Coronavirus guidance: What early years practitioners need to know

With new guidance being issued for self-employed people and updates on the job retention scheme, here’s a summary and links to official information to keep you up to date.

Early years guidance 
This guidance is on the role of the early years sector under the Coronavirus Act 2020. This became law on 25 March 2020. The bill means the Government has powers to close and keep open early years education settings and schools.

This guidance says:
Childcare settings expected to stay open to care for vulnerable children and children of key workers until further notice. Vulnerable children do not include those on free school meals, those in receipt of EYPP, or those receiving the two-year-old entitlement.

Settings are asked to be ‘as flexible as possible’ for critical workers who work shifts.

Settings are expected to share resources and even staff with other settings, including childminders, in cases where there is high demand for places or severe staff shortages.

Local authorities are responsible for coordinating a response to the new arrangements. Working with educational settings, they should use the critical worker list and the definition of vulnerable children to support childcare settings to ensure that there are sufficient places for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

Free entitlement funding will continue even for settings which are closed or unable to attend due to coronavirus.

Childcare providers can continue to charge parents during coronavirus-related closures but are ‘urged to be reasonable and balanced, given the great uncertainty [parents] will be facing too.’

Ratios set out in the EYFS can be changed if necessary. However, childcare providers or schools remain responsible for ensuring the safety and security of children in their care.

The EYFS profile has been cancelled for this year.

Paediatric first aid certificates expiring on or after 16 March 2020 can be extended by up to three months.
Full guidance here

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme  (First published 20 March, updated 26 March 2020)
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme open to all UK employers for at least three months, starting from 1 March 2020. It is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).

Employers can contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of their workforce who remain on payroll but are temporarily not working during the coronavirus outbreak, the Government has advised.

The Government said it would pay up to 80% of a worker’s wages, up to a total of £2,500 per worker each month.

This is a grant, not a loan. It is reimbursed to the employer.

The Government will cover the employer national insurance and minimum auto-enrolment pension scheme contributions employers pay, on top of the wages covered under the scheme.

Employers must designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers’, and notify 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.

Employers must submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal, expected to be available at the end of April.

To be eligible, furloughed employees must have been on PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020.

Employees can be on any type of contract, including full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero-hours. But if an employee is working on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, they will not be eligible for this scheme.

People made redundant after 28 February can be re-employed and placed on furlough.

Currently furlough leave lasts for workers for a minimum of three weeks.  Nothing in the guidance prohibits rotating furlough leave with weeks of work. During furlough leave staff can carry out volunteer work without ending it.

HMRC will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of a claim.
Full guidance here

With input from Hannah Belton, director of legal firm Morgan LaRoche

Business rates 
Nurseries in England which pay business rates will have a 12-month business rate holiday for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. No action is required. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill to provide this support and will do this ‘as soon as possible’, the Government said.

An additional Small Business Grant of £10,000 will be made available to small businesses that claim small business rate relief (SBRR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief.

You can estimate the business rate charge using the business rates calculator.

Further guidance for local authorities is available in the nursery discount guidance.

Full guidance here

 Support for business through cornavirus interruption loan scheme 
A scheme supporting SMEs with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and will be interest-free for 12 months. Read here

VAT deferral scheme 
The Government will support businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for three months.

If you’re a UK VAT registered business and have a VAT payment due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, you have the option to defer the payment until a later date, or pay the VAT due as normal. Read here

Support for self-employed people 
Self-employed workers or partnerships that have had a loss of income due to the coronavirus can apply for a grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits over the past three years. It is capped at £2,500 a month.

The scheme is unlikely to start to start before June.

Initially, the scheme will run for three months. The money will be a single lump sum payment.

It is available to those who were trading in the last financial year, still trading now, and planning to continue doing so this year.

Various eligibility criteria apply. For example, claimants must have a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19, and more than half their income needs to come from self-employment.

The minimum income floor will be temporarily relaxed. This means Universal Credit can be accessed at a rate to match statutory sick pay. Read full guidance here

Changes to benefit eligibility
This gives information about coronavirus and claiming benefits. It will continue to be updated. You need to check this page regularly for updates on the arrangements the Department for Work and Pensions is making to assist people who are affected by coronavirus. Read guidance here

For health information and advice see the NHS pages on coronavirus

Social distancing guidance
The Department for Education (DFE) issued further guidance for settings about the supply of Personal Protective Equipment to settings that require it. Childcare settings ‘may face additional costs as a result of coronavirus. ‘We will put in place a new process that allows us to reimburse schools for exceptional costs that they face as a result,’ the guidance said.
Read full guidance here


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