COVID-19: Guidance for businesses

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 3 April 2020).

1. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

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 not yet live.

Lifted from the Government website, this is what you need to do to access the scheme:

  • 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 a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required)

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.

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.

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. The rebate scheme is not yet live and is currently being developed.

3. Business Rates Holiday & Cash Grants

The Government has announced that all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England will pay no business rates for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. If you have enquiries regarding business rates, please contact Birmingham City Council.

4. Cash grants

Grants totalling more than £231 million for eligible businesses will begin to be paid as part of the Government’s support package. Birmingham City Council need your business information to ensure payments can be made to you as quickly as possible.

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 will be paid from 6 April. However, due to the volume of grants, it may take several weeks for some transactions to be cleared.

Confirm your business details here.

5. Support for self-employed

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. The Self-employment Income Scheme (SEISS) is not yet live but more information can be found here.

6. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

To support small and medium sized businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts, a temporary 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. The scheme is now open for applications and to apply, you should speak directly with your bank.

7. Support for larger firms 

To support companies which are fundamentally strong, but have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze, under the new Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility, the Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies. The scheme is now live. More information is available from the Bank of England.

8. Tax Support

The Government will support businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months. If you’re self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

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. The HMRC have a dedicated helpline to help with any concerns or worries regarding paying tax due to COVID-19. Please call: 0800 0159 559.

9. 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.

Additional 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

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