COVID-19 – Government Advice to UK Businesses

COVID-19 – Government Advice to UK Businesses

The Coronavirus outbreak is the biggest public health emergency in a generation and the Government is calling upon businesses to take decisive action to prevent the spread of the disease. A range of measures have been made available in the UK to help support businesses and employees along with a host of recommendations and guidelines about how to protect staff and the wider community.

At TalkTalk Business, we are committed to supporting our Partners and their customers to do the right thing for their staff as well as their business. This page details the latest advice from the Government on what you should and should not be doing, and also what financial support you can get to keep your business on track.

What You Need to Know

Do I need to close my business?

View here for a list of businesses that have been ordered to close: download here

Other businesses can stay open, but all workers must work from home unless it is impossible for them to do so.

My staff aren’t able to work from home due to the nature of our work, what can I do to help keep them safe?

If people can work from home and it is practical, then they should do so. If not, they should be encouraged to keep at least 2 metres apart at all times.

 

Regular handwashing should be encouraged or hand sanitiser should be provided.

 

If they develop symptoms of Coronavirus, they should remain at home for a minimum of 7 days. If someone they live with has symptoms, they should remain at home for at least 14 days.

 

What can my business do to help?

The first important thing for any employers is to ensure staff are protected as much as possible. The Government has told all businesses that they must allow staff to work from home unless this is absolutely impossible.

 

Businesses are also being encouraged to keep staff up to date with the latest advice regarding dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. You have a captive audience, so make sure you pass on any changes to the current advice on keeping themselves and others well.

 

In addition, many businesses are offering support to the NHS with essential services. So, if you think you have activities or facilities that can help during the crisis you can visit gov.uk for more information.

 

When communicating with employees, what is the best approach?

Focusing on practical, new information is important – with so much information out there, focus on the changes that are most relevant to your employees and ensure it is up to date.

Tailor information to the circumstances of individual employees where possible, for example ensuring information is appropriate for individuals’ geographies or isolation statuses.

 

Prioritise employees’ wellbeing in communication, ensuring they are reassured and that they have a mechanism with which to communicate any discomfort they may have, so that concerns are well understood and listened to.

If you have temporarily closed your business, do consider how you can support the maintenance of communication routes between employees to help them manage their mental health.

 

How long will closures last?

The Government has announced that it will review all the new measures on a monthly basis.

Should businesses who have been told to close worry about security of their stock and premises? Will the Government help?

 

The Government is asking businesses to leave all premises secure with the appropriate level of security surveillance. Companies are also expected to have the appropriate insurance for their stock and premises.

 

In a lockdown, how can I keep my business running?

Gov.uk has advice on business continuity management and a toolkit to help you plan for a lockdown. Broadly though, the key things you need to think about are:

 

PEOPLE

What are your critical activities and what is the minimum number of staff required to carry them out?

What is the range of skills/expertise required?

 

PREMISES

What locations do your organisations’ critical activities operate from?

What alternative premises do you have?

What plant, machinery and other facilities are essential to carry out your critical activities?

 

TECHNOLOGY

What IT is essential to carry out your critical activities?

What systems and means of voice and data communication are required to carry out your critical activities?

 

INFORMATION

What information is essential to carry out your critical activities?

How is this information stored?

 

SUPPLIERS AND PARTNERS

Who are your priority suppliers/partners whom you depend on to undertake your critical activities?

Do you tender key services out to another organisation, to whom and for what?

Do you have any reciprocal arrangements with other organisations?

 

 

Who are classed as key workers?

 

Some people working in the following sectors are considered ‘key workers’:

Health and social care

This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

Education and childcare

This includes childcare, support and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.

Key public services

This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.

Local and national government

This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response, or delivering essential public services, such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms length bodies.

Food and other necessary goods

This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).

Public safety and national security

This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.

 

Transport

This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.

Utilities, communication and financial services

This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.

If workers think they fall within the critical categories above, they should confirm with their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service.

If your business falls into any of these categories then your employees’ children may be able to remain at school during the crisis.

If your school is closed, then please contact your local authority, who will seek to redirect you to a local school in your area that your child, or children, can attend.

 

Quick link to gov.uk advice page https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance

 

What Help is Available to Keep Your Business Running?

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme supports small and medium-sized businesses with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to six years.

 

The Government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

 

The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the Government-owned British Business Bank.

 

There are 40 accredited lenders able to offer the scheme, including all the major banks.

 

You are eligible for the scheme if your business is UK based, with turnover of no more than £45 million per year

 

Business Rates Holiday for Retail, Hospitality and Leisure

Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year. Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019-20 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.

 

The rules on this are slightly different depending on whether your business is in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or England. See the helpline number below for more information.

 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. This applies to employees who have been asked to stop working, but who are being kept on the pay roll, otherwise described as ‘furloughed workers’.

 

HMRC will reimburse 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 per month. This is to safeguard workers from being made redundant. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to March 1st and is initially open for 3 months, but will be extended if necessary.

 

Small Business Grant Funding

The Government is providing additional funding for Local Authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBRR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

 

Again, this scheme varies for different parts of the UK. See the helpline numbers below.

 

 

Statutory Sick Pay Rebate

Small and medium-sized businesses will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for staff sickness absence due to Coronavirus. This refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of Coronavirus.

It is available to all UK businesses employing fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020.

 

Time to Pay

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

 

COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

The new COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) means that the Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger companies. This will support companies which are fundamentally strong, but have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze. It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.

 

The scheme will operate for at least 12 months, and for as long as steps are needed to relieve cash flow pressures on firms that make a material contribution to the UK economy

 

More information on eligibility can be found on the Bank of England Website (www.bankofengland.co.uk)

 

 

VAT Deferral

All businesses will have Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments deferred for 3 months. This will happen automatically. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the Government as normal.

 

Companies who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debits with via their own bank if they are unable to pay. This needs to be done in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return.

 

Deferral of Self-Assessment Payment

The Self- Assessment payment on account, that is ordinarily due to be paid to HMRC by 31 July 2020 may now be deferred until January 2021.

 

No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged if you defer payment of your July 2020 payment on account until January 2021.

 

HMRC have also scaled up their Time to Pay offer to all firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of Coronavirus and have outstanding tax liabilities.

 

Quick link to gov.uk advice page https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-businesses-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Quick link to gov.uk downloadable guidance

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

 

Help and Information

Some aspects of business support are devolved. For business support in England, ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland visit gov.uk or try the info below.

 

England

You can contact the government’s Business Support Helpline for free advice.

You can also find free support, advice and sources of finance through your local ‘growth hub’.

Business Support Helpline (England)
Telephone: 0300 456 3565
Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm

The Business Support Helpline for England is also on:

 

Scotland

 

Get business support online, or over the phone.

Find Business Support Scotland
Telephone: 0300 303 0660
Textphone: 0800 023 2071
Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5:30pm

 

Wales

Get help with your business online, or by calling the Business Wales Helpline.

Business Wales Helpline
Telephone: 0300 060 3000
Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5:30pm

Northern Ireland

Find business advice and support. You can also contact the Invest Northern Ireland helpline.

Invest Northern Ireland
Telephone: 0800 181 4422
Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm

Downloadable Content

Download Government Advice to UK Businesses

Click here to download our PDF detailing Goverment advice regarding COVID-19