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Coronavirus: Advice for businesses

coronavirus

This page was last updated on 6/4/20

A coronavirus public health campaign has been launched. As business owners, it is important for you to keep up-to-date and follow the advice that applies to your business.

Please see below general advice for you and your employees as well as specific sources of information and financial support for businesses.

Sources of information for business owners:

Government has published guidance for employers and businesses about COVID-19. If you have a query that isn’t covered by this guidance you can contact the Business Support Helpline on 0300 456 3565.

One-to-one business support
Here at the Berkshire Growth Hub, our experienced team of in-house business champions can provide one-to-one advice for Berkshire businesses needing urgent support via telephone and video conferencing (e.g. Zoom/Teams). Businesses in need of urgent advice, can email us at info@berkshirebusinesshub.co.uk to arrange a confidential consultation.

In addition, we have a network of partner experts who can provide businesses with advice and support. Some of the areas our partners can advise on include:

  • HR – Sick pay, employees travelling for work, absences, Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • IT – facilitating employees working from home, alternatives to face-to-face meetings, software tools, video links
  • Finance – cashflow issues
  • Legal – contracts
  • Import and export – sourcing parts and ingredients, fulling orders / finding alternative suppliers
  • China – Support communicating with your Chinese suppliers and clarity on their timelines for getting back to normal operational efficiency.

For urgent business advice or a one-to-one confidential consultation with an adviser, please complete our Coronavirus Advice Enquiry Form and one of our team will be in touch with you as soon as possible.  

HR, employment law and supporting your employees:

The HR Dept have put together a useful set of FAQs relating to all things HR. You can view it here

ACAS has also published advice, including information on sick pay, absences and shut downs, here.

Advice for employers can also be found on the CIPD website 

CMI has produced a Better Managers Briefing webinar on managing the mental health effects of prolonged isolation. 

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has published advice on communicating with employees in times of crisis here.

Financial support for businesses

The Chancellor has announced a package of measures to support businesses:

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) – Now Extended This scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable businesses with a turnover of no more than £45m per year to access loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million for up to six years. 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 also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payment and any lender-levied fees, so businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments. 

The Government has extended the scheme 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 during this difficult time.

The scheme is now open for applications. To apply, you should talk to your bank or one of the 40 accredited finance providers to discuss your business plan. The full rules of the scheme and the list of accredited lenders are available on the British Business Bank website.

New Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) – The new CLBILS will ensure that more firms are able to benefit from government-backed support during this difficult time. 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.

Statutory Sick Pay Refund – For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the Government in full. More details can be found on .gov.uk 

Business Rates discount for retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses – The Government is temporarily increasing the Business Rates retail discount in England to 100% for 2020-21 for properties below £51,000 rateable value. The Government is also temporarily extending a business rates retail holiday to hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019 to 2020 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.

  • Slough businesses – If you are a business in the Borough of Slough and you believe that you are entitled to Small Business Rate Relief or Retail Relief and have not been awarded this please contact brates@slough.gov.uk stating why you believe this to be the case, please provide the full address of your business and the business rates account number(s).

Small business grant – The government will provide additional 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 £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs. If your business is eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, you will be contacted by your local authority – you do not need to apply.

  • Slough businesses – Letters have been sent to all businesses that Slough Borough Council believe are eligible for this grant. However, if you think your business may be eligible, please complete the form on their website.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – 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. HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. In addition, the government will now cover the employer national insurance and minimum auto-enrollment pension scheme contributions employers pay on the wages they must pay their furloughed staff – on top of the wages covered under the scheme. HMRC are working urgently to set up an online system for claims, which is expected to be available by the end of April 2020. 

Deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months – The deferral of VAT will apply from 20th March 2020 until the 30th June 2020. This is an automatic offer with no applications required. Businesses will not need to make a VAT payment during this period. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020-21 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

Time to Pay – A dedicated helpline (see below) has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities to receive support with their tax affairs. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement.

Tax Helpline

HMRC have launched a tax helpline to help businesses and self-employed individuals concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus. Find all the information here or call 0800 0159 559.

Protection for businesses with ban on evictions for commercial tenants

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction. More information is available here.

Amendments to insolvency law to help businesses

The Government has amended insolvency law to help companies keep trading while they explore options for rescue
Under the plans, the UK’s Insolvency Framework will add new restructuring tools that mirror the USA’s Chapter 11 procedure. This includes:
• A moratorium for companies giving them breathing space from creditors enforcing their debts for a period of time whilst they seek a rescue or restructure
• Protection of their supplies to enable them to continue trading during the moratorium
• A new restructuring plan, binding creditors to that plan

The proposals will also include key safeguards for creditors and suppliers to ensure they are paid, while existing laws against fraudulent trading and the threat of director disqualification will continue to act as an effective deterrent against reckless misuse of these new measures. The Government will also temporarily suspend the wrongful trading provisions to give company directors greater confidence to use their best endeavours to continue to trade during this pandemic emergency, without the threat of personal liability, should the company ultimately fall into insolvency.

Support for the self-employed

Self-employment Income Support Scheme – The Chancellor has announced a new Self-employment Income Support Scheme to support self-employed people who have been adversely affected by COVID-19. The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month. The scheme will be open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000. You do not need to get in touch with HMRC as the scheme isn’t yet open for applications. HMRC will contact eligible customers by the beginning of June, inviting them to apply. You can read these useful FAQs on the SEISS scheme.

Income Tax payments deferred for self-employed – Income Tax Self-Assessment payments due on the 31 July 2020 will be deferred until the 31 January 2021. This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

Apply for Universal Credit – Increased amounts of Universal Credit

New Term Funding Scheme 

The Bank of England have announced a package of measures to help UK businesses bridge across the economic disruption that is likely to be associated with COVID-19. Interest rates have been reduced from 0.75% to 0.25% and additional funding will be available for banks to increase lending, especially to SMEs. The new Term Funding scheme will incentivise banks to provide credit to businesses to bridge through a period of economic disruption.

Filing your accounts

Companies House has produced guidance if coronavirus has affected your company and you need more time to file your accounts. Find all the information here.

Banking sector

A number of private lenders are also making funds available to small businesses impacted by Coronavirus, including £2 billion from Lloyds Banking Group and £5 billion from NatWest. Many of the major banks, such as NatWest, have also put together information on the ways they can support business customers during this challenging time (e.g. loan repayment holidays). Contact your bank to discuss your options. 

Insurance

Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to make a claim. Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.

Industry-specific guidance

The Government has published new and updated industry guidance for specific sectors such as social care, education, transport and shipping. 

Food & drink, retail, leisure and entertainment venues – The government has published updated guidance for businesses on social distancing measures to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. These measures include the closure of pubs, bars, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants (except for takeaway services), cinemas, theatres, spas, salons, gyms, all retailers that sell non-essential goods and other non-essential premises.

Should my business be open or closed?

The Government has published FAQs on business closures and working from home advice to provide further guidance on which businesses should close and which businesses are not required to close. 

Guidance for the charity sector

The Charity Commission have produced guidance to help with running your charity during the outbreak.

Other sources of business advice and support:

The Federation of Small Business (FSB) has published advice of small businesses here.

The Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce has provided guidance and a series of webinars here.

CBI has published information and a series of webinars here.

Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) has produced resources, advice and guidance for chartered accountants and business here.

Information on Environmental Health, Licensing and Trading Standards across Bracknell Forest, West Berkshire and Wokingham Borough Councils can be found here.

Government email alerts

You can also receive the latest information from the Government direct to your inbox by subscribing to email alerts about the Coronavirus.

General health advice:

What is coronavirus and what are the risks?

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.

The symptoms of coronavirus are: 

  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath

But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu. Visit the NHS website for more information.

What advice is there about travelling and social distancing measures?

Reduce day-to-day contact with other people, we will reduce the spread of the infection. That is why the government has introduced three new social distancing measures from 23 March 2020:
1. Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public

All British tourists and short-stay travellers currently abroad are advised to return to the UK where commercial flight options are still available. 

You can find advice from the NHS here: coronavirus advice for travellers.
You can also find advice from the Foreign Office here: Travel advice

How is coronavirus spread?

Because it’s a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person. Similar viruses are spread in cough droplets.

How to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus:

  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

If a person has symptoms of coronavirus however mild, the person should not leave home for 7 days from when the symptoms started. After 7 days, if the person feels better and no longer has a high temperature, the person can return to their normal routine. If the person has not had any signs of improvement and have not already sought medical advice, the person should contact NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk or call NHS 111. 

Use this service if:

  • you think you might have coronavirus
  • in the last 14 days you’ve been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus
  • you’ve been in close contact with someone with coronavirus

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Call 111 if you need to speak to someone.

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