Coronavirus: important information for members

A quick guide to some of the latest information from the AOP including contacting us during the crisis, and our 20% membership fee reduction

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As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak develops, the AOP is acutely aware of how this rapidly changing situation has the potential to place a devastating strain on the profession.

During this time, the AOP will remain open to support all our members. Our teams are currently working to produce the guidance you need and assist with your queries, while working closely with optical partners and Government about the immediate measures needed to protect the future of the sector.

This page will provide a quick guide to some of the latest information from the AOP, and will be reviewed daily.

Contacting the AOP

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak and a government directive on social distancing, the AOP head office team is now working remotely. We appreciate that this is a difficult time for members and you will have a number of queries and concerns. As always, the AOP team is working hard to continue to support and protect you throughout. We are experiencing a high volume of queries at the moment. In order to manage this process more effectively, please can you email your enquiry, along with your membership number, to the relevant departments listed on the Our People page.

We appreciate that the volume of enquiries will be high to particular departments. To contact the Legal team, please address your enquiry to one of the email addresses below:

For membership queries, please contact: [email protected]

AOP advice and FAQs on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We have published Novel Coronavirus advice for members, including the latest NHS England advice, that we are updating on a regular basis.

We have also published

Please note that we have updated our advice on routine sight tests - see Coronavirus COVID19 and when to provide a sight test

Support for locums

Locum optometrists are suffering real hardship as the COVID-19 crisis worsens. This problem extends far beyond optics, potentially affecting five million self-employed people in the UK.

On Friday 20 March the Chancellor announced changes that will give extra support to self-employed people, including locums. These include deferred income tax payments and enhanced access to statutory sick pay and universal credit. However, we recognise that these measures won’t in themselves provide adequate financial support to locums without work. The Financial Times reported on Sunday 22 March that the Government is looking urgently at further steps to protect self-employed people from the financial impact of COVID-19, which may include the same model of income protection that’s being offered to employees who are furloughed because of the crisis. We will alert our members to any further changes as soon as we know more.

See also:

Business update

We know that all our members will be extremely concerned about what this crisis means for them. On 17 March the government announced more measures to help businesses, and will clearly need to do much more to support businesses and individuals in dealing with the impact that coronavirus will have on the economy. We’ll keep updating our guidance and advice to help AOP members understand what help they can access from government.
The AOP and the other optical sector bodies, via the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee, are also working closely with NHS England on how best to support GOS contractors during this very difficult period. NHS England is well aware of the need to do this urgently, and the OFNC expects to be able to provide more information on this soon. Updates to the sector are expected shortly.

Postponement of extension of IR35

Members were sent a detailed update about preparing for changes related to IR35, by email on 26 February 2020. In the light of unprecedented recent events, the government is now postponing the extension of IR35 to medium and large companies in the private sector for a year until 6 April 2021. We know that many of you working for larger companies will have been given new contracts to sign. In light of this news, you should check with the company whether this is still a requirement for them. 

For questions about sick pay, cancellation of locum work, shorter hours or unpaid leave, please visit our Coronavirus FAQs page.

2020 membership fee reduction

The AOP Board is acutely aware of the cashflow difficulties many of our members are having at this unprecedented time. To support you, they have agreed a 20% reduction in membership fees, which is the equivalent of two monthly direct debit payments. The detail of what this will mean for your upcoming payments is set out here.

AOP events

All AOP event activity will be postponed until the end of June. Please follow the link to the events page where you will find further information on how to manage your booking and how to explore the alternative online CET and CPD opportunities.  

Updated 30 March 2020