During these challenging times I wanted to touch base with you to, firstly, check you and your family are well, and to let you know that we are in this together and I have pulled together a summary of the measures being introduced that can assist you. As you know these are changing on a daily basis and the infra-structure behind them is not yet in place but it appears some may be in place from Monday, we will keep you up to date on any developments:
The following steps will be put in place to support businesses during the 2020-21 financial year:
• a 75% rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors on properties with a rateable value of less than £69,000 from 1 April 2020
The finance secretary will also write to all local authorities urging them to respond positively to requests from rate payers for payment deferrals for a fixed period.
Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees
Small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:
This refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible
Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch next week to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments.
Support for businesses paying tax
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.
If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559. More information is available here.
Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to make a claim. Does your insurance include this? Please check with your insurer or broker.
Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.
The business helpline number is 0300 303 0660. The helpline will be open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm – Currently, no further information is available but it looks like this might be in place next week.
Julie Downie, Accounts Manager