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Do They Mean Us?

How "Essential" is it for an Accountant to Travel to Work?

Didn't find your answer?

Per government advice on who is able to travel to work:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintain...

[QUOTE]"Utilities, communication and financial services

This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure)....."[UNQUOTE]

Ok, so it's fairly essential I travel to my office today if I am to perform payroll and other financial services provisions. But does that work itself constitute essential financial services within the government's definition, above?  Or am I lining myself up for a £60 fine and an appearance on News at Ten?

Now that PC Plod will have a say in that, how are other members interpreting such a subjective guideline?

Replies (27)

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By mbee1
30th Mar 2020 08:20

I would say it does NOT count as essential. Why do you need to go into the office to run a payroll? Why isn't it available to run at home? Even the non cloud based payrolls like Brightpay have given instructions on how to transfer the data from one computer to another.

What other financial services provisions do you have to do that can't be done at home?

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Replying to mbee1:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
30th Mar 2020 11:26

mbee1 wrote:

I would say it does NOT count as essential.

So would I, but the clients disagree

mbee1 wrote:

Why do you need to go into the office to run a payroll?

I need February's backups from a computer I left in the office.

mbee1 wrote:

Why isn't it available to run at home?

It is, almost, except I have the wrong restore files.

mbee1 wrote:

What other financial services provisions do you have to do that can't be done at home?

Indirect stuff, housekeeping, post, bits and pieces like passwords and backup media that I may be unable to fetch a week from now when we're properly curfewed. 😷
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ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
30th Mar 2020 08:24

Although payroll clerks are key workers

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
30th Mar 2020 11:11

atleastisoundknowledgable... wrote:

Although payroll clerks are key workers

Thanks... that'll do me!
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By ms998
30th Mar 2020 08:34

We work with tax which means working with legislation. If in doubt on the legal position look at the legislation. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/regulation/6/made 6(f)

to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living;

This is strict legal position and you'll have to to take your own via on whether you follow the guidance which isn't the legal position.

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Replying to ms998:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
30th Mar 2020 11:45

ms998 wrote:

to travel for the purposes of work.....where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living;

This is strict legal position and you'll have to to take your own via on whether you follow the guidance which isn't the legal position.


Thanks ms998, I know how I would interpret "to travel for the purposes of work"(notwithstanding its reasonableness exceptions) but the government site linked in my original post has interpreted that with its own take on how financial services might fit the bill; and I'm interested to hear how other members are interpreting these travel guidelines before I set out for Great Metropolis.

Ultimately I'm alarmed that PC Plod might be left to adjudicate, and would like to arm myself with the knowledge that I'm not alone amongst my peers; or otherwise, of course.


😷
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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By ms998
30th Mar 2020 14:41

PC Plod at the moment are doing whatever they like. No amount of legislation / guidance is going to stop that. As an example PC plod has said you are allowed an hour of exercise but the law says nothing of the sort.

When it gets to court you would say you were travelling to work and show you did payroll which you couldn't do at home and therefore come within reasonable excuse.

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A Putey FACA
By Arthur Putey
30th Mar 2020 08:45

Although many aspects of work can be done from home (unless you are still using on premise Sage bless you), there are some reasons to travel to the office. Collecting post might be one of them. Needing to access to paper files. Payroll another.

If the question were "is it essential for an accountant to do any work at all?" the answer might well be no, beyond payroll. But only if they could claim financial support and deal with the backlog of work that would await them on their return.

Funny how one's perspective changes. I've gone from being bored stiff to being glad there is so much work to do at the moment when I can't do much else.

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Replying to Arthur Putey:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
30th Mar 2020 12:03

Collecting post, needing to access to paper files, payroll..... that'll do nicely thank you!
I think I'd rather be bored and taking it easy than too busy as we are right now. I'm balancing the need to deal with clients' affairs with looking after the health of numero uno, having heard on this morning's news that anyone of a certain age is unlikely to be put on a ventilator as younger and fitter people can (rightly) be turned around faster. Which prospect sounds uncomfortably like Logan's Run

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By Duggimon
30th Mar 2020 09:24

HMRC have not suspended deadlines of filing returns. It is therefore very clearly and obviously the government's opinion that filing of said returns is essential work.

Whether that is a sensible opinion or not I'll leave to you to decide but they can't on one hand mandate that we file the returns then on the other fine us for going in to the office if it proves a necessary step in doing so.

I can do my entire job including filing from home but it's unreasonable to assume everybody can, it was too short a timescale to put everything in place to make it possible.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
30th Mar 2020 13:26

Thanks Duggimon, it seems even more essential this month given the dearth of government detail surrounding many clients' financial futures. I foresee many resultant breakdowns and perhaps even suicides.

We raided the office at dawn last Monday for everything we thought we'd need, but hey-ho it seems we didn't think of everything.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By rockallj
30th Mar 2020 11:58

Duggimon wrote:

HMRC have not suspended deadlines of filing returns. It is therefore very clearly and obviously the government's opinion that filing of said returns is essential work.

Whether that is a sensible opinion or not I'll leave to you to decide but they can't on one hand mandate that we file the returns then on the other fine us for going in to the office if it proves a necessary step in doing so.

I can do my entire job including filing from home but it's unreasonable to assume everybody can, it was too short a timescale to put everything in place to make it possible.

Brilliantly & succinctly put, thank you. After all, HMRC still expect their obligations to be met. If taxes are not filed and paid, how will these schemes be paid for.

For me, the issue is receiving records from clients. What are others doing on this front? No everyone is digital, but now is the chance (and clients have the time now) to learn and do a spreadsheet, photo etc.

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Psycho
By Wilson Philips
30th Mar 2020 10:06

I think you are making the same mistake as others, and confusing travel for essential work with essential travel for work.

The guidance that you have linked to deals with the identification of those key workers whose children may still attend school. It has nothing to do with the more general guidance.

The Government has produced a list of those businesss (predominantly public-facing) that must close their doors, with exceptions. Accountancy and other professional offices do not appear on that list.

If it is essential to travel to the office to carry out the work - eg to pick up files, collect mail, then my view is that this travel is (for the time being) still permitted.

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Replying to Wilson Philips:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
30th Mar 2020 12:22

Wilson Philips wrote:

The guidance that you have linked to deals with the identification of those key workers whose children may still attend school. It has nothing to do with the more general guidance.


Thanks Wilson, there a dearth of interpretation of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations and the key worker / school attendance guidance seemed a reasonably good rough guide, at least so far as the govt interpretation of essential financial work is concerned

Wilson Philips wrote:

The Government has produced a list of those businesss (predominantly public-facing) that must close their doors, with exceptions. Accountancy and other professional offices do not appear on that list.

If it is essential to travel to the office to carry out the work - eg to pick up files, collect mail, then my view is that this travel is (for the time being) still permitted.


Thank you, that's good to hear. Let's hope Plod agrees with you. I've a feeling this is very much a regional matter: at home in the sticks everyone is going about their daily business with a fairly liberal interpretation - we're sparsely populated and rural / agricultural so life goes on. But no doubt things will be different in Great Metropolis, with more stringent application and enforcement. We'll see.
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By Wanderer
30th Mar 2020 10:22

I&#039;msorryIhaven&#039;taclue]</p> <p>[QUOTE wrote:
"Utilities, communication and financial services

This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure)....."[UNQUOTE]

As Wilson says people are confusing this part of the legislation with what are defined as key workers.
Also note that CIPP has confirmed with the Department of Education that payroll professionals are key workers.
https://www.cipp.org.uk/resources/news/payroll-key-workers.html
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Replying to Wanderer:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
30th Mar 2020 12:25

Excellent, thank you Wanderer for that news and its link.

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By GW
30th Mar 2020 10:28

The guidance for businesses, which is not inconsistant with the guidance for schools in the link given by the OP says:

Keeping your business open
With the exception of some non-essential shops and public venues, we are not asking any other businesses to close – indeed it is important for business to carry on.

However, you should encourage your employees to work from home unless it is impossible for them to do so.

Sometimes this will not be possible, as not everyone can work from home. Certain jobs require people to travel to their place of work – for instance if they operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or are delivering front line services.

It must come down to, minimise the travel to work consistant with continuing to operate. I can't see any reference to only carrying out essential work.

I am mostly working from home, but have visited the office alone to deal with the incoming post and sort out computer glitches enabling the business to continue and everyone else to work from home. I can't see where this is contrary to the legislation or any of the official guidance, unless someone can show I'm wrong, if PC Plod objects, I'll make sure I take his contact details so the distraught clients know where to complain.

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Replying to GW:
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By rockallj
30th Mar 2020 12:00

GW wrote:

I am mostly working from home, but have visited the office alone to deal with the incoming post and sort out computer glitches enabling the business to continue and everyone else to work from home. I can't see where this is contrary to the legislation or any of the official guidance, unless someone can show I'm wrong, if PC Plod objects, I'll make sure I take his contact details so the distraught clients know where to complain.

Yep, this is what I am doing? Everybody else?

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Replying to rockallj:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
30th Mar 2020 12:30

I guess that's what I'm looking to do - it's just that the degree of lockdown in the country (home) is way less than in town (office).

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By legerman
30th Mar 2020 10:46

I'm going to my office (8 miles away) twice a week to collect any post. If PC Plod do stop me I will explain this and should they issue a fine it will be appealed.

It's more likely that PC Plod will accept my explanation and allow me to go on my merry way. I think they are more concerned about social travel and groups gathering.

Payroll can be done at home though. I have my files on onedrive and moneysoft on both home and work computer. Works a treat.

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Replying to legerman:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
30th Mar 2020 13:23

Thanks legerman, another vote for "it's ok to go".
Plod in my part of the world, at home, is very friendly and helpful - not unlike the policeman in Doc Marin - and is letting everyone go about their business unhindered. But the policemen in Great Metropolis, where the office is, are a different kettle of fish (rightly so, as self-enforcement evidently isn't working in Suburbia). Thanks everyone for the heads-up.

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Freddie
By Slim Freddie
30th Mar 2020 11:40

I'm fairly certain we are not classed as 'essential workers'. We all need to work from home if at all possible. I use Dropbox for most things these days including Brightpay for payroll so my staff and I can get on with majority of our workload.
Good luck everyone! Stay well!

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Replying to Slim Freddie:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
30th Mar 2020 13:30

Slim Freddie wrote:

We all need to work from home if at all possible.
Good luck everyone! Stay well!

I know, I know... we should all be home! Although I quite liked this morning's cautionary tale of an unessential journey that was clocked by Plod and a ticket issued:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-52088987

See what I mean? That's a fairly strict application of their powers by Cheshire Police. Who's to say that glazing repairs aren't essential? I'm not sure why the alleged miscreant's wife was travelling in the boot, but that sounds like rather a sensible arrangement to me.

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By leicsred
30th Mar 2020 15:38

I have just paid to have the post redirected but there have been occasional visits from staff to pick up post and records left by clients - predominantly VAT.

I can't see how that isn't allowed under the current rules - everyone drives and never more than one person at a time.

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Replying to leicsred:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
30th Mar 2020 20:14

The catch with mail redirect is having to go in person to the post office to prove identity re authorising the redirect. Given this I am driving the half mile to our office twice a week and collecting the post, in the spirit of social distancing it is safer than going into the post office.

(Am amazed nobody in HMG has considered some form of streamlined process which does not involve meeting face to face with A N Other as redirects must be a boom business at the moment)

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By pdtaylor78
30th Mar 2020 17:23

My daughter's nursery told me as an accountant I am a key worker and could continue to send my daughter to nursery. Needless to say she hasn't gone. There is loads of misunderstanding around this.

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Stephen Quay
By squay
01st Apr 2020 18:48

I have received an email from the IAB confirming that the Department of Education agrees that payroll professionals are key workers. (Thanks to the CIPP for lobbying them). I spent all last week processing payrolls in my office and I see no reason to change this for accounts and tax work and providing coronavirus support to clients. I work on my own in a self contained office in my village business park. I see no-one all day, arrive after others in the BP and leave after they've all gone home. Our paths never cross. I drive the quarter mile as it's safer but I could walk and risk bumping into a neighour (they do like to natter). I can't cross the road to avoid them as we have no pavements in the country. It's safer here than being at home. In fact this is how I work all year round. The only change is having no face to face meetings.

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