action for you. This will apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill automatically to exclude the business rate charge. They will do this as soon as possible.

You can estimate the business rate charge you will no longer have to pay this year using the business rates calculator.

Cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

The Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme provides businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property.

Businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of £15,000 and under will receive a grant of £10,000.

Businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000.

Eligibility

You are eligible for the grant if:

  • your business is based in England
  • your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector

Properties that will benefit from the relief will be occupied hereditaments that are wholly or mainly being used:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
  • for assembly and leisure
  • as hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation

How to access the scheme

You do not need to do anything. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant.

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs and grants should be directed to the relevant local authority.

Find your local authority.

Support for nursery businesses that pay business rates

We will introduce a business rates holiday for nurseries in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

Eligibility

You are eligible for the business rates holiday if:

  • your business is based in England

Properties that will benefit from the relief will be hereditaments:

  • occupied by providers on Ofsted’s Early Years Register
  • wholly or mainly used for the provision of the Early Years Foundation Stage

 

 

How to access the scheme

There is no action for you. This will apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill to exclude the business rate charge. They will do this as soon as possible.

You can estimate the business rate charge you will no longer have to pay this year using the business rates calculator.

Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates

The government will provide additional Small Business Grant Scheme funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

Eligibility

You are eligible if:

  • your business is based in England
  • you are a small business and already receive SBBR and/or RRR
  • you are a business that occupies property

How to access the scheme

You do not need to do anything. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant.

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs and grants should be directed to the relevant local authority.

Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme supports SMEs with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years.

The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to pre-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the government-owned British Business Bank.

There are 40 accredited lenders able to offer the scheme, including all the major banks.

Eligibility

You are eligible for the scheme if:

How to access the scheme

The scheme is now open for applications. All major banks are offering this scheme.

To apply, you should talk to your bank or one of the 40 accredited finance providers (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible, to discuss your business plan. You can find out the latest on the best ways to contact them via their websites. Please note that branches may currently be shut down to enable social distancing.

The full rules of the scheme and the list of accredited lenders are available on the British Business Bank website.

If you have an existing loan with monthly repayments you may want to ask for a repayment holiday to help with cash flow.

Support for larger firms through the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

Under the new Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility, the Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies.

This will support your company if it has been affected by a short-term funding squeeze, and allow you to finance your short-term liabilities.

It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.

Eligibility

All non-financial companies that meet the criteria set out on the Bank of England’s website are eligible.

How to access the scheme

The scheme is now available for applications.

More information is available from the Bank of England.

Support for businesses paying tax: Time to Pay service

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.

These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

Eligibility

You are eligible if your business:

  • pays tax to the UK government
  • has outstanding tax liabilities

How to access the scheme

If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, please call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559.

If you’re worried about a future payment, please call us nearer the time.

Commercial insurance

Most commercial insurance policies are unlikely to cover pandemics or unspecified notifiable diseases, such as COVID-19.

However, those businesses which have an insurance policy that covers government ordered closure and pandemics or government ordered closure and unspecified notifiable disease should be able to make a claim (subject to the terms and conditions of their policy).

Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers.

Notifiable diseases

Notifiable diseases are certain infectious diseases that registered medical practitioners have a statutory duty to notify the ‘proper officer’ at their local council or local health protection team about when they come across a suspected case.

The government keeps an updated list of notifable diseases. On 5 March 2020, the government added COVID-19 to its list of notifiable diseases.

Many insurers use diseases on this list as triggers for the activation or exclusion of insurance cover. For example, insurers’ policies that cover notifiable diseases will typically only cover a specific subset of notifiable diseases (such as Cholera or Anthrax) that the insurer will reference in the policy documentation. These policies will exclude any notifiable disease not on the insurers list, as well as future/unknown diseases (such as COVID-19). The price that the insurer charges for the policy is modelled against the risk posed by this set list of diseases.

Unspecified notifiable diseases

Some businesses will have purchased add-ons for their insurance that cover for ‘unspecified notifiable diseases’. These policies effectively cover any disease listed as a notifiable disease, enabling the business to claim for losses for all notifiable diseases as well as from diseases that are unknown at the point the policy is written.

The effect of the government adding COVID-19 to its list of notifiable diseases is to ensure that businesses with unspecified notifiable disease cover are able to make a claim – subject to the terms and conditions in their policy. For example, someone infected with COVID-19 may need to have been on the premises.

Government ordered closure

The government asked a number of different businesses and venues to remain closed from 21 March onwards.

Insurers have agreed that this advice is sufficient for businesses covered for COVID-19 losses to make a claim (if the only barrier to them making a claim was a lack of clarity on whether the government had ordered businesses to close). As such, intervention by the police or any other statutory body is no longer required to trigger cover in the current circumstances.

However, most businesses’ commercial insurance policies (including for denial of access) are unlikely to offer cover for COVID-19. Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers.

Event coverage

Businesses with event cancellation policies that include unspecified notifiable disease extensions should be able to make a claim for the necessary and unavoidable cancellation, abandonment, curtailment, postponement and disruption of their event for reasons beyond the control of organisers and participants (subject to the other terms and exclusions of their policy).

Insurance for major events is often bespoke to the specific event, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their insurer or broker.

Protection from eviction for commercial tenants

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction.

These measures will mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30 June.

There is the option for the government to extend this period if needed.

This is not a rental holiday. All commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent. Commercial tenants are protected from eviction if they are unable to pay rent.

Eligibility

All commercial tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are eligible.

How to access the scheme

The change will come into force when the Coronavirus Bill receives Royal Assent. No action is required.