CoviD-19: Business Support
We are gathering all the information we can to support you and your business through these challenging times. The latest announcements are also covered in our blogs. Our business continues to be here to help yours and although most of our meetings are held by video or phone, if you need to see us in person, we can arrange that too, just make an appointment. Do get in touch as usual.
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.
The Government has announced that businesses in England required to shut because of local lockdown interventions will now be able to claim local lockdown grants of up to £1,500 per property every three weeks. The largest businesses (those with a rateable value in excess of £51,000) will receive £1,500 every three weeks, smaller businesses (those with a rateable value below £51,000) £1,000. 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. Each payment will be made for a three-week period, with any subsequent 3-week lockdown period triggering an additional payment. The grants will be treated as taxable income.
Any businesses still closed at a national level (e.g. nightclubs) will not be eligible.
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.