The Secretary of State announced a new scheme on 27 April 2020 to provide life assurance benefits for eligible NHS and social care staff in England who are performing frontline work during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in recognition of the increased risks that staff are currently facing and will cover coronavirus related deaths of workers in frontline roles during the outbreak.
It will also cover staff who provide hands-on personal care for people who have contracted coronavirus or work in health or care settings where the virus is present.
In the event of an eligible staff member dying in the course of COVID-19 work, a lump sum payment of £60,000 will be made to their estate, regardless of their salary. The scheme is non-contributory meaning there is no cost to staff or employers.
The scheme is time-limited, providing cover for the duration of the pandemic until the relevant NHS workforce provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020 are withdrawn. Deaths that occurred before the announcement of the scheme will also be considered.
The scheme is separate from the NHS Pension Scheme, meaning this payment will be made in addition to any death benefits in relation to NHS Pension Scheme membership.
To be eligible for the scheme the following criteria must be met:
- staff must be employed by an NHS body, an organisation that supports the delivery of NHS services or work on an NHS contract e.g. primary care medical and dental services
- staff will be covered if they interact directly with coronavirus patients or if they carry out vital duties within these care environments, for example, cleaners and porters
- the individual must have been at work in the 14 days prior to the onset of their coronavirus symptoms.
The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (SoS) has the ultimate decision about whether a case meets the eligibility criteria. The SoS must be reasonably satisfied that:
- the individual was exposed to a high risk of contracting coronavirus whilst carrying out their work
- the individual contracted coronavirus during the course of their work
- Coronavirus disease was the whole or main cause of death.
Staff can be:
- full-time or part-time
- permanent or temporary, including agency workers and locums
- retired staff who have returned to NHS employment
- students taking up paid frontline roles.
The scheme will be administered by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHS BSA) and further details on the eligibility criteria can be found on the NHS BSA website, along with FAQs.
Where a death occurs, the employer will oversee the completion of the benefit claim form. Further information about key actions for employers is available below.
We have also produced a helpful flowchart that takes you through the claims process and the actions employers need to take.
NHS Pension Scheme life assurance and family benefits
Members of the NHS Pension Scheme can use our briefing document that details the different levels of benefits that the NHS Pension Scheme provides to staff in different circumstances. This briefing includes information for individuals that have returned to work from retirement.
Employers have the responsibility to communicate the scheme to all staff who may be affected and to make the claim when a member of staff has died due to working on COVID-19.
Making a claim for a deceased member of staff
Employers have a key role in the process of submitting a claim for the lump sum payment. The process of making a claim is outlined below:
1. The employer completes preliminary eligibility checks.
2. If there may be eligibility for a claim, the employer contacts bereaved families to start the application process.
3. A benefits claim form is downloaded from the NHS BSA website by the claimant and completed by the claimant’s legal representative.
4. The claimant sends the claim form and any supporting documentation to the employer.
5. The employer certifies that the staff member was eligible for the scheme and that the death was a qualifying case. The full eligibility and qualifying criteria is available on the BSA website.
If there is any ambiguity surrounding eligibility, the employer should still process the claim form and include detailed information about the service that the individual was providing on their last working day. The Secretary of State has ultimate responsibility for deciding whether a case meets the eligibility criteria.
6. The employer ensures that the claim form is fully completed and that the supporting documents are correct.
7. The employer sends the claim form and certified photocopies of the required supporting documents to NHS BSA*
The NHS BSA will process the application and will certify the eligibility of the claim. If eligible, a Grant of Probate will be requested from the claimant. The lump sum payment will be made within 30 days of NHSBSA receiving the Grant of Probate.
Further detailed information about this process, along with FAQs are available on the NHS BSA’s website.
Access this handy flowchart which takes you through the process.
*Where the deceased’s employer has been commissioned by the NHS or local authority to provide publicly funded social care and healthcare services, the claim form must be certified by the commissioning organisation.