Coronavirus help and advice
Information and links to help you get through the Covid-19 crisis.
Here at Professional Driver magazine, we want everyone to stay healthy and safe. We know our industry is on the front line.
In many parts of the country, the taxi and private hire trade is a lifeline for elderly and vulnerable people, delivering food and medicines to the door, thus allowing them to safely self-isolate.
And our cars offer a safer and cleaner way for key workers, especially those in the NHS, to get to and from work while avoiding the dirty environment of crowded buses, trams, tubes and trains.
Please bookmark this page and revisit as we will be adding new information as we receive it.
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to be extended for a further three months
The Government has announced that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be extended for a further three months, and those eligible will beable to claim a second and final grant in August.
The grant will be worth 70% of average monthly net profit, so claimants will get less money than in the first round of SEISS, which was worth 80%, and capped at £7,500.
The grant will be paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits and capped at £6,570 in total.
Individuals can continue to apply for the first SEISS grant until July 13. The money is typically paid into a specified bank account within six working days of completing a claim.
Applications for the second SEISS grant will open in August. The eligibility criteria are the same for both grants.
Individuals will need to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant to receive the second grant: you may only have been adversely affected by COVID-19 in this later phase.
Further guidance on the second grant will be published on Friday, June 12.
Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay scheme to launch this month
A new online service will launch on May 26 for small and medium-sized employers to recover Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments they have made to their employees, the Government has announced.
The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme was announced at Budget as part of a package of support measures for businesses affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. This scheme will allow small and medium sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to apply to HMRC to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related SSP.
Employers will be able to make their claims through a new online service from May 26. This means they will receive repayments at the relevant rate of SSP that they have paid to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after March 13, 2020.
Therese Coffey, Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, said: “This rebate will put money back in the pockets of millions of employers, ensuring they can hit the ground running as the economy re-opens.”
Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s Director General of Customer Services, said: “Our teams have worked hard to deliver this scheme for employers and their employees, to ensure they get the support they need. We want employers to be secure in the knowledge they will receive help as they care for their staff during this difficult period.”
Employers are eligible if they have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started before February 28, 2020 and they had fewer than 250 employees before the same date. The repayment will cover up to two weeks of SSP, and is payable if an employee is unable to work because they fit one of the following categories:
- they have coronavirus
- they are self-isolating and unable to work from home
- they are shielding because they have been advised they are at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus
To prepare to make their claim, employers should keep records of all the SSP payments that they wish to claim from HMRC. Further guidance is available on gov.uk.
The current rate of SSP is £95.85 per week. For the period March 13, 2020 to April 5, 2020 the SSP rate was £94.25 per week.
Employers can choose to go further and pay more than the statutory minimum. This is known as occupational or contractual sick pay. Where an employer pays more than the current rate of SSP in sick pay, they will only be able to reclaim the SSP rate.
The scheme covers all types of employment contracts, including:
- full-time employees
- part-time employees
- employees on agency contracts
- employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
Employees do not have to provide a doctor’s fit note in order for their employer to make a claim under the scheme make a claim.
Employers can furlough their employees who have been advised to shield in line with public health guidance and are unable to work from home, under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Once furloughed, the employee should no longer receive SSP and would be classified as a furloughed employee. Where an employee has been notified to shield and has not been furloughed, the rebate will compensate up to 2 weeks of SSP from April 16.
To make a claim, follow this link.
Eazitax produces step-by-step guides to claiming Government self-employed relief
Eazitax has created a helpful step-by-step guide to help self-employed drivers and operators claim financial relief from the Government.
Follow the links below to sign up to a personal tax account (if you don’t already have one) and to check if you are eligible for the Self Employed Income Support Scheme.
The scheme is now open for applications and as long as you have your personal tax account (gateway) set up, and have carried out the eligibility test, the system calculates from your past tax returns how much money you will receive. According to the site, the money is transferred to your bank within six days.
Step-by-step guide to setting up your Personal Tax Account – click here.
Step-by-step guide to applying for Self-Employed relief – click here.
Government bounce back loan scheme for small businesses goes live next Monday
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has this week bowed to pressure from business groups and launched a further loan scheme to help small businesses through the Coronavirus crisis.
The new Bounce Back Loans scheme is designed to help many small and micro businesses that appeared to have fallen through the cracks and were ineligible for most of the support measures that had previously been announced.
The new scheme will allow small businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 and access the cash, in most cases, within 24 hours of approval. The loans will have a 100% government guarantee and businesses can apply for a loan of up to 25% of their turnover. The government will also pay the interest on these loans for the first 12 months and no repayments will be due during this time.
The new scheme will open for applications at 9am next Monday, May 4, and firms will be able to access these loans through a network of accredited lenders.
The Chancellor said banks would not need to perform any forward-looking test of business viability or other complex eligibility criteria and that businesses will be able to apply for a loan online using a short and simple form.
Putting a £200,000 limit on turnover ensures that Bounce Back Loans cover most of the UK’s 5.6 million micro-businesses with up to nine employees, which turned over £900bn in 2019 or an average £160,000 each, according to the Treasury. However, small businesses can only apply for a Bounce Back Loan if your business was not an “undertaking in difficulty” as of December 31, 2019.
The new loans provide high street banks with a guarantee that the state will refund the bank for the entire value of the loan if a borrower is unable to repay, up from 80% on the government’s existing coronavirus business interruption loan (CBILs).
The Chancellor had faced calls for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) to have a 100% government guarantees rather than 80%, but he had resisted doing so, saying he remained unconvinced that it was necessary to make such a move. However, many businesses are reporting difficulties accessing finance as banks are refusing to lend.
The Chancellor said: “Our smallest businesses are the backbone of our economy and play a vital role in their communities. This new rapid loan scheme will help ensure they get the finance they need quickly to help survive this crisis. This is in addition to business grants, tax deferrals, and the job retention scheme, which are already helping to support hundreds of thousands of small businesses.”
For details of how to apply for the Bounce-Back Loans, follow this link:
How to claim money to pay your ‘furloughed’ employees and workers
The Government’s Job Retention Scheme (JRS) is now live with full digital support. Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the JRS on March 20 to enable full-time employees to remain on the payroll through being ‘furloughed’.
Employers can claim cash grants from HMRC via an online application service which can handle up to 450,000 applications an hour. Employers should then receive the money to pay their employees within six days, enabling them to meet the April payroll.
HMRC emailed two million employers last Friday providing a link to a five-step guide to claiming, as well as warning them to be aware of scams circulating and informing them that they don’t need to call us unless they have a problem.
Any employees an employer places on furlough must be furloughed for a minimum period of three consecutive weeks. When they return to work, they must be taken off furlough. Employees can be furloughed multiple times, but each separate instance must be for a minimum period of three consecutive weeks.
As well as employees, the grant can be claimed for any of the following groups, if they are paid via PAYE: office holders (including company directors), salaried members of Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs), and agency workers (including those employed by umbrella companies).
The scheme also includes “limb (b) workers”, which means “dependent contractors”, or workers who are registered as self-employed, but provide a service as part of someone else’s business. Some private hire drivers fall under this description.
For details of how to claim under the JRS, please click here
We can keep working
Taxi and private hire drivers are classified as key workers, and can continue working during the Coronavirus lock-down, the Department for Transport has confirmed.
Paul Elliott, DfT policy adviser, buses & taxis division, said: “Taxis and private hire vehicles can continue to work. But the advice is absolutely clear: people should stay at home if possible. That is the way to save lives and protect our NHS. The public should avoid travel unless absolutely essential. The only reasons to leave our houses are set out in the government guidance.”
“Clearly if absolutely necessary to travel by taxi or private hire vehicle, best efforts should be used to follow the guidance as far as is practically possible, including washing your hands as soon as you get home.
He added: “Those undertaking Home to School transport or the transport of ‘extremely vulnerable’ people may be considered Critical Workers on a case-by-case basis.
Heroes of our trade supporting the nation
We’ve covered some of the great work our readers are doing to help out with vital transport and logistics services.
You can read some of the stories here
If you’re doing great work to help us through the crisis, please let the editor know via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Practical steps for drivers to keep the Covid-19 risk to a minimum
It’s vital to keep your vehicles and drivers as clean as possible at all times.
This practical advice from leading chauffeur company and Professional Driver QSi Gold Award winner iChauffeur is a good benchmark for what you should do. These are the steps you need to take:
- Once a chauffeur has dropped off a client, prior to cleaning the vehicle, the chauffeur will first wash their hands thoroughly before sanitising the vehicle.
- Antiseptic wipes will be used to clean areas such as the interior door panel, all handles, windows, locks, door storage areas, cup holders, power cords, seats, exterior door handles, and children’s car seats.
- Before a new client gets in the car, the chauffeur will sanitise the seats, door handles and all surfaces that the previous passenger had contact with. Once the car has been fully sanitised, the chauffeur will then wash their hands.
- The chauffeur will not shake hands with the customer and instead will offer the customer hand sanitiser and wipes. If there’s a single passenger, they will be asked to sit behind the driver as experts recommend this the safest place to sit.
- Daily newspapers or magazines will not be offered while the crisis is ongoing, as these could spread the virus. Banknotes are equally dirty – so try and be cashless if possible.
- Likewise, only sealed refreshments will be offered and remaining packets will be immediately removed, with the driver wearing gloves, after the journey is completed. Gloves should also be worn if loading customers’ luggage.
- If a chauffeur becomes aware they have had contact with an infected individual, the chauffeur will immediately self-isolate and withdraw from service.
These responsible measures are a minimum that all professional drivers should undertake. Cars are cleaner and a healthier environment than buses, trains or tube, but a car is still an enclosed space, so no risks should be taken.
HELPFUL ADVICE ON MAINTAINING YOUR CAR IF YOU’RE OFF THE ROAD
If you’re having to self-isolate, are without work or have been “furloughed” by a full-time employer, your car may not be getting much - or any – use.
Lexus has produced some tips on how to maintain a car if it is parked for a long period of time with very little use. No difficult car maintenance is necessary, but the following tips can help ensure your car remains in good condition during an extended layoff.
Check the tyre pressure
Check the tyres are fully inflated to the recommended level. It can be a good idea to repeat this process when you first drive your car after a long period of inactivity.
Storing the car
Clean the car thoroughly inside and out and if you are storing it in a garage, make sure it is completely dry before you put it away.
If you do plan to store your car in a garage, ensure the chosen storage area offers plenty of ventilation. If the space is secure, you could consider opening one of the car’s windows a small way to ventilate the interior. If you do this, you might have to change your car alarm’s setting to prevent it setting off the intrusion sensor –consult your car’s manual for more information.
Disengage the park brake
It can be beneficial to leave the vehicle with the parking brake disengaged to prevent the brakes from binding, but only do this if you are certain the car is on level terrain and isn’t going to move. Ensure the transmission is set to ‘P’ for park and if you have a manual car put it into first gear, and place wedges or chocks, if you have them, under the wheels.
Put the car keys away
If you aren’t planning to drive your car for a long time, put the smart key in a safe place and don’t carry it around with you in your pocket. This will prevent the car from ‘waking up’ unnecessarily should you happen to walk near it in your garage or driveway.
If your vehicle is equipped with smart entry and start but the system isn’t operated for a long time, a battery-saving function will automatically be activated to prevent the 12-volt battery from being discharged.
Starting the car regularly
PETROL AND DIESEL CARS
Regular start-up of the vehicle on conventional petrol and diesel engines needs approximately 20 minutes of running to put back into the battery what you remove on start up, so to maintain this battery, running the engine for a period of time at least once a week is advised. The length of time needed to charge the battery will vary according to the model.
Toyota and Lexus hybrids generally contain two batteries: a 12-volt battery (which powers systems such as the headlamps and audio) and a high-voltage hybrid system battery (which supplies the power to start the combustion engine and drive the electric motors).
The simplest way to maintain charge in both of these is to simply go through the normal start procedure: press the Start button with your foot on the brake until the ‘Ready’ light is illuminated on the dashboard. Earlier hybrid models may have key ignitions to start the car.
Lexus recommends the car is put into ‘Ready’ mode for about 60 minutes (no need to keep your foot on the brake) before switching it off again and repeating the process every couple of weeks. Always adhere to the government’s advice regarding social distancing and Coronavirus and do not leave your car unattended when it is switched on.
While the car is in ‘Ready’ mode, you may hear and feel the internal combustion engine kick in, which is a normal part of the self-charging process. You might be tempted to switch on the radio to pass the time, or turn on other systems, but these will consume small amounts of electrical power so it’s best to leave them off.
Ensure the parking brake is on; there’s no need to go for a drive, although we must stress that this procedure should take place in a well-ventilated area – something to consider if you park your vehicle in a garage.
Keeping the battery charged
If you have a 12V battery trickle charger, or a solar panel charger, and are confident using them, then these are a good option to keep the battery fully charged while the vehicle is stationary for a period of time. You might want to consider an intelligent trickle charger that will only charge the battery when it needs to, but these are likely to be more expensive.
Saving on tax
If the vehicle is kept on private property (such as inside a garage) for the duration of its storage, you could consider applying for a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). This informs the DVLA that the car is off the road and you will receive a refund of any remaining full months of tax.
However, you won’t be able to drive your car legally until you tax it again, so it’s only advisable if you are positive you won’t use your car for a long time. You can read more information about how to SORN your car here.
LeasePlan UK’s Essential tips for driving in the lockdown
Alfonso Martinez, Managing Director, LeasePlan UK
To reduce the spread of the Coronavirus, the UK Government has introduced rules restricting movement and requesting we stay at home except for very limited purposes.
However, as many private hire and taxi operators are still working, transporting key workers and delivering food and medicines to the vulnerable, here are some useful tips from contract hire provider LeasePlan UK to help you stay safe on the roads.
Travelling During Lockdown
To help support key workers go about their work in London, TfL has suspended all road charging schemes, including the congestion charge, ultra-low emission zone and low emission zone. The suspension has been introduced for lorries and vans as well as cars, and it remains in place until further notice.
Fuel stations are still open but be aware that it is believed that viruses can survive on surfaces for some time, so wear protective, disposable gloves and keep a hand sanitiser in your vehicle. Many petrol stations already have gloves available for public use at the pumps, however these often run out, so bring your own just in case.
You can also use pay-at-pump to minimise any contact with others – just be aware of the keypad.
Drivers of electric vehicles using public chargers should also follow the same guidelines.
Immediate Maintenance and Breakdown
Garages remain open for essential vehicle maintenance and repair, to help keep vehicles, goods and key workers moving and safe. Be aware that they are likely to prioritise key workers and essential repairs.
Remember, you have a legal responsibility to keep your vehicle roadworthy. You can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and get 3 penalty points for driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition.
If your vehicle breaks down, you can still call out a recovery provider, who will either be able to repair your vehicle at the roadside or take it to a garage. Patrols are following Government guidelines: keeping 2 metres from customers, wearing latex protective gloves and wiping down any surfaces they touch with hand sanitiser or wipes.
The AA is advising that if you've broken down and have symptoms, have been diagnosed or have come in contact with COVID-19, to call and let them know when reporting the breakdown. If you don't have symptoms, haven't come into contact with the virus and aren't self-isolating, you can tell them about the problem online or use the AA app to report a breakdown.
The AA coronavirus advice page can be found here:
Cleaning your car
It’s more important than ever to take extra care to keep your vehicles clean and disinfected, as this will reduce the chance of the coronavirus being transmitted through commonly touched surfaces such as the steering wheel, gearstick, radio or door handles. To ensure your car remains a safe space, here is full guide to sanitising your car from the inside out.
Rules and Regulations
MOT due dates have been extended. Even though MOT centres and garages are classified by the Government as ‘essential’ and are allowed to remain open, many are closing to protect staff and customers.
To restrict the spread of the virus, the Government has introduced a 6-month extension period for your car’s MOT to be carried out if the expiry date is on or after March 30, 2020.
You do not need to do anything to extend your vehicle’s MOT expiry date as this will be done automatically. However, vehicles must be kept in a roadworthy condition – with some garages remaining open for essential repairs.
If your first MOT was due before March 30, 2020 and your vehicle did not pass, you will not get an extension and your vehicle will need to pass an MOT before you can drive it again.
Driving tests have been suspended for the next three months. During this time, tests will only be available for critical workers. Keep an eye out on the DVLA’s website for more updates and information about when you’ll be able to reschedule your theory or driving test.
Ongoing Vehicle Maintenance
As many of us won’t be driving for long periods of time during lockdown, there are a few things you can do to protect your vehicle and keep it in roadworthy condition.
Firstly, your battery may be dead or near dead if you aren’t driving your vehicle. Occasionally starting your engine won’t help much in this case and may actually drain your battery further. As the government advice is to drive only when essential, drivers will have to rely on these trips to keep their batteries healthy. If you have one, plug in a trickle charger to keep the battery topped up.
You should, where possible, keep your vehicle fuelled to prevent moisture from developing in the tank and leading to rust. Some people may also find that their tyres develop flat spots that can be felt when driving. Make sure you check your tyre pressure before making any essential journeys, including your spare tyre if you have one.
Also be aware of leaving your vehicle parked under trees. Resin, sap and bird droppings can cause considerable damage to your vehicle’s paintwork, so consider a cover to protect it. Bird droppings on modern water-based paint will start to impact the lacquer within 90 minutes, or even less if the car hasn’t been polished for a few years.
If it’s dried on, use some warm water to soak it first as this will make it a lot easier to remove. Scrubbing at it without soaking first will do even more harm as it can create scratches.
And finally, a special note to diesel drivers: please be aware that all diesel vehicles need to run at 50mph for 15 minutes to burn off the diesel particles and clean the filter. Not doing this can result in the vehicle completely shutting down and cause major engine damage.
More detailed advice as to how to keep your vehicle roadworthy is available here:
NHS ADVICE PAGE
If you’re worried that you, a family member or a worker have the symptoms of the Coronavirus, this is your first port of call. The NHS website offers guidance and advice on how to spot the disease, and what to do.
It is vital that you do NOT visit your GP or hospital, or even leave the house. Please follow the instructions here to restrict spreading the disease any further.
Mental health advice
People struggling with their mental health during the coronavirus outbreak will be offered additional online support and practical guidance.
The Government also has a helpful FAQ page about Covid-19
Government support for business
The government has rolled out a programme of support for business, covering companies, employees and now the self-employed. This is the main advice page.
Business interruption loan scheme
Companies that are losing business during the Coronavirus crisis can seek help from the business interruption loan scheme. This offers loans from £5,000 to £250,000 from a range of 40 accredited lenders. For details of the scheme, follow this link.
You can find more detailed information about how to apply for the BILS here:
Government support for the self-employed
After pressure from trade associations, unions and others, the government has implemented a scheme to help self-employed workers gain access to funds. Under this scheme, the self-employed will be able to claim 80% of their profits, up to £2,500 per month, and averaged over the past three years.
The scheme is not up and running yet, and will not make any payments until June 2020.
Anyone who doesn’t fall into this bracket might be able to claim for universal credit. To find out if you can claim for universal credit please call the Government’s Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 564
For details of self-employed support, follow this link.
Other helpful news
The second payment on account for the 2019-20 tax year has been deferred from July 31, 2020 to January 31, 2021. HMRC has confirmed that the deferral applies to all taxpayers. Self-assessment returns for the year should still be filed by January 31, 2021.
Working Tax Credits
Payments will increased to £3,040 per year from April 6, 2020 until April 5, 2021. No action is needed, as the increase in payment is automatic.
Car finance to pandemic loan relief measures