On 27 April the Government announced a new life assurance scheme covering health and social care workers that sadly die as a result of COVID-19. Staff who are performing vital frontline NHS or social care work during the pandemic may be eligible for the life assurance scheme, recognising the increased risks they are currently facing.
Although this life assurance scheme may provide some needed support to the families of healthcare workers that sadly die as a result of COVID-19, this proposal does not provide any long-term financial support.
The BMA continues to lobby on removing some of the restrictions with regards to death in service benefits within the NHS pensions scheme to ensure that all scheme members’ families are entitled to a long-term dependents pension.
How the scheme works
The life assurance scheme is non-contributory, meaning there is no financial cost to staff or employers.
In the event of an NHS staff member dying due to COVID-19 a tax-free lump sum payment of £60,000 will be made to their estate or payment made by cheque to the claimant, if they meet the qualifying work-related criteria for the scheme.
This scheme is time limited to cover the COVID-19 pandemic but claims from the families of health and social care workers who dies as a result of COVID-19 will also be considered.
The payment from the life assurance scheme will be in addition to any death in service benefits you may have as part of the NHS or an alternative pension scheme.
Who can claim
The life assurance scheme covers the following NHS staff members:
- staff employed by an NHS body
- staff who work for organisations that support the delivery of NHS services, including outsourced or subcontracted services
- staff who work on an NHS contract, including primary care medical and dental services.
Staff can be either:
- full-time or part time
- permanent or temporary (including agency workers and locums)
- retired and returned to NHS employment
- students who are taking up paid frontline roles.
Eligibility for the scheme is work related which means that the person must have contracted coronavirus in the course of performing their duties at work. Eligibility will be certified by the employer however; the secretary of state will have ultimate responsibility about whether the criteria has been met.
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.
Where it is difficult to establish whether the individual had contracted coronavirus in the workplace through performing their duties claimants will be invited to explain further and this will be appropriately considered.
How to make a claim
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. All claims forms should be filled out by a legal representative for the deceased or a solicitor acting on behalf of the estate. The completed form and any supporting documents will need to be sent to the employer who will then certify the claim and send to NHS BSA (Business Services Authority).
If the employer does not contact you, and you believe there is eligibility please contact the employer to inform them in the first instance.
The claim form can be found on the NHS BSA website.
Once the NHS BSA have received the completed form and supporting documents from the employer, they will begin to process the application. The lump sum will be paid into the bank or building society account of the estate or a cheque will be issued to the claimant.
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.
NHS pension death in service cover
As previously mentioned, the payment from the life assurance scheme will be in addition to any death in service benefits you may have as part of the NHS or an alternative pension scheme. A separate claims form will need to be completed for death in service benefits for the NHS pensions scheme.
Further information about how to access death in service benefits can be found on the NHS BSA website.
The BMA will continue to lobby on issues with death in service benefits however, in the meantime you should be aware of your current level of death in service cover within the NHS pensions scheme.
Further information for employers
As outlined by NHS BSA employers, such as GP employers and hospital trusts, have a responsibility to disseminate communication materials around the life assurance scheme to all staff including temporary staff and sub-contractors.
As stated earlier, if an employer becomes aware of a death where there may be eligibility for a claim, they should contact the next of kin directly to inform them about the process to claim. Employers should oversee the completion of the claim form and use the following fact sheet to check eligibility criteria. Employer should send the completed form including any supporting documents to the following address:
NHS Business Services Authority
PO Box 2269
Life assurance scheme helpline
If you need further guidance NHS BSA have set up a helpline on the NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme 2020. Contact details for the helpline are as follows:
Telephone: 0300 330 3331
Outside UK: +44 (0)191 283 8904
If you require any further support with this guidance or your pension please contact [email protected].