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As an employee-owned small business ourselves, UMi are facing the same obstacles as we progress through these unchartered waters. We’re part of this amazing network and we’re here, in this with you.

We want to take the hard work out of finding the information you need to keep you doing what you do best. We’ve summarised main points on finance and HR, signposting for further detail. Use the links that follow to navigate to the information you want quickly.

The COVID-19 situation is constantly evolving, and information is changing daily, so we will update this page as new information comes in. This page was last updated on 29 March 2020.

Government financial support for all UK businesses

Devolved government support for businesses

Personal arrangements and finances

Supporting your team and employment rights

Government Financial Support For All UK Businesses

Financing your business through COVID-19

Skip to information about supporting your teams and people.

We are in a situation we have never been in before. COVID-19 is affecting businesses regardless of size or sector. Given these uncertain times, here at UMi, we plan to use the power of our network to bring you practical advice for navigating the challenges we’re all facing. 

Finance is one of the main things on people’s minds right now, and second to the health and wellbeing of you and your staff, it’s the most important aspect of your business. Below is some advice on how you can manage your business’ financial affairs and what support is currently available in the UK.  

If you’re facing financial difficulties, consider these actions: 

1. Find out what government support is available 

Given the extremity of the current situation, the UK Government and devolved governments are putting a lot in place to support businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We have covered UK-wide schemes first, followed by those schemes that are managed by devolved governments.

Here is a summary of what is currently being proposed:

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Available to all UK businesses regardless of size or sector, you will be able to reclaim 80% of your employees' wage costs up to £2,500 per employee, per month. This is only applicable for employees who would otherwise be laid off during this crisis. Instead, you will 'furlough' their jobs (put them on hold temporarily) and apply for this support to help you retain your employees' jobs for them to return when they can. 

You will need to apply when HMRC systems are ready. You will need to inform your employees and change their status to 'furloughed'. You will then submit information about these employees to HMRC through an online portal when it is ready.

 

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme 

If you are experiencing issues with short-term cash flow, you may be eligible for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme which is now available. These are aimed mostly at UK SMEs (annual turnover less than £45m) and will provide access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5m and for up to six years, with no interest due for the first 12 months.   

This scheme is provided by The British Business Bank via high street banks. Businesses remain responsible for repaying any facility they take out. 

If you are worried about accessing finance now, you should speak to your usual lender or one of the 40 approved providers. 
 
Full information about the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is available from The British Business Bank. 

 

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme

This recently announced scheme will support those who are self-employed (including those in partnerships) with a grant of 80% of their earnings up to £2,500 per month. 

To work out how much each person gets, HMRC will calculate average profits from the past three tax returns an individual has submitted (that's 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19). 

To be eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, you need to be self-employed and to have been trading prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and intend to continue trading after the outbreak, in the tax year 2020-21. 

You need to have filled your 2018-19 tax return, but if you haven't got round to it yet, the government are giving you an additional 4 weeks from 26 March to do so. 

To be eligible for this scheme, more than half of your total income must come from self-employment and have trading profits of less than £50,000. 

At the moment, you do not need to contact HMRC. HMRC will use the information they already have to check who is eligible and reach out to them when the scheme is operational. 

It is expected that this scheme will begin to payout at the beginning of June 2020.   

In the meantime, it has been advised by the Chancellor that self-employed who are out of work due to COVID-19 can apply for Universal Credit until this scheme becomes available.  

 

Reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

All UK businesses with fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020 will be eligible. The refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP for COVID-19 per eligible employee and is to be paid from day one. 

It will be best practice for employers to maintain records of staff absences, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. 

You do not need to apply. The UK government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the method of repayment and details will be announced.  

 

Deferred VAT and Income Tax

VAT payments will be deferred for all UK businesses from 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 and you will not need to make a payment during this period. This is automatic - you do not need to apply.

The VAT will accumulate in this period and you will have until the end of the 2020/2021 tax year to make your payment for this. 

Self-employed self-assessment income tax payments due by 31 July 2020 will now be due by 31 January 2021. This is automatic - you do not need to apply.

HMRC's Time to Pay scheme can help if you have outstanding tax liabilities that you are struggling to meet because of COVID-19. If you have missed a payment or expect to miss your next payment call their helpline 0800 0159 559.

 

For larger businesses 

The COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility is now available for UK non-financial companies that meet the set criteria. The Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger businesses in the UK to allow you to finance your short-term liabilities. 

 

Commercial tenant eviction protection

Businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will not be forced to forfeit your lease if you cannot pay your commercial rent. Once this receives royal assent, it will be in place until 30 June 2020 but may be extended if necessary. You will still be liable for the rent - it is not a rental payment holiday. You do not need to apply. 

Devolved Government Support Header

Devolved government support

Accessing Small Business Rate Relief 

Devolved governments manage these schemes through their local councils.

In England, businesses that have commercial premises and are in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) or Rural Rate Relief (RRR) are eligible for the small business grant funding.  

If you are eligible, you will receive a one-off grant of £10,000 to meet your ongoing business costs.

You do not need to apply. The local authorities are aware of those who are in receipt of the rate relief and will write to all eligible businesses with information on how to claim this grant. Businesses are expected to be contacted from the beginning of April.  

In Scotland, all non-domestic properties will get 1.6% rates relief. This relief effectively reverses the change in poundage for 2020-21. You do not need to apply. This relief will be applied to your bill by your local council.

If you receive the Small Business Bonus Scheme Relief or Rural Relief you will be eligible for a one-off grant of £10,000. You can only apply for one grant, even if you own multiple properties. To apply, you need to complete an application form on your local council’s website – links to council websites are available on the scheme page.

In Wales, all small businesses eligible for the Small Business Rate Relief scheme with a rateable value of £12,000 or less will receive a £10,000 grant.

The grants will be administered by local councils, which will require some information from your business - find out more on the scheme page.

In Northern Ireland, all small businesses eligible for the Small Business Rate Relief scheme will receive a £10,000 grant. The grant registration form is now available on the Invest Northern Ireland website.  

In addition, all Northern Ireland businesses will pay zero rates in April, May and June and this will not need to be repaid. This is will be shown as a 25% discount on the annual rates bill. You do not need to apply. The discount will be applied automatically. 

 

Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Rate Holiday 

Devolved governments manage these schemes through their local councils.

In England and Wales, there is additional rate relief support available to retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. If you operate in these sectors: 

• You will pay no business rates for 12 months from 1 April 2020

• There will be no rateable value threshold on this relief – businesses large and small will benefit

You do not need to apply. The holiday will be reflected in bills by local authorities as soon as possible

In Scotland, retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will receive 100% non-domestic rates relief for 12 months if their properties are occupied. The Scottish Government is working with Scotland’s 32 local councils to make sure this relief is administered in the most effective way – more details will be available soon.

 

Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Cash Grants

Devolved governments manage these schemes through their local councils.

In England, if your business operates in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors in England and has a rateable value of:

• Under £15,000 - you will receive a grant of £10,000

• Between £15,001 and £51,000 - you will receive a grant of £25,000

The grants will be administered through your local authority and you will be notified if you are eligible - you do not need to apply. 

In Scotland, retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value between £18,001 and £50,999 will be able to apply for a one-off grant of £25,000. To apply, you need to complete an application form on your local council’s website – links to council websites are available on the scheme page.

In Wales, retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value between £12,001 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000. If your rateable value is £12,000 or less, and you are eligible for Small Business Rates Relief, you will receive a grant of £10,000.

The grants will be administered by local councils, which will require some information from your business - find out more on the scheme page

 

In Northern Ireland, retail, hospitality and retail businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000.

Details of how to access the grants will appear on the Invest Northern Ireland website soon.

 

Nurseries Business Rate Holiday

Devolved governments manage these schemes through their local councils.

In England, properties that are on Ofsted’s Early Years Register and wholly or mainly used for the provision of the Early Years Foundation Stage will receive a business rates holiday for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

You do not need to apply. The holiday will be reflected in bills by local authorities as soon as possible.

In Scotland, if you applied for Day Nursery Relief then you can apply for a one-off grant of £10,000. To apply, you need to complete an application form on your local council’s website – links to council websites are available on the scheme page

 

Personal Finances Header

Personal arrangements and finances

 

Childcare for key workers

In England, the UK government has asked schools, and all childcare providers, to continue to provide care for a limited number of children who are vulnerable, or whose parents are critical to the COVID-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also following this strategy.

 

Help with your mortgage repayments 

Mortgage lenders in England and Wales will offer a three-month payment holiday for those customers that are experiencing issues with their finances as a result of COVID-19. This will also apply if you are a Help-to-Buy: Equity Loans customer who took your loan before 31 March 2015.

Lenders across the industry have agreed to introduce a simpler notification process for residential customers to apply for this relief. 

Please contact your mortgage provider to discuss how this will affect your repayment term.

If you are a Help to Buy: Equity Loan customer you should contact your main mortgage lender then The Help to Buy: Equity Loan administrator on 0345 848 0236 or Target.HCA@targetgroup.com

We are awaiting confirmation of arrangements for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

 

If you rent your property 

The UK Government has announced new protective measures for those renting their properties in England and Wales by temporarily banning evictions and housing possessions: 

• Landlords must issue all renters a minimum of 3-months' eviction notice if they intend to begin to seek possession of the property - this action will last for 90 days but can be extended if necessary 

• No new or existing housing possessions will be passed through the courts

• Landlords will also be protected as 3-month mortgage payment holiday is extended to Buy to Let mortgages

In addition, the Scottish Government is introducing legislation to stop evictions in the private and social rental sectors for six months.

We are awaiting confirmation of arrangements for Northern Ireland.

In terms of other bills including utilities and council tax, it is highly recommended that you contact your provider to advise them of the situation so that you can put an adequate plan in place to offer you the best possible support.  

 

Universal Credit and Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s paid monthly into your bank. The UK Government has made sure for the duration of the outbreak, the process to apply has been relaxed to make it easier for people who have COVID-19 or are staying at home according to the UK Government's instructions, ensuring self-employed claimants will receive support. 
 
People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre.

 

You may be able to access the hardship fund

The UK Government expects most of this funding to be used to provide more council tax relief. For more information about this fund, you should contact your local authority (council). 

 

Support with energy bills for vulnerable people 

Agreed emergency measures with energy suppliers to support any customers in financial distress. 

Help for customers with pre-payment meters who may not be able to add credit, the disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended. 

If you are unable to top up your pre-payment meter you are advised to contact your supplier immediately to discuss how you can be kept on supply.

 

Also, check your insurance 

Unfortunately, most businesses are unlikely to be covered by standard business interruption policies. 

Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and UK Government-ordered closure should be covered. But policies differ so check with your provider. 

Any new policies will likely not have this level of cover. 

 

2. Talk to your lenders as soon as possible

It is extremely important you speak to your lenders sooner rather than later – give them a clear view of where you stand and be transparent about your position.  

They now have several private and UK Government-backed mechanisms in place to help businesses through these difficult times. They will be in the best position to know your business and offer the correct support you need. 

The Development Bank of Wales is offering its existing borrowers a three-month capital and monitoring fee repayment holiday on request. Customers can fill in a form on the bank’s website

 

3. Explore finance options to tide you over

Speaking with your finance providers and suppliers means you can explore what options are available to you in the short term. There is a wide range of loans available, it’s just about finding the right one for your business. Bizl and Transmit StartUps have put together a list of some of the options: https://transmitstartups.co.uk/featured-coronavirus/loans/.

 

4. Optimise your cash flow

It is important to look closely at your cash flow.

• Make sure you issue any outstanding invoices and think about reducing your payment terms. Be open and honest with your customers, talk to them about payment. Many will pay you if they can or you can try to mitigate if they are having difficulties themselves

• Use this to see if there are any pressure points coming up that you are going to find difficult. You can then be prepared to talk to your lenders about support to get you through

• Delay any non-essential investment

• If possible, speak with your lenders and suppliers to renegotiate any financial commitments you have

Supporting Team Header

Supporting your team and employment rights

Go back to information about financial support.

As an employer, UK Government advice is to support your employees to do the right thing.

All your normal discrimination policies will continue to apply to all aspects of managing your employees through coronavirus.

As well as encouraging all your employees to continue following standard hygiene guidance for all individuals:

• immediately move employees to home-working where possible

• support employees in managing their health by:

sending home anyone showing symptoms – a high temperature or a new continuous cough – and they should then follow the ‘stay at home’ guidance

encouraging any vulnerable team members to stay home – people over 70 and those with underlying health conditions  

using discretion in needing ‘proof’ of sickness – i.e. doctors’ note (see more below)

providing reassurance and clear guidance

1. Know how to certify staff sickness

Your employee should let you know as soon as possible if they are unable to work.

Statutory Sick Pay should be paid from day one to all employees that have to self-isolate because they or a member of their household has coronavirus, is showing symptoms or has been instructed by a doctor or 111.

After the legal seven days that someone can self-certify, it is being strongly advised that you use discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where your employee is required to self-isolate. You will not require evidence from employees to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay. See more advice on certifying absence from work on ACAS’ website.

 

Absences not covered by Statutory Sick Pay

• For employees not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, such as the self-employed and very low earners, support will be available through Universal Credit

• If you tell your employee not to come to work because, for example, they have travelled recently, you will need to pay them normally

• If your employee is not able to attend work because they need to care for dependents, they have a right to take time off, but do not have a statutory right to pay. You might offer pay depending on the contract or your workplace policy and it’s a good idea to be as flexible as you can be, depending on your employee's circumstances

• If your employee refuses to attend work try to understand their concerns and be flexible if you can, perhaps allowing them to work from home, take holiday or unpaid leave

ACAS’ website has more detailed guidance if you need it.

 

2. Planning for absences

It’s worth thinking about what you will do if you or your employees cannot work:

• What services could you deliver remotely?

• Can you train other team members to spread work out or cover?

• Can you flex your business hours if you have staffing shortages – some availability may be better than none?


3. Support your team to work from home

If your team has never worked from home before, they may get some useful pointers from free LinkedIn Remote Working training.

Technology

There are a number of systems that you can use to collaborate and communicate with your team as you work from home with many free and low-cost options available:

Microsoft Teams – use for instant messaging and video or voice calls, sharing files. Synergi is offering free 30-minute Microsoft Teams webinars three days each week at 12.30pm to help support your team working from home

Slack, Flock – use for instant messaging and sharing files

Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts – use for video and voice calls and instant messaging

Trello - use for managing projects

ScotlandIS tech sector support database is an online hub for Scottish businesses to access essential digital tools

Wellbeing

87% is offering companies of up to 100 employees free access to its mental wellbeing platform until the end of June 2020

Leapers has useful resources you can share with your team for anyone working remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak

4. Support yourself

You might be worried about coronavirus and how it could affect your life and business. Whilst you may need to isolate yourself physically at some point, don't isolate yourself emotionally. Keep in touch with your support network of family, friends and fellow business owners. Mind has provided some useful information on self-care and mental health during the coronavirus crisis. Action for Happiness has also produced a coping calendar.

5. Annual Leave

Coronavirus has prevented many workers from taking annual leave, so to ease the pressure on businesses, the government is allowing up to four weeks of annual leave to be carried over to the next two years. 

While this is an unprecedented and challenging situation, UMi's business network is rallying. It is heartwarming to see how much support is being offered and we are collating and applauding these #UMiSTARS - take a look and check back regularly for additional support and know you're not alone. 

We want to take the hard work out of finding the best information to support your business through the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis. This summarised information is meant as a general guide and signposting to official sources. As it is a rapidly changing situation, please refer to government sources for the most up-to-date information. If you think something is inaccurate on this page, please email us.

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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