Covid 19 support for businesses
A lot of our clients have been contacting us with questions relating to the recent announcements by the Government for help and support for businesses facing serious challenges due to the Covid 19 situation and questions from employers relating to sick pay and employees working from home or being unable to work due to the situation.
We have collated the information for you in the email below which covers the following:
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
- General Guidance for Employers & Businesses
- What to do if an employee needs time off work to look after someone
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and Refunds of SSP
- Benefits for self employed
- Business rates
- Tax payment deferrals
- Accounts filing deferrals
We appreciate these are unprecedented and challenging times to be in business and we all face a period of uncertainty. No one can predict the future but we believe we can all pull together as businesses and support each other.
The team at Malone Accounting are here to help you. If you need a sounding board, some advice or a steer in the right direction, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
CORONAVIRUS BUSINESS INTERRUPTION LOAN SCHEME
This temporary scheme will give businesses access to bank lending and overdrafts to help them through the COVID-19 crisis. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan to give lenders confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs.
CBILS will be operated by the British Business Bank (BBB) which has said on its website that it will be “available over the coming weeks”.
The Bank added that it will operate in a similar way to the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme “but will offer more attractive terms for both businesses and lenders”.
As well as loans, it is expected that other types of finance will be available for the scheme via the BBB’s partners.
BBB told Enterprise Nation that a launch date for the scheme is currently not available but we will report back as soon as know more details.
The chancellor has announced that the funding scheme will launch in the week commencing 23 March.
GUIDANCE FOR EMPLOYERS AND BUSINESSES
- businesses and workplaces should encourage their employees to work at home, wherever possible
- if someone becomes unwell in the workplace with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they should be sent home and advised to follow the advice to stay at home
- employees should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues
- frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products
- employees will need your support to adhere to the recommendation to stay at home to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to others
- those who follow advice to stay at home will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) from the first day of their absence from work
- employers should use their discretion concerning the need for medical evidence for certification for employees who are unwell. This will allow GPs to focus on their patients
- employees from defined vulnerable groups should be strongly advised and supported to stay at home and work from there if possible.
WHAT TO DO IF AN EMPLOYEE NEEDS TIME OFF WORK TO LOOK AFTER SOMEONE
Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a ‘dependant’) in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations related to coronavirus (COVID-19). For example:
- if they have children they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed
- to help their child or another dependant if they’re sick, or need to go into isolation or hospital
There’s no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.
STATUTORY SICK PAY (SSP)
The current rate of SSP is £94.25 per week.
Only employees who earn over £118 per week are entitled to SSP. Employees earning below that can now make a claim for universal credit or contributory employment and support allowance.
Statutory sick pay will be paid from day 1 instead of day 4 for those affected by coronavirus.
SSP (statutory sick pay) will be refundable for up to 2 weeks for an employee who has been off work because of COVID-19.
Those who follow advice to stay at home and who cannot work as a result will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP), even if they are not themselves sick.
Employers should use their discretion and respect the medical need to self-isolate in making decisions about sick pay.
REFUNDS OF STATUTORY SICK PAY
The government announced that small and medium-sized businesses will be able to reclaim a refund on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for employees affected by Coronavirus.
This requires new legislation to be introduced and current systems are not set up to facilitate employer refunds for SSP. The government said it “will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible”.
The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:
- This refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
- Employers with fewer than 250 employees (as of 28 February 2020) will be eligible
- Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
- Employers should maintain records of staff absences, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
- The eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay for self-isolators comes into force
BENEFITS FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED
Self-employed people are likely to not be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, so the government said it will make it easier for them make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance:
- For the duration of the outbreak, the requirements of the Universal Credit minimum income floor will be temporarily relaxed for those who have COVID-19 or are self-isolating according to government advice, 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 if they are advised to self-isolate.
- Contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, for eligible people affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating in line with advice from day one of sickness, rather than day eight.
Information on Universal Credit is available https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit.
To help High Street businesses in England, the government announced that thousands of companies will pay no business rates in 2020-21.
The business rates retail discount for companies with a rateable value below £51,000 will be increased to 100% for one year and expanded to the leisure and hospitality sectors. The planned rates discount for pubs will rise from £1,000 to £5,000.
For those looking to claim the relief, the government says:
- Businesses that received the retail discount in 2019-20 will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.
- Those businesses eligible for the newly expanded retail discount and/or the new pubs discount may need to apply to their local authority to receive the discount.
- Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority.
- Government guidance for local authorities on the application of the expanded retail discount will be published by 20 March.
The government will also provide £2.2bn funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR). This means around 7000,000 businesses eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief will receive a one-off grant of £3,000 [increased to £10,000 on 17/03/2020].
The government said businesses do not need to apply for the grants. The funding will be provided to local authorities in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.
Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the business rates reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority.
Business rates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are decided by the devolved administrations.
The Northern Ireland Executive has announced:
- all businesses will pay zero business rates for the next three months
- the issuing of rates bill will be deferred from April until June to help businesses with short-term cash flow
TAX PAYMENT DEFERRALS
Businesses and self-employed people in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities may be eligible to receive support through HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) Time To Pay service which allows payments to be deferred.
Businesses should contact HMRC’s new dedicated COVID-19 helpline on 0800 0159 559. HMRC have made an extra 2,000 call handlers available.
HMRC will discuss your specific circumstances to explore:
- Agreeing an instalment arrangement
- Suspending debt collection proceedings
- Cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately
ACCOUNTS FILING DEFERRALS
Companies House said if coronavirus has affected your company and you need more time to file your accounts, you should act before your filing deadline.
If, immediately before the filing deadline, it becomes apparent that accounts will not be filed on time, you may make an application to extend the period allowed for filing. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-more-time-to-file-your-companys-accounts
If you do not apply for an extension and your accounts have been filed late, an automatic penalty will be imposed. The registrar has very limited discretion not to collect a penalty