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 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.
NHS Test and Trace has published advice on how to recognise, contain and reportoutbreaks of Covid-19 on your premises. There’s a series of action cards to download for different types of business.
***NEW*** From September 28, it will be a legal requirement for people who have been told to self-isolate to do so, supported by payments of £500 for those on lower incomes who cannot work from home. New fines for those breaching self-isolation rules will 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*** It is now 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 and close-contact services such as hairdressers. These businesses are also being asked to download QR codes to prepare for public rollout of new NHS Covid-19 app from September 24.
***UPDATED*** The Government’s guidance on social distancing advises people to keep two metres away from each other as a precaution or one metre when they can mitigate the risk by taking other precautions. It has also introduced the rule of six, which applies indoors and outdoors with police able to disperse gatherings of more than six people and fine individuals involved. Hospitality businesses are now legally required to enforce the rule of six or face fines of up to £4,000. In Barrow, in response to a surge in infections, the advice is that the six people should be drawn from no more than two households.
Face coverings are now mandatory in many settings including shops, shopping malls, public transport, visitor attractions and hairdressers. The maximum fine for those that don’t comply is increasing to £3,200.
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. while walking, cycling, and travelling in vehicles or on public transport.
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 £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 including the new COVID 19 Response Programme.
Two Growth Hub grant schemes launched in August to help smaller businesses recover from the impacts of the pandemic have been heavily oversubscribed and are now closed to expressions of interest.
The Government has introduced the Kickstart Scheme, 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. Those able to offer at least 30 placements can apply to Kickstart directly. Those offering fewer than 30 placements should apply through the Chamber.
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme ran throughout August to encourage people to return to restaurants, pubs and cafes. Although the scheme has ended, businesses that took part can still claim back up to £10 per qualifying meal from the Government.
***NEW*** 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.
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.
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.
The local authority coronavirus grants schemes for small firms and businesses in retail/hospitality/leisure closed on August 28.
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.
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.
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.
The Department for Transport has produced posters that employers can download and print to help staff plan their journeys to and from work safely.