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New Restrictions - Tier 4

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FAQs

Our business support team have compiled FAQs on COVID-19 business issues. Please read these before contacting the team, as you may find your answer.

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Offers of support

See what support businesses are offering to each other and local communities at this time on our offers page.

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National Lockdown - guidance for businesses

Government guidance outlines the planned steps to be taken in order to reopen certain businesses and venues in England across the next few weeks and months.

Read the full, up-to-date list of which businesses can be open and which must be closed.

Read updated sector-by-sector guidance to help businesses that are allowed to open to operate safely and lawfully.

Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of the guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe.

Priority actions are outlined at the top of each guide.

Find out more here >

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides the latest information on issues around workplace safety during the pandemic, including face coverings, testing and vaccinations.

Advice also includes carrying out a risk assessment and sharing this with staff. A risk assessment is part of the process businesses should go through before they reopen, as outlined by the government in its 'working safely during coronavirus' guidance.

The government has published a four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England over the next few months, depending on progress and outcomes with regards to vaccines, infection rates and new coronavirus variants.

See the potential timeline for businesses reopening or remaining closed.

Read a summary of the roadmap here, and more detailed information here.

Everyone in England, including those without symptoms, will be able to take a free rapid coronavirus (COVID-19) test twice a week.

Read the government announcement here >

Fast, free rapid COVID-19 testing is available for people in Buckinghamshire.

There are four test sites open in Amersham, Aylesbury, Buckingham and Wycombe.

There is no longer a need to book a test slot. To get tested and/or collect home test kits, simply visit one of the test centres at a time that is convenient to you.

Feedback from those visiting the centres is that the process is 'smooth and efficient', with the majority of people in and out within 15 minutes.

If you live or work closer to a rapid testing centre in an area that borders with Buckinghamshire, such as Slough, you can use that centre.

Importance of identifying asymptomatic cases of COVID-19

In partnership with the NHS and Buckinghamshire Council, we are supporting the rapid test scheme, encouraging those who can’t work from home to get tested to help identify asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 and prevent the spread of infection.

Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 have no symptoms but can still pass it on. Regular testing for people who are leaving home to go to work or volunteer, particularly where they come into contact with others, can help break the chain of infection.

Businesses can order free rapid lateral flow tests to test their employees twice a week in the workplace.

You must register by 11:59pm on 12th April 2021.

Businesses can order COVID-19 rapid lateral flow tests for employees if their:

  • business is registered in England
  • employees cannot work from home

A previous requirement for businesses to employ 50 people or more has been removed.

If you cannot provide testing in the workplace - If you have 10 or more employees, from early April you’ll be able to order tests for your employees to collect from their workplace and use at home twice a week. You can do this if you cannot provide testing in the workplace.

If your business is closed or you cannot provide tests now, you should still register so you can order tests in the future.

Do not use this service if you or your employees have symptoms. Anyone with symptoms should order an individual test and stay at home.

Read more information on ordering tests for employees.

Hundreds of shops, cafes and pubs as well as gyms, libraries and leisure centres all across Buckinghamshire are busy making their last-minute preparations before they reopen next Monday April 12th.

Buckinghamshire Council shares its message ahead of reopening, including an announcement of free car parking in council car parks from April 12th - May 11th.

Read the council's message here.


Funding and support schemes

The government's Coronavirus Business Support homepage is the main information hub for business support related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Use this business support finder to see what support is available for you and your business, including financial support.

Sign up to get emails when new coronavirus business support information is added

Below you will find an overview of support currently available.

Bucks Additional Restrictions Grant

The Buckinghamshire Additional Restriction Grant scheme is open again for applications.

Buckinghamshire Council has reopened the Buckinghamshire Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) scheme for two additional rounds of funding. Businesses that have been heavily impacted as a result of COVID-19 restrictions during February and March 2021 can now apply.

The new ARG scheme will cover February 2021 and March 2021. Businesses can apply for both rounds of funding through a single form.

The closing date for applications is April 30th. Apply via the Buckinghamshire Council website.

Eligibility criteria

Eligibility criteria includes, but is not limited to, experiencing a reduction in income of 30% or more during February 2021 (against February 2020) and/or March 2021 (against March 2020).

IMPORTANT: If your income was already affected in February/March 2020, or if you’re a new business, you can still apply.

Businesses that may not qualify on the criteria of a 30% reduction in turnover can fill in the ‘Additional Information’ box on the application form to explain why they may be eligible, and their applications will be considered.

This will be particularly useful for new businesses or businesses whose income was already being impacted in February and March 2020.

Those that have already received support through the Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG) scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) are not eligible.

How payments will work

Payments relating to February 2021 will be made first, with payments relating to March 2021 following towards the end of April when the amount of remaining funding will be known. Teams at Buckinghamshire Council will fast track applications from businesses related to February 2021 and pay those immediately. Payment amounts for each grant will vary according to the number of employees for businesses. Full details are on the council’s website.

Who to contact

If you require any further information, please contact the ARG Team at Buckinghamshire Council at discretionaryfund@buckinghamshire.gov.uk.

Restart Grants are one-off grants for business ratepayers, payable from 1st April 2021.

To qualify, the business must be the ratepayer on 1st April 2021 and must be trading on that date. Trading indicators can include:

  • the business has staff on furlough
  • the business continues to trade online
  • the business is engaged in business activity

...and is not:

  • in liquidation
  • dissolved
  • struck off or subject to a striking off notice

Eligiblity criteria

Eligible businesses must have a non-essential retail premises or be in the hospitality, leisure, accommodation, gym and sports, and personal care sectors.

More information can be found here.

If your business was required to close for the period of February 16th to March 31st 2021 and you have not already received a Local Restrictions Support Grant for this period, you may be entitled to make a retrospective claim.

This scheme closes on 31st May 2021.

Learn more about the support here >

Who to contact

If you have any queries relating to the Local Restrictions Support Grants, please contact Buckinghamshire Council directly as follows:

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until September 30th 2021.

Claims for furlough days in March 2021 must be made by April 14th 2021. (You can no longer submit claims for claim periods ending on or before 31st October 2020)

You can still claim 80% of an employee’s usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

Employers will not be required to contribute or top-up for the hours not worked.

Businesses will still need to pay employer National Insurance contributions and employer pension contributions, You cannot claim for these.

Read more about the scheme.

Changes to furlough scheme from July 1st 2021

From July 1st 2021, the scheme will change and the level of grant will be reduced.

You will then be asked to contribute towards the cost of your furloughed employees’ wages at the following levels:

  • From July 1st - 10% up to £312.50
  • From August 1st - 20% up to £625
  • From September 1st - 20% up to £625

To be eligible for the grant you must continue to pay your furloughed employees 80% of their wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month for the time they spend on furlough.

Read all about the changes to the scheme from July 1st 2021.

Furlough for caring responsibilities 

Your employees can ask to be furloughed because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus, such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school or childcare closing. You can place them on furlough and claim for them under the CJRS.

The online service to claim the fourth Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant will be available from late April 2021.

If you are eligible based on your tax returns, HMRC will contact you in mid-April to give you your personal claim date. This will be the date that you can make your claim from. It will be given to you either by email, letter or within the online service.

You’ll need to confirm you meet other eligibility criteria when you make your claim.

You must make your claim on or before 1st June 2021.

Which tax years are taken into account?

To check you're eligible, HMRCwill first look at your 2019 to 2020 Self Assessment tax return. Your trading profits must be no more than £50,000 and at least equal to or more than your non-trading income.

If you’re not eligible based on your 2019 to 2020 Self Assessment tax return, HMRC will then look at the tax years 2016 to 2017, 2017 to 2018, 2018 to 2019 and 2019 to 2020.

How much you will get

The fourth SEISS grant will be set at 80% of 3 months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment, capped at £7,500.

Eligibility criteria

Read the full eligiblity criteria here >

A fifth SEISS grant

The government has also announced that there will be a fifth and final grant covering May 2021 to September 2021. Further details on the fifth grant will be provided in due course.

If you deferred VAT payments between March and June 2020, you can join the online VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme to pay it in smaller monthly instalments.

If a business deferred VAT payments due between 20th March and 30th June 2020 and still have payments to make, government guidance is that they should pay by March 31st 2021 if they can.

If they cannot afford to pay by March 31st this year, they can now use the online VAT deferral new payment scheme to spread their payments across a number of months depending on when they join – the earlier they join, the more months they can spread payments across.

  • 11 instalments if they join by March 19th
  • 10 instalments if they join by April 21st
  • 9 instalments if they join by May 19th
  • 8 instalments if they join by June 21st

Read more about the scheme here.

If you’re a VAT registered business, check if you can temporarily reduce the rate of VAT on supplies relating to hospitality, accommodation, or admission to certain attractions.

VAT on admission charges to attractions - check which attractions are eligible for the temporary reduced rate of VAT, which applies from 15th July 2020 onwards.

The Recovery Loan Scheme will launch on April 6th 2021, following the closure of the current COVID-19 debt schemes – the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) – on March 31st 2021.

The new scheme aims to help businesses affected by COVID-19 and can be used for any legitimate business purpose, including managing cashflow, investment and growth. It is designed to appeal to businesses that can afford to take out additional debt finance for these purposes.

The Recovery Loan Scheme is scheduled to run until 31st December 2021, subject to review.

Further details can be found here.

The Future Fund scheme has now closed for new applicants. Applications are now being processed.

Keep an eye on the Future Fund website for any updates.

The Job Retention Bonus will not be paid in February and we will redeploy a retention incentive at the appropriate time. The purpose of the JRB was to encourage employers to keep people in work until the end of January. However, as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is being extended to the end of March 2021, the policy intent of the Job Retention Bonus falls away. 

  • Reduced VAT for hospitality, accommodation and attractions until the end of March 2021 - More info >
  • Business rates relief for hospitality, retail, leisure and nurseries until the end of March 2021 in England - More info >
  • The £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund and £750 million for charities - More info >
  • Extensive tax deferrals for general tax, VAT and Income Tax Self-Assessment - More info >

Support and advice for businesses

The Help to Grow programme will help small and medium-sized businesses across the UK learn new skills, reach new customers and boost profits.

There are two key areas of this programme:

  • Help to Grow: Management - an Executive Development programme that could help you improve business performance and growth potential
  • Help to Grow: Digital - free online advice and money off software that could help you save time and cut costs

Discover more about the Help to Grow programme.

Workers are able to carry over any unused annual leave from 2020/21 into the next leave year.

Government regulations introduced in 2020 allowed up to 4 weeks of unused leave to be carried forward from 2019/20 into the next two leave years.

Read more information here.

Visit the government advice homepage for information on holidays, time off, sick pay and maternity and paternity leave.

You may be able to claim tax relief for additional household costs if you have to work at home on a regular basis, either for all or part of the week.

This includes if you have to work from home because of COVID-19.

How much you can claim

You can either claim tax relief on:

  • £6 a week from April 6th 2020 (for previous tax years the rate is £4 a week) - you will not need to keep evidence of your extra costs
  • the exact amount of extra costs you’ve incurred above the weekly amount - you’ll need evidence such as receipts, bills or contracts

This means that if an individual has had to, or will have to, work from home because of COVID-19 for:

  • at least one day between April 6th 2020 and April 5th 2021
  • at least one day between April 6th 2021 and April 5th 2022

...then they can claim £6 tax relief a week (£316 a year) for both tax years, without HMRC requiring them to prove they had increased costs.

If costs have been incurred above £6 a week, evidence will need to shown for this.

Read more information on this here.

Test and Trace Support Payment

People self-isolating will be entitled to a Test and Trace Support Payment of £500 if they:

  • Have been told to stay at home and self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, either because they have tested positive for coronavirus or have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive
  • Are employed or self-employed
  • Are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result
  • Are currently receiving:
    • Universal Credit
    • Working Tax Credit
    • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
    • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
    • Income Support
    • Housing Benefit
    • Pension Credit

Learn more about these payments here.

Discretionary payment

A £500 discretionary payment is also available for, among others, individuals who:

  • have been told to stay at home and self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, either because they have tested positive for coronavirus or have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive
  • are employed or self-employed; and
  • are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result.

For the full list of people potentially eligible for a discretionary payment, visit the Buckinghamshire Council website.

These schemes will last until 31st March 2021.

The General Export Facility (GEF) provides partial guarantees to banks to help UK exporters gain access to trade finance facilities.

Exporters will be able to apply for finance from the UK’s five largest banks backed by a UK Export Finance (UKEF) guarantee to free up working capital that can be used for everyday costs linked to exports and to scale up their business operations.

Learn more here >

Automatic extensions for filing deadlines between 27th June 2020 and 5th April 2021 were introduced last year for accounts, confirmation statements, event-driven filings and mortgage charges.

There will be no further automatic extensions for confirmation statement filings, accounts filings and event-driven filings after 5th April 2021. After this date, you’ll need to file your documents by your usual deadlines.

If you need more time to file your accounts

For accounts filing deadlines that fall after 5th April 2021, companies can still apply for a 3-month extension.

Companies that are eligible and cite issues around COVID-19 in their application will be granted an extension.

Companies that have already had their accounts deadline extended may not be eligible, as the law only allows a maximum filing period of 12 months. It’s important to check if you’re eligible for an extension and to apply for an extension before your deadline. You must file your accounts on time or you’ll receive a late filing penalty.

Companies House temporarily paused its strike off processes from 21st January 2021 so that companies and creditors would not be adversely affected by processing delays at Companies House.

As of 8th March 2021. it has resumed the process to dissolve companies who’ve applied for voluntary strike off, and those it believes are no longer carrying on business or in operation.

Removal from the register occurs if Companies House finds there is reasonable cause to believe a company is no longer carrying on business or in operation, for example, if:

  • company documents are outstanding, and Companies House has had no response to its letters
  • letters sent by Companies House are returned undelivered
  • the company has no directors

Read more information about the strike off process and what to do if you want to remain on the register.

Find out how to prepare for changes to the off-payroll working rules if you engage contractors working through their own limited company.

These reforms to off-payroll working rules were delayed by 12 months and will now come into effect on 6th April 2021, when the:

  • rules for engaging individuals through personal service companies or other intermediaries are changing
  • responsibility for working out if the off-payroll working rules (IR35) apply will move to the organisation receiving an individual’s services

The rules, sometimes known as IR35, make sure that workers who would have been an employee if they were providing their services directly to the client pay broadly the same tax and National Insurance contributions as employees.

Read more about the changes here, and get more detailed guidance here.

Bucks Cultural Leaders

Leaders and innovators from the creative and cultural sector in Buckinghamshire are invited to apply to be part of a free, year-long leadership programme and network.

Bucks Cultural Leaders has been designed to help leaders and innovators in creative and cultural organisations respond and re-frame their organisations and programmes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more here >

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is reminding businesses that “a fire in an unattended commercial property could have devastating repercussions for the business, the local community and any residents in the same building or nearby.

“It is important to ensure safety and maintain preventative measures for these premises while the country responds to COVID-19. It could be as simple as a quick visit to check that commercial smoke detection and alarm systems are still working. Where possible, in line with government guidance, make a visit."

They list several actions that businesses can take to ensure fire safety measures are carried out.

Read the full article here.

Business owners affected by the pandemic will be protected from eviction until the end of March 2021.

This final extension to protections from the threat of eviction will give landlords and tenants three months to come to an agreement on unpaid rent. The government is clear that where businesses can pay any or all of their rent, they should do so.

The government also announced a review of the commercial landlord and tenant legislation, to address concerns that the current framework does not reflect the current economic conditions.

Read more information on this here.

Find out if you can use the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme to reclaim employee's coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will repay employers the SSP paid to current or former employees for periods of coronavirus-related sickness starting on or after 13th March 2020.

The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks starting from the first qualifying day of sickness, if an employee is unable to work because they either:

  • have coronavirus symptoms
  • cannot work because they are self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms
  • are self-isolating because they’ve been notified by the NHS or public health bodies that they’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus
  • are shielding and have a letter from the NHS or a GP telling them to stay at home for at least 12 weeks

You can claim for periods of sickness starting on or after:

  • 13th March 2020 - if your employee had coronavirus or the symptoms or is self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms
  • 16th April 2020 - if your employee was shielding because of coronavirus
  • 28th May 2020 - if your employee has been notified by the NHS or public health bodies that they’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus

SSP weekly rate

The weekly rate was £94.25 before 6th April 2020 and is now £95.85. If you’re an employer who pays more than the weekly rate of SSP, you can only claim up to the weekly rate paid.

The scheme can be used by employers (including charities and connected companies) if they:

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
  • fixed term contracts (until the date their contract ends)

Employees do not have to give you a doctor’s fit note for you to make a claim. But you can ask them to give you either:

  • an isolation note from NHS 111 - if they are self-isolating and cannot work because of coronavirus
  • the NHS or GP letter telling them to stay at home for at least 12 weeks because they’re at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus

Keeping records of staff absence

You must keep records of SSP that you’ve paid and want to claim back from HMRC.

You must keep the following records for 3 years after the date you receive the payment for your claim:

  • the dates the employee was off sick
  • which of those dates were qualifying days
  • the reason they said they were off work - if they had symptoms, someone they lived with had symptoms or they were shielding
  • the employee’s National Insurance number

Read more information on the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme.

Action Fraud is warning the public to remain vigilant as criminals begin to take advantage of the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine to commit fraud.

As of 7th January 2021, Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, had received 57 reports in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said: “The vaccine is a crucial tool in fighting the coronavirus and keeping people safe. Thankfully, the number of reports into Action Fraud are relatively low but we have seen an increase in the last two months, particularly around scam text messages. 

“Remember, the vaccine is only available on the NHS and is free of charge. The NHS will never ask you for details about your bank account or to pay for the vaccine. If you receive an email, text message or phone call purporting to be from the NHS and you are asked to provide financial details, this is a scam.”

Action Fraud has received reports from members of the public who have been sent text messages claiming to be from the NHS, offering them the opportunity to sign up for the vaccine. The texts ask the recipient to click on a link which takes them to an online form where they are prompted to input personal and financial details. In some cases the online form has looked very similar to the real NHS website.

How to protect yourself:

In the UK, coronavirus vaccines will only be available via the National Health Services of England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. You can be contacted by the NHS, your employer, a GP surgery or pharmacy local to you, to receive your vaccine. Remember, the vaccine is free of charge. At no point will you be asked to pay.

  • The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
  • The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
  • The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
  • The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.  

If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you are suspicious about an email you have received, forward it to report@phishing.gov.uk. Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to the number 7726, which is free of charge.

If you believe you are the victim of a fraud, please report this to Action Fraud as soon as possible by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.

Government guidance outlines how holiday entitlement and pay operate during the coronavirus pandemic.

It is designed to help employers understand their legal obligations, in terms of workers who:

  • continue to work
  • have been placed on furlough as part of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

Read this guidance here.

HMRC has produced guidance to help you find out what equipment, services or supplies are taxable if your employees are working from home due to COVID-19.

Who is affected? You could be affected if any of your employees are working from home due to COVID-19, either because:

  • your workplace has closed
  • they are following advice to self-isolate

Who is not affected? Furloughed workers who are eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Read this guidance here.

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.

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0241 222. (This number has replaced the original number set up for this purpose, but calls to the old helpline number will be redirected to the new number automatically.)

HMRC also has a webchat function where advisers can talk about problems paying your taxes due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

More information on this support can be found here.

HMRC digital assistant

You can also use HMRC’s digital assistant to find more information about the coronavirus support schemes available to businesses.

Business rate relief is delivered through Buckinghamshire Council. All businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector are not required to pay business rates between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.

This includes:

  • shops
  • pubs
  • theatres
  • music venues
  • restaurants
  • sports clubs
  • village halls and bingo halls
  • estate agents and letting agents
  • registered nursery providers

Find out more here >

Business rates revaluation plans delayed for 2021

The government has delayed plans to bring forward the revaluation of business rates to April 2021.

The last revaluation was in April 2017, and is usually done every five years, but legislation had been passed to bring forward the date of the next revaluation to 2021.

Read more about the delay to revaluation.

Valuation Office Agency update re: COVID-19

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) is:

  • currently unable to offer telephone support or accept hardcopy post. There us a contact form that people can use.
  • pausing property inspections
  • cancelling outstanding penalties in regards to non-compliance with requests for rent, lease or ownership details
  • being flexible with hardship cases where they require information

Read the VOA's full update regarding its services at this time.

Read more information on business rates revaluation on the government website.

COVID-19: what you need to consider

The Pensions Regulator has produced guidance to support employers facing difficult decisions and circumstances during the virus outbreak. Read this guidance here.

COVID-19 pension guidance published for employers

Guidance setting out how employers can meet their automatic enrolment (AE) duties as they navigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here.

Find an International Trade Adviser in your area

The Department for International Trade’s (DIT) 170 International Trade Advisers are reaching out to businesses across the country to provide advice on keeping trade flowing. DIT is also working closely with trade bodies and business organisations to support the government’s business campaign. Find an ITA in your area.

Notice to exporters - processing licence applications during coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Department for International Trade has revised arrangements for processing licence applications during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read more information here.

Notice to exporters - Export Control Joint Unit updates guidance on compliance checks for open licences

Details of changes and further clarification on compliance checks for open licences has been made available by the government. Read more information here.

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 15th 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 on 03000 594243 or by email at cdoenquiries@hmrc.gov.uk.

More information can be found here.

Right to Work checks have been temporarily adjusted to make it easier for employers to carry them out during the coronavirus outbreak.

Until further notice, employers do not need to see original documents and can complete Right to Work checks over video calls. Further guidance on what this means for employers can be found here.

The following temporary changes have been made:

  • checks can now be carried out over video calls
  • job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
  • employers should use the Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents

Checks continue to be necessary and you must continue to check the prescribed documents listed in 'right to work checks: an employer’s guide'. It remains an offence to knowingly employ anyone who does not have the right to work in the UK.

Because of COVID-19, some individuals may be unable to evidence their right to work. During this period, you must take extra care to ensure no-one is discriminated against as a job applicant or employee because they are unable to show you their documents.

If you have previously taken out loans through The Prince’s Trust and your business is facing financial uncertainty, you can access additional support and advice by contacting the Growth Company Business Finance (GCBF). They will discuss your individual circumstances and agree an approach, and if the business remains viable, the option of a Second Loan can be explored with you.

Read more information here.

The Rural Payments Agency has created a webpage with the latest Information for farmers, landowners and rural businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak. Read this page for regular updates.

The government has confirmed that the deadline for 2020 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications, Countryside Stewardship (CS) revenue claims, Environmental Stewardship (ES) claims, and woodland legacy revenue claims, without penalty, is extended by one month to midnight on 15th June 2020, in recognition of the disruption caused by COVID-19.

The period for making amendments without penalty is extended to midnight on 30th June 2020.

The final deadline, with penalty, is extended to midnight on 10th July 2020.

The deadlines for submitting CS applications are unchanged. Applications to CS Higher Tier and CS Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant close on 1st May 2020.

If an employer cannot afford to pay their employees' redundancy pay, they can apply to the Redundancy Payments Service (RPS) for financial assistance.

If approved, the RPS will make statutory redundancy payments directly to the redundant employees on the employer’s behalf.

Read the government guidance, including eligibility criteria, here.

To support the organisations and people working in arts and culture, the Arts Council are delivering a number of funding and support schemes. Find out more >

CITB's board met on 25th March and gave final approval to suspend the issue of its levy bills, due for payment in 2020, for an initial period of three months.

The bills will subsequently be issued for the full year. The delay will provide immediate financial relief to construction employers during the coronavirus crisis. In normal times, CITB assesses and sends out levy bills each April in accordance with legal requirements.

CITB levy bills are usually due for payment in May, but CITB will not seek collection on the suspended bills until August, or later if possible.

CITB has provided information on a range of issues, including:

  • grants and funding
  • health, safety and environment (HS&E) tests
  • apprenticeships
  • Construction Training Directory

Read more information here.

The government has introduced the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill to help businesses address the challenges resulting from the impact of COVID-19.

Measures include:

  • 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
  • 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

Read more information here.

The government has introduced legislation to ensure those companies required by law to hold Annual General Meetings (AGMs) will be able to do so safely, consistent with the restrictions on movement and gatherings introduced to address the spread of coronavirus.

Companies will temporarily be extended greater flexibilities, including holding AGMs online or postponing the meetings. Read more information here.

HMRC has introduced a temporary measure to help in the destruction of spoilt beer, cider, wine or made-wine during coronavirus for:

  • brewers
  • cider producers
  • wine or made-wine makers
  • publicans

Normally the destruction of alcohol must be supervised by a responsible person from the brewery, cider producer or winery. Due to social distancing requirements this is currently difficult to follow.

Who can destroy spoilt beer, cider, wine or made-wine

You can now appoint the publican or an agreed person at the premises to carry out the destruction of spoilt beer, cider, wine or made-wine. An Authorised Company Representative (ACR) does not need to be present.

You must follow health and safety conditions and agree this with the person carrying out the destruction.

This temporary change will apply while coronavirus social distancing restrictions remain in place. HMRC will give at least 30 days’ notice before withdrawing these temporary measures.

You must continue to keep:

  • an audit trail confirming destruction of duty-paid beer, cider, wine or made-wine
  • evidence of a full credit of the duty paid, or replacement of the goods to your customer or the owner of the goods at the time they became spoilt
  • a spoilt beer, cider, wine or made-wine record

Read more information here.

Under the new COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility, the Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies.

This will support your company if it has been affected by a short-term funding squeeze, and allow you to finance your short-term liabilities. It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.

Eligibility - all non-financial companies that meet the criteria set out on the Bank of England’s website are eligible. For this and further information, visit the relevant Bank of England webpage here.

The scheme is now available for applications.

The Bank’s intention is for the Facility to operate for an initial period of 12 months, to help businesses bridge through COVID-19-related disruption to their cash flows. The Bank will provide 6 months’ notice of the withdrawal of the Facility.

The government has temporarily relaxed the EU and GB drivers’ hours rules for drivers carrying goods by road. Read more information here.

Th government's Procurement Policy Note (PPN) sets out information and guidance for public bodies on payment of their suppliers to ensure service continuity during and after the COVID-19 outbreak.

Contracting authorities must act now to ensure suppliers at risk are in a position to resume normal contract delivery once the outbreak is over.

The guidance note - ‘Model Interim Payment Terms’ - provides a set of terms that contracting authorities can use to implement PPN 02/20 in providing contractual relief to suppliers who have been affected by COVID-19.

Read more information here.

eBay has announced a raft of measures to support business sellers during the COVID-19 outbreak, including:

Read more information here.

The government has introduced temporary changes to allow bus and lorry drivers who cannot complete compulsory Driver CPC training to continue to drive. Read more information here.

The government information service on WhatsApp has been updated to include business support advice. Text ‘hi’ to 07860 064422 via WhatsApp; there are business support measures highlighted under option 5.

Banks are offering all or a combination of: loan repayment holidays, increased or new overdraft facilities, interest rate reductions, temporary and emergency loans.

Barclays

Barclays has launched a free telephone helpline offering support and information to its business banking customers. It is also providing repayment holidays. Find out more here > 

You can also talk to your Relationship Manager or call 0800 1971 0861.

Santander

Santander's support includes a helpline and advice on managing finances. Find out more here >

You can also talk to your Relationship Manager or call 0800 731 6666.

The bank is also reminding customers to be alert to criminals taking advantage of coronavirus to carry out scams. It advises customers to be on the lookout for anything suspicious, including email messages about coronavirus claiming to be from their bank.

NatWest

NatWest has announced a £5 billion fund to support small and medium-sized firms to deal with the impact of coronavirus. Support includes the provision of working capital, loan repayment holidays and temporary emergency loans with no fees. Find out more here > 

You can also talk to your Relationship Manager or call 0345 711 4477.

Lloyds

Lloyds has launched a £2 billion package to help minimise disruption to business operations. Support includes repayment holidays, no arrangement fees for new or increased overdrafts, invoice discounting and finance facilities. Find out more here > 

You can also talk to your Relationship Manager or call 0345 072 5555.

HSBC

HSBC is allocating £5 billion to help businesses that need support and asking relationship managers to proactively contact customers to see what help their businesses need. They will also consider offering repayment holidays to free up cash within businesses; reviewing overdrafts or trade loans to allow stock to be held for longer; and providing trade finance solutions to support customers with their supply chains. Find our more here > 

You can also talk to your Relationship Manager or call 08000 121 614.

In response to the growing number of commercial rent disputes, RICS has launched a Commercial Rental Independent Evaluation Service to help landlords and tenants negotiate payments during Covid-19. 

The independent service aims to provide a timely dispute resolution for both parties.  It will allow tenants to have a “safe” space to share their payment issues and for landlords to outline their requirements for any concessions to be agreed
 

The government has amended the COVID-19 regulations to make clear that people who wish to move home can do so.

This guidance provides important public health information to ensure that moving home and key activities around this, such as viewing properties, can happen safely. It also applies to custom and self-builders looking to acquire a plot or a property to renovate or to demolish.

The government has produced guidance to estate agents, surveyors, conveyancers and removal firms. Read this guidance here.


Support for the self-employed

Find advice and support for self-employed people, including those getting less work or no work due to COVID-19.

Check if you’re eligible for the fourth Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant, which will cover the period February 2021 to April 2021

The fourth SEISS grant will be set at 80% of 3 months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment, capped at £7,500. The grant will take into account 2019 to 2020 tax returns and will also be open to those who became self-employed in tax year 2019 to 2020.

The rest of the eligibility criteria remain unchanged from previous grants.

How to claim

The online claims service for the fourth grant will be available from late April 2021 until 31st May 2021.

If you are eligible, HMRC will contact you in mid-April to give you your personal claim date. This will be the date that you can make your claim from.

A fifth SEISS grant

The government has also announced that there will be a fifth and final grant covering May to September 2021.

You will be able to claim from late July if you are eligible for the fifth grant.

Further details will be provided on the fifth grant in due course.

Filing tax returns

HMRC did not charge Self Assessment customers late filing penalties if they filed their tax return online by 28th February 2021.

Businesses will now pay a late filing penalty of £100 if their tax return is up to 3 months late. You’ll have to pay more if it’s later, or if you pay your tax bill late.

Paying your tax bill

Tax still needed to be paid by 31st January 2021. Interest is charged from 1st February 2021 if your payment was late.

Businesses will also be charged a late payment penalty if they haven’t paid in full by 1st April.

Get Self Assessment information here >

Did you defer your Payments on Account?

Self Assessment taxpayers were given the option of deferring payment of their July 2020 Payment on Account until 31st January 2021.

If you deferred this payment, you may have had the below three payments to make on 31st January 2021:

  • your deferred July 2020 payment on account (if it remains unpaid)
  • any 2019 to 2020 balancing charge
  • your first 2020 to 2021 payment on account

Not filed your 2019-20 Self Assessment return yet?

If you have not yet filed your 2019 to 2020 Self Assessment return, or if you need support meeting your Self Assessment liabilities, read HMRC's information and advice here.

From May 28th 2020, anyone who tests positive for coronavirus in England will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will need to share information about their recent interactions. This could include household members, and people with whom they have been in direct contact or within 2 metres of for more than 15 minutes.

There is specific guidance on the NHS Test and Trace service for the self-employed, which can be found here.

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 on the service here.

 

NHS COVID-19 App

From Thursday 24th September if you run a business or organisation with a physical location that is open to the public, you should display a poster with a QR code for users of the NHS COVID-19 App to ‘check in’. To make and print your QR code poster please use this link.

Here is a list of venues that should display the QR codes includes:

  • All hospitality venues, like pubs, cafes and restaurants
  • All council buildings
  • Leisure and culture venues
  • Close contact’ businesses, like hair salons and nail bars
  • Places of worship
  • Community halls and venues

Self-employed parents whose trading profits dipped in 2018/19 because they took time out to have children will be able to claim for a payment under the scheme.

Read more information here.

Community Grants scheme

If you work in film, TV or cinema and have an idea for an activity that could help your friends and colleagues in the industry during the crisis, you can apply for a small Community Grant of £150 – £250, up to a maximum of £1,000, to cover set-up costs and expenses.

These grants are designed for grassroots organisations or individuals. Your activity could tackle isolation, connect people, involve professional development, skill-sharing, mentoring or career development, or financial advice.

Read more information about the grant scheme.

The below schemes were closed as of May 26th 2020. Check the links for any updates.

The British Film Institute (BFI) and The Film and TV Charity are offering grants of up to £500 to provide stop-gap support for those in immediate financial distress. Details on eligibility and how to apply are here.

The two also launched a new industry-backed COVID-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund for freelance film and TV professionals. More details, including on how to be kept informed about this fund can be found here.

The Film and TV Charity also provides mental health support to the industry, including counselling and legal advice, via a 24/7 support line on 0800 054 00 00.

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has a coronavirus support hub full of advice, webinars and frequently asked questions. Visit the IPSE support hub here.

Those who are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), for example the self-employed or people earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week, can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance. More details on how to claim can be found here.

Changes to Universal Credit for self-employed people

The government has temporarily changed the way they work out Universal Credit for self-employed people on low incomes.

It has suspended the Minimum Income Floor for Universal Credit, meaning self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.

People applying for Universal Credit will now be able to use their existing Government Gateway account to confirm their identity, helping to speed up their claim. Read more information here.

Call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 for more information or view the government's webpage on self-employment and Universal Credit.

If you want to know how COVID-19 affects the Minimum Income Floor, you can read the latest information about COVID-19 and claiming benefits, including Universal Credit.

The government's 'Understanding Universal Credit' homepage is here.

Talk to your existing finance provider to see what they can do to help you manage existing debt. If you have an existing loan or asset purchase (for example a lease or hire purchase agreement), you could ask for a repayment holiday. You may also need a new or increased overdraft facility, or to secure additional finance.

Talk to your customers, especially large customers, and ask if they can pay your invoices more quickly. Some firms have already started doing this.

All 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.

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0241 222. (This number has replaced the original number set up for this purpose, but calls to the old helpline number will be redirected to the new number automatically.)

Discuss preparations with your clients now, particularly about working remotely.

Check your contractual obligations, particularly with regards to unforeseeable circumstances that prevent you from fulfilling your contract.

Check to see what health or income protection insurance you might have in place.

From 1st October business owners that complete a self-assessment tax return can apply for additional support to help spread the cost of their tax bill using the “Time to Pay” scheme, which could allow them to make monthly payments up to a twelve-month period instead of a one-off charge.

This is one of the measures that HMRC has implemented to help ease the financial burden that businesses may be experiencing due to Covid-19.

The online payment plan option was already available for tax payments of up to £10,000 , this threshold has been increased to £30,000. HMRC estimates that up to 95% of businesses that complete a self-assessment tax return could be eligible to use this facility.

In order to set up your own self-serve Time to Pay arrangements, you must meet the following requirements:

  • you need to have no:
    • outstanding tax returns
    • other tax debts
    • other HMRC payment plans set up
  • the debt needs to be between £32 and £30,000 
  • the payment plan needs to be set up no later than 60 days after the due date of a debt

Customers using self-serve Time to Pay will be required to pay any interest on the tax owed. Interest will be applied to any outstanding balance from 1 February 2021. For further information visit the self-assessment website.

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme is for the self-employed and members of partnerships whose trade/business has been adversely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).

The scheme was extended from November 2020 to April 2021. Grants will be paid in 2 lump sum instalments each covering a 3 month period. The third grant will cover a 3 month period from 1 November 2020 until 31 January 2021.

The Government will provide a taxable grant calculated at 80% of 3 months average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment and capped at £7,500 in total. This is an increase from the previously announced amount of 55%. The Government are providing the same level of support for the self-employed as is being provided for employees through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which has been extended until March 2021. The Government has already announced that there will be a fourth grant covering February 2021 to April 2021.

The Government will set out further details, including the level, of the fourth grant in due course. The grants are taxable income and also subject to National Insurance contributions.

Read more here >

Check if you're eligible by using HMRC’s online checker. You'll need your:

Your tax agent or adviser can also check your eligibility on your behalf, but they must not make the actual claim on your behalf.

Some people may not be eligible for the scheme. Read this guidance for more information.

When you make your claim, you’ll need your:

  • Government Gateway user ID and password - if you do not have a user ID, you can create one when you check your eligibility online
  • bank account number and sort code you want HMRC to pay the grant into (only provide bank account details where a Bacs payment can be accepted)

You’ll also have to confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus.

HMRC will work out if you’re eligible and how much grant funding you may get. If your claim is approved, you’ll receive your payment within 6 working days. HMRC will send an email when your payment is on its way. You can check the status of your payment here.

You must make your claim yourself

Your tax agent or adviser can also check your eligibility on your behalf, but they must not make the actual claim on your behalf as this will trigger a fraud alert, and you will have to contact HMRC. This will cause a significant delay to you receiving your payment. You must make the claim yourself.

If you receive the grant, you can continue to work, start a new trade or take on other employment including voluntary work, or duties as an armed forces reservist.

The grant will be subject to Income Tax and self-employed National Insurance.

Filed your 2018-19 tax return after 23rd April 2020? If you did not submit your Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018 to 2019 on or before 23rd April 2020, you will not be able to claim. Read more information here.

Did you amend your tax return after 26th March 2020? If you amended a submitted return after 6pm on 26th March 2020, any changes will not be taken into account when working out your eligibility or amount of the grant. Read more information here.

How HMRC works out total income and trading profits

HMRC has detailed how it will work out your income and profits if you're self-employed or a member of a partnership in the UK and have lost profits due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Read this guidance here.

HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant. 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. If you started trading between 2016-19, HMRC will only use those years for which you filed a Self-Assessment tax return. The grant will be subject to Income Tax and National Insurance contributions but does not need to be repaid.

People using the SEISS will be able to:

  • continue working, including taking on an employment role
  • access Universal Credit and the SEISS (The government advises that you can make a claim for Universal Credit while you wait for the grant, but any grant received will be treated as part of your self-employment income and may affect the amount of Universal Credit you get.)

Eligibility criteria

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
  • Filed a tax return for 2018-19 as self-employed or a member of a trading partnership. Those who have not yet filed for 2018-19 will have to do so by April 23rd 2020.
  • 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 comes from self-employment. This is determined by at least one of the following conditions being true: having trading profits/partnership trading profits in 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your total taxable income; OR having average trading profits in 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your average taxable income in the same period.

Please note: You will access this scheme only through GOV.UK. If someone texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it is a scam.


Webinars and videos in support of your business

We have a wide range of webinars currently being run by Buckinghamshire Business First and our members that are designed to provide practical support and help to businesses during this time. See this list of webinars here.

Visit our webinar library to watch previous webinars

We are archiving our previous webinars on our website, so you can watch recordings of them at your convenience. Watch them here >

You can also watch these webinars again on our YouTube channel.

Are you running a webinar? If you are running a webinar that provides COVID-19-related support to other businesses.

Government departments are hosting a series of webinars to help businesses understand the support available to them at this time.

Webinar topics include:

  • the Job Retention Scheme
  • the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
  • the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rebate scheme
  • running your business through the COVID-19 pandemic
  • helping your employees deal with the economic impact of COVID-19

See the list of webinars here.

Watch HMRC videos with support on the above topics

HMRC has created a playlist of videos with more information on the support avaialble from government schemes. Watch the videos here.

Sign up for email alerts about webinars

You can sign up for email alerts about live and recorded webinars, YouTube videos and online guidance.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) has launched a series of nearly 100 expert-led webinars to provide support to businesses throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

Businesses can register online and access all of the recorded webinars here.

Watch recordings of previous webinars

A selection of past DIT webinars are available to view online. Watch them here.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) is running a series of virtual events designed to help you navigate current challenges and achieve future growth.

Learn more about these events here.

Watch recorded government webinars on a range of topics, including:

  • tax deferrals
  • changes to right to work checks
  • changes to filing reports and accounts
  • loans fo small businesses
  • grant funding
  • support for wages

View the playlist of webinars here.

Acas is delivering a series of free webinars on COVID-19-related subjects, providing practical advice for employers.

Subjects include:

  • Coronavirus – an advisory webinar for employers
  • Furlough leave: the HMRC Job Retention Scheme

Check to see when the next webinars take place.

You can also watch recordings of previous webinars on the same homepage.

Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), an Innovate UK partner, has listed all of its upcoming online events in one place. These feature support on COVID-19-related issues, but also cover topics such as:

  • women in business
  • tools for growing your business
  • business models for reducing waste going to landfill

See the list of events here.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is running daily webinars on how coronavirus is impacting the business community, and what your business can do to mitigate the impact.

As well as these webinars, there are many other online events promoted on the CBI website on a wide range of topics related to helping your business through these times.

See the full list of online events here.

View webinars on issues affecting freelancers and the self-employed from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE).

View the webinars here.


Support and funding for innovative businesses

See the available funding opportunities through Innovate UK.

The page is constantly updated, so do check back for new opportunities.

The Future Fund provides loans to innovative UK-based companies that are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The loans range from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to eligibility and a match-funding element.

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.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Companies must be UK-incorporated and if part of a corporate group, only the parent company is eligible.
  • Companies in receipt of the loans will be required to have previously raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from third party investors in the last five years.
  • Only eligible companies that can attract at least 50% of third-party investment will receive funding.
  • Companies cannot have any of their shares traded on a regulated market, multilateral trading facility or other listing venue.
  • The company must have been incorporated on or before 31st December 2019.
  • At least one of the following must be true for the company:
  1. Half or more employees are UK based;
  2. Half or more revenues are from UK sales.

For more details on the eligibility criteria and application process, read the attached document.

Read more about the Future Fund here.

The Clean Growth Fund aims to speed up the deployment of innovative clean technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by making direct investments in companies seeking to commercialise promising technologies.

Read more information here.

Continuity loans

Up to £210 million is available in continuity loans to SMEs and third sector organisations that have a challenge in continuing a live project for which they have an award from Innovate UK.

Loans are for organisations that find themselves facing a sudden shortage or even unavailability of funds resulting directly from the COVID-19 pandemic. This innovation continuity loan may be suitable if you need funding of between £250,000 and £1,600,000.

Continuity loans will be open for applications until all the money is allocated or 31st December 2020 - whichever is earlier.

Read more information here.

Further support may be available

Innovate UK has developed a range of options for supporting its existing customers with current projects through the impacts of the pandemic, including:

  • Timing extensions
  • Monthly grant payments
  • Innovation and Growth Adviser support

See what support you could benefit from here.

See the available funding opportunities through UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), including an open call for research and innovation ideas to address COVID-19.

The page is constantly updated, so do check back for new opportunities.

Innovate UK has provided an update on the support available to businesses from Innovate UK due to COVID-19 and advice for award holders. Read the guidance here.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which Innovate UK is a part of, has also provided information on the impact of COVID-19 on UKRI-supported research. Read the guidance here.

Innovative, high-growth SMEs can get support from an Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) Innovation and Growth Adviser, receiving up to five days of adviser time over a 6-12 month period, with an additional 3 days for those businesses demonstrating the highest growth potential.

Support is built around three phases:

  1. Survive: addressing short-term challenges faced by a business, whether that be survival or rapid growth
  2. Stabilise: ensuring medium-term stability of a businesses to build resilience and plan for growth
  3. Grow: longer-term support getting a business back on track to realise their longer-term growth ambitions.

The adviser will support the business on areas such as:

  • managing cashflow
  • funding and finance
  • staff retention
  • removing costs from the business
  • building resilience
  • research and development (R&D) and innovation capacity
  • reviewing businesses models
  • planning for growth
  • developing supply chains
  • building a customer base
  • accessing new markets.

The adviser will act as a sounding board and critical friend, helping the business to develop plans, implement actions and make connections that will accelerate their growth as soon as possible.

For the highest growth potential businesses, additional support can be provided covering areas such as strategic reviews, structure for growth, funding/finance for growth, entering new/global markets, and getting ready to scale.

Read more information here.

UKRI are calling for proposals for rapid research into COVID-19.

This was a rolling call, but has now been updated with a closing date of 30th June 2020.

They are open to applications and will aim to review complete proposals within 4 weeks of submission.

This is for UK-led academic, SME and wider industry research that will address a wide range of COVID-19 knowledge gaps/needs, and which will lead to a benefit in UK, potentially international, public health within 12 months.

More information can be found here.

A new drive to fund space-enabled technology and services that can strengthen the NHS response to coronavirus has been launched by the UK Space Agency.

An initial £2.6 million is being made available to fund a number of projects to develop hi-tech solutions to these challenges, in a joint initiative with the European Space Agency (ESA) in support of NHS England.

Find out more and apply for funding.


Insurance information

The Association of British Insurers has produced a Q&A to help businesses understand their insurance cover during the coronavirus outbreak. Read the Q&A here.

Businesses are advised to check with their insurance policy provider to understand whether or not they would be covered for damage that occurs at their property if it has been left unattended for a period of time.

The risk of fire, water damage or theft could increase with a prolonged absence from the site, and although lockdowns and closures force individuals to be away from their premises, some insurance policies can contain clauses about the maximum amount of time a property can be left unoccupied for.

A conversation with your policy provider should identify what you need to do to comply with your policy.

A recent court ruling on Business Interruption Insurance (BII) means that COVID-19 claims should be paid out successfully in most cases.  The verdict will provide relief for many small businesses and help them to rebuild and move forward.  
We recommend that individual policies and terms should be closely reviewed as the judgement states that most, but not all disease clauses provide cover. 

Anyone who is unsure about their cover should speak to a legal professional such as Blaser Mills who will be able to review policies and help reach the best possible outcome.

Most commercial insurance policies are unlikely to cover pandemics or unspecified notifiable diseases, such as COVID-19.

However, those businesses which have an insurance policy that covers government-ordered closures and pandemics, or government-ordered closures and unspecified notifiable diseases, should be able to make a claim (subject to the terms and conditions of their policy).

Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers.

Notifiable diseases are certain infectious diseases that registered medical practitioners have a statutory duty to notify the ‘proper officer’ at their local council or local health protection team about when they come across a suspected case. The government keeps an updated list of notifable diseases. On 5th March 2020, the government added COVID-19 to its list of notifiable diseases.

Many insurers use diseases on this list as triggers for the activation or exclusion of insurance cover. For example, insurers’ policies that cover notifiable diseases will typically only cover a specific subset of notifiable diseases (such as Cholera or Anthrax) that the insurer will reference in the policy documentation. These policies will exclude any notifiable disease not on the insurers list, as well as future/unknown diseases (such as COVID-19). The price that the insurer charges for the policy is modelled against the risk posed by this set list of diseases.

Some businesses will have purchased add-ons for their insurance that cover for ‘unspecified notifiable diseases’. These policies effectively cover any disease listed as a notifiable disease, enabling the business to claim for losses for all notifiable diseases as well as from diseases that are unknown at the point the policy is written.

The effect of the government adding COVID-19 to its list of notifiable diseases is to ensure that businesses with unspecified notifiable disease cover are able to make a claim – subject to the terms and conditions in their policy.

The government asked a number of different businesses and venues to remain closed from 21st March 2020 onwards.

Insurers have agreed that this advice is sufficient for businesses covered for COVID-19 losses to make a claim (if the only barrier to them making a claim was a lack of clarity on whether the government had ordered businesses to close).

However, most businesses’ commercial insurance policies (including for denial of access) are unlikely to offer cover for COVID-19. Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers.

Businesses with event cancellation policies that include unspecified notifiable disease extensions should be able to make a claim for the necessary and unavoidable cancellation, abandonment, curtailment, postponement and disruption of their event for reasons beyond the control of organisers and participants (subject to the other terms and exclusions of their policy).

Insurance for major events is often bespoke to the specific event, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their insurer or broker.


Apprenticeship programme

The Education and Skills Funding Agency's (ESFA) 'Business Update' series is a monthly round-up of apprenticeship information and news for businesses.

These round-ups include information on how COVID-19 is affecting apprenticeships.

See the latest round-up, as well as past updates, here.

Read government guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations in response to the impact of COVID-19.

Visit this page to find collections of articles aimed at:

  • employers
  • training providers
  • end-point assessment organisations

Department for Education (DfE) COVID-19 helpline

If you have a query about COVID-19 relating to schools and other educational establishments and children's social care in England, contact the DfE helpline on 0800 046 8687.

Lines are open from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, and 10am to 4pm at weekends. If you work in a school, have your unique reference number (URN or UK PRN) available when calling the helpline.


Further information and support for businesses and the self-employed

See the below support, including cyber security advice, Buckinghamshire Council and central government updates, and news that may be of interest.

Buckinghamshire LEP, working in partnership with Buckinghamshire Business First and Buckinghamshire Council, is gathering and analysing evidence of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Buckinghamshire economy.

Read the latest statistics and evidence here >

The numbers behind the impact on the Tourism and Hospitality sector in Buckinghamshire

See the statistics behind the impact of the pandemic on Buckinghamshire's Tourism and Hospitality sector, and forecasts and thoughts about what the future may look like.

The presentation was delivered by Caroline Perkins of Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) during an event attended by local businesses and Buckinghamshire's five MPs for an engaging and frank conversation about the impact of COVID-19 on the Tourism and Hospitality sector.

Business Debt Line offer telephone advice/web chat, budget tools, debt management letter templates and more. Further information can be found here, or call 0800 197 6026.

If your business needs more workers as a result of COVID-19, such as those in food logistics, preparation and retail, post vacancies on the government's Find a Job tool.

Mix 96 are giving businesses the opportunity to list themselves online if they are still legally open for business. You can find the list, and register your own business, here.

Measures announced over recent weeks to deal with coronavirus have seen our day-to-day life drastically changed – we are spending more time at home and online. Unfortunately, criminals will use every opportunity they can to scam innocent people and their businesses.

The government has updated its advice and guidance on keeping yourself and your business protected from fraud and cyber crime.

Read this guidance here.

National Cyber Security Centre guidance

The National Cyber Security Centre has published advice on how to manage cyber security. There is advice for:

Working Tax Credits payments have increased by £1,045 to £3,040 per year as of 6th April 2020 until 5th April 2021.

The amount a claimant or household will benefit from will depend on their circumstances, including their level of household income. More information can be found here.

The Intellectual Property Office has said that its services are mainly unaffected.

  • The IPO will continue to operate hearings via telephone, Skype or other virtual methods
  • No further physical hearings will be booked or take place until 1st June 2020 (this date will be kept under review)
  • Parties will be contacted if their current hearing arrangements need to change

All rights holders and IP professionals are asked to continue to file as normal where possible. However, the IPO is now unable to process paper forms, faxes and paper correspondence. Customers are asked to use the online services whenever possible. For services that are not available online, an email address has been created - paperformcontingency@ipo.gov.uk - which can be used instead of faxing or posting documents to the IPO.

The IPO has declared 24th March, and subsequent days until further notice, 'interrupted days'. This means that any deadlines for...

  • patents
  • supplementary protection certificates
  • trade marks
  • designs

...and applications for these rights, which fall on an interrupted day will be extended until the IPO notifies the end of the interrupted days period. To support rights holders, businesses and IP professionals plan ahead, the IPO will provide a minimum of 2 weeks’ notice before ending the interrupted days period.

The situation will be reviewed on 28th May 2020, which will either see the period of interruption continue, or an announcement that the period will end after a further two weeks.

The IPO states: "Please note that although interrupted days extends many of our renewal deadlines, we strongly encourage our customers to meet their existing deadlines where possible. If your renewal deadline falls after the period of interruption ends, this deadline will not be extended."

Further information on alterations to services for specific rights:

Visit the IPO website here.

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) helps businesses get the best out of creativity, ideas and the latest discoveries, to strengthen the UK economy and improve people’s lives. It is a network partner of Innovate UK.

KTN has compiled a COVID-19 support and information hub, which includes:

A summary of the latest news from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) related to COVID-19. Read this summary here.

People applying for Universal Credit will now be able to use their existing Government Gateway account to confirm their identity, helping to speed up their claim. Read more information here.

The government has agreed measures with the energy industry to support vulnerable people through COVID-19:

  • People with pre-payment meters who are unable to add credit can approach their suppliers to discuss other options to maintain power.
  • Disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended.
  • Energy customers in financial distress can also ask their suppliers for debt repayments and bill payments to be reassessed, reduced or paused. Further information can be found here.

Enforcement of the gender pay gap reporting deadlines are suspended for this reporting year (2019/20) due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The decision means there will be no expectation on employers to report their data.

Read further information here.
 

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has proposed a change to the tax legislation to allow highly skilled individuals from across the world to come to the UK and help us respond to this unprecedented health emergency.

Under normal circumstances, the actions and presence of these individuals in the UK could affect their own tax residence status, potentially bringing their global earnings within the purview of UK taxation.

The Statutory Residence Test (SRT) will be amended to ensure that any period(s) between 1st March and 1st June 2020 spent in the UK by individuals working on COVID-19 related activities will not count towards residence tests.

These changes are time limited and will only support those people whose skillsets are currently required.

Read more information here.

The government's new WhatsApp service is free-to-use and aims to provide official, trustworthy and timely information and advice about COVID-19, and will further reduce the burden on NHS services.

To use the free Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp, simply add 07860 064422 in your phone contacts and then message the word ‘hi’ in a WhatsApp message to get started.

Read more information here.

Buckinghamshire Council is providing daily video updates about local progress in combating COVID-19 – aired at approximately 3pm on their website.

Hundreds of Business Improvement Districts across England will share £6.1 million to help cover their day to day costs for the next 3 months. Read more information here.

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) will be able to extend the maximum duration of their BID arrangements until 31st March 2021 by delaying BID ballots due to take place this year. This enables BIDs, and the local authorities who administer the ballot process, to concentrate on responding to the current emergency. Read more information here.
 

The temporary MOT exemption will enable vital services to continue, frontline workers to get to work, and people to get essential food and medicine. Further information can be found here.

The contactless limit for in-store card transactions will increase from £30 to £45. This is being introduced in order to reduce the need for physical contact with PIN-Entry Devices (PEDs) at points of sale.

Read about the package of measures announced by the government at Budget 2020 to support public services, individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19.

Read this information here >

Community pharmacies are receiving a £300 million cash boost to ensure they can continue to carry out essential services during the coronavirus outbreak.

The advanced funding injection will support pharmacies to provide critical services to protect community health, including supplying medicines and providing medical advice to patients, during a period of unprecedented demand.

£200 million was paid on 1st April to pharmacy contractors, alongside their normal monthly payments from the NHS Business Services Authority, and a further £100 million will be allocated on 1st May 2020. Read more information here.

A zero rate of VAT now applies to all e-publications – potentially slashing the cost of a £12 e-book by £2 and e-newspaper subscriptions by up to £25 a year. Read more information here.

The government has provided £5.4 million to be distributed to people seeking help with housing, debt, discrimination and employment problems.

The money will be distributed by not for profit organisations and Law Centres across England and Wales.

Read more information here.

HMRC has extended the time limit for notifying of a decision to opt to tax land and buildings to 90 days from the date the decision to opt was made. This applies to decisions made between 15th February and 30th June 2020. Read more information here.

 

Sign up for email alerts about the UK government’s response to COVID-19.


Guidance for businesses to support their staff and workplace

Read official government guidance for employers and businesses on providing advice to their staff on:

  • how to help prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • what to do if someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 has been in business settings
  • what advice to give to individuals who have travelled to specific areas
  • actions to take if staff come into contact with someone who is self-isolating or is a possible or confirmed case of COVID-19

Guidance and support for employees

Information for employees at work and on temporary leave (furlough).

Testing for COVID-19 in England has been expanded to include any worker with symptoms who needs to leave home to travel to work and cannot work from home.

See the full list of essential workers and those prioritised for testing.

Employers can also refer essential workers for testing if they are self-isolating either because they or member(s) of their household have coronavirus symptoms.

The government is testing:

  • all essential workers including NHS and social care workers with symptoms (see the full list of essential workers)
  • anyone over 65 with symptoms
  • anyone with symptoms whose work cannot be done from home (for example, construction workers, shop workers, emergency plumbers and delivery drivers)
  • anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus and lives with any of those identified above

Additionally, the government is testing:

  • social care workers and residents in care homes (with or without symptoms) both to investigate outbreaks and, following successful pilots, as part of a rolling programme to test all care homes
  • NHS workers and patients without symptoms, in line with NHS England guidance

This means anyone in one of these groups can find out whether they have the virus. Testing is most effective within 3 days of symptoms developing.

Please note that these lists apply to England only.

Government guidance sets out those whose work is critical to the coronavirus response and keeping crucial public services going.

Employers need to be responsible about who needs to be in the office and are encouraged to help their staff find alternative arrangements to support them working from home.

Read the guidance here.

A hub containing guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE), and infection prevention and control (IPC) is now available, containing information for both health and social care settings and other workers and sectors. Read this guidance here.

The UK government does not currently (as of April 17th 2020) advise use of face masks outside of care settings, in line with PPE guidance. Public Health England recommends that employers should ensure that:

  • spaces in the workplace are optimised to allow social distancing to occur, wherever possible
  • signs are visible in the workplace reminding employees not to attend work if they have a fever or cough and to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • employees are provided with hand sanitiser for frequent use and regular breaks to allow them to wash their hands for 20 seconds.

Buckinghamshire Council's Community Hub website is full of information for those needing support and/or able to offer support and how to keep safe and healthy at these times, as well as information for non-English speaking residents. Visit this website here.

The British Retail Consortium has published guidance for retail premises to ensure the safety of staff and customers in the event of the non-food retail sector re-opening for business. Read this guidance here.

Acas has published new guidance to help employers understand their obligations and protect the health and safety of their staff. It covers sick pay, dealing with incidents of coronavirus in the workplace, and employers’ obligations concerning workers who need to self-isolate or do not want to come into work. Read the guidance here.

Acas webinars

 

Acas is delivering a series of free webinars on COVID-19-related subjects, providing practical advice for employers.

Subjects include:

  • Coronavirus – an advisory webinar for employers
  • Furlough leave: the HMRC Job Retention Scheme

Check to see when the next webinars take place.

You can also watch recordings of previous webinars on the same homepage.

Blaser Mills have put together some information documents advising employers.

One is on lay-offs and short-time working and another is advice for businesses on whether they can break contracts.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) has produced a factsheet providing advice on how employers should respond to the COVID-19 threat and support employees by being prepared, particularly looking after employees’ health and safety and developing flexible resourcing plans.

Read the guidance here.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) has created a Coronavirus Support Hub. Visit it here for information and support.

The Federation of Small Businesses has a dedicated webpage with news, information and support for businesses. Visit the website here.

The CBI Coronavirus Hub is full of advice and guidance for your business at these challenging times. Visit the website here.

A £500 million Hardship Fund will provide council tax relief to vulnerable people and households to help those affected most by COVID-19.

The government has set out that the Hardship Fund will go to local authorities in England to enable them to reduce the 2020 to 2021 council tax bills of working age people receiving Local Council Tax Support.

Councils will also be able to use the funding to provide further discretionary support to vulnerable people through other support arrangements such as Local Welfare Schemes.

Read more information here.

The British Retail Council (BRC) is providing a daily update on the actions taken by retailers to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic. Read more information here.

The government has produced a list of organisations to speak with to get advice on COVID-19 matters, including some sector-specific organisations.

The order to stay at home can cause anxiety for those who are experiencing or feel at risk of domestic abuse. As an employer, you can play an important role in reassuring staff that they can still leave their home if they are experiencing domestic abuse and that there is still support available, including online support, helplines, refuges and the police.

The Home Office has provided an employer pack to help businesses share this important message with staff.

Access this employer pack here.


Requests for/ways to help during COVID-19 crisis

There are numerous requests for help from the government and organisations of all kinds urging businesses to support efforts to deal with the various challenges COVID-19 presents to the healthcare system, businesses, individuals and communities. Find requests for help here >

Do you have a specific need? Take a look at what support businesses are offering to each other and local communities at this time here >

Can't find what you need? Call on advice and support from our community of over 12,000 local businesses by asking a question in our Q&A area here >


Support for charities & ways for charities to help others

Take a look at the information and support available for charities, voluntary and community groups and social enterprises.

A £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises with a rateable value between £15,001 and £50,999. For businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of up to and including £15,000, they will receive a grant of £10,000. Businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or over are not eligible for this scheme.

Are charities eligible? Charities with premises with a rateable value of £50,999 or less on 11th March 2020 that would have been eligible for a discount under the business rates Expanded Retail Discount Scheme, had that scheme been in force for that date, are eligible for the grant. Charities which would otherwise meet this criteria but whose bill for 11th March 2020 had been reduced to nil by a local discretionary award should still be considered to be eligible for the grant.

How to access the scheme?

Fill out an online application form through the district council website relevant to your business/s:

If you have any query with this, please contact your relevant area office:

PLEASE NOTE: You should apply for this grant directly to the council, as above. We have been made aware of online offers to apply for the grant on behalf of organisations in return for a fee. This is not necessary and there is no advantage, only the loss of the fee.

Eligibility: To be eligible for a grant, companies and traders must have been liable for business rates on 11th March 2020. If this criteria is not met, there is no entitlement to relief.

Buckinghamshire Council update (May 22nd 2020): Buckinghamshire Council has paid out £76.6 million in coronavirus business grants to 5,868 small local businesses and businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. Buckinghamshire Council is processing applications as they are received and carrying out necessary checks to verify entitlement. Payments are then being made within five working days unless there are queries that require further clarification. New applications are arriving daily and the Buckinghamshire Council team is working hard to process the remaining requests as quickly as they can.

If you have a business and haven’t applied yet, you can check your eligibility and apply at: www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/businessgrant.

Read Buckinghamshire Council's FAQs on this grant funding.

Read the government guidance on the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant, which includes a Q&A on eligiblity and other factors of interest.

Grants will be provided in respect to each property (hereditament); therefore businesses with multiple outlets would receive more than one grant and may receive grants from separate local authorities.

Charities and benevolent and philanthropic organisations can apply for funding that seeks to address the consequences of COVID-19 for disadvantaged women and girls.

The Tampon Tax Fund can support projects which directly benefit disadvantaged women and girls, tackle violence and support their mental health and wellbeing.

Read more information here.

Community Impact Bucks has produced a COVID-19 webpage in order to filter and interpret the huge amount of available information to help local charities, voluntary and community groups, and social enterprises.

This includes guidance for groups organising the community support for people affected by COVID-19:

Heart of Bucks has compiled a list of funding, support and resources for:

  • charities
  • voluntary and community groups
  • individuals and families
  • sports
  • arts
  • young people
  • businesses

See this directory of support here.

Heart of Bucks is running a fundraising campaign, with the funds generated from the Bucks Coronavirus Response Appeal going to support people and charities in Buckinghamshire who are most affected and vulnerable at this time of crisis. Read more information here.

The Clare Foundation has collated a list of resources and support services for charities, businesses and people in the Buckinghamshire community who have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Read more information here.

LEAP is committed to helping to support the coaches, leaders, volunteers and organisations who make sport and activity happen across Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

LEAP has compiled a list of funding opportunities, advice and inspiration for deliverers, clubs and physical activity organisations.

Read more information here.

Action4Youth provides positive, often transformational experiences and activities which inspire children and young people. 

Visit their website for more information on the support they provide.

The Charity Excellence Framework has compiled a list of COVID-19 funding streams and toolkits available to access. Read more information here.

There is further information available here.

Guidance to help with running your charity during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Topic covered include:

  • Can our charity assist with COVID-19?
  • How do I get support to pay my charity staff?
  • Can I use reserves and restricted funds to help my charity through the crisis?
  • Can I cancel or postpone my charity’s AGM or other key meetings?
  • Can I use video, teleconferencing and the internet in place of face-to-face meetings?
  • What do I need to report to the Charity Commission?
  • Keeping people safe
  • Reporting accounts and finances

Read more information here.

Charities across the UK will receive a £750 million package of support to ensure they can continue their vital work during the coronavirus outbreak.

£360 million will be directly allocated by government departments to charities providing key services and supporting vulnerable people during the crisis.

£370 million will also be allocated for small and medium-sized charities, including through a grant to the National Lottery Community Fund for those in England.

The application system for the National Lottery Community Fund grant pot is expected to be operational in the coming weeks.

Read more information here.

Read about the plans of the Office of the Regulator of Community Interest Companies (CICs) to maintain services for CICs during the COVID-19 outbreak.

More information can be found here.

Grants of up to £10,000 to help smaller charitable organisations affected by COVID-19 are available. Organisations with a charitable purpose and charitable activities, which had an income of £1million or less in their last financial year, can apply. Read more information here.

Please note: as of April 8th 2020, applications for this fund had been paused. Keep checking the above link for further updates.

The Charities Aid Foundation also has a COVID-19 hub for the latest funding and resources to help charities and other social sector organisations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government has announced a £3 million fund for organisations redistributing safe surplus food to those who need it during the coronavirus outbreak.

All food redistribution businesses and charities will be encouraged to bid for grants over the coming month, including those whose volunteer programmes have been affected by social distancing measures or those that cannot access their usual commercial support network. Read more information here.
 

Other organisations also have resources that may help charities, voluntary organisations and volunteers during the COVID-19 crisis:

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has put together a £50 million fund to support the heritage sector as an immediate response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The £50m fund will be available for grants of between £3,000 and £50,000. It is available to organisations across the full breadth of heritage, including historic sites, industrial and maritime heritage, museums, libraries and archives, parks and gardens, landscapes and nature. Read more information here.

The Police Property Act Fund is a joint fund managed by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and the Chief Constable and is distributed to local community and voluntary groups.

The Fund is created from money recovered by the police and the proceeds from the sale of items that cannot be returned to identified owners, which includes seizures from criminals and is distributed twice a year.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Thames Valley Police brought forward the latest funding round to support organisations that are working with the local community and helping people through this challenging time.

Read more information here.

Buckinghamshire Council has set up a special fund to allow local councillors to support volunteer and community groups in their area by applying for grants for them.

Registered not-for-profit organisations and charities can apply for grants of up to £2,000. For groups who aren’t registered, the funding can be paid to the local parish or town council or a local charity on their behalf.

The grants are for groups helping to meet the needs of vulnerable residents or who are carrying out activity to enable people to stay at home, e.g. local groups delivering food.

You can only apply for the crisis funding through your local councillor. Find yours here.

Grants of up to £50,000 are now available for community-based organisations providing mental health services in England. Read more information here

Update: As of 13th May, applications for this fund had been paused. Keep checking the above link for any updates.


Health & wellbeing advice

Following the latest health, self-isolation and social distancing advice is crucial at this time, as is looking after your own physical and mental health.

Mental health and wellbeing is important 365 days of the year, with or without a pandemic or other crisis.

Employers are uniquely placed to identify challenges that their employees are going through, and to provide information and support to help them.

Business owners should never overlook their own mental health and wellbeing, and should take advantage of the same information and support.

Visit Buckinghamshire Business First's Workplace Wellbeing webpage for information and resources.

From May 28th 2020, anyone who tests positive for coronavirus in England will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will need to share information about their recent interactions. This could include household members, and people with whom they have been in direct contact or within 2 metres of 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.

There is specific guidance on the NHS Test and Trace service for employers, businesses, workers and the self-employed, which can be found here.

You can find further guidance on the service here.

The mental health charity Mind has a comprehensive list of support and advice for people at this time.

This information is for everyone. Please do read it if you can.

Government guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of COVID-19, including an easy-to-read guide to looking after your physical and mental health.

Visit the NHS website to read the following about COVID-19:

  • The symptoms
  • How to avoid catching it
  • What to do if you think you have it

Read the NHS guidance here >

Online NHS 111 COVID-19 service

Use the 111 online COVID-19 service if you think you have symptoms.

Read the government's stay at home guidance for those with possible COVID-19 infection.

Information and advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) regarding COVID-19.

Guidance for British people travelling and living overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

NHS COVID-19 App – advice to residents

The new NHS COVID-19 App has now launched. Individuals with smart-phones can download and use the App on a voluntary basis. Users will also be able to use the App to ‘check in’ at venues they visit, such as a pub, restaurant or a GP surgery.
The App works on an anonymous basis – it tracks the virus, not the user. Find out more and download the app www.covid19.nhs.uk


NHS COVID-19 App – advice to businesses

From Thursday 24 Sep if you run a business or organisation with a physical location that is open to the public, you should display a poster with a QR code for users of the NHS COVID-19 App to ‘check in’. To make and print your QR code poster please use this link

This list of venues that should display the QR codes includes:

  • All hospitality venues, like pubs, cafes and restaurants
  • All council buildings
  • Leisure and culture venues
  • Close contact’ businesses, like hair salons and nail bars
  • Places of worship
  • Community halls and venues

The best way to stay informed of the latest funding and support

Buckinghamshire Business First will be updating our members with all the latest information, support and funding available to businesses as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds. Our emails and newsletters will be a key source of information at this time.

If you are not already a member of Buckinghamshire Business First, please sign up here for free to ensure you don't miss out on information, support and funding.


Business FAQs

Our business support team are working really hard to support as many businesses as possible and have collated a list of frequently asked questions they are answering on a daily basis. Please take a look below to see if you can find the answers to your questions before contacting the team.

Please note: The information in our FAQs was correct at the time of writing. The information provided in our FAQs is provided without any warranty, assurance, representation or opinion as regards the content, and Buckinghamshire Business First is not responsible for any loss arising from action taken or not taken based on the answers provided. If your business is affected by COVID-19, you need to revert to your usual professional advisers when advice is required on the specific circumstances that apply to you and your business. Above all, you must stay within COVID-19 emergency laws and procedures laid down by government.

Government funding & finance

The government has announced the below funding will be available soon. We do not have further information at this point however we will update members via email and on this page when funding becomes available:

Cash grants of up to £3,000 per month for businesses which are closed:

Businesses in England that are forced to close due to national or local restrictions will receive up to £3,000 per month. This is worth over £1 billion a month with the new restrictions in place, and will benefit over 600,000 business premises.

90% of small and medium-sized business premises in the closed Retail, Hospitality and Leisure sectors should broadly have their monthly rent covered by these grants (based on VOA data on Rateable Values as the best proxy the government have for rent).

Local Authorities in England will receive one off funding of £1.1 billion:

Local Authorities in England will receive one off funding of £1.1 billion to support businesses more broadly over the coming months as a key part of local economies. They can use this at their discretion. This will be distributed to local authorities on the basis of c.£20/head of population. Some of this funding has already been provided to local areas that entered into Tier 3. 

Find and check your business rates valuation here >

If your property does not appear on the list, contact Valuation Office Agency at ndronline@voa.gsi.gov.uk or on 03000 501 501.

Insurance questions

The vast majority of business interruption insurance policies held by small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will not include cover for business losses caused by a pandemic, as it will be listed as an exclusion.

In a very small number of cases in which an SME has purchased a business interruption insurance policy with additional cover for a “notifiable disease”, and no pandemic exclusion, that SME may be covered now that the government has certified COVID-19 as a notifiable disease.

The terms and conditions of insurance policies can differ significantly, so SMEs should check their specific policy and contact their provider if in any doubt.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) have published a Q&A in relation to business insurance and COVID-19,

Apprenticeship questions

Many apprenticeship training providers are shutting their training centres and classrooms to students for an indefinite period.

We are getting regular feedback from our local providers, all of whom are adapting training delivery to make full use of technology such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Whatsapp etc.

Apprentices are being given work to complete, and regular contact with their assessor ensures learning is being tracked and captured.

Redundancy Support Service

If you are making an apprentice redundant or are planning to the redundancy support service is now available where apprentices can get free advice, find a new apprenticeship or job opportunities, and access local and national support services offering financial, health and wellbeing, legal and careers advice. Apprentices can either call 0800 015 0400 or visit the Redundancy Support Service online here >

No, absolutely not. An apprentice can recommence with another employer or have a ‘break in learning’, and there are circumstances where if the apprentice is close enough to completion, they can do so without an employer.

If you are making an apprentice redundant or are planning to the redundancy support service is now available where apprentices can get free advice, find a new apprenticeship or job opportunities, and access local and national support services offering financial, health and wellbeing, legal and careers advice. Apprentices can either call 0800 015 0400 or visit the Redundancy Support Service online here >

Firstly, they should follow Public Health England advice on how to respond in terms of self-isolation etc.

In terms of the apprenticeship, the Department for Education (DfE) made a statement on 9th March confirming that apprentices affected by COVID-19, either directly or indirectly, should be assisted through more flexible application of the rules on ‘breaks in learning’.

This also covers, for example, where an assessor is unable to carry out End Point Assessment (EPA) due to illness or other COVID-19 measures.
 

The Department for Education (DfE) is working with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) “to develop a comprehensive and complete set of measures that permit professional discretion so that individuals are protected and disruption is minimised, whilst safeguarding the quality of apprenticeships, should it not be possible to extend the length of an apprenticeship.”

They anticipate further announcements imminently. Read the full statement here
 

Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees and they can continue to train whilst furloughed.

However, you must pay your apprentices at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage (AMW/NLW/NMW) as appropriate for all the time they spend training. This means you must cover any shortfall between the amount you can claim for their wages through this scheme and their appropriate minimum wage.

If the apprentice is able to continue with their ‘off-the-job’ learning with their training provider, then it appears that the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) are content that they do not need to be put on a ‘break in learning’, which is the official process for putting an apprenticeship on hold.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has a dedicated webpage of support for CITB members, which includes support for apprentices.

They announced on 24th March 2020 that they would advance grant payments for second and third year apprentices who are already subject to CITB grant support. This could help firms to retain apprentices during this difficult period. Firms will also be able to access the Job Retention Scheme.

There is a dedicated section of the CITB website focused on a number of COVID-19 issues.
 

Government FAQs

The government website lists a series of business-related questions and answers on the subject of COVID-19.


Contact our Business Support Team

If you need to speak to one of our advisers, call 01494 927130 or email BusinessSupport@bbf.uk.com. Please be aware that our Business Support Team is supporting a large number of businesses at present and is extremely busy, but the team are working hard to deal with all enquiries.