COVID-19: Latest updates and advice
This page will be regularly updated as new information is released.
We want to reassure all of our clients and colleagues that we remain committed to helping you through this unprecedented time of uncertainty and worry. We will keep this page updated with the most recent information and advice from the UK government, as well as details of all of the financial support available to you.
Our dedicated COVID-19 advice team is on hand to answer any questions and guide you through the process of accessing that financial aid, so please do not hesitate to get in touch:
Phone: 0114 274 7576
New Lockdown Measures
The new local COVID alert levels came into effect on 14 October. Here is a summary of the new rules:
- Tier 1 – Medium Risk – If employees can work from home then they should do so. If work cannot be undertaken at home then employers must provide a Covid Secure workplace. Pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm and groups must be limited to 6 or less.
- Tier 2 – High Risk – If employees can work from home then they should do so. If work cannot be undertaken at home then employers must provide a Covid Secure workplace. Pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm and groups indoors must not mix with anyone from outside of their household or support bubble. Groups outdoors can be from multiple households but are limited to groups of 6.
- Tier 3 – Very High Risk – If employees can work from home then they should do so. If work cannot be undertaken at home then employers must provide a Covid Secure workplace. Pubs and bars must close from today (Wednesday 14th October) unless they are serving substantial meals, such as a main lunchtime meal or evening meal. Alcohol may only be served as part of a meal. Groups indoors and outdoors must not mix with anyone from outside of their household or support bubble. In addition, casinos, betting shops and adult gaming centres will also be closed along with indoor gyms, fitness and dance studios and sports facilities (with an exemption for organised indoor team sports for disabled people and children’s activities).
The Chancellor’s 2020 Winter Economy Plan
In his statement, Rishi Sunak announced the next stage of help and support for jobs and businesses. The aim is to steer the economy through what he described as a “difficult winter” after the hard decision to end the furlough scheme.
Mr Sunak announced the following main measures:
A new Jobs Support Scheme
Under the scheme, eligible employees will be expected to work for at least one third of their normal hours and be paid for that by their employer. The government and the employer will then each pay one third of the employee’s usual pay rate for the hours not worked. This is targeted at sustaining “viable jobs”. All small and medium sized businesses will qualify as will certain large firms if their turnover has fallen due to the pandemic. The scheme will run for six months from November.
Help with businesses’ cash flow will come from extensions to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and other initiatives. New and existing borrowers of bounce-back loans will be able to extend their repayment periods from six to ten years under a ‘Pay As You Grow’ measure. Struggling businesses will be able to switch to interest-only payments and some will be able to suspend payments altogether for up to six months.
The government guarantee for Coronavirus interruption loans will also be extended to ten years. The application deadline for all the main loan schemes will be extended to the end of November.
The deferred VAT and self-assessment payments due early next year can be repayable in instalments rather than as a lump sum.
Hospitality and leisure
The lower 5% VAT rate for hospitality and tourism will be extended to 31 March 2021.
COVID-19 Business Guidance and Resources
- Visit our dedicated Client Resources website for tips, tools and step-by-step guides to accessing the support available.
- Download our COVID-19 eBook, which is filled with valuable resources for employers, employees and the self employed. From details about the available financial support, to health advice from the government and the NHS, and a bonus section on managing and maintaining your physical and mental wellbeing during the pandemic, it's an essential read that can be shared with your staff and colleagues.
Coronavirus government help for employers
The government has announced a package of measures to help those businesses who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
- This scheme is coming to an end on 31 Oct and will be replaced by a new Jobs Support Scheme.
- Click here to go to the Government portal and submit or amend a claim.
- Use the government's tool to work out your employees' wages, NI contributions and pension contributions.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was announced on 20 March 2020, and opened for applications on 20 April. It has now been extended until 31 October, with a staggered reduction of support beginning 1 July to help businesses and their employees gradually return to work.
This new 'flexible furlough scheme' allows employees to return to work part time without effecting their income, as the government will still cover the remaining days. It also requires employers to begin contributing to employee's payments, starting with pension and National Insurance Contributions from 1 July, increasing to 20% of their salaries from 1 September.
Visit our dedicated Furlough Scheme page for the latest information on the COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme.
Job Retention Bonus
The government has announced a bonus for businesses, offering a one-off payment of £1,000 for every employee that has been furloughed and is ultimately returned to work and remains employed beyond 31 January 2021.
Click here to read the full details and find out if your business is eligible.
The government has announced a range of loan guarantees to provide financial support to a variety of businesses, from the new Bounce Back Loan Scheme for small businesses, to a Covid Corporate Financing Facility for large firms with a turnover of more than £45million.
Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF)
Businesses with more than £45million turnover can access the CCFF, which "will provide funding to businesses by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity, issued by firms making a material contribution to the UK economy".
The company must satisfy Bank of England lending criteria, which originally meant having an investment grade credit rating from a ratings agency, but has since been changed to also allow lending banks to judge credit worthiness. Howeever, the ultimate decision remains with the BoE.
Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)
Medium to large sized businesses with a turnover between £45 million and £500 million can apply to the CLBILS. The Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme has a ceiling of £25 million and is targeted at businesses that are too large for the CBILS but fail to meet the criteria for CCFF. This scheme will provide an 80% government guarantee on individual loans and other forms of finance (e.g. overdrafts).
The aim is to provide support for businesses that were viable before the pandemic, but now face significant cash flow difficulties that would otherwise make them unviable for lending in the short term.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
Under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, UK businesses with an annual turnover of no more than £45m may be able to borrow up to £5m interest-free for 12 months under a British Business Bank (BBB) scheme where the government provides the lender with a guarantee for 80% of each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) and covers the cost of the first 12 months of interest.
The scheme supports a wide range of business finance products, including term loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance faciities. Finance terms are up to six years for term loans and asset finance facilities, and up to three years for overdrafts and invoice finance facilities.
The scheme provides lenders with a government-backed guarantee that could turn a 'no' credit decision by a lender into a 'yes'. Lenders pay a fee to access the scheme, meanng there will be no guarantee fee for SMEs who receive support via the scheme.
Lenders cannot require personal guarantees on borrowing of under £250,000, nor can primary residential property be taken as security under the scheme. When a personal guarantee is required, it is capped at 20% of the outstanding value of the loan.
Business owners can access CBILS through 40 BBB accredited lenders, but not all of these lenders will be able to provide every type of funding. Business should speak to their existing bank lender(s) if they wish to access CBILS. If your current lender is unable to provide the facility they may refer you to another lender.
Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS)
The BBLS will provide micro loans of between £2,000 and £50,000 (subject to a ceiling of 25% of turnover) interest free for the first 12 months, with the government supplying a 100% guarantee for lenders. There will be no forward-looking tests of business viability, nor any "complex eligbility criteria", and "for most firms, loans should arrive within 24 hours of approval".
The BBLS will be run by the the British Business Bank and will be open for business from 9am on Monday 4 May. You can read the guidance on how to apply when the time comes here.
Support for innovative businesses
On 20 April, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a two-part support package for 'innovative firms', which will help those startups and other venture capital backed businesses that do not meet the criteria of the previously announced measures.
The Future Fund will provide loans between £125,000 and £5 million, with private investors at least matching the government commitment. Eligibility criteria is fairly strict, the business must be unlisted and UK registered/based (at least 50% of employees must be UK based, or at least half of revenue must be from UK sales). The company must have been incorporated on or before 31 December 2019, and it must have previously raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from third party investors in the last five years.
Visit the government's website to apply for the new Future Fund.
Research and development tax relief
The government has pledged £750 million of targeted support for the most R&D intensive small and medium size firms, which will be made available through a grant and loan scheme operated by Innovate UK.
Innovate UK will accelerate up to £200 million of grant and loan payments for its 2,500 existing customers on an opt-in basis. An extra £550 million will also be made available to increase support for existing customers and £175,000 of support will be offered to around 1,200 firms not currently in receipt of Innovate UK funding. The first payments will be made in mid-May.
Business Rate Reliefs
Your local authority will adjust the next council tax bill you receive to remove the business rates charge. You can estimate the saving for your business using this calculator (based on English rates).
In Northern Ireland, no rates will be charged for April-June 2020 for all business ratepayers excluding public sector and utilities. There are also reliefs in Wales for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses.
Some businesses may also be able to request Hardship Relief via their local authority.
Under the Retail and Hospitality Scheme, businesses can access cash grants of £25,000 for each property in England with a rateable value of £15,001-£51,000 and £10,000 for each property in England with a rateable value of £15,000 or lower.
Details of the properties that will benefit from the relief can be found here. Your local authority should be able to confirm if you are eligible for a grant.
Small businesses which occupy premises in England and already receive small business rate relief or rural rate relief are eligible for a one-off grant of £10,000 to help meet their ongoing business costs.
Scotland and Wales have announced similar grant schemes.
Small businesses that previously fell through the gaps in the available coronavirus government funding can now access a top-up business grant funds scheme. The Business Secretary has made £617 million available to small businesses that did not fit the criteria for the Small Busines Grants Fund or the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants Fund.
Local authorities are responsible for allocating the funds to relevant businesses with less than 50 employees, including those in shared spaces such as bed and breakfasts, regular market traders and small charity properties.
The maximum grant will be £25,000, with some grants of £10,000, and local authorities will have the discretion to allocate funds of less than £10,000 according to local economic need. Recipients must be able to show that they have seen a significant drop in income due to Coronavirus restriction measures. Further guidance is due to be released.
VAT payments that would have been due between 20 March and 30 June 2020 have been deferred until 31 March 2021.
Self employed individuals with income tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system can also defer payment until January 2021. This is automatic, no application necessary.
HMRC have also scaled up their 'Time to Pay' service and requests can be made to defer other tax payments including corporation tax and PAYE which are due (or overdue) to HMRC by calling the new dedicated Coronavirus helpline on 08000 241 222 between 8am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
Businesses with less than 250 employees can obtain a refund from the government for Statutory Sick Pay paid for up to 2 weeks' absence due to COVID-19. This also covers absence due to self-isolation in line with government advice.
The size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020. Employers should keep a record of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not be required to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by the employer, those with symptoms can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone with symptoms can get a note from the NHS website.
The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.
3-month extension to file accounts
Companies House and the government have launched an initiative providing businesses effected by the coronavirus outbreak with a 3-month extension to file their accounts.
Under normal circumstances, all companies that file accounts late are issued with an automatic penalty, but now, those who apply for the extension and are accepted will have an additional 3-month period to focus on managing the impact of COVID-19 on their business before filing.
All businesses that cite COVID-19 or Health matters as the grounds for the application will be accepted, unless they have already extended their filing deadline or shortened their accounting reference period. Full guidance can be found here.
Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take just 15 minutes to complete, according to Gov.UK.
Eviction moratorium extended to commercial leases
If your business rents commercial premises and you are unable to pay rent due to the impact of COVID-19, your landlord is now prohibited from evicting you due to a piece of emergency legislation extending the forfeiture moratorium on residential leases to include commercial leases.
Read the press release here.
Many alternative funders are still open for business and actively looking to lend during the lockdown. We can help you to investigate opportunities with:
- Equity crowdfunding
- Peer to peer lending
- Asset finance
- Supply chain finance and Reverse factoring
- Pension led funding
- Merchant cash advance
Please be aware that fraudsters are already taking advantage of the situation and targeting individuals with coronavirus-related scams. If you are unsure, please speak to your advisor before making any decisions about your finances, particularly with regard to savings and pensions.
COVID-19 government help for self employed
On Thursday 26 March, the government announced its new scheme to support self-employed professionals who have been financially impacted by the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
If you are self-employed or a member of a partnership, you can claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next three months, based on your income over the last three years.
Your trading profits must be less than £50,000, and more than half of your income must come from self-employment. To be eligible, you must have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19 and have traded in 2019-20, and still be trading or would be except for COVID-19.
Unlike the CJRS, where staff must be furloughed and cease working, self employed individuals are not expected to stop operating their business in order to receive the SEISS funding.
HMRC are aiming to contact eligible people "by mid-May 2020", and payments will be made from the beginning of June.
For full details and to make a claim, click here.
Our dedicated COVID-19 team can help you to access the funding available to your business, please get in touch on 0114 274 7576 or email us at email@example.com to find out more.