Coronavirus: Our toolkit for business

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce has produced this toolkit to help businesses mitigate the impacts of the Coronavirus outbreak.

We’re updating it daily as new information comes to light so keep checking to make sure you’re up to speed.

The toolkit is divided into sections. Simply scroll down to find the information you need.



The Government’s coronavirus guidance for businesses and employees is here.

The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Coronavirus Hub has information on financial support to businesses – such as grants and loans – employers’ responsibilities and business closures. There is a round-up of the financial support on offer here.

A support-finder tool asks simple questions about your businesses, then advises what loans, tax relief or grants you can claim. You can also sign up for Government email alerts on Coronavirus.

The Government has launched a Coronavirus information service on WhatsApp. Text ‘hi’ to 07860064422 via Whatsapp and there are business support measures highlighted under option 5.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme pays up to 80% of wages of employees who are unable to work.  This scheme is now open to employers that had a PAYE scheme in place on March 19 (previously the date was February 28) and it has been extended in its current form until the end of July and in modified form until the end of October. Changes coming will allow businesses to partially furlough staff, employing them part time while the scheme covers days they don’t work. Click here for a step-by-step guide on how to claim, here for a calculator on how to work out your claim and here to make a claim.

Grants of £10,000 are available to businesses that receive Small Business Rate Relief Rate or Rural Rate Relief  and grants of up to £25,000 are available to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value less than £51,000. Eligibility criteria for both schemes are here. District councils are distributing these grants and in most cases businesses will need to apply, contrary to initial advice that grants would be paid automatically. To apply contact your relevant local authority: Allerdale, Barrow, Carlisle, Copeland, Eden or South Lakeland.

In response to lobbying from the British Chambers of Commerce and others, the Government has announced a discretionary grants scheme for small businesses (fewer than 50 staff) that don’t qualify for the small business or retail, hospitality and leisure grants (above), perhaps because they don’t pay business rates directly. Beneficiaries include businesses that occupy space in a building where their landlord pays business rates and B&Bs that pay council tax rather than business rates. The maximum grant is £25,000. We are waiting for information from local authorities on how businesses can apply.

Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors won’t have to pay business rates in 2020-21  and nor will nurseries.

Bounce Back Loans offer advances of between £2,000 and £50,000 (maximum 25% of turnover) to SMEs for up to six years. The Government guarantees the full amount. There are no fees. There is no interest in the first 12 months and no requirement to start repayments for 12 months. The interest rate from year two onwards is pegged at 2.5%. Businesses that have a CBILS loan (see below) cannot apply but those with a CBILS loan under £50,000 can convert it into a Bounce Back loan.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILS) offer advances up to £5m to SMEs for periods up to six years. They are also fee-free and interest-free for 12 months. Lenders will not demand personal guarantees for loans under £250,000. The business finance specialist Rangewell has compiled a list of lenders under the scheme and their lending criteria. If you need help with your loan application, Cumbria Business Growth Hub can help. A separate Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme for large businesses, defined as those with a turnover of more than £45m, offers loans up to £50m rising to £200m from May 26.

The Self Employment Income Support Scheme pays self-employed people 80% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months, and capped at £7,500 altogether. HM Revenue and Customs has issued guidance on how it works out trading profits. This scheme is now open and accepting claims.

Self-employed people who can’t work because of Coronavirus, and who aren’t eligible for payments under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (above), can claim Universal Credit.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has expanded its Time to Pay scheme to allow businesses affected by coronavirus to defer payments of tax. There’s specific information on what to do if you can’t pay your tax bill , how to defer VAT payments and how to defer your self-assessment payment on account, due on July 31, until January 31, 2021.

HMRC has also produced a series of webinars. These cover running your business through coronavirus; how HMRC is helping employers to support employees; how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme works and how to claim; the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and using its eligibility checker; the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme.

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will enable SMEs to reclaim employees’ coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay. It opens to claims on May 26.

The Government has produced coronavirus business support webinars covering support for wages; business support grant funds; loans for small businesses; tax deferral and Time to Pay; changes to right to work checks; changes to filing reports and accounts.

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is hosting free webinars to help businesses make workplaces COVID-secure as lockdown restrictions are eased: Factories, plants and warehouses, Wednesday 27 May, 11am;  Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery, Wednesday 27 May, 3pm; Shops and branches, Thursday 28 May, 11am; Vehicles, Thursday 28 May, 3pm; Construction and other outdoor work, Monday 1 June, 11am; Labs and research facilities, Monday 1 June, 3pm: Offices and contact centres, Tuesday 2 June, 11am; People working in, visiting or delivering to home environments, Tuesday 2 June, 3pm.

The Future Fund offers convertible loans to businesses driving innovation. The Government will provide between £125k and £5m to each business with third-party investors at least matching the Government’s investment. The minimum loan is therefore £250k. In addition, there will be targeted support for the most R&D intensive SMEs through Innovate UK’s business innovation support package.

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.

The Government has announced a £10m Fisheries Response Fund to help fishing and aquaculture businesses. Eligible businesses will be contacted directly.

The Government has published its Coronavirus Recovery Strategy, which complements the Action Plan that sets out its approach to managing the outbreak.

There is separate advice for businesses operating in Scotland from the Scottish Government including guidance and sector-specific information.

Coronavirus restrictions:

The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government has listed the types of business required to close their premises. Click here.

There is a list here of rules that have been relaxed temporarily to allow businesses to continue to operate through the Coronavirus outbreak.

There is specific information for hotels and accommodation providers here.

The Department for Education has published a list of critical workers whose children can continue to attend school.

Businesses that employ apprentices can access guidance from the Department for Education. This includes information on furloughed apprentices, end-point assessment, functional skills apprentices and qualification certification.

Although not specifically business-related, the Cabinet Office has published a list of coronavirus frequently asked questions, setting out what you can and cannot do.

Health, safety and security:

There is guidance for businesses on working safely during coronavirus issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  This includes sector-specific advice on construction and other outdoor work; factories, plants and warehouses; people working in, visiting or delivering to home environments; labs and research facilities; offices and contact centres; restaurants offering takeaway or delivery; shops and branches.

The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy has published guidance on social distancing in the workplace for businesses that remain open during the Coronavirus outbreak. Click here.

People are being advised to cover their faces when in enclosed spaces such as shops and public transport according to advice issued by the Department of Health and Social Care. PPE equipment purchased by care homes, businesses, charities and individuals to protect against Covid-19 is now free of VAT until July 31.

Anyone displaying symptoms of Coronavirus can apply to be tested. Employers can nominate essential workers who are self-isolating for priority testing.

A Charter committing housebuilders to safe working whilst COVID-19 remains prevalent has been co-produced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Home Building Federation.

Guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care, and Public Health England, is here and is updated daily. This covers the situation in the UK, provides information about the virus and outlines the action the Government is taking to prevent its spread.

The NHS has a concise guide to Coronavirus setting out how it is spread, how to avoid catching it, symptoms, treatment and what to do if you think you or any of your employees might be infected.

Click here to download a leaflet explaining what to do to help stop the spread of Coronavirus, including information on symptoms, and click here to download a poster asking staff and customers to wash their hands. A simpler printer-friendly version is  here.

The Food Standards Agency has produced guidance for food manufacturers, restaurants and takeaways on adapting, reopening and operating safely. This complements the guidance for food businesses issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service has issued advice to businesses whose premises have closed temporarily. Click here.

The Health and Safety Executive is asking businesses and landlords to identify and control risks connected with legionella to ensure that premises with reduced occupancy or those that have been closed for a prolonged period are safe to reopen.

The Home Office has compiled an employer pack to help businesses support staff who may be experiencing domestic abuse.

The Home Office has also issued advice on protecting your business against fraud and cyber crime.

he National Cyber Security Centre is warning that fraudsters are exploiting the Coronavirus crisis to send bogus emails and launch phishing attacks. It has issued guidance  for businesses that are moving operations online, which covers home working and video conferencing, suggesting questions that businesses should be asking their IT providers.

Secured by Design has produced a leaflet with 10 security tips for businesses that have closed their premises and 10 cyber security tips for those working from home. Download here.

Trade, travel and transport:

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued advice on travel abroad and specific advice on international travel for the freight transport industry.

The Government is stepping in to guarantee business-to-business transactions currently supported by trade credit insurance, the premiums for which have risen sharply because of the increased risk of default due to coronavirus. A press release outlines the scheme with details to follow. It will operate until the end of the year.

There is guidance from the Department for Transport for operators and users on how to travel safely. This complements its guidance for staff in the transport sector here and details of a temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours rules here. It is also waiving the annual inspection for tank vehicles for transporting dangerous goods. Details here.

The Rail Delivery Group is advising passengers to avoid using trains and has issued guidance if your journey is essential.

MoT tests for heavy vehicles have been suspended for up to three months. Details here.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) has published guidance for importers and exporters here.

DIT is running webinars on logistics and movement of goods during COVID-19 (May 20, 10am); risk management when considering new markets (May 21, 10am); managing disruption of supply chains during COVID-19 (May 22, 2.30pm).

UK Export Finance has expanded protection against non-payment for UK exporters in response to Coronavirus. Details here.

Financial and legal:

The Government is changing insolvency law to help companies in difficulties to keep trading while they explore options for rescue, along the lines of the US Chapter 11 procedure.  It is also temporarily suspending wrongful trading provisions for directors. More here.

HM Revenue & Customs has launched a tax helpline to help businesses concerned about paying their tax due to Coronavirus. More here. The number is 0800 0159 559.

Companies are being given three months extra to file accounts. Details here. Companies House has guidance if you need more time to file your accounts because of Coronavirus. Click here.

The Government has banned evictions for commercial tenants that miss rent payments. Details here.

The Government has announced plans to temporarily ban the use of statutory demands and winding-up orders where a company cannot pay its bills due to Coronavirus. This legislation will be in force until June 30 at least. The Government is also introducing legislation to prevent landlords using commercial rent arrears recovery unless 90 days or more of unpaid rent is owed. More here.

Guidance for buy-to-let landlords is here.

The business rates revaluation due next year has been postponed by the the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Guidance on how holiday entitlement and holiday pay operate during the coronavirus pandemic has been issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Rules on staff carrying over annual leave entitlements have been relaxed. Details here.

HM Revenue and Customs has issued guidance for business people choosing to give up their income to support their business or donate to charity during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Intellectual Property Office has announced changes to patent services in response to coronavirus disruption and also changes to deadlines for patents, trademarks and designs.

The Pensions Regulator has produced advice for employers, pension fund trustees and scheme administrators. Click here.



Cumbria Chamber is keen to understand how the outbreak is affecting businesses so we can highlight problems to government and lobby for additional help where it’s needed. Help us to help you by completing a short survey here.

We have produced a Coronavirus Business Continuity Toolkit in partnership with the accountant Lamont Pridmore.

The Chamber’s Essential Coronavirus Podcast, with Frances Cameron and Luke Donockley of the law firm Muckle LLP, looks at the obligations and risks facing employers and steps to minimise damage to your business. Some of the content has been overtaken by events but there’s still a lot of valuable information:


Our Chamber Connect service matches people looking for work, and businesses with staff they want to release, with businesses looking to recruit temporary workers – perhaps to plug gaps caused by higher absenteeism rates. Details here.

We can help businesses with applications for Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans. Click here.

The British Chambers of Commerce’s Coronavirus Hub has a lot of useful information and is updated regularly. You can also download the British Chambers’ concise summary of the Government’s strategy to lift Coronavirus restrictions and there is a handy list of FAQs on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Chamber members can sign-up for online events and webinars.

Westfield Health, which provides healthcare and well being services to Chamber members, has produced an Employer Guide on Coronavirus, click here.

The Chamber’s Cumbria Business Growth Hub can offer you one-to-one adviser support, remotely of course, to help you plan through and beyond the crisis. This includes assistance in making applications for Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans and to furlough staff under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Make contact with the Growth Hub here.



Acas has produced advice for employers and employees. Click here. It has produced a webinar for employers here and There’s also a template letter to send to employees that businesses need to furlough. Click here.

The accountant Armstrong Watson has advice on various Coronavirus-related issues for business including sector-specific information for the hospitality, agriculture, charity and legal sectors. Details here.

Arts Council England has announced a £160m package of support for arts and organisations and freelancers affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. Click here for help for organisations and here for support for individuals.

Be the Business has advice on pivoting, by which it means a temporary change in your business model so that you can continue to trade through the outbreak. Click here. It also has a Coronavirus FAQs section here.

Burnetts Solicitors has a dedicated section on its website on Coronavirus issues including information on how to access Business Interruption Loans and an outline of the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme.  Click here.

Business Forums International hosts a weekly webinar on Thursdays at 11am aimed at senior HR practitioners looking for expert guidance and advice on surviving the coronavirus crisis and beyond.

The Centre for Assessment has developed free resources for businesses looking to resume operations as lockdown measures are relaxed. You can download guidance and a back to work risk assessment template.

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development has a coronavirus hub with tools and guides to download. These include a a factsheet, a guide to returning to the workplace and guide to furloughing employees.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations has advice on communicating with employees here.

Copeland Work and Skills Partnership is offering a wage subsidy to businesses in West Cumbria that take on a new member of staff. Businesses must have been operating for at least a year, employ under 50 people, have a new vacancy or vacated position offering employment of at least 16 hours per week. The employer receives a contribution of up to £2,500 towards wage and training costs and workplace mentoring to support the new employee.

The HR specialist Croner has produced materials for employers. These include a Coronavirus guide, a checklistfactsheet and a guide to getting back to work safely.

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.

Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership has compiled a list of sector-specific guidance and is hosting online advice clinics. The next is on Wednesday May 27, at 11am, covering legal issues around supply chains, data protection, contracts and property. It has also produced a Mental Health and Wellbeing Resources Pack for employers.

Cumbria Tourism has specific guidance for businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector here.

The Forestry Commission has produced advice and guidance for forestry businesses here.

The Freight Transport Association has a dedicated Coronavirus hub. Click here.

The Growth Company has a suite of resources including 10 steps to take now, a series of webinars, and guidance on keeping your business operating and managing cashflow. Click here.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has advice here.

Accountant Lamont Pridmore has set up a Coronavirus Business Support Hub. Click here.

The law firm Napthens is running a series of Coronavirus-related webinars for business. Details here.

Nat West Bank has set up help pages for business customers affected by Coronavirus. Click here.

North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network has launched a website with resources for people seeking help about suicide and mental wellbeing. It also has guidance for those who have been bereaved by suicide.

The Pay it Forward campaign enables self-employed individuals and small businesses to pre-sell services they can supply once the Coronavirus restrictions are lifted. Customers pay up-front, so easing the business’ cash-flow problems. Details here.

The accountant Saint & Co has produced a Coronavirus support guide here.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has advice for motor dealers here.

The Society of Occupational Medicine has produced a  toolkit for employers on returning to workplace after the COVID-19 lockdown.

United Utilities has issued guidance for businesses that have closed premises or significantly reduced activities, which means that water could have been sitting in the plumbing system for weeks. The guidance provides practical advice to ensure water is safe to use on reopening .

The World Health Organisation has detailed information including videos on best practice and posters to download to inform your workforce. There’s also a useful myth-buster section and advice on when face masks are appropriate. Click here.



Businesses that can assist in the response to Coronavirus, perhaps by supplying or manufacturing PPE, sanitiser or ventilators, supplying office or warehouse space, or helping with transport and logistics, can register here.

Businesses  can register to supply the NHS here.

Technical specifications for businesses looking to manufacture PPE are here. Businesses that are able to manufacture ventilators can find out about the requirements here.

Information for businesses able to manufacture hand sanitiser and gel is here.

The Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport has issued guidance for businesses looking to help voluntary, community, and social enterprise organisations during the coronavirus outbreak.

Cumbria Community Foundation has set up a fund with a target to raise £3m to help vulnerable people affected by the outbreak. If you’d like to support this initiative, details are here.

Cumbria LEP is asking businesses with surplus Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – such as moisture-repellent masks, gloves, aprons and hand sanitiser – to donate it for use by health and care workers. Register here.

A consortium of Cumbrian businesses, schools and colleges are using 3D printers to make plastic face shields to protect NHS staff. They are producing more than 100 a day and are appealing for donations to cover costs. More here.


© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce