Stay at Home, Save Lives
The nationwide Stay at Home, Save Lives campaign has launched to give the most up to date Coronavirus information; detailing the only reasons that someone can leave their home, with the key message of ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’. The materials created include assets across print, social, digital, TV and radio. Please find the latest assets at PHE’s campaign resource centre to amplify here: https://bit.ly/StayAtHomeToolkit
To stem the spread of Covid-19, it is essential that everyone distances themselves from each other – keeping at least 2 meters apart – and follows the Government’s strict instructions to remain at home for a period of at least 3 weeks from Monday 23rd March. This will not only help to stem the spread of the disease but also ease the pressure on NHS resources.
You will be able to take an hour’s exercise each day and leave the confines of your home only to collect essential supplies. The exception currently is for Key Workers and those workers not able to carry out their work at home. In this case, strict criteria must be adhered to, as outlined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Guidance has been issued on the closure of all retailers that sell non-essential goods and other non-essential premises, as part of further social distancing measures.
A full list of the businesses and premises that must remain closed is available. Takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational. Online retail is still open and encouraged and postal and delivery service will run as normal.
Retail and public premises
which expect to remain open must:
– Ensure a distance of two meters between customers and shop assistants;
– Let people enter the shop only in small groups, to ensure that spaces are not crowded.
– Queue control is required outside of shops and other essential premises that remain open.
The Government will look again at these measures in three weeks and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.
Advice for accommodation providers
Guidance and advice for those providing hotel and other accommodation in the UK has been published. Businesses providing holiday accommodation should now take steps to close for commercial use as quickly as is safely possible.
Hotels and other accommodation providers should be able to remain open if:
- They are part of the response to support key workers or vulnerable groups
- There is a specific need for some or all of the site to remain open (for example they are housing people who have been flooded out of their homes, being used by public services to provide emergency accommodation or are not able to return to their primary residence).
- If businesses are providing rooms to support homeless people, through arrangements with local authorities and other public bodies.
- They are a holiday park or caravan park and are the primary residence of people living there.
More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-19-advice-for-accommodation-providers
People can travel to and from work but only where the work they do absolutely cannot be done from home.
Currently, work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.
No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.
Where work does continue, it is important that tradespeople follow Public Health guidelines and maintain a two-metre distance from any household occupants to ensure everyone’s safety.
The Public Health guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people
Further guidance on going to work can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others
Mental Health and wellbeing
As more people are working remotely, often in isolation, employers need to be mindful of their teams’ general health & wellbeing. The British Safety Council have made available Free resources to help employers and employees to help protect workforces from the risks associated with coronavirus. These courses are free until 12 April.
The Government has taken steps to ensure that most businesses can survive this period of unprecedented disruption to the economy by introducing:
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
- SSP Relief package for SMEs
- Business Rates holiday
- Business Grant Funding
- Lending facility from the Bank of England
- HMRC Time to Pay scheme
A new website has been set up with advice on how to access these support measures. https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme:
This became live from Monday 23rd March 2020 and is open for applications through the British Business Bank’s accredited lenders (list here). It is requested that due to the high number of applications expected, these should be made electronically through the lender’s website in the first instance
A summary of the key features are below, further details can be found HERE
- Up to £5m facility, available on repayment terms of up to 6 years;
- 80% guarantee for the lender against the outstanding facility balance;
- Interest and fees paid by the Government for the first 12 months;
It is open to UK-based SME’s with turnover up to £45m. We would request that if you are approaching a lender in respect of the above support, please keep us informed so we can understand how the scheme is progressing from the frontline.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme:
A staff retention scheme for employers, whether businesses or charities. HMRC will cover 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. This is initially for a three-month period (i.e. until May). Businesses will have to designate which employees they wish to furlough (if not done already) and advise the employees before they can apply via the HMRC for the grants. HMRC has yet to clarify how the grant process will work but it is expected to be an online portal for submission. Further information will be made available on this soon. As the situation with designating workers as ‘furloughed’ is new and rather unclear at this stage, it is worth flagging that any employment law implications will need to be considered when taking these steps, hopefully this will become clearer when further guidance is announced. Find out more HERE
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) support:
Small and medium sized businesses (fewer than 250 employees) will be able to reclaim SSP paid for sickness due to COVID-19 for up to 2 weeks sick pay per employee.
Eligibility is as follows:
- 2 weeks SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
- employ less than 250 employees (as at 28th February 2020)
- employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website
- eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying a home comes into force
- the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible
HMRC Time to Pay Service:
Further information can be found here and the HMRC COVID-19 Helpline number is 0800 015 9559. We understand that HMRC have been quite accommodating to businesses that have applied since this was announced so worth a call if this is required to alleviate cash pressures as part of the package of measures.
Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments:
This support should be applied automatically but VAT Repayments will still be processed and VAT Returns should still be submitted. HMRC are advising businesses to cancel direct debits through their bank.
- Deferring Value Added Tax (VAT) payments due to be made between 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020. Any deferred amount will not have to be paid until the end of the current tax year;
- Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021, and no interest or penalties will be charged on the deferred amount.
Full details can be found here –https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses
Business rates relief and grants:
All businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors, including: shops, public houses, theatres, music venues and restaurants will pay no Business rates for 12 months. On 25th March, this was updated to include estate and lettings agents, and bingo halls.
Retail, hospitality or leisure businesses with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000 can access an additional cash grant of up to £25,000.
Businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) or Rural Rates Relief (RRR) will receive a one-off cash grant of £10,000 (up from £3,000) to help meet ongoing business costs.
Eligible businesses do not need to apply; they will be identified through the business rates system, and contacted directly by Cheshire East Council.
Businesses who usually pay rents by direct debit will automatically receive funds when available. The council does not hold bank details for businesses who pay by other means, or who qualify for rates relief: such businesses should submit bank details this online form: https://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/business/business_rates/business-rates-relief/coronavirus-covid-19-help-for-business-rates-customers.aspx
Extension to filing of company accounts
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Companies House announced that businesses will be able to apply for a 3-month extension for filing their accounts.
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
The Chancellor has announced measures that have been put in place to financially support the self-employed, those whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 – the Self-employment Income Support Scheme.
Access to the scheme will be available no later than the beginning of June.
The Government will pay a taxable grant based on 80% of the average profits (not sales) over the past 3 years to a maximum of £2,500 per month which Rishi Sunak said would cover 95% of the self-employed.
Grant payments will be back-dated and are expected to be made by the beginning of June.
Only those already in self-employment and who have submitted a tax return for 2019 will qualify for the scheme. However, those who have not yet submitted their 2019 tax return have been given 4 weeks from 26th March to submit those which must be filed by 23rd April.
Self-employed who have less that 3 years accounts, will be required to submit what they have but the system cannot operate for those who have only very recently become self-employed.
To be eligible for the scheme you must meet all the criteria below:
- Be self-employed or a member of partnership;
- Have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19;
- File a tax return for 2018-19 as self-employed or a member of a trading partnership.
- Have traded in 2019-20; be currently trading at the point of application (or would be except for COVID 19) and intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021
- Have trading profits of less than £50,000 and more than half of your total income come from self-employment.
Full details can be found here: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/self-employment-income-support-scheme/
From Friday 20th March, all schools and colleges in England will close for the foreseeable future.
Only pupils whose parents / carers / guardians are designated KEY WORKERS and vulnerable children will be able to continue to attend – check the list here
The Government has issued guidance regarding flexibility for apprentices, enabling them to take a break in learning if necessary.
Where apprentices are furloughed or placed on unpaid leave or where they may be temporarily reassigned and their employment no longer supports their studies, the apprentice, employer and training provider can consider a break in learning.
Where an apprentice is made redundant, the Training Provider must support the apprentice to find another employer, however it is hoped the government’s financial support will avoid redundancies as much as possible.
The full government latest guidance can be found here – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-apprenticeship-programme-response
Across the UK, much of the public transport network has brought in revised timetables and frequency.
Northern Rail updates
The Department for Transport has today announced that vehicle owners will be granted a 6 month exemption from MOT testing, enabling them to continue to travel to work where this absolutely cannot be done from home, or shop for necessities. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/vehicle-owners-to-be-granted-mot-exemption-in-battle-against-coronavirus