John Hope, technical manager at the National Pest Technicians Association, has answered a number of questions from members. The first question asked was: Can members go about their business in the current lockdown period?
Mr Hope said: “Obviously the government guidelines are changing daily, but yes, in theory, you can go out and provide your service. The Prime Minister said is that if you cannot work from home, you can go to work.
“It is down to your own risk assessment and we cannot tell you not to work, but as Government guidelines are to stay home as much as practical, it is best to avoid non-essential and some job work. We also advise that members are particularly cautious about attending domestic visits because it’s more likely to be a place where people are self-isolating or actually ill.”
What is happening regarding Key Worker status?
Mr Hope said: “We have not had an official response to state that pest controllers are key workers. We have lobbied Government to try and get pest control officially recognised as an essential service, but so far have not had a response. However, although the Government hasn’t specifically mentioned pest control, they do state that the key objective is the need to protect public health and safety.
“We obviously need to be careful how we interpret this, so as mentioned earlier, you should only be visiting situations where public health threat pests are present or any ongoing treatments, which you should aim to conclude as quickly as practical. The situation may change and we will keep you updated.”
What about domestic customers lying about self-isolation/symptoms?
Mr Hope said: “If you think the risk to either yourself or others is too high, then you should not attend. If possible, get the customer to send you photos or conduct a remote video call where you can advise on the necessary measure they can undertake to limit the problem until the current restrictions are lifted.”
What are the financial aid details?
Mr Hope said: “Employees that are temporarily laid off are now entitled to a Furlough payment of around 80% of their salary, capped at £2,500. The self-employed are entitled to 80%, capped at £2,500 subject to an average of previous tax returns.
Any business newly setup, unfortunately, does not qualify and in this case you will need to claim Universal Credit.”
What about the spread of Covid-19 through clothes etc?
Mr Hope said: “The Government and health agencies have confirmed that Covid-19 can exist on inanimate surfaces for up to 72 hours, so this can be a potential risk. Measures will therefore need to be put in place to mitigate this risk, particularly if coming into contact with known or suspected cases.”
What should we do if we have contracts or regular work with pubs, clubs, restaurants, takeaways that are currently closed?
Mr Hope said: “Try to get across that while this might be longer-lasting than we’d like, it isn’t going to last forever. People are going to need pest prevention services when this is all over. In my view, empty buildings such as shops, restaurants, pubs etc may still need pest prevention now, otherwise they could return to business to find a lot of damage.
“Consult with your customers and where possible, conduct these visits less frequently than usual and try and do these unattended. Reports can be emailed and obviously ensure that you observe social distancing.”
What should we do if we regularly work with schools and nurseries which are currently closed?
Mr Hope said: “Schools may still require pest control services. As with restaurants and pubs, try and limit visits and where possible do these unattended. Reports can be emailed and obviously ensure that you observe social distancing.”