On 11th March and on 17th March 2020, The Chancellor has announced a package of temporary measures to support businesses, especially small and medium Enterprises.
Follow below a summary of these support measures:
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP): The government will allow Employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay ( SSP) paid for sickness absence due to coronavirus. It has not been implemented yet as the government still brings forward legislation.
- Business rates and cash grant for leisure and hospitality: Businesses in the retail , leisure and hospitality sector will not have to pay business rates for a year. Businesses such as gyms, restaurants, hotels, cinemas, retail shops, gyms among others will benefit. Businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will also get a cash grant of up to £25,000 per business.
- A grant of £10,000 to support small businesses: Around 700,000 companies will benefit from this grant. (only for companies paying little or no business rates – Small business rates relief)
- Business loan for businesses: A new temporary coronavirus interruption loan scheme delivered by the British Business Bank. It will also be launched in a matter of weeks to support businesses to access bank landing and overdrafts.
- HMRC time to pay services (0800 0159 559): Businesses and self-employed people in financial distress may be eligible to pay their taxes in instalments (it must be agreed on a case-by-case basis).
Follow below more information about these support matters:
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now be available for eligible individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with Government advice. This is in addition to the change announced by the Prime Minister that SSP will be payable from day 1 instead of day 4 for affected individuals.
- People who are advised to self-isolate for COVID-19 will soon be able to obtain an alternative to the fit note to cover this by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor. This can be used by employees where their employers require evidence. Further details will be confirmed shortly.
- Those who are not eligible for SSP, for example the self-employed or people earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week, can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance:
- for the duration of the outbreak, the requirements of the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed for those who have COVID-19 or are self-isolating according to government advice, ensuring self-employed claimants will receive support.
- People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront without the current requirement to attend a job centre if they are advised to self-isolate.
- Contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable, at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, for eligible people affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating in line with advice from Day 1 of sickness, rather than Day 8.
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 two 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
- The 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 increase the Business Rates retail discount to 100% for one year and expand it to the leisure and hospitality:
- Businesses that received the retail discount in 2019-20 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
- Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority o Guidance for local authorities on the application of the expanded retail discount will be published by MHCLG by 20 March
- The government will provide an additional £2.2 billion funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no Business Rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to around 700,000 business currently eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate Relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs.
Business loan for businesses
A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch in a matter of weeks 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. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £2 million in value. This new guarantee will initially support up to £2 billion of lending on top of current support offered through the British Business Bank.
HMRC time to pay services (0800 0159 559)
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 from 11 March 2020 for advice and support. To ensure ongoing support, HMRC have made a further 2,000 experienced call handlers available to support firms and individuals when needed. o If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, then call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.
Mortgage lenders will offer at least three-months mortgage holiday – so that people will not have to pay a penny toward their mortgage while they get back on their feet.
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