Coronavirus: What Support Is Available For Businesses?

Business support for those affected by COVID-19

The recent Budget announcement detailed a plan to provide support for businesses affected by Covid-19.

The measures include an extension of statutory sick pay (SSP), a business interruption loan scheme and a dedicated coronavirus helpline for businesses seeking a deferral on tax liabilities.

Statutory Sick Pay Rebate for SMEs

The Government will bring 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, 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 self-isolators 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. Existing systems are not designed to facilitate employer refunds for SSP. 

The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up a repayment mechanism as soon as possible for employers reclaiming SSP. Existing systems are not designed to facilitate employer refunds for SSP.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs.

Businesses remain responsible for repaying any facility they take out.

The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £1.2 million in value. This new guarantee will initially support up to £1 billion of lending on top of current support offered through the British Business Bank.

Full details, including the exact eligibility criteria, will be announced shortly – you can find the latest updates on the British Business Bank website.

HMRC Time to Pay

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.

These businesses can contact HMRC’s new dedicated COVID-19 helpline for advice and support.

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

Rates relief

The Budget 2020 announced some new measures in relation to business rates. These included a Business Rate Relief for small businesses and pubs and small business grant funding of £3,000 for all business in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) and Rural Rate Relief. These measures only apply to England. They do not apply to Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

The NI Executive is considering its overall Budget including how best to support businesses in NI, including help with business rates at this time. No decision has yet been taken on the Small Business Rate Relief scheme.

You may be eligible to apply for Hardship Rate Relief if your business is adversely affected by coronavirus – see Hardship Rate Relief.

Ratepayers who are experiencing difficulties in paying their rates can also consider applying for existing rate support schemes if you are eligible.

Alternatively, contact Land & Property Services (LPS) to discuss a payment arrangement – see what if I can’t pay my rate bill?