The government recognizes the huge challenges faced by many businesses in light of the Coronavirus epidemic. In both the Budget, and subsequent Downing Street Statements, the Chancellor has announced a range of support for businesses and the economy.
More businesses can now open
From Saturday 4th July, more businesses can now open:
- Pubs, restaurants and hairdressers can re-open, providing they adhere to COVID Secure guidelines.
- Two households can meet up in any setting, with social distancing.
- People can enjoy staycations in England, with the re-opening of accommodation sites.
- Some leisure and tourist facilities can re-open, provided they can do so safely. This includes outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs, places of worship and community centres.
Unfortunately, some 'close proximity' venues such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys and spas will need to remain closed. However, the government will set out a plan to re-open these venues shortly.
While the infection rate continues to fall, the Prime Minister has been clear that the public must continue to follow social distancing guidelines to keep coronavirus under control. The Government will keep all measures under constant review and will not hesitate to apply the handbrake, or reverse measures, should the virus begin to run out of control.
Making your workplace COVID-19 secure
For businesses that can remain open, the government has published social distancing guidance to help keep everyone safe.
Support for businesses affected
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
For the first time in British history, the government is stepping in to pay people's wages. The scheme was due to end at the end of June, but the government has extended the scheme until the end of October - providing a total of eight months support. From 1 July 2020, businesses will be given the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part-time. This is a month earlier than previously announced to help support people back to work. Individual firms will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return so that they can decide on the best approach for them - and will be responsible for paying their wages while in work.
From August 2020, the level of government grant provided through the job retention scheme will be slowly tapered to reflect that people will be returning to work. That means that for June and July the government will continue to pay 80% of people’s salaries. In the following months, businesses will be asked to contribute a modest share, but crucially individuals will continue to receive that 80% of salary covering the time they are unable to work.
To enable the introduction of part-time furloughing, and support those already furloughed back to work, claims from July onwards will be restricted to employers currently using the scheme and previously furloughed employees. The scheme will close to new entrants on 30 June, with the last three-week furloughs before that point commencing on 10 June.
- The scheme is currently open to any employer in the country and will cover the cost of wages backdated to March 1st. There is no limit on the funding for the scheme, and the government will pay to support as many jobs as needed.
- The scheme is open to employees who were on the payroll on 19th March 2020, and can be on any type of contract including agency, flexible and zero-hours contracts.
- Importantly, employees currently cannot undertake any work for the company whilst furloughed, unless employees are brought back as part of Flexible Furloughing from July 1st.
- You can apply to the scheme by clicking here. In order to apply, you need:
- to be registered for PAYE online.
- your UK bank account number and sort code
- the number of employees being furloughed
- each employees National Insurance number
- each employees payroll or employee number (optional)
- 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 will 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 use an agent who is authorised to do PAYE online for you, they can claim on your behalf.
VAT and tax payments
The next quarter VAT payments can be deferred, and no business will pay VAT between now and mid-June. Businesses will have until the end of the next Financial Year to repay those bills. Click here to find out how to defer a VAT payment.
- All businesses in financial distress with outstanding tax liabilities may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through the HMRC's Time To Pay service.
Support for businesses paying sick pay.
The government will allow employers with fewer than 250 employees to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay for absence due to coronavirus.
- this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of coronavirus.
- employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) 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 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
Business Rates Holiday
The government is offering a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses in the 2020/21 tax year.
Nurseries are also eligible, if they are providers on Ofsted's Early Years Register, or are wholly or mainly used for the provision of the Early Years Foundation Stage.
There is no action required for you. Northumberland County Council will be in touch and may need to reissue your bill.
Retail and Hospitality Grants
The Retail and Hospitality Grants Scheme provides businesses the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant.
- Businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of up to £15,000 may be eligible for a cash grant of £10,000.
- Businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 may be eligible for a grant of £25,000.
The local authority - Northumberland County Council - will write to you if you are eligible.
Small Business Grant Scheme (for businesses that pay little or no business rates)
Small businesses that pay little or no business rates because of Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief and tapered relief are eligible for a one off grant of of £10,000.
The local authority - Northumberland County Council - will write to you if you are eligible.
Bounce Back Loans
Smaller businesses can apply for new Bounce Back Loans up to a maximum of £50,000, or 25% of turnover, with the government paying the interest for the first 12 months.
There will be no forward-looking tests of business viability, just a simple, quick, standard form for businesses to fill in. The government will support lending by guaranteeing 100% of the loan.
Support for businesses ineligible for business grants
For small or micro businesses which fall outside the scope of business grants, the government has set up a discretionary fund administered by Northumberland County Council.It is particularly targeted at businesses in shared spaces, market traders, small charity properties, and Bed and Breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates. You can read the full guidance by clicking here.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme supports SME's with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years.
The government will make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs.
The government is providing lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan, to give lenders the confidence to continue providing finance.
COVID-19 Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme
The COVID-19 Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme covers all firms with a turnover of more than £45m, who can each apply for up to £25 million of finance. Firms with a turnover of more than £250 million can apply for up to £50 million.
The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan to give lenders confidence in continuing to provide finance. The scheme will be available on the British Business Bank website, and will launch on Monday 20th April.
More information is available from the Bank of England.
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