COVID-19

For all businesses affected by COVID-19, please read the current support available below.

Local businesses offering support 

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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

Take a look at what support businesses are offering to each other and local communities at this time.
(Search by keywords like COVID or coronavirus)

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Can you offer support? If you are able to offer support to other businesses in this time, please fill out this form with details of what you can offer and a member of the team will be in touch when your offer is live on our website.

Buckinghamshire Recovery Investment Fund

Grants of between £3,000 and £120,000 are available to support businesses looking to invest in resilience, repurposing or recovery.

Find out more information here.


Quick links


Government funding and support schemes

The government has announced a package of measures to support businesses, including the below.

See also the government's Coronavirus Business Support homepage. This page helps businesses find out how to access the support that has been made available, who is eligible, when the schemes open and how to apply.

Use the government's business support finder to see what support is available for you and your business.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is changing.

From 1st July 2020, employers can bring back to work employees that have previously been furloughed. Employers will still be able to claim a grant for their normal hours not worked, but will be responsible for paying their wages for the hours they do work. Employees can return to work for any amount of time and pn any shift pattern.

From August 2020, the level of government grant provided through the Job Retention Scheme will begin to be reduced, with businesses asked to contribute an increasing share to ensure that those on furlough continue to receive 80% of their salary.

The scheme will close to new entrants from 30th June. From this point onwards, employers will only be able to furlough employees that they have furloughed for a full 3 week period prior to 30th June.

The final date by which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time will be 10th June, in order for the current 3 week furlough period to be completed by 30th June. Employers will have until 31st July to make any claims in respect of the period to 30th June.

Further guidance on flexible furloughing and how employers should calculate claims will be published on 12th June.

Find out more information on how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is changing.

How is the Job Retention Scheme changing over time?

The scheme updates mean that the following will apply for the period people are furloughed:

  • June and July: The government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500, as well as employer National Insurance and pension contributions. Employers are not required to pay anything.
  • August: The government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employers will pay employer National Insurance and pension contributions.
  • September: The government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50. Employers will pay employer National Insurance and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up the 80% total, up to a cap of £2,500
  • October: The government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay employer National Insurance and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up the 80% total, up to a cap of £2,500.

Read more information on the Job Retention Scheme.

National Insurance Contributions

The associated Employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage will also be covered. However, when making an application, businesses should only include the cost of their Employer’s National Insurance Contributions if they actually pay those contributions. If NICs are already covered by the £4,000 of tax relief through the Employment Allowance, and this relief brings your NICs contributions to zero, you should not add the NICs amount to your grant claim. If you do, you may have to pay money back to HMRC.

How to make a claim now

HMRC has produced a step-by-step guide which explains the information that employers need to provide to HMRC to make a claim through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). Read this guide here.

Decide whether you want to make your own claim or if you want your agent to act on your behalf - if you have an agent that has authorisation to act for you on PAYE matters, they can make a claim for CJRS on your behalf.

To make a claim, you will need:

  • to be registered for PAYE online
  • the Government Gateway user ID and password you got when you registered for PAYE online.
  • your UK bank account number and sort code
  • your employer PAYE scheme reference number
  • the number of employees being furloughed
  • each employee’s National Insurance number
  • each employee’s payroll or employee number (optional)
  • the start date and end date of the claim
  • the full amount you’re claiming for including employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum pension contributions
  • your phone number
  • contact name

You also need to provide either:

  • your name (or the employer’s name if you’re an agent)
  • your Corporation Tax unique taxpayer reference
  • your Self Assessment unique taxpayer reference
  • your company registration number

If you’re putting more than 100 employees on furlough

If you’re claiming for more than 100 furloughed employees, you’ll need to upload a file containing each employee's:

  • full name
  • National Insurance number
  • payroll number (optional)
  • furlough start date
  • furlough end date (if known)
  • full amount claimed

If you want an agent to act for you

If you use an agent who is authorised to act for you for PAYE purposes, they will be able to make a claim on your behalf.

If you use a file only agent (who files your RTI return but doesn’t act for you on any other matters) they won’t be authorised to make a claim for you and you will need to make the claim yourself. Your file only agent can assist you in obtaining the information you need to claim (which is listed above).

If an agent makes a claim on your behalf, you will need to tell them which bank account you would like the grant to be paid into.

Check your eligibility

Find out if you’re eligible and how much you can claim to cover wages for employees on furlough due to COVID-19.

Work out 80% of your employees' wages to claim through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Find out how to calculate 80% of your employee’s wages, National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions if you've furloughed staff due to COVID-19.

After you’ve claimed

Once you’ve claimed, you’ll get a claim reference number. HMRC will then check that your claim is correct and pay the claim amount by Bacs into your bank account within 6 working days.

You must:

  • keep a copy of all records, including:
  1. the amount claimed and claim period for each employee
  2. the claim reference number for your records (businesses are advised to keep a note or print-out of the claim reference number as you won’t receive a confirmation SMS or email)
  3. your calculations in case HMRC need more information about your claim
  • tell your employees that you have made a claim and that they do not need to take any more action
  • pay your employee their wages, if you have not already

HMRC make the following requests:

"Only call us if you can't find what you need on gov.uk - please, wherever possible, leave the phone lines open for those who need us most. All applications will be processed online. After a claim has been submitted it will take six working days for it to be paid – please do not chase up payment during this time.

"Employees should speak to their employers with any questions, not HMRC. We won’t be able to answer queries from individual employees."

Through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, open to any employer in the country, companies and organisations will be able to apply for a grant from HMRC to cover the wages of people who would otherwise have been laid off due to COVID-19-related shutdowns. These people would be classified as furloughed workers. This would mean that they are kept on their employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off.

Who can claim? You must have:

Any entity with a UK payroll can apply, including businesses, charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities.

Which employees are eligible under the scheme?

You can claim for furloughed employees that were employed as of 19th March 2020 and were on your PAYE payroll on or before that date. This means that you will have made an RTI submission notifying HMRC of payment of that employee on or before 19th March 2020.

Employees that were employed as of 28th February 2020 and on payroll (i.e. notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 28th February) and were made redundant or stopped working for you after that, and prior to 19th March 2020, can also qualify for the scheme if you re-employ them and put them on furlough.

The scheme will cover 80% of the monthly wage costs of the retained workers, up to £2,500 per month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage, provided they keep the worker employed. (The scheme also covers employees who have been made redundant since 28th February 2020, if they are rehired by their employer.)

The government will also cover the employer national insurance and minimum auto-enrollment pension scheme contributions employers pay on the wages they must pay their furloughed staff – on top of the wages covered under the scheme.

This funding will be open to all employers with a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 19th March 2020, including charities. The scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to 1st March 2020, if applicable.

You will also need to:

  • designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers' and notify your employees of this change. To be eligible for the grant, employers must confirm in writing to their employee confirming that they have been furloughed. A record of this communication must be kept for five years. Changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation.

Those who are furloughed:

  • may undertake other employment while their current employer has placed them on furlough, including seasonal work
  • will need to be able to return to work for the employer that has placed them on furlough if they decide to stop furloughing them, and must be able to undertake any training the employer requires while on furlough
  • can be on any type of employment contract, including full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero-hour contracts
  • must be furloughed for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks
  • must not continue working in the job they have been furloughed in, even on reduced hours or for reduced pay (however, someone with two jobs can be furloughed in one job and receive a furloughed payment but continue working for another employer and receive their normal wages in that second role).
  • will be permitted to volunteer without risking their pay
  • can include any of the following, if they are paid via PAYE: office holders (including company directors), salaried members of Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs), agency workers (including those employed by umbrella companies, and limb (b) workers

Apprenticeships and furloughing

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

HMRC has a dedicated helpline at 0800 0159 559.

Your employees can check if they are eligible for the Job Retention Scheme here.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants has published its understanding of the policy and how it will work. Read this guidance here.

The Bounce Back Loans scheme provides loans of up to £50,000 to ensure that small firms that need vital cash injections to keep operating can get finance in a matter of days.

The scheme is now open for applications.

You cannot apply if you’re already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), though you could transfer CBILS funding to this new scheme. Read below for more details.

Key headlines of the Bounce Back Loans scheme:

  • businesses will be able to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 and access the cash within days
  • loans will be interest free for the first 12 months
  • businesses can apply online through a short and simple form

Further details of the scheme:

  • the government will provide lenders with a 100% guarantee for the loan and pay any fees and interest for the first 12 months.
  • loan terms will be up to 6 years.
  • no repayments will be due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan.
  • the scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders.
  • the loans will be easy to apply for through a short, standardised online application. The loan should reach businesses within days.

Eligibility

You can apply for a loan if your business:

  • is based in the UK
  • has been negatively affected by coronavirus
  • was not an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31st December 2019

Who cannot apply

The following businesses are not eligible to apply:

  • banks, insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
  • public-sector bodies
  • further-education establishments, if they are grant-funded
  • state-funded primary and secondary schools

Read more information on the Bounce Back Loan scheme here.

If you’re already claiming funding under CBILS

If you’ve already received a loan of up to £50,000 under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and would like to transfer it into the Bounce Back Loan scheme, you can arrange this with your lender until 4th November 2020.

The government has extended the CBILS so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible should they need finance to keep operating during this difficult time.

The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) supports SMEs with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to six years.

The government will make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to pre-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs.

The government is also stopping lenders from requesting personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 and making operational changes to speed up lending approvals. The Big Four banks (Barclays, HSB, Lloyds, RBS) had already agreed to not take personal guarantees as security for lending below £250,000.

Read the specific guidance provided for businesses.

Eligibility: You are eligible for the scheme if:

your business is UK based, with turnover of no more than £45 million per year

your business meets the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria

How to access this scheme: The scheme is delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the government-owned British Business Bank. There are 40 accredited lenders able to offer this scheme, including all the major banks - see the full list here.

In order to access the scheme, businesses should contact their finance provider, not the British Business Bank. You can find out the latest on the best ways to contact them via their websites. Please note that branches may currently be shut down to enable social distancing.

The decision on whether to offer finance is taken by each individual lender, not by the government. Businesses remain responsible for repaying any borrowing that they take out.

If you have an existing loan with monthly repayments you may want to ask for a repayment holiday to help with cash flow.

Whether other lenders outside of the Big Four banks require a personal guarantee for a loan through this scheme is at the discretion of the lender. However, a lender is not allowed to take a personal guarantee against a borrower's principle residence under the scheme. So even if a personal guarantee is required under the lender's credit policy, it cannot be taken against the borrower's home.

We are aware that many charities will not qualify for the Business Interruption Loan Scheme unless trade is over 50% of all revenue.

Further details are also available on the government website.

Please speak to your accountant or a qualified business financial adviser before progressing.

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme is now live.

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 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

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:

  • are claiming for an employee who’s eligible for sick pay due to coronavirus
  • had a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28th February 2020
  • had fewer than 250 employees on 28th February 2020

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.


Local Authority grant schemes

Buckinghamshire Council is delivering the below grant schemes to support businesses.

The launch of the Local Authority Small Business Discretionary Fund has been delayed until the week of June 1st 2020 due to changes in government guidance.

As soon as the fund is live, you will be able to download the application form on the Discretionary Grant Fund page.

The fund is being delivered by Buckinghamshire Council.

 

Grants of up to £10,000 will be delivered by Buckinghamshire Council to small and micro businesses that need help with ongoing fixed building-related costs such as rent, utilities and broadband.

This is called the Local Authority Small Business Discretionary Grant, and aims to support businesses that were not eligible for the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Grant Fund.

How much money will be available?

This is a top-up fund and Buckinghamshire Council has capped the amount payable in a single claim to a maximum of £10,000. The council can also make payments lower than £10,000 where evidence suggests that is appropriate.

When will the fund be available?

The fund will be open to accept applications from the week of June 1st 2020.

You will be able to download the application form on this webpage: https://bbf.uk.com/discretionary-grants

Who can apply?

Businesses must be a small or micro business with under 50 employees as defined by the Companies Act 2006 and must have been trading on 11th March 2020.

Applicants must also be able to demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop of income due to Coronavirus restriction measures.

Who is eligible?

It is expected that demand for these grants will be exceptionally high, and as such, priority will be given to:

  • Small businesses in shared offices or other flexible workspaces. Examples could  include units in industrial parks, science parks and incubators that do not have their own business rates assessment;
  • Regular market traders with fixed building costs, such as rent, who do not have their own business rates assessment;
  • Bed & Breakfasts that pay Council Tax instead of business rates; and
  • Charity properties in receipt of charitable business rates relief that would otherwise have been eligible for Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief.

If your businesses is not on the above list, you may still apply and will need to supply evidence it falls into one of the following categories:

  • Businesses that occupy property, or part of a property, with a rateable value or annual rent or annual mortgage payments below £51,000
  • Businesses that can demonstrate that they have suffered a significant fall in income due to the COVID-19 crisis
  • Businesses with fewer than 50 employees, turnover of not more than £10.2 million, and a balance sheet of not more than £5.1 million
  • Businesses that were trading on or before 11th March 2020

More information and how to apply

For further information, visit the Local Authority Small Business Discretionary Grants page.

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.

There is still millions of pounds available to businesses that haven’t applied and could be eligible – are you one of them?

If you have a business and haven’t applied yet, you can check your eligibility and apply at: www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/businessgrant. New applications are arriving daily and the Buckinghamshire Council team is working hard to process the remaining requests as quickly as they can.

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.

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: Businesses 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 a business 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.

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.

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.

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.

There is still millions of pounds available to businesses that haven’t applied and could be eligible – are you one of them?

If you have a business and haven’t applied yet, you can check your eligibility and apply at: www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/businessgrant. New applications are arriving daily and the Buckinghamshire Council team is working hard to process the remaining requests as quickly as they can.

A £10,000 grant will be provided to businesses with a property that on the 11th March 2020 were eligible for small business rate relief (SBRR) or rural rate relief, or those with a Rateable Value between £12,000 and £15,000 which receive tapered relief.

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:

Read Buckinghamshire Council's FAQs on this grant funding.

PLEASE NOTE: Businesses 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 a business 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 will suspend direct debit transactions for April 2020, so no direct debits will be collected.

Read the government guidance on the Small Business Grant Fund, 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.

Check if your business premises are eligible for small business rate relief

Information on business premises eligible for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) can be found on district council websites:


How to work safely in your workplace - government guidance

Read the below advice designed to help employers and the self-employed understand how to work safely and help them prepare for a return to their workplaces in a safe manner.

The government has produced guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

There are 8 guides that cover a range of different types of work:

  • Construction and other outdoor work
  • Factories, plants and warehouses
  • Labs and research facilities
  • Offices and contact centres
  • Other people's homes
  • Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
  • Shops and branches
  • Vehicles

Read this guidance here.

Webinars to help you make your workplace COVID-secure

A series of free webinars, hosted by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), will explain how to make your workplace COVID-secure.

There are webinars specifically for each of the above types of workplaces. See the full list of webinars here.

Who is allowed to work in their workplaces as of May 13th 2020?

Please note: You must not reopen if your business is closed under current government rules. Check if your business or venue can open.

The government states: "In the first instance, employers should make every effort to support working from home, including by providing suitable IT and equipment as they have been already.

"Where work can only be done in the workplace, we have set out tailored guidelines for employers to help protect their workforce and customers from coronavirus while still continuing to trade or getting their business back up and running."

Read more guidance on who the government advises can go back to work in workplaces.

Cleaning workplaces

Government guidance covers the cleaning of environments, including:

  • workplaces
  • offices
  • waiting rooms
  • hotel rooms
  • student accommodation
  • boarding schools

The guidance outlines the cleaning required, the appropriate disposal of materials, the cleaning of equipment and hard surfaces, and the personal protective equipment (PPE) that should be worn. Read the guidance here.

Social distancing in the workplace

Read government guidance on social distancing in the workplace.

Risk assessment

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has resources to help businesses conduct risk assessments of their workplaces.

Workers' rights during COVID-19 outbreak

Information on what employers should and should not do with regards to their employees and a safe return to work.

The government has outlined five main steps businesses should take before reopening to ensure it is safe for staff, customers and visitors.

Read the five steps here.

Make sure you read all the guides relevant to your workplace. Each guide has specific actions for businesses to take based on these steps.

Read the guides specific to your workplace here.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published guidance along with the Department for Transport to reassure drivers and to remind businesses of their obligations to provide suitable toilet and hand washing facilities to drivers visiting their premises.

Businesses that make or receive deliveries must ensure that drivers have easy and safe access to toilets and hand washing facilities to support their health and wellbeing whilst carrying out their work.

Read the guidance for businesses 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 employers, businesses, workers and 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.


Which businesses can reopen? - government guidance

Government guidance on which businesses can reopen and when, and what measures they should take to ensure the safety of staff, customers and visitors.

Please note: You must not reopen if your business is closed under current government rules. Check if your business or venue can open.

The government has announced that:

  • Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1st June 2020, as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers.
  • All other non-essential retail including shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios and indoor markets, will be expected to be able to reopen from 15th June 2020 if the Government’s five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines.

Businesses will only be able to open from these dates once they have completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks. They must have taken the necessary steps to become COVID-19 secure in line with the current Health and Safety legislation.

Updated guidance for the retail sector has been published, detailing the measures retailers should take to meet the necessary social distancing and hygiene standards. Read this guidance here.

The government says that:

"Measures that shops should consider include placing a poster in their windows to demonstrate awareness of the guidance and commitment to safety measures, storing returned items for 72 hours before putting them back out on the shop floor, placing protective coverings on large items touched by the public such as beds or sofas, and frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, including self-checkouts, trolleys, coffee machines and betting terminals, for example."


Further support and advice for businesses

Support for businesses from a range of sources can be found below.

The Prince’s Trust and NatWest Enterprise Relief Fund totals £5 million and will offer grants to 18 to 30-year olds across the UK who are self-employed and/or running their own business. In conjunction with cash grants, the initiative will offer one-to-one support and guidance to anyone who needs it and who may be worried about their future. Read more information here.

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.

A new online learning platform to help boost the nation’s skills while people are staying at home has been launched.

Free courses are available through a new online platform hosted on the gov.uk website, called The Skills Toolkit. The new platform gives people access to free, high-quality digital and numeracy courses to help build up their skills, progress in work and boost their job prospects.

These are the skills which are highly valued by employers and sought after in a wide range of jobs. With more people expected to be working and studying remotely in the coming months, the platform offers a great opportunity to learn new skills to help to get ahead online.

The platform also offers employees who have been furloughed an opportunity to keep up their skills development while they are at home.

Courses on offer cover things from everyday maths and tools for using email and social media more effectively at work, to digital marketing and learning how to code.

All courses are online and flexible, so people can work through them at their own pace.

Read more information here.

All businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector will not be required to pay business rates between 1st April 2020 and 31st March 2021. This includes shops, pubs, theatres, music venues, restaurants and bingo halls. It also includes estate agents and letting agents. This discount applies to all of these businesses regardless of their size or rateable value.

Properties that will benefit are those that are wholly or mainly being used:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
  • for assembly and leisure
  • as hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation

How to access the scheme: You do not need to do anything. This will apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill automatically to exclude the business rate charge. They will do this as soon as possible.

Buckinghamshire Council will suspend direct debit transactions for April and May 2020, so no direct debits will be collected.

Read Buckinghamshire Council's FAQs on this business rates holiday.

You can estimate the business rate charge you will no longer have to pay this year using the business rates calculator.

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.

Government will support businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for three months. For VAT, the deferral will apply from 20th March 2020 until 30th June 2020.

Eligibility - all UK businesses are eligible.

How to access the scheme? This is an automatic offer with no applications required. Businesses will not need to make a VAT payment during this period. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020 to 2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) has published advice for UK businesses that export or deliver goods and services abroad and have been impacted by the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Read this guidance here.

It includes:

  • DIT support for UK business trading internationally
  • financial support for business trading internationally (if a business is facing disruption due to late payments, UK Export Finance can ease cash flow constraints by guaranteeing bank loans through its Export Working Capital Scheme)

DIT can support businesses by:

  • providing assistance with customs authorities to ensure smooth clearance of their products
  • offering advice on intellectual property and other issues with business continuity

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.

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.

Companies House have announced that businesses will be given an additional three months to file accounts to help companies avoid penalties as they deal with the impacts of COVID-19.

As part of the agreed measures, while companies will still have to apply for the three month extension to be granted, those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take just 15 minutes to complete.

Full guidance on applying for an extension can be found here.

Companies House will temporarily pause the strike off process to prevent companies being dissolved. This will give businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak the time they need to update their records and help them avoid being struck off the register.

In addition, companies issued with a late filing penalty due to COVID-19 will have appeals treated sympathetically. Read more information here.
 

The government will set out measures so that pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways to serve people having to stay at home. The measures will be introduced as soon as possible and will apply for a limited period. Read more information on this here.

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction. These measures will mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30th June 2020. There is the option for the government to extend this period if needed.

This is not a rental holiday. All commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent.

Eligibility - all commercial tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are eligible.

How to access the scheme? No action is required. The change will come into force when the Coronavirus Bill receives Royal Assent.

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.

Buckinghamshire Council will suspend direct debit transactions for April 2020, so no direct debits will be collected.

Business rates holiday will be introduced for nurseries in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

Eligibility: You are eligible for the business rates holiday if your business is based in England

Properties that will benefit from the relief will be those:

  • occupied by providers on Ofsted’s Early Years Register
  • wholly or mainly used for the provision of the Early Years Foundation Stage

How to access the scheme? There is no action for you. This will apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill to exclude the business rate charge. They will do this as soon as possible.

You can estimate the business rate charge you will no longer have to pay this year using this business rates calculator.

The government has produced guidance on the types of businesses and premises that must now close.

Read the full list and further guidance on this here.

These closures are now enforceable by law due to the threat to public health. These measures will be reviewed by government every 28 days.

For those allowed to stay open: employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able to follow Public Health England guidelines including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).

Stay at home FAQs for businesses

The government has produced a series of FAQs for businesses with questions about the these closures. Read these FAQs here.

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.

The government has produced guidance for food businesses with regards to:

  • food hygeine
  • food packaging
  • cleaning and waste disposal
  • managing employee sickness

There is also guidance for:

  • takeaways and restaurants offering a pick-up service
  • outdoor food markets'famers markets
  • staff canteens/work areas
  • food processing plants
  • supermarkets

Read this guidance here.

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.

Government guidance and advice for those providing hotel and other accommodation in the UK has been published. Read the guidance here.

Businesses providing holiday accommodation (including hotels, hostels, B&Bs, campsites, caravan parks, boarding houses and short term lets) should now take steps to close for commercial use as quickly as is safely possible.

Full consideration should be given to the possible exclusions for residents that should be allowed to remain.

What the exclusions mean: Hotels and other accommodation providers should be able to remain open in the following examples:

  • They are part of the response to support key workers or vulnerable groups.
  • There is a specific need for some or all of the site to remain open (for example they are housing people who have been flooded out of their homes, being used by public services to provide emergency accommodation or are not able to return to their primary residence).
  • If businesses are providing rooms to support homeless people, through arrangements with local authorities and other public bodies, they should remain open.
  • If a holiday park or caravan park is your primary residence you can remain on site.

Read the letter regarding the exemption for hotels, hostels and B&Bs to open so they can offer accommodation to key workers and support rough sleepers to keep them off the streets and in suitable accommodation.

Any decision to close should be implemented in full compliance with the social distancing guidelines.

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.

Arts Council England is offering individuals and organisations working in the cultural sector new financial support during this crisis, totalling £160 million.

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 also provided information on a range of other 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 will introduce 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.

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.

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 produced guidance for Ofsted-registered childcare providers for children of all ages, including: childminders, nurseries and wraparound childcare, before and after-school clubs and holiday clubs. The guidance does not cover nannies or au pairs, as they work in the child/children’s family home. Read this guidance here.

Find out about temporary changes to customs policy and authorisations to assist businesses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

These changes may affect you if you are authorised or applying to be authorised by customs to:

  • use temporary storage or customs special procedures such as inward processing or customs warehousing
  • use simplified declarations such as entry in your records
  • have a guarantee
  • operate as an Authorised Economic Operator

The construction industry has worked to develop Site Operating Procedures (SOP), which were published by the Construction Leadership Council. Read this guidance here.

Joint pledge to continue vital building safety work during pandemic

Essential safety work to replace unsafe cladding on high-rise buildings will continue during the COVID-19 emergency. Read more on this here.

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:

  • seller protection - accounts will not be downgraded if there are delays or interruptions to deliveries
  • the option to defer most selling fees for eligible registered business sellers
  • refunds on shop subscriptions if a seller has to shut down their eBay shop for an extended period of time
  • no fees to list or sell items until 31st May 2020 for new businesses registering on ebay.co.uk from 26th March 2020

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.

A government-backed loan scheme for large businesses affected by coronavirus has been expanded to cover all viable firms.

Through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loans Scheme (CLBILS), firms with a turnover of more than £45 million can borrow up to £25 million from lenders. Firms with a turnover of more than £250 million can borrow up to £50 million from lenders.

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance.

The scheme will be available through a series of accredited lenders, which will be listed on the British Business Bank website. It is scheduled to launch on Monday 20th April 2020.

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.

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.

Government guidance sets out the financial support that is available for different types of education, early years and children’s social care providers in England. Read this guidance here.

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.

The Jeweller Support Network, which is made up of leading industry associations, aims to provide jewellery business and brands with access to relevant resources, links and business insights. Read more information here.

Facebook is offering $100 million (approx. £84 million) in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries where they operate.

Facebook is working through eligibility details for businesses in the UK.

Businesses can sign up for updates via a link on this page. (Scroll down to the 'How do I apply?' section and click on 'See eligible areas and apply')

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.


Support for the self-employed

Please find advice and support for self-employed people affected by COVID-19.

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has been extended.

If you have not yet claimed a grant through the scheme, you must make your first claim on or before 13th July 2020. This is a taxable grant of 80% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months, and capped at £7,500 altogether.

Second grant now available through SEISS

You’ll now also be able to make a claim for a second and final grant in August 2020. The online service for the second and final grant is not available yet, but further information will be released on the government's SEISS webpage.

If you’re eligible, the second and final grant will be a taxable grant worth 70% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering a further 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

How to make a claim

Claims can be made through the government's SEISS webpage.

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

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.

Not filed your 2018-19 tax return yet? 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.

Read the government's FAQs for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme.

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.

HMRC has published guidance on the scheme here. This guidance will continue to be updated.

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.

The launch of the Local Authority Small Business Discretionary Fund has been delayed until the week of June 1st 2020 due to changes in government guidance.

As soon as the fund is live, you will be able to download the application form on the Discretionary Grant Fund page.

The fund is being delivered by Buckinghamshire Council.

 

Businesses that are eligible for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) are also eligible to apply for the Discretionary Grants scheme.

Grants of up to £10,000 will be delivered by Buckinghamshire Council to small and micro businesses that need help with ongoing fixed building-related costs such as rent, utilities and broadband.

This is called the Local Authority Small Business Discretionary Grant, and aims to support businesses that were not eligible for the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Grant Fund.

How much money will be available?

This is a top-up fund and Buckinghamshire Council has capped the amount payable in a single claim to a maximum of £10,000. The council can also make payments lower than £10,000 where evidence suggests that is appropriate.

When will the fund be available?

The fund will be open to accept applications from Thursday 28th May 2020.

You will be able to download the application form on this webpage: https://bbf.uk.com/discretionary-grants

Who can apply?

Businesses must be a small or micro business with under 50 employees as defined by the Companies Act 2006 and must have been trading on 11th March 2020.

Applicants must also be able to demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop of income due to Coronavirus restriction measures.

Who is eligible?

It is expected that demand for these grants will be exceptionally high, and as such, priority will be given to:

  • Small businesses in shared offices or other flexible workspaces. Examples could  include units in industrial parks, science parks and incubators that do not have their own business rates assessment;
  • Regular market traders with fixed building costs, such as rent, who do not have their own business rates assessment;
  • Bed & Breakfasts that pay Council Tax instead of business rates; and
  • Charity properties in receipt of charitable business rates relief that would otherwise have been eligible for Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief.

If your businesses is not on the above list, you may still apply and will need to supply evidence it falls into one of the following categories:

  • Businesses that occupy property, or part of a property, with a rateable value or annual rent or annual mortgage payments below £51,000
  • Businesses that can demonstrate that they have suffered a significant fall in income due to the COVID-19 crisis
  • Businesses with fewer than 50 employees, turnover of not more than £10.2 million, and a balance sheet of not more than £5.1 million
  • Businesses that were trading on or before 11th March 2020

More information and how to apply

For further information, visit the Local Authority Small Business Discretionary Grants page.

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.

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.

If you’re self-employed, Income Tax Self-Assessment due on the 31st July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

How to access the scheme?

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return.

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.)

Reforms to off-payroll working rules have been delayed by 12 months as part of the government’s COVID-19 economic response package.

The rules will now come into effect on 6th April 2021 instead of 6th April 2020.

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.

More information can be found here.

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.


Webinars and videos in support of your business

We have pulled together a list of the free 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 free webinar that provides COVID-19-related support to other businesses, please fill out this form to submit the details and a member of the team will be in touch when your event is live on the website.

A series of free webinars, hosted by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), will explain how to make your workplace COVID-secure.

There are webinars specifically for:

  • Offices and contact centres - for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments
  • Construction and other outdoor work - for people who work in or run outdoor working environments
  • Factories, plants and warehouses - for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses
  • Shops and branches - for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments
  • Other people's homes - for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people's homes
  • Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery - for people who work in or run restaurants offering takeaway or delivery services
  • Vehicles - for people who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar
  • Labs and research facilities - for people who work in or run indoor labs and research facilities and similar environments

See the full list of webinars here.

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.

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 will provide loans to innovative UK-based companies that are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The loans will 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 grants

Up to £90 million is available in continuity grants, paid upfront, to SMEs and third sector organisations who are existing Innovate UK award holders and who are at risk of abandoning their project due to a sudden shortage or even unavailability of funds directly related to COVID-19.

These grants are for eligible organisations that expect to have a funding gap (between £25,000 and £250,000) in the remaining period of their project because they are facing loss or damages, such as reduced access to capital, cancelled orders or increases to costs, and are therefore seeing cashflow disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Continuity grants are available until 29th May 2020.

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.

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 launching a rolling call for proposals for rapid research into COVID-19.

As this is a rolling call, there is currently no fixed end date to the call. 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.

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.

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. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own lists and criteria. See more information on:

Wales
Northern Ireland
Scotland

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested#who-can-be-tested

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. Take a look below.

Do you have a specific need? Take a look at what support businesses are offering to each other and local communities at this time. (Search by keywords like COVID or coronavirus)

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.

Can you offer support? If you are able to offer support to other businesses in this time, please fill out this form with details of what you can offer and a member of the team will be in touch when your offer is live on our website.

The government has set up a service for business to reach out with offers of help in the response to COVID-19.

The support needed includes things like:

  • medical testing equipment
  • medical equipment design
  • protective equipment for healthcare workers, such as masks, gowns and sanitiser
  • hotel rooms
  • transport and logistics, for moving goods or people
  • manufacturing equipment
  • warehouse or office space, for medical use or storage
  • expertise or support on IT, manufacturing, construction, project management, procurement or engineering
  • social care or childcare

Find out more information here >

The Office for Product Safety and Standards has published guidance for small businesses and individuals wanting to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) that will protect against COVID-19. Read this guidance here.

Guidance for businesses seeking to help voluntary, community, and social enterprise organisations during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read this guidance here.

Find out about the changes to exporting personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic.

Update: Goods exported from the European Union after midnight on Monday 25th May 2020 no longer require an export authorisation.

Find out how to pay no import duty and VAT on protective equipment, relevant medical devices or equipment brought into the UK from non-EU countries during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Read more information here.

The government has provided guidance on the type of seasonal work people can do on farms, who can apply, and where to find work.

If you are on furlough from your job, you can apply for seasonal work as long as your job contract says you can do other work. You’ll still be entitled to receive 80% of your usual wages from the government.

Read more information on seasonal work on farms.

Pick For Britain campaign

Pick For Britain helps bring workers and employers together to help fill the wide range of roles available on UK fruit & veg farms. Roles include pickers and packers, plant husbandry and tractor or forklift drivers.

Read more information here.

Urgent appeal for people to work on farms

Labour provider Hops Labour Solutions has said seasonal workers are urgently needed to help pick and process fruit and vegetables on farms and in packhouses.

It has launched a new scheme with the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, encouraging people to apply for jobs on farms.

Read more informartion, incuding how to apply, here.

Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust has an immediate and urgent need for the below:

  • Industrial coveralls
  • Laboratory / white coats

These need to be:

  • Adult-sized
  • Kitemarked liquid repellent
  • Long-sleeved

These need to be immediately available, not to be future manufactured.

Anybody that has any overalls / coats available should contact Neil Macdonald at neil.macdonald4@nhs.net and drop them at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Forms for organisations that can manufacture and supply testing consumables, equipment and laboratory PPE as part of the coronavirus (COVID-19) response.

The government is looking for businesses to support in the production and supply of ventilators and ventilator components.

As well as manufacturers, it is seeking businesses with the following skills:

  • design/specification
  • rapid prototyping
  • contract/product assembly
  • certification/regulation/testing
  • logistics
  • medical training

If you believe your business can help, please register your interest here.

The government want to hear from companies that can manufacture and supply consumables and equipment for coronavirus testing, in particular test kits (such as nose and throat swabs, transport media and vials) and RNA extraction lab consumables (such as reagents, plates and pipette tips). Businesses can fill in an online form here.

Forms and guidance on what manufacturers need to do to place COVID-19 test kits on the market.

The NHS is “rallying the troops” for the war on coronavirus, with volunteers being called up to help vulnerable people stay safe and well at home.

NHS Volunteer Responders has been set up to support the NHS and the care sector during the COVID-19 outbreak. To do this they need an 'army' of volunteers who can support the 1.5m people in England who are at most risk from the virus to stay well.

Members of the public can sign up here.

Ways you can help:

  • Community Response volunteer - collecting shopping, medication or other essential supplies for someone who is self-isolating, and delivering these supplies to their home.
  • Patient Transport volunteer - supporting the NHS by providing transport to patients who are medically fit for discharge, and ensuring that they are settled safely back in to their home.
  • NHS Transport volunteer - transporting equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites. This role may also involve assisting pharmacies with medication delivery.
  • Check-in and Chat volunteer: This role provides short-term telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness as a consequence of self-isolation.

HMRC has produced guidance on temporary changes to the use and supply of denatured alcohol and duty-free spirits to help businesses who produce hand sanitiser and gel.

All guidance on the production and supply of hand sanitiser can be found here.
 

SEHTA has complied a catalogue of offers from companies that can offer support by supplying ventilators, respirators, PPE, screening, monitoring, digital health tech, etc. The full list can be found here.
 

The One Can Trust food bank in High Wycombe needs 12,000 bags for life for emergency food parcels

If you can donate any, please visit the One Can Trust website.

Businesses across the UK are using crowdfunding to ask people to donate to keep their businesses open post-COVID-19 – examples include music venues, coffee shops and pubs. Some businesses have used the term “pay it forward”, meaning the customer makes a donation and receives a voucher to use once the venue is open again. One example is through Crowdfunder.
 

The government wants help from organisations with laboratory capability to increase the testing programme in the UK as part of its strategy to protect the NHS and save lives. Read more information here.

From 1st May 2020, PPE purchased by care homes, businesses, charities and individuals to protect against COVID-19 will be free from VAT for a three-month period. Read more information here.

The government has waived import taxes on vital medical equipment including ventilators, coronavirus testing kits and protective clothing. Read more information 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.

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.


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

Answers to questions about the Small Business Grant Fund and the grant for those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector.

Most businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors and those receiving Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief will receive a grant as follows:

  • Eligible properties with a rateable value of £15,000 or less will receive a £10,000 grant
  • Eligible properties with a rateable value of more than £15,000 and up to £51,000 will receive a £25,000 grant

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.

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: Businesses 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 a business in return for a fee. This is not necessary and there is no advantage, only the loss of the fee.

Buckinghamshire Council update (April 14th 2020): Buckinghamshire Council has paid out almost £36 million in coronavirus business grants to more than 2,700 small local businesses and businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. Businesses will start to see this arrive in their bank accounts over the next few days as it takes the banks a couple of days to process. 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.

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.

Buckinghamshire Council statement on April 2nd 2020:

"As you will know, most businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors and those receiving Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief are eligible for a government grant to help them through the coronavirus crisis.

"We know that this is critical for your business and will be sending out letters to businesses tomorrow (Friday 3rd April) with the link to the online application form.

"We will then process these applications and expect to start making payments next week (w/c April 6th) as forms are returned."

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.

If you work from home, you are unlikely to pay business rates. That is unless you’ve specifically stated this to your local authority. If so, you are likely to be in receipt of small business rate relief (SBRR) and the relevant paperwork. See these links for more information:

How to access the £10k and £25k grant schemes?

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:

You should be able to confirm whether you pay business rates or not, or are in receipt of the reduced rates through the SBRR, as you will have received a Rate Bill from your local authority.

If you work from home and do not pay business rates or receive the SBRR, then you are unable to claim the £10k grant.

Buckinghamshire Council sent letters to those eligible for the grants, as well as emails to those whose details they have.

You can pay for Post Office redirection to your home address.

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.

Job Retention Scheme (JRS)

The purpose of the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) is to keep workers in employment, but in a non-working capacity. This is commonly referred to as ‘furloughing’.

Companies and organisations will be able to apply for a grant from HMRC to cover the wages of people who would otherwise have been laid off due to COVID-19-related shutdowns. It will cover 80% of the salaries of these retained workers, up to £2,500 per month.

The JRS enables an employee who may otherwise be at risk of redundancy to remain on company payroll, with their employer able to claim back 80% of their salary costs from the government, capped at £2,500 per month.
 

Furloughed employees must have been on a company’s PAYE payroll on 28th February 2020, and can be on any type of contract, including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts

The scheme also covers employees who have been made redundant since 28th February 2020, if they are rehired by their employer.

80% of an employee’s regular wage up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that subsidised wage. More guidance will be issued on how employers should calculate their claims for Employer National Insurance Contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions before the scheme becomes live.

If you pay yourself a monthly salary and are registered via PAYE (Pay As You Earn), you are eligible for this scheme. If you pay yourself a basic salary and top this up with dividends, you will be able to claim 80% of your basic salary paid through PAYE (but not the dividends).

You should check with your accountant or payroll provider to confirm if you are paid through PAYE.

You will also need to stop working in order to be eligible for this scheme, as you will become a ‘furloughed worker’, however, it appears that you will still be able to carry out statutory duties as a director only, but not any operational activity that could benefit the company.

If you intend to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, discuss with your employee/s them becoming classified as a furloughed worker. This would mean that they are kept on your payroll, rather than being laid off.

To qualify for this scheme, they should not undertake work for you while they are furloughed. This will allow you to claim a grant of up to 80% of your employees' wages for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

Staff will remain employed while furloughed. You could choose to fund the difference between this payment and your employees' salaries, but you do not have to.

Fees, commission and bonuses are not included.

If the employee has been employed (or engaged by an employment business) for a full twelve months prior to the claim, you can claim for the higher of either:

  • the same month’s earning from the previous year
  • average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year

If the employee has been employed for less than a year, you can claim for an average of their monthly earnings since they started work.

If the employee only started in February 2020, use a pro-rata for their earnings so far to claim.

An employer can re-engage anyone who left in March, and support them through the JRS, provided they had been on the payroll on 28th February 2020.
 

Yes, provided they meet the eligibility criteria. Indications from the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) are that they can remain ‘in learning’ on their apprenticeship, provided their training provider is able to deliver learning to them during the furlough period.

No, this is not permitted. If an employee is working, but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, they will not be eligible for this scheme and you will have to continue paying the employee through your payroll and pay their salary subject to the terms of the employment contract you agreed.

They can make the request, but the scheme is employer-led which means the decision to furlough rests with the organisation, although they may need to undertake consultation with their employees in order to remain compliant with employment law.

An employer can continue to pay at the normal rate but can only claim back 80% from government. There is also a cap of £2,500 per month per employee.

No, the employee needed to have been on the company payroll on or before 19th March 2020.

Yes, it appears that if both parties agree to rescind the notice, the employees could remain on the company payroll and be furloughed if all other criteria were met.

Yes, as each job is dealt with separately. It’s not clear at the moment if an employee could be furloughed from Job A and increase their hours in Job B if they are not furloughed from that job.

Yes, as each job is dealt with separately. It’s not clear at the moment if an employee could be furloughed from Job A and increase their hours in Job B if they are not furloughed from that job.

They can furlough themselves on the PAYE element of their income the same as any other employee.  ut they cannot continue to carry out operational activities for the company, although it appears they will be allowed to carry out statutory duties as a company director.

If they were not on company PAYE on 28th February 2020, they cannot be furloughed. They could however be furloughed by their current/previous employer if they were on their payroll on 28th February 2020, if the employer agrees.

No, it doesn’t appear to be permissible. The point of a furloughed worker is that they cannot carry out any work at all.

No, it appears the minimum period an employee can be furloughed for is three weeks. At that point, they could be re-engaged to work. And crucially, they must remain on payroll throughout.

Individuals are only entitled to the National Living Wage (NLW)/National Minimum Wage (NMW) for the hours they are working.

Therefore, furloughed workers, who are not working, must be paid the lower of 80% of their salary, or £2,500, even if, based on their usual working hours, this would be below NLW/NMW.

The system is not yet up and running, but will take the form on an online portal  It is expected that the system will be up and running by the end of April 2020.

No. A furloughed employee must remain on payroll and be paid during the period of furlough. Businesses with cashflow concerns should consider other business support schemes available to assist with COVID-19 related difficulties.

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.

Contact your apprenticeship learning provider immediately and ask for guidance. We expect this will be a common theme and await guidance from the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) on how they will respond and support both businesses and learners at this time.
 

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.

Messaging from the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) at this point suggests an absolute priority is to keep apprentices on programme, although how that is reflected in support remains to be seen.
 

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.