Protecting your business

What would you do if you couldn't open or operate your business as normal? Have you got a plan that would enable you to maintain your service and minimise disruption? This is called a business continuity plan (BCP). Many businesses have a BCP which they review and test regularly in case of emegency.

When would you use a BCP?

A BCP aims to help you think about and plan for the actions required during or immediately following an emergency or incident that threatens your normal business. If, for example, a flood, fire or other damage to your setting means that you can't operate as normal, there are things you'd need to be able to do to keep on track. From calling all staff and parents to let them know what's happened, to being able to make arrangements with insurers and regulators to get your business back up and running.

BCP planning is also useful to help protect against other situations where you might be unable to work, for example if you had to have an operation that required a long recovery period. 

COVID-19: Business planning advice for childcarers

Information and advice from the Government on the COVID-19 outbreak is changing on a daily basis. The virus continues to spread extensively and will bring challenges to childcare businesses in the months ahead.

Now is the time to think about the possible impact it could have on your childcare business and how you can plan ahead to reduce the risk to you and to your business.

We’ve put together some guidance to help you in your business planning

Keep calm

First of all, it’s really important to think about your emotional as well as your physical health during this worrying time.

Follow the latest Government advice to reduce your risk from catching the virus, but look after yourself emotionally as well. You may be dealing with a lot of anxiety from children in your setting as well as parents and, of course, any staff you may employ. Try to keep calm, remain level-headed and use whatever stress-relief tactics work best for you. Keeping an eye on the latest news updates is useful but use reliable sources and avoid social media updates that can add to anxiety levels. The best sources of advice are the government, NHS and the Department for Education (in England) in particular.

Prepare your business  

Follow the guidance provided by PACEY to ensure you prioritise the health and safety of your children and staff as well as following government's guidance for employers, educational settings (England) and educational settings (Wales). Cwlwm have published a factsheet to support settings in Wales around Temporary or Emergency Closure of a Childcare or Play setting

Review your business continuity plan and check that it is up to date. Think about the following:

  • Do you have up to date contact details with your staff and parents and can you contact them easily?
  • Do you have access to other staff who can cover if you have an employee who is unwell or in self-isolation? 
  • What essential suppliers, partners and contractors do you depend upon and how are they being affected?
  • Review your finances – do you have access to any savings accounts that might need notice to withdraw funds?
  • Contact your bank if you think you may struggle to pay your mortgage because of the virus - the Government have announced  a three-month repayment holiday for those in financial difficulty.
  • Keep a record of any staff who are ill or having to self-isolate due to COVID-19. The government has stated that it will reimburse any sick pay you pay out from day one and will not require a doctor’s note.

It is always a good idea to review your setting’s risk assessment regularly, however, there is no requirement at present to undertake a separate risk assessment for the coronavirus.

If you offer funded hours, get in touch with your local authority to check what their policy is on paying for funded hours for children who don’t attend your setting as they are unwell, as well as their policy if you or a staff member are unable to look after children.

If you use PACEY contracts, these stipulate that fees are still due if a child is unwell but not if you have to close your setting. If you are using other contracts, check what they specify about sickness and discuss with your parents.

PACEY is in regular contact  with Government in England and Wales about a range of measures that we believe should be taken to support registered childcare settings at this challenging time. DfE in England has confirmed that early years entitlements funding will continue to be paid during any periods of nursery, preschool or childminder closures, or where children cannot attend due to coronavirus (COVID-19). We are continuing to call on the Government to waive business rates for settings that qualify and seeking to ensure that self-employed sole traders like registered childminders are able to access the support that is being put in place to help companies affected by COVID-19. We will keep you updated as we find out more.The Department for Education in England and the Welsh Government are clear from the information PACEY has already provided that COVID-19 is a significant challenge to childcare sustainability.

“The government’s action plan sets out current and possible future measures to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak that are proportionate and based on the latest scientific evidence. They will be continually kept under review and the impact of all measures will be carefully considered.

“We are aware of concerns about the position of childcare and early years providers in the event of any COVID-19-related closures and will work to minimise the impact on individual settings.”

Look after your staff

If you employ staff or a childminding assistant, you have a duty to take steps to ensure their health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable. Remind your staff that they also have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of the children and other adults they work with.

It is likely at this stage that managing your staff’s fears around contracting the virus (alongside those of parents) is the issue of most concern. Check the Government advice regularly and share this with your staff.

Employees' sick pay

If your staff or childminding assistants become unwell due to COVID-19 or have to self isolate because of suspected COVID-19, they will be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP), subject to meeting the qualifying criteria, and will be able to claim SSP from day one without the need for a doctor’s certificate.

You should continue to ensure staff who call in sick to self-certify and clearly state on their certificate that they are in self-isolation for suspected COVID-19. Check ACAS guidance for the latest advice.

If they are self employed, they will be able to apply for Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The Budget set out that this will be available from day one of sickness rather than day eight. ESA is based on national insurance credits and can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit

Ofsted responses to COVID-19

The Secretary of State has allowed Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector to temporarily suspend all routine inspections of schools, further education, early years and social care providers. Urgent inspections where specific concerns have been raised can still go ahead. This will allow Ofsted to prioritise the immediate safety of children where necessary.

Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said:
“I’m grateful for the Secretary of State’s permission to suspend routine inspections. It’s clearly the right thing to do when teachers and social workers are under pressure as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. We all need to support them in their work.

“We will monitor what’s happening across education and social care and we will reserve the right to inspect where we believe the safety of children could be at risk, or we have other serious concerns. We will also continue to register and regulate social care providers, childminders and nurseries, so that these vital services can continue to support children and their families.”

Wales inspectorates responses to COVID-19

CIW have confirmed that routine inspections are suspended with Estyn confirming that inspections and other activities are also suspended until further notice.

New measures set out in Budget to help businesses deal with COVID-19

The Budget on 11 March sent out a package of measures aiming to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on public services, individuals and businesses to ensure the impact of COVID-19 is minimised.

These include:

  • Changes have been made so that you can more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance during the outbreak.
  • Employment and Support Allowance will be payable, at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, for eligible people affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating in line with advice from Day 1 of sickness, rather than Day 8. **PACEY is currently checking whether this applies to sole traders like registered childminders as well as nurseries and pre-schools.**
  • For the duration of the outbreak, the requirements of the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed for those who have COVID-19 or are self-isolating.
  • People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre if they are advised to self-isolate.
  • A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable businesses with a turnover of no more than £41 million to apply for a loan of up to £1.2 million, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees. **PACEY is currently checking whether this applies to sole traders like registered childminders as well as nurseries and pre-schools.**
  • For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full. So it is important to ensure your staff follow your sick certification process and make clear on this that they are self-isolating due to COVID-19.
  • A dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals receive support with their tax affairs. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.
  • There will be a £3,000 cash grant to 700,000 of our smallest businesses, delivered by local authorities, and worth a total of £2 billion. **PACEY is clarifying how childcare business can access this grant and whether micro-businesses and sole traders such as childminders qualify. As soon as we have confirmation, we will update our website.**

Thinking ahead

As the outbreak intensifies, the Government may introduce other measures to reduce the spread of the virus, including school and childcare setting closures. At this stage we don’t know what this will mean for childcare businesses in practice and what support may be available.

This exceptional situation is causing challenges for every sector. You might want to consider forming a temporary partnership with other registered settings to help support families through this crisis. Read more about working in partnership with others.

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