COVID-19: Guidance for businesses

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To support businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19, the Government has released a number of support packages. As with the nature of the situation, information is rapidly changing. To ensure you stay up-to-date, keep checking this page and our social media channels for all latest announcements.

(This page was last updated 16 June 2020).

A breakdown of all Government support has been listed below. Please click on the section which will take you to view further information.

  1. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  2. Statutory Sick Pay
  3. Business Rates Holiday
  4. Cash Grants
  5. Bounce Back Loan Scheme
  6. Self-employment Income Support Scheme
  7. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
  8. Support for larger firms
  9. VAT Deferral & Tax Support
  10. Deferral of Self-Assessment Payment
  11. Insurance
  12. Additional Support Information
  13. Discretionary Business Grant 

1. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

UPDATE – The Coronavirus Job Retention  Scheme has been extended by four months, to October. There will be no changes to the scheme up until the end of July, where greater flexibility and the ‘sharing’ of wages will then be introduced. Full details on the extension and what you as employers will need to do can be seen here.

All UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. This scheme is live and you can claim here.

To access the scheme you must:

  • designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change. Changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation
  • submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through an online portal

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. If you made employees redundant, or they stopped working for you on or after 28 February 2020, you can re-employ them, put them on furlough and claim for their wages through the scheme.

Those employees who you do place on furlough cannot undertake work for you. For a full guide to the scheme, download HMRC’s step by step guide here: Download guide.

The scheme is now live and you can start claiming here.

2. Statutory Sick Pay

For those now self-isolating or caring for someone self-isolating, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) can now be claimed as a result of COVID-19. SSP will be available from day 1, rather than day 4.

The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks starting from the first day of sickness, if an employee is unable to work because they either have coronavirus or cannot work because they are self-isolating at home.

Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP as a result of COVID-19. This applies to all businesses with 250 or fewer employees (as of 28 February 2020) and covers all types of employment contracts including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts

The rebate scheme is now live. Claim here.

3. Business Rates Holiday for Retail, Hospitality and Leisure

All retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England will pay no business rates for the 2020 – 2021 tax year.

Properties that will benefit from the relief will be those that are wholly or mainly being used as:

  • shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
  • for assembly and leisure
  • and hospitality such as hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation.

Full details on eligibility can be seen here.

Birmingham City Council will apply the business rates holiday to your bills, meaning there is no action for you. If you have enquiries, please contact Birmingham City Council directly. If you have not received a revised Business Rates Bill, click here to download the online application form for this relief.

4. Cash grants

To ensure cash grants can be made to you as quickly as possible, Birmingham City Council need your updated business information. Confirm your business details here.

There are three grants available:

  1. £10,000 for businesses that pay no business rates and currently receive Small Business Rate Relief
  2. £10,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value of less than £15,000
  3. £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000

The only action needed of you is to ensure that Birmingham City Council have as much information about you as possible by filling in an online form. This will ensure payments can be made quickly.

You will need to have the below information to hand in order for you to complete the form:

  • Business Rates Account Number (easiest found on your business rates bill)
  • Rateable value
  • Business Rates Account Number
  • Company House Number or
  • National Insurance details for sole traders
  • VAT registration number
  • Any State Aid details (previous grants received)

Grants are currently being issued. Due to the volume of grants, it may take several weeks for some transactions to be cleared.

5. Bounce-back Loan Scheme

The Bounce Back Loan scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.

The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.

Loan terms will be up to 6 years and no repayments will be due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan.

The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders.

You can apply for a loan if your business:

  • is based in the UK
  • has been negatively affected by coronavirus
  • was not an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019

The following businesses are not eligible to apply:

  • banks, insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
  • public-sector bodies
  • state-funded primary and secondary schools

You cannot apply if you’re already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

6. Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

UPDATE – This scheme has been extended. If you’re eligible for the second and final grant, and your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020 you’ll be able to make a claim in August 2020. You can claim for the second grant even if you did not make a claim for the first grant. Find out more about the extension here.

Those that are self-employed will be able to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next three months.

HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant. The scheme is open to those who have profits of less than £50,000.

The SEISS is open for applications. First, ensure you are eligible to make a claim. Please ensure you have both your Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number and your National Insurance Number to hand. Check whether you are eligible here.

If eligible, you will be given a date to make your claim from. You can claim here.

7. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

To support small and medium sized businesses to access loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance, a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme has been launched by the British Business Bank.  The Government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value, up to 6 years. The Government will also cover the first 12 months of interest payments.

Businesses from any sector can apply except the following:

  • Banks and building societies
  • Insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
  • Public-sector organisations, including state-funded primary and secondary schools

The scheme will run for 6 months and is currently open for applications. To apply, you should speak directly with your bank. 

Full, detailed information can be found here.

8. Support for larger firms – Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)

The CLBILS provides a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks and commercial lenders to make loans of up to £25m to firms with an annual turnover of between £45m and £500m. The scheme will support a wide range of businesses to access finance products including short term loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance.

Businesses from any sector can apply except the following:

  • Banks and building societies
  • Insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
  • Public-sector organisations, including state-funded primary and secondary schools

Apply to the scheme here.

To support companies which are fundamentally strong, but have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze, the new Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CFF) will buy short term debt from larger companies. The scheme is now live and will operate for 12 months. More information including eligibility is available on the Bank of England website.

9. VAT Deferral & Tax Support

The Government will support businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020.

No applications are required and is eligible for all UK VAT-registered businesses. During this period, you will not need to make VAT payments normally due with VAT returns. You will be given until 31st March 2021 to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. It is important that any customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay. More information can be accessed here.

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. Arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances. The HMRC have a dedicated helpline to help with any concerns or worries regarding paying tax due to COVID-19. Please call: 0800 024 1222.

10. 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. The deferral is optional and is only intended to assist those who are suffering hardship as a result of the coronavirus. There are no applications required for this, just ensure payment is made by January 2021.

11. Insurance

The Government’s advice for the public to avoid pubs, restaurants and other social places should have no effect on insurance claims if a business has in place cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closures.

Businesses are however encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Unfortunately, most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.

12. Additional Support Information

Additional information and updates can be found on the following websites:

Birmingham City Council

Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)

National Federation of Self Employed & Small Businesses

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

13. Discretionary Business Grant

The Discretionary Business Grant (DBG) Fund has now closed and you will no longer be able to apply for this grant.

Birmingham City Council are currently reviewing the DBG applications they have received and will contact you with a decision.  Applications will be appraised and they will email you by 6th July. To enable BCC to process the applications as quickly as possible, please only contact the Call Centre on 0121 216 1020 if you have not heard from them by 6th July.

In the meantime, you can view some Frequently Asked Questions.

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