Cumbria Chamber of Commerce has produced this toolkit to help businesses operate safely and profitably as the economy restarts after the coronavirus lockdown.
We’re updating it regularly as new information comes to light so keep checking to make sure you’re up to speed.
The toolkit is divided into four sections covering safe working; grants, loans and advice; skills and training; and tools and templates.
You can still access our popular Coronavirus Toolkit, which was designed to help businesses through lockdown. The guidance below is much more geared to getting your business back on track as restrictions are lifted.
The official guidance starts with five steps to working safely and an online tool to help you carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment and make sensible adjustments to your premises and workforce. If you don’t carry out a risk assessment, the Health and Safety Executive or your local council can issue an enforcement notice.
There is also a tool for employees who are on furlough or working from home, which guides them through questions that may influence their ability to go back to work safely. The idea is that you share this tool with staff to aid discussion on how they can return to work.
The Government had been advising that employees should work from home wherever possible but, since August 1, employers have more discretion over how employees can work safely – whether by continuing to work from home or attending a Covid Secure workplace.
The Government has updated its guidance on social distancing relaxing the two-metre rule. The new advice is to keep two metres away from people as a precaution or one metre when you can mitigate the risk by taking other precautions.
Some sectors, including hospitality, tourism and leisure, and close-contact services are now required to collect details and maintain records of staff, customers and visitors on their premises to support NHS Test and Trace. The Information Commissioner’s Office has published guidance on the data protection implications of collecting this information.
For business travel and commuting, consult the guidance on safe travel. People are advised that they may now use public transport but are encouraged to consider alternative means of transport where possible.
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.
By way of background, the Government has published its Covid-19 recovery strategy, setting out how and when the UK will adjust its response to the crisis.
ADVICE, GRANTS, LOANS AND RELIEFS
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 and plan for life after lockdown. 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 £4,000 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 including the new COVID 19 Response Programme.
The Government has announced a £20m package – of which Cumbria will receive just under £300,000 – to help smaller businesses recover from the impacts of Covid-19. Grants of between £1,000 and £5,000 will be available through the Growth Hub to:
Help businesses access specialist professional advice such as HR, accountancy, legal, financial, IT/digital
Purchase minor equipment to adapt or adopt new technology in order to continue to deliver business activity or diversify.
Grants must be awarded by February 28, 2021, and all activity completed by March 31, 2021. The grants aren’t yet available but you can register an interest and we will contact you as soon as applications open.
Similarly, the Government has announced a £10m Kick-starting Tourism package with similar criteria offering grants of up to £5,000 to small businesses in tourist areas. Cumbria is included. Again, you can register an interest and we’ll contact you when applications open.
The Government has compiled a round-up of coronavirus support and resources from public bodies, organisations and charities that may be useful to businesses. 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.
he Culture Recovery Fund offers grants from £50,000 to £3m to cultural organisations that were financially stable before Covid-19 but are now at imminent risk of failure. There will be two windows for applications. The first opens on August 10 and closes at noon on August 21, the second opens on August 21 and closes at noon on September 4. Similarly, the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage offers grants from £10,000 to £3m (applications close at noon on August 17) and the Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas offers grants up to £200,000 (applications close on October 30).
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 Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published a code of practice to encourage commercial tenants and landlords to work together to protect viable businesses.
There have been changes to insolvency law to give relieve the administrative burden on businesses – for example by providing more time to file accounts – and give struggling companies breathing space from their creditors while they seek a rescue.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has advice on re-starting including sections on rethinking business strategies, adapting the workplace and managing the return of employees.
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. Likewise Inspira is providing free careers advice and guidance to furloughed workers, those facing redundancy as well as its usual free careers guidance service for adults.
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.
Be the Business has advice on pivoting, altering your business model to adapt to changing market conditions.
Businesses looking to recruit young people this year 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.
Many of the business support and loan schemes launched under lockdown remain available. They include:
Bounce Back Loans offer advances up to £50,000 to SMEs for up to six years. There are no fees, no interest in the first 12 months and no requirement to start repayments for 12 months. The interest rate from year two is 2.5%.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loansoffer advances up to £5m to SMEs for up to six years. They are fee-free and interest-free for 12 months. Lenders will not demand personal guarantees for loans under £250,000.
Most businesses that are eligible for coronavirus grants have received them but you can still claim until the end of August. There are two schemes, one for small businesses the other for those in the retail/hospitality/leisure sectors. The maximum grants are £10,000 and £25,000 respectively. Check if you’re entitled to claimthen contact your district council Allerdale, Barrow, Carlisle, Copeland, Eden or South Lakeland.
The Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund is for small businesses (fewer than 50 staff) that don’t qualify for either the small business grants or retail/hospitality/leisure grants (above), perhaps because they don’t pay business rates directly. The maximum grant is £25,000 although some local authorities have set a cap of £10,000. The scheme closed in June but has reopened for applications in Allerdale only (until 5pm on August 10) because Allerdale didn’t allocate all their funding in the first round of applications.
The COVID-19 Sustainable Innovation Fund offers grants to innovative companies needing to keep green projects alive during the pandemic, so helping to transform the way people live, work and travel. The scheme is open for applications until July 29.
The Manufacturing Made Smarter initiative allows UK-registered businesses to apply for funding towards feasibility studies into digital technologies to transform supply chains in UK manufacturing. The scheme is open for applications until October 7.
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.
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 running an online COVID 19 Response Programme during July and August. This is a new peer-learning programme specifically designed to support leaders of SMEs in Cumbria and Lancashire following the coronavirus pandemic. It will explore ways to drive business recovery in the short term as well as planning for a more resilient long-term future.
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.