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 including support from the UK Government for businesses in 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. 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— from 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:
- Apprentices, their employers and training providers
- Buy-to-let landlords plus guidance on understanding the possession process and an extension of the ban on bailiff-enforced evictions of residential tenants until May 31.
- Care homes and domiciliary care
- Close contact services such as hairdressers, beauticians, massage therapists and tailors
- Construction and other outdoor work plus a Q&A on the announcement on construction site working hours to enable social distancing working practices.
- Driving instructors and motorcycle trainers
- Early years and childcare providers
- Factories, plants and warehouses
- Farmers, landowners and rural businesses including advice for livestock keepers
- Food processing and production
- Heritage locations
- Hotels and other guest accommodation
- Labs and research facilities
- MoT centres and testers
- Offices and contact centres
- Performing arts
- Playgrounds and outdoor gyms
- Private security industry
- Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaways including an extension to the automatic right for restaurants, pubs and cafes to provide takeaway services (without planning consent) until March 23, 2022
- Shops and branches including information on extended opening hours in the run up to Christmas
- Sport and gym/leisure facilities
- Taxis and private hire vehicles plus actions that drivers, operators and owners of taxis or private hire vehicles (PHVs) can take to protect against coronavirus
- Transport operators
- Visitor economy
- Working in or from vehicles
- Working in other people’s homes
Public Health England has issued a Cumbria-specific workplace resource pack for employers with key contacts, messages and guidance on managing suspected and confirmed Covid cases in the workplace. It also has guidance on the ventilation of indoor spaces to stop the spread of coronavirus.
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. It has also 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.
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.
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.
NHS Test and Trace will test anyone who have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, prioritising those deemed to be essential workers. Increasingly, it will also test people who do not have symptoms, prioritising those who cannot work from home. Businesses can also 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.
***UPDATED*** In addition, the Government is offering all businesses with 10 or more employees access to lateral-flow tests enabling them to test the whole of their workforce. These are free if you apply before April 12. As an alternative, Cumbria County Council is offering free lateral-flow tests as part of its community testing programme. Businesses can access testing in the workplace by emailing email@example.com or 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.
This is the latest guidance on social distancing.
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
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. 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. From March 8, passengers travelling abroad have to carry a new form stating that their trip is permitted under national lockdown rules. Many countries have imposed restrictions on travellers from the UK in response to the emergence of a new strain of Covid-19 here. 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. The test to release scheme does not apply to arrivals from ‘red list’ countries.
There is specific guidance for operators, drivers and crew of HGVs on crossing an international border safely. Here is information on getting a Covid-19 test if you’re an HGV or van driver, a list of sites where HGV 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
This is advice for employers who are sponsoring workers from overseas under the new points-based immigration system.
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:
- Acas’ guide to working safely during coronavirus.
- Better Business for All’s reopening toolkit.
- The British Standards Institution’s guidelines for safe working.
- The Centre for Assessment’s guidance on bringing staff back.
- The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development has a guide to returning to the workplace, guidance on flexible working measures and a redundancy guide.
- The HR specialist Croner has a guide to getting back to work safely.
- The Growth Company has resources on safely reopening workplaces including a back to work risk assessment, signage pack and guidance on managing employees.
- The Home Building Federation has a charter committing housebuilders to safe working.
- The National Cyber Security Council has a s small business guide with practical advice on cyber security matters, and guidance for SMEs on responding to and recovering from a cyber incident.
- The Society of Occupational Medicine has a toolkit for employers on returning to the workplace.
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 Edinburgh-based cleaning company Perfect Clean has put together a useful article exploring commercial cleaning post-Covid, highlighting what should be included in the services scope of work.
The Home Office has issued guidance and tools for employers to help them support staff who may be suffering domestic abuse.
The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy has collated a list of coronavirus-related support for specific sectors from business representative organisations and trade associations.
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. 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. Applications for the November lockdown and the first cycle of the current lockdown close on March 31. Applications for the second cycle close on May 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. This scheme closes to applications on March 31.
- 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. Applications close on March 31.
- 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. Applications close on March 31.
- 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. Applications close on March 31.
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.
The Restart Grant will be available from April 1 to help businesses reopen as Covid restrictions are lifted. Businesses in the non-essential retail sector are entitled to a one-off cash grant of up to £6,000. Those in the hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym sectors can claim up to £18,000. As with the other grants, the Restart grant will be available from district councils.
There is guidance for people who are self-employed and getting less work or no work because of coronavirus.
There is a specific package of support for innovative businesses and third-sector organisations that have received funding from Innovate UK. This includes continuity grants, loans and additional business advisory support services.
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 but has been extended until September 30. An interim rate of 12.5% will then apply until March 2022.
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.
HMRC is looking to recover overpayments made under the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which operated last August. The guidance sets out how it can reclaim overpayments, how businesses can repay overpayments and the penalties for not telling HMRC if you’re aware you’ve claimed too much.
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 May 28 2021.
Covid-19 funding is available to support commercial airports and ground handlers. The closing date for applications is February 21.
The Government has extended protections for businesses that struggle to pay their rent. They will be protected from eviction until the end of June 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.
Measures from the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act have been extended to relieve pressure on businesses dealing with coronavirus. 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. The automatic extensions will come to an end for filing deadlines that fall after April 5, 2021.
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.
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 September 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 will have to contribute 10% of wage costs from July, rising to 20% from August. 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 and on asking HMRC not to publish your claim details if doing so could leave individuals at risk of violence or intimidation.. 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 is open to self-employed individuals whose businesses have been adversely affected by the pandemic. For the current quarter, February to April, it will pay a lump sum equal to 80% of average monthly trading profits, capped at £7,500. Claims will open in late April and close on May 31. The Government has announced a further extension until September and will now allow claims from individuals that have submitted a 2019-20 tax return. 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.
- ***UPDATED*** 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, or the first three months of 2021-22. Business rates will be discounted by two-thirds for the remainder of 2021-22. In addition, the Government has announced a £1.5bn Business Rates Relief Fund for businesses affected by Covid-19 outside the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The various coronavirus loan schemes listed above will be replaced by new Recovery Loans, offered from April 6 to December 31, 2021. Term loans and overdrafts will be available between £25,001 and £10m per business. Invoice finance and asset finance will be available between £1,000 and £10m. Finance terms are up to six years for term loans and asset finance facilities. For overdrafts and invoice finance facilities, terms will be up to three years. No personal guarantees will be taken on facilities up to £250,000 and a borrower’s principal private residence cannot be taken as security. The Government guarantees 80% of the finance to ensure lenders have the confidence to lend. Details of accredited lenders to follow.
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.
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.
HMRC has produced a template to claim for 100 or more employees under the Job Retention Scheme.