The COVID-19 resource centre for rail businesses
COVID-19OnePlace is designed to give you one stop access to the latest information on COVID-19-related issues and news for the rail industry.
This compiles the latest Government, Public Health England and industry guidelines in an easily digestible format which will update when further information becomes available. This page also includes the latest Coronavirus-related rail news.
Additionally, a FREE directory for our rail industry colleagues is available below to share what your business is doing during this challenging period. We want everyone to impart good practice and learning experiences as we keep the railway community communicating positively and proactively.
We’ll continue to update this page, but the two most important things are that we stay safe and that we work together.
You can read the latest easing of lockdown restrictions here.
Advice on General Health
Up to date World Health Organisation information is available through WhatsApp – just enter +41 22 501 75 96 for request-based automated information.
Safer transport guidance for operators - Government - updated 28/5
The official Government guide to help organisation to provide safer workplaces and services for all across all modes of transport is available here.
This includes details for effective risk assessments, working arrangements and social distancing.
For social distancing, organisations could consider:
- Creating and agreeing a single, clear approach to social distancing for all workers and passengers.
- Agreeing and maintaining clear rules for workers and passengers that meet social distancing guidelines, for example:
- Clear rules for interacting with passengers, receiving goods, and testing equipment.
- Support individual workers who choose to use face coverings in situations where social distancing is not possible.
- Organising the workspace and how people work in a single space to follow social distancing guidelines, such as:
- Separating workspaces 2 metres apart from one another, where possible.
- Use of screens or barriers.
- Eliminating face-to-face seating, for example, shift to ‘bench’ style.
- Repositioning workspaces to allow for optimal ventilation.
- Reducing occupancy of group interaction spaces, including spaces shared with other organisations.
- Adjustments for those with specific needs or protected characteristics, for example disabled people, the elderly and pregnant women. Consider groups of people who process information differently or who may not be able to distance from others.
Protecting workers in the workplace - guidance updated 28/5
Where workers are unable to work from home, you should be taking steps to reduce transmission from face-to-face interaction and enable social distancing in the workplace.
Organisations could consider:
- Making workforce travel plans in advance of workers returning to work.
- As far as possible, where workers are split into teams or shift groups, fixing these teams or shift groups so that where contact is unavoidable, this happens between the same people.
- Where shift patterns are not already in place, consider introducing these to enable more workers to work during a 24-hour period while having as few workers as possible on-site at any one time.
- Identifying areas where people must pass things directly to each other (for example documents, spare parts, cargo, raw materials) or share tools/equipment, and look for ways to remove direct contact through use of drop-off points or transfer zones.
- Using remote working tools to avoid meetings with lots of people.
- If meetings are necessary, keeping all attendees 2 metres apart, ensure they do not share objects, such as pens and paper, and have hand sanitiser accessible.
- Using digital means to communicate shift patterns.
- Staggering break times to reduce pressure on break rooms or canteens.
- Designating outside areas as common areas if safe to do so.
- Creating additional space from other parts of the worksite or building freed up by remote working.
- Using protective screening for workers in reception or similar areas.
- Using packaged meals or similar to avoid opening canteens.
- Reconfiguring seating and tables to optimise spacing and reduce face-to-face situations.
- Encouraging workers to stay on-site during working hours.
- Using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help workers keep to a 2 metre distance.
- Avoiding use of hot desks where possible. Otherwise cleaning workstations and shared equipment between different occupants.
- Limiting use of high-touch items and shared office equipment (for example, printers, whiteboards).
- Only essential meeting participants should attend.
- Providing hand sanitiser in workspaces.
- Reducing job and location rotation.
- Updating first aid training.
Network Rail has created a guide to best practice on social distancing. Download Network Rail’s Best Practice on Social Distancing guide here.
An official guide to social distancing on construction sites is also available. You can download this guide by clicking here.
Support for Rail Industry Colleagues
There is a lot of help available for all who need support during this time.
Support for rail industry colleagues
There is fantastic support available for all rail industry colleagues during this time.
T: 116 123
Railway Benefit Fund
T: 0345 241 2885
W: RBF website
T: 07793 246528
T: 0800 4 101 101
Support from the Trade Associations
Trade Associations have listed ways in which they can support member businesses and have specified what their teams are doing during this time.
Advice for Businesses and Employees
Here you will find advice from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and financial facilities that will help you continue to run your business. For employees, this section outlines what you need to know with regards to your job.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.
Please note: The scheme will close to anyone who hasn’t been furloughed for 3 weeks by 30 June, so you will only be able to claim for employees after that if they have been furloughed for a full three-week period at any time before the end of June. So, if you intend to furlough an employee who hasn’t been furloughed before, you will need to agree that with them and start their period of furlough on or before 10 June – this is the last day on which someone who has never been furloughed before can start a period of furlough and qualify for the scheme – this ensures the minimum three-week period is complete by 30 June. You will then have until 31 July to make a claim for any periods of furlough up until 30 June – this applies to both employees furloughed for the first time and those you have previously furloughed and claimed for.
All UK businesses are eligible.
How to access the scheme
You will need to:
- designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your 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
- submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required)
HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.
If your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19, they may be able to access support to continue paying part of your wage, to avoid redundancies.
If your employer intends to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, they will discuss with you becoming classified as a furloughed worker. This would mean that you are kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off.
To qualify for this scheme, you should not undertake work for them while you are furloughed. This will allow your employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
You will remain employed while furloughed. Your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary, but does not have to.
If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit.
The rules of the scheme are changing from 1 July.
On 12 June, full guidance will be published on all the scheme changes on GOV.UK – search for ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’ to find this – webinars offering more support on the changes will also be available to book online from 12 June – please do not call us for more information, as everything you need to know about the scheme changes will be published online on GOV.UK.
From 1 July, you’ll have the flexibility to bring previously furloughed employees back to work part time, you can decide the hours and shift patterns they work to suit the needs of your business – you’ll pay their wages for the time they’re in work and can apply for a scheme grant to cover any of their normal hours they are still furloughed for.
Also, for periods starting on or after the 1 July, the maximum number of employees you can claim for in any period cannot be higher than the maximum number you have claimed for in a previous period. For example, if your highest single claim for periods up to 30 June was for 100 people, you can’t claim for more than this number in later periods.
From 1 August, you will need to contribute towards the wage costs of your furloughed employees until the scheme ends on 31 October.
COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility
The Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) will provide funding to businesses by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity, issued by firms making a material contribution to the UK economy. It will help businesses across a wide range of sectors to pay salaries, rents and suppliers, even while experiencing severe disruption to cashflows. Commercial paper eligible for the scheme will be issued by non-financial companies that make a material contribution to the UK economy and that had, prior to being affected by Covid-19, a short or long- term rating of investment grade, or financial health equivalent to an investment-grade rating. Including new legal powers in the Covid Bill enabling the Government to offer whatever further financial support it thinks necessary to businesses, and increasing grants to small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief from £3,000 to £10,000.
Deferral of tax
Value Added Tax (VAT)
The domestic reverse charge for construction services will be delayed from 1 October 2020 until 1 March 2021 due to the impact of the coronavirus on the construction sector. You can read the brief here.
The deferral will apply immediately until the end of June. This is an automatic offer with no applications required. Businesses will not need to make a VAT payment during this period. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020-21 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.
Income Tax Self-Assessment payments due on the 31 July 2020 will be deferred until the 31 January 2021. This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.
Financial support for exporters
UK Export Finance (UKEF) works with banks and insurance brokers to help companies of all sizes fulfil and get paid for export contracts. It provides guarantees, loans and insurance on behalf of the government that can protect UK exporters facing delayed payments or transit restrictions. Help from UKEF includes:
- If your business is facing disruption due to late payments, UKEF can help ease cash flow constraints by guaranteeing bank loans through its Export Working Capital Scheme
- If you are concerned about getting paid, UKEF offers an export insurance policy that can help you recover the costs of fulfilling an order that is terminated by events outside your control
- UKEF can also support finance for overseas buyers through the Direct Lending Facility scheme, so they can continue to buy your goods and services
- UKEF has over £4 billion of capacity to support UK firms exporting to China, as well as significant capacity across other markets affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to help cover these risks.
Further notice to exporters
- The DIT Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) has issued two Notices to Exporters concerning the impact on training and licensing activities. For general export control queries please contact ECJU’s Helpline on 020 7215 4594 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- To find out if UKEF covers your region, email email@example.com.
Lay-offs and short-time working - information from GOV.UK
Your employer can ask you to stay at home or take unpaid leave if there’s not enough work for you.
A lay-off is if you’re off work for at least 1 working day. Short-time working is when your hours are cut.
How long you can be laid off
There’s no limit for how long you can be laid off or put on short-time. You could apply for redundancy and claim redundancy pay if it’s been:
- 4 weeks in a row
- 6 weeks in a 13-week period
Lay-off pay entitlement and short-time working payments
You should get your full pay unless your contract allows unpaid or reduced pay lay-offs.
If you’re unpaid, you’re entitled to guarantee pay.
2. Guarantee pay
Rate and length of statutory lay-off pay
You’re entitled to guarantee pay during lay off or short-time working. The maximum you can get is £29 a day for 5 days in any 3-month period – so a maximum of £145.
If you usually earn less than £29 a day you’ll get your normal daily rate.
If you work part-time, your entitlement is worked out proportionally.
You cannot claim guarantee pay for any day that you do some work.
Eligibility for statutory lay-off pay
- have been employed continuously for 1 month (includes part-time workers)
- reasonably make sure you’re available for work
- not refuse any reasonable alternative work (including work not in your contract)
- not have been laid off because of industrial action
Statutory lay-off pay and your employment contract
Your employer may have their own guarantee pay scheme. It cannot be less than the statutory arrangements. If you get your employer’s payments, you do not get statutory lay-off pay on top of this.
Not paying guarantee pay counts as an unlawful deduction from your wages – you could make a claim to an employment tribunal.
3. Applying for redundancy
You could apply for redundancy and claim redundancy pay if you’ve been laid off without pay or put on short-time and receive less than half a week’s pay for:
- 4 or more weeks in a row
- 6 or more weeks in a 13-week period
- Write to your employer to claim redundancy within 4 weeks of the last day of the lay-off or short-time period.
- Your employer has 7 days to accept your claim or give you a written counter-notice.
- If your employer does not give you counter-notice, you can assume they’ve accepted your redundancy claim.
- A counter-notice means your employer expects work will soon be available – it must start within 4 weeks and must last at least 13 weeks.
Your employer can withdraw their counter-notice in writing.
You must resign to get redundancy pay. The timing is crucial – you have 3 weeks to hand in your notice, starting from:
- 7 days after you gave written notice to your employer (if you did not get a counter-notice)
- the date your employer withdrew their counter-notice
You can get help from Citizens Advice.
4. Extra work or claiming benefits
You can take on another job while you’re laid off or on short-time (unless your contract says you must not).
- get your employer’s agreement
- make sure you’re not working for a competitor
- make sure you’re available for your original job once the lay-off or short-time ends
Benefits you can claim
The above is the normal position and clearly the situation is anything but normal and therefore additional support or guidance may be provided by the government in due course.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) provides financial support to smaller businesses affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).
The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to access loans and other kinds of finance up to £5 million.
The government guarantees 80% of the finance to the lender and pays interest and any fees for the first 12 months.
If you’re a larger business, you may be entitled to other government support. Changes have taken effect for this from 26th May, which you can see here.
Future Fund for start-up businesses not eligible for other measures
The Future Fund will provide convertible loans to UK-based companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal matched funding from private investors.
The minimum aggregate loan amount is £250,000. The maximum amount of the Government loan is £5 million. There is no cap on the amount that the matched investor(s) may loan to the company.
This is an investor-led scheme, meaning that a lead investor applies on behalf of themselves and may provide information about other investors making up the investment round, in connection to a company.
The distribution of funds for successful applications will be handled through a nominated company solicitor. It is the company’s responsibility to appoint a solicitor with the necessary right to practice and handle client monies.
Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
The coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme launched online on 26 May.
The scheme will enable employers with fewer than 250 employees to claim coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Tax agents will be able to make claims on behalf of employers.
Employers are eligible to use the scheme if:
- they’re claiming for an employee who’s eligible for sick pay due to coronavirus
- they had a PAYE payroll scheme in operation before 28 February 2020
- they had fewer than 250 employees across all PAYE schemes on 28 February 2020
- they’re eligible to receive State Aid under the EU Commission Temporary Framework.
The repayment will cover up to two weeks of the applicable rate of SSP, and is payable if a current or former employee was unable to work on or after 13 March 2020 and entitled to SSP, because they either:
- have coronavirus
- are self-isolating and unable to work from home
- are shielding because they’ve been advised that they’re at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus.
To prepare to make a claim, employers should keep records of all the SSP payments they wish to claim for.
For more information about eligibility and how employers (or you on their behalf) can prepare to use the scheme, please visit GOV.UK and search ‘Check if you can claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees due to coronavirus (COVID-19)’.
These links redirect to other sites for the latest up-to-date information.
Our COVID-19 ONE PLACE Directory
Click on the logos below to find out what companies across the rail industry are doing in terms of best practice during this time.
Want to submit your own listing? Email Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org and submit your entry for FREE.