Covid-19: Support for Business

If you are considering letting staff go, please read the following information:

· For the first time in history, the UK government is stepping in to help pay people’s wages – paying grants to support as many jobs as necessary.

· Grants will be paid to any employers who retain their staff. Any employer in the country – large, small, charitable or for profit – who promises to retain their staff, will be able to apply for a grant from HMRC to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are kept on payroll.

· Employees who were on the payroll on 19 March or earlier are eligible. The cost of wages will be backdated to 1 March.

· Grants will cover 80 per cent of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month – which is above the average income. Employers will be free to top up the remaining 20 per cent, but this is not mandatory. There will be no limit on the number or total value of grants paid out.

· The UK Government will also cover the cost of National Insurance and pension contributions. Employer contributions for furloughed staff will be paid by the UK Government on top of 80 per cent of salary costs. This could save businesses an extra £300 a month for each employee under the scheme.

· Workers on the Job Retention Scheme who are planning to take paid parental or adoption leave will be entitled to pay based on their usual earnings rather than a furloughed pay rate.

· The scheme has been extended by the UK Government until the end of October. There will be no changes to the scheme until the end of July. But from the start of August there will be flexibility for employers to return people to work part time.

· The scheme is now closed to new applications – unless your employee is returning to work from any kind of parental leave. If an employee is returning for parental leave, their employer will still be able to furlough them even after the 10 June cut-off date. But in order to be eligible, you must have previously furloughed staff in the past.

· Further information on the scheme can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme.

· You will be eligible for a £1,000 bonus from the UK Government to keep furloughed employees in work. Employers will be eligible for £1,000 for every furloughed staff member who is kept in employment through to January 2021 Payments will be made from February 2021, and further details will be announced later in July.

If you are concerned about the cost of recruiting new staff, please read the following information:

· The UK Government Kickstarter Scheme will pay the salary of new employees aged between 16 and 24. The UK Government is asking businesses to offer 6-month work placements to out of work young people and in return the UK Government will pay their salaries and national insurance contributions. The scheme will open for applications in August, with the first jobs expected to start in the autumn. Further details are due to be announced.

Your business may be entitled to reclaim the costs of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for sickness absence:

· This refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who are either ill or been told to self-isolate because of COVID-19. This is in line with the recommended isolation period.

· Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible. The size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020.

· Employers should maintain records of staff absences, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. The eligible period for the scheme began on 13 March.

· The UK Government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible. Existing systems are not designed to facilitate employer refunds for SSP.

· You can now apply online to reclaim the costs of SSP for eligible employees at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-back-statutory-sick-pay-paid-to-employees-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19.

If your business is in the tourism or hospitality sector, please read the following information:

· From 15 July your VAT bill will be slashed by the UK Government. VAT will be cut from 20 per cent to 5 per cent on goods and services that fall into the following brackets: food, accommodation or attractions. This includes hotels, restaurants, theme parks and more. VAT on these goods and services will remain at 5 per cent for six months. Further guidance should be issued by HMRC in due course.

· You will soon be able to register to take part in the UK Government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme. As part of this scheme the UK Government will offer diners a 50 per cent discount on meals between Monday and Wednesday up to £10 in value per head. You will be able to reclaim the full cost of this discount from the UK Government. Further details are due to be announced.

Your business may be eligible for rates relief and grants:

· If your business occupies a property in the retail, hospitality, tourism or aviation sectors you will be eligible for a 100 per cent discount on your rates bill for 1 year from 1 April 2020. This will cover a range of businesses, including restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, shops, cinemas, bingo halls and letting agents. This discount will also cover airports and aviation businesses that are based as airports. Relief will be granted regardless of the rateable value of the property. The property must be occupied in order to be eligible.

· Your business will be eligible for a 1.6 per cent relief regardless of rateable value. This measure effectively freezes the poundage rate for the coming year. This will not need to be applied for – it will automatically be applied to your bill.

· You will be eligible for these reliefs even if you are already in receipt of another form of relief.

· You may be eligible for a grant of up to £25,000 if your business is in the hospitality, leisure and retail sector and occupies a property with a rateable value of between £18,001 and £51,000. If your business occupies more than one property, you may be eligible for a further grant of up to £18,750 for each additional property.

· You may be eligible for a grant of up to £10,000 if your business is eligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Rate Relief. If your business occupies more than one property, you may be eligible for a further grant of up to £7,500 for each additional property.

· You should now be able to apply for reliefs and grants via your local authority. Information on how to apply is available at: https://www.mygov.scot/non-domestic-rates-coronavirus/.

· The deadline for applications for grants is 10 July 2020.

If your business is not eligible for the grants above, please read the following information:

· Please note that applications to the following funds close on 10 July 2020.

· If you pay your business rates through a landlord or are not in the rates system at all then you may now be eligible for a business support grant. You should now be able to apply for a £10,000 business support grant from your local authority if your business occupies a shared office space, business incubator or a shared industrial unit that is leased from a registered, rate-paying landlord.

· If you own a small bed and breakfast businesses with no business bank account you should now be able to apply for support. You can apply for a one-off grant of £3,000 if you have been a member of or listed with a recognised tourism organisation before March 2020, have been in business for more than a year and can demonstrate that at least 35 per cent of your income comes from the affected business. You will need to apply through your local authority. You can find the full eligibility criteria at https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/service/coronavirus/bed-and-breakfast-hardship-fund.

· Further information for businesses in Scotland is available at https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/coronavirus-advice. Any unanswered questions can be raised with the Scottish Government via email on BESTCovidHub@gov.scot or by calling 0300 303 0660.

If you own a small or medium-sized business that is facing cash flow issues, please read the following information:

· You can now apply for a UK Government Bounce Back loan of between £2,000 and £50,000. Small businesses can now apply online through a simple form at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan

· The deadline for applications to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme is 4 November 2020.

· These new loans will be interest free for the first 12 months and backed 100 per cent by the UK Government. No repayments will be due in the first 12 months and the UK Government will pay any fees incurred. The loan term will be up to 6 years.

· The UK Government is working with lenders to ensure that approved loans are paid out within days so that immediate support is available for those that need it the most.

· You will be eligible to apply if your business is UK based, has been negatively affected by the virus and was not an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019.

· You will not be eligible for these loans if your business operates as a bank, insurer or reinsurer (but not insurance brokers), a public body or a state-funded school.

· You will not be able to apply if you are already claiming funding through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). However if you already have a loan with a lender under CBILS terms, you will be able to transfer it to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.

· The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), delivered by the British Business Bank, is operational and is ready to support businesses.

· The scheme is working to provide funding for business through term loans, overdrafts, asset finance and invoice finance.

· The UK Government is providing lenders with a guarantee of 80 per cent on each loan to give them greater confidence in providing loans to small and medium sized businesses.

· If you obtain a loan as part of this scheme, you will not be charged for this guarantee and nor will your lender.

· You will be able to apply for loans worth up to £5 million, from over 40 lenders, interest free for the first twelve months as the UK Government will be covering the cost of the repayments.

· All viable small businesses will now be able to access the scheme, not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing.

· The UK Government is stopping lenders from requesting personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 and is working urgently to speed up the application and approval process.

· You should approach your own lender via their website in the first instance to see if you are eligible for funding, before approaching other lenders.

· The latest information is available at https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/for-businesses-and-advisors/

· You can confirm whether or not you are eligible by reading this check list: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/CBILS-SME-Eligibility-Check-FINAL.pdf

If you own a large business that is facing cash flow issues, please read the following information:

· The UK Government has set up the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) to provide loans of up to £200 million, largely guaranteed by the state.

· At present, CLBILS loans will provide a government guarantee of 80 per cent on loans of up to £25 million for firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £250 million.

· At present, CLBILS loans will provide a government guarantee of 80 per cent on loans of up to £50 million for firms with an annual turnover that’s greater than £250 million.

· Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest.

· Further details of the scheme are available at https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-schemes/clbils/ and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-the-coronavirus-large-business-interruption-loan-scheme.

· Companies commonly sell short term debt, known as ‘commercial paper’, to the market. This is a quick and cost-effective way to raise working capital. The UK Government has worked with the Bank of England to set up a new Corporate Financing Facility, that will allow the Bank to buy short term debt from companies.

· This will support companies which are fundamentally strong, but have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze, enabling them to continue financing their short-term liabilities. It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.

· Further information is available from the Bank of England here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/launch-of-covid-19-corporate-financing-facility-ccff

If you are concerned about facing insolvency, please read the following information:

· The UK Government is changing insolvency laws to prevent businesses being forced to file for bankruptcy. Wrongful trading regulations will be suspended retrospectively to 1 March to ensure that company directors are not held personally liable for continuing to pay staff and suppliers even if there are fears the company could become insolvent.

· Additionally, businesses going through restructuring will not be able to be put into administration by creditors and will continue to be able to access energy, broadband or raw materials.

· Further information is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/regulations-temporarily-suspended-to-fast-track-supplies-of-ppe-to-nhs-staff-and-protect-companies-hit-by-covid-19.

· Scotland’s insolvency service, Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB), has suspended sale and eviction from property in ongoing bankruptcy administrations until further notice.

· The evidential requirements for individuals seeking debt relief through bankruptcy have been amended to allow faster access, providing protection from debt enforcement.

· AiB is also reducing the need for face to face contact, allowing access to debt relief to be maintained by accepting electronic signatures on protected trust deeds and other documentation.

· If you have an ongoing debt payment plan but are worried about how you will be able to pay, AiB will not be revoking these programmes.

· The latest information is available from Accountant in Bankruptcy here: https://www.aib.gov.uk/aib-covid-19-business-continuity.

If you are concerned about water fees, please read the following information:

· A package worth £60 million has been agreed with water companies to help businesses that are facing difficulties with their water charges.

· Scottish Water has agreed to suspend pre-payment charges for licensed providers for two months, beginning with the April payment. This means water suppliers can now be flexible with their customers.

· The Central Market Agency (CMA) has also agreed to suspend all ‘performance standard charges’ to allow licensed providers to focus on supporting customers.

If you are a business owner, or are self-employed and you are concerned about your tax bill, you may be eligible for support through HMRC’s Time to Pay service:

· HMRC may agree, on a case by case basis, to assist with your business’ tax bill through the Time to Pay Service.

· These arrangements are tailor made and based on individual circumstances and liabilities.

· More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19.

If you operate a research-focussed SME or a high-growth company, please read the following information:

· The UK Government has launched a £500 million Future Fund to support the most innovative businesses in the country. You may be able to access grants or loans to ensure your company can continue during the crisis.

· This fund is being delivered alongside the British Business Bank and will be open until September. The fund will provide UK-based companies with between £125,000 and £5 million from the UK Government, with private sector investors at least matching that investment.

· To be eligible, a business must be an unlisted UK registered company that has previously raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from third party investors in the last five years.

· Further information is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/future-fund

· The UK Government is working with Innovate UK to provide £750 million of targeted support for the most R&D intensive small and medium size firms.

· Innovate UK will accelerate up to £200 million of grant and loan payments for its 2,500 existing customers. An extra £550 million will also be made available to increase support for existing customers

and £175,000 of support will be offered to around 1,200 firms not currently in receipt of Innovate UK funding.

· Further information is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/billion-pound-support-package-for-innovative-firms-hit-by-coronavirus.

If your business is in the fishing industry, please read the following information:

· The ‘seafood resilience fund’ has now closed. Although this fund has now closed, you may still be eligible for support if you have not yet claimed. Please see below for further information.

· If your vessel is under 12 metres in length, you can check if you are eligible for support at https://www.gov.scot/publications/covid-19—emergency-hardship-support-for-scottish-fishing-industry/.

· If your vessel is over 12 metres in length, you can check if you are eligible for support at https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-fishing-industry-support-tranche-2/.

· Marine Scotland will be writing to all vessels and relevant representative Associations with more details. Queries can be emailed to seafisheriesintervention@gov.scot.

· If your business operates in shellfish growing or trout farming, you can check if you are eligible for support at https://www.gov.scot/publications/aquaculture-covid-19-hardship-fund-application-form/.

· If you fish inshore, you may be able to access additional fish quotas around the North Sea and West Coast. Further information is available at https://www.gov.scot/news/additional-quota-for-inshore-fishing/.

If your organisation is in the creative or heritage sector, please read the following information

· Creative Scotland have been handed additional funding to support performing arts venues. Further information should be made available shortly at https://www.creativescotland.com/what-we-do/latest-news/archive/2020/02/coronavirus-advice.

· The Scottish Government have received an additional £97 million in their budget as a result of UK Government investment in cultural, arts and heritage organisations. The Scottish Government have yet to provide details of how this will be spent.

OTHER INFORMATION FOR BUSINESSES

If your business wishes to help the government tackle COVID-19, please read the following information:

· Businesses, third sector or voluntary organisations who wish to offer support should email the Scottish Government at covid19response@gov.scot with details such as your organisation’s key contact and their role, what you are offering and how it might be best applied, how quickly your support could be available and whether you are offering this as a donation or a chargeable service.

If you are unsure when your business can reopen, please read the following information:

· Guidance and details of which businesses should close and which may remain open is available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-business-and-social-distancing-guidance/.

· Specific guidance for the construction sector is available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-construction-sector-guidance/.

If your business is in the retail or manufacturing sector and planning to reopen in the near future, please read the following information:

· New guidance has been published on what steps your business should take as the country begins to ease lockdown restrictions.

· If you own or operate a retail business, further information is available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-retail-sector-guidance/pages/operational-guide-and-checklist-for-retailers/.

· If you own or operate a business in the manufacturing sector, further information is available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-manufacturing-sector-guidance/pages/operational-guide-and-checklist/.

If you own a restaurant or a pub that serves food, you may be able to operate a hot food takeaway without the usual planning process:

· The Scottish Chief Planner has made clear that planning authorities should not restrict pubs or restaurants operating a takeaway service temporarily. More information is available at https://www.gov.scot/publications/corona-virus-covid-19—relaxation-of-enforcement-where-public-houses-and-restaurants-offer-a-takeaway-service-during-the-current-outbreak-chief-planner-letter-march-2020/.

If you are concerned about competition regulation, please read the following:

· The Competition and Markets Authority have made it clear that at this time they have no intention of taking enforcement action against cooperation between businesses or rationing of products to the extent that this is necessary to protect consumers – for example, by ensuring security of supplies. Further information can be found in their guidance at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cma-approach-to-business-cooperation-in-response-to-covid-19/cma-approach-to-business-cooperation-in-response-to-covid-19.

If you are concerned about off-payroll working rules (IR35), you should read the following information:

· The UK Government announced on 17 March that the reform to the off-payroll working rules, known as IR35, that would have applied for people contracting their services to large or medium-sized organisations outside the public sector, will be delayed for one year from 6 April 2020 until 6 April 2021.

If you are concerned about the impact of the deposit return scheme or tourist tax on your business, you should read the following information:

· The go-live date for the deposit return scheme has been delayed until July 2022 to ensure that businesses are not burdened with this policy during a time of crisis.

· The legislation to introduce the Transient Visitor Levy (‘tourist tax’) has been halted.

If you are unsure whether your business can make a claim on business interruption insurance, you should read the following information:

· The UK and Scottish Government’s medical advice of 16 March is sufficient to enable those businesses which have an insurance policy that covers both pandemics and government ordered closure to make a claim – provided all other terms and conditions in their policy are met. Businesses should check the terms and conditions of their specific policy carefully and contact their providers if in doubt.

· However, most businesses have not purchased insurance that covers pandemic related losses. This means they cannot claim regardless of whether government orders businesses to close. As such they should make use of the government support available to them.

If you are concerned about filing your accounts with Companies House, please read the following information:

· From 25 March 2020, businesses will be able to apply for a 3 month extension for filing their accounts. Those citing issues around COVID-19 will be immediately granted this extension, thereby avoiding an automatic penalty for late accounts. Applications can be made online at https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/extensions?_ga=2.254751115.245877806.1584965312-275548448.1583932966.

If your business trades internationally, please read the following information:

· The UK Government are running expert-led webinars to give practical advice to small and medium-sized businesses that trade overseas. You can register to take part for free at https://www.events.great.gov.uk/ehome/dit-upcoming-webinars/about/.

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Published by Sarah Russell on behalf East Lothian Conservative and Unionist Association, 4 Church Street, Haddington EH41 3EX