COVID-19 (Coronavirus) : Support for Employers and Employees

Information about Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We have identified as much information as possible to support local employers to navigate the information that is being shared out during this difficult time. We are working to minimise confusion and support businesses to overcome the challenges that they are now facing due to COVID-19.

Follow our Economic Growth Twitter account for the latest support and guidance.

Please note: All information has been sourced directly from the Government website and SEMLEP and is accurate at the time of publication. This information will be reviewed regularly to make sure it as up to date as possible.

Review the SEMLEP COVID-19: in-house evidence summary


Guidance for employers

Guidance for employees

Guidance for self-employed


Test and Trace support payments

It is now a legal requirement for those testing positive for COVID-19, or those identified by NHS Test and Trace as a contact of someone with the virus, to self-isolate for 14 days.

On 20 September, the Government announced a new national Test and Trace Support scheme. Under the new scheme, payments of £500 will be available for residents who have received notification from NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate, providing that their period of self-isolation started on or after 28 September 2020. The scheme will run until 31 January 2021.

If you have been told by the NHS to self-isolate, either because you have tested positive for coronavirus COVID-19 or you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, you may be entitled to some financial support during your self-isolation period

Test and Trace self-isolation payments


Support for self-employed through the self-employment income support scheme grant extension

The UK Government recognises the continued impact that coronavirus (COVID-19) has had on the self-employed and has taken action to provide support.

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Grant Extension provides critical support to the self-employed in the form of two grants, each available for three month periods covering November 2020 to January 2021 and February 2021 to April 2021.

Claim a grant through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme


Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates

The government will provide additional Small Business Grant funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBRR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

Eligibility

You are eligible if:

  • your business is based in England
  • you are a business that occupies property
  • you are receiving small business rate relief or rural rate relief as of 11 March

Applications for this grant have now closed.


Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

Government will introduce a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

Eligibility

You are eligible for the business rates holiday if:

  • your business is based in England
  • your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector

Properties that will benefit from the relief will be occupied properties that are wholly or mainly being used:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
  • for assembly and leisure
  • for hospitality, as hotels, guest and boarding premises or self-catering accommodation

More information on eligibility is set out in the expanded retail discount guidance.

How to access the scheme

There is no action for you. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill to provide this support. They will do this as soon as possible.

You can estimate the business rate charge using the business rates calculator.


Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

This applies to employees who have been asked to stop working, but who are being kept on the pay roll, otherwise known as ‘furloughed workers’. HMRC will reimburse 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 per month. This is to safeguard workers from being made redundant.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to 1 March and is available until the end of October.

Claim for wage costs through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

See here for HMRC's step by step guide on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

If your business needs short term cash flow support, you may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.


Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

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 and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home 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

Eligibility

You are eligible for the scheme if:

  1. Your business is UK based.
  2. Your business is a small or medium-sized and employs fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020.

How to access the scheme

Check if you can claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees due to coronavirus (COVID-19).


Support for businesses paying tax – HMRC’s 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.

Eligibility

You are eligible if your business:

  • pays tax to the UK government
  • has outstanding tax liabilities

How to access the scheme

If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, please call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559.

If you’re worried about a future payment, please call nearer the time.


Bounce Back Loan Scheme

The Bounce Back Loan scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.

The government will guarantee 100 per cent of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.

Loan terms will be up to six years. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan.

The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders.

Eligibility

You can apply for a loan if your business:

  • is based in the UK
  • has been negatively affected by coronavirus
  • was not an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019

Who cannot apply

The following businesses are not eligible to apply:

  • banks, insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
  • public-sector bodies
  • further-education establishments, if they are grant-funded
  • state-funded primary and secondary schools

If you’re already claiming funding - If you’ve already received a loan of up to £50,000 under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and would like to transfer it into the Bounce Back Loan scheme, you can arrange this with your lender until 4 November 2020.

How to access the scheme

Apply through the Government website.


Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will support SMEs with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years.

The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80 per cent on each loan (subject to pre-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the government-owned British Business Bank.

There are 40 accredited lenders able to offer the scheme, including all the major banks.

Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply.

See here for support for large businesses through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.


Support for larger firms through the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

Under the new COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility, the Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies.

This will support your company if it has been affected by a short-term funding squeeze, and allow you to finance your short-term liabilities.

It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.

Eligibility

All non-financial companies that meet the criteria set out on the Bank of England’s website are eligible.

How to access the scheme

The scheme is now available for applications. More information is available from the Bank of England.


Protection from eviction for commercial tenants

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction.

These measures will mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30 June.

There is the option for the government to extend this period if needed.

This is not a rental holiday. All commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent. Commercial tenants are protected from eviction if they are unable to pay rent.

Eligibility

All commercial tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are eligible.

How to access the scheme

The change will come into force when the Coronavirus Bill receives Royal Assent. It will last until 30 June, with an option for the government to extend if needed.
More information on commercial tenant eviction ban


For more information

Please visit SEMLEP Growth Hub or visit the Government website Business Support Helpline