Coronavirus - information for heating technicians

Last updated - 27/03/2020

We appreciate that this is an exceptionally difficult time for all our registered businesses so we want to ensure that the advice we provide for you is accurate and doesn't add to the worry that you must certainly have. The uncertainty over whether tradespeople could continue working after the lock down restrictions were announced on 23rd March, has now been officially clarified - see below. However, as you are aware, advice is changing on a daily basis, so please visit and refresh this page regularly to check for latest updates. 

Restrictions on your work - UK

Until 25th March there has been a lack of clear guidance whether tradespeople could continue working. This has now been clarified by MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) as follows: 

Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.

Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a 2 metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.

No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.

No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

You can view this advice online.

In addition OFTEC recommends that registered businesses also carry out a risk assessments to determine whether you should carry out work in your customers' homes. This will depend on your individual circumstances - such as whether you fall into an 'at risk' category yourself.

We are aware that even before this clarification, many businesses had already decided to stop all routine servicing work and to just carry out emergency breakdown work. It is clear that visiting several homes a day presents an increased risk to you and to the people in the homes that you visit.

Additional precautions

There is clear advice on the HHIC website in terms of extra precautions that you should be taking to minimise the risk of spreading Coronavirus while working on site.

Health and Safety advice

The Health and Safety Executive (Health and Safety Authority in Ireland) have also issued advice for the workplace which can be viewed online:

Key worker status - UK

The government has granted concessions to allow the children of key workers to have child care within school settings. Given the instruction to keep all contact between people to a minimum, the recommendation is that for everyone's safety, if children can be kept home, they should be.

On 27th March, BEIS wrote to us to clarify the situation regarding key worker status, this is what they said:

We are aware that members of the heating sector have sought clarification on whether their workers are deemed 'key workers'. It is important to clarify that this definition applies for the purposes of childcare provision and is not an indication in itself of whether someone is able to continue to work or whether a business should remain open. We acknowledge that a lack of childcare will prevent some from working and that is why the Government has announced an extensive support package. Workers who are not impacted by childcare provision should continue to work in the heat sector where possible and as long as they are well and none of their household are self-isolating.

Should there be further restrictions announced on businesses that must cease activity we are confident that heating technicians will be excluded from this because of the vital nature of the work they carry out, but we are awaiting clarification on this.

In Northern Ireland the Department of Infrastructure has said oil heating technicians can do emergency and breakdown work.

Support package for the Self-Employed - UK

The promised support package for the self-employed has now been announced by the UK Government. Details of the scheme and how to access are now available online

We are concerned that the package is only likely to start making payments in three months time, although these will be backdated, and that it excludes those who have recently started work in the self employed sector and those who have trading profits over £50,000pa. 

Key features:

  • Those adversely affected by the coronavirus will be eligible for a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last 3 years, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
  • Initially the scheme will cover 3 months, but will be extended if necessary.
  • Only those already with self-employed status and with a tax return for 2019 can apply. (If you missed the January tax deadline, you have an extra 4 weeks from 26th March to submit your tax return). 
  • HMRC will contact those eligible with an online form no later than June. You do not need to contact them.
  • You can access business interruption loans immediately, if you need them.
  • You can defer income tax payments due in July until the end of January 2021
  • You can access Universal Credit in full. 

OFTEC services

Our offices will remain open but running with a skeleton staff either office based or working remotely for essential services.

  • The technical helpline will continue to run as normal
  • Registration services will be limited to online services and general enquiries
  • We have decided to close OFTEC Direct for the next 3 weeks, or until such time as it is safe and responsible to reopen.

Although staff may be reached by phone, we strongly recommend you email your queries through to us. Contact details for those working remotely will be published on the Contact Us page.  We would appreciate your understanding if it takes us a little longer than usual to respond.

Many OFTEC functions and services can be accessed online - these will remain unchanged and include:

Inspections

Please note, with immediate effect, all OFTEC inspection work will cease and be deferred to a more appropriate time. If you had an inspection booked, it will be rearranged at a later date.

Compliance

If you have outstanding non-conformities from an inspection, all deadlines have been automatically extended until works can be completed safely.

Our compliance team will purely be responding to matters where there is a significant risk of harm to people or property.

Training courses

Many training centres have now closed, or will be closing at the end of this week.

We are implementing an urgent temporary extension of qualification period for those registered technicians whose qualifications are due to lapse before 31st May. Please see our separate page for further information.

Fuel deliveries

Your customers may be concerned about getting fuel deliveries, UKIFDA the trade body for the fuel distribution industry has an online page that they are updating regularly with guidance and advice.

MOTs for cars, vans and motorcycles due from 30th March

The UK Government have added an automatic 6 month extension to MOTs due from 30th March. You do not need to do anything to extend your MOT if it is due after this date. However, you must ensure that your vehicle remains roadworthy and drivers can be prosecuted if their vehicle is deemed unsafe. 

For example, if your MOT is due on 3rd April, you will now need to get your MOT done by 3rd October.

You can read more about this on the Government website.

If your MOT runs out up to 29th March, there is slightly different guidance, which essentially means you should get your MOT done, but only if you and your household are not showing any Coronavirus symptoms. You will not be penalised for delaying your MOT if you are self isolating. View more information here.

Republic of Ireland

Work is continuing as normal (if necessary) and hardware/merchants are allowed to stay open to facilitate repairs & maintenance.

Government guidance can be viewed here.

Republic of Ireland - financial support

The ROI Government has introduced payments for those who find themselves unemployed due to the current pandemic - it is available for employed and SELF employed - there is more information available online.

An employee retention incentive scheme has been announced - click here

There is assistance for the self employed of €350/pw - click here

Where to find additional help

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have collated all the UK Government advice on financial support available for small businesses in this very difficult time click here to view - you do not need to be a member of the FSB to view this advice.

The UK government are also collating information on the impact of the Coronavirus on businesses - please email BEIS directly with how your business has been affected. 

Tracy Brabin MP is also collating a dossier of the impact of the Coronavirus on the self employed and small businesses. If you have lost income as a direct result of either self isolating or having customers cancel work please email her your story. The more information the Government has about the financial costs, the better they will be able to shape policy to support small businesses.

We sincerely hope that everyone is managing to look after themselves and their families in these uncertain times.

Keeping you updated

We will keep you regularly informed and notify you of any changes in the service we offer via email, our website and social media - make sure you follow @OFTEC on Twitter for the latest updates.

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Specific questions?

If you need more assistance, please email our registration team

As we now are operating with a skeleton staff, we may take slightly longer to respond. Please bear with us during this time.