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: 6 August 2020

Guidance for employers

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. 5 steps to working safely - Practical actions for businesses to take based on 5 main steps.
  2. 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.
  3. Construction and other outdoor work - Guidance for people who work in or run outdoor working environments.
  4. Factories, plants and warehouses - Guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses.
  5. Heritage locations - Guidance for people who work or volunteer in heritage locations.
  6. Hotels and other guest accommodation - Guidance for people who work in or run hotels and other guest accommodation
  7. Labs and research facilities - Guidance for people who work in or run indoor labs and research facilities and similar environments.
  8. Offices and contact centres - Guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.
  9. Other people's homes - Guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people's homes.
  10. Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services - Guidance for people who work in or run restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes or takeaways.
  11. Shops and branches - Guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.
  12. 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.
  13. The visitor economy - Guidance for people who work in hotels and guest accommodation, indoor and outdoor attractions, and business events and consumer shows.

NHS Test and Trace Service
It is critical that employers take steps to keep workers and visitors safe. By following the 5 steps for working safely, along with 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.

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 the action cards are available 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.

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.

Face coverings at work
There is no universal face coverings guidance for workplaces because of the variety of work environments in different industries. 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.

As a general rule, it is important to note that coronavirus (COVID-19) is a different type of risk to the risks normally faced in a workplace and 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. If employees choose to wear a face covering, 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 here.

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.

Further information is available here.

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 and are available to download free here.

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

New 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.  The tool can be found here.

Businesses should display a downloadable 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 25 July:

  • Indoor fitness and dance studios
  • Indoor gyms
  • Indoor sports courts and facilities
  • Indoor swimming pools and indoor water parks

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:

  • Bowling alleys
  • Indoor skating rinks
  • Casinos
  • Exhibition halls and conference centres
  • Nightclubs, dance halls, discotheques
  • Sexual entertainment venues and hostess bars
  • Indoor play areas, including soft-play areas

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.

On 31 July, the Prime Minister also announced that there would be no change to guidance on indoor performance, close contact services, and wedding receptions or celebrations. This means that existing guidance in relation to these services and events remain.

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;

  • Find the new grassroots sport and gym/leisure facilities guidance here.
  • Find the new close contact services (hairdressing, barber shops, beauty, nail bars, make up, tattooing, spray tanning, spas, sports and massage therapy, dress fitters, tailors, fashion designers) guidance here.
  • Find the latest performing arts (including arts organisations, venue operators and participants) guidance here.
  • Find the new hotel and guest accommodation guidance here.
  • Find the new visitor economy (hotels, guest accommodation, indoor and outdoor attractions, business events and consumer shows) guidance here.  
  • Find the updated restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services guidance here.

Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace
Organisations in certain sectors should collect details and maintain records of staff, customers and visitors on their premises to support NHS Test and Trace.

Sectors that this guidance applies to:
There is a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19 in premises where customers and visitors spend a longer time in one place and potentially come into close contact with other people outside of their household. To manage this risk, establishments in the following sectors, whether indoor or outdoor venues or mobile settings, should collect details and maintain records of staff, customers and visitors:

  • hospitality, including pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés
  • tourism and leisure, including hotels, museums, cinemas, zoos and theme parks
  • close contact services, including hairdressers, barbershops and tailors
  • facilities provided by local authorities, including town halls and civic centres for events, community centres, libraries and children’s centres
  • places of worship, including use for events and other community activities

This guidance applies to any establishment that provides an on-site service and to any events that take place on its premises. It does not apply where services are taken off site immediately, for example, a food or drink outlet which only provides takeaways. If a business offers a mixture of a sit-in and takeaway service, contact information only needs to be collected for customers who are dining in.

How records should be maintained:
To support NHS Test and Trace, you should hold records for 21 days. This reflects the incubation period for COVID-19 (which can be up to 14 days) and an additional 7 days to allow time for testing and tracing. After 21 days, this information should be securely disposed of or deleted. When deleting or disposing of data, you must do so in a way that does not risk unintended access (e.g. shredding paper documents and ensuring permanent deletion of electronic files).

Records which are made and kept for other business purposes do not need to be disposed of after 21 days. The requirement to dispose of the data relates to a record that is created solely for the purpose of NHS Test and Trace. All collected data, however, must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation and should not be kept for longer than is necessary.

Further guidance is available here.

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.

NEW: Support for Restaurants: Register your establishment for the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme
In his Summer Economic Update in Parliament on 8 July, the Chancellor announced measures to protect jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors which have been severely impacted by the pandemic due to necessary closures to protect public health.

Ensuring there is enough demand as businesses reopen is key to helping these businesses recover and have the confidence to protect jobs and rehire. Therefore, to encourage people to safely return to eating out at restaurants, the Government’s new Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme will provide a 50% reduction for sit-down meals in cafes, restaurants and pubs across the UK from Monday to Wednesday every week throughout August 2020.

The scheme is UK wide and customers will be able to see who is taking part on GOV.UK. The scheme will drum up custom on quieter days of the week and means you can build your business back up. You can use the scheme:

  • All day, every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 3 to 31 August 2020.
  • To offer a 50% discount, up to a maximum of £10 per person, to diners for food or non-alcoholic drinks to eat or drink in.
  • To claim the money back from the government.

There is no limit to the number of times customers can use the offer during the period of the scheme. Your customers cannot get a discount for someone who is not eating or drinking.

Alcohol and service charges are excluded from the offer.

Customers do not need a voucher; participating establishments will remove the discount from their bill. Businesses simply reclaim the discounted amount through an online service supported by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Claims can be made on a weekly basis and will be paid into bank accounts within five working days.

Businesses will receive a window sticker to show they are using the scheme and can download promotional items here.

Registration for the scheme is now LIVE and closes on 31 August

Further information for businesses, including how to register and make a claim, is available here.

Find a restaurant that is registered for the scheme here.

NEW: VAT Rates for Tourism & Hospitality Activities
The rate of VAT applied on most tourism and hospitality-related activities will also be cut from 20% to 5%. This will save households around £160 per year on average and, together with the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, will support over 2.4 million staff at over 150,000 businesses, helping them recover and reopen after the Covid-19 lockdown. This will give these businesses the confidence to maintain their staff, as more people get through the door and business activity kick-starts again.

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.

Certain facilities and services will not be allowed to reopen on 4 July, including swimming pools, spas, nail bars, beauty salons, indoor play areas, and indoor gyms.

Hotels and other accommodation providers should not host conferences or events until guidance on mixing outside household groups is changed. Current government advice is that gatherings of more than 30 people should not be taking place. People should not gather indoors in groups of more than two households (a support bubble counts as one household) or gather outdoors in a group of more than six people from different households; gatherings larger than 6 should only take place if everyone is from just two households.

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

NEW: Kick-starting Tourism & Small Business Recovery Grants: At the beginning of July, the Government announced that communities which depend on tourism will receive a major boost from a new £10 million Kick-starting Tourism Package. This will give small businesses in tourist destinations grants of up to £5,000 to help them adapt their businesses following the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, thousands of smaller businesses in England are set to benefit from £20 million of new government funding to help them recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Small and medium sized businesses will have access to grants of between £1,000 - £5,000 to help them access new technology and other equipment as well as professional, legal, financial or other advice to help them get back on track.

  • The support will be fully funded by the Government with no obligation for businesses to contribute financially.
  • The funding being provided to businesses is supported by the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund in England.
  • The funding has been allocated to Growth Hubs within each LEP area in line with the current ERDF Programme.

The application process is expected to open in September 2020, register your interest here for further information once it is available.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS): The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will close on 31 October 2020. The rules for the scheme have changed - 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.

From 1 August 2020, the level of grant will be reduced each month and you will be asked to contribute towards the cost of your furloughed employees’ wages. Find out more information about how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is changing here.

The timetable for changes to the scheme is set out below. Wage caps are proportional to the hours an employee is furloughed. For example, an employee is entitled to 60% of the £2,500 cap if they are placed on furlough for 60% of their usual hours:

  • For August, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 for the hours an employee is on furlough and employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions for the hours the employee is on furlough.
  • For September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for time they are furloughed.
  • For October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for time they are furloughed.

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.

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.

NEW: Job Retention Bonus
In his Summer Economic Update in Parliament on 8 July, the Chancellor announced to help firms keep on furloughed workers; UK Employers will receive a one-off bonus of £1,000 for each furloughed employee who is still employed as of 31 January 2021. Further guidance will be published soon.

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.

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.

Small Business Grant Funding: The Government is providing additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBRR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

Eligible businesses will be contacted by their local authority, though some local authorities have decided to operate an applications process. 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.

Discretionary Grants Scheme: Small and micro businesses with fixed property costs that are not eligible for the Small Business Grant Fund or the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund may be eligible for the Discretionary Grants Fund. This additional fund is aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs. Local authorities are being asked to prioritise businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief, and bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates.

Businesses must be small, under 50 employees, and they must also be able to demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop of income due to Coronavirus restriction measures. Local authorities may choose to make payments to other businesses based on local economic need.

The maximum grant will be £25,000. There will also be grants of £10,000. Local authorities will have discretion to make payments of any amount under £10,000.

For further details and to apply, please check with your local council for details of their scheme;

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.

Financial support for England’s fishing businesses: The £10 million fund for England’s fishing and aquaculture sectors, first announced by Defra and HM Treasury on 17 April, supports fishing and aquaculture businesses that have been adversely impacted by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are two funds, both administered by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) that will target those most in need.

The first fund of £9 million is called the Fisheries Response Fund (FRF) and will directly contribute towards the fixed business costs of over 1000 catching and aquaculture businesses that have been adversely impacted by the downturn of export and domestic markets for fish and shellfish. Qualifying fishing vessel owners will be contacted directly in stages by MMO from Monday 20 April 2020.

The second fund has a value of £1 million and will be allocated to grant payments towards aquaculture businesses operating costs. The grants of up to £10,000 will directly contribute to ongoing production costs. From Thursday, 7 May 2020, eligible businesses will be contacted directly by MMO with further details on how to apply.

Further information can be found here.

Find out more about aquaculture in Dorset here.

New funding to support dairy farmers through coronavirus: Since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the dairy industry has faced challenges of excess milk, falling prices, and reduced demand from the hospitality sector. A new dairy response fund will enable eligible dairy farmers in England to access up to £10,000 each to help them overcome the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Qualifying farmers can apply for support to cover up to 70% of their losses due to coronavirus disruption across April and May, up to a total amount of £10,000 each.

To be eligible for support from the fund, farmers will need to demonstrate that they have suffered a reduction in the base price paid for their milk of 25% or more in April 2020 when compared with February 2020.

This funding, which will be paid out from 6 July, will help farmers maintain production capacity without impacts on animal welfare, following reduced demand for milk products as restaurants, bars and cafes have closed.

The fund will be administered by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

Please read the Dairy Recovery Fund handbook to see if you are eligible to apply; only apply if you meet the eligibility requirements detailed in the handbook. If you are eligible to apply, complete a Dairy Response Fund 2020 application form and email it to

Further details are available 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

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.

VAT Deferral: This is an automatic offer with no applications required. UK Registered businesses will not need to make VAT payments normally due with VAT returns from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020-21 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

* The VAT payment deferral period ends on 30 June 2020 * 
This means you’ll need to:

  • set-up cancelled direct debits in enough time for HMRC to take payment
  • submit VAT returns as normal, and on time
  • pay the VAT in full on payments due after 30 June

Any VAT payments you have deferred between 20 March and 30 June should be paid in full on or before 31 March 2021. You can make additional payments with subsequent returns.
Contact HMRC:

  • if you are unable to pay the VAT due and may need time to pay as soon as possible and before the payment is due
  • for advice and information on other support available

Further information is available here.

Deferral of Self-Assessment Payment: If you are due to make a self-assessment payment on account on 31 July 2020 then you are eligible for the deferment. The deferment is intended to assist self-assessment taxpayers, including those who are self-employed, who are suffering hardship as a result of the coronavirus.

The deferment is optional and any persons still able to pay their second self-assessment payment on account on 31 July 2020 should still do so.

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged if you defer payment of your July 2020 payment on account until January 2021.

HMRC have also scaled up their Time to Pay offer to all firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of coronavirus and have outstanding tax liabilities.

Further information is available here.

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 introduced by the Act will relieve the burden on businesses during the coronavirus outbreak and allow them to focus all their efforts on continuing to operate.

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. Further information is available here.

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.

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill Webinars: To find out how the new rules on moratoriums, restructuring and winding-up petitions will affect companies and their associated parties, register to join our Insolvency session at 10.30am on 7th July. You can register here

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

Supporting employees

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.