Coronavirus Crisis | Financial Help for Businesses

The Latest Government Advice

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary measures to support businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

This includes the following:

  • a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

  • deferring VAT and Income Tax payments

  • a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)

  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England

  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief

  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000

  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank

  • a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans

  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

For the latest comprehensive guidance on financial help, please click here

The most common question we are being asked is about support to employees so businesses do not have to lay off staff.

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.

Eligibility: All UK businesses are eligible.

How to access the scheme: 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.

Common Questions from Businesses on Support

You’ve announced something but not yet issued the detail – or it is not available immediately – where is it?
  • The Government is working to get you the detail you need to see as fast as possible. This includes urgent, intensive discussions with banks, trade unions and business groups, and work to design systems, to ensure all the measures we announce are deployed quickly, are effective and reach the right people.

  • The package of Government support for businesses during coronavirus is unprecedented – for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, for example, we’re having to build our systems from scratch. HMRC are working night and day to get the scheme up and running and we expect the first grants to be paid within weeks.

  • This website will be updated as more information becomes available.

I run a business, how can I help right now?
  • Protect your staff: On Friday 20 March the Chancellor outlined how the Government is doing its best to stand behind you – and asked you to do your best to stand behind your workers. We know the last thing many of you want is to lose your valued staff. Please look at the schemes and advice available to you and consider how you can use them to support your employees in the difficult weeks ahead. This is an essential part of protecting people and protecting the UK economy – and it’s on all of us.

  • Spread the word: You can help the Government share this information to other businesses by using this toolkit.

  • Offering more support: A number of businesses are also not only getting involved in local community efforts, but flooding offers of more support into Government departments. We are working closely with many businesses across the country already. If you want to get involved, we will update this answer shortly with more details on the best way to get in touch.

  • Ventilators: In the meantime, if you can support the supply of ventilators, please register your details.

Why are you taking steps like closing pubs that are damaging to businesses like me?
  • The coronavirus outbreak is the biggest public health emergency in a generation. It calls for decisive action, at home and abroad, of the kind not normally seen in peacetime. This is why we are doing everything we can to tackle the pandemic and mitigate its impact. The overriding objective is to save lives, protect the vulnerable and support the NHS so it can help those who need it the most. Guided by the best scientific advice, with our clear action plan and through looking out for each other, we will rise to this challenge together.

  • There is more information on closures here: Coronavirus Financial Support Schemes

How are you going to ensure that firms use money to pay furloughed workers wages?
  • Government will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of the scheme with scope to claw back fraudulent or erroneous claims.

Can workers claim redundancy pay whilst on the Job Retention Scheme?
  • No. This scheme ensures that workers will continue to be employed and paid a proportion of their wages and therefore not entitled to redundancy pay.

I employ people on zero hours contracts / gig economy workers. Can they access support?
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be available for eligible individuals diagnosed with coronavirus or those who are unable to work because they are staying at home in line with Government advice. Individuals are encouraged to use NHS 111 online to get a fit note after 7 days instead of going to the GP, where employers request evidence.

  • Contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be eligible for people unable to work because they are directly affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) or staying at home according to Government advice from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth.

  • The Government has introduced a rebate scheme reimbursing SMEs (<250 employees) for up to two weeks per employee of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to coronavirus. Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of Statutory Sick Pay.

  • If an employee is not sick but their employer tells them not to come to work, they should get their usual pay. For example, if someone has returned from China or another affected area and their employer asks them not to come in.

What if my business does not have insurance cover for a pandemic?
  • Businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their broker or insurer to understand what they are covered for. However, we recognise that many businesses, particularly SMEs, don’t have insurance cover for a pandemic and so we have made cash grants available to help businesses bridge through this period.

What if I am self-employed?
  • We understand the difficult position the self-employed are in and the Government has announced a package of measures to protect their incomes. We have always said we will go further where we can and are actively considering further steps.

  • A self-employed person could be entitled to a combination of Universal Credit + new style Employment and Support Allowance + Local Housing Allowance + Child Benefits to see them through the next few months depending on their circumstances.

  • Removing the minimum income floor means benefits will no longer assume that you earn a minimum amount and will take into account your actual earnings – meaning it will properly catch those who have seen their income fall to nothing.

  • In addition to these measures we have worked to reduce the fixed outgoings of self employed people. So they can also benefit from:

Rent deferral
Mortgage deferral
Energy Bill deferral
Tax Bill deferral
Business VAT deferral
IR35 deferral

What further measures has the Government put in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus?
  • While the public have responded to our call to isolate or socially distance themselves, we now need to do more in order to save more lives, protect the vulnerable and to protect the NHS. We must now go even further and put in place further measures across the UK to reduce the spread of the virus.

  • This means that the Government has instructed all entertainment and hospitality premises, including pubs, bars and restaurants, across the country will close.

Which businesses are closed?
  • The Government is rolling out these measures to the following businesses and venues across the UK:

  • Food and drink venues for consumption on-site such as restaurants and cafes

  • Drinking establishments, including pubs, bars and nightclubs

  • Entertainment venues, including cinemas, theatres, concert halls and bingo halls.

  • Museums and galleries

  • Spas, wellness centres and massage parlours

  • Casinos and betting jobs

  • All indoor leisure and sports facilities including gyms

These businesses are closed as they involve social contact which increases the chances of infection spreading.

Takeaway and delivery facilities should remain open and operational. This means people can continue to enter premises to access takeaway services, including delivery drivers.

Are you asking all businesses to close?
  • No, we are only asking shops that sell non-essential goods to close. Other businesses can stay open, but all workers must work from home unless it is impossible for them to do so.

How long will closures last?
  • We asked the businesses outlined above to close from Friday 20 March. These measures will be reviewed on a monthly basis.

Should businesses who have been told to close worry about security of their stock and premises? Will the government accept liability?
  • Businesses should ensure to leave all premises secure with the appropriate level of security surveillance. We would expect companies to have the appropriate insurance.

My staff aren’t able to work from home due to the nature of our work, what can I do to help them?
  • If people are able to work from home and it is practical, then they should do so. All public sector, frontline or other staff need to follow the public health guidance. That means that if they have symptoms, they too should stay at home for 7 days, or 14 days if a member of the household has symptoms.

In a lockdown, how do I keep my company staffed?
  • GOV.UK provides advice on business continuity management. The link below provides details on developing your own plan. It includes a Business Continuity Management toolkit to help you identify all the issues you need to consider and how to make your own arrangements to manage business interruption.

Who are classed as key workers?
  • Schools have closed but schools, and all childcare providers, are being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children – children who are vulnerable, and children whose parents are critical to the coronavirus response (“key workers”) and cannot be safely cared for at home.

The Government has issued guidance for those workers considered to be vital in areas across the UK whose children will be offered priority to continue to attend school. The list covers:

  • Health and social care;

  • Education and childcare;

  • Key public services;

  • Local and national government;

  • Food and other necessary goods;

  • Public safety and national security;

  • Transport;

  • Utilities;

  • Communication and financial services.

  • If employees’ work is critical to the coronavirus response or they work in one of the critical sectors listed, then their children will be prioritised for education provision. If workers think they fall within the critical categories above, they should confirm with you as their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service.

  • Further information about the roles identified as key to delivering the coronavirus response can be found on GOV.UK.

What should an employer do if they think their workers are critical but not on the list?

Employers should carefully consider the guidance. It sets out the key workers who will not be able to work from home. Employers should help their staff find alternative arrangements to support them working from home. They can contact the Government department responsible for their sector if they have any questions.

What will happen if businesses do not close?
  • As of 2pm on 21 March 2020, closures are now enforceable by law in England and Wales due to the threat to public health.

  • Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers, with police support if appropriate, will work together to issue prohibition notices challenging unsafe behaviours where businesses do not follow these restrictions.

  • Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers will monitor compliance, and businesses who fail to comply can also receive fines. Officers will also have powers to prosecute for breaches of regulations.

  • As agreed with the devolved administrations these measures will be extended to Scotland and Northern Ireland by Ministerial Direction once the Coronavirus Bill is in force.