CoviD-19: Business Support
Update 14 September 2021: Autumn and Winter plan 2021
The government set out its plans for Autumn and Winter in a document published on 14 September.
The main line of defence is now vaccination rather than lockdown. Data continues to show that the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths has weakened significantly.
As closed settings have reopened, students and schools have returned, social distancing and gathering limits have been removed the economy is recovering.
To sustain this economic recovery while protecting the NHS from unsustainable pressure the government’s Plan A includes:
- Build defences through vaccines, antivirals and disease modifying therapeutics
- Identify and isolate positive cases to limit transmission through Test, Trace and Isolate
- Support the NHS and social care to manage pressures and recover services
- Provide clear guidance on how individuals can protect themselves and others
- Help to vaccinate the world and manage border risks
Should the situation change due to vaccination uptake, waning immunity, the rate of return to wide social contact at work, education and new variants which fundamentally alter the governments assessment of risk, the government may resort to Plan B.
Plan B is most likely to come into effect if the winter flu pressures which normally impact the NHS, combine with Covid-19 pressures, threatening to overwhelm the NHS.
The government has said that it will provide prior notice to the public and Parliament ahead of implementing any changes under Plan B. The measures it will consider would aim to control transmission and include:
- Communicate clearly and urgently to the public that the level of risk has increased, and caution required
- Introduce mandatory vaccine-only COVID-status certification in certain settings
- Legally mandate face coverings in certain settings
- Reinstate Working From Home where possible for a limited time period
Update 16 August 2021: Self-isolation rules
The guidance on NHS Test and Trace in the workplace has been updated to reflect the changes in self-isolation policy from 16 August.
“From 16 August you will not need to self-isolate if you are notified you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 and any of the following apply:
- you are fully vaccinated
- you are below the age of 18 years and 6 months
- you have taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial
- you are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons
Fully vaccinated means that you have been vaccinated with an MHRA approved COVID-19 vaccine in the UK, and at least 14 days have passed since you received the recommended doses of that vaccine.”
Employers are asked to ensure workers self-isolate where necessary. Employees have a legal duty to tell employers, where they are not exempt, that they are required to self-isolate. Employers are not expected to check whether an individual is exempt from self-isolation.
It is important to note that a contact who is exempt from self-isolation will still be advised to take a PCR test, but will not be required to self-isolate while they wait for the result. Should it prove positive, they will be required to self-isolate.
It is an offence for an employer to allow a worker to attend the workplace if the employer is aware that the worker is legally required to self-isolate because either:
- they have been notified by NHS Test and Trace that they have tested positive for Covid- 19 or
- been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 and they are not exempt from isolation.
Update 12 July 2021: England will move to Step 4 on 19 July
Sajid Javid updated the Commons on 12 July, confirming that England will move to Step 4 on 19 July. The Prime Minister also confirmed this is his Coronavirus Briefing later in the day and the Covid-19 Response:Summer 2021 document has been updated to reflect this. When England moves to Step 4 the government will continue to manage the risk of serious illness by:
- Reinforcing the country’s vaccine wall of defence through booster jabs and driving take up
- Enabling the public to make informed decisions through guidance, rather than laws
- Retaining proportionate test, trace and isolate plans in line with international comparators
- Managing risks at the border and support a global response to reduce the risk of variants emerging globally and entering the UK
- Retaining contingency measures to respond to unexpected events, while accepting that further cases, hospitalisations and deaths will occur as the country learns to live with COVID-19
The document expands on each of these points. Below we have summarised the general issues that affect us all, the key issues that affect businesses and the government’s ongoing advisory guidance from 19 July. if the decision is taken to move to Step 4.
General Impacts of Step 4
- All remaining limits on social contact will be removed, all settings open and Covid-19 status certification will not be required in law as a condition of entry. Organisations may ask visitors for proof of Covid -status through NHS COVID pass on NHS app and the government encourages businesses and large events to use the NHS COVID Pass in high risk settings. The government expects individuals to minimise the number, proximity and duration of social contacts
- The legal requirements to wear a face covering will be lifted in all settings, but guidance will advise that wearing a face covering will reduce your risk and the risk to others, where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces. The government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport
- Social distancing rules will be lifted except in limited circumstances such as ports and at border controls and for people who are self-isolating particularly where they have had a positive test. Health and care settings will continue to maintain appropriate infection prevention and control processes. Directors of Public Health, in consultation with setting operators and relevant departments, will be able to advise that social distancing is put in place if necessary to control outbreaks in enclosed and vulnerable communities such as prisons
- The Department for Education will set out more detail and publish new guidance for arrangements in education settings from step 4, covering both the summer period and the following term
- In care homes, the Government will lift restrictions that limit each resident to five named visitors
Business Impacts of Step 4
- The government will no longer instruct people to work from home. Employers can start to plan a return to workplaces, though the government expects and recommends a gradual return over Summer
- Regulations that place COVID-secure requirements on businesses, including table service, and distancing between tables, will be lifted. ‘Working Safely’ guidance will be updated to provide examples of sensible precautions that employers can take to reduce risk in their workplaces. Employers should take account of this guidance in preparing the risk assessments they are already required to make under pre-pandemic health and safety rules
- Businesses must not require a self-isolating worker to come to work, and should make sure that workers and customers who feel unwell do not attend the setting
- Businesses will be encouraged to ask staff and customers to clean their hands regularly and clean surfaces that people touch regularly. The Government will provide guidance on how businesses can reduce unnecessary contact in the workplace, where it is practical. Operators will still be encouraged to use outside space where practical, and to consider the supply of fresh air to indoor spaces. Carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors could be used to help identify where a space is poorly ventilated with businesses encouraged to take steps to improve ventilation if CO2 readings are consistently high
- Businesses will be encouraged to display QR codes for customers to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, to support NHS Test and Trace, although it will no longer be a legal requirement
Advisory government guidance
The government advises that we can manage the risks to ourselves and others from the virus by adopting the following beneficial behaviours:
- Meeting in well-ventilated areas where possible, such as outdoors or indoors with windows open
- Wearing a face covering where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces
- Washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day
- Covering your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze
- Staying at home if unwell, to reduce the risk of passing on other illnesses onto friends, family, colleagues, and others in your community
- Considering individual risks, such as clinical vulnerabilities and vaccination status
- It will remain a legal requirement for people to self-isolate if they test positive or are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace
Update 5 July 2021: Final decision date on whether Step 4 taken on 19 July, will be 12 July
Today (5 July 2021) the Prime Minister has announced that the final decision will be taken on 12 July on whether we will move to Step 4 of the Roadmap on 19 July.
If the decision is taken to move to Step 4, all legal coronavirus restrictions will be lifting and a 5 point plan for living with Covid will be put in place. This plan includes reinforcing vaccine programmes, changes to Test Trace & Isolate, retaining border controls and contingency measures to help us through Winter. The government has today published guidance on Covid-19 Response : Summer 2021 which sets out the details of the final roadmap step (Step 4).
Update 29 June 2021: 19 July remains target for moving to Step 4
Sajid Javid, the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in his speech to the House of Commons yesterday, confirmed that 19 July remains the target date to move to step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown.
Mr Javid explained he had considered the following points before making his statement:
- 84% of adults had had a jab, and 61% of adults had had 2 doses as at 28 June 2021
- the Delta variant of Covid-19 makes up 95% of new cases in the UK. It has a higher transmission rate and presents a greater risk of hospitalisation for those that have not been vaccinated than the Alpha variant
- the government aims to vaccinate 66% of all adults with both doses of vaccine by 19 July
- the number of people needing hospital treatment for Covid-19 has doubled since the start of May, but the number of deaths remains low
Update 14 June 2021: Delay to easing of Covid restrictions
Update 2 June 2021: Outline of 5th self employment grant announced
The Government has published outline guidance today on the 5th Self Employment Income Support Scheme grant covering May 2021 to September 2021, saying that it will open to claims in late July. Full details are now expected in early July 2021. The 5th grant will be determined by how much your turnover has been reduced in the year April 2020 to April 2021.
Update 10 May 2021: Roadmap on track
The Prime Minister has announced that the “four tests” for easing restrictions have been met and in accordance with the roadmap, published in Step 3 the following easements apply from 17 May 2021.
- Indoor hospitality can reopen and indoor entertainment can resume
- All remaining outdoor entertainment can reopen
- Up to 6 people or 2 households are able to meet indoors and up to 30 people outdoors
- Some performance/sport events permitted, with restrictions on number of attendees
- Guidance on close contact with family and friends will be updated – the onus will be on individuals to assess risk and make informed decisions.
- Covid secure rules remain in place for the workplace and businesses such as shops and hospitality
- International travel to green list countries permitted, with strict border controls, pre-departure tests and a PCR test on or before day two of arrival back in UK
Step 4 is due to take place no earlier than 21 June, and we expect more detail on the likely impacts for businesses of changing social distancing rules or vaccine certification.
To quote Mr Johnson:
“Subject to the impact of step 3 on the data, we remain on track to move to step 4 on 21st June and to give businesses more time to prepare, we’ll be saying more later this month about exactly what the world will look like and what role there could be – if any – for certification and social distancing.”
Update 19 March 2021: Restart Grant
Details of the Restart Grant scheme announced at the Budget 2021, designed to support businesses in the non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure, personal care and accommodation sectors with a one-off grant to reopen safely, are published. Grants will be available from 1 April 2021, but you can apply in advance. Eligible businesses may be entitled to one-off cash grants of up to £6k in the non-essential retail sector, with grants of up to £18k available in the hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym sectors.
Apply through your local council.
Update 8 March 2021: Recovery Loan Scheme
Further updated 8 April 2021
The new Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) provides loans of up to £10m to businesses of any size for any legitimate business purpose including growth and investment.
Backed by an 80% government guarantee, to give lenders the confidence to make the loans, the scheme launched on 6 April and is open until 31 December 2021. The loans will be made available through accredited lenders and administered through the British Business Bank.
Finance available :-
- Term loans and overdrafts between £25,001 and £10 million per business
- Invoice finance and asset finance between £1,000 and £10 million per business
- Terms are up to 6 years for term loans and asset finance facilities
- Terms are up to 3 years for overdrafts and invoice finance facilities
- No personal guarantees on facilities up to £250,000 and a borrowers Principal Private Residence cannot be taken as security
- Businesses that have already received Covid-19 guaranteed loan support can access this finance, if they meet eligibility criteria
- Interest rates will be capped at 14.99% but are expected to be significantly lower in practice
Update 3 March 2021: Budget measures
Mr Sunak announced a number of extensions to Covid support measures and introduced new schemes:
- Furlough scheme extended until end of September, with no change in employee terms. Businesses will be asked to contribute 10% in July and 20% in August and September.
- 4th Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant confirmed and a 5th grant announced, with a claim date of 5 July. For the 5th grant, if turnover has fallen by 30% or more, the usual 80% grant will be available. If turnover has fallen by less than 30%, the grant will be 30%. The newly self employed who have filed a tax return for 2019/20 by last night, will be eligible for the 4th and 5th SEISS grants.
- New Restart grant announced. Available from April, it is intended to help closed businesses reopen, with retails grants of up to £6k and hospitality and leisure grants of up to £18k available.
- As the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Schemes come to an end, the new Recovery Loan Scheme is introduced to take their place. The scheme will allow any business to access loans of between £25k to £10m, backed by an 80% government guarantee.
- The business rates holiday has been extended until the end of June with the remaining 9 months of the year being discounted by a third.
- The 5% reduced rate of VAT applying to the hospitality and leisure sectors has been extended until 30 September and a 12.5% interim rate will then apply until April 2022.
- The £500k SDLT nil rate band has been extended until 30 June, reducing to £250k until then end of September before returning to its original rate of £125k as of 1 October 2021.
Update 24 February 2021: Reopening businesses and venues in England
The government has published the ‘COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021’ setting out the roadmap out of the current lockdown for England. This is a step-by-step plan to ease restrictions in England cautiously. They have also produced guidance for reopening businesses and venues in England.
Update 22 February 2021: Roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions
In a speech to the Commons today, the Prime Minister set out his roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions.
The government is adopting a cautious and data-driven approach in which four key tests must be met to advance through the steps in the roadmap. The tests are:
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
- The government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern
To allow time for the data to reflect the impact of the changes made at each step and to give businesses 7 days’ notice of future changes, there will be a minimum of 5 weeks between each step.
Here is a summary of the main points Mr Johnson made and you can read the full transcript here.
From 8 March
- All pupils in all schools and further education settings will reopen, supported by testing
- University courses requiring practical teaching, specialist teaching or onsite assessments will return
- Meet one person from outside your household for recreation in public space
- Care home residents can nominate a named regular visitor
From 29 March
- Outdoor gatherings following the rule of six/two households permitted
- Outdoor sports facilities can reopen including golf, tennis and football
- No longer legally required to stay at home, but should continue to work from home and minimise travel wherever possible
No earlier than 12 April – subject to 4 tests.
- Non- essential retail and personal care open
- Indoor leisure facilities will reopen
- Holiday lets but only for use by individuals or household groups
- Outdoor hospitality and takeaway open without curfew
- Most outdoor settings open, as will public libraries and community centres
No earlier than 17 May – subject to 4 tests
- Most social contact rules lifted outdoors, subject to a limit of 30
- Mixing indoors allowed subject to the rule of 6 or 2 households
- Indoor hospitality to open
- Performance/sport back with limits
No earlier than 21 June – subject to 4 tests
- Aim to remove all legal limits on social contact
- Reopen all remaining closed sectors
- Restrictions lifted on large events
- All limits removed on weddings/life events
The PM also announced four crucial reviews:
- Assess how long we need to maintain social distancing and face masks. This will also inform guidance on Working From Home.
- Resumption of International Travel – report expected by 12 April.
- Potential role of Covid status certification
- Safe return of major events
In addition, Mr Johnson announced that the support packages would continue to protect jobs and livelihoods, and that the Chancellor would give further details in the Budget next week.
He ended by stressing that the government would remain alert to mutations of the virus, with plans to set out guidance in March on how to respond to local outbreaks and a range of methods to address variants of concern. Mr Johnson did not rule out re-imposing restrictions if the evidence suggested they would be necessary to contain variants that escape the vaccines.
Update 5 January 2021: National Lockdown and one -off top up business support grants
The Prime Minister announced a National Lockdown with immediate effect last night (4 January 2021) as the Covid threat level was raised from level four to level five. This level indicates that if action is not taken, NHS capacity may be overwhelmed within 21 days. The Prime Minister indicated that the National Lockdown would last until at least the middle of February.
In effect we are returning to the “stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives” message and guidance relating to Tiers 1 ,2 3 and 4 has been withdrawn as of 4 January and replaced with National Lockdown: Stay at Home Guidance.
Businesses and venues that are required to close are:
- Non- essential retail
- Hospitality venues
- Leisure and sports facilities
- Entertainment venues
- Animal attractions
- Indoor attractions
- Personal care facilities
- Community centres
The full list of exemptions can be found in the government guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England.
New Lockdown Business Support Grants announced
This morning [5 Jan 2021], the Chancellor announced that retail, hospitality and leisure sector businesses are to receive a one-off top up grant worth up to £9,000 per property to help them through to the Spring.
The grants made to eligible closed businesses are as follows:
- £4,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under
- £6,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
- £9,000 for businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000
A further £594milliion discretionary fund was also announced to support other impacted businesses, not eligible for the new one-off grants. Businesses are expected to apply through their Local Authorities.
These grants are in addition to the previously announced Local Authority Discretionary Grant funds, Local Restriction Support Grants and the extension to the furlough scheme (CJRS).
We will provide more information on the new one-off top up grant as we receive it.
In the meantime, if you need our help, please do get in touch.
Update 18 December: Extensions for furlough and loan schemes
Chancellor extends furlough scheme until the end of April 2021
On the 17 December, Rishi Sunak confirmed that the government will continue to pay 80% of the salary of employees for hours not worked until the end of April. Employers will continue to pay wages, National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and pension contributions for hours worked and the NICs and pension contributions for hours not worked. Eligibility criteria remain unchanged.
Covid-19 business loan schemes also extended until end of March 2021
The Chancellor also confirmed that access to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme(BBLS), the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loans Scheme would continue until the end of March 2021. The government also indicated that after these government backed loan schemes are withdrawn, they will be replaced by a successor loan scheme. More details are expected in due course.
Update 9 December: Christmas Support Payment (CSP)
Earlier this month, the government announced a one off £1,000 grant for “wet-led pubs” across tiers 2 and 3 in lieu of Christmas Trade. The Christmas Support Payment (CSP) will be paid on top of the existing £3,000 monthly cash grants for businesses and administered through Local Authorities. Wet-led pubs are those that predominantly serve alcohol rather than provide food. The guidance indicates that pubs must derive less than 50% of their income from food sales to determine that the pub is wet-led, and the LAs may request accounting evidence to support this.
The scheme will close on 29 December 2020 and final applications must be received by LAs by 31 January 2021.
Update 2 December: Local Restriction Tiers
As the second national lockdown in England ends, local restriction tiers have come into force. The government guidance for working safely during coronavirus has been updated to reflect the tier restrictions.
You may find the links below useful to check the current guidance:
Close contact services
Construction and other outdoor work
Factories, plants and warehouses
Hotels and other guest accommodation
Labs and research facilities
Offices and contact centres
Other people’s homes
Providers of grassroots sport and sports facilities
Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services
Shops and branches
The visitor economy
As our offices are based in Derby, we are in Tier 3. We continue to provide our services, as we have throughout the pandemic, and urge you to get in touch if you need us. If you plan to see us in person, please do contact us in advance of your visit and follow our Bates Weston visitor’s guide.
National Lockdown announced from 5 November
Update: Following the Prime Minister’s announcements on 31 October, and subject to confirmation in the House of Commons this week, England will be placed under national lockdown measures from Thursday 5 November.
Extract from the Prime Minister’s Speech:
“From Thursday 5 November, everyone must stay at home, and may leave only for a limited set of reasons. These include:
- For education;
- For work, if you cannot work from home;
- For exercise and recreation outdoors, with your household, support bubble or on your own with one person from another household;
- For all medical reasons, appointments and to escape injury or harm;
- To shop for food and essentials;
- And to provide care for vulnerable people, or as a volunteer.
Non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will be closed. Click and collect services can continue and essential shops, including supermarkets, will remain open.
Pubs, bars, restaurants must close, except for takeaway and delivery services.
People should work from home wherever possible. Workplaces should stay open where people cannot work from home – for example, in the construction or manufacturing sectors.”
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extended until March 2021
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, due to close on 31 October, will remain open until March 2021.
Employees will receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. The government’s contribution will be greater than it was in October. It will pay 80% of wages up to the cap, for hours not worked with employers only asked to pay National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and pension contributions, as they did in August.
Importantly, unlike August, flexible furloughing will be allowed in addition to full time furloughing.
Further details of how to claim under the extended scheme are expected shortly, but there will be no gap in eligibility for support between the original CJRS end date of 31 October and this extension period.
Please see our Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme page for more details.
The Job Support Scheme, which was scheduled to take effect from Sunday 1 November, has been postponed until the furlough scheme ends.
The level of support under the third Self Employment Income Support Scheme has also been increased. More details on our Self Employment Income Support Scheme page.
The government has also reiterated that businesses required to close in England due to local or national restrictions will be eligible for grants worth up to £3,000 per month under the Local Restrictions Support Grant.
Eligible businesses will receive grants as follows:
- For properties with a rateable value of £15k or under, grants to be £1,334 per month, or £667 per two weeks;
- For properties with a rateable value of between £15k-£51k grants to be £2,000 per month, or £1,000 per two weeks;
- For properties with a rateable value of £51k or over grants to be £3,000 per month, or £1,500 per two weeks.
In addition to the Local Restrictions Support Grant, Local Authorities will be given additional funding to support businesses more broadly.
Three Tier Covid Alert System
Announced 12 October
Aganst a backdrop of rapidly rising Covid infection rates, The Prime Minister has announced the following three tier system of Covid alert levels.
- will cover most of England
- current national measures apply including
- the Rule of Six indoors and outdoors and
- closure of hospitality at 10.00pm
- reflects the interventions currently being made at local levels
- primarily reducing household transmission by preventing all mixing between households or support bubbles indoors
- the Rule of Six will continue to apply outdoors, including public spaces and private gardens
- those in local restrictions will automatically be in the High alert level, with Nottinghamshire, East and West Cheshire and a small area of the High Peak moving into this level
- will apply where transmission rates are rising most rapidly
- the government baseline will be prohibiting social mixing indoors and in private gardens and closing pubs and bars
- the government will work with local government leaders on additional measures that will be taken, potentially affecting hospitality, leisure, entertainment or personal care sectors. Retail, schools and universities will remain open
- the Job Support Scheme and cash grants are designed to support those businesses asked to close and funding and resources will be given to affected local authorities
- Liverpool City region will move into this category from Wednesday. In agreement with local authorities, as well as pubs and bars, gyms and leisure centres, betting shops and adult gaming centres and casinos will also close
- Other areas in discussion with the government are North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber
The regulations will be debated tomorrow before coming into force on Wednesday. We will update our website, once the regulations are published.
Plans to Protect Jobs
24 September – latest update 22 October
The Chancellor has outlined his plans to protect the jobs and livelihoods of millions, as the country continues to try and manage the virus. The key measures announced were as follows:
- Job Support Schemes JSS:
- The JSS will support viable jobs – employees must work at least a third of their normal hours and be paid for that work as normal by their employer. The government, together with their employer will then increase those people wages, covering 2/3 of the pay they have lost as a result of reducing their hours and the employee will keep their job. This scheme is the “Job Support Scheme Open”. More details are available on our Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme page.
- All SMEs are eligible. Larger business will only be eligible when their turnover has fallen as a result of the crisis.
- The JSS will be open to all employers across the UK even if they have not previously used the furlough scheme. The Scheme will run for 6 months from November and employers retaining furloughed staff on shorter hours can claim both the Job Support Scheme and the Job Retention Bonus.
- Government factsheet available here
- The scheme was extended on 9 October. Businesses that are legally required to close their doors as a result of national or local restrictions over Winter, will receive grants to help pay wages of staff who cannot work. The government will pay 2/3 of wages for the time that staff are unable to work. This scheme is the ” Job Support Scheme Close”. More information here.
- Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be extended on similar terms to the new Jobs Support Scheme.
- The extension will provide two grants, from November 2020 to April 2021.
- The first taxable grant will provide 40% of average monthly trading profits, covering three months and capped at £3,750 in total.
- The level of the second grant will be set “in due course”.
- Government factsheet available here.
- Cashflow support measures
- Pay as you Grow for Bounce Back Loans. Loans can be extended from 6 to 10 years nearly halving the average monthly payment. Struggling businesses can choose to make interest only payments, and apply to suspend payments altogether for up to 6 months, without affecting their credit ratings.
- CBILS – government guarantee extended for up to 10 years making it easier for lenders to give people more time to repay.
- Deadline of all schemes extended to the end of this year and work will begin on a replacement loan guarantee programme in January.
- Deferred VAT payments that were due in March 2021, will be spread over 11 smaller repayments with no interest to pay.
- Self Assessment tax bills, taxpayers who need extra help can extend their outstanding tax bill over 12 months from next January.
- Hospitality & tourism
- Lower 5% VAT rate will not be increased to 20% as planned in January, but will be kept at 5% until 31 March 2021.
You can read the Chancellors Winter Economic Plan in full here. We will update our site with more detail as we receive it.
New Covid 19 Restrictions
Following a rise in the reproduction rate of Covid-19, the covid alert level has been raised to 4 and the government has announced further Covid-19 restrictions. They are summarised below and you can read the Prime Minister’s statement to the House of Common’s here.
- Office workers who can work from home are asked to do so. In key public services and where home working is not possible, people should continue to go to work.
- From Thursday 24 September, all pubs bars and restaurants must operate a table service only, except for takeaways. All hospitality venues must close at 10.00pm. (This is closing and not calling for last orders at 10.00pm).
- The requirement to wear face coverings has been extended to include staff in retail, all users of taxis & private hire vehicles and staff and customers in indoor hospitality except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
- In the retail, leisure and tourism sectors, the government’s Covid Secure guidelines will become legal obligations.
- The Rule of 6 will be tightened and extended. From Monday only 15 people will be allowed to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, although 30 can still attend a funeral. The Rule of 6 will also be extended to all adult indoor team sports. Plans to open up business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events from 1st October will be put on hold.
Local Restrictions Support Grant Scheme
9 September – updated 8 October
The Government has announced that businesses in England required to shut because of local ot national lockdown interventions will now be able to claim local lockdown grants of up to £3,000 per month after only two weeks of closure rather than up to £1,500 per three weeks after three weeks of closure as previously announced. The largest businesses (those with a rateable value in excess of £51,000) will receive £1,500 per two weeks of closure, medium sized businesses (those with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000) £1,000 per two weeks of closure and smaller businesses with rateable values below £15,000, £667 per two weeks of closure. If a business is not on the business rates list, it may still be eligible for payment from the local authority’s discretionary fund.
Each payment will be triggered by a national decision to close businesses in a high incidence area. Affected businesses will be eligible for payment sooner – after two weeks of closure, not three. The grants will be treated as taxable income.
For more information please see government guidance.
Plan for Jobs
On 8 July, Rishi Sunak delivered his “Plan for Jobs”, intended to protect, support and create jobs. We summarise the main points below and will provide more detail as we receive it:
- Job Retention Bonus. Employers who bring back a furloughed employee, paying them at least £520 on average per month from November until January will receive £1,000 bonus per employee.
- Kickstart scheme: The government will pay employers for creating new jobs for 16 – 24-year olds. It will pay the Kickstarter’s wages for 6 months plus a contribution for overheads which could amount to £6,500 for a 24-year-old. Employers can apply to be part of the scheme from August, with the first Kickstarter’s expected to be in position from Autumn.
- Traineeships: the government will pay employers £1,000 to take on new trainees
- Apprenticeships: For the next 6 months, the government will pay businesses £2,000 to hire young apprentices and £1,500 to hire older apprentices, those that are 25yrs and over.
- Green Homes Grant: From September, homeowners and landlords can apply for vouchers to make homes more efficient. Grants for 2/3 of the cost of improvements up to £5,000 per household will be available.
- Stamp Duty Land Tax: The Stamp Duty threshold was raised to £500k with immediate effect. This is a temporary measure effective until 31 March 2021.
- Hospitality & Tourism VAT: VAT rate cut from 20% to 5% from 15 July until 12 Jan 21 for hospitality and tourism sector – including food accommodation and attractions. Gov guidance on VAT: reduced rate for hospitality, holiday accomodation and attractions.
- “Eat Out to Help Out” discount: A government backed discount for all. For meals eaten at any participating business, from Monday to Wednesday, a discount of 50% off (to a max discount of £10 per head including children) will be given. Businesses wishing to participate can now register, as the government online registration service went live 13 July. Each week in August those businesses can claim the money back with funds in their bank accounts within 5 working days. More details on Eat Out to Help Out. The Eat out to Help Out scheme is now closed. Closing date 31 August 2020. Participating retstaurants/establishments can submit claims until 30 September 2020.
Re-opening your business
On the 15 June, the government updated its guidance on which businesses and venues are still required to be closed, and the exceptions under which they can open. Here is the latest summary document. As of 15 June significant changes were made to the regulations easing restriction on business closures, allowing further businesses and venues to open, in particular non essential retail. Many businesses and venues must still remain closed, most notably those in the leisure and hospitality sectors. A full list of those that must remain closed are shown in the government guidance here. Any open business or venue must follow COVID-19 Secure guidelines.
On 23 June, the Prime Minister announced further cautious easing of lock down measures with effect from 4 July. From this date, pubs, restaurants and hairdressers, accommodation sites, outdoor gyms, playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks, arcades, libraries, social clubs, places of worship and community centres will be able to reopen providing they adhere to Covid-19 Secure guidelines. The Prime Minister also announced that where social distancing was not possible at 2 metres, “1m plus” would be permitted. This means staying one metre apart plus taking mitigating steps to reduce the risk of transmission. Read our blog for an outline of the mitigating steps. We are awaiting full details and updated guidance, and will publish it as soon as we have it.
Update 24 June. Last night the government issued outline guidance on opening certain businesses and venues in England from 4 July. In most cases, outline guidance for reopening safely is given and this morning the government added guidance for hotels and guest accommodation, close contact services, restaurants & pubs and the visitor economy to its “Working Safely During Coronavirus” guidance.
Update 15 August. Bowling alleys, indoor skating rinks, indoor play areas- including soft play, casinos, exhibition halls and conference centres were added to list of businesses permitted to reopen under Covid secure conditions. Exhibition halls and conference centres will only be open if they are a government endorsed pilot. The wider opening is expected in October.
This means, as at 15 August, all businesses and venues can remain open with certain caveats, under Covid secure conditions, with the exception of nightclubs, dance hall, discotheques, sexual entertainment venues & hostess bars.
Financing your business through Covid-19
Guidance on the changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) were announced on 12 June and you can see more details on each of these on our dedicated support pages.
1. What Government support is available?
You can read the official Coronavirus (Covid-19): UK Government response here and the Government’s Business Support pages are here.
The summary below is subject to change.
Support for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
- All shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing, electronics and libraries, playgrounds, gyms and places of worship to close from 23 March 2020. The measure was reviewed after three weeks and on 16 April, the government confirmed that the lockdown would be extended for at least a further three weeks, 7 May. Update 15 June: All non essential retailers may open as of 15 June provided they are Covid Secure.
- All cafes, restaurants, pubs, and leisure businesses told to close from 20/3/20. They can continue to provide a takeaway service. The lockdown measures will be in place until at least 7 May. As at 15 June, these business still remain closed.
- Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for 2020/21 tax year.
There is no action for you. This will apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill automatically to exclude the business rate charge. They will do this as soon as possible.
- Cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. A £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. You will need to contact your relevant local authority. You can find guidance given to businesses by the government in the Small Business Grant Fund(SBGF)/Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF): guidance for business document published 1 April 2020.
Planning rules will be relaxed so pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways during the outbreak. This will apply to hot food and drinks. Alcoholic drinks will continue to be subject to existing licensing laws.
If your business insurance has cover for pandemics and government-ordered closure, you should be covered as the Government and Insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc. is sufficient to make a claim.
Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates – Small Business Grants Fund
If you have commercial premises and receive Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) or Rural Business Rate Relief you will be eligible for a one-off grant of £10,000 to help meet your ongoing business costs. This is known as the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF). You do not need to apply. Your local authority (LA) will contact you, writing to all eligible businesses with details of how to claim the grant as soon as possible.
We understand that most LAs have already been in contact with eligible businesses. The Business Secretary confirmed that the funds had reached the local authorities in early April and that they were being urged to distribute this as quickly as possible.
We can confirm that according to Derby City Council’s website (2 April 2020), it has despatched its letters advising eligible businesses on how to obtain their Small Business Grant. Eligible businesses, receiving the letter are asked to apply online through the Council’s website.
As at 20 April, we can confirm that less than 50% of the grant funding available to eligible business has been distributed to date. We encourage you to respond quickly to your Local authority when they contact you, and if you believe you are eligible but have not been contacted bu your authority, get in touch with them.
You can find guidance given to businesses by the government in the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) /Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF): guidance for business document published 1 April 2020.
Discretionary Grant Fund
Update 4 May 2020: Alok Sharma has announced that a discretionary grant fund has been set up to accommodate certain small businesses previously outside the scope of the Small Business Grant and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant fund schemes. An additional £617m will be distributed by the government to Local Authorities. It is intended to help businesses with ongoing fixed property related costs and Local Authorities are being asked to prioritise businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief, and Bed and Breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates. Local Authorities may choose to make payments to other businesses based on local economic need at their discretion. See our blog post for more details. Update 29 May. The government has now published guidance on how to apply for the coronavirus Local Authority Discretionary Grant Fund. The guidance asks those who believe they may be eligible to see their Local Authority websites for details on how to apply. Derby City Council – our Local Authority – originally opened to applications from 29 May to 19 June. Update 29 June. Derby City Council has re-opened its Discretionary Grant Fund, which it calls the “Top Up Grant Fund” to applications from 29 June. Application window closes on 13 July. Please see the Council’s website for details.
Support for nurseries
Nurseries in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year. More details.
Help for residents and businesses in Derby
As a Derby based business, we wanted to make you aware of the specific support being offered by Derby City Council. While the business measures have been well publicised, the specific support for Derby residents is perhaps less well known. Read the City Council’s press release Financial support for residents and businesses in Derby for more details.
Help to pay the wage bill of retained workers – Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The Government will pay 80% of wages for employees who are not working (designated as furloughed employees), up to £2,500 per month. In addition employers can claim the associated Employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and minimum auto-enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage. Employers are to apply for grants from HMRC. The scheme opened to claims from employers on 20 April. If we are authorised to act for you for PAYE online services we can submit your claims for you. Read our latest blog for more details and talk to us about your options.
Directors of owner-managed companies, including sole directors can be furloughed as employees on the PAYE element of their remuneration.
Further details of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme here together with Government information on the scheme and government guidance on how to claim for your employee’s wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Update 12 May 2020. Rishi Sunak announces Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended until end October. CJRS remains unchanged until end July. From Aug to Oct, scheme continues but with greater flexibility. Employers currently using the scheme will be able to bring furloughed employees back part time and the government will ask employers to start sharing with the government, the cost of salaries. Employees will continue to receive the same level of support throughout, i.e. 80% of salary up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. More details will be provided before the end of May.
Update 12 June 2020. Government has published details of how the CJRS will be changing and the contribution employers will be expected to make towards covering employees wage costs. Please see our dedicated Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme page for details of changes, timescales, flexible furloughing, what and for whom you can claim.
Support through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), announced during the budget and subsequently enhanced is available. Government backed loans of up to £5m will be provided by the British Business Bank via high street banks. No interest will be due for the first 12 months. Businesses remain responsible for repaying any facility they take out. Details available to date are from the British Business Bank and it has produced a list of FAQs for SME’s.
To be eligible for support via CBILS, the small business must:
- Be UK-based in its business activity, with annual turnover of no more than £45m
- Have a borrowing proposal which, were it not for the current pandemic, would be considered viable by the lender, and for which the lender believes the provision of finance will enable the business to trade out of any short-to-medium term difficulty.
- Check eligibility here.
Support for larger businesses is available through the Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CFF)
Update 1 April 2020 – Business Secretary acknowledges that there have been difficulties with the CBILS scheme. He said ” “It would be completely unacceptable if any big banks were refusing help to those in financial difficulty. Just as the taxpayer stepped in to help the banks back in 2008, we will work with the banks to do everything they can to repay that favour.” He went on to say that the Chancellor would say more on this subject in the coming days.
Update 3 April 2020 – Chancellor announces changes to CBILS – loan scheme extended so that all viable businesses and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will be eligible; lenders banned from requesting personal guarantees on loans under £250,000 and a new scheme – Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) – announced. Read more in our blog.
Support for SMEs – Bounce Back Loans
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has today – April 27 – announced a new micro loan scheme, providing a simple, quick, easy solution for businesses in need of smaller loans. Termed Bounce Back Loans, businesses will be able to apply for 25% of their turnover, up to a maximum of £50,000 with the government paying the interest for the first 12 months.
On the evening of Friday 1 May, the Chancellor wrote to the banks setting out the 2.5% interest rate that Bounce Back loans will be offered at and the regulatory changes being made to support the scheme. The letter also clarifies that under the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) businesses can borrow up to £50,000, capped at 25% of turnover. To avoid confusion the CBILS minimum loan size will rise to £50,001. Any customer witha CBILS loan or overdraft of £50,000 or less will be able to switch that facility to a BBLS loan should they choose to do so over the next few months.
As of 9.00am Monday 4 May, the loans are available from accredited lenders. There are no forward-looking tests of business viability; no complex eligibility criteria; just a simple standard online form with only seven questions to complete. Loans should arrive within 24 hours of approval and will be supported by 100% government guarantee.
Support for innovation
At the Downing Street press conference on 20 April, the Chancellor announced £1.25 billion of government support for innovative SMEs. The two initiatives mentioned were the £500m Future Fund and £750m of grants and loans delivered via Innovate UK. The Future Fund will be launched in May and Innovate UK’s enhanced payments are expected in mid May. More information on the support can be found here.
If you are unable to pay your Taxes – Corporation Tax, VAT, PAYE, Self-assessment
All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.
For those concerned about missing a tax payment due to Covid-19, HMRC has set up a dedicated phone helpline. The helpline number is now 0800 024 1222 replacing the original 0800 0159 559.
The Government has announced that the next quarter of VAT payments will be deferred until June 2020. Gov guidance: Deferral of VAT payments due to coronavirus.
It has also announced that self-assessment tax payments for businesses and the self-employed due in July, may be deferred until January 2021. Gov guidance: Defer your Self Assessment payment on account due to coronavirus.
If you need to reclaim statutory sick pay (SSP) – update 26 May 2020 – HMRC’s online reclaim service is now open.
Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim up to two weeks’ SSP paid for sickness absence due to Covid-19.
You need to maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website. The Government will provide details of the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible. More details on Statutory Sick Pay Rebate.
Guidance for the charity sector
The government has produced specific guidance for the charity sector. This includes implications of Covid-19 control measures and charity financial reporting. Read our summary here.
Help for the self employed – Self Employed Income Support Scheme SEISS
The Chancellor has announced a support package for the self-employed. Eligible self-employed individuals will receive a cash grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profit over the last three years, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, through the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. The scheme is open to those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 over the past three tax years and more than half of your income must come from self employment. Government guidance on claiming a grant through Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) updated 14 April 2020. The deadline for making a claim for the first SEISS grant is the 13 July. We have provided more details on our SEISS webpage.
Update 12 June 2020. The Government has confirmed that a second and final grant can be claimed under SEISS. The second taxable grant, worth 70% of the eligible self employed person’s average monthly trading profit and capped at £6,570 in total, will be paid in a single instalment covering June, July and August. The same eligibility criteria apply to the second grant, as they did to the first and claimants will have to confirm that their business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020. Claims can be made from 17 August. Individuals do not have to have claimed for the first grant in order to claim for the second. The online service for the second and final grant is now available.
The government has updated its guidance regarding SEISS to provide further information about the extension to the scheme.
Help with your mortgage repayments
Mortgage lenders will offer a three month payment holiday for those that are experiencing issues with their finances due to Coronavirus. Lenders have agreed to simplify the process to apply for the relief and asking customers to contact them directly. Mortgage lenders have also announced further support for homeowners and landlords.
Help if you rent
The Government has announced a package of measures to protect renters and landlords. No renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during the outbreak. Legislation will prevent landlords from beginning eviction proceedings for at least three months. Landlords will also be protected as the three month mortgage payment holiday has been extended to Buy to Let mortgages.
For help with utility bills and council tax it is advised that you contact providers/councils direct to agree a way forward.
Universal credit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
To help with living costs you can apply for Universal Credit. It is paid monthly into your bank. To make it easier for people to apply for this benefit, the Government has simplified the process to ensure those staying at home in line with Government advice will receive support.
Universal Credit payments will be paid upfront without the requirement to attend a job centre. Further announcements are expected on support for the self-employed. The latest position on Universal Credit and ESA is found here.
Support with energy bills for vulnerable people
Customers with pre-payment meters who may not be able to add credit can speak to their supplier about options to keep them supplied. Other customers in financial distress will also be supported by their supplier.
2. Talk to your lenders as soon as possible
Regular contact with your bank during these difficult times will keep them up to date on your trading situation and your ability to meet covenants.
The measures the Government has taken are designed to help your business through this difficult time. You can prepare your financial information for discussions with your bank about the Government backed support available.
3. Explore finance options to tide you over
Speak with finance providers and suppliers to explore available options in the short term.
4. Optimise your cash flow
Cashflow management is a crucial area. We have provided a summary here.
Supporting your team and employment rights
Guidance for employers and businesses makes it clear that:
- Employees should work from home wherever possible
- If someone becomes unwell with a new continuous cough or high temperature they should be sent home and advised to stay at home
- Wash their hands frequently and for 20 seconds, and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues
- Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces touched regularly using standard cleaning products
- Those staying at home will be eligible for statutory sick pay from their first day of absence
- Use your discretion when asking for medical evidence for certification for employees who are unwell. This will allow GPs to focus on patients
- If you do require evidence, those with symptoms can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online or if they live with someone who has symptoms NHS website
- Employees from defined vulnerable groups should be strongly advised and supported to stay at home and work from there if possible
As an employer you should:
- Keep everyone updated on actions to reduce risks of exposure in workplace
- Strongly advise employees in vulnerable group to follow social distancing guidelines
- Make sure you have everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
- Make sure managers know symptoms and are clear on sickness reporting and sick pay arrangements and what to do if someone presents with the virus
- Make sure there are plenty of places to wash hands with soap and water and encourage employees to do this regularly
- Provide hand sanitisers for staff and encourage them to use them
How to certify staff sickness
Your employee should let you know as soon as possible if they are unable to work.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) should be paid from day one to all employees that have to self isolate because they or a member of their household has coronavirus, is showing symptoms or has been instructed by a doctor or NHS 111.
An individual can self certify for seven days. After this you can use your discretion re the need for medical evidence. If you decide you do need it, your employee can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online. You will not need it to reclaim SSP, but you will need to record absences and SSP payments.
Absences not covered by statutory sick pay
For those not entitled to SSP, the self employed and very low earners, support will be available through Universal Credit (UC) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
If you instruct your employees not to come in because, for example they have travelled recently, you will need to pay them normally.
If your employee is caring for dependents, they have aright to time off, but not a statutory right to pay. Be flexible and apply discretion, depending on your employees circumstances.
If your employee refuses to attend work, be flexible. Perhaps allow them to work from home, take holiday or unpaid leave.
Planning for absences
It is certainly worth thinking about how your business can continue to supply your products/services if your or your employees cannot work. What contingency plans can you put in place? Can you facilitate remote working, retrain team members, amend business hours?
Support working from home
In line with Government guidance, where it is possible employees should be encouraged to work from home. There are a number of software solutions that allow workers to communicate and collaborate with each other and with you. Popular software includes Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom. For those new to working from home, we have recapped the tax reliefs that may be available here.
Take care of yourself
The Mental Health Foundation is part of the national mental health response providing support to address the mental health and psychosocial aspects of the Coronavirus outbreak, alongside Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care. They provide tips to protect our wellbeing. Mind offer similar advice.