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: April 8, 2020: Working 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.

  • Delaying tax payments

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

  • 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.

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

  • Furloughed workers

Employers are being encouraged to keep employees on their payroll rather than lay them off through redundancy. This is being referred to as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

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.

The 80% of wages is capped at £2,500 per employee per month and the measure is backdated to March 1, 2020. It can include anyone laid off after February 28, 2020 and is expected to last for three months initially.

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.

Employers must send information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal which is expected to be ready in mid-April. The first grants are expected to be paid before the end of April so this will mean employers funding this support in the short-term. Read more about signing-up for the scheme here

You can read more on furloughed workers here. Chadwick Lawrence, the BBSA’s solicitors have produced a short video on furloughing, including the updates made by the government on April 4, which you can see 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.

Working guidance on manufacturing, installing and construction

The government’s latest instructions are that you are only allowed to leave your home for food, health reasons, essential work or for one piece of exercise per day. Businesses which must close are listed here. Travel to and from work is only allowed where "absolutely necessary". The BBSA’s health and safety and employment law partner Citation has produced a six-page guide to working from home which you can download here.

Manufacturers and warehouses are not listed as having to close by the government. Therefore, it is our understanding that these can continue to operate, but PHE guidance on social distancing must be observed. 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 continue to carry out work 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. Crucially, this should only happen where the tradesperson is willing to attend.

If installing, Public Health England guidance on social distancing must be followed at all times. The PHE guidance is that you must stay two metres (six feet) away from other people who are not from your household and you should wash your hands as soon as you get home. Fines can be imposed if you do not follow this guidance.

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. It will mean people travelling in separate vehicles to maintain social distancing and any work requiring overnight stay won't be possible as all hotels, guest houses etc have been closed by the government. 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.

More information on manufacturing, installing and construction is available here

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.

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