Covid-19 business support announcements from the government
For individual businesses, the first port of call for advice and support is the Coronavirus Financial Support page of gov.uk.
The Business Support Helpline number in England has changed to freephone 0800 998 1098. The helpline provides free, impartial business support and signposting services to businesses in England – which currently includes business advice on Covid-19. You can also find free support, advice and sources of finance through your local growth hub or speak to an advisor on web chat about support for your business. The Business Support Scotland helpline is 0300 303 0660, Business Wales helpline is 0330 060 300 and the Invest Northern Ireland helpline is 0800 181 4422.
HMRC has a tax helpline to help businesses concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Find all the information here. The number is 0800 0159 559.
Companies House has also produced guidance if coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected your company and you need more time to file your accounts. Find all the information here.
31 July 2020
Trade credit insurance guarantee scheme finally approved – 31 July 2020
The BTHA has been asking government to support a trade credit insurance guarantee since early in the lockdown. The government agreed this support but has had to wait for EU approval for state support.
Now the European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a UK guarantee scheme to support the trade credit insurance market in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. Trade credit insurance protects companies supplying goods and services against the risk of non-payment by their clients. Given the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the risk of insurers not being willing to maintain their insurance coverage has become higher.
The UK scheme ensures that trade credit insurance continues to be available to all companies, avoiding the need for buyers of goods or services to pay in advance, therefore reducing their immediate liquidity needs. The measure has a maximum budget of approximately £10 billion. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which enables the Commission to approve State aid measures implemented by Member States to remedy a serious disturbance in their economy.
The Commission found that the scheme notified by the UK is compatible with the principles set out in the EU Treaty and is well targeted to remedy a serious disturbance to the British economy. In particular, (i) the trade credit insurers have committed to the UK to maintain their level of protection as before the coronavirus outbreak in spite of the current difficulties; (ii) the guarantee is limited to only cover trade credit originated until the end of this year; (iii) the scheme is open to all credit insurers in the UK; (iv) the guarantee mechanism ensures risk sharing between the insurers and the State; and (v) the guarantee fee provides a sufficient remuneration for the UK.
The Commission found that the scheme notified by the UK is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the general principles set out in the State aid Temporary Framework. Furthermore, the Commission has found the scheme is in line with the Short-term export-credit Communication. On this basis, the Commission has approved the measure under EU State aid rules. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.57451 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.
29 July 2020
Advice for businesses on reporting Coronavirus cases – 29 July 2020
New guidance for businesses and organisations on how to recognise, contain and report incidents of coronavirus has been published. Covid-19 early outbreak management information has been created to make sure that people who run businesses or organisations:
- know how to recognise and report an incident of coronavirus
- are aware of measures local health protection teams may advise in order to contain it.
Action cards have been developed to cover a range of businesses and organisations to provide specific advice on the issues each type of organisation may face now lockdown restrictions have been eased. The cards are designed to be printed or downloaded to keep on hand in your business or organisation. Find out more here.
24 July 2020
Wearing of face masks becomes mandatory in toy shops – 24 July 2020
From today, face coverings are mandatory in enclosed public spaces – including shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and transport hubs. Venues such as restaurants, pubs and gyms are exempt.
Members of the public will need to wear face coverings, such as a fabric covering, scarf or bandana, that covers the nose and mouth in additional enclosed public spaces, as well as frequent hand washing and careful social distancing.
It is compulsory to wear a face covering when buying food and drink to take away from cafes and shops. If you are in a premises where you are able to sit down and consume food or drink that you have bought, then you can remove your face covering in order to eat and drink on-site.
You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes (but is not limited to):
- young children under the age of 11 (Public Health England do not recommended face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
- not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
- if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
- to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
- to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
- to eat or drink if reasonably necessary
- in order to take medication
- if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering
There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering when asked:
- if asked to do so in a bank, building society, or post office for identification
- if asked to do so by shop staff or relevant employees for identification, the purpose of assessing health recommendations, such as a pharmacist, or for age identification purposes including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol
- if speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a covering to help with communication
Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering.This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign but is not necessary in law.
As well as shops and supermarkets, face coverings must be worn in banks, building societies and post offices.
Wearing a face covering will not be made mandatory in other venues that have measures in place to protect staff and the public from Covid-19. These include:
- eat-in restaurants and pubs
- hairdressers and other treatment salons
- gyms and leisure centres
- cinemas, concert halls and theatres
For transport hubs in England, the requirements mean face coverings must be worn in indoor train stations and terminals, airports, maritime ports, and indoor bus and coach stations or terminals.
The responsibility for wearing a face covering sits with individuals. Businesses are encouraged to take reasonable steps to encourage customers to follow the law, including through signs and providing other information in store.
Anyone who doesn’t abide by the regulations – and is not exempt under one of the categories set out in the regulations – could face a fine by the police of up to £100, as is currently the case on public transport. The fine will be reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days. The police have been very clear throughout the pandemic that they will “engage, explain, encourage and finally enforce as a last resort”.
In Scotland, it’s been a requirement to wear face coverings in shops since 10 July. Anyone not wearing one can be fined £60 (reduced to £30 if paid within 28 days) for a first offence. People with certain medical conditions or disabilities are exempt, along with children under five. They are also compulsory in shops and libraries. But the rules do not apply in takeaways, cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, pubs or in banks and building societies.
In Wales and Northern Ireland you do not have to wear a face covering in shops, or takeaways.
Guidance on the NHS Test and Trace service in the workplace includes a new section on collecting customer and visitor data, and with information on if a worker develops symptoms and orders a test.
Changes to working time requirements for Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI)
Individuals who are furloughed or who have their working hours reduced below the current statutory working time requirement for EMI as a result of coronavirus will retain the tax advantages of the scheme. Find more information here.
Bounce-Back plans for Northern Ireland’s tech sector
Exports Minister Graham Stuart has addressed tech businesses in Northern Ireland, outlining a series of measures to help recovery from the challenges of coronavirus. The new measures will help create and support jobs by increasing exports and attracting international investment. Find out more here.
Companies House phone line has reopened
Working in vehicles guidance has been updated
Updates include the change in working from home, when to wear face coverings and work related travel. Find out more here.
20 July 2020
Prime Minister sets out next stage of businesses reopening – 20 July 2020
The Prime Minister has set out the plans for moving to the next phase of the government’s response to the virus. The strategy sets out a cautious roadmap to easing existing measures in a safe and measured way, subject to successfully controlling the virus and being able to monitor and react to its spread. The roadmap will be kept constantly under review as the epidemic, and the world’s understanding of it, develops.
In England, from 1 August, if prevalence remains around or below current levels, and Covid-19 secure guidelines are followed, the government will:
- Give employers more discretion on how they ensure employees can work safely. Working from home is one way to do this, but workplaces can also be made safe by following COVID-19 Secure guidelines.
- Carry out pilots in venues with a range of sizes of crowds including sports stadia and business events. If plans progress in line with expectations, pilots will expand to build up to and prepare for a full, socially distanced return from 1 October.
People are advised that they may now use public transport but are encouraged to consider alternative means of transport where possible. More information is available here.
Face coverings at work
Guidance on face covering, their role in reducing the transmission of coronavirus, the settings in which they are recommended, and how they should be safely used and stored is available here. It is not compulsory for shop or supermarket staff to wear face coverings in England, although employers should consider recommending their use where appropriate and where other mitigations are not in place. There is no universal face coverings guidance for workplaces because of the variety of work environments in different industries. Employers should continue to follow Covid-19 secure guidelines to reduce the proximity and duration of contact between employees.
Companies House authentication code can be sent to a home address temporarily
Users can request to have the authentication code sent to a home address instead of the company’s registered office. This is a temporary service in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Find out more here.
Some aspects of business support are devolved. Specific information for businesses and employers in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales is available. In England, Growth Hubs can advise on local and UK Government business support. You can also find helpful business case studies and other useful information on the Coronavirus Business Support Blog.
13 July 2020
Recovery Advice for Business scheme launched for SMEs – 13 July 2020
The Recovery Advice for Business scheme, supported by the government and hosted on the Enterprise Nation website, gives small firms access to free, one-to-one advice with an expert adviser to help them through the coronavirus pandemic and to prepare for long-term recovery.
Thousands of expert professional and business services advisers are on hand to offer free advice, until 31 December. Small and medium sized businesses can sign up, take the diagnostic tool and access support. Advice will focus on key areas:
- accounting and finance
- people and building a team
- planning, strategy and pivoting
- marketing, PR and social media
- technology and digital tools
How to treat certain expenses and benefits provided to employees during coronavirus
Information about ‘Coronavirus (Covid-19) tests’ is available here. If you’re providing testing kits to your employees, outside the government’s national testing scheme, either directly or by purchasing tests that are carried out by a third party, no Income Tax or Class 1A National Insurance contributions will be due.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – Reminder of key dates
- Claiming for employees furloughed on or before 30 June. Claim by 31 July for employees furloughed through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for periods ending on or before 30 June.
- Get ready for changes from 1 August. Employers will no longer be able to use a CJRS grant to cover National Insurance (NI) and pension contributions for furloughed employees from 1 August. You can submit August claims in advance, from 20 July.
- Working out your claims. Use HMRC’s online examples and calculator to help work out what you can claim, for claims ending on or before 31 July. From 10 July you will also be able to use these to help you work out claims ending on or before 31 August.
- Made a mistake on your claim? You can now delete a claim online within 72 hours of submitting it.
- More information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is available here.
Information for businesses in Scotland
The Scottish Government published Phase 3 of its route map through and out of the crisis on 9 July. Find more information here.
08 July 2020
Chancellor unveils plan to help young people into jobs – 08 July 2020
In his summer economic update, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £2.1bn kickstart scheme to create more jobs for young people. The fund will subsidise six-month work placements for people on Universal Credit aged between 16 and 24, who are at risk of long-term unemployment. Funding available for each placement will cover 100% of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week – and employers will be able to top that wage up. The scheme will be open for applications from next month but employers must prove they are additional jobs and must provide training and support to find a permanent job.
A job retention bonus will be introduced to help firms keep furloughed workers. Employers will receive a one-off bonus of £1,000 for each furloughed employee who is still employed until 31 January 2021. For businesses to get the bonus, the employee must be paid at least £520 on average, in each month from November to the end of January – the equivalent of the lower earnings limit in national insurance.
Under a separate £1.6bn trainee and apprenticeship scheme, businesses will be given £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25, £1,500 for apprentices over the age of 25 and £1,000 to take on new trainees. That’s in addition to the existing £1,000 payment the government already provides for new 16 to 18-year-old apprentices and those aged under 25 with an education, health and care plan.
Plus, employers won’t have to pay any tax on coronavirus swab tests provided for their staff.
01 July 2020
Coronavirus Job Retention scheme changes – 01 July 2020
Businesses now have the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work part time as part of the government’s plan to re-open the UK and kick-start the economy.
As previously announced, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will close on 31 October.
From now, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim CJRS grant for the hours not worked.
From 1 August, the level of grant will be reduced each month.To be eligible for the grant employers must pay furloughed employees 80% of their wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month for the time they are being furloughed.
The timetable for changes to the scheme is set out below. Wage caps are proportional to the hours an employee is furloughed. For example, an employee is entitled to 60% of the £2,500 cap if they are placed on furlough for 60% of their usual hours:
- for June and July, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 for the hours the employee is on furlough, as well as employer National Insurance Contributions (ER NICS) and pension contributions for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will have to pay employees for the hours they work
- for August, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 for the hours an employee is on furlough and employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions for the hours the employee is on furlough
- for September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for time they are furloughed
- for October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for time they are furloughed
Employers will continue to able to choose to top up employee wages above the 80% total and £2,500 cap for the hours not worked at their own expense if they wish. Employers will have to pay their employees for the hours worked.
Wage caps are proportional to the hours not worked.
Travel Corridor Exemption list
Passengers returning to or visiting England, from countries or territories detailed in the travel corridor exemption list, will no longer need to self-isolate on arrival. This comes into effect on Friday 10 July. All passengers, except those on a small list of exemptions, will still be required to provide contact information on arrival in the UK. Find out more here.
To receive specific foreign travel advice, sign up to email updates here.
Information for travel into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be published in due course by the devolved administrations.
Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
Guidance on the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has been updated with new examples for how a business could be adversely affected by coronavirus and with information on how different circumstances affect the scheme.
Scheme end: Deferral of VAT payments due to coronavirus
The VAT payments deferral scheme ended on 30 June. More information is available here.
24 June 2020
Social distancing reduced to 1m+ in England – 24 June 2020
From 4 July 2020, newly updated guidance recommends that you keep two metres away from people as a precaution or one metre when you can mitigate the risk by taking other precautions. Find the updated guidance and further details on mitigating risks here.
From Saturday 4 July, all businesses and venues in England can reopen, except for a small number of ‘Close proximity’ venues such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys and spas, which will need to remain closed for now. The government is continuing to work with these sectors to establish taskforces to help them to become Covid-19 secure and reopen as soon as possible.
Pubs, restaurants and hairdressers and accommodation sites will be able to reopen, providing they adhere to Covid-19 secure guidelines. Some leisure facilities and tourist attractions may also reopen, if they can do so safely – this includes outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades.
COVID Secure guides cover a range of different types of work:
- Find the new hotel and guest accommodation guidance here.
- Find the new close contact services (hairdressing, barber shops, beauty, nail bars, make up, tattooing, spray tanning, spas, sports and massage therapy, dress fitters, tailors, fashion designers) guidance here.
- Find the new visitor economy (hotels, guest accommodation, indoor and outdoor attractions, business events and consumer shows) guidance here.
- Find the updated restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services guidance here.
Please be aware Covid-19 safety guidance differs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Advisors in Scotland are still reviewing whether the 2m (6ft 6in) physical distancing rule should be eased, but a range of different shops and services can now begin planning for re-opening in mid-July. The Northern Ireland Executive is discussing the 2m rule this week, while in Wales the guidance remains at 2m.
Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill webinars
The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill will reform the insolvency and corporate governance framework in light of the Covid-19 emergency. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has planned two webinars to explain different aspects of this new legislation.
- To find out how provisions on AGMs and filing extensions will affect companies, please join us for our Corporate Governance session at 10.30am on 30 June. You can register here.
- To find out how the new rules on moratoriums, restructuring and winding-up petitions will affect companies and their associated parties, register to join our Insolvency session at 10.30am on 7 July. You can register here.
Applying for a moratorium under the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020
How to apply for breathing space to consider a rescue plan for your company, under measures to support companies and other types of business in financial difficulty. The directors must file for or apply to court for a moratorium. It will give the company 20 business days to consider rescue options. Find out more here.
Pay Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grants back if you have over-claimed
Find out how to pay all or some of your grant back if you’ve overclaimed through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. You can:
- correct it in your next claim
- make a payment to HMRC (only if you’re not making another claim)
- You’ll need your 14 or 15 digit payment reference number that begins with X
- Find out more here.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: step by step guide for employers
This guide has been updated with more information about flexible furlough and overpayments.
19 June 2020
More measures announced to prevent high street evictions – 19 June 2020
The government says it has extended measures to prevent struggling companies from eviction over the summer. The extension, until 30 September, comes alongside other support to help local businesses plan for economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.
A new code of practice has been developed with leaders from the retail, hospitality and property sectors to provide clarity for businesses when discussing rental payments and to encourage best practice so that all parties are supported.
The news is in addition to the financial package provided by the government to businesses. The code is voluntary for businesses and is relevant to all commercial leases held by businesses in any sector which have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
It encourages tenants to continue to pay their rent in full if they are in a position to do so and advises that others should pay what they can, while acknowledging that landlords should provide support to businesses if they too are able to do so.
New tool to help businesses identify whether they can reopen safely
The government has developed a tool to help businesses in England to reopen safely during coronavirus. The tool encourages businesses to carry out a risk assessment and helps to identify the workplace adjustments that they should make.
Employers have the legal responsibility to protect their employees and other people on site, such as customers and visitors. This tool will help businesses to easily find out what they should do. Employees can also use this tool to check what their workplace needs to do to keep people safe. The tool can be found here.
The BTHA also has a comprehensive guidance document for retail.
15 June 2020
Face coverings to be worn on all public transport – 15 June 2020
New rules requiring passengers to wear a face covering on their journey come into force on public transport across England today. More than 3,000 extra staff from British Transport Police, Network Rail, Train Operating Companies and Transport for London will be deployed at key transport hubs and interchanges across England and hundreds of thousands of face coverings will be handed out for passenger use at many locations across the rail network.
Operators will be able to stop passengers who refuse to follow the rules from travelling and direct them to leave services. The police and Transport for London authorised personnel will also be able to issue fixed penalty notices of £100, or £50 if paid in 14 days, on buses, coaches, trams, ferries, aircraft and trains. Exemptions for the use of face coverings will apply to those with certain health conditions, disabled people and children under the age of 11.
The government says face coverings are not the same as face masks. It’s important that people don’t use medical grade PPE masks to ensure these remain available for frontline staff. Last month, the government set out advice for people on how to make their own face coverings easily at home, using scarves or other textile items.
The change coincides with the easing of certain lockdown measures, including the reopening of non-essential retail stores.
Calculate how much you can claim using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- From 1 July employers can only claim for employees who have previously been furloughed for at least 3 consecutive weeks between 1 March – 30 June.
- Flexibly furlough employees meaning employees can come back to work for any amount of time and any work pattern.
- Still be able to claim the furlough grant for the hours your flexibly furloughed employees do not work, compared to the hours they would normally have worked in that period
- From 1 August, the level of the grant will be slowly reduced. No grant will be available for Class 1 employer NICs or pension contributions from 1 August although these contributions will remain payable by the employer.
- From 1 September, you will also be asked to contribute towards the cost of your furloughed employees’ wages to ensure they continue to receive at least 80% of their wages for the time they’re on furlough. Find out more information on how the amount of grant available through Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is changing.
- HMRC are running a webinar to be held on Thursday 18 June 9:45am-10:45am and Friday 19 June 11:45am-12:45pm. It provides an overview of the changes to the scheme, how employers will be affected, flexible furloughing, key dates and support available. Sign up here.
How different circumstances affect the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
If you’re self-employed or member of a partnership, find out how your circumstances can affect your eligibility for the scheme. An update from the government includes examples added, to show when the ‘adversely affected’ criteria for the first and second grants will be met. Find out more here.
9 June 2020
Toy shops can reopen on Monday, subject to strict guidelines – 9 June 2020
Toy shops will be allowed to open their doors again on Monday (15 June) provided they follow the Covid-19 secure guidelines set out by the government in May. Retailers will need to take certain steps to protect customers and staff, including limiting the number of customers allowed inside at one time, placing protective coverings on large items which may be touched by passing shoppers, and frequently checking and cleaning objects and surfaces.
Employers should also display a notice visibly in their shop windows or outside their store to show their employees, customers and other visitors that they have followed this guidance. Businesses should only reopen once they have completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks. They must have taken the necessary steps to become Covid-19 secure in line with current Health and Safety legislation.
Many shops allowed to open previously have introduced extra measures to ensure social distancing including special opening hours for vulnerable people, perspex screens at checkouts, floor markings to guide shoppers and limiting the number of customers allowed inside a store at one time. Read the BTHA’s toy retail stores operations guidance.
The government also has guidance on the regulations governing which businesses can, and cannot, remain open.
Additionally there are eight workplace guidance documents now available under Working safely during coronavirus (Covid-19) guidance.
Government clarifies UK border quarantine rules and sets out exemptions
If you’re a resident or visitor travelling to the UK, from the 8 June you must:
- provide your journey and contact details
- not leave the place you’re staying for the first 14 days you’re in the UK except in very limited situations (known as ‘self-isolating’)
You may be fined up to £100 if you refuse to provide your contact details. You may be fined more if you break this rule more than once. You may also be fined up to £1,000 if you refuse to self-isolate, or you could face further action.
There are different self-isolation rules and penalties depending on whether you are travelling to:
However, there are a number of exemptions to the rules. Of particular interest to the toy industry are these groups in a list put together by the government. They are:
Travellers from within the Common Travel Area (Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands)
People who live in the UK but work in another country and travel between the UK and country of work at least once a week
People who live outside the UK but work in the UK and travel between their country of residence and the UK at least once a week
Drivers of goods vehicles or public service vehicles and other employees of community licence holders for the international carriage of goods or passengers by coach and bus
Workers with specialist technical skills for essential or emergency works or services (including commissioning, maintenance, and repairs and safety checks) to ensure the continued production, supply, movement, manufacture, storage or preservation of goods
The government has also provided a template letter for employers to fill out if you think anyone in your company is covered by the exemptions above. Should you wish to receive a copy of the letter (Word document), please contact email@example.com
Parents returning to work after extended leave eligible for furlough
As previously reported, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been extended until October, with new flexibilities introduced from 1 July to support the economy by allowing furloughed employees to return to work part-time.
To enable the introduction of part-time furloughing, and support those already furloughed back to work, claims from July onwards will be restricted to employers currently using the scheme and previously furloughed employees. This means people must be on the furlough scheme by 10 June.
However, the government has confirmed that parents on statutory maternity and paternity leave who return to work in the coming months after a long period of absence will be permitted to be furloughed.
This will only apply where they work for an employer who has previously furloughed employees and includes people on adoption leave, shared parental leave and parental bereavement leave.
Sending forms to Companies House
As an emergency response to coronavirus, Companies House has developed a temporary online service to upload a number of completed forms and send them to Companies House digitally. Find out which documents you can upload here.
8 June 2020
Working groups to be launched to help relaunch industry – 8 June 2020
The government is creating 5 new business-focused groups to “unleash Britain’s growth potential” and create jobs, as part of its plans to help the economy bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic. Focused on 5 key themes, each group will explore how business can work with government to deliver economic growth and jobs:
- The future of industry: How to accelerate business innovation and leverage private sector investment in research and development
- Green recovery: How to capture economic growth opportunities from the shift to net zero carbon emissions
- Backing new businesses: How to make the UK the best place in the world to start and scale a business
- Increasing opportunity: How to level up economic performance across the UK, including through skills and apprenticeships
- The UK open for business: How to win and retain more high value investment for the UK
The membership of the 5 working groups will be published in due course. There will also be an opportunity for other parties and individuals interested in this initiative to share written submissions with the Business Department. The government says it will provide further details soon. There’s more information at the Small Business Commissioner website.
Payment deferral from money laundering supervision due to coronavirus
Guidance on money laundering supervision has been updated to explain that you do not need to contact HMRC if you choose to defer payment. If you’re due to renew money laundering supervision get a payment deferral for up to 6 months or deregister if you stop trading due to coronavirus. This applies to all businesses with an annual fee due between 1 May and 30 September 2020. Find out more here.
Companies House – changes to strike-off policy and late filing penalties
Companies House has updated information on strike-off policy. From 1 June 2020, there will be an exception to the suspension of strike off activity. In cases where the government’s law enforcement partners have concluded that companies are no longer in operation following an investigation, the registrar will continue with strike off action for those companies. Find out more here.
4 June 2020
Trade Credit Insurance backed by £10 billion guarantee – 4 June 2020
Trade Credit Insurance, which provides essential cover to hundreds of thousands of business-to-business transactions, will receive up to £10 billion of government guarantees. The Trade Credit Reinsurance scheme will see the vast majority of Trade Credit Insurance coverage maintained across the UK.
The scheme is available on a temporary basis for nine months, backdated to 1 April 2020, and running until 31 December 2020, with the potential for extension if required. The scheme will be followed by a joint BEIS/HMT-led review of the Trade Credit Insurance market to ensure it can continue to support businesses in future.
- The scheme will be delivered through a reinsurance agreement that is open to all insurers currently operating in the UK market, covering both domestic and overseas trade with payment terms of up to 2 years;
- To protect businesses that the private credit market can’t insure, export credit insurance is also available from UK Export Finance to cover UK exports to 180 countries. Government-backed export insurance from UKEF can protect the 230,000 businesses that export from the UK against the risk of not getting paid when selling internationally;
- Implementation of the scheme is subject to state aid approval, agreement of full form documentation with insurers and acceptance of applications from insurers for participation.
Late payment support from Small Business Commissioner
It is more important than ever to ensure small businesses are paid on time. Many small businesses are reaching out for assistance, with disputes over delayed payments or in some cases, non-payment because of the financial hardship being experienced by all sectors during this difficult time. As many small business owners are directly or indirectly impacted by Covid-19, they will be eager to get back on their feet, so keeping on top of the business basics and maintaining cash flow by getting the money in for work carried out or goods supplied is paramount.
The Small Business Commissioner has helped small businesses recover £500,000 during the coronavirus crisis. If you’d like more information or help:
29 May 2020
Government announces changes to furlough scheme – 29 May 2020
From 1 July, businesses will be given the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part-time. Individual firms will be able to decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return, so that they can decide on the best approach for them – and will be responsible for paying their wages while in work.
From August, the level of government grant provided through the job retention scheme will be slowly tapered to reflect that people will be returning to work. That means that for June and July the government will continue to pay 80% of people’s salaries. In the following months, businesses will be asked to contribute a modest share, but crucially individuals will continue to receive that 80% of salary covering the time they are unable to work.
The scheme updates mean that the following will apply for the period people are furloughed:
- June and July: The government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 as well as employer National Insurance (ER NICS) and pension contributions. Employers are not required to pay anything.
- August: The government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions – for the average claim, this represents 5% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.
- September: The government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. For the average claim, this represents 14% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.
- October: The government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. For the average claim, this represents 23% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed. At the end of October the scheme will close.
- To enable the introduction of part-time furloughing, and support those already furloughed back to work, claims from July onwards will be restricted to employers currently using the scheme and previously furloughed employees. The scheme will close to new entrants on 30 June, with the last three-week furloughs before that point commencing on 10 June.
- From 1 July, employers will be able to agree any working arrangements with previously furloughed employees.
- When claiming the CJRS grant for furloughed hours; employers will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week, for grants to be calculated accurately across working patterns.
Self-employment income support scheme extended
- Individuals can continue to apply for the first SEISS grant until 13 July. Under the first grant, eligible individuals can claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total. Those eligible have the money paid into their bank account within six working days of completing a claim.
- Applications for the second grant will open in August. Individuals will be able to claim a second taxable grant worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.
- The eligibility criteria are the same for both grants, and individuals will need to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant to receive the second grant: for example, they may only have been adversely affected by Covid-19 in this later phase. Further guidance on the second grant will be published on Friday 12 June.
Factsheet for SEISS and CJRS schemes (PDF, 126KB, 5 pages)
Temporary relaxation of the enforcement of the driver’s hours rules
The EU drivers’ hours relaxations ended on 31 May 2020. The GB drivers’ hours relaxation applies until Saturday 14 June 2020. Anyone driving the GB drivers’ hours rules and undertaking carriage if goods by road can use the relaxations where necessary. The relaxations are not limited to specific sectors or journeys. Find out more here.
28 May 2020
Government launches NHS test and trace system – 28 May 2020
Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus in England will now be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will need to share information about their recent interactions. This could include household members, people with whom they have been in direct contact, or within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes.
People identified as having been in close contact with someone who has a positive test must stay at home for 14 days, even if they do not have symptoms, to stop unknowingly spreading the virus.
If those in isolation develop symptoms, they can book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119. If they test positive, they must continue to stay at home for 7 days or until their symptoms have passed. If they test negative, they must complete the 14-day isolation period. You can find further guidance here.
There is specific guidance on the NHS test and trace service for employers, business, workers and the self-employed which can be found here.
Six people can meet outside under new measures
Groups of up to six people will be able to meet outdoors in England from Monday 1 June, including in gardens and other private outdoor spaces, provided strict social distancing guidelines are followed.
Primary schools will welcome back children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 on 1 June, and nurseries and other early years settings will be reopened. On 15 June, secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges will begin to provide some face-to-face contact time for Year 10 and 12 and the equivalent groups in further education. This will help students prepare for exams next year, and we expect there to be around a quarter of these secondary students in at any point.
Furloughed drivers and recording mobile working time
The government has written a guide for operators and furloughed drivers on EU mobile working time rules and EU and AETR drivers’ hours and tachograph rules. It will help you understand how:
- to record your activities when furloughed, including when undertaking other work, either on your tachograph or by manual record if a tachograph cannot be used
- being furloughed interacts with the working time rules that apply to mobile workers
- to meet your obligations relating to driver card and tachograph vehicle unit data during coronavirus (COVID-19) related disruption
26 May 2020
Shops to reopen on 15 June, subject to conditions – 26 May 2020
Thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centres across England are set to reopen next month once they are Covid-19 secure and can show customers will be kept safe.
Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from next Monday, 1 June, as soon as they are able to meet the Covid-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers. All other non-essential retail including shops selling toys, clothes, shoes, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios and indoor markets, will be expected to be able to reopen from Monday 15 June if the government’s five tests are met and they follow the Covid-19 secure guidelines, giving them three weeks to prepare.
Businesses will only be able to open from these dates once they have completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks. They must have taken the necessary steps to become Covid-19 secure in line with the current Health and Safety legislation.
Measures that shops should consider include:
- Placing a poster in their windows to demonstrate awareness of the guidance and commitment to safety measures
- Storing returned items for 72 hours before putting them back out on the shop floor
- Placing protective coverings on large items touched by the public
- Frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, including self-checkouts, trolleys and coffee machines
Updated guidance for the retail sector has been published alongside this announcement, detailing the measures retailers should take to meet the necessary social distancing and hygiene standards. You can find the guidance here.
Join a free webinar, hosted by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to find out more about how to make your retail workplace Covid-secure.
- Thursday 28 May, 11am: Shops and branches – Guidance for people who run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.
Details of other free webinars, hosted by BEIS are available on how to make your workplace Covid-secure. The webinars cover a range of different types of workplace settings which are allowed to open in England. The BTHA has also produced warehouse and office safety guidelines for members only.
Coronavirus sick pay scheme opens
The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme is now open for applications. The scheme allows small and medium sized employers, with fewer than 250 members of staff, to apply to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay for two weeks – worth nearly £200 per employee. Money will be received within six working days.
- The current rate of SSP is £95.85 per week. Employers can choose to go further and pay more than the statutory minimum. This is known as occupational or contractual sick pay.
- Where an employer pays more than the current rate of SSP in sick pay, they will only be able to reclaim the SSP rate.
The scheme covers all types of employment contracts, including:
- full-time employees
- part-time employees
- employees on agency contracts
- employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
- other SSP eligibility criteria apply
- tax agents can make claims on behalf of their employers
- Connected companies and charities can also use the scheme if their total combined number of PAYE employees are fewer than 250 on or before 28 February 2020. Employees do not have to provide a doctor’s fit note in order for their employer to make a claim under the scheme make a claim.
- The repayment will cover up to two weeks of SSP from either 13 March 2020, if an employee had coronavirus, symptoms or is self isolating because someone they live with has symptoms, or from 16 April 2020 if an employee was shielding because of coronavirus.
- Employers can furlough their employees who have been advised to shield in line with public health guidance and are unable to work from home, under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Once furloughed, the employee should no longer receive SSP and would be classified as a furloughed employee. Where an employee has been notified to shield and has not been furloughed, the rebate will compensate up to 2 weeks of SSP from 16 April.
21 May 2020
Government introduces insolvency bill in parliament – 21 May 2020
The government has introduced the Corporate Governance and Insolvency Bill in Parliament, which will put in place a series of measures to amend insolvency and company law to support business to address the challenges resulting from the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19). The Bill consists of 6 insolvency measures and 2 corporate governance measures.
The corporate governance measures will introduce temporary easements and flexibility to businesses where they are coping with reduced resources and restrictions.
The Bill will do this through:
- introducing a new moratorium to give companies breathing space from their creditors while they seek a rescue
- prohibit termination clauses that engage on insolvency, preventing suppliers from ceasing their supply or asking for additional payments while a company is going through a rescue process
- introducing a new restructuring plan that will bind creditors to it
- enabling the insolvency regime to flex to meet the demands of the emergency
- temporarily removing the threat of personal liability for wrongful trading from directors who try to keep their companies afloat through the emergency
- temporarily prohibiting creditors from filing statutory demands and winding up petitions for coronavirus related debts
- temporarily easing burdens on businesses by enabling them to hold closed Annual General Meetings (AGMs), conduct business and communicate with members electronically, and by extending filing deadlines
- allowing for the temporary measures to be retrospective so as to be as effective as possible
19 May 2020
Government loans expanded for large firms – 19 May 2020
Businesses will now be able to benefit from larger loans under the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS).
The maximum loan size available under the scheme will be increased from £50 million to £200 million to help ensure those large firms which do not qualify for the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) have enough finance to meet cashflow needs during the outbreak. The expanded loans, which have been introduced following discussions with lenders and business groups, will be available from 26 May.
Companies borrowing more than £50m through CLBILS will be subject to restrictions on dividend payments, senior pay and share buy-backs during the period of the loan, including a ban on dividend payments and cash bonuses, except where they were previously agreed.
These restrictions will also apply to the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) participants that wish to borrow money beyond 12 months from today. This will ensure that the money is used to keep the company going through the crisis. The Bank of England will also publish a list of companies who have benefitted under CCFF on 4 June.
Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme set to launch
A new online service will be launched on Tuesday 26 May for small and medium-sized employers to recover Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments they have made to their employees.
The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will allow small and medium-sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to apply to HMRC to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related SSP.
Employers will be able to make their claims through a new online service from 26 May. This means they will receive repayments at the relevant rate of SSP that they have paid to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.
Tax agents will also be able to make claims on behalf of employers.
Apply for the coronavirus Future Fund
The Future Fund will provide government loans to UK-based companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors. The fund will be open for applications from Wednesday 20 May 2020.
These convertible loans may be a suitable option for businesses that typically rely on equity investment and are unable to access other government business support programmes because they are either pre-revenue or pre-profit.
The Future Fund was developed by the government and is being delivered by the British Business Bank.
Anyone with Coronavirus symptoms can now be tested
The government has announced that anyone with symptoms of coronavirus is now eligible to book a test, ahead of the rollout of the test and trace service. The expansion in testing eligibility comes after it was confirmed that anosmia has been added as a symptom of Covid-19. Anosmia is the loss of or a change in your normal sense of smell, and it can also affect your sense of taste.
This means people should self-isolate immediately if they have:
- a new, continuous cough
- a high temperature, or
- a loss of or change in their normal sense of smell or taste
All members of their household must also self-isolate according to current guidelines, unless the symptomatic individual receives a negative test result.
18 May 2020
Anosmia (loss of smell) added to Covid-19 symptoms – 18 May 2020
From today, all individuals should self-isolate if they develop a new continuous cough or fever or anosmia. Anosmia is the loss of or a change in your normal sense of smell. It can also affect your sense of taste as the two are closely linked.
The government has been monitoring the emerging data and evidence on Covid-19 and, after thorough consideration, we are now confident enough to recommend this new measure.
The individual’s households should also self-isolate for 14 days as per the current guidelines and the individual should stay at home for 7 days, or longer if they still have symptoms other than cough or loss of sense of smell.
14 May 2020
Holiday entitlement and pay during coronavirus – 14 May 2020
This guidance outlines how holiday entitlement and pay operate during the coronavirus pandemic. It is designed to help employers understand their legal obligations, in terms of workers who:
- continue to work
- have been placed on furlough as part of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
Covid-19 Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
At Budget 2020 the Chancellor announced details about a new coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme. This scheme will allow small and medium sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to apply to HMRC to recover the costs of paying Statutory Sick Pay to their employees. HMRC has published online guidance which includes information about who can use the scheme and the records employers must keep.
HMRC is working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Details about when the new Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme can be accessed and when employers can make a claim will be announced as soon as possible.
13 May 2020
Government announces Trade Credit Insurance guarantee – 13 May 2020
Businesses with supply chains which rely on Trade Credit Insurance and who are experiencing difficulties maintaining cover due to Coronavirus will get support from the government. The government will temporarily guarantee business-to-business transactions currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance, ensuring the majority of insurance coverage will be maintained across the market. This will support supply chains as they will be protected if a customer defaults on payment. HMG’s Trade Credit Insurance (TCI) guarantee will cover over £171 billion business activity currently insured and the transactions between around 13000 suppliers and 650,000 buyers. You can find further information on our Trade Credit Insurance FAQs page.
Applications for Self-Employment Income Support Scheme open early
Self-employed people or members of partnerships whose business has been adversely affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant, worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500), paid in a single instalment.
Check if you are eligible for the scheme here.
People will be able to make their claim on a specified date between 13-18 May, based on their Unique Tax Reference number. HMRC has assigned eligible self-employed individuals a specific date to apply on and this can be checked on HMRC’s online checker at any time. People will not be able to apply before their claim date but can make a claim after that day.
The claims process is simple, and those eligible will have the money paid into their bank account by 25 May 2020, or within six working days of completing a claim.
Government announces roadmap taskforces
Five new ministerial-led taskforces have been set up to develop plans for how and when closed sectors can reopen safely, following publication of the UK’s roadmap to rebuild Britain. Businesses and shops in indoor environments or with closer contact between people, like pubs, hotels and non-essential retail, will likely have a higher risk of transmission, as is the case with many places of worship.
The five new ministerial taskforces will look at the following sectors:
- pubs and restaurants (Department for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy)
- non-essential retail (including salons) (Department for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy);
- recreation and leisure, including tourism, culture and heritage, libraries, entertainment and sport (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)
- places of worship, including faith, community and public buildings (Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government)
- international aviation, reflecting the unique challenges that sector is facing (Department for Transport)
As part of this science-led approach, each taskforce will work across Government and engage with key stakeholders in public health, industry, trade unions and devolved administrations to:
- ensure that COVID-19 secure guidelines are developed in line with the phased approach and public health directions, building on the existing guidance and providing intelligence and sector-specific expert input
- agree and ensure alignment of all relevant sectoral guidance
- provide key sector stakeholders direct access to Ministers to shape the guidance.
12 May 2020
Chancellor extends Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – 12 May 2020
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will remain open until the end of October. The scheme will continue to apply across all regions and sectors in the UK economy. Furloughed workers across the UK will continue to receive 80% of their current salary, up to £2,500.
From the start of August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff. The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month.
The scheme will continue in its current form until the end of July. Changes to allow more flexibility will come in from the start of August. More specific details and information around implementation will be made available by the end of this month.
Coronavirus (Covid-19): safer transport guidance for operators – This guide will help businesses, agencies and others understand how to provide safer workplaces and services for themselves, their workers and passengers across all modes of private and public transport. It outlines measures to assess and address the risks of coronavirus in the transport sector across England.
Guidance for passengers on how to travel safely – This guidance provides advice on how passengers should make journeys safely. The advice sets out that if people who cannot work from home and have to travel for work, they should first consider alternatives to public transport. Those driving their own cars have been asked to avoid busy areas. For those who have to use public transport, the guidance recommends:
Keeping 2 metres apart wherever possible;
Wearing a face covering if you can;
Using contactless payment where possible;
Avoiding rush hour travel where feasible;
Washing or sanitising your hands as soon as possible before and after travel;
Following advice from staff and being considerate to others.
All the latest guidance for people using transport or working in the transport sector during the coronavirus outbreak can be found here.
4 May 2020
New Bounce Back loans scheme launches – 4 May 2020
Britain’s small businesses will be able to apply for quick and easy-to-access loans of up to £50,000 from now – with the cash expected to land within days.
- small businesses will be able to apply for quick and easy-to-access loans from today
- businesses will be able to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 with the cash arriving within days
- loans will be 100% government backed for lenders, and businesses can apply online through a short and simple form
Thousands of small firms and sole traders will be eligible for 100% government-backed Bounce Back Loans to help them make it through the coronavirus outbreak. Small business owners can apply to accredited lenders by filling out a simple online form, with only seven questions. The government has also agreed with lenders that an affordable flat rate of 2.5% interest will be charged on these loans. And any business that has already taken out a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan of £50,000 or less can apply to have these switched over to this new scheme. To apply, see further information about the Bounce Back Loan scheme.
The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders and will run alongside the existing Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS).
Self-employed income support scheme opens
HM Revenue and Customs will begin contacting customers who may be eligible for the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) from now. Those who are eligible will be able to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average trading profits up to a maximum of £7,500 (equivalent to three months’ profits), paid in a single instalment. HMRC is also inviting customers, or their agents, to go online and check their eligibility for SEISS.
The claims service will open on Wednesday 13 May and is being delivered ahead of the original timetable. This will help millions of self-employed people, covering a wide range of industries and jobs, whose livelihoods have been adversely affected by the coronavirus. The claims process will be very simple, and those eligible will have the money paid into their bank account by 25 May, or within six working days of completing a claim. Individuals are eligible if their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus, they traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020, intend to continue trading, and they:
- earn at least half of their income through self-employment
- have trading profits of no more than £50,000 per year
- traded in the tax year 2018 to 2019 and submitted their Self Assessment tax return on or before 23 April 2020 for that year
HMRC is using information that customers have provided in their 2018 to 2019 tax return – and returns for 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018 where needed – to determine their eligibility and is contacting customers who may be eligible via email, text message or letter.
Webinars to support your business
Government departments are hosting a series of free webinars this week to help businesses understand the support available including:
- Multiple dates – Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – How to make a claim
- Multiple dates – Coronavirus COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
Keep up to date with all the latest available webinars here.
Deferred duty payments
Duty Deferment Account holders who are experiencing severe financial difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 measures in place, and who are unable to make payment of deferred customs duties and import VAT due on 15 May, can contact HMRC for approval to an arrangement for extended period for making full or partial payment without having their guarantee called upon or their account suspended.
If a duty deferment user is facing severe financial difficulties as a direct result of COVID-19 and is unable to make payment of deferred customs duty and import VAT due on 15 May they should contact HMRC to request an extension.
Duty Deferment users who had a payment extension agreed for their April payment should email the Central Deferment Office firstname.lastname@example.org. The email should confirm that the payment extension is being requested for the May payment due to COVID-19 and should also indicate that their financial situation remains the same (or has worsened).
All other requests can be made by contacting the Central Deferment Office at the email address above, or by phoning 03000 594243 or the COVID-19 helpline on 0800 024 1222.
The helpline operating hours are between 8am and 4pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays)
Separate arrangements are available for deferred excise payments. Businesses unable to pay excise duty owed to HMRC due to COVID-19 should contact the COVID-19 helpline to on 0800 024 1222 discuss an enhanced Time to Pay arrangement.
Please note that HMRC can only arrange Duty Deferment extended payment arrangements with the Duty Deferment Account (DDA) holder. Where a customs agent or intermediary who holds a DDA is granted an extended payment arrangement, HMRC would expect the agent to pass on the benefit of the additional time to pay to the importer if the payment arrangement was agreed on the basis that they’ve been unable to secure payment from an importer.
UK and EU preferential export procedures
Due to coronavirus (Covid-19), in addition to easements already introduced when claiming preference on imports into the UK, Government has put temporary measures in place enabling exporters to apply for, and receive, copy preference documents from HMRC via email when exporting goods under the UK and EU’s preferential trading arrangements. Further information and links to the forms themselves obtained from Notice 827: UK and EU preferential export procedures and Notice 812: European Union preferences – trade with Turkey
Business rates revaluation postponed
A revaluation of business rates will no longer take place in 2021 to help reduce uncertainty for firms affected by the impacts of coronavirus.
The government is continuing work on the fundamental review of business rates, with the aims of reducing the overall burden on businesses, improving the current business rates system, and considering more fundamental changes in the medium-to-long term. The call for evidence for the review will be published in the coming months.
29 April 2020
Government clarifies click and collect eligibility – 29 April 2020
News stories in the past 24 hours have reported that stores can operate click and collect services. The BTHA has spoken to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to clarify the situation.
All business can continue as long as they can operate social distancing measures, and where they cannot operate safe social distancing they should adopt measures to mitigate virus transfer (such as side-by-side working rather than face-to-face).
This includes keeping warehouses and deliveries operating and has continued to include click and collect for those that can safely do so. However, this advice is in conflict with the government list of only essential retailers remaining open.
The advice from BEIS is that retailers can continue or start to operate click and collect services but only if they are able to ensure safe social distancing measures for consumers. Therefore, consumers MUST remain outside the store and collect orders at the door with social distancing measures in place to collect outside.
BEIS has indicated that retailers with their own parking area that can control collections would therefore be allowed to operate click and collect services as consumers can visit, park and collect at the door while observing the 2m rule.
Stores on High Streets and shopping centres should assess the situation as they may not be able to safely operate the social distancing rule, and if they cause obstruction will fall foul of police measures that would not see toy collection as an essential retail operation.
However, for retailers that can determine safe social distancing measures, click and collect options are able to remain operational. The government is aware that there is conflict in some of the advice and is currently working to amend guidance to relaunch to retailers. In the meantime please see the current advice here.
If you have already made a claim: Payment takes six working days from when a claim is submitted. Please do not call HMRC to chase payment as they will not be able to update you before the six working days have ended. It will automatically be sent to the bank account you nominated in your claim. Please retain all records and calculations for your claims in case HMRC need to contact you about them in future.
If you have not yet made a claim: You can still claim online for a grant for 80% of your furloughed employees’ salaries, up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee, per month. You will receive the funds six working days after you claim, provided your claim matches records that we hold for your PAYE scheme.
Please continue to keep your furloughed employees informed and ask them not to contact HMRC directly – HMRC will not be able to provide them with any information.
27 April 2020
Government launches new micro loan scheme – 27 April 2020
The government has announced that businesses will be able to apply for new Bounce Back Loans for 25% of their turnover, up to a maximum of £50,000, with the government paying the interest for the first 12 months. The loans will be available from 9am next Monday 4th May. There will be a standard form for businesses to fill in and for most firms, loans should arrive within 24 hours of approval. The government will guarantee 100% of the loan.
High Street protections from aggressive rent collection and closure
New temporary new measures are being introduced to safeguard the High Street against aggressive debt recovery actions during the coronavirus pandemic. Statutory demands and winding up petitions issued to commercial tenants will be temporarily voided and changes will be made to the use of Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery, building on measures already introduced in the Coronavirus Act.
Furloughed workers to receive full parental leave entitlement
Furloughed workers planning to take paid parental or adoption leave will be entitled to pay based on their usual earnings rather than a furloughed pay rate.
Webinar on how to claim for Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
A new government video provides a step-by-step guide on how to make a claim through the Coronavirus Retention Scheme. It includes essential information needed before starting, how to work out a claim and what happens after submitting a claim.
Scheme to keep goods and services flowing
Vital routes for supplies and people are being supported through a coronavirus support package to keep the flow of goods and services running smoothly in and out of the UK, and around the country, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
A multimillion government support package for essential freight services includes:
- up to £17 million for critical routes between Northern Ireland and Great Britain
- up to £10.5 million for lifeline ferry and freight services to the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles
- further support for critical routes between Britain and the European mainland
20 April 2020
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme opens – 20 April 2020
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme open for claims
The online claim service for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been launched. Any entity with a UK payroll can apply. If you cannot maintain your current workforce because your operations have been severely affected by coronavirus, you can furlough employees and apply for a grant that covers 80% of their usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions (up to the level of the minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contribution) on that subsidised furlough pay. This is a temporary scheme in place for 4 months starting from 1 March 2020, but it may be extended if necessary and employers can use this scheme anytime during this period.
To prepare to make your claim you will need:
- a Government Gateway (GG) ID and password – if you don’t already have a GG account, you can apply for one online, or by going to GOV.UK and searching for ‘HMRC services: sign in or register’
- be enrolled for PAYE online – if you aren’t registered yet, you can do so now, or by going to GOV.UK and searching for ‘PAYE Online for employers’
- the following information for each furloughed employee you will be claiming for: Name, National Insurance number, Claim period and claim amount, PAYE/employee number (optional).
- if you have fewer than 100 furloughed staff – you will need to input information directly into the system for each employee. If you have 100 or more furloughed staff – you will need to upload a file with information for each employee; HMRC will accept the following file types: .xls .xlsx .csv .ods.
You should retain all records and calculations in respect of your claims. You can find more information on the scheme and eligibility to claim here.
An important change has been made to the scheme extending employee eligibility:
- Employers can now claim for employees that were employed and on their PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. This means that the employee must have been notified to HMRC through an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee on or before 19 March 2020.
- Employees that were employed as of 28 February 2020 and on payroll and were made redundant or stopped working for you after that, and prior to 19 March 2020, can also qualify for the scheme if you re-employ them and put them on furlough.
Further guidance is available here.
Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBIL) expanded
The CLBIL Scheme has been expanded to cover all viable firms. All firms with a turnover of more than £45 million will now be able to apply for up to £25 million of finance, and up to £50 million for firms with a turnover of more than £250 million.
The scheme is now available through a series of accredited lenders, which is listed on the British Business Bank website. This complements existing support including the Covid Corporate Financing Facility and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (see above) for small and medium sized businesses.
The current social distancing measures will remain in place for at least the next few weeks until 7 May. The advice from SAGE is that relaxing any of the measures currently in place would risk damage to both public health and our economy. See the statement in full here.
Companies House support for businesses hit by Covid-19
Changes announced by the government will help businesses avoid being struck off the Companies House register as they deal with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Find out more here.
Holiday pay while on furlough
While furloughed you will continue to accrue leave as per your employment contract. You can agree with your employer to vary holiday pay entitlement as part of the furlough agreement. However, almost all workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks of statutory paid annual leave each year which they cannot go below.
You can take holiday while on furlough. Working Time Regulations (WTR) require holiday pay to be paid at your normal rate of pay or, where your rate of pay varies, calculated on the basis of the average pay you received in the previous 52 working weeks. Therefore, if you take holiday while on furlough, your employer should pay you your usual holiday pay in accordance with the WTR. Employers will be obliged to pay the additional amounts over the grant, though will have the flexibility to restrict when leave can be taken if there is a business need. This applies for both the furlough period and the recovery period.
If you usually work bank holidays then your employer can agree that this is included in the grant payment. If you usually take the bank holiday as leave then your employer would either have to top up your pay to your usual holiday pay, or give you a day of holiday in lieu.
Deferral of customs duties payments
Duty deferment account holders who are experiencing severe financial difficulty as a result of Covid-19 and who are unable to make payment of deferred customs duties and import VAT due on 15 April 2020 can contact HMRC for approval to enter into an extended period to make full or partial payment, without having their guarantee called upon or their deferment account suspended. The account holder should contact the Duty Deferment Office 03000 594243 or by email email@example.com or the Covid-19 helpline on 0800 024 1222. Account holders will be asked to provide an explanation of how Covid-19 has impacted their business finances and cash flow.
Duty Deferment account holders will be able to use their accounts during the extended payment period agreed unless they default on a subsequent payment in that period, in which case HMRC may consider suspending their account. The outstanding payment will not affect their duty deferment limit so they will not need to increase their guarantee to cover the outstanding payment. Where HMRC agrees to an extended payment period, interest will not be charged on the outstanding payments provided they are paid in full by the agreed date.
Duty/import VAT payments not covered by a duty deferment account
Registered Importers who pay cash or an equivalent and are facing severe financial difficulties as a direct result of Covid-19 can contact HMRC to request an extension to the payment deadline at the time the payment is due. They will be asked to provide an explanation of how Covid-19 has impacted on their business finances. HMRC will consider this request and decide whether or not to agree an additional time to pay. The decision will be taken on a case-by-case basis and could be refused.
If the request is approved the conditions, including the length of time offered, will depend on the importer’s individual circumstances and may require the holding of a guarantee for the period of the time extension. The government cannot offer this facility to non-registered importers. For further information, please contact the Customs Debt Policy inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org)
EU Roadmap towards lifting Covid-19 containment measures
The European Commission and Council have released the enclosed roadmap for EU member states on how to lift containment measures. The roadmap leaves a lot of flexibility to member states and also states that it “will prepare the ground for a comprehensive recovery plan and unprecedented investment”.
It stresses that restrictive measures introduced by member states have been necessary to delay the spread of the epidemic and alleviate pressure on health care systems (‘flattening the curve’).
The document states that confinement can be relaxed based on three criteria:
1) spread of the disease; 2) health system capacity; 3) appropriate monitoring capacity.
If measures are lifted, it advocates for a gradual lifting of measures, including:
- Safe alternatives should replace existing general prohibitive measures: this will enable targeting risk sources while facilitating the gradual return of necessary economic activities (e.g. intensified and regular cleaning and disinfection of transport hubs and vehicles, shops and workplaces, instead of entirely prohibiting services, and provision of adequate measures or equipment to protect workers or customers).
- For starting-up retail, look at possible gradation (e.g. maximum number of people allowed, etc.)
6 April 2020
Government provides more help for SMEs – 6 April 2020
Extended Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
The government has extended CBILS so that all viable small businesses affected by Covid-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible, should they need finance to keep operating. Around £90 million of loans has been approved for 1,000 small and medium sized firms so far.
A government-backed scheme to provide financing to larger companies, being operated by the Bank of England, has also provided almost £1.9 billion of support to firms and a further £1.6 billion has been committed.
The government is also stopping lenders from requesting personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 and making operational changes to speed up lending approvals. The government will continue to cover the first 12 months of interest and fees. Please find further details here.
New Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)
The new CLBILS will ensure that more firms are able to benefit from government-backed support. It will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £25 million to firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million.
Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest and further details of the scheme will be announced later this month. Initial details are here.
Rules and regulations relaxed to support businesses
The government has relaxed some rules and regulations to help businesses handle any disruption they are experiencing due to coronavirus. Click here for a list of some of the ways businesses are being supported.
Pay it forward campaign – Supporting businesses through the coronavirus crisis
The Business Support campaign is working with Crowdfunder to build awareness about the support provided to small businesses through the Pay it Forward campaign. Small businesses can set up a Pay it Forward campaign to pre-sell their services and diversify trading now to ensure continuous cash flow. Crowdfunder is covering all platform and transaction fees making it free to small businesses. Enterprise Nation is providing access to free training and support for business, to help with online sales, marketing, cashflow, and diversifying, if necessary. This campaign is nationwide. Self-employed, micro or small businesses can set-up a Pay it Forward campaign here.
Financial assistance for employers unable to pay statutory redundancy payments
If you can’t afford to pay your employees redundancy pay you can apply to the Redundancy Payments Service (RPS) for financial assistance. If approved, the RPS will make statutory redundancy payments directly to redundant employees on an employer’s behalf.
If you need help to restructure your business or it is facing insolvency you can find a licensed insolvency practitioner in your area by searching the insolvency practitioner directory.
Temporary relaxation of the enforcement of the drivers’ hours rules
Anyone driving under the EU drivers’ hours rules or the GB drivers’ hours rules and undertaking carriage of goods by road can use the relevant relaxation where necessary. The relaxations are not limited to specific sectors or journeys. These two temporary relaxations will run until 23:59 on Tuesday 21 April 2020.
Additional guidance on social distancing in the workplace
To support businesses that remain open during this period in England, the government has published additional guidance to assist employers, businesses and their staff in staying open safely during coronavirus (COVID-19). For specific settings please refer to sector specific guidance. Guidance has been published for:
- Shops running a pick-up or delivery service
- Tradespeople and working in people’s homes
- Manufacturing and processing businesses
- Logistics businesses
- Outdoor businesses
- Farming: visiting farms for animal health and welfare
- Fishing or other short-term offshore work
- Cargo-shipping or other long-term offshore work
- Transport businesses
- Waste management businesses
Transport and travel guidance
A new hub on gov.uk brings together information for people using transport or working in the transport sector during the Coronavirus outbreak. This includes information on:
30 March 2020
Government to amend insolvency law – 30 March 2020
The government is going to make changes to enable UK companies undergoing a rescue or restructure process to continue trading, giving them breathing space that could help them avoid insolvency. This will also include enabling companies to continue buying much-needed supplies, such as energy, raw materials or broadband, while attempting a rescue, and temporarily suspending wrongful trading provisions retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for three months for company directors so they can keep their businesses going without the threat of personal liability.
Intellectual Property Office services
Following the coronavirus outbreak, the Intellectual Property Office has made a number of alterations to its services. This includes alterations to trademarks and designs, patents and interrupted days.
27 March 2020
How to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.
This applies to employees who have been asked to stop working, but who are being kept on the pay roll, otherwise described as ‘furloughed workers’. HMRC will reimburse 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 per month. This is to safeguard workers from being made redundant. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to 1 March and is initially open for 3 months, but will be extended if necessary.
Guidance for Employers
Employers will be able to use a portal to claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ (employees on a leave of absence) monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage. The government expects the scheme to be up and running by the end of April. The government will also cover the employer national insurance and minimum auto-enrolment pension scheme contributions employers pay on the wages they must pay their furloughed staff – on top of the wages covered under the scheme.
Please use the following link to access the guidance:
Guidance for Employees
The guidance will help workers understand whether they are eligible for the scheme, and how much their employer can claim if they are unable to operate or if there is no work due to coronavirus (Covid-19).
Please use the following link to access the guidance:
Annual leave entitlement to be relaxed
Workers who haven’t taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to Covid-19 will now be able to carry it over into the next 2 leave years. Currently, almost all workers are entitled to 28 days holiday including bank holidays each year. However, most of this entitlement cannot be carried between leave years, meaning workers lose their holiday if they don’t take it. There’s also an obligation on employers to ensure their workers take their statutory entitlement in any one year – failure to do so could result in a financial penalty. The regulations will allow up to 4 weeks of unused leave to be carried into the next 2 leave years, easing the requirements on business to ensure that workers take statutory amount of annual leave in any one year.
25 March 2020
Companies to receive three-month extension period to file accounts
Businesses will be able to apply for a 3-month extension for filing their accounts during Covid-19. Under normal circumstances, companies that file accounts late are issued with an automatic penalty. As part of the agreed measures, while companies will still have to apply for the 3-month extension to be granted, those citing issues around Covid-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take just 15 minutes to complete.
Commercial protection from eviction
Commercial tenants who can’t pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction. The government says no business will be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment in the next 3 months.
20 March 2020
How to access the business interruption loan scheme
The Chancellor has announced a new set of measures to help companies retain their staff.
Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. Employers will need to:
- Designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify employees of this change. Changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation; and
- Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal. HMRC will set out further details on the information required.
- HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
- HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers. If your business needs short term cash flow support, you may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.
HMRC Time to Pay
HMRC have also scaled up their Time to Pay offer to all firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of Covid-19 and have outstanding tax liabilities. You can contact HMRC’s dedicated Covid-19 helpline to get practical help and advice. This can be reached by calling 0800 0159 559
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
The new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme supports SMEs with access to working capital (including loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance) of up to £5 million in value and for up to 6 years. The scheme is now open for applications. To apply, you should talk to your bank or one of the 40 accredited finance providers (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible, to discuss your business plan. You can find out the latest on the best ways to contact them via their websites. The full rules of the scheme and the list of accredited lenders are available on the British Business Bank website.
Bank of England’s Covid-19 ‘Corporate Financing Facility’ (CFF)
This scheme is open to firms with a turnover of more than £45 million a year. It will provide funding to businesses by purchasing commercial paper (short term corporate debt) of up to one-year maturity, issued by firms making a material contribution to the UK economy. Companies will need to be in sound financial health and have a high credit rating. The corporate financing facility can be for a period of between a week and a year. They will generally be based in the UK, with their HQ in this country and the majority of their employees in the UK. Companies must apply through their own banks (see a list of who to contact in each bank). Companies may request a loan of up to £5 million and terms will be offered which are similar to those available just before the crisis. The scheme will run for 12 months.
See also: Covid-19 – guidance for employees on benefits, SSP, sick pay, furloughed status and rent support.
17 March 2020
How the government is supporting businesses financially
The Chancellor announced additional support to protect businesses including unlimited loans and guarantees to support firms and help them manage cashflows through Covid-19. The Chancellor will make available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of UK GDP.
In addition to the above measures from the budget he announced the government are providing:
- support for liquidity among large firms, with a major new scheme being launched by the Bank of England to help them bridge Coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
- increasing the amount businesses can borrow through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £1.2 million to £5 million, and ensuring businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments
- £20 billion of business rates support and grant funding to help the most-affected firms manage their cashflow through this period by increasing grants to small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief from £3,000 to £10,000
- increasing grants to small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief from £3,000 to £10,000
Mortgage lenders have agreed they will support customers that are experiencing issues with their finances as a result of Covid-19, including through payment holidays of up to 3 months. This will give people the necessary time to recover and ensure they do not have to pay a penny towards their mortgage in the interim.
11 March 2020
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now be available for eligible individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with government advice. This is in addition to the change announced by the Prime Minister that SSP will be payable from day 1 instead of day 4 for affected individuals.
- People who are advised to self-isolate for COVID-19 will soon be able to obtain
an alternative to the fit note to cover this by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor. This can be used by employees where their employers require evidence. Further details will be confirmed shortly.
The government will bring forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:
o This refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
o Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible. The size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
o Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
o Employers should maintain records of staff absences, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
o The eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to self-isolators comes into force
o The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible. Existing systems are not designed to facilitate employer refunds for SSP.
The government will increase the Business Rates retail discount to 100% for one year and expand it to the leisure and hospitality sectors. Taken together with existing small business rate relief (which provides full relief for businesses using a single property with a rateable value of £12,000 or less), an estimated 900,000 properties, or 45% of all properties in England, will receive 100% business rates relief in 2020/21. Businesses that received the retail discount in 2019-20 will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible. Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority
The government will provide an additional £2.2 billion funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no Business Rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £3,000 to around 700,000 business currently eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate Relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs. For a property with a rateable value of £12,000, this is one quarter of their rateable value, or comparable to 3 months of rent.
A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch in a matter of weeks to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the scheme will support loans of up to £1.2 million in value. This new guarantee will initially support up to £1 billion of lending on top of current support offered through the British Business Bank.
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. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. These businesses can contact HMRC’s new dedicated COVID-19 helpline from 11 March 2020 for advice and support. To ensure ongoing support, HMRC have made a further 2,000 experienced call handlers available to support firms and individuals when needed. For Time to Pay support if you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.
Information for Businesses & Employers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
Other useful information for businesses
ACAS advice for employers and employees
Off-payroll working rules reforms postponed until 2021
Senior traffic commissioner issues Statutory Document in response to Covid-19 for heavy goods vehicle industry