Guidance to the business impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updated Fri 05 June 2020

Following the rapid spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the UK & the world, people are understandably concerned about the health and wellbeing of their loved ones. The latest guidance on Coronavirus from the NHS can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ and we would like to wish you, your family and friends the best of health in facing this illness.

The UK Government has introduced, and will continue to, a wide range of measures to help tackle the spread of the illness, which will also have a profound effect on the way we live our lives for the immediate future.

As a result, individuals and businesses are rightly concerned as to the potential impact upon their finances and livelihoods. These are uncertain times and as such, we would recommend that businesses operate within their means and exercise prudence and careful judgment.

The government has promised £300 billion or whatever it takes to help deal with the impact of the measures introduced, and we have outlined below how these resources and support can be accessed, as well as other relevant information. We will do our best to keep you as up to date as possible, but please note that a lot of the information provided is constantly changing.

We hope that this guide helps provide you with some comfort of the options available, but please contact our dedicated Corona Virus Business Support team on 01226 213131 or enquiries@gibsonbooth.co.uk if you require any assistance.

Best wishes
The Directors
Gibson Booth Limited


Job Retention Scheme

On 20 March the Government promised to pay up to 80% of staff costs where employers would otherwise have had to lay off employees during this period, up to a cap of £2,500 (plus employers’ NIC and minimum pension costs) per employee per month. This was initially intended to run for at least 3 months from 1 March 2020. On 29 May the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced some changes that would be brought in with regard to the Job Retention Scheme.

  • From 1 July furloughed staff can be brought back part time whilst still allowing a grant to be claimed for the portion of the time they are not working.
  • From 1 August employers will need to start to contribute to the wages of furloughed staff. This will be brought in gradually over August, September and October.
  • From 30 June employers will no longer be able to furlough any members of staff who have not already been furloughed for at least three weeks prior to that date.

Further guidance is intended to be made available on 12 June, however the following is the position as it currently stands.

Part time working

From 1 July employers can, if they wish, bring furloughed employees back to work part time and continue to claim a grant for the hours not worked. This will apply to hours worked between 1 July and 31 August.

The working hours and shift patterns must be agreed in writing between the employee and employer and the part time pattern must last at least a week. Employers must submit a claim setting out the usual hours worked and the actual hours worked when making the claim.

If employees are unable to return to work, they can continue to be furloughed as normal on their full hours.

Employer contributions

From 1 August the Job Retention Scheme payments will be gradually tapered.

Until the end of July the government will continue to pay 80% of wages up to a limit of £2,500 for each furloughed employee. They will also pay the employer NICs and pension contributions for the same staff.

From 1 August the government will continue to pay 80% of furloughed wages up to a limit of £2,500; however they will no longer pay the employer NICs and pension contributions, this cost must be met by the employer.

From 1 September the government will pay 70% of furloughed wages up to a limit of £2,187.50. Employers must make up the 10% shortfall up to a cap of £2,500 and must also pay all employer NICs and pension contributions.

From 1 October the government will pay 60% of furloughed wages up to a limit of £1,875. Employers must make up the 20% shortfall up to a cap of £2,500 and must also pay all employer NICs and pension contributions.

Note that where the employee works a proportion of their usual hours, the limits above are similarly reduced.

Cessation of new entrants to scheme

From 30 June no new entrants will be allowed to join the scheme. What this means is, any employee who has not already been furloughed for at least 3 weeks by 30 June will not be eligible to be furloughed after that date. 

Therefore if an employer wishes to furlough an employee after this date, either on a full-time or part-time basis, and the employee has not already completed a full three week furlough cycle, they must ensure that the employee becomes furloughed from no later than 10 June to ensure they are eligible.

If an employer has not yet made a claim to HMRC in respect of furloughed employees, it must ensure one is made by 30 June if it wishes to furlough any staff after that date.

Recap of general rules

The basic guidance relating to the furlough scheme remains unchanged and is as follows.

Firstly, it will be necessary for the relevant affected employees to be designated as ‘furloughed workers’ and they should not undertake any work for the employer whilst furloughed.

Employers need to:

  • select and tell (‘designate’) the employees affected that they’re furloughed
  • keep employees on the employer’s payroll

The employer needs to get agreement from the employee to do this, unless it’s covered by a clause in the employment contract. They also need to select employees in a fair way to avoid any discrimination.
If an employee disagrees with their employer's decision, they'll need to talk to their employer and try to come to an agreement.
Any furlough agreements should be in writing. It's a good idea to include:

  • the date furlough starts
  • when it will be reviewed
  • how to keep in contact during furlough

If the workplace needs to close temporarily further guidance can also be found via the ACA website https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus/if-the-employer-needs-to-close-the-workplace

Please note that changing the status of employees remains a matter of employment law and accordingly, should be done with the agreement of the relevant employees or an employment law specialist.

The business will need to pay the employee initially, who will usually be contractually entitled to their normal wage. However, it can be agreed in conjunction with the employees that a reduced amount could be paid (potentially down to the 80% that would be reimbursed). HM Revenue & Customs must then be informed of the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (which has yet to be set up). HMRC would then arrange for the 80% to reimbursed in due course, but do not currently have systems in place to do so. They are working on this urgently and will advise when it is available, although are targeting the end of April.

Additional guidance has now been issued by HMRC, which can be seen at the links below. Main points to note include:

  • Employees need to have been employed as at 28 February 2020
  • If made redundant after 28 February 2020, the employer can re-employ employees and place on furlough instead
  • Any type of contract including zero hours or temporary contract is allowable
  • Directors are eligible for their salary, but not dividends (please remember that furloughed workers can’t work for the company)
  • The furlough period is a minimum of 3 weeks and maximum of 3 months (although may be extended)
  • Where earnings are consistent, the employees’ actual pay as at 28 February 2020 before tax will be used to calculate the 80% reimbursed.
  • If it varies, it will instead be based on the higher of the earnings in the same month in the previous year or the average monthly earnings over the last year (or from when the employee started work)
  • Bonuses & commissions are not included in the above

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme


Assistance with Business Funding

If you have any concerns regarding your existing business finance, please speak to your bank relationship manager in the first instance. All the major banks have promised to give support to affected businesses through a range of measures, which include repayment holidays, reviewing overdrafts & loans or considering trade finance solutions. Gibson Booth Limited have a number of contacts at the local and regional branches and will be happy to assist where we can.

Bounce Back Loans

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) is a scheme being offered by many UK lenders which allows small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000, subject to a cap of 25% of their turnover.

There will be no fees or interest for the first 12 months of the loan, nor will repayments be required for the same period. The interest rate following the first 12 months will be 2.5% per annum. The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and the loan lasts for up to six years.

The majority of non-public sector organisations can apply for the loan, provided they:

  • Are based in the UK
  • Were established before 1 March 2020
  • Have been adversely affected by the coronavirus

Businesses already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) or the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility are not eligible to apply for a BBLS loan, however it may be possible to transfer an existing loan from one of the above to the BBLS.

If you wish to apply for a BBLS loan you can visit https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-schemes/bounce-back-loans/for-businesses-and-advisors/ for a list of eligible lenders. You should contact them directly to arrange the loan, and a refusal by one lender does not mean you cannot apply to another.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

In addition to normal borrowings, the government has introduced the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). The scheme will provide lenders with a government backed guarantee, with the aim to reducing ‘no’ credit decisions, where businesses have sound borrowing proposals, but have insufficient security to meet lender’s requirements. Businesses will benefit from the government covering the first 12 months of interest payments, although they will remain 100% liable for the debt & capital- although a capital holiday of up to 12 months is available.

The scheme supports a wide range of business finance (including term facilities, overdrafts, invoice & asset finance) with borrowings of up to £5m, depending upon qualifying criteria. The scheme is now up and running and will be available through 40+ accredited lenders (see link below for full list):

https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/accredited-lenders/

From our discussion with the banks, we understand that loans from circa £10,000 to £5m are available depending on the lender, but that they are often looking to put personal guarantees in place on other assets owned by the individual. The banks generally require a detailed business proposal and typically a 12-month cashflow projection, which we will be happy to assist with if required.

Finally, we can also put you in touch with specialist funding providers should you have any particular or unusual funding requirements which can’t be met through the normal commercial options- please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.


Assistance with Tax Liabilities

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) have acknowledged that businesses or self-employed individuals may need support in respect of any outstanding taxes due, as a result of current or expected financial difficulties arising. They have therefore set up a dedicated Coronavirus Time-to-Pay helpline which will look to assist on a case-by-case basis for Corporation tax, VAT, PAYE and Self-Assessment.

They have a range of options available to them which include providing tax payment delays (typically to 3 months), arranging instalment plans, suspending debt collection proceedings and cancelling penalties & interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately.

The number is 0800 0159 559 and lines are open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday 8am to 4pm (not available on bank holidays). Although HMRC currently have significant waiting times on this line, we have found them very helpful when answered and have been happy to agree to the deferrals we have requested without queries. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you need any assistance regarding this.

HM Revenue & Customs have also announced two automatic tax deferral schemes to help further support businesses, for which no applications will be required.

Firstly, VAT payments becoming due will not need to be made from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020. Any liability becoming due during this period will instead need to be paid by the end of the 2020/21 tax year i.e. 31 March 2021. Any VAT refunds due will be processed and paid by HMRC as normal.

Please note that the VAT returns still need to completed & submitted by the usual due date. It’s important to also ensure that you cancel any Direct Debit set up as HMRC may still take payment if not cancelled.

In addition, any taxpayers paying income tax under Self-Assessment will not be required to make any 2nd payment on accounts, which would be normally be due for payment by 31 July 2020. Any liability will be deferred until 31 January 2021, with confirmation being provided that no interest or late payment penalties will apply.


Assistance with Business Rates

Businesses who are sustaining financial difficulties due to Coronavirus can apply to their local council for support in respect the payment of business rates. Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (BMBC) can be contacted on 01226 787787 and selecting option 5 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm), who will arrange for a business rates manager to call back & discuss any support available.

A 12-month business rates holiday has extended the 50% reduction previously announced in the 2020 Budget for shops, restaurants, cafes and bars with a rateable value less than £51,000, and has been widened to all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses sectors. Businesses who met the original Budget criteria will automatically receive a new 2020/21 bill (sent 18 March) with the full 100% reductions.

Further guidance has now been published detailing the other businesses to which the business rate holiday applies, which includes (but is not limited to): Nurseries, Opticians, Carpets warehouses, Hair salons, Travel agents, Funeral directors, Car hire, Coffee shops, Gyms, Clubs, Hotels and Holiday homes.

Your local authority should automatically review businesses and issue amended 2020/21 bill shortly and before the first payment is due. However, we would suggest contacting them directly if you believe you should be eligible for the holiday, but have not received any correspondence- Barnsley MBC can be contacted by filling in the following form:

https://barnsley-online.victoriaforms.com/Viewer-VicForms.asp?user=anon&Form=Business%20Rates%20-%20Retail%20Relief%20Application%20(1.0).wdf

A £25,000 grant will be made available to all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises (with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000), whilst a similar grant of upto £10,000 will be available to small businesses eligible for either Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) or Rural Rate Relief.

We can confirm that Barnsley MBC are now starting to automatically issue these grants (although it may be a few weeks for other local councils), but would suggest that you contact your council if you think you qualify, as payments can be made within 3 working days. You can contact BMBC via the link below or on 01226 787787:

https://barnsley-online.victoriaforms.com/viewer-vicforms.asp?user=anon&form=contact%20us%20(1.0).wdf


Advice for Employers

The government’s current advice is that any employee who develops Coronavirus symptoms at work, should be sent home, where they should self-isolate for a period of 7 days. Likewise, if a member of their household has symptoms, then they should self-isolate for a period of 14 days. Full details of the guidance can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection
If ill or self-isolating, the employee should be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £94.25 per week (rising to £95.85 from 6 April) from day 1 for upto 28 weeks. They may also be entitled to contractual sick pay as agreed in their contract/terms of employment.

From 13 March 2020, employers will be able to reclaim up to two weeks of SSP per employee who are off as a result of coronavirus (assuming they have less than 250 employees as at 28 February 2020).

The government will make further announcements relating to how the repayment mechanism for employers will work as soon as they are able. In the meantime, employers should keep a record of staff absences and payment of SSP, but do not need to provide a doctors’ note.

In terms of working from home, the current government guidance is that this should be encouraged where possible, if the employees’ job role allows it. However, if this is not practical and an employee does not want to come to work (because they are afraid of catching coronavirus for example), then they should discuss with the employer whether they can take time off as holiday or unpaid leave, although this would be at the employer’s discretion.


Temporary closure of the workplace

If an employee has been in the workplace with coronavirus, it is not necessary to close the workplace although it will be significantly safer if the area can be kept closed for a period of 72 hours prior to cleaning. In this event, any employees would be entitled to SSP, with the employer following the government’s cleaning advice, which can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-list-of-guidance#guidance-for-non-clinical-settings

However, if an employer does need to close their business due to commercial reasons, or ask staff to temporarily reduce their hours, employers will still need to pay their employees for this time unless it states in their employment contract (in which case they would be entitled to a statutory guarantee payment of up to £29 per day for a maximum of 5 days) or is otherwise agreed. It is very important to take professional advice from an Employment Law Solicitor in this regard, who we can put you in touch with.

Employers do have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to, for example if the workplaces needs to close for a week. The employer is required to give staff twice as much notice before the amount of days people need to take, for example if the office closed for a week and staff had to use 5 holiday days, the employer must notify staff at least 10 days before.


Self-employed support

The government announced on 26 March the Coronavirus Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to provide a one-off grant for self-employed individuals, either in a partnership or as a sole trader. This is not available in respect of income arising on income taken from your own limited company (where the job retention scheme applies).

On 29 May the Chancellor announced that the SEISS will be extended to include a second, and final, grant claimable in August, covering the quarter to 31 August. 

The scheme will again pay a grant for the equivalent of 3 months’ profits to qualifying taxpayers, however the second grant will be limited to £6,570 or 70% of their average quarterly trading profits as declared on their Self-Assessment tax returns (covering the 3 tax years from 2016-17 to 2018-19).

Note that any grants received will represent taxable income and should be included on your 2020/21 tax return as additional self-employed income.

The criteria for claiming the second grant are the same as for the first; individuals qualifying will need to have submitted their 2018/19 Self-Assessment tax return (with an extension to 23 April being granted if not yet being filed), have been trading during 2019/20 and intend to continue trading in 2020/21.

In addition, the self-employment trading profits need to be less than £50,000 and account for more than 50% of the total taxable income for the same period (so other income such as salaries, rental income & pensions need to be considered). This test needs to be met either in 2018/19 or across the average of the 3 years.

You do not have to have claimed the first grant to be eligible for the second, however if you have not yet claimed the first grant and wish to do so you must make the claim by 13 July.

If you would like to apply for the grant you should first visit https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/self-employment-support/enter-unique-taxpayer-reference and enter your UTR and, on the next screen, your National Insurance Number. This will confirm whether you are eligible to make a claim, before taking you through the remainder of the process. You will need a Government Gateway ID and password to continue; if you do not have one already you will be given the option to create one.

If you are self-employed, you can apply for Universal Credit or contributory Employment and Support Allowance (as you would not be eligible for SSP). You can look to make a claim for these if you are self-isolating or being prevented from working due to a risk to public health, as well as being ill.

The government are making the process easier to apply for and from 6 April the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit increased by £20 per week for 1 year.

Further details of these benefits and links to the relevant applications can be found at the following link https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/ or by calling the Universal Benefits helpline on 0800 328 5644 (Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm)


Other matters

Personal finances

As with business borrowings, mortgage lenders are willing to offer payment holidays where required, and we would recommend contacting your bank or mortgage broker if this is something that you would require for either personal or investment properties.

The government has also advised that landlords will not be able to evict tenants for a period of at least 3 months due to Coronavirus and are encouraging tenants and landlords to work together to agree sensible repayment plans.

Off-payroll working

The proposed rules impacting upon contractors working for large private companies caught under the intermediaries legislation (IR35) has been delayed for 12 months. It will now not be introduced until April 2021

Company accounts filing

Companies House have confirmed that companies can now apply for a 3-month extension to the filing of their annual accounts so they can focus on dealing with the impacts of the Coronavirus. It will be necessary to apply for the extension (not granted automatically), but ensure late filing penalties are not issued. See:

ttps://www.gov.uk/government/news/companies-to-receive-3-month-extension-period-to-file-accounts-during-covid-19

Other Areas of Business Support for companies

If your business is based in Barnsley and you require other areas of business support please contact the following:

Barnsley based businesses: The Enterprising Barnsley business support team on 01226 787535 or investment@barnsley.gov.uk See: https://www.enterprisingbarnsley.co.uk/

Sheffield based businesses: The Sheffield City Region Growth Hub on 03330 00 00 39 or growthhub@sheffieldcityregion.org.uk See: https://www.scrgrowthhub.co.uk/

West Yorkshire based businesses: The Leeds City Region business support team on 0113 348 18181 or businessgrowth@the-LEP.com See: https://www.the-lep.com/business-support/covid-19-support-for-businesses/