01 April 2020

Whilst we are entering this unprecedented time we set out here a summary of the Government issued emergency measures and advice to assist both Employees and Employers.

If you require expert advice and any further information please contact our employment team.

Support for Businesses

  1. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

This scheme applies to all UK employers, big or small, whereby they have had to “furloughed workers”, which means their work / attendance at work, is no longer required due to drop in business or Coronavirus impact, i.e. the business has had to temporally close. If your business falls into this category you will be able to claim up to 80% of the wages for the employees who have been “furloughed” up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

Please note if you are a director / owner of the business who takes a wage and have had to be furloughed you will also be able to claim on the scheme.

To apply for the scheme you shall need to us the HMRC’s online portal and provide details of the employees who have been furloughed together with their PAYE details.

  1. Deferring VAT and Income Tax Payments

The Government shall be deferring all VAT payments for 3 months, which means all business registered for VAT will not need to pay any VAT until the 30 June 2020. This is automatic and there is no requirement to apply, you just do not need to pay until the 30 June 2020.

All self-assessment payments due on the 31st July 2020 will be deferred until the 31 January 2021, this is automatic and there is no requirement to apply, you just do not need to pay until the 31 January 2021.

  1. Statutory Sick Pay

Only small-and medium-sized businesses and employers can reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to the coronavirus. 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 coronavirus, this including those that are self-isolating that may or may not have the symptoms.
  • 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 as a result of Coronavirus
  • 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 onlineand 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, this is expected to be by way of the PAYE scheme.
  1. Extra Support for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

For businesses which fall into the above category there shall be a business rates holiday for the 2020 to 2021 tax year and Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019 to 2020 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible. There is no need to apply if you fall into one of the above as the local authority shall be doing this automatically and you will be contacted by your local authority in due course.

  1. Cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

The Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme provides businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property. For businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of under £15,000, they will receive a grant of £10,000. For businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000, they will receive a grant of £25,000.

Again, you do not need to do anything to access this scheme as those that fall into this category will automatically receive the grant and your local authority will write to you in due course.

  1. Support for nursery businesses that pay business rates

There shall be a business rates holiday for nurseries in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

You do not need to do anything to access this scheme as those that fall into this category will automatically receive the grant and your local authority will write to you in due course.

  1. Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates

The government will provide additional Small Business Grant Scheme funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

Again, you do not need to do anything to access this scheme as those that fall into this category will automatically receive the grant and your local authority will write to you in due course.

  1. Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch early this week to support primarily small and medium-sized businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.

The government will provide lenders with 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 small to medium businesses. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value.

The full rules of the Scheme and the list of accredited lenders is available on the British Business Bank website. All the major banks will offer the Scheme once it has launched. There are 40 accredited providers in all.

To access the scheme you should first talk to your bank or finance provider as soon as possible and discuss your business plan with them. This will help your finance provider to act quickly once the Scheme has launched. If you have an existing loan with monthly repayments you may want to ask for a repayment holiday to help with cash flow.

  1. Support all businesses through the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

Under the new Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility, the Bank of England will buy short term debt from all 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.

You will need to apply for these scheme and details of how to apply are yet to be released but we are expecting them to be released early this week.

  1. Support for businesses paying tax: Time to Pay service

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.

To apply you will need to call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559.

HR Guidelines for Employers

  • Make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date.
  • Ensure that all employees know how to report any risk to themselves from COVID-19 and that all potential incidents are reported to HR so they can understand the overall risk to the workforce.
  • Make sure all staff are aware of your response as an employer and what you are doing to protect people’s health and reduce the risk of infection spreading.
  • Continue to communicate as the situation changes.
  • Make sure managers are clear on any relevant policies and processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, homeworking policy and procedures in case someone in the workplace develops the virus.
  • Keep your workforce well-informed of the ongoing developments and official advice from the Government and National Health Service and promote resources that are available.
  • Advise employees to take precautions, such as working from home where possible and avoiding non-essential social contact. Advise them of the latest advice with regards to self-isolation for anyone (or anyone who lives with someone) who develops a new, continuous cough or a high temperature of 37.8 degrees or above (in line with official guidance).
  • Reduce the spread of infection by providing soap and hand sanitiser gels with alcohol, especially in communal areas like kitchens and coffee areas. Provide staff with hand sanitisers. Increase the frequency and intensity of office cleaning; consider a deep clean; think about frequent wiping down of communal spaces such as kitchens, handrails on stairs, lift buttons, door handles, etc. Some workplaces are banning handshakes.
  • If an employee needs to self-isolate (on the advice of NHS 111 or a doctor) or are sent home as a precaution, the UK Government has announced new measures that mean these employees are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one. This includes individuals who may be a carrier of COVID-19 but may not have symptoms and people caring for those in the same household who display COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self-isolate.

Support for Individuals 

  1. Sick pay for the self-employed

If you are self-employed and do not operate a PAYE system then you are not eligible for the Statutory Sick Pay. However, to help support the self-employed through this pandemic the Government has now made it easier to make a claim though the Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance.

  1. Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment to you if you are not entitled to sick pay, on low income or out of work and can easily be applied for online; https://www.universal-credit.service.gov.uk/postcode-checker

  1. ‘New Style’ Employment and Support Allowance

New Style’ ESA is a fortnightly payment that can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit. While you receive ‘New Style’ ESA you’ll earn Class 1 National Insurance credits, which can help towards your State Pension and other contributory benefits in the future.