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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.

Read the following guides for personal advice about social distancing and staying safe outside your home:

Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: What you can and can’t do

Staying safe outside your home

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)

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.

Test and Protect in Scotland has also been launched today. Test, Trace, Protect in Wales will launch on 1 June 2020 and contact tracing in Northern Ireland is currently up and running.

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, 11amShops 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:

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:

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 cdoenquiries@hmrc.gov.uk. 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

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.

Wages for furloughed employees are now being paid

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:

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 nowor 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 cdoenquiries@hmrc.gov.uk  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 (custdebtrr.customspolicy@hmrc.gov.uk)

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.

Find out about support for employees who are made redundant.

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:

For advice for business in other nations of the UK please see guidance set by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.

Transport and travel guidance

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 designspatents 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:

www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

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:

www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

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

Budget announcements

  • 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

Specific information for businesses and employers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is also available.

Other useful information for businesses