COVID-19: Advice for tradespeople
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This guide was updated on 5/11/20 to reflect the new restrictions in England
On November 5th, 2020, England has entered a second lockdown to help combat the spread of coronavirus, while many areas of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also under various restrictions.
During this time, the government has said that tradespeople should continue working during this lockdown, which is due to continue until 2nd December 2020.
It has issued its latest range of guidance on working in people’s homes safely during this time, which can be found here.
Additional support for the self-employed has also been announced, which you can read more about on our financial advice page.
Note: the following advice in this article may have changed since it was originally published
Original article published March 2020
The UK government has said that tradespeople can carry out essential repairs and maintenance in people’s homes, providing they are well and have no symptoms.
No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild, or when someone in their own household has symptoms.
The UK government has issued some guidance tailored for tradespeople which you can read here as well as detailed guidance on the specific steps tradespeople should take to work safely which you can read here.
The government is offering testing to workers from specific occupations who think they have coronavirus symptoms, including construction workers and emergency plumbers. You can find out about getting tested here.
If this advice changes we will aim to update this page as quickly as we can, otherwise check the current UK government guidance directly.
Help for the self-employed
The Chancellor has pledged support for self-employed workers in the form of a taxable grant of up to £2,500 per month. The Coronavirus Self-employment Income Support Scheme will be available to the self-employed or partnerships for three months in one lump-sum payment from the beginning of June. More details are available here.
If you’re an employer
If you run your own company with salaried employees, the government announced that you’ll be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the UK government - up to two weeks for each employee taking sick leave due to COVID-19. The UK government also announced that it will provide grants to cover up to 80% of the salary of retained workers, up to a value of £2,500 a month. More details are available here.
If you have a business property
If you run your trade business from an office or workshop and claim Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief, new funding will be available to local authorities, giving a £10,000 grant to help meet ongoing business costs. Businesses in some sectors such as hospitality and retail will be given a business rate holiday and access to larger grants, but at the moment this will not apply to trade businesses.
Other financial help
You’ll be eligible to claim contribution-based ESA if you are unable to work if you have paid class 1 National Insurance contributions. For self-employed people this would not apply as sole traders can only pay Class 2 or Class 4 contributions, depending on profit levels. For self-employed tradespeople the most applicable financial safety net is Universal Credit.
The minimum income floor for Universal Credit is being removed for the time being. If you’ve been running your business for a year or more, the government works out your claim based on your average earnings - if you earned over a certain amount, you would receive less credit. Removing this minimum income floor means some claimants will get extra money to make up lost earnings.
The Universal Credit standard allowance will also be increased for the next 12 months by £1,000 a year.
For more detailed advice about financial support available, read our Financial support during the COVID-19 pandemic advice guide.
Help with personal finances
If you’re concerned about paying your mortgage or keeping up with loan repayments, contact your lender as soon as possible - the government has said that lenders will allow three-month “mortgage holidays” where you won’t have to pay your mortgage, with the sum added to the rest of your term. This won’t affect your credit score. Banks are also open to waiving fees for missed payments and cutting charges for accessing savings in fixed-term accounts.
There will also be a £500m Hardship Fund to support people with council tax, distributed by local authorities.
At the moment, no specific help has been offered for renters, though the UK government has said it will bring forward laws that will protect private renters from eviction.
If you're self-employed, your next self-assessment payments will be deferred until January 2021.
The next quarter of VAT payments is also being deferred to help businesses retain staff. No businesses will have to pay VAT from now until the middle of June, and you'll have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills.
The UK government has set up a dedicated helpline for self-employed people and businesses. Based on your current circumstances, they may be able to assist with setting up installment plans for payments, suspending debt collection and cancelling penalties. The helpline will be open from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, and 8am to 4pm on Saturdays, with 2,000 call handlers available. You can reach it on 0800 0159 559.
Dealing with non-payment
If a customer has not paid for completed work you have the option of bringing a small claim action. You will first need to submit a letter before action. This is a ‘shot across the bows’ and gives your customer an opportunity to settle your outstanding invoice.
If the customer fails to respond, you can move to serving the relevant paperwork. Importantly, a non-response by a customer will not sit well with a judge. You can also claim the cost of the action and interest at the standard county court rate of 8% per annum. A template letter can be found here.
You can also start a claim online if the claim is only a money claim.
If you are not working or you are on a low income, you may be able to get a ‘fee remission’ which means you will not have to pay to begin the claim and for any applications made during the course of the proceedings before the main hearing (called interlocutory applications).
MyBuilder will remain open, but in line with UK government advice our office staff are working from home, and like many other businesses, many of us will be juggling childcare with work over the coming weeks. We might not always be able to respond to enquiries as quickly as we’d like, so please only get in touch with urgent queries so we can help those who need it most.
We know homeowners are keen to support local businesses, like tradespeople, wherever they can, and that some jobs will need to be done regardless of what else is going on. Similarly, many people at home will be posting jobs to be done in future, so you can fill your calendar in the months ahead. MyBuilder has always been designed to be flexible, so you’re able to manage your work in line with how busy you are.
We’ll update this guide with any more useful advice as it comes up.