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This week we saw our first report of a Day Nursery closing due to an ‘outbreak’ of the Coronavirus.

We hope this will not be a regular occurrence and we know that the Government aims that employers in the childcare sector will not close even if they operate in an area of very high risk.

In this article I will take you through what the staff implications  are if you have to close the Day Nursery due to Coronavirus.

If there is an outbreak in my setting?

In this situation if you are advised by Public Health to close your setting you will need to comply. Your insurers should be notfiied. Ofsted will already know you have had a positive case. You may find that parents are not prepared to pay for sessions lost when you are closed. Your staff who now cannot go to work are going to be covered by one of the following:

  1. COVID SSP if your staff are required to self isolate because they have come into contact with someone contagious or that they have symptoms themselves then COVID SSP is payable to eligible employees who earn over the Lower Earnings Limit. It is paid from day 1 and you can claim uo to 14 days per employee back from the HMRC. It is worth knowing you can only claim back 14 days per employee.
  2. Lay Off – if you have the contractual clause you can Lay Off staff who you do not have work for. This would be typically used in emergency closure situations such as a fire/flood or similar. Being told to close for 14 days by Public Health would be an emergency closure. You have to pay £30 per day to a worker who you lay off and you can make up to 5 payments. This amounts to £150 for the employee laid off. After that they will need to apply for universal credit from the Job Centre Plus and your letter of Lay off will provide the evidence they need of their situation.
  3. Short Time – if you have the contractual clause you can agree to send the staff home on Short Time Working (doing courses etc) and agree how many days you can pay them for.
  4. Those required to Self Isolate, may be eligible if they are on low incomes to apply for a £500 Coronavirus Support Grant from their Local Authority. This was open for applications from 12 October.  This is paid even if they have had SSP.
  5. You can continue to pay full wages. If you have the funds to do so you can continue to pay their wages as normal.

You will have noticed that I have not mentioned Furlough or the Job Support Scheme which opens on 1st November 2020. At the time of writing this blog we do not have the detail for the Job Support Scheme, which replaces the Job Retention Scheme on 1st November (me thinks that Friday @ 6 p.m.. will be when the Civil Servants will release the detailed guidance!).

However I do not feel that the Job Support Scheme is intended for this. The scheme is very clear that it is there when you have reduced need for work, that the employee will be paid for 1/3 rd of their hours at their normal hourly rate by the employer. We assume this means that the employee will be working 1/3rd of their normal working hours. If you are closed then this is not possible. Also at the time of writing the brief guidance we do have states that employees may not be serving their notice or made redundant whilst they are on the Job Support Scheme.  You may have staff who are already serving notice of redundancy or who are already leaving you. For many the Job Support Scheme is just not as attractive as the alternatives.

Then we have the Job Support Scheme extension guidance, which specifically states “Businesses required to close as a result of specific workplace outbreaks by local public health authorties are not eligible for the scheme.”

My suspicion is that the Government is going to treat the closure of a Nursery on the advice of Public Health as it would have done at any other time in history. No one was paid by the Government when their Day Nursery was closed by Ofsted for breaching the regulations. No one was paid when they were flooded by natural disaster.

From what i have read I believe that that Government do not intend to pay the wages of staff whose employer closes due to the pandemic unless it is in the hospitality sector and its an area of very high risk, or unless its a lockdown again.

If you need any assistance with any aspect of managing your setting through the pandemic, please do not hesitate to call us on 01527 909436.