COVID-19 Industry Updates

Developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic are changing on a daily basis. While the crisis is ongoing, the BBSA will continue to provide its members, and others in the industry, with guidance from our partners and reliable third-party sources as best we can. Here, we have collated information on the current situation to help those in the trade find what they need to know as easily as possible. This page will continue to be updated.

Updated May 12, 2020: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Guidance on manufacturing, installing and construction

Business Support

  • Business rates relief

Measures such as business rates holiday have been introduced to ease the pressure on employers. A business rates holiday for the tax year 2020/21 will be available for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.

The BBSA understands that if your business is classified as being in the retail sector from a rates point of view, then this holiday will be arranged by your local authority.

These links contain further information on how the relief on offer differs in England, ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland. You can check the rates for your business and see whether you are eligible here.

  • Grant funding

A one-off grant worth up to £10,000 is available for small businesses in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief. There is also grant funding of up to £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property which has a rateable value between £15,001 and £51,000, in England.

Please refer to the links contained in the ‘Business rates relief’ section for more information on how this differs in England, Scotland and Wales. There is a different scheme in Northern Ireland, the details of which can be seen here.

In England, businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of £15,000 and under will receive a grant of £10,000.

Local authorities are now beginning to contact those eligible for grants. For more information please visit your local authority website.

  • Government support hub

A hub which helps businesses find the coronavirus support which is most relevant to them has gone live on the government's website. It tells you what financial support is on offer to your business, how to claim for wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and how self-emlpoyed people can apply for grants.

  • Delaying tax payments

All businesses can arrange to delay paying taxes by contacting HMRC directly.

  • 'Bounce back' loan scheme

Small and medium-sized businesses can now apply for a new loan of up to £50,000 from the government.

You can apply if your business is based in the UK, has been impacted negatively by Covid-19 and was not an 'undertaking in difficulty' on December 31, 2019.

The loans are 100% guaranteed by the government and there are no fees or interest for the first 12 months. According to the government, loan terms will be up to six years and no repayments will be due in the first 12 months.

Read more here.

Self-employed

Help for the self-employed has been outlined by the government in the form of taxable grants worth 80% of profits, up to £2,500 per month. It will be available for three months initially and will be open to those who have more than half of their income come from self-employment.

This is expected to be available from the beginning of June and more information on eligibility is here

Employment Support

  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (updated May 12)

Employers are being encouraged to furlough their employees, rather than lay them off through redundancy, and use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The UK government announced on May 12 that the scheme will run until October with employees contiuing to receive 80% of their salary. The percentage of pay received from the government will be reassessed from August.

All employers are eligible to contact HMRC to request a grant to cover up to 80% of the wages of employees who are not working but are kept on the payroll, rather than laid off. Employers can top this up to 100% if they wish. They will also be able to claim the employer's National Insurance contributions and the mandatory 3% employer pension contributions on that wage. To claim, employers must send information to HMRC about employees that have been furloughed, and their earnings, through a new online portal which went live on April 20. You can access the portal here

The 80% of wages is capped at £2,500 per employee per month and can include anyone laid off after February 28, 2020. The latest update from the government is the scheme will run until the end of June. Full-time and part-time employees qualify, as well as those on zero-hour and agency contracts.

Companies will need to designate employees as furloughed and notify them of that in writing. Members of the BBSA are able to request a copy of a draft furlough letter produced by the association's lawyers, Chadwick Lawrence, by emailing info@bbsa.org.uk. Remember, changing an employee’s status is subject to employment law and negotiation.

A number of amendments and clarifications have been made to the scheme by the government since it was first announced. You can see the latest information on the scheme from Chadwick Lawrence, the BBSA’s solicitors, here

Chadwick Lawrence has also explained the position on how the furlough scheme works in relation to annual leave. Annual leave can be taken while employees are furloughed without bringing the furlough period to an end. Employers can claim the usual 80% of wages on days of annual leave, but they must top up the employee's pay to 100% in line with the Working Time Regulations. More information is available here.

  • SSP payments

Emergency legislation introduced on March 13, 2020 states anyone who is self-isolating to avoid spreading Covid-19 and cannot work as a result, must be paid statutory sick pay (SSP). This will apply for a period of eight months.

Further legislation means SSP will need to be paid from the first day of sickness absence. If homeworking during self-isolation, full pay will need to be maintained.

Two weeks of SSP per sick employee will be able to be recovered by businesses which have fewer than 250 employees (as of February 28).

Industry specific guidance

  • Deposits

The BBSA has received some guidance from Trading Standards regarding customer deposits in the current situation. This advice is only available to members and is available from eshots which have been previously sent out or by emailing info@bbsa.org.uk.

Please be aware that this is not assured advice so it is not legally binding. The guidance is based on existing legislation and is in a question and answer format.

  • Lead times assured advice

The BBSA has received assured advice from Trading Standards regarding the impact of COVID-19 on lead times.

Again, this advice is only available to members and is available from eshots which have been previously sent out or by emailing info@bbsa.org.uk.

Remember, even though the situation is changing all the time, try to keep your customers informed as best you can.

Business interruption loan scheme

Loans of up to £5 million for small and medium enterprises are available to UK businesses which have an annual turnover of less than £45 million.

The scheme is open to applications via major banks now. On April 2, the government announced changes to the scheme which means government-backed loans will not longer be limited to small businesses which have been refused a commercial loan from their bank. However, no limit has been put on the interest rates banks can charge for loans.
 
Futhermore, banks are now banned from asking  business owners to guarantee loans with their own savings or property when borrowing up to £250,000. Read more here

The BBSA's partner Citation has more information on this scheme here.

VAT

If you’re a UK VAT registered business and have a payment due between March 20, 2020 and June 30, 2020, you can defer the payment until a later date or pay it as usual. You must still submit your VAT return.

If you decide to defer your payment you have until March 31, 2021 to pay, but you do not need to tell HMRC that you are deferring payment. However, if you pay by direct debit, make sure you contact your bank to cancel your payment. More information is available here.

HMRC has also set-up a phoneline to support businesses during this time. Call 08000 241 222 between 8am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.

Guidance on manufacturing, installing and construction

The UK government has issued sector specific guidance following a TV address by the Prime Minister on Sunday, May 10. Of that guidance, the following are of most relevance to our industry:

  • Guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people's homes as well as their employers. Click here.
  • Guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses Click here.
  • Guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments. Click here.
  • 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. Click here.

We appreciate that not every home nation is adopting the same principles or time frame.

Manufacturers and warehouses are not listed as having to close by the government, but PHE guidance on social distancing must be observed in cases where they do not close. The Health and Safety Executive, Trade Union Congress and Confederation of British Industry have published this joint statement highlighting the importance of following social distancing guidelines in the workplace. On April 8, the government's business secretary, Alok Sharma, published this open letter confirming manufacturers can stay open. The Department of Transport has also published an open letter which is written to the logistics industry but encompasses warehouses.

With regards to installing, the UK government has said tradespeople can carry out "essential repairs and maintenance" inside people’s homes. That is providing the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms of Covid-19 and the household is not isolating and doesn’t contain a person who is being shielded, unless it is a safety emergency. This advice was issued by the government on April 14 and can be seen here.

Construction sites in England are being allowed to carry on, so long as procedures from the Construction Leadership Council are followed. Of course, this pre-supposes your own risk assessments mean you can follow the procedures.The latest site operating procedures state closer than two-metre working can take place if it is essential for the project. However, it should last for no longer than 15 minutes and the workers should not be face-to-face where possible.The update to the SOP comes after Public Health England updated its guidance for construction sites. PHE advises that if social distancing can't be followed, consideration should be given to whether the activity must be done for the site to operate. If yes, the updated SOP should be followed. The Construction Industry Training Board has produced a 'toolbox talk' which contains some useful guidance if you have to work on site.

In Scotland, the government has told all construction sites in the country to close unless "essential work" is being carried out. Read more.

In Wales, new regulations have come into force which mean the two-metre social distancing rule needs to be followed in work places. All businesses will need to 'take all reasonable measures to ensure the rule is maintained...when work is being carried out.' Read more.

What if I'm ill?

If you live by yourself and you have symptoms of coronavirus however mild, stay at home for seven days from when your symptoms started.

If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for seven days. Every other member of the household who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.

More information is available here.

The government has confirmed that symptomatic workers who are unable to work from home are eligible for coronavirus testing. Read more here

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