Cumbria Chamber of Commerce has produced this toolkit to help businesses operate through the pandemic.
It is divided into four sections covering restrictions and safe working; advice, grants, loans and reliefs; skills and training; and tools and templates. We’re updating the toolkit regularly as new information comes to light. To help flag up the latest information, recent additions and changes are marked as ***NEW*** or ***UPDATED*** respectively.
***UPDATED*** This guidance applies to businesses in England – different rules apply for Scotland.
A national lockdown is in force, which means that non-essential shops, close-contact services such as hairdressers and indoor leisure venues must close, as must accommodation providers (with limited exceptions) while restaurants and pubs can operate only as takeaways. For ease of reference, here is the full list of business required to close and those that can remain open. Schools will remain open only for the children of key workers. Everyone must work from home unless they are unable to do so.
The Government subsequently announced a four-step roadmap for lifting Covid restrictions across England. Before taking each step, the Government will review the latest data on the impact of the previous step against four tests on vaccines, infection rates and new coronavirus variants.
Step 1— no earlier than March 8 – return to face-to-face education in schools and colleges; the stay-at-home requirement will remain but people can leave home for recreation outdoors such as a coffee or picnic with their household or support bubble, or with one person outside their household. Further limited changes from March 29, the stay-at-home order will end although many lockdown restrictions will remain, rule of six or two households outdoors allowed; outdoor sport and leisure facilities open, organised outdoor sport allowed.
Step 2 – no earlier than April 12 – non-essential retail and personal care open; hospitality outdoors open; indoor leisure (gyms and swimming pools) open and self-contained holiday accommodation open. Event pilots begin.
Step 3 – no earlier than May 17 – gatherings of more than 30 people remain illegal; outdoor performances such as outdoor cinemas and outdoor theatres can reopen. Indoors, the rule of 6 or 2 households will apply; indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will also reopen. International travel will be subject to review.
Step 4 – no earlier than June 21 – no legal limits on social contact, reopening the remaining closed settings like Nightclubs, and larger events, no legal limit on all live events (all subject to review).
The decision on each stage will be based on data, not dates, and government will move cautiously to keep infection rates under control. There is more detail in the Government’s Covid-19 Response – Spring 2021 document.
RESTRICTIONS and SAFE WORKING
Government advice is that people should work from home wherever possible. Where working from home isn’t practical, businesses can continue to operate unless they’re required to close under the relevant restrictions. here business premises remain open, they should follow Covid-secure guidelines.
An online tool helps businesses to carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment and make sensible adjustments to their premises and workforce. Those that don’t do this could face enforcement proceedings.
There is specific sector advice on working safely for:
The Health and Safety Executive has launched a mobile app for small businesses that aims to provide easier access to HSE guidance helping firms understand and comply with health and safety law. While content is freely available on the HSE website, the app acts as a quick reference guide that can be accessed offline. Available for Android and iOS devices.
It is a legal requirement for people who have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace to do so, supported by payments of £500 for those on lower incomes who cannot work from home. There is no requirement on employers to deduct National Insurance contributions from Covid Test and Trace payments. Fines for those breaching self-isolation rules start at £1,000 up to a maximum of £10,000 for repeat offences and the most egregious breaches including for those preventing others from self-isolating. This could include business owners who threaten self-isolating staff with redundancy if they do not come to work.
***UPDATED*** In addition, the Government is offering businesses with 50 or more employees access to lateral-flow tests enabling them to test the whole of their workforce. These are free until June 30 if you apply before March 31. For businesses with fewer than 50 employees (and for businesses with between 50 and 250 employees if they wish) Cumbria County Council will offer lateral-flow tests as part of its community testing programme. Businesses with 25 or more employees can access testing in the workplace by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees can access testing by sending employees to a community test centre.
It is mandatory for certain businesses to have a system to collect NHS Test and Trace data and keep this for 21 days. Those affected include tourism and hospitality businesses, cinemas, concert venues, theatres and close-contact services such as hairdressers. These businesses are also required to download QR codes to display prominently on posters so that customers can check in with the new NHS Covid-19 app as an alternative to filling out a check-in book. Businesses that fail to comply face a fine of £1,000 rising to £4,000 for repeat offenders. The app is available to download for Apple and Android devices now. The Information Commissioner’s Office has published guidance on the data protection implications of collecting this information.
Local authorities have been given additional powers to maintain Covid-secure environments in their area.
***NEW*** This is the advice for pregnant employees on risk assessments in the workplace and occupational health during the pandemic.
Face coverings are mandatory in many settings including shops, shopping malls, public transport, visitor attractions and hairdressers. The Government has extended the list to include staff in shops, customers in taxis and private hire cars and customers in hospitality settings except when seated to eat or drink. The maximum fine for those that don’t comply is £3,200
Accommodation providers can open only in limited circumstances including to accommodate people who have to travel for work purposes. Cumbria Tourism has a register of accommodation providers that remain open to accommodate essential workers.
***UPDATED*** This is the Foreign Office guidance for British people travelling overseas. There is also useful guidance on safe air travel and travel insurance. Those leaving the UK are required to declare a reason for travel and those without a valid reason will be directed to return home and may face a fine. Many countries have imposed restrictions on travellers from the UK in response to the emergence of a new strain of Covid-19 here. Admittance to France is granted only to those travelling for urgent reasons – including hauliers – French citizens, and British citizens with French residency. Those travelling to France must show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours. France, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark all require HGV drivers to show a negative Covid test result prior to travel although hauliers do not need a negative test if they are returning to France after spending fewer than 48 hours in the UK. Consult this Foreign Office listing to see restrictions in force on travel to other countries.
Inbound passengers to England arriving by ship, plane or train must take a Covid test up to three days before departure and provide evidence of a negative result before they travel. On arrival they must complete a passenger locator form (with fines for failure to comply) and quarantine for 10 days. There is also a requirement to take Covid tests on days two and eight of quarantine with fines and an automatic extension of the quarantine period to 14 days for failure to comply. Certain occupations are exempt from some or all the requirements to take a Covid test, complete a locator form and quarantine. The test to release scheme will continue, which allows arrivals to pay for a private Covid test after five days to shorten the quarantine period as long as the result is negative. The Government has issued on guidance on the employment rights of individuals required to quarantine on returning to England. Different rules apply in Scotland where the Government is introducing a system of managed quarantine for arrivals from all countries.
The Government has imposed a ban on travel to England from countries on the so-called ‘red list’ in response to the emergence of new strains of Covid-19. The ban does not apply to British and Irish nationals, or third country nationals with residence rights in the UK, but they are required to quarantine on arrival in a government-approved facility for 10 days. There is a charge of up to £1,750 per adult to cover assigned government transportation, food and drink, accommodation, security, welfare and testing. Fines up to £10,000 apply for failure to quarantine in a designated hotel. Anyone attempting to conceal that they have travelled in a ‘red list’ country faces a £10,000 fine or up to 10 years in prison. There are some limited exemptions to these requirements, such as hauliers travelling from Portugal who do not need to quarantine or take a Covid test, although they must complete a passenger locator form. The test to release scheme does not apply to arrivals from ‘red list’ countries.
Westfield Health, which runs the Chamber Health Care service for Chamber members, has created a range of live coaching webinars and 1:1 coaching sessions to help employers manage the transition back to into work and ensure staff are engaged and productive. It has also published Coping with Covid, a report examining the impact of Covid on mental wellbeing in workplaces, how presenteeism is masking poor mental health, as well as offering practical advice for managers on how to spot the signs that someone may be struggling and on how to build a supportive culture.
The Home Office has issued guidance and tools for employers to help them support staff who may be suffering domestic abuse.
Cumbria Business Growth Hubis your first port of call for advice. Growth Hub advisers, who are all experienced business people, can work with you one-to-one. This advice is free to qualifying SMEs. Advisers can help you apply for grants and loans. Your customers might behave differently, you may need to consider new markets or new routes to market and you may have to reconfigure your premises to meet social-distancing requirements. Advisers can help you tackle theses issues. To give a flavour of the wider Growth Hub offer, Cumbria Growth Catalyst provides a review and intensive support for SMEs, the Consultancy Subsidy offers grants of up to £1,300 to buy-in outside expertise, Cumbria Manufacturing Service provides specialist help and grants to manufacturers while Manufacturing Made Smarter helps manufacturers access new technologies. The Growth Hub is also the gateway to programmes run by Lancaster University Management School.
Many of the Growth Hub’s programmes draw on EU funding. Businesses can still apply to some EU funds under the current framework and will continue to get any EU funding they have already been awarded.
***UPDATED*** The Kickstart Scheme is a £2bn fund to create hundreds of thousands of high quality six-month work placements aimed at those aged 16 to 24 who are on Universal Credit and are deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment. Funding available for each job will cover 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus the associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic-enrolment contributions. Employers looking to create job placements for young people should check if they can apply for funding. Previously, only businesses able to offer 30 or more placements could apply to Kickstart directly. Those offering fewer than 30 placements had to go though intermediaries known as ‘gateways’. Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is a gateway. The Government plans now allows all employers to apply directly to Kickstart, although the option to use a gateway remains. Here are tips for making a successful application. The TUC is asking employers using the scheme to sign up to its Kickstart Charter.
Employers can apply for a £1,000 cash incentive to help take on trainees. The money – available until July 31, 2021 – helps with the cost of providing a high-quality work placement. This can include providing facilities, uniforms or helping with travel costs. Businesses offering traineeship opportunities will receive £1,000 for every trainee they take on up to a maximum of 10 trainees. Employers can claim the incentive for all work placements that have been completed since September 1, 2020.
There are various grant schemes to help businesses forced to close or otherwise affected by Covid restrictions:
The Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) Addendum is for businesses that had to close during the national lockdown from November 5 to December 1 and the current lockdown starting January 5. For the November lockdown, grants are payable as follows: £1,334 for businesses with rateable value of £15,000 or less; £2,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000; £3,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or more. For the current lockdown, grants are payable as follows for each 42-day period that restrictions apply: £2,001 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or less; £3,000 for businesses with a rateable value betwen £15,000 and £51,000; £4,500 for businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or more. The first payment cycle covered January 5 to February 15. The second payment cycle covers February 16 to March 31.
The Local Restrictions Support Grant (Open) is for businesses that remained open but were severely impacted by the tier-2 restrictions that applied throughout Cumbria from December 2 to 30, and before November 5 in Carlisle and Barrow. Grants payable as follows for each 14-day period the business was subject to restrictions: £467 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or less; £700 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000; £1,050 for businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or more.
The Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) and Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) Tier 4 Addendum is for businesses required to close under tier-2 or tier-4 restrictions. Tier 4 applied throughout Cumbria from December 31 to January 4. Tier 2 applied throughout the county from December 2 to 30 and before November 5 in Carlisle and Barrow. Grants payable as follows for each 14-day period the business was closed: £667 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or less; £1,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000; £1,500 for businesses with a rateable value of more than £51,000.
The Closed Business Lockdown Payment supports businesses that have been required to close due to the national restrictions beginning January 5, 2021. These are one-off grants payable as follows: £4,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or less; £6,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000; £9,000 for businesses with a rateable value of more than £51,000.
The Additional Restrictions Grant is for businesses that don’t qualify for the grants listed above because they do not pay business rates. It applies under the current national lockdown, which began on January 5, and under the previous national lockdown from November 5 to December 2. Businesses are eligible if they were required to close or remained open but were severely impacted.
The Local Restrictions Support Grant (Sector) is for businesses that have been required to close continuously since March 2020 such as nightclubs, dance halls and adult entertainment venues. Grants payable as follows for each 14-day period of closure: £667 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or less; £1,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000; £1,500 for businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or more.
The Christmas Support Payment is for wet-led pubs that predominantly serve alcohol rather than food. They can claim a one-off £1,000 grant to compensate for loss of Christmas trade. This does not affect entitlement to the other grants listed above. The deadline for applications has been extended until February 28.
The Government has extended a £1m tax break that aims to stimulate investment in manufacturing and support business confidence. Businesses can continue to claim up to £1m in same-year tax relief through the Annual Investment Allowance for capital investments in plant and machinery until January 1, 2022. The £1m cap had been due to revert to £200k on January 1, 2021.
***NEW*** The Chancellor has announced the ‘superdeduction’ allowing businesses to offset 130% of capital investments against tax in 2021-22 and 2022-3. Details to follow.
The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy has compiled a round-up of coronavirus support and resources from public bodies, organisations and charities. It also has a web portal enabling businesses to access the latest advice and information, sector by sector, from business representative organisations and trade associations.
The Marine Management Organisation is offering fast-tracks grants of up to £100,000 to help ports or harbours impacted by the pandemic. Apply by November 29. There are also grants of up to £50,000 and for health and safety improvements on fishing vessels.
***UPDATED*** The Zoo Animals Fund provides grants of up to £730,000 to zoos and aquariums that are experiencing severe financial difficulties because of loss or revenue. The deadline for applications has been extended until May 28 2021.
The Financial Conduct Authority has won a test case on the legal clarity of business interruption cover. It reviewed more than 500 policies from 40 insurers and identified a sample of 17 policy wordings that highlighted the key areas of dispute. The test case also clarified that the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government response was a single cause of the covered loss. This is a key requirement for claims to be paid even if the policy provides cover. The case outcome should help policyholders and insurers identify which business interruption policies provide cover for the coronavirus pandemic and which do not.
The Competition and Markets Authority has issued a statement on refunds where wedding services are cancelled because of Covid to help consumers understand their rights and to help businesses to treat their customers fairly.
Jobcentre Plus has created a website to assist employers looking to recruit or or make redundancies. It offers advice on next steps and the best ways to support staff who are losing their jobs.
Cumbria LEP has launched Jobs Fuse in partnership with the National Careers Service and the Department for Work and Pensions. Employers looking to make redundancies can call a hotline to find out about careers advice and support available to staff. The service also promotes vacancies to individuals available to start work.
The Government has simplified the licensing process for outdoor seating and stalls, making it easier for hospitality businesses to serve customers outside.
Businesses recruiting young people need to be aware that, because of Covid, the Government has put in place special arrangements so that qualifications can be awarded even though exams have been cancelled. Read the guidance for employers.
***UPDATED*** Businesses in retail/hospitality/leisure and nurseries don’t have to pay business rates in 2020-21, or the first three months of 2021-22. Business rates will be discounted by two-thirds for the remainder of 2021-22.
Bounce Back Loans offer advances up to £50,000 to SMEs. There are no fees, no interest in the first 12 months and no requirement to start repayments for 18 months. The interest rate from year two is 2.5%. The Chancellor has extended the maximum repayment period from six to 10 years and is allowing payment holidays and interest-only periods of up to six months. The deadline for applying has been extended until March 31, 2021. Businesses that already have a Bounce Back Loan can now apply for a top-up loan from their existing lender if they originally borrowed less than the £50k maximum.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loansoffer advances up to £5m to SMEs. They are fee-free and interest-free for 12 months. Lenders will not demand personal guarantees for loans under £250,000. These loans are partially guaranteed by the Government. The Chancellor has extended the guarantee period from six years to 10 in the hope that lenders will allow borrowers to extend the repayment period to 10 years too. The deadline for applications has been extended to March 31, 2021.
***NEW*** The Government has announced new Recovery Loans available from April 2021 to replace the loan schemes above. Businesses will be able to borrow between £25,001 and £10m, with 80% of the loan guaranteed by the Government. Invoice finance and asset finance will be available between £1,000 and £10m per business.
***UPDATED*** Businesses struggling to pay tax due because of the pandemic should contact HM Revenue and Customs. It is allowing businesses to defer VAT and self-assessment payment on account. The Chancellor has now refined these schemes. Business that deferred VAT are being given the option to pay back in smaller instalments. Rather than paying a lump sum in full at the end March 2021, they will be able to make 11 smaller interest-free payments during the 2021-22 financial year. Likewise, self-assessment taxpayers will be given a 12-month extension to the ‘Time to Pay’ facility, meaning payments deferred from July 2020, and those due in January 2021, will not need to be paid until January 2022.
HMRC has explanatory videos covering many of the above schemes while Cumbria Business Growth Hub has a summary of the loan schemes, outlining their pros and cons, with advice on making applications and deadlines. Businesses that have received grants they were not eligible for, or have been paid more than their entitlement, could be subject to penalties if they do not inform HRMC.
Grants of up to £7,000 are available to SMEs in rural areas of Cumbria that suffer from slow broadband connections. The aim is to ensure businesses have access to download speeds of at least 30Mbps.
SKILLS AND TRAINING
The Government has announced two leadership programmes to help small business leaders grow their companies in the wake of the pandemic. The Small Business Leadership Programme strengthens decision makers’ leadership skills. The 10-week programme will be delivered online by experts from university business schools. The Peer Networks Programme helps business owners improve problem-solving skills through guided exercises. Both are free to businesses that meet the eligibility criteria. There are 2,000 places available on the Small Business Leadership Programme and 6,000 on the Peer Networks Programme.
The Chancellor has announced incentives to support employers looking to recruit apprentices before January 31, 2021. They are worth up to £2,000 per apprentice, with no limit on the number of payments a business can receive. The training provider Seetec Outsource has compiled a guide setting and how changes to apprenticeship funding policy will benefit employers who pay the apprenticeship levy as well as SMEs that can access government funding for their apprentices.
For businesses making staff redundant, Inspira provides free careers advice and guidance to furloughed workers, those facing redundancy as well as its usual free careers guidance service for adults. Likewise Cumbria Community Learning and Skills provides training and qualifications for adults to improve their employment prospects and further their career development, offering courses throughout Cumbria.
Cumbria Coaching Network is offering free coaching to the leaders and employees of businesses, charities and public sector organisations in Cumbria that have been adversely affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The group of professional coaches can help people who are experiencing distress, anxiety and business challenges.
Digital Tech Cumbria is an initiative to help Cumbrian businesses identify how digital technology can support the achievement of their goals. It is open to SMEs that sell to other businesses.
Digital Boost is a free service offering online workshops and courses, and one-to-one advice, to help small businesses boost their digital skills and capabilities.
The Government has set up an online learning platform to help people boost their skills while at home during lockdown. The Skills Toolkit offers free digital and numeracy courses.
Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) is offering the Evolve Digital programme to equip leaders of family businesses with the tools and techniques they need to enhance their leadership skills and boost their confidence when it comes to assessing and adopting technology. It is free to businesses that meet the criteria. The next cohort starts on February 10, 2021.
In addition, two existing LUMS programmes have been adapted to run online:
The Made Smarter Leadership Programme is an eight-month leadership programme for business leaders of manufacturing SMEs wanting to improve their productivity through the adoption of new industrial digital technologies.
Productivity Through People is a 10-month programme in partnership with three world-class manufacturers – BAE Systems, Siemens and Rolls-Royce – designed to support and invest in the manufacturers of tomorrow. Gain access to the latest techniques, thinking and research to transform your productivity and working practices.
TOOLS AND TEMPLATES
Once your business has completed a risk assessment, you can download and print a notice to display showing that your workplace is Covid-secure.
The British Chambers of Commerce has drafted a template exemption letter to be issued, where appropriate, to staff travelling back to the UK to show they are exempt from the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days.
The Government’s support-finder toolasks simple questions about your businesses, then advises what loans, tax relief or grants you can claim. This complements its coronavirus hub setting out the support available to businesses.