Business advice - common questions

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We know the early years sector is understandably extremely worried about the impact of Covid-19 on their families and future sustainability.

We know there are many more questions about how childminders, nurseries and pre-schools will be supported through this outbreak and we're continuing to raise these to government. 

These meetings will continue on a regular basis so we will have the opportunity to raise the questions we receive from our members and the wider sector to try and get clarity on the key issues facing you over the next few months.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends on 31 October and will be replaced by the Job Support Scheme - part of the Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Winter Economy Plan.


What business support is available for childcare providers during this period of disruption?

Business rates relief

The Chancellor has announced that private childcare settings will be eligible for a business rates holiday for one year. That means non-local authority providers of childcare (registered with Ofsted and providing EYFS) will pay no business rates in 2020 to 2021.

Some settings operate from shared spaces which may now benefit from a 100% rates relief. The government strongly encourages those shared spaces to reflect any business rates saving in their rent charges.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme means that for employees who are not working but kept on payroll (furloughed), the government will contribute the majority of each worker’s wages of up to £2,500, backdated to 1 March 2020. The scheme ends on 31 October. We have much more detail on this scheme in the Q and A section below.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme for those who are self-employed or members of a partnership and have lost income due to coronavirus (COVID-19). The scheme allows individuals to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for 3 months. HMRC will contact individuals who are eligible and invite them to apply online.

For the self-employed (including childminders), the minimum income floor will also be temporarily relaxed, meaning Universal Credit can be accessed at a rate to match statutory sick pay (SSP).

Applications for a second, and final, grant for the self-employed opened in August. The grant will be paid out in a single instalment covering three months' worth of average monthly profits at 70%, up to a total of £6,750.

On 24 September, as part of his Winter Economy Plan, the Chancellor announced that the Self Employment Income Support Scheme grant worth 20% of average monthly profits (up to a total of £1,875) will be available as a lump sum to cover November to the end of January 2021.

A second grant, which "may be adjusted to respond to changing circumstances", will cover the period from February to April 2021.

Self-employed Income Scheme: How HMRC works out your total income and trading profits

Small Business Grant and Discretionary Grants Scheme

Small business grants

Childcare providers in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief are eligible for small business grant funding of £10,000. The Department for Education has confirmed that this does not include providers in receipt of charitable status relief.

Discretionary Grants Scheme

Small and micro businesses with fixed property costs that are not eligible for the Small Business Grant Fund may be eligible for the Discretionary Grants Scheme - a grant of £25,000, £10,000 or any amount under £10,000.

You’re potentially eligible if your business:

— is based in England

— has fewer than 50 employees

— has fixed building costs such as rent

— was trading on 11 March 2020

— has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus

Local authorities are being asked to prioritise a range of small businesses for the grant including those in shared offices or other flexible workspaces, and charity properties getting charitable business rates relief, which are not eligible for small business rates relief or rural rate relief.

Read the guidance on the Small Business Grant 

Read the guidance on the Discretionary Grants Fund

Other support
  • The Business Interruption Loan Scheme will now be interest-free for 12 months, an increase from six months.
  • VAT payments due with VAT returns between now and the end June 2020 will be deferred. UK VAT registered businesses will not need make those payments until March 2021.
  • The business secretary announced on 28 March 2020 that he will make changes to enable UK companies undergoing a rescue or restructure process to continue trading to help them avoid insolvency. This includes temporarily suspending wrongful trading provisions retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for 3 months for company directors so they can keep their business going without the threat of personal liability.
  • Working tax credit has been increased by £1,000 a year.
  • The government has also announced a £20 per week increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit basic element and an increase in the Local Housing Allowance rates for Universal Credit and Housing Benefit claimants so that it covers the cheapest third of local rents.
  • Charity Bank is offering a Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund. The fund has been expanded and improved to make more loans to charities and social enterprises affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It offers maximum loans of £1.5m (minimum still £100k). Loans are interest-free and fee-free for the first 12 months and are available via a fast application process. Find out more here.
NEW! Job Support Scheme

On 24 September Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new scheme to replace the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme when it closes at the end of October. 

The new Job Support Scheme is intended to help protect 'viable jobs' in businesses facing lower demand over the winter months as a result of the pandemic, by topping up the wages of employees working less hours than normal.

Under the scheme, eligible employees will be paid for two-thirds of any hours that they are not able to work, split evenly between the government and their employer. This means that employees will receive at least 77% of their normal pay under the scheme.

How does it work in practice?

So, for example, if someone was earning £1,500 a month normally, but now only working a third of their normal hours, they would get paid by their employer for the hours they are currently working (£500) - and then under the scheme, the government and the employer would then also both pay a third of the rest of the pay the employee would have normally been receiving (so in this example, a third of £1000 i.e. £333 from the government and £333 from their employer).

This means that this employee would receive £500 (hours worked) + £333 from the government (a third of 'lost' pay) + £333 from their employer (another third of 'lost' pay), so £1,166 in total.

The scheme launches on 1 November and will run for six months.

To be eligible, employees must be earning at working at least 33% of their normal hours, and the level of government grant available will be capped at £697.92 a month.

All small and medium-sized enterprises will be eligible for the scheme, while large businesses will be required to demonstrate that their business has been adversely affected by Covid-19.

What happens if my business has to close due to coronavirus restrictions?

At the beginning of October, the Chancellor has announced an expansion to the Job Support Scheme that will pay up to two-thirds of staff wages for businesses forced to close by coronavirus restrictions.

The scheme will cover up to £2,100 a month in wages, with employers expected to cover national insurance and pension contributions.

The scheme will open on 1 November 2020 and will remain open for six months, although it will be reviewed in January 2021.

Employees will need to be furloughed for a minimum of seven consecutive days to access the scheme. Employers will be paid monthly in arrears.

The Chancellor also announced the start of a new policy offering businesses closed by coronavirus restrictions cash grants of up to £3,000 a month, depending on the rateable value of their premises. These grants will not need to be repaid.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak commented: “Throughout the crisis the driving force of our economic policy has not changed. I have always said that we will do whatever is necessary to protect jobs and livelihoods as the situation evolves.

“The expansion of the Job Support Scheme will provide a safety net for businesses across the UK who are required to temporarily close their doors, giving them the right support at the right time.”

 

You can read more about the Job Support Scheme here.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Furlough Leave and Related Employment Matters

What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a scheme where employers can apply for a grant to cover a proportion of usual monthly salary costs of furloughed employees. Furloughed employees are employees who are still employed but are not currently working.

The grant, which does not need to be repaid, will be a maximum of £2,500 a month per employee, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that salary. Fees, commissions and bonuses are not included.

Settings can apply for grant to cover wages as of 1 March 2020. Each grant amount will be based on the employee’s actual salary before tax as of 28 February.

Why has the scheme been introduced?

The scheme is designed to minimise the need for redundancies (because of provision closures or a downturn in business) during the coronavirus outbreak. It introduces a new concept of employees being furloughed and kept on the payroll. 

If a staff member’s wage varies from month to month, how will the scheme work?

If an employee has worked at a setting for at least 12 months before a claim is made, but their pay varies, employers can claim for a grant based on whichever is the higher of: the same month's earning from the previous year (e.g. earnings from March 2019); or average monthly earnings in the 2019-20 tax year.

If the employee has been employed for less than a year, the employer can claim for an average of their monthly earnings since they started work.

How long will the scheme run?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will end on 31 October 2020.

From July: 

From 1 July, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim CJRS grant for the hours not worked.

The government will continue to pay 80% of employee wages, including national insurance and employer pensions contributions in July. Employers will be able to bring employees back to work for any number of times and for any shift pattern ('Flexible furlough'). For example, an employee could be brought back for two days a week, with the furlough scheme covering the other three.

The first time you will be able to make claims for days in July will be 1 July, you cannot claim for periods in July before this point.

31 July is the last day that you can submit claims for periods ending on or before 30 June.

For August:

From 1 August 2020, the level of grant will be reduced each month.

For August, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 for the hours an employee is on furlough and employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions for the hours the employee is on furlough.

For September:

The government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages 10% to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for the time they are furloughed.

For October:

For October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages 20% to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for time they are furloughed.

On 31 October, the Job Retention Scheme will close and will be replaced by the Jobs Support Scheme.

Which employers is the scheme open to?

The scheme is open to all UK employers (small or large, charitable or private) that had created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on 28 February 2020.

What’s the minimum period that a staff member can be placed on furlough leave?

Government guidance states that as of  1 July, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any work pattern, while still being able to claim the grant for the hours not worked.

Which employees are eligible?

Employees on the PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020 and which were notified to HMRC on an RTI submission (real-time information submission) on or before 19 March 2020.

The employee can be on any type of contract, including: full-time employees part-time employees employees on agency contracts employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts.

To be eligible for the subsidy, an employee cannot undertake work for or on behalf of their setting while on furlough leave. This includes providing services or generating revenue. 

If you made employees redundant, or they stopped working for you on or after 28 February 2020, you can re-employ them, put them on furlough and claim for their wages through the scheme. This applies to employees that were made redundant or stopped working for you after 28 February, even if you do not re-employ them until after 19 March. This applies as long as the employee was on your payroll as at 28 February.

More updated guidance on who is eligible here.

Can early years staff on reduced hours benefit from the scheme?

For claim periods up to 30 June if an employee is working, but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, they will not be eligible for this scheme.

For claim periods starting after 1 July, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim the grant for the hours not worked. 

What if members of staff are self-isolating or are sick?

Government guidance states that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness, and that if an employee is on sick leave or self-isolating as a result of coronavirus, they may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay.

However, the guidance also states that if an employer wants to furlough an employee for business reasons and they are currently off sick, they are eligible to do so, as with other employees. In these cases, the employee should no longer receive sick pay and would be classified as a furloughed employee. Employers can furlough employees who are on long-term sick leave.

Employers can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the SSP rebate scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time.

What about staff shielding in line with public health guidance?

Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough. Shielding is required for people, including children, who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) accessing the provision. It’s also for their family, friends and carers.

What about staff on unpaid leave?

If an employee started unpaid leave after 28 February 2020, their employer would have been eligible to put them on furlough instead as long as they did this by 10 June for a minimum period of at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June. 

If an employee went on unpaid leave on or before 28 February, their employer would not have been able to furlough them until the date on which it was agreed they would return from unpaid leave. 

What about a change in ownership and employees who have transferred under TUPE?

A new employer is eligible to claim under the Scheme in respect of the employees of a previous business transferred after 28th February 2020 if either the TUPE or PAYE business succession rules apply to the change in ownership.

Read more guidance on TUPE rules.

Read more guidance on business succession.

Will employees continue to accrue service and annual leave?

Employees will remain on the payroll and therefore continue to accrue continuous service and their annual leave. Settings are obligated to ensure that staff are entitled to the statutory annual leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks. Where enhanced annual leave is provided any variation will normally need to be agreed. Settings should review their contracts and Alliance members can obtain legal advice from the free member legal advice service Law-Call. 

What if an employee has more than one job? 

Both employers will be able to make a claim under the scheme. The percentage wage cap (80% in July and August, 70% in September and 60% in October)  applies to each employer. 

Can an employee work while on furlough leave?

A staff member of furlough leave can take part in volunteer work as long as it is for another employer or organisation.

Furloughed employees can take part in training for their childcare setting, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of, the setting. However, if employees are required to, for example, complete online training courses whilst they are on furlough leave, then they must be paid at least the National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.

If staff have already been put on short-term hours working, can this now be converted this to furlough leave?

If staff have already been put on short-term hours working, can this now be converted this to furlough leave?

If employees have already put staff on short-time working on reduced pay, then employers should be able to vary this arrangement so that staff can benefit from the grant payment.

A short term contract must be for a fixed duration and will come to an end once the end date is reached or, if the contract is for a specific task, when the task is complete. Specific advice should be sought from a legal advisor or helpline. Alliance members can contact Law-Call, the 24-hour legal helpline. 

What information will settings need to make a claim?

To claim, employers will need:

their ePAYE reference number

the number of employees being furloughed

the claim period (start and end date)

amount claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of three weeks)

their bank account number and sort code

their contact name

their phone number.

HMRC has stated that it will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of the claim.

Can a setting make more than one claim?

Employers can only submit one claim every three weeks. 

When will the HMRC online claims portal be open?

The new online claims system is expected to be ready by the end of April 2020. 

What is the Job Retention Bonus?

The Job Retention Bonus is a financial incentive scheme announced by the government in July 2020 which aims to encourage employers to keep on furloughed employees after the Job Retention Scheme finishes at the end of October 2020. Employer will receive a one-off payment of £1,000 for every employee who they have previously claimed for under the Job Retention Scheme as long as they remain continuously employed with them until at least 31 January 2021.

To be eligible, employees must earn at least  £520 a month on average between 1 November 2020 and 31 January 2021. 

More information is available here [https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/job-retention-bonus/job-retention-bonus].

 

Update on early entitlement funding (24 July 2020)

The Department for Education has shared its plans for early entitlement funding for the autumn term 2020 and beyond.

The guidance states that local authority funding for the 2020 autumn term will be based on the January 2020 census data. The DfE says that this is in recognition of the fact the number of children attending settings may not have returned to normal levels by January 2021.

From the autumn term local authorities will be expected to continue funding providers who are open "at the levels they would have expected to see in the 2020 autumn term had there been no coronavirus outbreak".

They should also continue to fund providers which have been advised to close, or "left with no option but to close, due to public health reasons". Local authorities are not expected to fund providers which are closed "without public health reason".

The DfE intends to fund settings "as if autumn term 2020 were happening normally". To do this, local authorities should use the numbers of children in places in the previous autumn term to inform funding levels this autumn.

In "exceptional circumstances" local authorities will be able to "redirect early years dedicated schools grant from providers that are closed" to ensure that there is childcare available for key worker families and vulnerable children.

The DfE guidance also encourages local authorities to consider increasing the frequency of payments to providers from termly to monthly to allow for adjustments as providers reopen.

The government expects to return to the normal process for early years funding in January 2021.

The full guidance can be found here


The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and ‘free entitlement funding’

Government guidance - Coronavirus (COVID-19): financial support for education, early years and children’s social care - states that private early years providers should only furlough employees through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if the following conditions are met:

  • the employee works in an area of business where services are temporarily not required and where their salary is not covered by public funding
  • the employee would otherwise be made redundant or laid off
  • the employee is not involved in delivering provision that has already been funded (free entitlement funding)
  • (where appropriate) the employee is not required to deliver provision for a child of a critical worker and/or vulnerable child
  • the grant from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would not duplicate other public grants received, and would not lead to financial reserves being created.

It adds that where it is not clear if a staff is funded through 'free entitlement' funding or private income then "an early years provider can access the Job Retention Scheme to cover up to the proportion of its paybill which could be considered to have been paid for from that provider’s private income".

For providers who have not seen any private income return (for example, providers who are still closed), if they receive 40% of their income from government funding, and 60% from other income, the provider can only claim Job Retention Scheme support for up to 60% of their paybill. The guidances states that "this would be done by furloughing staff whose usual salary / combined salaries come to no greater than 60% of the provider’s total paybill". This calculation would be based on the setting's February 2020 income.

 Read the full guidance.

The guidance states:

"If a provider’s average monthly income is 40% from DSG and 60% from other income, the provider could claim CJRS support for up to 60% of their paybill.

"This would be done by furloughing staff whose usual salary / combined salaries come to no greater than 60% of the provider’s total paybill."

This means that, for instance, if a provider in this example had a monthly wage bill of £10,000, they would only be able to claim Job Retention Scheme support for up to £6000 worth of wages, meaning the maximum support they could receive from government would be £4800 (80% of £6000).

However, if providers have seen some of their private income return as a result of reopening more widely, this needs to be factored into their Job Retention Scheme claim. More information is available in the Alliance’s FAQs specifically on the Job Retention Scheme and Early Entitlement Funding.


Implementing furlough leave

How should I select which staff to place on Furlough Leave and which staff to continue working?

You must be careful not to discriminate when deciding who you will offer Furlough Leave to. The Equality Act and the duty to consider the health and safety of individuals will still apply. You should consider the following key points when taking the decision:

the business needs of the organisation (i.e. which roles are critical)

if staff roles are identical you could ask for volunteers

rotate Furlough Leave amongst employees complying with the minimum three week period (subject to clarification)

health or other relevant circumstances of individuals (place those at risk on Furlough Leave first)

ensure that sufficient staff are in place to carry on operating.

 

This is not an exhaustive list. 

You should record the reason for your decision and clearly communicate this to staff in an open and transparent manner. 

What process do I need to go through to Furlough staff on 80% of their salaries?

You should make sure any process followed is fair and involves consultation with each employee affected. Furlough Leave should not be unilaterally imposed without written consent. In seeking to agree a temporary variation to the contract to place an employee on Furlough Leave, consideration must be given to the following practical steps: 

  • check the employment contracts for staff (including short term layoff clauses, consultation requirements and notice periods for changes)
  • discuss the business case for the change with the employee
  • where there is no provision in the contract to reduce pay, you are required to obtain written consent; (you may be able to impose a reduction in pay in line with the relevant clause within the contract of employment – however, you will still need to deal with the matter appropriately, proportionately and sensitively
  • you must ensure that the employee's consent was not obtained by duress and that your communications are propionate and reasonable
  • where a trade union is recognised for collective bargaining purposes, the trade union should be consulted
  • place staff on Furlough Leave from an agreed date if you do not have enough work for them or are closing the setting
  • confirm and obtain agreement in writing with affected staff 
  • inform staff that you will keep them updated.

 

Employment law requirements including consultation obligations and timescales will apply. However, this will be a challenge given the pandemic. Consequently, you should take legal guidance. Alliance members can obtain support from the free legal helpline Law-Call in our member area. 

In these extreme circumstances, employees (and any trade unions) may agree to a period of Furlough Leave because the alternative is likely to be redundancies. Where there is no provision in the contract to reduce pay, and the setting is unable to obtain agreement from the employees, then you should obtain legal guidance. 

Do we have to top up the pay of a worker on Furlough Leave to 100%?

The guidance makes it clear that this is the employer’s choice and is not compulsory. The decision may depend on the financial circumstances of the setting or organisation as a whole. However, there will need to be a clause in the contract to allow for a reduction of pay in these circumstances. Otherwise written agreement will be required from the employees. Specific legal advice should be sought, if settings intend to apply this top up to only certain groups of staff as this could lead to direct or indirect discrimination.

We cannot afford to top up our staff pay to 100% during Furlough Leave, what other support is available?  

Employees, whose income has fallen, may be eligible for other government support such as universal credit, or housing benefit. They may also be eligible for a three-month mortgage holiday.

What process do I need to go through to Furlough staff on 100% of their salaries?

It is unlikely to be a breach of contract to place an employee on Furlough Leave (without their agreement) provided you pay them their full pay, and deal with the matter appropriately, proportionately and sensitively.

This will include:

  • discussing the business case with your employees
  • placing staff on Furlough Leave from an agreed date if you do not have enough work for them or are closing the setting
  • confirming in writing
  • informing staff that you will keep them updated.
Will an employee be entitled to their contractual benefits and to accrue annual leave during Furlough Leave?

Employees will be entitled to continue to receive all of the non-discretionary benefits of their contract, including the right to accrue annual leave, unless they expressly agree to waive these. Statutory holiday, 5.6 weeks per annum and minimum auto enrolment pension contributions cannot be waived and must therefore continue. Where you are seeking to agree to vary any terms and conditions during Furlough Leave you should obtain legal advice.

What decisions will the setting need to make if there is an ongoing financial impact of the pandemic?

Settings will need to decide whether to continue operating or to close. This will be a decision for settings based on their individual business and financial circumstances. Whatever course of action is chosen, employment law requirements must be followed. 

 I issued staff with notice of redundancy last week, can I re-employ then and place them on Furlough Leave?

Anybody who was on the payroll on 28 February 2020 and has since been made redundant can be rehired and put on the scheme with their agreement. Members should take legal advice from the free legal advice service, Law-Call, to ensure that they follow an appropriate process that will enable them to claim from the scheme.  

Does Furlough leave apply to Casual Workers?

Technically no. However, you will need to consider the work pattern of individuals to understand whether they are truly casual workers. Further clarification should be sought from your legal advice service.  

Can staff be furloughed multiple times?

Employers can place staff on furlough more than once – and one period can follow straight after an existing one. The minimum length of a furlough period is three weeks. 

Employers will be able to bring employees back to work for any number of times and for any shift pattern ('Flexible furlough'). For example, an employee could be brought back for two days a week, with the furlough scheme covering the other three.

To introduce this scheme, the government is closing the old Job Retention Scheme to new entrants on 30 June. Employers wanting to place new employees onto the scheme will need to do so by 10 June.

From 1 July, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant for the hours not worked.

Can I ask furloughed staff to complete tasks remotely?

You cannot ask staff to do work for your setting once they have been furloughed. Staff can volunteer to do some tasks for your setting – but they cannot do anything that creates revenue or provides a service.

This means that staff may be able to volunteer to complete essential training courses remotely or stay in touch with families by posting information on Facebook, for example.

However, they cannot be asked to complete tasks such as providing lesson plans to parents or remotely offering services such as story time via Skype.

The intention is that staff will no longer be doing their job while on furlough.

If they are required to do any training courses or other services, they will need to be paid the National Living or National Minimum Wage for any time spent on this – even if this means that they are paid a higher rate than they would be through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

 

Ofsted

You can keep up to date with any updates from Ofsted here.

What should I do if my setting is due to have an Ofsted inspection during the outbreak? 

Ofsted has temporarily suspended all routine inspections due to the outbreak, and intend to resume full inspections in January 2021, and are keeping the exact timing under review.

However, Ofsted has confirmed that it will be carrying out a phased return to inspection, starting with an interim period of visits during the autumn term. Its guidance states: 

“From September 2020 we will begin carrying out regulatory activity in providers that have been judged inadequate or requires improvement and have associated actions to fulfil.

“Inspectors will look at what action leaders and managers have taken since the last inspection. In these visits, inspectors will confirm whether the safeguarding and welfare requirements of the early years foundation stage (EYFS) are met. Currently, the DfE has disapplied the learning and development requirements until 25 September 2020.

“Visits will not result in an inspection grade, but inspectors can use regulatory or enforcement actions if appropriate.

“We will publish an outcome summary after a visit, confirming whether a provider has improved and is meeting the requirements of EYFS.”

If we are struggling with staff absences can we relax staff ratios?

Ofsted has advised the Alliance that the EYFS section 3:30 allows for the relaxation of ratios in exceptional circumstances, and where the quality of care and safety and security of children is maintained, changes to the ratios may be made. As the coronavirus outbreak is an exceptional circumstance, there is no need to notify Ofsted to minor changes to ratios. However, no official guidance is yet available on this. We are in contact with Ofsted and will provide an update to the sector as soon as formal guidance becomes available.

What should we be communicating with Ofsted?

Ofsted wants providers to let them know if you are opening or temporarily closing.

Ofsted has been working with the DfE and local authorities to find out which early years providers, including childminders, are currently open or temporarily closed, to see there is sufficient and accessible childcare in place to support vulnerable children.

Ofsted may contact providers to ask you about your setting and plans for the future.

Please check that this email comes from an @ofsted.gov.uk address before responding as soon as you can.

If your operating circumstances do change (you open or close), notify Ofsted by sending an email to enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk with ‘Change in operating hours’ in the subject field. In the body of the email, please confirm the unique reference number for each setting and the details of the change.

You can find your URN on your registration, your inspection report and on your Ofsted reports page.

Will Ofsted publish the report of my recent inspection?

Ofsted had said that they would publish those reports only when providers reopen as normal for all children. However they are now writing to all providers with reports in the pipeline to ask whether they would like their report published as soon as possible. If they say yes, Ofsted will publish their report shortly.

Can I delay payment of my Ofsted fees?

Ofsted invoices for annual fees issued from 3 April 2020 will now have a due date of 30 September 2020, so that you have freedom to delay your payment during this time. Your annual fee date will not change.

 

Other questions

If parents' income changes due to the impact of Covid-19, are they still eligible for the 30 hours entitlement?

Parents who are normally eligible for the government’s childcare offers will continue receiving the entitlements during the summer term if their income levels fall due to the impact of coronavirus.

The Government has announced that any working parent usually eligible for 30 hours free childcare or Tax-Free Childcare will remain eligible if they fall below the minimum income requirement due to COVID-19. Subject to Parliamentary approval, parents who are critical workers will also remain eligible for these entitlements if their income has increased over the maximum threshold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the guidance here

Can I delay paying my fees to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)?

If your renewal date is coming up and you are unable to pay your fees please get in touch with their registration department as soon as possible, so that they can make a note against their registration and see if they are able to stop the payment being taken, if you pay by direct debit. Once the current situation is over, the ICO will contact you to seek payment and it will be back-paid to your original renewal date.


Finally…

Our FAQs are not an exhaustive list of points for consideration. This is a new and fast-changing situation for providers and the wider sector.  For this reason, you should seek legal advice (Alliance members can access free legal advice as part of their membership, contact details are available in the members’ area).

We are also seeking further clarification from the DfE on a number of areas to ensure we are completely clear about implications for employers and employees. We will continually update these FAQs on our website as new information or further guidance is made available. 

While many employers will be pragmatic, we know that they will work hard to protect the interests of their employees. 

Any employer should be aware that if they fail to follow employment law requirements, their actions could potentially result in employment claims.


Guidance for Alliance members

Alliance members have free access to Furlough Leave template letters in the Members’ Area.


Government financial support 

 The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Coronavirus (COVID-19): financial support for education, early years and children’s social care

Use of free early education entitlements funding during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Self-employment Income Support Scheme

(Self-employed Income Scheme: How HMRC works out your total income and trading profits)

Small Business Grant 

Business rates: Nursery discount

Covid 19: Support for businesses


Useful template letters and resources

Download: Early entitlement funding and the Job Retention Scheme: an Early Years Alliance summary

Download: To parents re partial closures and eligibility as a key worker 

Download: Guidance on prioritising places for vulnerable children and children of key workers 

Download:  Prioritising places - risk assessment tool


 

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