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.

Last updated: 27 March 2020

Dorset Gateway

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.

Guidance for employers

The government has set-up a dedicated page with a comprehensive suite of information for businesses and individuals relating to the COVID-19 virus. Businesses should read and follow this advice for employers.

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

If you have a query that isn’t covered by this guidance you can contact the National Business Support Helpline on: 0300 456 3565

Financial support for businesses

Business Rates Relief: The UK government is temporarily increasing the Business Rates retail discount in England to 100% for 2020-21 for properties below £51,000 rateable value. The relief will also be expanded to include all businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors irrespective of their Rateable Value. In addition to these measures, smaller businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors that don't have insurance will be able to receive a £25,000 cast grant to mitigate the loss of income.

Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019 to 2020 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible. Those businesses eligible for the newly expanded retail discount and/or the new pubs discount may need to apply to their local authority to receive the discount.

£10,000 cash grant to small businesses: There will be a £10,000 cash grant to small firms eligible for Small Business Rate Relief. This will be delivered by local authorities automatically and will commence at the start of April. Eligible businesses do not need apply – local councils will automatically credit the grant these businesses billing accounts. Find out contact details for your local council.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS): The government has expanded a new scheme of affordable loan finance to businesses. Businesses with a turnover of no more than £41m can now apply for a loan of up to £5m, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees (subject to a per lender cap on claims). No interest will be payable on any loans for the first six months of the loan period.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: All UK employers with a PAYE scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020, will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. Find out more information here.

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.

Other business support measures

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.

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees: The government is bringing forward legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible - the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force
  • the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

Support for businesses paying tax: All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

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.

Supporting employees

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.

Anyone not eligible to receive sick pay, including those earning less than an average of £118 per week, some of those working in the gig economy, or self-employed people, is able to claim Universal Credit and or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

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.

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.

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

How businesses can help

Production and supply of ventilator components – call to action

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is looking for organisations that can support in the supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the United Kingdom as part of the government’s response to COVID-19. If your business can help with the Prime Minister’s call for ventilator production, please visit https://ventilator.herokuapp.com to register your details.

Alternatively, companies that can assist can 0300 456 3565 or email ventilator.support@beis.gov.uk

Limiting 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.

School closures: A reminder that all schools are currently closed except for vulnerable children and those of critical workers. Employers are responsible for identifying key workers within their business - please think carefully before identifying your staff as key workers and please encourage them to keep their child/ children home. 

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.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme FAQs are also available on the government website.