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Business Advice - Coping with COVID-19

 
The following advice has been collated by our levy-payer, Metro Bank. Thanks to local director, Andre van Zijl, for collating this for us. 
  • Business Rates – Small Business Rate Relief is available for properties with a rateable value of less than £51,000. You can check the rateable value of your property here https://www.gov.uk/correct-your-business-rates. If you qualify for this relief you may also be eligible for a £25k cash grant via your local authority.  Additional relief for retail, hospitality and leisure business relief has been extended to provide 100% business rate relief with no rateable value limit for 12 months.
 
  • Hardship Relief- ratepayers experiencing financial difficulties may apply to the local authority for hardship relief who have the power to grant a discount or exemption at their discretion. Please contact your council asap to claim these reliefs a full list of reliefs is available here https://www.gov.uk/apply-for-business-rate-relief (contains a link to find your local council details)
 
  • Commercial Lending/bank loans –  A new temporary CoronaVirus Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) delivered by the British Business Bank will launch in the week commencing 23 March 2020. https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/ The government will provide lenders with an 80% guarantee on each loan to give lenders confidence in continuing to provide SME Finance. Loans of up to £5m can be applied for with interest holidays of 6 months. In addition businesses facing financial difficulties because of Covid-19 will be supported by existing lenders with at least a 3-month mortgage payments holiday please contact your lender to discuss this directly. 
 
  • Personal lending/loans- In addition individuals facing financial difficulties because of Covid-19 will be also be supported by existing lenders with at least a 3-month mortgage payment holiday, again contact your lender to arrange.
 
  • HMRC time to pay arrangements- Dedicated phone line to delay payment of VAT and PAYE 0800 0159 559. Feedback has been positive with HMRC extending payment deadlines without resistance.
 
  • Employees- Company measures- Companies with fewer than 250 employees on 28 Feb 2020 will be able to reclaim 2 weeks of SSP related to Corona Virus in full.
Current government advice is to allow home working if possible but not to close the business or send any staff home but this may change. Your employees will therefore either be sick and on SSP or be on full pay (subject to any potential short working contract conditions) either at the business premises or at home. Employers can force staff to take holiday and pay holiday pay during periods of closure but must give staff twice as much notice as the closure period. E.g 10 days notice for a 5 day closure.

The Employment allowance has been increased from £3,000 to £4,000 and from next month companies will not have to pay employers national insurance contributions on the first £4,000 of their annual bill. (conditions apply Class 1 for prior year < £100K, IR35, sole director etc)

Link to government guidance
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19
 
Link to ACAS advice
https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus
 
Link to ACAS guidance on short-time working and lay-offs
https://archive.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1639
 
  • Employees- individual measures- Statutory Sick Pay payments to be introduced from day 1 of sickness. This will apply retrospectively from 13 March 2020 and cover staff who are either unwell or have been instructed to self-isolate.
 
  • Business Interruption Insurance- Please contact your insurer/broker and read your policies. Most business interruption policies have a list of diseases covered and as a new virus Corona Virus is not listed. The government is pushing for insurers to pay where cover against diseases is included, the ABI is sticking to strict wording and at the moment appears to say claims will only be valid if businesses are forced to close and they have cover for any infectious disease, which will be rare.  https://www.abi.org.uk/news/news-articles/2020/03/statement-on-business-insurance-and-coronavirus/
 
  • Business Support and Advice
    The GLA’s Growth Hub provides information and a useful checklist for businesses to manage the impacts of Coronavirus.  A phone call with a business advisor can be booked through the Growth Hub site. The Federation of Small Businesses has produced some useful guidance for small businesses and the self-employed.
 
  • Insurance
    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. 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.  
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