UK & Europe
Employment, Pensions & Immigration
The government has asked parents to keep their children at home from 23 March 2020 to limit the chance of the coronavirus spreading and said that schools will remain open only for certain children. On 19 March 2020, the government published guidance for schools on maintaining limited childcare provision while schools are closed.
Schools, and all childcare providers, have been asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children – where they are:
The key principles are:
It is the definition of "key workers" which has been most debated since the guidelines were announced.
Who are key workers?
The guidance says: 'If your work is critical to the Covid-19 response, or you work in one of the critical sectors … and you cannot keep your child safe at home then your children will be prioritised for education provision:…'.
So key workers are those parents whose work is critical to the Covid-19 response, including individuals who work in health and social care, and certain individuals who work in other key sectors outlined below:
- financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure)
- oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage)
- information technology and data infrastructure sectors and primary industry supplies to continue during the Covid-19 response
- the civil nuclear, chemicals and telecommunications sectors (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services)
and staff needed for:
- postal services and delivery
- payments providers
- waste disposal sectors.
Financial services and insurance
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has set out steps firms should take to help identify key workers in financial services. They note that they expect only a limited number of people to be identified as being key financial workers.
The FCA says that a key financial worker - at a dual-regulated, FCA solo-regulated firm or PSR-regulated firm, or operators of financial market infrastructure - fulfils a role which is necessary for the firm to continue to provide essential daily financial services to consumers, or to ensure the continued functioning of markets.
To help firms identify who those individuals are, the FCA recommends that firms should identify:
It also lists the types of roles that may be considered as providing essential services. These include roles within the insurance sector, and Graeme Trudgill, Executive Director of British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA), has stated that the categories identified by the FCA cover various areas relevant to insurance brokers. He has also identified the ones that could be of relevance to brokers.
What this means for employers
Some employers are being asked to confirm whether particular workers are key workers.
It won't be clear in every case whether an individual is a key worker. In the guidance, the categories of key workers, and the roles encompassed within them, are broad and open to interpretation – particularly in relation to 'utilities, communication and financial services'. There is very little by way of guidance for employers and it is largely left to their discretion to decide if an employee qualifies as a key worker.
Given it is grey, what steps should an employer take?
Our view is that the Government has probably left the categories generic and grey on purpose. The Government does not want to miss out a worker who is required or needed for the Covid-19 effort.
This does mean that trust is placed in employers. So what should employers do? Our view is to step back and consider "is this person critical to the Covid-19 response?" And could it be explained to a third party why the view adopted has been adopted.
For those in insurance and financial services there is also the FCA guidance above to assist.
For any questions please contact your usual advisor at Clyde & Co.