COVID-19: FAQs for Businesses

I am worried about getting my staff back to work safely, what guidance is there to support me?

The Government has published eight guides covering a range of different types of work which you will find linked below. It is important to note that many businesses operate more than one type of workplace such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles.

CONSTRUCTION WORKERS AND OTHER OUTDOOR WORK

FACTORIES, PLANTS AND WAREHOUSES

OFFICES AND CONTACT CENTRES

WORKING IN OTHER PEOPLE'S HOME

RESTAURANTS OFFERING TAKEAWAY/DELIVERY

SHOPS AND BRANCHES

WORKING IN OR FROM VEHICLES

LABS AND RESEARCH FACILITIES

I am worried about being able to pay my staff because of COVID-19, what support is there for me?

As announced on Friday 20th March, for the first time in our country's history, the Government is going to step in and help pay people's wages. Government grants will cover 80% of the salary of retained workers, up to a total of £2,500 a month. 

Any employer in the country – large, small, charitable or for-profit – who promises to retain their staff, can apply for a grant to cover most of the cost of paying people’s wages. Government grants will cover 80 per cent of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month – above the median income.

The Scheme has been extended by four months until the end of October, having been scheduled to finish at the end of June.

From August, more flexibility will be introduced into the Scheme, so that furloughed workers will still be able to return to work on a part-time basis, with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of furloughed staff. The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80 per cent of their salary, up to £2,500 a month.

 

What assistance is available to support small/medium businesses' cash flow throughout the outbreak?

The Government has been clear that it is willing to do 'whatever it takes' to support the UK's businesses in this difficult time, and has freed up £330 billion (equal to 15% of our GDP) to ensure businesses can survive this period and go on to have a profitable future. The funding will go towards both grants and loans.

On Friday 20th March, the Chancellor and Prime Minister announced that no businesses, regardless of size, will have to pay VAT until mid-June. This represents an injection of over £30 billion - equal to1.5% of GDP - into businesses, who will have until the end of the year to pay bills. 

 

GRANTS

If your business is eligible for small business or rural rate relief, you are entitled to a one-off cash grant of £10,000. 

If your business is in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector, then you may also be entitled to a cash grant. If you have a property with a rateable value of less than £15,000 then you will be entitled to a grant of £10,000, whether or not you are entitled to small business rate relief or rural rate relief. If you have a property with a rateable value of between £14,999 and £51,000 then you will be entitled to a cash grant of £25,000.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will provide guidance for Local Authorities on how to administer these grants shortly. If you are an eligible business, your local authority will be in touch in the coming weeks to provide details of how to claim this money. 

 

LOANS

On Monday 27th April, the Chancellor announced the new Bounce Back Loan scheme which will allow small and medium businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000. 

The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.

Loan terms will be up to 6 years. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan.

The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders.

More information on the scheme can be found HERE

A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank will help support Businesses access bank lending and overdraft. 

Businesses can now apply to borrow up to £5 million to pay their rents, salaries of their employees, pay supplies, or purchase stock.

Full details on how to apply can be found HERE

These loans are government-backed and have attractive terms, with the Government providing lenders with a partial guarantee of 80% on each loan to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to small and medium businesses. 

The first twelve months of these loans will be interest-free, as the Government will cover these payments.

Find out more about the Business Interruption Loan Scheme HERE

 

I am a small/medium business and worried about being able to afford to pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), is there any help available for me?

Since March 13th, businesses with less than 250 employees have been eligible to reclaim the costs of SSP for sickness absence due to COVID-19.

The refund covers up to two weeks' SSP per eligible employee who are either ill or have been told to self-isolate because of COVID-19. 

Please ensure to maintain a full record of staff absences and note that employees will not need to provide a GP fit note for COVID-19 related absences during the outbreak. 

As existing systems are not designed to facilitate employer refunds for SSP, the Government will work with employers in the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism as soon as possible. 

Please find the Government's coronavirus guidance for employers HERE

 

I own a business and am concerned about being able to pay my tax bills because of COVID-19, what help is available for me?

If you are self-employed or own a business, you may be eligible for support through HMRC's Time to Pay service. 

HMRC has committed to supporting business owners through this crisis, and have said they are happy to explore instalment arrangements, suspend debt collection proceedings and more! These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. 

You can call HMRC's dedicated help and support phone line on 0800 0159 559 to find out what support they can offer you. 

Find out more about the scheme HERE

 

Do I still have to pay Business Rates throughout the outbreak?

The Government has announced that the Business Rates holiday is to be extended to all businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector for the next twelve months. If you own a business that falls into this category, you will not have to pay business rates for the next 12 months. This is to help the businesses worst-impacted by coronavirus. 

If you are currently receiving the retail discount for your Business Rates bill, you will shortly receive a revised bill with 100% relief.  

If you are a nursery, you will also be entitled to the 100% relief for the next year. You should contact your Local Authority for more information. 

 

I have pandemic/government ordered closure insurance for my businesses, am I able to claim even though the Government has not forced my business to close?

The Government's medical advice of 16th March is sufficient to enable those businesses which have an insurance policy that covers both pandemics and government-ordered closure to make a claim- provided all other terms and conditions in their policy are met. 

If in doubt, please check the terms and conditions of your specific policy and contact your insurance provider. 

 

I am a restaurant/pub serving food, can I quickly operate as a takeaway so I can keep my business running?

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government will shortly legislate to bring forward a temporary Permitted Development Right to allow for a change of use from A3 (Restaurant) and A4 (Pub) to A5 (Hot Food Takeaway). 

Once this legislation comes into force, pubs and restaurants will be able to notify their local authority that they are now operating as a takeaway without any prior approval. 

Find out more about this measure HERE

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News

BUSINESS EDITION: Updated Govt Guidance for Businesses

The Government has published eight guides covering a range of different types of work which you will find linked below. It is important to note that many businesses operate more than one type of workplace such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles.