Coronavirus - information for heating technicians

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. As you are aware, government guidance is changing on a daily basis, so please visit and refresh this page regularly to check for our latest updates. We hope that you find the information provided on this page helpful, please email us if you have any feedback or any further questions. 

We know that householders are extremely grateful that many of you are providing essential breakdown cover, so we'd like to express our thanks on their behalf for the work you are doing. The UK Secretary of State, Alok Sharmer, has written an open letter to express his thanks to those who continue to work in the energy sector helping to ensure the heating and hot water are still on.

As this page has grown enormously since first published, we've added a contents section to make it easier for you to find the information you need, click the links below to go straight to that paragraph: 

1- OFTEC Services

Our offices are now fully open after the lockdown, but some staff are continuing to work from home so that others can work according to the social distancing guidelines at the head office. 

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

If you need to contact us, you can find full details on our contact us page.

2 - OFTEC support package for registered businesses

In recognition of the unprecedented circumstances we have found ourselves in, we introduced the following five measures to support our registered businesses:

  1. Free extension to your registration
  2. Due to the lockdown period whereby most registered businesses had to curtail their heating work, we decided that all registered businesses and technicians could have their registration payment period extended for two months, free of charge. This applied to all businesses that maintained their registration by keeping their qualifications in date and agreeing to any inspection/compliance requests.

    For example, if your registration was due to renew on the 1st August 2020, your new renewal date will be the 1st of October 2020. This automatic extension has already been implemented - you do not need to do anything. 

    Unfortunately, your registration certificate and technician ID card(s) will show your old expiry date, however, the database (www.ofteconline.com) will show your new expiry dates, and consumers will be able to check your registration status online 'Find a Technician search'. If you would like a new ID card/certificate, please email our registration team.

  3. Direct Debit payment holiday for registered businesses
  4. We implemented a payment holiday during May and June for those who pay their registration fees by monthly direct debit instalments. Payments resumed in July. Please note, this means that payments will continue for an extra two months after they were due to finish.

  5. Training courses
  6. Registered technicians whose qualifications were due to lapse between 1st March and 31st May were granted a three month temporary extension of qualification period, as it was anticipated that most courses would be postponed during this time.

    We have maintained close contact with our network of approved training centres. These are either FE colleges / ETB's or independently owned businesses and will be making their own decisions about whether they are able to open whilst adhering to government guidelines. As of 2nd July 2020, some FE colleges (UK) and ETB's (Republic of Ireland) remain closed, but many training and assessment centres are open for business and more a re-opening each week. Centres that are open are implementing additional precautions according to national and regional guidance, such as:

    • Full risk assessments carried out
    • Changes to enable social distancing to be maintained
    • Hand gels and washroom facilities to be readily available
    • Trainees/assessment candidates to bring their own food and drink
    • No admittance to the centre if trainees/candidates (or members of their household) are displaying ANY of the COVID-19 symptoms, (high temperature, dry cough, shortness of breach, loss of sense of taste)

    Your chosen centre will be able to advise you on their opening times and any restrictions in place. A full list of centres can be found here - please note, you may need to increase the search distance more than usual to find a centre running the course you need. For further information regarding training and assessments, please email David Knipe or telephone 07866 507265

    If you are not able to book onto a training course before your qualifications expire, please email our registration team, including your registration number and date of the course you have managed to book - please provide a copy of your booking confirmation). We will review the information provided and confirm whether we can extend your qualification to enable you to maintain your OFTEC registration. 

  7. Inspections
  8. All OFTEC inspection work is now resuming where it left off in March. All inspectors have completed a risk assessment for carrying out inspections and we have adopted the interim policy of only inspecting equipment located outside - eg external boilers, heat pumps and oil tanks. Your local inspector can provide more information.

    If you are due an inspection, your regional inspector will be in touch to make the necessary arrangements, please do all you can to facilitate the inspection as quickly as possible. Your registration was not penalised as the result of any lockdown cancellations. 

     

3 - Keeping your customers informed

Whilst the lockdown restrictions are in place, it is a really sensible idea to keep your existing and potential customers informed. If you have a website or social media pages, make it clear whether or not you are working and the type of work that you are doing at the moment eg emergency breakdowns only, reduced hours or open as usual.

It's also good practice to outline any extra precautions you are taking or changes to your working practices designed to keep both you and your customers safe – publish them clearly on your website or social media page. If you do not have anywhere to publish them, you could email or post a new working practices document to your customer so that they can read it through before you arrive on site. 

Clearly demonstrating that you've considered the potential risks and put in place ways to reduce them will help reassure customers who are anxious about tradespeople coming into their home. Plus, by letting your customers know about changes to your working practices in advance, it could save aggravation once you arrive or when you ask for payment.

Getting paid on time

In our recent survey, some businesses have reported more issues than usual in getting paid for work. There is a section on the Small Business Commissioner website which may help. Alternatively, the FSB provides free debt recovery support for their members (OFTEC registered businesses can save £30 off membership using code OFTEC30) click here for details. 

4 - Working during the lockdown

To avoid unnecessary call outs or double visits, we've provided some basic 'trouble-shooting' tips that you may like to run through with your customer before you visit. This may help diagnose an issue remotely and allow you to obtain necessary parts before visiting, in some cases, you may even be able to help your customer fix a simple issue themselves by using a video call. You may also like to read the consumer advice page we have published. 

HHIC have published online guidance on extra precautions heating technicians should take to minimise the risk of spreading Coronavirus while working in people's homes.

5 - Fuel deliveries

Your customers may be concerned about getting fuel deliveries, UKIFDA the trade body for the fuel distribution industry, can provide details of their local approved delivery companies.

6 - Keyworker status - UK

The guidance we've received from BEIS indicates that heating technicians are not key/critical workers and are therefore not eligible for childcare within school settings. However, the government also states that anyone who cannot work from home should go to work unless they work for the types of business that have told must close (pubs, shops, cinemas, hairdressers etc). You can read this guidance here. Obviously, if you are the primary carer for school aged children, it may be difficult for you to be able to go to work until schools reopen fully. 

7 - UK government guidance

Following Boris Johnson's briefing on 10th May about returning to work, the UK government has now issued guidance for tradespeople working in other people's homes. It's important to note that the devolved nations are all adopting different approaches and time scales for easing lockdown restrictions, so you need to read the specific guidance for the region you work in.

All businesses are different and you need to be familiar with the official guidance so that you can make the right decisions about the work you take on and the changes to working practices you need to introduce to keep your staff, families and customers safe. A new guide help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic was published on 11th May.

The guidance includes advice such as:

  • Carrying out risk assessments for your business activities that clearly address the risks of COVID-19
  • Discussing safety measures with the householder before the visit
  • Maintaining social distancing in line with Public Health England guidance
  • How you should clean the work area
  • Washing your hands and using separate towels or paper towels (disposed of safely).

Please note: 

  • No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild, or where someone in their household has symptoms. This includes:
    • a new continuous cough
    • high temperature
    • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia).
  • No work should be carried out in a household which is isolating because one or more family members has symptoms or where an individual has been advised to shield. The only exception to this is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household and additional precautions should be taken.
  • If work needs to be carried out in a household where the occupants are clinically vulnerable, but have not been asked to shield (e.g. the home of someone over 70), additional precautions should also be taken to avoid face-to-face contact and you should be particularly strict about handwashing, coughing and sneezing hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth and disposing of single-use tissues.

UK government FAQs on going to work during lockdown

  • You can read the latest FAQs here on what you can and can't do. 
  • Additional information is also available here.

UK government's guide to staying alert and social distancing

  • You can read the latest information here.

UK government recovery strategy

  • You can read the UK government's roadmap for how and when the UK will adjust its response to the COVID-19 crisis here

UK government guidance for employers and businesses

  •  Read the latest information here.

8 - UK government support for businesses

The UK government has set up an unprecedented number of support schemes to help businesses survive the lockdown. Given we don't know how long this interruption to the normal will last or what the new normal will look like, it makes sense to take advantage of schemes to help cashflow where we are eligible - for example a bounce back loan can help cover overheads whilst the work is not coming in. If you don't need to use it, give it back after 12 months!

On 29th May, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak announced an extension to the self-employed support scheme for a second grant and details of the new flexible furlough scheme, click here for details

  • Details of all the financial support measures can be found online here - this includes:
    • Support for the self employed, now extended - apply here >>
    • Job retention scheme (furlough) closed for new applicants on 10th June. Those who have previously been on furlough, can however be placed back on furlough after this date. The scheme is evolving to allow for part time work, but will also require some business contribution to the payments made to furloughed employees.  Click here for more information >>
    • Income tax deferrals
    • Reclaiming Statutory Sick Pay - scheme open from 26th May >> 
    • Deferral of VAT payments - the deferral period ends on 30th June click here to find out what to do >>
    • Business rates relief (separate schemes in devolved nations)
    • Business support grant funds (separate schemes in devolved nations)
    • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBIL)
    • Coronavirus Future Fund >>
    • Bounce back loans
    • Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme
    • COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

There are also grants administered by local authorities and businesses who are not eligible to access help through other grant schemes are encouraged to apply - you can still apply if you have claimed through the self-employed support scheme or furlough scheme. Click here for details

If you need to inform Companies House about changes to your business, they have created a digital upload system for some of the forms. Click here for details.

If you are unsure of what's best for your business or are struggling with applying for any of the schemes, try talking to one of the business support helplines or your local growth hub for excellent advice. See where to find additional help for more information below.

9 - Help for individuals

  • As well as the impact on businesses, it's easy to forget that a period of prolonged social isolation can have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing - the UK government has published guidance on mental health and wellbeing online.
  • If you are currently not working at full capacity or are on furlough it's a great opportunity to learn new skills - the UK government has published a FREE TO USE online learning platform covering everything from basic numeracy to advanced digital marketing skills.
  • Many product manufacturers are providing free online product training - it doesn't beat getting your hands onto products in a training room, but it can be a good introduction to products or brands you haven't used before. Search for the brands you are interested in on their website or You Tube channels. 
  • The UK government has increased Working Tax credit payments from 6th April. You can read more here.

10 - COVID-19 testing

On 18th May, the UK government has expanded the testing eligibility criteria to include all those over the age of five who are showing symptoms of Covid-19. This applies to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

To apply for testing - click here.

In the Republic of Ireland, the priority groups for testing are those with symptoms, families of those with symptoms and those in a risk category.

11 - 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:

HSE have issued further guidance on how they will be regulating occupational health and safety during the Coronavirus outbreak.

12 - Guidance in the devolved nations

Some guidance, particularly in relation to the easing of lockdown restrictions varies in each region of the UK. So, whilst much of the advice and guidance is common between nations it's important to check details for your region. Some of the support schemes also vary. Links to the online guidance for each region can be found below: 

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

In addition, BEIS has published guidance on the devolved nations:

BEIS has published general information on support for businesses here. However, some aspects of business support have been devolved, and so specific advice for those regions can be found below.

  • Information for businesses in Northern Ireland is available here.
  • Information for businesses in Scotland is available here.
  • Information for businesses in Wales is available here.

13 - Republic of Ireland

Access full guidance on the actions the Irish government is taking, this includes support for you and your business as well as guidance on working during the restrictions.

Read the new Public Health measures which will be in place from the 18th May.

The list of essential service providers shows that heating technicians may continue to carry out emergency breakdown and repair work.

From 18th May, additional retailers, including builders' merchants, will be able to reopen subject to social distancing arrangements.

14 - Republic of Ireland - roadmap for reopening society and business

On 3rd May, the Irish government published a 5-phase roadmap for easing the lockdown restrictions. It is our understanding that this means that those working on construction sites may return to work on 18th May and heating technicians may resume working on 8th June. These are both subject to being able to maintain correct social distancing guidance whilst working. Click here to view.

Please read the Return to Work Safely Protocol issued by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

To access a construction site, it is now mandatory to have a digital card on your phone confirming you have completed the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) induction module. This also applies to heating and plumbing technicians installing boilers, tanks or plumbing works. The induction module can be completed online here

Also the CIF issued a back to work resource pack that you may find useful - it can be downloaded from their website.

The Peninsula group have also issued reopening advice for businesses on their website along with a series of webinars. Click here to access.

15 - Republic of Ireland - financial support

Details of the Irish government's support packages for businesses can be found here. This includes:

  • Payments for those who find themselves unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic (employed and self-employed).
  • Employee retention incentive scheme
  • Assistance for the self-employed

There are also the following advice pages:

16 - Where to find additional help

There is a UK government web page which links to a host of organisations offering support to individuals and businesses at this time.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) provides free HR, H&S and legal advice to their members as well as debt recovery support and useful webinars. Some of this advice is also available to non-members. Their regional reps are also extremely knowledgeable and can offer useful advice for small businesses. If you are considering joining the FSB, OFTEC registered businesses can save the £30 joining fee by following this link and quoting OFTEC30.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) sends out regular guidance by email for businesses, their emails flag important deadlines for receiving money from grants or support schemes - sign up here.

There is a network of regional Growth Hubs in the UK that offer free support for businesses - this includes free training and free one to one business advice. Click here to find your local office or call 0300 456 3565. During lockdown many are hosting free online webinars on a host of topics, so if you are not working at full capacity it could be an ideal time to pick up some new skills.

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

17 - 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.

If you are changing contact details, please make sure you update your account at www.ofteconline.com to ensure you keep receiving Oil Installer and E-News. Remember, if you are a sole trader, you need to update your business details as well as technician details.

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

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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.