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01 April 2021

Member update – 1 April

This week:

Office hours and support - Easter and bank holiday weekend

The FODO office will close at 5pm today and reopen on Tuesday 6 April at 9am. Members can still access support over the bank holiday by emailing [email protected], where the on-call team will pick up any request. 

Important reminder for opticians - changes to self-employment checks

This is a reminder that changes to the off-payroll working rules via IR35 come into effect from 6 April 2021. Key points are:

  • Rules for engaging individuals through personal service companies (PSCs) or other intermediaries will change from this date
  • Responsibility for working out whether IR35 applies and PAYE and NIC are deducted will move to the organisation engaging an individual's services provided by the PSC (or another intermediary)
  • Non-compliance could lead to significant penalties 
  • Practices and businesses need to understand what, if any, impact the change will have on your organisation.

The new rules apply to private sector companies that meet two or more of the following conditions:

  • Annual turnover of more than £10.2 million
  • Balance sheet total of more than £5.1 million
  • More than 50 employees.

HMRC has produced a list of nine steps you may need to take. Check your progress against the nine steps. You can also register and watch an HMRC webinar on the changes to off-payroll working.

Finally, HMRC has confirmed that from 6 April 2021, it "will focus on ensuring compliance with the new IR35 rules, rather than investigating past arrangements", with the exception being where it suspects "fraud or criminal behaviour".

Practice/business members can contact us if they have any questions or would like to discuss these changes by emailing [email protected]

Important reminder for locums

If you are a locum that works through a Personal Service Company (PSC) or other intermediary, you should be aware that some of your clients are now required by law to perform an assessment of your self-employment status (see story above).

As a result, you might receive a 'Status of Determination Statement' (SDS) from specific clients. The SDS will set out your employment status for tax purposes.

If your client is not within the scope of the new regulations, then your limited company remains responsible for determining whether the off-payroll working rules apply to you in each engagement.

Review this HMRC flowchart and factsheet to learn more.

Locum members can contact us if they have any questions or would like to discuss these changes by emailing [email protected]

Action required - compliance with face-covering guidance

Members are asked to ensure their policies to manage situations in which patients attend for face-to-face care without a face covering comply with College of Optometrists guidance. The College guidance can be found on the Covid-19 FAQs page, under 'patients without face coverings'.

These are nuanced situations where professional judgement needs to be applied, and blanket approaches are not appropriate. Without this, there is a risk of disability rights claims being brought against providers that insist on patients with an exemption having to wear a face-covering in all cases. 

GOS update, patient signatures and fees - England

As reported last week, GOS contractors can continue to submit GOS claims without a patient signature by entering 'COVID-19' in the patient signature box.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has now confirmed that this will "last until 30 June 2021. This will, however, be kept under review and may be extended if there continues to be a cross-infection risk, or removed, as soon as it is deemed safe for patients to resume signing forms." Read the DHSC decision.

Following the 25 March OFNC announcement that GOS sight test fees would increase by 1.9%, DHSC has published its annual letter about fees and grants for primary eye care this week. Read the DHSC letter

Get involved - free interactive CET event on AMD

An online interactive CET lecture from the Macular Society and the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) aims to improve the experience of diagnosis for patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The event will help clinicians communicate difficult news and reduce the likelihood of getting it wrong for patients. It will take place online at 7pm on 6 April. Learn more and register now

PSA praises GOC on its pandemic response

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has published its annual performance review of the GOC for 2019/20. In its review, the PSE praised the GOC's response to the pandemic, saying it:

  • "Responded quickly and constructively to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It issued guidance for registrants and businesses on a range of topics which was well received by many stakeholders."
  • "Showed agility in adapting its core activities, making good use of technology to continue its work to approve and quality assure education providers and to hold remote fitness to practise hearings."
  • "Consulted quickly and constructively with key stakeholders as it made these changes and has consulted more widely and thoroughly as it considers making longer-term changes."

The review found the GOC met 16 of 18 Standards of Good Regulation. It failed to meet Standards 10 and 15 because it needed to improve its systems and the quality of the register and manage fitness to practise (FtP) cases more promptly.

Read the PSA's review.

Read the GOC's response

This week, the GOC also published the second version of its FtP FOCUS bulletin, which focuses on the second stage of the case progression process - investigation. Learn more

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