Business Covid toolkit

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.

This guidance applies to businesses in England – different rules apply for Scotland.

The Prime Minister has announced a national lockdown that supersedes the four-tier system of Covid restrictions that had been in force. 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. Meanwhile, the Chancellor has announced that businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure will to receive a one-off grant worth up to £9,000.

 

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 tier restrictions (above). Where 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 produced guidance on working safely during the coronavirus outbreak and information on managing risk and doing a risk assessment.

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.

Some employees may be unable to come to work because they have been told to self-isolate under NHS Test and Trace.  See this guidance for employers, businesses and workers and the guidance on coronavirus testing.

***UPDATED*** NHS Test and Trace has guidance on what to do if it contacts someone you employ, including information on self-isolation and financial support. It also has guidance on how to recognise, contain and report outbreaks of Covid-19 on business premises. There’s a series of action cards to download for different types of business.

***UPDATED*** 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*** NHS Test and Trace tests people who have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. It will test others who do not have symptoms in limited circumstances only, for example those that work in a hospital or care home or if there is community testing in the area they live. However, businesses can set up their own test programmes to ensure their workforce is Covid-free. Here is a list of private test providers. Employees who are given a relevant coronavirus antigen test by their employer are not liable to an Income Tax benefit in kind charge.

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.

This is the latest guidance on social distancing.

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

In response to pressures on local and national supply chains, the Department for Transport has introduced a temporary relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules in England, Scotland and Wales until December 30.

Under the national lockdown, you should not leave home or travel, including internationally, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so. For business travel and commuting, consult the guidance on safe travel.

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. All inbound passengers to England arriving by ship, plane or train must take a Covid test up to 3 days before departure and provide evidence of a negative result before they travel. This is in addition to the existing quarantine restrictions and the requirement for most arrivals to self-isolate for 10 days. There is an option to take a test after 5 days of self-isolation with a negative result releasing the individual from the requirement to isolate. Here is a list of private test providers. The Government has issued on guidance on the employment rights of individuals required to self-isolate on returning to England. Some occupations are exempt from the quarantine requirement (although the list has been reduced). Arrivals from some countries where infection rates are very low had been exempt exempt from the requirement to quarantine but this is no longer the case. Likewise, senior executives are no longer permitted to leave quarantine. They had been able to do so to undertake business activities of significant economic benefit to the UK.

The Government has imposed additional restrictions on travel from many southern African and Latin American countries, plus Portugal, in response to the new emergence of new strains of Covid-19.

There is specific guidance for operators, drivers and crew of HGVs on crossing an international border safely.

***UPDATED*** 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, the Netherlands and Denmark all require HGV drivers to show a negative Covid test result prior to travel. Consult this Foreign Office listing to see restrictions in force on travel to other countries.

Here is a list of sites where drivers can get free Covid tests and border-readiness checks before transporting goods to the EU and this is the guidance on testing for HGV drivers using the Port of D0ver or Eurotunnel.  HGVs using Dover or Eurotunnel must also have a Kent Access Permit. The Government is encouraging hauliers to test drivers on their own premises before departure. The Department of Health and Social Care will provide lateral flow testing kits free of charge until the end of March and support hauliers in establishing testing facilities via webinars and Q&A sessions. Hauliers that want to explore setting up testing facilities at their premises should email employee.testing@beis.gov.uk

This is advice for employers who are sponsoring workers from overseas under the new points-based immigration system.

There is specific advice for for seasonal poultry workers coming to England to process poultry on farms, and for their employers.

The National Cyber Security Centre has launched the CyberAware initiative offering advice on online security for those working from home.

Defra has issued guidance on how to dispose of business waste, including face coverings and PPE. Businesses that use PPE are being warned about sub-standard face masks that fail to provide adequate protection.

The The Office for Product Safety and Standards has guidance for manufacturers of hand sanitiser and PPE.

In addition to Government advice on safe working, some professional and trade bodies have produced guidance too. They include:

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.

You can view webinars and videos on best practice including case studies where businesses talk about the measures they have implemented to protect staff and customers. There are more case studies in the Government’s Coronavirus Business Support blog.

Cumbria LEP has case studies on how local businesses and organisations are operating safely: The Bath House; Carlisle City Council; James Cropper; H&H Reeds; Kathryn Jackson Coaching;  Network Rail; Oxley Group; Rattle Ghyll; Story Contracting; Temple Heelis; Tullie House Museum; James Walker; University of Cumbria; Wax Lyrical.

 

 

ADVICE, GRANTS, LOANS AND RELIEFS

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and the accountant Lamont Pridmore have revised and updated our Business Continuity Tooklkit to help businesses navigate the pandemic. Lamont Pridmore has also created its own Covid-19 Business Support Hub and a 15-page summary of government funding for businesses, which is in pdf format to download and print.

Cumbria Business Growth Hub is 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.

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. Those able to offer at least 30 placements can apply to Kickstart directly. Those offering fewer than 30 placements should apply through the Chamber. Here are tips for making a successful application.

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. Grants 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. A version of this  scheme will reopen for the latest national lockdown.
  • 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.
  • National Lockdown Grants are for businesses  in retail, hospitality and leisure required to close under the national lockdown that began on January 5 and is likely to continue until mid-February at least. 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.

In Cumbria, all the above grant schemes are administered by district councils. In some cases, grants will be paid automatically to eligible businesses but in most cases businesses have to apply. For details, follow these links to Allerdale Borough Council, Barrow Borough Council, Carlisle City Council, Copeland Borough Council, Eden District Council and South Lakeland District Council.

There is guidance for people who are self-employed and getting less work or no work because of coronavirus.

The Government has reduced the VAT rate from 20% to 5% for the hospitality industry and holiday accommodation, and for visitor attractions. This temporary measure was due to end on January 12, 2021, but has been extended until March 31, 2021.

***UPDATED*** HM Revenue & Customs has issued guidance about taxable expenses and benefits when they are paid to employees because of coronavirus and how employers should report them to HMRC.

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.

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 Government’s Green Homes Grant scheme allows home owners to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. Businesses must be TrustMark accredited to carry out installations under the scheme. Find out more and sign up here.

The Rural Payments Agency has issued guidance for farmers, landowners and rural businesses on payments, grants and services, including changes to making claims.

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.

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 January 29, 2021.

The British Chambers of Commerce’s Coronavirus Hub has a dedicated section to help businesses looking to restart. Chamber members can sign-up for online events and webinars.

The Government has extended protections for businesses that struggle to pay their rent. They will be protected from eviction until the end of March 2021. In addition, 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 is also guidance for buy-to-let landlords and specific guidance on changes to the possession action process during the pandemic.

The Government has extended measures to protect businesses from insolvency.

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.

Companies House has issued on guidance on changes to filing arrangements because of the pandemic including a new services allowing companies to upload certain forms digitally instead of submitting them on paper and providing more time to file accounts.

Measures from the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act have been extended to relieve pressure on businesses dealing with coronavirus.

The Department for Work and Pensions has produced a factsheet for businesses looking to make staff redundant.

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.

There is also advice that employers can share with employees who cannot work because of Covid restrictions and those being made redundant.

Be the Business has advice on pivoting, altering your business model to adapt to changing market conditions.

Cumbria Tourism has set up a Coronavirus Recovery Hub for tourism and hospitality businesses.

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.

An employer guide has been developed for employers that want to get their apprenticeships up and running again with advice and support to help organisations where apprentices have been affected by the pandemic. Further guidance is available on discovering the benefits of apprenticeships during the pandemic and tried and tested tips for supporting apprentices after a break in learning.

Many of the business support and loan schemes launched under lockdown in March remain available. They include:

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme  will operate until April 30, 2021. It pays 80% of the wages of furloughed employees who are unable to work because of the pandemic, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.  Employers may be asked to contribute from January. Claims must be submitted within 14 days of the end of the period that you are claiming for. Check if you can claim, see how to claim, find examples to help you claim, calculate how much you can claim, check which employees you can claim for also individuals you can claim for who are not employees and see the steps to take before calculating your claim. There’s also information too on how to repay grant if you’ve over-claimed. The Pensions Regulator has advice on how the scheme affects employers’ pension contributions. The extension of the Job Retention Scheme until March means that the Job Retention Bonus, announced previously, will not now be paid in February.
  • The Self Employment Income Support Scheme has reopened for applications to self-employed individuals whose businesses have been adversely affected by the pandemic. You can claim a lump sum equal to 80% of average monthly trading profits, capped at £7,500 per three-month period. Claims for the quarter November 1 to January 29 must be submitted by January 29. A further grant, which may be adjusted to respond to changing circumstances, will cover the period from February to April 2021. There is guidance on how to show your business has been adversely affected, how different circumstances affect your eligibility, how HMRC calculates your trading profits and what to do if you’re self-employed and getting less work or no work.  You can also use the online service to check the status of your payment, if you think the grant amount is too low or HMRC have asked you to update your details for your claim. Self-employed people who can’t work or claim under the scheme can apply for Universal Credit.
  • The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme allows SMEs to reclaim employees’ coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay.
  • Businesses in retail/hospitality/leisure and nurseries don’t have to pay business rates in 2020-21.
  • 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 12 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 Loans offer 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.
  • Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loans offer advances up to £200m to businesses with a turnover of more than £45m. The deadline for applications has been extended to March 31, 2021.
  • HM Revenue and Customs is allowing businesses to defer tax payments such as VAT and self-assessment payment on account. The Chancellor has now refined these schemes. Business that deferred VAT bills 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.
  • The Future Fund offers convertible loans to businesses driving innovation. The deadline for applications has been extended until January 31, 2021.

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.

LUMS also offers the Business Model Innovation Programme  to help SMEs adapt their business models so that they’re better able to weather future crises. The next cohort starts on January 28, 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.

Acas has produced template letters for making staff redundant.

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 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has produced a returning to the workplace planner, a  workforce safety risk assessment template and a workforce planner flowchart to help you navigate complex workforce planning decisions.

The Government’s support-finder tool asks 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 Cabinet Office has produced a poster summarising the tier-4 Covid restrictions that apply throughout Cumbria from December 31.

The Department for Transport has produced posters that employers can download and print to help staff plan their journeys to and from work safely.

Public Health England has created a customer-logging toolkit including posters to download and print.

Local authorities in Cumbria have produced a poster to download, urging people to wear a face mask if they cannot stay 2m apart. It is available to download and print in A2, A3, A4 and A5 formats.

HMRC has produced a template to claim for 100 or more employees under the Job Retention Scheme.

 

 

 

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