The Chancellor has announced a package of measures to provide support for businesses to try to ensure the impact of COVID-19 is minimised.
A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable businesses to apply for a loan of up to £5 million, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees. Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments. The Loan Scheme should be available from the 23rd March. Read more here.
For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of Statutory Sick Pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full. Details on how this scheme will work are due to be published shortly. We will send the information as soon as it becomes available.
A new helpline has been launched to supply Scottish businesses with tailored advice on coronavirus. It will be open Monday to Friday from 08:30 to 17:30, based at Scottish Enterprise's call centre in Clydebank. Call handlers will answer questions from businesses related to Covid-19 as well as relaying the challenges faced by businesses to the Scottish government. The helpline number is 0300 303 0660. Read more here.
Scottish Enterprise has produced Coronavirus guidance for businesses in Scotland here.A dedicated Government helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.
There will be a £10,000 cash grant to the smallest businesses, delivered by local authorities. Small businesses that pay little or no business rates and are eligible for small business rate relief (SBBR) or rural rate relief will be contacted by their local authority - they do not need to apply. The funding will be provided to local authorities in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.
A £25,000 grant will also be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.
Finally, the government is introducing a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.
Currently any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to your relevant local authority. Guidance for local authorities on the business rates holiday will be published by 20 March.
What support will be available from the private sector for companies managing the impact of coronavirus?
Some banks have begun to make dedicated funds available for firms experiencing coronavirus-related hardship. For example, NatWest bank have announced £5bn of Working Capital Support for business that will see disruption. Lloyds Banking Group has announced £2bn of arrangement fee free finance available to support small businesses and Barclays have highlighted their 12-month capital repayment holidays and its £14bn SME lending fund.
Some insurers are not categorising coronavirus as an illness that is covered under business continuity insurance or business interruption insurance. It is strongly recommended that firms check with their insurers what their policies will cover.
UKFT has already published guidance on the impact on tradeshows and advice on both employment law and general health and hygiene. We will provide further guidance and support for business managing coronavirus in the weeks and months ahead if its impact continues to increase.