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COVID19 Update: 18 March 2020
18 Mar

As the situation develops regarding the Coronavirus outbreak, there will be a lot of conflicting information available. As a firm, we will try to only contact you when it is confirmed or standardised information available – making the wrong decisions before the information is confirmed and settled could cause your business more trouble than good. There are a number of things that you can do immediately and there are things that currently are still being finalised, such as the government grants/loans that will not be clarified or reach availability until next week. These steps and information is broken down below and attached to other emails that you will receive from us – please check your junk folder if you do not receive more emails from us.

The UK is seeing an unprecedented amount of disruption due to the current coronavirus outbreak and in response, the Chancellor has announced a number of measures to help businesses deal with this crisis.

Understandably, business owners will be concerned during these difficult times, but they must take practical steps now to help protect themselves, their business and their staff. Most of this information can be found updated hourly at the BII website: www.BII.org. This currently has a Coronavirus section that has a large number of resources and information you can use, down to posters that you can print out to remind staff and customers of safe practices.

1. Items to consider immediately:

a. Consult with employees, on matters including:

  • Remote working
  • Early holidays
  • Short-time working
  • Sick pay policies
  • Health & safety policies
  • Redundancies and temporary layoffs

Should you need to talk to a specialist, those of you that have BII membership have their employment law helpline, and those of you that have fee protection insurance through us have access to our own employment law helpline. More information can be found here, as linked to by the BII: https://bhayanilaw.co.uk/reducing-your-workforce-in-light-of-coronavirus/. The BII helpline can be found at their website for members, or clients that have our fee protection and helpline service can contact us for the current number.

Many sites will be laying off workers for the remainder of the month and beyond: Ensure that you understand what the rights of the workers are by reading the above, speaking to the employment law helplines or dealing direct with your HR company if you retain one

b. Liaise and notify customers, suppliers, contractors and trading partners of your contingency plans

c. Defer tax payments by agreement with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), for:

    • PAYE
    • NIC
    • VAT
    • MGD (Machine Games Duty)

See below for details of the new helpline to do this.


d. Agree to rent and expenditure deferrals

Some of the pubcos will already have been in touch with you about this such as Greene King and Joules. This may expand to others as things develop this week. Some are dealing with this on a case by case basis: Call your landlord and ask for a deferment of rent for as long as you can.

e. Prepare new or updated bank facilities, including capital holidays

Speak to individual lenders and see if help is available. Different banks are looking at mortgage and loan holidays, so speak to each.

f. Consider using the Government’s business interruption loan scheme

More details about this will be sent out as it arrives. This should be next week according to www.gov.co.uk.

g. Defer any capital expenditure


h. Defer finance payments, hire purchase and leasing

Speak to individual lease companies to ensure that you can defer as much as possible

i. Reduce stock levels

Sell what you can, freeze where possible and minimise additional ordering in case of upcoming closure orders. Keep only what you need in stock or has a long life/can be frozen within your freezer capacity.

j. Review insurance policies

Read your policy and speak to your broker: We have seen policies with clauses that do cover these eventualities and will cover their holders. These claims may not be able to be made immediately, but speaking to your insurer or broker in the short term will give you a better idea of your coverage and your next steps, including gathering evidence where appropriate.

k. Review all contractual obligations and advanced orders

Cancel unrequired subscriptions and ensure that you have spoken to all service providers that are not already covered about pausing or reducing services where possible.


2. Tax payments

HMRC is offering time to pay applications and may even waive interest and penalties on late payments for those struggling to make tax payments.

To help with the surge in applications it anticipates, HMRC has established a dedicated helpline manned by more than 2,000 personnel to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress, who may have outstanding tax liabilities.

Those who call the line will be offered advice, as well as other options including:

  • Instalment arrangements
  • Suspension of debt collection proceedings
  • Cancellation of penalties and interest where a business has administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately.

The line will be open Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm, and Saturday from 8am to 4pm.

If you run a business or you are self-employed and concerned about paying tax due to the impact of coronavirus, you can call HMRC’s helpline for advice on 0800 0159 559.

3. Business rates

To check your business rates valuation

If you do not show up, remove the last two letters of your postcode and search again (sometimes records are stored incorrectly!). This will be a bigger search area but usually finds you.

Funds are available to local authorities to provide grants of up to £25,000 per business (£10,000 per business for some lower rateable value businesses, under £15,000) for those companies already benefitting from small business rate relief (under £51k). The process for claiming this grant is currently unclear and may differ from authority to authority. We will update when more information becomes available. This will most likely be next week.

The Government will also abolish business rates for businesses in the hospitality, retail and leisure industries for one year.

4. Business interruption loans

The Government is to support up to £330 billion of lending by guaranteeing up to 80 per cent of business interruption loans of up to £5 million per business.

This scheme is available to businesses with turnovers of up to £41 million that are headquartered in the UK.

This will launch next week. More information can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses.

Once confirmed information is available, we will update all clients.

5. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

The Government is making it easier for employees to claim SSP by making it applicable from the first day of absence (rather than leaving waiting days) due to Covid-19 infection or self-isolation related to the virus.

Employers with fewer than 250 employees will also be able to claim back the first two weeks’ worth of SSP, per employee. These measures will remain in place until 13 November 2020.

The Government has provided further advice to employers, which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-businesses-who-are-paying-sick-pay-to-employees.

6. Non-SSP

Those not eligible for SSP, such as the self-employed, will have to seek financial support through the benefits system.

The Government has confirmed that self-employed individuals can claim from the first day of illness or self-isolation instead of waiting for seven days, but it may take several weeks for a claim to be processed under Universal Credit.

Those who are self-isolating will not be required to go to a jobcentre to begin this process.

7. Useful in-depth links to relevant resources and stories for further information:


8. In conclusion:

The central response to the crisis continues to emerge seemingly on an hourly basis and as such we await further information as the situation develops. In the meantime, working your way through this list and addressing the individual areas will help to ensure that your precious cash is conserved, outflows are reduced to the critical ones and your business is protected until additional support is announced or restrictions are lifted.

As per our earlier email on visitation, the team is still available by phone, email or video conferencing. Should you wish to speak to someone directly, please get in touch on an individual basis and we will be happy to go through any questions or queries you may have. Please be aware that call volumes may be high at these times but do leave a message if you can’t get through and we will come back to you as soon as possible on any enquiry.

Most of all, please stay safe and minimise your own risk and that of your staff and customers by following the government advice here:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

 

 

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