COVID-19 Update: First measures announced by the Government

In Accountancy, News by Caroline

Update as of 17 March 2020:

As the COVID 19 pandemic continues to worsen and the Government ramps up it’s measures, we’re aware that it’s affecting businesses throughout the UK and globally. Our clients have asked what assistance is the Government able to provide and how can it be accessed?

We have set out the current position and will update this regularly with further information as it becomes available:

Statutory Sick Pay

The government will support small and medium-sized businesses and employers to cope with the extra costs of paying COVID-19 related SSP by refunding eligible SSP costs. The eligibility criteria for the scheme include:

  • the refund will be limited to two weeks per employee
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible. The size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • 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 should not require employees to provide a GP fit note
  • the eligible period for the scheme will commence from the day on which the regulations extending SSP to self-isolators come into force.
  • Current statutory sick pay is £94.25 per week increasing to £95.85 per week from 1 April.

Time to Pay 

The government will ensure that businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities receive support with their tax affairs. HMRC has set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline to help those in need, and they may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. Time to Pay gives businesses a time-limited deferral period on HMRC liabilities owed and a pre-agreed time period to pay these back.

The telephone number for the COVID-19 Helpline is 0800 0159 559.

HMRC have placed a further 2,000 experienced call handlers into this department to assist with agreeing Time To Pay arrangements.

£3,000 grant for Businesses eligible for small business rate relief

If you are a business that claims small business rate relief i.e. you have a rateable value for your company premises of less than £15,000 then you will be available for a £3,000 grant which was confirmed by the Chancellor.

Details of how to claim this grant have yet to be confirmed and we will update this information in due course.

Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Government have announced that the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will launch in a matter of weeks to support businesses and give access to lending and overdrafts.

The scheme will support loans of up to £1.2m and is currently in its infancy again we will follow with further details when this scheme is available.

Self Employed

The Government has further announced that the self-employed workers will potentially be eligible to claim universal credit and contribution employment and support allowance.

This will be claimed should a self-employed worker come down with the Coronavirus.

Banking Assistance

Natwest and Lloyds have outlined support packages for small businesses worth £5b and £2b respectively with the potential to add more but they are mainly aimed at current business clients.

In general, the banks appear to be outlining plans to assist small businesses as required and you should speak to your bank manager about the assistance available. Should you need any further finance options, please do not hesitate to contact us for further contacts.

Cyber Attacks

Please be wary of cyber-attack increases at present

Similar to the GDPR situation (when hackers used GDPR as a front for fraudulent emails) unfortunately fraudsters are using the coronavirus to forward emails of an attacking nature which you should be on the lookout for.