CoviD-19: Business Support

We are gathering all the information we can to support you and your business through these challenging times. To protect the NHS and save lives our offices are closed and we are now working from home, but you can still get in touch as usual. 

Financing your business through Covid-19

1. What Government support is available?

Following the Prime Minister’s address 23 March 2020  in addition to previously announced measures, all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms and places of worship must be closed and we should all be working from home. The impact on businesses is significant and the Government has pledged to “do what it takes” to support businesses through the Covid-19 outbreak. 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. Measure to be reviewed after three weeks.
  • All cafes, restaurants, pubs, and leisure businesses told to close from 20/3/20. They can continue to provide a takeaway service. The decision will be reviewed on a monthly basis.
  • 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. Retail Hospitality & Leisure Grant (RHLG) details. You can find guidance given to local authorities by the government on the Grant Funding Schemes – Small Business Grant Fund & Retails, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Funding Guidance V3 here.
  • Planning
    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.
  • Insurance.
    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

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 will contact you, writing to all eligible businesses with details of how to claim the grant as soon as possible. You can find guidance given to local authorities by the government on the Grant Funding Schemes – Small Business Grant Fund & Retails, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Funding Guidance V3 here.

Support for nurseries

Nurseries in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year. More details.

Help for businesses in Derbyshire

Derbyshire Business Emergency Relief Fund for the county’s smallest businesses is now in place. Businesses with nine or fewer employees and sole traders can apply online for up to £500 in emergency support. The fund will be open until 17 April and has a limited number of grants available. 

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.

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.

Support through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS, announced during the budget and enhanced last week, is now 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.

Read more on CBILS and Government details on CBILS.

Support for larger businesses is available through the Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CFF)

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. More details on VAT deferral.

It has also announced that self-assessment tax payments due in July, will be deferred until January 2021. More details on Income Tax deferral for self employed.

If you need to reclaim statutory sick pay (SSP)

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

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.

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.

The ACAS website has more details.

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.

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.

Useful links

Bates Weston Summary of emergency measures announced to date.

Practical steps for cashflow 

HMRC Covid helpline

More details on CBILS Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

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