The Department of Health issued a press release confirming that families of health and care workers on the frontline in England will benefit from a new life assurance scheme during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Details of the scheme, which were first published on 27 April, are now beginning to become clearer.
Who is eligible?
The scheme will cover front-line NHS staff and social care workers in England and this includes:
- part-time or locum NHS and public health workers;
- GPs, dentists, retired staff and second and final year students taking up paid frontline roles;
- staff employed by statutory NHS bodies;
- staff employed by Department of Health and Social Care arm’s length bodies;
- non-NHS organisations who provide NHS-funded services and functions;
- organisations delivering public health grant funded services;
- employees of local authorities;
- care home providers for children and adults; and
- domiciliary care home providers and directly employed carers including personal assistants where some of the funding is public.
The scheme includes those providing direct care as well as cleaners and porters who continue to carry out vital duties in these care environments.
How much will they be entitled to?
Families of eligible workers will receive a £60,000 payment (tax-free). Funding will also be provided to devolved administrations to support similar schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through the Barnett formula.
Social care workers
Within social care, the scheme will cover employees of publicly funded care homes, home care, directly employed carers including personal assistants and frontline child and family social workers. This will not include wholly privately funded care homes. Unions have of course been very vocal that ALL care workers should benefit.
Within adult social care the scheme covers all staff employed by an organisation registered by the CQC to provide personal care and accommodation for persons who require nursing or personal care. In addition, members of the social care workforce in non-CQC registered organisations are also eligible, if their employer receives public funding.
Within children’s social care, the scheme covers child and family social workers employed or engaged by local authorities working in high risk circumstances including agency staff. It also covers those working for organisations that receive public funding to deliver children’s social care services. This includes employees, agency workers and contractors in children’s residential and secure homes or other settings where there is deemed to be a high risk of exposure which could not be avoided due to the nature and location of the work being carried out such as residential special schools.
Eligibility is work-related, where the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care can reasonably conclude that the person contracted coronavirus in the course of performing their duties.
Employers will be asked to initiate claims on behalf of the individual’s families and claims will be verified and processed by the NHS Business Services Authority, who will work with employers to ensure claims are handled swiftly and sensitively.
Employers should contact next of kin if they become aware of a death where there may be eligibility for a claim and oversee the claim being made.
The scheme is time-limited, providing cover for the duration of the pandemic. This is measured as the period for which the NHS workforce provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020 are in force (which took effect on 25 March) but claims for deaths occurring before this will be considered. At the conclusion of the emergency response, the Secretary of State will give notice (approx. six months) to close the scheme.
Deaths which occurred before the announcement of the scheme will also be considered. The scheme will remain open until the relevant NHS workforce provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020 expire. Ministers will then give notice that the Scheme is to close, and a six month period will allow any final claims to be made and settled.
How will payment be administered?
Lump sum payment of £60,000 will be made to their estate, if they meet the qualifying work-related criteria for the scheme. The life assurance scheme is non-contributory, meaning there is no cost to staff or employers. It is tax free.
Completing the form
The form should be completed by the deceased’s legal personal representative and will need to be certified by the deceased’s employer.
The form must include following information:
- the deceased’s details
- the legal personal representative’s details
- employment information regarding the deceased
- the cause of death as listed on the death certificate
- payment details
Legal personal representative will also need to provide the employer with the following supporting documentation:
- the death certificate; and either
- a grant of probate, or
- letters of administration
Further information re eligibility criteria
For the claim to be accepted the following criteria must be reasonably satisfied:
- coronavirus disease was wholly or mainly the cause of death;
- the individual was exposed to a high risk of contracting coronavirus disease in circumstances where they could not reasonably avoid that risk because of the nature and location of the work their work;
- the individual contracted coronavirus in the course of their work.
Circumstances that likely fall within these criteria are where the individual was:
- testing or diagnosing whether a person is infected with or contaminated by coronavirus
- coming into close proximity by reason of caring for, supporting, treating or providing other clinical service to a person who has, or is suspected of having, coronavirus or coronavirus disease
- providing any other type of service within the same environments where those services are delivered
An employer may require advice before completing these forms. A civil claim can still be pursued and it unclear if this payment will be a credit to set off against any further civil claim. At present there is no discussion that it will be recoverable in any civil claim but that might change?.
Where the individual was performing duties that do not fit these scenarios, or if it’s difficult to establish the presence of coronavirus in the workplace, the claimant is invited to explain why they think the individual was exposed to a high risk of contracting coronavirus because of the nature and location of their work. The claimant’s explanation will be appropriately considered.
Payment timescale and interest
Payment will be made within 30 days of NHS BSA receiving the authorised claim form. If the life assurance lump sum is not paid within 30 days, NHS BSA will pay interest on the unpaid amount. However, no interest will be paid if the application was delayed as a result of some act or omission on the part of the claimant.
The text of Parliament’s legislation can be found here.
- 19 June 2020 - Bill Made
- 22 June 2020 - Laid before the House of Commons
- 13 July 2020 - Coming into force
Michelle Penn, Partner and Abhinav Parameshwar, Trainee Solicitor
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com