Government support

Advice and support for businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak

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These are understandably extremely challenging times for our local businesses, their staff and the wider population in general. This page contains information and links to the latest advice and support measures available to businesses. There is also information about how businesses can limit the spread of the virus and support the response to the unprecedented challenges it poses.

The next chapter in ‘Our Plan to Rebuild’, setting out next steps on the Government's roadmap for responding to Covid-19 and how the Government is preparing for winter is available here

Last updated: 15 October 2020

Guidance for employers

New legal restrictions on businesses from 24 September
A series of new restrictions to try to stop the spread of coronavirus in England have been announced by the Prime Minister and are applicable from 24 September.
Those of specific relevance to businesses are as follows:

  • People should work from home wherever possible
  • Businesses selling food or drink, social clubs and other indoor leisure facilities, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls must be closed between 10pm and 5am. This includes takeaways but delivery services can continue after 10pm. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can continue beyond 10pm, but only if the performance started before 10pm, and food and drink cannot be served after 10pm
  • In both indoor and outdoor licensed premises, food and drink must be ordered from, and served at, a table. Licensed and unlicensed businesses must also take all reasonable steps to ensure that the customer remains seated whilst consuming the food or drink on the premises (with the exception of takeaways)
  • Face masks are now compulsory for bar staff and non-seated customers, shop workers, waiters, staff in close contact services and also for customers in private hire vehicles or taxis (existing exemptions continue to apply)
  • Fines for not wearing masks or following the rules have been increased to £200 for a first offence. Businesses must remind people to wear face coverings where mandated
  • A wider range of leisure and entertainment venues, services provided in community centres, and close contact services will be subject to COVID-19 Secure requirements in law and fines of £1000, and rising up to £10,000 for repeated breaches
  • Employers must not knowingly require or encourage someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work

Note that Covid-secure guidelines will now become legal obligations and businesses can be fined up to £10,000 for repeated breaches.

Working Safely During Coronavirus
The government, in consultation with industry, has produced guidance to help employers ensure workplaces are as safe as possible.

The following guides cover a range of different types of work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe.

  1. Close contact services - Guidance for people who provide close contact services, including hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, tattooists, sports and massage therapists, dress fitters, tailors and fashion designers.
  2. Construction and other outdoor work - Guidance for people who work in or run outdoor working environments.
  3. Factories, plants and warehouses - Guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses.
  4. Heritage locations - Guidance for people who work or volunteer in heritage locations.
  5. Hotels and other guest accommodation - Guidance for people who work in or run hotels and other guest accommodation
  6. Labs and research facilities - Guidance for people who work in or run indoor labs and research facilities and similar environments.
  7. Offices and contact centres - Guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.
  8. Other people's homes - Guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people's homes.
  9. Performing arts - Guidance for people who work in performing arts, including arts organisations, venue operators and participants.
  10. Providers of grassroots sport and gym/leisure facilities - Guidance for people who work in grassroots sport and gym/leisure facilities.
  11. Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services - Guidance for people who work in or run restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes or takeaways.
  12. Shops and branches - Guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.
  13. Vehicles - Guidance for people who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar.
  14. The visitor economy - Guidance for people who work in hotels and guest accommodation, indoor and outdoor attractions, and business events and consumer shows.

There is different guidance for:

NHS Test and Trace Service
It is critical that employers take steps to keep workers and visitors safe. By following the sector-specific guidance, employers can reduce the risk of co-workers having to self-isolate if a member of staff tests positive for COVID-19.

The NHS Test and Trace service does not change existing guidance that employees should work from home wherever possible. It is vital that employers play their part by:

  • making their workplaces as safe as possible (where working from home is not possible)
  • requesting that workers self-isolate if they have been asked to do so
  • supporting their workers when in isolation
    Although this may seem disruptive for businesses, it is less disruptive than an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace, and far less disruptive than further social and economic restrictions.

The NHS Test and Trace service will support businesses and economic recovery by:

  • providing free testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus
  • asking those that test positive and their close contacts to self-isolate to stop the spread of the virus in the workplace
  • enabling the government to go further in safely lifting lockdown measures

Employers (and the self-employed) must continue to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. They also have similar obligations in respect of other people, for example agency workers, contractors, volunteers, customers, suppliers and other visitors.

Further information is available here.

This guidance should be used in conjunction with the Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) section above.

Businesses collecting NHS Test and Trace data must also display a QR poster by 24 September
It is now a legal requirement for certain businesses to have a system in place to collect Download your NHS QR Poster PDFNHS Test and Trace data and keep this for 21 days. The data logged should include at least one name (a group’s ‘lead’ member), contact number, date of visit and arrival and, where possible, departure time. From 24 September, when the NHS Covid-19 app becomes available, it will also be a legal requirement for the same venues to display an NHS Test and Trace QR poster, which enables visitors with the app to check in at that location.

The venues affected include those in the following sectors:

  • hospitality
  • leisure and tourism
  • close contact services (such as salons)
  • places of worship
  • local authority venues (such as Libraries, Registration Offices, Leisure Centres and Town and Village Halls)

A full list of settings in scope is available in Annex A of the Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace guidance page.

Create a coronavirus NHS QR code for your venue

If someone does not wish to share their details, provides incorrect information or chooses not to scan the NHS QR code
Hospitality venues must take reasonable steps to refuse entry to a customer or visitor who does not provide their name and contact details, is not in a group (for which one other member has provided name and contact details), or who has not scanned the NHS QR code.

Hospitality venues should verify that an individual has checked in using the QR code by reviewing the individual’s phone screen. This is not necessary if they or another ‘lead’ member of the group have provided their contact details.

Venues in other settings do not need to refuse entry but should encourage customers and visitors to share their details or scan the official NHS QR poster in order to support NHS Test and Trace and advise them that this information will only be used where necessary to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

If in the rare case that a customer or visitor becomes unruly, you should follow your own security procedures. This may include calling the police if you feel the individual poses a risk to yourself or others.

The accuracy of the information provided will be the responsibility of the individual who provides it. You do not have to verify an individual’s identity for NHS Test and Trace purposes, and it is advised against doing so except where organisations have a reasonable suspicion that customer or visitor details are incorrect. You may refuse to allow entry if you have reason to believe the details are inaccurate.

Exempt visits
You do not need to ask for contact details or check scanning of the NHS QR code if the person is a police officer or emergency responder on duty.

You do not need to ask for contact details for people whose visit is for the sole purpose of making a delivery or collection by supplies or contractors, including food or physical goods.

You do not need to ask for contact details for those under the age of 16. If an individual says they are under the age of 16, you should not ask for identification unless you judge this to be false.

If someone does not have the mental capacity to provide their contact details, hospitality venues should not refuse entry (where they are normally required to do so). Businesses will not be in breach of the requirements if they have reason to believe someone can’t provide the details for disability reasons and don’t ask for them as a result.

Hospitality venues should not deny entry to homeless people who are unable to provide a contact number or email address.

Customer logging toolkit and assets
If you are a business or organisation which has been advised to collect customer, staff and visitor details on entry to your venues a customer logging toolkit is available.

This will provide you with messaging suggestions for a range of scenarios as well as other marketing materials such as posters and social media assets. Feel free to use this as you see fit, tweaking it to suit your audience and branding. The examples in this document are examples only, which we hope are useful.

Reporting outbreaks of coronavirus
COVID-19 early outbreak management information has been created to make sure that people who run businesses or organisations:

  • Know how to recognise and report an incident of COVID-19; and 
  • Are aware of measures local health protection teams may advise in order to contain it.

Further information about reporting an outbreak is available here.

In addition, 'action cards' have been developed to cover a range of businesses and organisations to provide specific advice on the issues each type of organisation may face now lockdown restrictions have been eased. Further details about action cards can be found here.

Workplace risk
COVID-19 is a new risk. Employers must review risk assessments to ensure they remain suitable and sufficient. Where COVID-19 is a risk in the workplace, it must form part of the risk assessment.

The Health and Safety Executive has published guidance to help you conduct a risk assessment.

Employers have a duty to consult their workers, and unions where applicable, as part of their risk assessment. Involving workers in this will help build trust and confidence that all reasonably practicable steps are being taken to reduce risks of COVID-19, so that people can return to work safely. Employers should share the risk assessment with workers and consider publishing the risk assessment on their website.

Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) business webinars – find out how to make your workplace COVID-secure
In addition to the above guidance, to find out more about how to make your workplace COVID-secure, you are invited to join a free webinar hosted by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The BEIS webinars cover a range of different types of workplace settings which are allowed to be open. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of the guides/webinars as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe.

Face coverings at work
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has provided detailed guidance for specific workplace settings. Employers must make sure that the risk assessment for their business addresses the risks of COVID-19 using BEIS guidance to inform decisions and control measures including close proximity working.

It is important to note that coronavirus (COVID-19) needs to be managed through a hierarchy or system of control including social distancing, high standards of hand hygiene, increased surface cleaning, fixed teams or partnering, and other measures such as using screens or barriers to separate people from each other.

These measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace, but there are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial and a precautionary measure; this will largely be to protect others and not the wearer. Normal policies relating to occupational workwear and PPE will continue to apply.

Further guidance on face coverings, when to wear one and how to make your own is available.

Staff in indoor settings
Face coverings must be worn by retail, leisure and hospitality staff working in areas that are open to the public and where they’re likely to come into contact with a member of the public. This includes:

  • shops
  • supermarkets
  • bars
  • pubs
  • restaurants
  • cafes
  • banks
  • estate agents
  • post offices
  • public areas of hotels and hostels

If these businesses have taken steps in line with Health and Safety Executive guidance for COVID-19 secure workplaces to create a physical barrier between workers and members of the public then staff behind the barrier will not be required to wear a face covering.

For other indoor settings, employers should assess the use of face coverings on a case by case basis depending on the workplace environment, other appropriate mitigations they have put in place, and whether reasonable exemptions apply.

Employees should continue to follow guidance from their employer based on a workplace health and safety assessment.

For recommendations and requirements in specific settings please check the government’s workplace settings guidance.

Disposing of business waste (including PPE and face coverings)
New guidance on how to dispose of your personal or business waste, including face coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE), during the coronavirus pandemic has recently been published.

Key details include:

  • Provide extra bins for your staff and customers to throw away their waste face coverings and PPE used for social distancing, and any other additional waste, such as takeaway packaging and disposable tableware;
  • Make sure that staff and customers do not put face coverings and PPE in a recycling bin as they cannot be recycled through conventional recycling facilities;
  • Make sure bins are emptied often so they do not overflow and create litter;
  • You can put used disposable face coverings and PPE in an ‘offensive waste’ collection (yellow bags with a black stripe), if you have one; and
  • Ask your waste contractor if there is anything else you need to do.

Business Companion
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute have produced a series of Coronavirus Bulletins which features a recent addition; ‘Working Safely during Coronavirus guide’ aimed at retailers providing all the latest information required to operate safely in other people’s homes, in vehicles and outdoors. These regularly updated guides contain impartial, government-backed information and guidance.

National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) Covid-19 SME Guidance
NCSC has published guidance to support businesses moving from physical to digital delivery as part of the ongoing Covid-19 response. The guidance has been created specifically to support businesses who are relying more heavily on IT services to run their business.

The NCSC is committed to equipping all UK businesses with the best cyber security advice. The support package includes guidance on home workingvideo teleconferencing and spotting email scams related to Covid-19.

Advice on staying secure during COVID-19
Guidance from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) for businesses and insolvency office holders on managing security risks during the pandemic. The CPNI has drawn together important security considerations for businesses in financial distress, including those in insolvency or administration, either directly or as a third party.

National Business Helpline
If you have a query that isn’t covered by this guidance you can contact the National Business Support Helpline on: FREEPHONE 0800 998 1098

Reopening guidance

Tool to help businesses identify whether they can reopen safely
The UK Government has developed a tool to help businesses in England to reopen safely during coronavirus. This tool encourages businesses to carry out a risk assessment and helps to identify the workplace adjustments that they should make. Employers have the legal responsibility to protect their employees and other people on site, such as customers and visitors. This tool will help businesses to easily find out what they should do. Employees can also use this tool to check what their workplace needs to do to keep people safe.

Businesses should display a downloadable Covid-19 notice to inform customers and staff they have followed COVID secure guidance.

Reopening of businesses
Further to previous announcements, the following businesses and venues were permitted to reopen from 15 August:

  • Bowling alleys
  • Indoor skating rinks
  • Indoor play areas, including soft play
  • Casinos
  • Exhibition halls and conference centres (although this should only be for government endorsed pilots)

A comprehensive list of businesses and venues which can reopen along with links to current specific guidance and any relevant examples is available here.

Business closures
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Friday 17 July, further businesses and venues were due to reopen from 1 August (if prevalence remained around or below current levels), accompanied by COVID-19 Secure guidance. However, as announced on 31 July, the changes that had been proposed for 1 August will be delayed until at least 15 August due to concerns of rising prevalence in the community within England.

The following business and venues will therefore need to remain closed:

  • Nightclubs, dance halls, discotheques
  • Sexual entertainment venues and hostess bars

These remaining restrictions will be kept under review and it remains the government’s intention, subject to the prevalence of the virus, to open these venues as soon as it is safe to do so.

The government’s announcement also set out other changes to guidance on indoor performance, close contact services, wedding and civil partnership receptions and the piloting of spectators at live sport events.

Covid Secure Guides
COVID Secure guides cover a range of different types of work and provide reopening guidance for a variety of settings.

Of particular note, updated guidance for the most recent phases of reopening are detailed below;

  • Close contact services guidance has been updated with information on saunas and steam rooms and reminding clients to wear face coverings.
  • Gym and leisure facilities guidance has been updated with information on social distancing and face coverings.
  • Heritage locations guidance has been updated with information on thinking about risk, keeping customers, visitors and contractors safe, who should go to work and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and face coverings.
  • Hotels and other guest accommodation guidance has been updated on managing risk, keeping customers, visitors and contractors safe, who should go to work, and Personal Protective Equipment and face coverings.
  • Performing arts guidance has been updated on thinking about risk, who should return to training, rehearsal and performance, managing performances, hair and makeup and face coverings.
  • Shops and branches. By law, staff and customers of retail settings are now required to wear a face covering, unless they have an exemption. More here.
  • Visitor economy guidance has been updated with information on managing risk, managing customers, visitors and contractors, who should go to work, and face coverings.

Support for pubs, cafes and restaurants
More pubs, restaurants and cafes will be able to serve customers outdoors in plans announced by the government.

  • The government will simplify and reduce the costs of the licensing process for outdoor seating and stalls, making it easier for people to safely drink and dine outside. 
  • Proposed planning freedoms will mean that outdoor markets, pop-up car-boot sales or summer fairs will not need a planning application.
  • Pubs and restaurants will be able to use car parks and terraces as dining and drinking areas, using their existing seating licenses.
  • Temporary changes to licensing laws will allow many more licensed premises, such as pubs and restaurants, to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises. Customers will be able to buy their drinks from a pub and consume them elsewhere, making social distancing easier.

These measures will give an immediate and much needed boost to many businesses, whilst supporting them to successfully reopen over the summer. Further information is available here.

Extended: VAT Rates for Tourism & Hospitality Activities
In the Winter Economy Plan, the government announced they were extending the temporary reduced rate of VAT (5%) from 12 January to 31 March 2021. This will continue to apply to supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises, supplies of accommodation and admission to attractions across the UK.

Guidance and advice for those providing hotel and other accommodation in England
All guest accommodation providers can reopen from 4 July. The guidance for Hotels and Other Guest Accommodation sets out how to open businesses safely while minimising the risk of spreading coronavirus (COVID-19). Accommodation providers may also need to refer to guidance for Restaurants, Pubs, Bars and Takeaway Servicesguidance for Small Marriages and Civil Partnerships, and guidance for Outdoor Playgrounds and Gyms, depending on the facilities and services available at their sites.

Hotels and other accommodation providers should not host conferences or events until guidance is changed. From 14 September, let customers know that by law they can only visit in groups of up to 6 people (unless they are visiting as a household or support bubble which is larger than 6). Check with customers on arrival who they are with and how many people will be attending. Put up signs to remind customers to only interact with their group.

Where hotels have large grounds, these can be made available to the public as long as guidance on accessing green spaces safely is followed.

Guidance on guests self-isolating as required by law
Certain individuals travelling from overseas will be required by law to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. Businesses providing holiday accommodation can provide rooms to those required to self-isolate. Accommodation for these purposes should adhere to the same guidelines as for other permitted stays, including on social distancing and cleaning.

People staying in accommodation that have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
If a guest is displaying signs of the coronavirus (COVID-19) virus while staying in overnight accommodation for a permitted reason, they should inform the accommodation provider, immediately self-isolate where they are to minimise any risk of transmission, and request a test. If they are confirmed to have coronavirus (COVID-19), they should return home if they reasonably can. They should use private transport but only drive themselves if they can do so safely. If a guest cannot reasonably return home (for example because they are not well enough to travel or do not have the means to arrange transport), their circumstances should be discussed with an appropriate health care professional and, if necessary, the local authority.

Further guidance is available here.

Employee return-to-work tool
The Government has developed a tool to help employees in England easily assess if they can return to work. The tool guides employees through questions that may influence their ability to go back to work safely. Employers can share this tool with employees to aid discussion on how employees can return to work safely. Find out more here.

Financial support for businesses

Extension of access to finance schemes: In the Winter Economy Plan, it was announced the government is extending four temporary loan schemes, which have helped over a million businesses to date, to 30 November 2020 for new applications:

1. Bounce Back Loan Scheme: The Bounce Back Loan scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000. The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. Loan terms will be up to 6 years. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan. The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders.

You can apply for a loan if your business:

  • is based in the UK
  • has been negatively affected by coronavirus
  • was not an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019

The following businesses are not eligible to apply:

  • banks, insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
  • public-sector bodies
  • state-funded primary and secondary schools

You cannot apply if you’re already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) (below).

If you’ve already received a loan of up to £50,000 under CBILS and would like to transfer it into the Bounce Back Loan scheme, you can arrange this with your lender until 4 November 2020.

Further information about the scheme can be found here.

2. Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS): The Government has extended the CBILS so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible should they need finance to keep operating during this difficult time.

The government is also stopping lenders from requesting personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 and making operational changes to speed up lending approvals. The government will continue to cover the first twelve months of interest and fees.

Please find further details here.

3. Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS): The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) supports large businesses with an annual turnover of over £45 million.

All viable businesses with turnover of more than £45 million per year can apply for up to £25 million of finance, whilst firms with a turnover of more than £250 million can apply for up to £200 million of finance.

Finance is available from 3 months to 3 years.

The scheme is available through a series of accredited lenders, which are listed on the British Business Bank website. The government provides lenders with an 80% guarantee on individual loans. This gives banks the confidence to lend to many more businesses which are impacted by coronavirus. Facilities backed by a guarantee under CLBILS are offered at commercial rates of interest.

The full rules of the scheme and guidance on how to apply is available on the British Business Bank website here, you can also download this factsheet for further information.

4. Future Fund: The Future Fund provides government loans to UK-based companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors.

These convertible loans may be an option for businesses that rely on equity investment and are unable to access other government business support programmes because they are either pre-revenue or pre-profit.

Recent changes to the scheme’s eligibility criteria will mean that UK companies who have participated in highly selective accelerator programmes and were required, as part of that programme, to have parent companies outside of the UK will now be able to apply for investment. The change covers accelerator alumni only. The government remains committed to using the Future Fund to support economic activity in the UK.

Companies will still be required to meet the ‘substantive economic presence’ tests (that half or more employees are UK-based and/or half or more revenues are from UK sales).

The scheme is being delivered in partnership with the British Business Bank and is now open for applications until the end of September. Find out more about the scheme and how to apply here.

Support also continues through the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility which will remain open until 22 March 2021. Where a company has exhausted all other options, and is of strategic importance to the UK, the government may also consider providing bespoke financial support.

Pay as you Grow – The government will give all businesses that borrowed under the BBLS the option to repay their loan over a period of up to ten years. This will reduce their average monthly repayments on the loan by almost half. UK businesses will also have the option to move temporarily to interest-only payments for periods of up to six months (an option which they can use up to three times), or to pause their repayments entirely for up to six months (an option they can use once and only after having made six payments). These changes will provide greater flexibility to repay these loans over a longer period and in a way that better suits businesses’ individual circumstances.

CBILS loan extension – The government intends to allow CBILS lenders to extend the term of a loan up to ten years, providing additional flexibility for UK-based SMEs who may otherwise be unable to repay their loans.

NEW: Job Support Scheme Expansion for Closed Business PremisesThe Job Support Scheme (JSS) will be expanded to support businesses across the UK required to close their premises due to coronavirus restrictions.  

  • This scheme will cover businesses that, as a result of restrictions set by one or more of the four governments in the UK, are legally required to close their premises. This includes businesses that are required to provide only delivery and collection services from their premises, or food and drink outdoors from their premises.  
  • The government will support eligible businesses by paying two thirds of each employees’ salary (or 67%), up to a maximum of £2,100 a month. 
  • Under the scheme, employers will not be required to contribute towards wages and only asked to cover NICS and pension contributions. Businesses will only be eligible to claim the grant while they are subject to restrictions and employees must be off work for a minimum of seven consecutive days. 
  • The scheme will begin on 1 November and will be available for six months, with a review point in January. 
  • In line with the rest of the JSS, payments to businesses will be made in arrears, via a HMRC claims service that will be available from early December. Employees of firms that have been legally closed in the period before 1 November are eligible for the CJRS. 
  • The scheme is UK wide and the UK Government will work with the devolved administrations to ensure the scheme operates effectively across all four nations. 
  • Further guidance on the scheme will be set out by HMRC in due course. 

In addition to expansion of the JSS, the government is increasing the cash grants to businesses in England shut in local lockdowns to support with fixed costs. These grants will be linked to rateable values, with up to £3,000 per month payable every two weeks, compared to the up to £1,500 every three weeks which was available previously. 

Job Support Scheme: The government has announced a new Job Support Scheme commencing on 1 November 2020 until April 2021. To be eligible, employees must be working at least a third of their contracted hours and be paid for those hours in full by their employer. The government and employer will then pay a third each of the remaining pay they have lost from reducing their hours - the Government contribution will be capped at £697.92 a month. Anyone who is in employment on or before 23 September can be put on the scheme. Employers who take advantage of the scheme can also claim the Jobs Retention Bonus worth £1,000 if they keep staff in work through to January 31, 2021. Businesses will not be able to issue redundancy notices to employees on the Job Support Scheme - and there will be restrictions on capital distributions to shareholders. Further information is available in the downloadable Job Support Scheme Factsheet.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS): The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will close on 31 October 2020. From 1 September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a maximum cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% (up to £2,500). The caps are proportional to the hours not worked. Read more information about the changes.

Unless you’re making a new claim for an employee who is a military reservist or is returning from statutory parental leave, you can only continue to claim through the scheme if:

  • you have previously furloughed the employee for 3 consecutive weeks between March 1 and 30 June
  • you submitted your claim before 31 July

Employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any work pattern, while still being able to claim the grant for the hours not worked. Only employees that you have successfully claimed a previous grant for will be eligible for more grants under the scheme.

Employers will continue to able to choose to top up employee wages above the 80% total and £2,500 cap for the hours not worked at their own expense if they wish.

30 November 2020 is the last day you can submit claims for periods ending on or before 31 October 2020. After this date you will not be able to submit any further claims or add to existing claims.

Click here to make a claim.

Job Retention Calculator
HMRC have produced this step by step guidance on how to make a claim. The government has launched a new calculator to help employers with their next CJRS claims. Employers can use the calculator to work out how much they have to pay their furloughed and flexibly furloughed employees, how much they can claim for employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions and how much they can claim back.

You can access the new job retention calculator here.

Please note that the calculator will be updated to reflect changes to the scheme over the coming months. 

In addition, employers can now also download a template if claiming for 100 or more employees through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (for claims on or after 1 July 2020). You can download the new template here.

If you make an error when claiming
If you have made an error in a claim that has resulted in an overclaimed amount, you must pay this back to HMRC.

If you are making another claim, you can tell HMRC about an overclaimed amount as part of this. When you make your next claim you will be asked whether you need to reduce the amount to take account of a previous overclaim. Your new claim amount will be reduced to reflect the overclaimed amount and you should keep a record of this adjustment for 6 years.

If you have overclaimed and you do not plan to submit any further claims, you should contact HMRC to let them know about your error and find out how to pay back any overclaimed amounts. Once you have contacted them you will be given a payment reference number and directed to make a payment.

If you have made an error that has resulted in an underclaimed amount, you should contact HMRC to amend your claim. As you are increasing the amount of your claim, they may need to conduct additional checks.

Job Retention Bonus: The Job Retention Bonus is a £1,000 one-off taxable payment to you (the employer), for each eligible employee that you furloughed and kept continuously employed until 31 January 2021.

You’ll be able to claim the bonus between 15 February 2021 and 31 March 2021. You do not have to pay this money to your employee.

You can claim for employees that:

  • You made an eligible claim for under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • You kept continuously employed from the end of the claim period of your last Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claim for them, until 31 January 2021
  • Are not serving a contractual or statutory notice period for you on 31 January 2021 (this includes people serving notice of retirement)
  • You paid enough an amount in each relevant tax month and enough to meet the Job Retention Bonus minimum income threshold

You cannot claim the bonus until 15 February 2021. The guidance will be updated by the end of January 2021 with details on how to access the online claim service on GOV.UK.

Dorset SME Recovery Grants: This grant is available following the Government announcement that a share of £30 million would be distributed to each Local Enterprise Partnership; including a £10 million Kick-starting Tourism Package for small businesses in the tourism sector and a further £20 million of new government funding to help smaller businesses recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result, Dorset Growth Hub (DGH) has been awarded a total of just under £550,000 of grant funding to distribute to eligible, Dorset based SME businesses that are trading in the tourism sector as well as the wider economy. These non-repayable grants are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

You can now apply for the amount of £1,000 - £3,000, or £5,000 in exceptional circumstances, via the DGH website.

Grants will be spent on projects to aid job safeguarding and business survival, such as improving websites, implementing new technology, improving use of outdoor space, with awnings and heating and also consulting, accessing expert advice on management, legal and HR.

Further information and application details are available on the Dorset SME Recovery Grant web page.

Small Growth Grants for Dorset: ​Dorset Growth Hub (DGH) has launched Small Growth Grants for Dorset businesses with ambitions to grow. Applicants will need to demonstrate that they have traded successfully for at least 12 months and now have plans for a project that will facilitate business growth. The Small Growth Grants scheme is inviting applications for projects of a value from £4,000 upwards and successful grant applications are provided 25% of eligible project costs. The minimum grant amount is £1,000 and the maximum is £5,000. This is a competitive application process, further information is available on the DGH website.

Sustainable Innovation Fund: The Sustainable Innovation Fund will help companies across all parts of the UK recovering from the impact of coronavirus keep their cutting-edge projects and ideas alive. The Sustainable Innovation Fund will help power the UK’s economic recovery and develop new sustainable opportunities for businesses in any sector following the coronavirus pandemic, while helping the UK meet its ambitions to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

Businesses can apply for support through the Sustainable Innovation Fund via Innovate UK here. Find out more here.

UK Export Finance (UKEF): UK Export Finance has expanded the scope of its Export Insurance Policy (EXIP) meaning UK businesses will now be eligible to secure export insurance cover to all major markets.
You should now:

  1. Visit the government Business Support website for more information about these and additional measures and support available to your business. This website will continue to be updated with the latest information.
  2. Pay particular attention to the guidance for employees, employers and businesses which is being updated regularly with the latest advice.
  3. Read the guidance for UK businesses trading internationally
  4. Take steps to protect yourself and others.

Time to Pay up-scaled: A dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities to receive support with their tax affairs. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement.

An overview of government Coronavirus Financial Support is available on the government website.

Business Rates Relief: Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year regardless of their rateable value. Local authorities wrote to eligible businesses in April, for more information please check the guidance on

In addition to these measures, Businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of £15,000 and under may be eligible for a grant of £10,000. Businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 may be eligible for a grant of £25,000.

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the grants should be directed to the relevant local authority. To find your local authority use this search tool, alternatively; details for BCP Council can be found here, and Dorset Council here.

Nurseries in England also do not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year. Properties that will benefit from the relief will be those occupied by providers on Ofsted’s Early Years Register and are wholly or mainly used for the provision of the Early Years Foundation Stage. Local authorities wrote to eligible businesses in April, for more information please check the guidance on

Financial support for education, early years and children’s social care: Funding and financial support available for education, childcare and children’s social care organisations. Find out more here.

Business Finance Guide: The British Business Bank and The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) have created new content to help businesses that are facing financial and operational challenges as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. You can view this regularly updated guidance at the Business Finance Guide website.

On this page you will find all financial Coronavirus Business Support schemes announced thus far by the Chancellor.

Other business support measures

NEW: Vat Deferral ‘New Payment Scheme’: In the Winter Economy Plan, the government announced they will give businesses which deferred VAT due in March to June 2020 the option to spread their payments over the financial year 2021-2022. Over half a million businesses deferred VAT payments. Rather than paying in full at the end of March 2021, businesses will be able to choose to make 11 equal instalments over 2021-22. All businesses which took advantage of the VAT deferral can use the New Payment Scheme. Businesses will need to opt in, but all are eligible. HMRC will put in place an opt-in process in early 2021.

NEW: Enhanced Time to Pay for Self-Assessment taxpayers: In the Winter Economy Plan, the government announced they will give the self-employed and other taxpayers more time to pay taxes due in January 2021, building on the Self-Assessment deferral provided in July 2020. Taxpayers with up to £30,000 of Self-Assessment liabilities due will be able to use HMRC’s self-service Time to Pay facility to secure a plan to pay over an additional 12 months. This means that Self-Assessment liabilities due in July 2020 will not need to be paid in full until January 2022. Check what you need to do if, after 31 July 2020, you chose to defer your second payment on account for the 2019 to 2020 tax year.

Rules that have been relaxed to help businesses during the coronavirus pandemic: A list of the rules that have been temporarily relaxed to make it easier for businesses to continue working through the disruption caused by coronavirus (COVID-19) is available here. This list is regularly updated and features rules such as annual leave carry over, taxable expenses and right to work checks amongst many more.

Free advice to small firms: The Recovery Advice for Business scheme, supported by the government and hosted on the Enterprise Nation website, will give small firms access to free, one-to-one advice with an expert adviser to help them through the coronavirus pandemic and to prepare for long-term recovery.

Advice offered will include bespoke, specialist assistance from accountancy, legal, and advertising to marketing, recruitment and digital to help businesses adapt to difficult circumstances and to bounce back as the UK economy recovers.

Further details on the announcement and how it works can be found here.

Filing your annual accounts with Companies House: If Coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected your company and you need more time to file your accounts, you should act before your filing deadline. Your company should take appropriate measures to ensure accounts are filed on time. If, immediately before the filing deadline, it becomes apparent that accounts will not be filed on time due to your company being affected by COVID-19, you may make an application to extend the period allowed for filing. Find out how to apply for more time to file your company’s accounts.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Rebate Scheme: From Tuesday 26 May 2020, small and medium-sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, will be able to apply to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments they have made to their employees.

Employers will be able to make claims to the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme through a new online service. Employers will receive repayments at the relevant rate of SSP that they have paid to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020. 

You can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time for that employee.

Your claim amount should not take you above the state aid limits under the EU Commission temporary framework. This is when combined with other aid received under the framework. The maximum level of state aid that a business may receive is €800,000. There is a lower maximum for agriculture at €100,000 and aquaculture and fisheries at €120,000.

HMRC has published online guidance which includes information about who can use the scheme and the records employers must keep. 

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.

However, 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. Some businesses may have purchased a specific add on relating to notifiable diseases, but some of these will still specify damage to the building. Some businesses may have purchased supply chain or denial of access cover which may meet their needs in this case.

An overview of government Coronavirus Financial Support is available on the government website.

Extension to tax policy consultations: HM Treasury and HMRC have set out new timelines for tax policy consultations and other work in the light of the current COVID-19 crisis.

Coronavirus support for business from outside government: Public bodies, organisations and charities have produced additional resources that may be useful to employers and employees. Further information is available here.

HMRC COVID-19 webinars: Government departments are hosting a series of webinars to help businesses understand the support available:

You can watch a video of the recorded webinar on the HMRC YouTube channel Coronavirus (COVID-19): helping employers to support employees.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): helping employers to support employees. You can also register to attend a free webinar to learn more about the support available to help you deal with the economic impacts of coronavirus by registering here.

Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp: Updated with business support advice. Text ‘hi’ to 07860064422 via Whatsapp and there are business support measures highlighted under option 5 with the relevant links to pages.

Temporary Trade Credit Insurance Guarantee: Businesses with supply chains which rely on Trade Credit Insurance and who are experiencing difficulties maintaining cover due to Coronavirus will get support from the government. The Government will temporarily guarantee business-to-business transactions currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance, ensuring the majority of insurance coverage will be maintained across the market.

The government will work with businesses and the industry on the full details of the scheme to ensure firms are supported and risk is appropriately shared between the government and insurers.

The guarantees will cover trading by domestic firms and exporting firms and the intent is for agreements to be in place with insurers by end of this month.

The guarantee will be temporary and targeted to cover CV-19 economic challenges, and will provisionally last until the end of the year.

Further information is available here.

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020: Measures put in place to protect businesses from insolvency will be extended to continue giving them much-needed breathing space during the coronavirus.

Guidance outlines how the measures introduced by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act will affect public limited companies (PLCs) and Societas Europaea (SEs) filing accounts with Companies House.

Applying for a moratorium under the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020
The government has produced guidance about how to apply for breathing space to consider a rescue plan for your company, under measures to support companies and other types of business in financial difficulty. Further information is available here.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on Companies House services by signing up for GOV.UK updates 

Supporting employees

Test & Trace Support Payment: From 28 September, there is a new legal duty in England, for all those who test positive for COVID-19 or are identified by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact, requiring them to self-isolate. New fines for those breaching self-isolation rules will start at £1,000 but could increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences and for the most egregious breaches, including for those preventing others from self-isolating.

The government is providing funding for a new Test and Trace Support payment scheme. This is a one off taxable payment of £500.00, which will run from 28 September until 31 January 2021.

This payment is designed to support people on low incomes, if they lose income as a result of self-isolating, and to encourage them to get tested if they have symptoms. This is important to help stop the transmission of COVID-19 and avoid further economic and societal restrictions.

To be eligible for a payment you must:

  • Have been asked to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace Service
  • Be employed or self-employed
  • Be unable work from home and will lose income as a result
  • Be in receipt of at least one of the following benefits: 

Test and Trace Support Payments in England are administered by unitary authorities and district councils. To apply, visit the BCP Test & Trace Support Payment page or the Dorset Council Test & Trace Support Payment page subject to your location.

Discretionary Scheme: If you don't meet the criteria for the NHS Track and Trace support payment, there is also a discretionary scheme available. Further information about this is available via your local authorities dedicated web pages; BCP Test & Trace Support Payment page / Dorset Council Test & Trace Support Payment page.

Testing: Everyone in the United Kingdom with symptoms is now eligible for a coronavirus test.

Anyone experiencing a new, continuous cough; high temperature; and now also a loss of or change in your normal sense of smell or taste can book a test by visiting You can select a regional test site drive-through appointment or order a home test kit. Home test kit availability will initially be limited but more will become available.

You need to have the test in the first 5 days of having symptoms. It's best to ask for the test in the first 3 days, as it may take a day or two to arrange.

Essential Workers
A separate portal is available for essential workers to book their test. Tests can be arranged by self-referral, or employer referral. Self-referral tests can be booked here.

The employer referral portal allows employers to refer essential workers who are self-isolating either because they or member(s) of their household have coronavirus symptoms, for testing.

The employer referral portal is a secure portal for employers to use to upload the full list of names and contact details of self-isolating essential workers.

If referred through this portal, essential workers will receive a text message with a unique invitation code to book a test for themselves (if symptomatic) or their symptomatic household member(s) at a regional testing site.
In order to obtain a login, employers of essential workers should email with:

  • organisation name
  • nature of the organisation’s business
  • region
  • names (where possible) and email addresses of the 2 users who will load essential worker contact details

Once employer details have been verified, 2 login credentials will be issued for the employer referral portal.

Social distancing in the workplace: To support businesses that remain open during this period in England, the government has published additional guidance to assist employers, businesses and their staff in staying open safely during coronavirus (COVID-19). For specific settings please refer to sector specific guidance.

Employee return-to-work tool: The Government has developed a tool to help employees in England easily assess if they can return to work. The tool guides employees through questions that may influence their ability to go back to work safely. Employers can share this tool with employees to aid discussion on how employees can return to work safely. Find out more here.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP): Those who follow advice to stay at home and who cannot work as a result will be eligible for 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.

If you’re not eligible for SSP – for example if you’re self-employed or earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £120 per week – and you have coronavirus or are advised to stay at home, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or new style Employment and Support Allowance.

If you’re eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have coronavirus or are advised to stay at home.

For those on a low income and already claiming Universal Credit, it is designed to automatically adjust depending on people’s earnings or other income. However, if someone needs money urgently they can apply for an advance through the journal.

Certifying absence from work: By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, employers may use their discretion around the need for medical evidence if an employee is staying at home.

If you have coronavirus or are advised to stay at home, you can get an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor. For coronavirus cases this replaces the usual need to provide a ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’) after 7 days of sickness absence.

The government is strongly encouraging employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to stay at home either as they are unwell themselves, or live with someone who is, in accordance with the public health advice issued by the government.

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.

The latest guidance about the operation of early years providers, schools and colleges during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is available here.

ACAS have more information on coronavirus and can help with specific queries by phone.

Domestic Abuse: The order to stay at home can cause anxiety for those who are experiencing or feel at risk of domestic abuse. As an employer, you can play an important role in reassuring staff that they can still leave their home if they are experiencing domestic abuse and that there is still support available, including online support, helplines, refuges and the police. We encourage you to share this important message with staff using the information provided in the Home Office’s employer pack.

Finding employment support: An array of resources are detailed on our finding employment support page of our site to assist you in your job search.

Further guidance and support for employees during coronavirus (COVID-19) is available here.

How businesses can help

Offer coronavirus (COVID-19) support from your business: Use this service to tell us how your business might be able to help with the response to coronavirus. The support needed includes things like:

  • medical testing equipment
  • medical equipment design
  • protective equipment for healthcare workers, such as masks, gowns and sanitiser
  • hotel rooms
  • transport and logistics, for moving goods or people
  • manufacturing equipment
  • warehouse or office space, for medical use or storage
  • expertise or support on IT, manufacturing, construction, project management, procurement, engineering or communications
  • social care or childcare

To offer support click here.

Guidance for businesses seeking to help voluntary, community, and social enterprise organisations during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: The voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector plays a key role across the country, positively impacting the life of many. The sector has been mobilising across the UK providing practical and emotional support to vulnerable groups.

Understandably, the financial implications to mobilising and supporting volunteers and the increased demand in services has placed pressure on the sector. While the government has announced £750m of additional funding to support the VCSE sector, businesses can also play a valuable role in supporting the sector’s response to the outbreak.

Further details of how your business can help can be found here.

Limiting the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in business and workplaces: Businesses and employers can help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by reminding everyone of the public health advice. Posters, leaflets and other materials are available.

Employees and customers should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently than normal.

Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products.

Business support FAQs

An FAQ section has been added to the government website with details on staying at home as well as a full list of the exceptions to the businesses the government has ordered to close - there has been no government-ordered closure of any other businesses.

Government support webinars

The UK Government, in consultation with industry, has produced guidance to help ensure workplaces in England are as safe as possible during the coronavirus pandemic. Join a free webinar, hosted by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to find out more about how to make your workplace COVID-secure.

The webinars cover a range of different types of workplace settings which are allowed to be open. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of the guides/webinars as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe.


As always, the Dorset LEP’s Dorset Gateway team is ready to offer specific business support. We are available on the contact information below. We are happy to be able to help our local businesses at this time with our free bespoke business advice and signposting.

We will update this page as new information becomes available and update you through our social media channels.