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#COVID-19: guidance for grooms

 

With the rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, information and advice from Government can change quickly. For all the latest Government information on COVID-19 and the measures the Government, and Devolved Governments, are taking, please visit the UK Government website, the Scottish Government website, the Welsh Government website or the Northern Irish Government website.

The information below is kept under continuous review and is updated often, please be sure to check the COVID-19: guidance for employers and businesses from the Government for the latest updates.

The Government have launched a new website that helps businesses find out how to access the support that has been made available, who is eligible, when the schemes open and how to apply. 


On this page 

Minimise the risk of injury 
Lockdown - what do we know
Riding and caring for horses
Advice for freelancers
Support for the self employed
Advice for employed
Your mental health 


 


Can I minimise the risk of injury

Riding horses is just one way of getting injured, so what can you do to minimise the risk and help to protect our NHS?

There are a lot of fit horses currently that can’t just be turned away, which increases the risk even more of injuries happening.

Unfortunately, accidents can and will still happen - so be extra cautious during this time period.

10 critical tips to follow 


Make sure you wear a hat. And not just for riding. Being on the floor is just as dangerous as riding and even if you don’t normally then wear a hat for turn out, lunging etc then now is a really good time to start.

Although the focus is very much on COVID-19, don’t forget that **it still happens – now more so than ever. Your BGA personal accident membership is there to protect you and your livelihood should you get injured and are unable to work. Don't work without it. (it is going to cost you just £11.79 for Silver membership for this month)

Ditch those trainers for some correct footwear. Yes trainers might be more comfortable, but they offer very little in the way of protection should you get trodden on.

Wear gloves - for everything. Whether you are turning out, lunging, leading, have those gloves on for a little bit of extra protection and grip. 

If you are in the stable to muck out, tack up or groom then tie them up. Even the quietest of horses can get a fright. Even if you don’t normally, it is worth doing it for the time being.

Risk assess. This sounds obvious but each situation is individual so it is up to you to make a decision based on safety… it really is better to be safe than sorry. For example if you have a really fresh horse (which needs exercise for whatever reason), then could you either lunge them, or turn them out first and ride later. Consider wearing a body protector even if you wouldn’t normally. Don’t take any unnecessary risks.

Communicate. If you are concerned about a situation or a particular horse then speak to the rest of your team or your boss (safely of course), so that you can come up with a plan together to prevent anyone from potentially getting hurt. This might be something as simple as deciding to turn out in a bridle for extra control.

Stick to a routine. Horses are creatures of habit and love routine. Taking them out of their usual routine may leave them feeling unsettled and more likely to be more reactive. Instead try to keep their daily lives as normal as possible.  

Stay healthy. Accidents are more likely to happen if you feel tired or unwell as your concentration slips. Make sure that you are looking after yourself, eating well and regularly throughout the day, and by getting enough sleep so that you are at your best throughout your working day.

Remember your biosecurity advice which includes hand washing and not sharing tools. This is so important for us all to do our bit in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. Yes we all love a good catch up in the tack room, but now is not that time. Keep in touch with people digitally instead.

 

BGA INsurance - is it still covering me

Your BGA personal accident insurance is not a sickness cover and does not cover you for COVID-19. 

It is crucial that you maintain your BGA policy to ensure you remain covered in the case of an accident, as they still will happen during this time.

In fact, potentially with fit fresh horses not being exercised as they normally might do, we are concerned that grooms might have more chance of getting injured. 

A fracture or break would see you off work for many more months than Coronavirus. If you do not have cover, consider joining or upgrading today to protect your income. 

  KBIS STATEMENT ON YOUR BGA PERSONAL ACCIDENT INSURANCE
As long as the Insured is not carrying out an activity that is illegal or going against government restrictions the personal accident policy will continue to respond. 

It is regardless of whether or not you are being paid or working for free. If you are volunteering and not being paid, the temporary total disablement section will not respond as it is designed to cover loss of earnings.



Lockdown - what do we know

The Prime Minister escalates UK response to coronavirus with series of strict measures - this has been phrased a 'lockdown'.  

Grooms: As your work is essential as you are caring for animals, we take the PM's words that you will be allowed to travel to and from work, but please adhere to the highest level of biosecurity.

What does lockdown mean

Everyone must stay at home except for:

  • Shopping for basic necessities
  • Daily exercise
  • Medical needs
  • Travel to and from essential work

We know there will be many unanswered questions, we are working hard to find the answers and will keep posting them on this page.

Can i still go to work

Yes. As grooms are carers for horses and their welfare needs must be met, we are taking the government’s announcement to mean that those caring for animals are travelling essentially.

travel to essential work Template

The guidance stipulates that people can leave home to travel to and from work “only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.” On this basis, and provided that travel is strictly limited to the express purposes outlined by Government, travel directly to work to care for horses may continue.

Staff who are essential to the care of horses in respect of the above, and who absolutely cannot work from home, should continue to travel to work during the period of these restrictions.

The Equestrian Employers Association has created a template letter for employers to prove that your employees are essential workers, if challenged by the police. It is advised that this you get your employer or client to complete this template and keep it in your car, along with a form of ID. 


Essential travel to work template

Adapt this template letter to produce if challenged by the authorities, to prove that it is absolutely essential for you to travel to work.

 

RIDING & CARING FOR HORSES

The British Equestrian Federation urges all members of the equestrian community to strictly adhere to the Government’s directive to stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary to travel.

The welfare of horses, and other livestock, is still essential, making your travel as an employee, owner or volunteer to provide care valid under the current guidance.

Please keep your own health and safety in mind, as well as that of everyone around you.

At present, there are no definitive guidelines or restrictions around caring for and riding horses, and we will share anything which becomes available from government.

To help through these uncertain and ever-changing times, the BEF have put together some guidance for all around looking after and riding horses under the current requirements. 

STAYING SAFE




Do
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds. Avoid drying your hands on a communal towel.
  • Use hand sanitiser gel when you get back into your car. 
  • Avoid going to work if you are feeling unwell.
  • Self-isolate for at least seven days if you show any symptoms of coronavirus (even mild ones). If symptoms remain mild you do not need to call 111, but make sure you have made provisions for your own horse / dog (if applicable). 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using your regular cleaning products.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hand), or you cough or sneeze.
  • Put the tissue in the bin straight away and wash your hands.
  • Avoid contact with people who are unwell.
Don't
  • Touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
  • Eat before washing your hands.

GOING TO THE YARD

  • Keep visits to a minimum without compromising your horse’s welfare – consider a buddy system with another livery
  • Go to the yard solo – no passengers, family or children
  • Change into clean yard clothes
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water before leaving the house
  • Consider putting your horse on full livery if it’s available and financially viable
  • If your horse is on full livery, only make essential yard journeys. Keep in touch by phone, email or video call with the yard.

AT THE YARD

  • Respect any restrictions put in place by the yard owner or manager – they are for your safety and their own. It’s their business and/or home.
  • Wash hands thoroughly on arrival – take soap and water with you if the facilities aren’t available
  • Maintain social distancing with other liveries and avoid common areas, such as tea rooms, as much as possible. Keep at least two metres apart at any time
  • Use your own equipment. If you need to use shared equipment such as wheelbarrows or hosepipes, disinfect the areas you’re touching or wear disposable gloves
  • Avoid activities that carry an increased risk of injury and consider wearing an up-to-standard riding hat while handling your horse
  • Assess your horse’s diet, and reduce energy intake according to the reduced levels of exercise you may be providing
  • Take advantage of feed, hay and bedding suppliers who offer a delivery service, and liaise with them closely to ensure that their service isn’t impacted. Make provision of essential supplies so you are prepared in the event of a shortage
  • Limit the number of visitors to the yard, and ask that those who do visit closely follow hygiene and social distancing guidance

LEAVING THE YARD

  • Keep your visit timely and avoid lingering – only carry out what’s necessary to ensure your horse’s welfare and wellbeing
  • Wash hands thoroughly before leaving the yard
  • If you have hand sanitiser that’s at least 60% alcohol, use it to clean your hands when you get into your car

arriving home

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap straight away
  • Have a specific ‘yard visit’ towel to dry your hands on
  • Get changed immediately into clean, fresh clothes

If you keep your horse(s) at home, many of these points, particularly around hygiene and clothing, should be observed.

PREPARE FOR SELF ISOLATION

Make a plan with your yard owner or manager, or your fellow liveries, for what will happen if you’re unable to get to the yard. If you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19 or if somebody in your household does, even if they’re only mild, do not visit your horse.

You will need to self-isolate for at least seven days or 14 in a shared household. If you have no alternative and it’s a question of welfare, you can attend to your horse but only as a last resort and within your own property boundaries when riding.

RIDING

The BEF's advice on riding remains unchanged. 

"We recommend that people don’t ride their horses unless strictly necessary. We should all respect the Government’s message of ‘stay safe, save the NHS, stay home’, and carefully consider the risks associated with riding. As a community, we should not be putting any additional pressure on our emergency and NHS services.

Personal circumstances will vary and we respect that individuals and businesses are being affected heavily in this situation, but we should all consider the potential impact of our choices.

While we can only offer advice, we would ask all riders to make an informed decision on whether to ride or not. If you do make the choice, we urge you to please ride within your means, wear up-to-standard safety equipment, avoid any high-risk activity and stay within the boundaries of your yard environment."

VETS AND FARRIERS

British Equestrian Veterinary Association (BEVA)

BEVA has issued guidance for the veterinary profession on the level of service they should be offering so horse owners can be clear on the position. In a bid to protect human health and follow the government recommendations, they will work towards maintaining as 24-hour emergency service only. This means they are advising all non-essential and routine work to be stopped.

Vets are being asked to consider telephone and video consultations and where a physical examination is necessary, the owner/handler/trainer should declare they are free from coronavirus.

BEVA is working with a number of other bodies on the status equine influenza booster vaccinations as this will have an impact on horses in competition and racing. An update will be issued next week on the position.

Routine stud and reproductive work is being looked at for further guidance.

British Farriers and Blacksmiths Association (BFBA)

Farriery is considered essential work and they have introduced a traffic light system to help with which appointments to attend.

Non-crucial hoofcare should be avoided if there is no risk of long term effects, where horses require time-sensitive appointments on welfare/soundness issues consideration should be given as advisory hoofcare and then where by not attending there may be serious detrimental effects on the horse, defined as crucial hoofcare.

Farriers have been instructed to:

  • Call ahead to verify that no one present is ill or has been in contact with anyone who is ill. 
  • No more than one owner or carer should be in attendance at appointments and should tie the horse up and then immediately move away to a safe distance
  • Observe the current coronavirus hygiene guidance.

A number of horse owners are considering ‘roughing off’ horses with their farrier’s advice and this may require moving horses to different locations. We would advise that, on welfare grounds, this would be permissible as in the long run it would lessen journeys and contact. Please ensure you maintain the two metre rule and only have two people maximum involved in the move.

 

Are grooms key workers

Grooms are not identified as key workers in the governments list. 





Advice for Freelancers

Freelance grooms, and especially those who would normally be travelling abroad, may see a direct impact on their loss of earnings, or might find themselves very busy due to other key staff being unable to work. 

If i am self isolating or have COVID-19 do i get sick pay

Self-Employed Freelancers are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, however you can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees. 

Your BGA Insurance is a personal accident cover and thus unfortunately does not apply.

 

Financial assistance 

Key measures announced to help freelancers included:

  • For those that do not qualify for the Governments Self Employed package, the minimum income floor in Universal Credit (UC) is relaxed for those directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating, ensuring self-employed claimants will be compensated for losses in income. 
  • ‘New style’ Employment and Support Allowance  is payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating according to government advice for from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day
  • People will be able to claim UC and access advance payments where they are directly affected by COVID-19 (or self-isolating), without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre
  • Introducing ‘Time to Pay’ arrangements - a time-limited deferral period on HMRC liabilities owed and a pre-agreed time period to pay these back – for businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax
  • HMRC will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulties contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to COVID-19
  • Self-assessment income payments will be deferred until Jan 2021.
  • For renters the Local Housing Allowance will cover at least 30% of market rents in your area.
 

HMRC has set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline to help those in need: 

The helpline number is 0800 0159 559 - and is an addition to other HMRC phone contact numbers.

Opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 4pm. 

 

CAN I STILL WORK IF a LOCK-DOWN

Yes.

HOW CAN I EARN MONEY 

Think about diversifying. Many supermarkets are heavily recruiting to provide logistics - although not ideal, this could be a temporary measure. 

I have no income

You could get Universal Credit on the basis of remaining at home on government advice: 
•    If you don’t qualify for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment and Support Allowance or 
•    you need additional help on top of SSP or New-style ESA.

As there is at least a five-week wait before you get Universal Credit, you can get help from day one through a Universal Credit Advance Payment.  Advance payments have to be paid back out of your Universal Credit payments .and must be paid back within 12 months.

People who need to claim Universal Credit because of coronavirus will not have to produce a fit note. Universal Credit is claimed online.

Self-employed claimants on Universal Credit who are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus will not have a Minimum Income Floor  (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time while affected. 

Can i still teach

The current advice from the BEF, based on Government recommendations, is that all equestrian activity should cease, which includes riding lessons, clinics and not going to riding centres because they are not considered essential travel.

Minimise face to face contact

Where possible minimise your face to face interaction with your clients, instead set up an open communication via another channel such as Whatsapp, to communicate what needs to be done each day.

If face to face communication is unavoidable take the steps above to minimise the risk and ensure that you wash your hands regular, avoid small enclosed populated spaces, and touching your face. Avoid anyone you know is feeling unwell, even if you suspect it may just be a common cold.

Limit any direct contact by emailing your invoices and asking for bacs payments instead of cash.

 


SUPPORT FOR THE SELF EMPLOYED 

The Government have announced a package for the self-employed on 26/03/2020.

This support is available for those who are registered as self employed with HMRC and have submitted 2019 accounts.

 

The employment status of grooms is critical in determining what government support is available at this challenging time.

If one has been told by an employer that they are ‘self-employed’, yet have not registered themselves as such with HMRC, sadly that individual will not be eligible for this self employed package NOR government support for the employed that are not required or unable to work i.e furlough.

We recommend applying for Universal Credit in this circumstance.

The details 

  • The government will pay self-employed people, who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus, a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last 3 years, up to £2,500 per month. Open for at least 3 months across the UK, and it will extend if necessary
  • You’ll be able to claim these grants and continue to do business. It's covering the same amount of income as they are for furloughed employees, who also get a grant worth 80%.
  • It is a grant, not a loan, so it does not have to be paid back. 
  • It’s only open to those with trading profits up to £50,000, who make a majority of their income from self-employment. To minimise fraud only those already in self-employment, who have a tax return for 2019 can apply.
  • HMRC are working urgently, we expect people to access it no later than the beginning of June. If eligible, HMRC will contact you with an online form, they pay the grant straight to your bank account.
  • To make sure no one who needs it misses out on support, anyone who missed the filing deadline in January, four weeks from today to submit their tax return.
  • You can access the business interruption loans.
  • Income tax payments due in July can be deferred to the end of Jan 2021.

How do I access it

HMRC are working urgently, we expect people to access it no later than the beginning of June. If eligible, HMRC will contact you with an online form, they pay the grant straight to your bank account.

To make sure no one who needs it misses out on support, anyone who missed the filing deadline in January, four weeks from today to submit their tax return.

I am employed and self employed

I am registered both employed and self-employed, which Government support applies to me?

This scheme is only open to those who make a majority of their income from self-employment

How soon will i have access to the money

At present the date hasn’t been confirmed, but it is thought to be estimated that the support will start paying out in June.

Do i have to be registered with the HMRC

Yes you do.

If you are not registered as self employed with HMRC then you do not qualify for this support. We recommend that you look at applying for Universal Credit.

What happens if I only recently registered with hmrc

To apply for this support you need to have been registered as self-employed and have a tax return for 2019. 

If you fall outside of this time frame then you will need to apply for Universal Credit.

I am not sure if i am in fact registered with hmrc

To be self-employed you will be registered with HMRC, submit your own tax return and pay your own National Insurance/Income Tax.

If you are not registered as self employed, then unfortunately this Government support is not available to you and you will need to register for Universal Credit.

I have been told by my employer that i am self employed

Your employer can not tell you that you are self-employed. If you work for just one person then you will be employed by them.

There are certain stipulations that you need to meet to self-employed, (such as being registered as self employed with HMRC, setting your own working hours, issuing invoices for work done and paying your own income tax/National Insurance).

If these do not apply to you then you have a false employment status.

If you are not registered as self employed, or employed (this is where you employer pays your tax and national insurance contributions out of your income), unfortunately you will need to register for Universal Credit

what is universal credit and does it apply to me

Universal Credit is government support for those who don’t qualify for the self employed, or employee packages.

You could get Universal Credit on the basis of remaining at home on government advice:

  • If you don’t qualify for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment and Support Allowance or
  • you need additional help on top of SSP or New-style ESA.

As there is at least a five-week wait before you get Universal Credit, you can get help from day one through a Universal Credit Advance Payment.  Advance payments have to be paid back out of your Universal Credit payments .and must be paid back within 12 months.

People who need to claim Universal Credit because of coronavirus will not have to produce a fit note. Universal Credit is claimed online.

Self-employed claimants on Universal Credit who are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus will not have a Minimum Income Floor  (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time while affected.



Advice for employed

80% WAGE COVER - FURLOUGH

WHAT IT MEANS AND HOW IT WORKS

The government have announced that an employer can “furlough “ employees, meaning they would be out of a job but still be registered with their employer and therefore receiving 80% of their wage.

• It applies to all businesses
• Employees who would otherwise be made redundant can be designated a “furloughed employee” by the employer
• It is the employer’s decision, but the employee will have to agree (why wouldn’t you as otherwise going to be redundant)
• It is max 3 months to 1st June when it will be reviewed for extension
• You will get 80% of wages
• The employee must not do any work for the employer whilst on furlough
• The employer does not have to top it up to full wages
• Likely to be based on February’s wages
• It does not apply to those who have already agreed to reduce their hours


THE PROCESS

The employer would notify the employee they were selected for furlough and get the employee’s agreement.

It is not yet clear as to how the employee would be requested to return to work but assumed that this would happen when the business was able to re-employee.


PROCESS FOR PAYMENT

Your employer still pays you, and then submits information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required). 

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.

AS SOON AS THERE IS MORE INFORMATION, WE WILL SHARE IT

Can I Lose my job because of CoronaVirus

If you have been in your current employment for under two years then yes, your boss can terminate your employment, provided your notice period (as set out in your contract) is paid.

If you have been in your employment for over two years then your employer can still terminate your contract and may look at offering either formal redundancy, or dismissal based on ‘Some other substantial reason’.  

CAN I TAKE EXTENDED UNPAID LEAVE

Yes, you can offer to have time off work and not get paid for it. Your boss doesn’t have to accept this. Make sure you have this offer in writing and a return to work date.

MY EMPLOYER WANTS ME TO USE MY HOLIDAY

Regulation 15 of the WTR allows for this compulsion, but notice must be given of twice as many days as the days to be taken. For example if your employer would like you to take 14 days holiday then they must give you 28 days notice.

I have been asked to reduce my hours

Employees can be laid off under statutory lay off provisions and so your employer is entitled to do this.

I am an apprentice & worried about my training

We would advise speaking to your training provider who will be able to help and support you.

I feel ill. My employer wants me to still work 

Employees should take time off work if they are ill. Government is clear that employers should support their staff’s welfare, especially during an extended response

Self-isolation and sick pay

Employees must receive any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to them if they need to self-isolate because:

  • they have coronavirus
  • they have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature or new continuous cough
  • someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
  • they've been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111

If someone has symptoms and lives alone, they must self-isolate for 7 days. 

If someone lives in a household and is the first to have symptoms, they must self-isolate for 7 days. Everyone else in their household must self-isolate for 14 days.

If anyone else in the household starts displaying symptoms, the person with the new symptoms must self-isolate for 7 days. This is regardless of where they are in the 14-day isolation period. 

What is layoff and short time working

Your employer might need to close down their business for a short time, or ask staff to reduce their contracted hours.

Employees who are laid off and are not entitled to their usual pay might be entitled to a 'statutory guarantee payment' of up to £29 a day from their employer.

This is limited to a maximum of 5 days in any period of 3 months. This is not a great solution as coronavirus is probably going to last for 12 weeks minimum. 

On days when a guarantee payment is not payable, employees might be able to claim Jobseekers Allowance. 



Your Mental health 

Your mental health matters and at a time when everything seems a little uncertain it is important to stay in communication with those around you.

If you are feeling worried or out of sorts then have a look at Grooms Minds, our online support to help you. As a BGA member you also have access to our Groom’s Minds Support Line – supported by Racing Welfare, is a free telephone helpline, open 24 hours a day. 

Remember at this time your friends and colleagues may also be struggling so reach out and stay in contact. Here at the BGA we are open as normal and here to chat and help where we can.  




Useful advice 

As the coronavirus continues to spread keep up to date with advice from the NHS who has detailed information on staying safe, and symptoms.

The BEF will issue regular statements from Member Bodies regarding their standing on the situation and events.

If you have a question that is not answered please get in touch - we are here to help you. 

 

 



 
 

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