COVID-19: Support

HMRC Coronavirus Helpline: 0800 015 9559

This is the support section of our website dedicated to help businesses combat the effect of Corona Virus

See our News section updated hourly.

UPDATE: 24/03/2020

Many businesses have been asked to close with only the essential shops needed for food and medicine to remain open.

Retail and public premises which we expect to remain open must:

• Ensure a distance of two meters between customers and shop assistants; and

• Let people enter the shop only in small groups, to ensure that spaces are not crowded.

• Queue control is required outside of shops and other essential premises that remain open.

BREAKING: 23/03/2020

We are sure that you have many queries regarding how the recent government announcement affects your business; please see below the details released specifically regarding the payment of employees through both the Job Retention Scheme and those that are sick/in isolation.

Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

All UK businesses are eligible.

You will need to:

  • designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change – changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation
  • submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required)

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.

The employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary, but does not have to.

The government intend for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to run for at least 3 months from 1 March 2020, but will extend if necessary.

To qualify for this scheme, your employee should not undertake work, whilst they are furloughed.

If your business needs short term cash flow support, you may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

We will bring forward legislation to allow small-and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force
  • the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

For further details and guidance upon what further help is available to your and your business, please follow the link below:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

BREAKING: 23/03/2020

The government has announced the biggest intervention in private sector business since the Second World War to help fight the economic impact of coronavirus.

The questions it will try to answer later on Monday are: “How will it work? How do I get the money? What will it mean for my business and my staff?”

The British Business Bank will act as intermediary between the Treasury and the High Street banks who will be at the front line of getting it to customers.

At £350bn, the promised supply of financial support is enormous. But details on how the loan guarantees and grants announced in the Budget will be distributed in practice need to be clarified urgently.

Some of this is not straightforward so please bear with me.

Here’s what we know

Firms with a turnover of up to £45m a year will theoretically be able to get a loan – interest free for 12 months of up to £5m with the government guaranteeing 80% of that loan. An enormous intervention welcomed by business.

However, We say theoretically because the government will only offer this guarantee if it thinks it is a loan that the business would be unable to get without state help.

Question: How do we know that the banks wouldn’t have lent the money anyway – and are thus getting an 80% guarantee from taxpayers?

Answer: No-one cares right now. Lending industry bosses admit this is a potential problem but the urgency of the situation means we can’t be too squeamish about potential abuses of the system. We can retrospectively punish bad behaviour where necessary.

Remember, the government guarantee is to the bank for taking the risk. The borrower will still be 100% liable for the debt.

Any loan of over £250k will need to be secured by company assets. If you don’t pay it back, the bank gets to keep your company car, your factory, your equipment, your tools, but importantly NOT your principal primary residence.

Question: How many businesses will feel like taking on more secured debt at a time when no one can predict and few expect a return to business as normal anytime soon?

Answer – anecdotally – not many. £330bn of loan guarantees is a lot of supply but there may not be much demand.

BREAKING: 23/03/2020

We are being inundated about the Government announcements especially the one concerning the 80% payment by the Government for wages.

At present as we understand it companies are obliged to pay the full wage under normal employment rules. They may then claim the 80% back from the Government. The problem the companies are finding is that this refund from the Government will not be immediate and there is no satisfactory set up for them to make the payment from the Government to the companies at present.

BREAKING: 20/03/2020

UK pubs and restaurants told to shut in virus fight

Cafes, pubs and restaurants must close from Friday night, except for take-away food, to tackle coronavirus, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

BREAKING: 20/03/2020

The government is to pay 80% of wages for employees not working, up to £2,500 a month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak says.

We will update with further details once they have been published.

UPDATE: 20/03/2020

We have had reports that due to the large volumes of calls to the COVID-19 emergency helpline number, HMRC appear to be flexible in their approach. For example, they are offering an automatic three months payment holiday. However, it is unconfirmed that this will be the case for everyone.

Businesses

Support for businesses paying sick pay

Legislation is to be brought forward to allow small and medium sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness due to COVID-19.

The eligibility criteria for this scheme is:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force
  • the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

Support for businesses that pay business rates

A business rates holiday will be introduced for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

Also a £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,0000.

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority. Guidance for local authorities on the business rates holiday will be published by 20 March.

There will be additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBRR). Furthermore, one-off grant of £10,000 will be provided to businesses currently eligible for SBBR or rural rate relief.

If your business is eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, you will be contacted by your local authority – you do not need to apply.

Funding for the scheme will be provided to local authorities by government in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.

Business Interruption Loan Scheme

A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank is set to launch next week. This will support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. Lenders will be provided a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The guarantee will come with no charge and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. The government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments.

Businesses paying tax

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.

You can call HMRC’s dedicated helpline if you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19: 0800 015 9559

Insurance

Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered. The government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to make a claim.

Individuals

Sick Pay

SSP will be paid from day 1 as opposed to day 4 for those affected by Coronavirus.

Mortgage Payments

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a 3 month mortgage payment ‘holiday’ for people hit hard by coronavirus.

Universal Credit

If the whole family has to stay at home and there is no income coming in, you can apply for Universal Credit.