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.
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
- OFTEC Direct remains closed until it is safe and responsible to reopen.
Although staff may be reached by phone, we strongly recommend you email your queries through to us. Direct contact details for those working remotely can be found 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:
- works notifications
- updating technical books
- updating your contact details
- renewing your registration online
OFTEC support package for registered businesses
In recognition of the unprecedented circumstances we all find ourselves in, we have introduced the following five measures to support our registered businesses.
As no one knows how long the restrictions will last, we will continue to monitor the situation and will review all these measures regularly:
- Free extension to your registration
- Direct Debit payment holiday for registered businesses
- Training courses
All current business and technician registrations have been automatically extended for two months following their expiry date, free of charge. This will apply to all businesses that maintain their registration. This automatic extension was implemented
from 31st March 2020 – you do not need to do anything.
For example, if your registration was due to renew on the 1st June 2020, your new renewal date will be the 1st of August 2020.
Your registration certificate and technician ID card(s) will show your old expiry date, however, the online Find a Technician search will reflect your new expiry date and we can provide verification of your new dates if necessary. If you would like a new ID card/certificate, please email our registration team.
We have implemented a payment holiday for those who pay their registration fees by monthly direct debit instalments. This will initially be for May and June – with payments set to resume on 1st July. Please note, this means that your payments will continue for an extra two months after they were due to finish.
Many of our approved training centres either fully or partially closed during lockdown in accordance with government guidelines. We therefore granted a three month temporary extension of qualification period for those registered technicians whose qualifications were due to lapse between 1st March and 31st May. For further information please click here.
All OFTEC inspection work has been 'paused'. If you had an inspection booked, it will be rescheduled for a more appropriate time. Your registration will not be penalised as a result.
We have extended the deadlines for completing outstanding non-conformities identified at inspections carried out before the lockdown was in place so that your registration will not be suspended due to outstanding non-conformities at this time. However, where it is possible and safe to do so, you should return to rectify the issue, document the action taken and confirm to us that it has been completed. If you are unsure, you should contact us to discuss the non-conformity further.
Please note, our compliance team is currently only responding to matters where there is a significant risk of harm to people or property.
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.
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.
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.
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 will be difficult for you to be able to go to work until schools reopen.
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).
- 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.
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!
- Details of all the financial support measures can be found online here - this includes:
- Support for the self employed - now open for applications >>.
- Job retention scheme (furlough), now extended until October. Step by step guide >>
- Income tax deferrals
- Reclaiming Statutory Sick Pay - scheme open from 26th May >>
- Deferral of VAT payments
- 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 has also been a six month extension to MOTs for cars, vans and motorcycles due on or after 30th March.
- Visit the government resources website for details of all the other free services currently available. These range from helplines and business advice to webinars on topics such as applying for grants and bounce back loans and free online training courses.
- If you are currently employing an apprentice, you can view the latest guidance here.
- A newly created government blog includes case studies on how different businesses are accessing support.
- A guide to protecting you and your business from fraud and cyber crime.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- General advice for Scotland
- Information for individuals and businesses in Scotland
- Scotland's routemap through and out of the crisis
- General advice for Wales
- Guidance for business and employers in Wales
- Wales' roadmap to unlock the economy and society
- General advice for Northern Ireland
- Additional health advice for Northern Ireland
- Stormont Executive five step roadmap to exiting lockdown.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Where to find additional help
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.
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.
Other pages in this section
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.