For the latest medical advice, visit NHS.uk/Coronavirus.
As we face coronavirus, this is clearly a very difficult time for the whole country, but especially for our farmers. Farmers are able to access much of the support available to all businesses. You can find out more about this on the Business Support Page.
Rural Payments Agency
In line with government guidance, the Rural Payments Agency has closed the majority of their offices, with staff working from home. They are fully focused on making sure that vital payments are made to the rural community, and helping customers to submit claims.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
If required, farms can access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This covers 80% of employees wages, up to £2,500 a month. This will run until October. Click here to find out more.
Statutory Sick Pay
Farms with fewer than 250 employers can reclaim Statutory Sick Pay for absence due to coronavirus.
The new quarter VAT payments can be deferred, and no business will pay VAT between now and mid-June.
Furloughed workers from other sectors
Workers from other sectors who have been furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme can work in other sectors, such as Agriculture and Horticulture whilst they are on furlough. Official government guidance has been updated to reflect thus.
Provided there are no existing employment contract restrictions preventing a worker from taking on a second job, they are able to take on new secondary employment for a different employer. Any new employer should complete a starter checklist form and if the employee is furloughed from another employer, Statement C on this form will need completing.
If employees are in the UK and leave expires between 24 January and 31 May, visas will be automatically extended to 31 May 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation. For more information visit the Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents page on Gov.uk.
Checks on new workers
Normally, employers need to carry out in-person document checks to ensure that they have the right to work in the UK as part of the recruitment process. Due to measures in place to deal with coronavirus, this is not always possible.
The government has announced that right to work checks are relaxed during the outbreak, allowing them to be carried out remotely. Click here to find out more. It is important to remember that this is a temporary change.
Drivers and Vehicles
MOT testing of HGVs is suspended for three months starting on 21 March. If an MOT certificate expires during this period vehicle operators can request a Certificate of Temporary Exemption (CTE). Further information on CTE is available here. However, operators of HGVs must continue to ensure that all vehicles are maintained, safe to drive on road and operated within the terms of operator license conditions.
Trailers will be exempt from needing an MOT for 3 months from 21 March 2020. In most cases, your trailer will have been automatically issued a 3-month exemption, and you do not need to do anything. However, you might need to apply for this, if your vehicle fits into one of these categories:
- any vehicle that needs a first MOT (annual test) before 31 March 2020
- a vehicle or trailer returning to service where the test certificate expired before March 2020
- a vehicle needing a dangerous goods (ADR) test before 31 March 2020
You will not receive a paper exemption certificate. Instead, your MOT will be extended by 3 months from its current due date.
You can check your MOT history to see when you have been issued an exemption. It will not be updated straight away so you should check back if the date your MOT is now due has not been updated yet.
Cars, vans and motorcycles:
Cars, vans and motorcycles due an MOT from 30th March to 31st July will have their MOT extended for 6 months. However, vehicles must continue to be kept in roadworthy condition, as drivers can still be prosecuted if driving an unsafe vehicle. Your MOT certificate will not be extended if your vehicle’s MOT expires on or after 1 August 2020, and you must book an MOT as usual.
The government has announced a package of measures to protect residential renters and landlords affected by coronavirus. As a result, no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time.
Recognising the additional pressures the virus may put on residential landlords, the three month mortgage payment holiday will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus. This will alleviate the pressure on residential landlords, who will be concerned about meeting mortgage payments themselves, and will mean no unnecessary pressure is put on their tenants as a result.
At the end of this period, residential landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, considering tenants’ individual circumstances.
Farm Events, training and audits
Farm audits are likely to be suspended for the foreseeable future and reviewed as appropriate. Many organisations are exploring ways of delivering advice and training virtually through webinars and technology, this includes Championing the Farmed Environment, AHDB, Catchment Sensitive Farming, and Natural England. Most farming shows have also been cancelled.
- A number of organisations that run farmer events, including Championing the Farmed Environment, AHDB, Catchment Sensitive Farming and Natural England, are postponing farm events, farm visits and site visits. Many are exploring ways of delivering advice and training virtually through webinars and other technology.
- Relevant providers are reviewing how they deal with the difficulties with restricted travel and obtaining Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points. BASIS have relaxed rules on CPD point collection – more information can be found here.
- LEAF Open Farm Sunday has been postponed - find out more here.
TB testing should only be carried out where it is safe to do so, maintaining a 2-metre distance between vet and farm staff, and between farm staff who do not live together. If it cannot be carried out safely, due to handling systems and/or the stock to be tested, it should be postponed.
Farmers should speak to their vet before a test is due to discuss their individual situation and ability to test safely