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  Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQS

 

 Issues for employers following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions on 19 July 2021
 Financial support for your business
 Furlough under the extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the Extended CJRS)

Disclaimer: These FAQs are intended to provide information and guidance on the HR and employment law implications of the Covid-19 situation. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. 

Financial support for Business

Last updated on 05/08/2021

1. What support for business was there for Statutory Sick Pay?

The government is supporting small and medium sized businesses and employers to cope with the extra costs of paying Covid-19 related SSP by refunding eligible SSP costs under the SSP Rebate Scheme. The scheme will repay employers the current rate of SSP (£95.85 per week). The eligibility criteria for the scheme are as follows:

The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks SSP starting from the first qualifying day of sickness, if an employee is unable to work because they:

  • have coronavirus symptoms
  • are self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms
  • are self-isolating because they’ve been notified by the NHS or public health bodies that they’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus
  • have been advised by letter to shield because they’re clinically extremely vulnerable and at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus
  • have been notified by the NHS to self-isolate before surgery for up to 14 days

Employers can make more than one claim per employee, but cannot claim for more than two weeks per employee in total.

The scheme covers all types of employment contracts, including FT/PT, Contractors and those on zero hour contracts. The scheme can be accessed by employers who have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020.

Only employers with fewer than 250 employees are eligible. The size of the employer will be determined by the number of people employed on their PAYE payroll as of 28 February 2020.

Connected companies can also use the scheme if their total combined number of PAYE employees are fewer than 250 on or before 28 February 2020. 

Employers can claim in respect of employees who transferred to them under TUPE if they had fewer than 250 employees (including TUPE transferred employees) across all PAYE payroll schemes on 28 February 2020. The new employer can only make claims for SSP it has paid, not SSP paid by the previous employer.

Eligible employers can reclaim expenditure for any employee to whom they have paid SSP as a result of Covid-19. The eligible period for the scheme depends on the reason for the employee’s absence. Claims can be made from:

  • 13 March 2020 – if your employee had coronavirus or the symptoms or is self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms.
  • 16 April 2020 – if your employee was shielding because of coronavirus.
  • 28 May 2020 – if your employee has been notified by the NHS or public health bodies that they’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus.
  • 26 August 2020 – if your employee has been notified by the NHS to self-isolate before surgery.

Employers should maintain records of staff absences, but will not be required to get employees to provide a GP fit note. Employers can, however, ask that employees give them either an isolation note from NHS 111 if they are self-isolating and cannot work because of Covid-19; or the NHS or GP letter telling them to shield because they are extremely clinically vulnerable.

In order to claim you must keep a record of the following employee details (for at least 3 years following the date you receive payment for a claim):

  • the dates the employee was off sick;
  • which of those dates were qualifying days for SSP;
  • the reason they said they were off work – e.g. if they had symptoms, someone they lived with had symptoms or they were shielding; and
  • the employee’s National Insurance number.

Note that you can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the SSP Rebate Scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time.

Your claim amount should not take you above the state aid limits under the EU Commission temporary framework. This is when combined with other aid received under the framework. The maximum level of state aid that a business may receive is €800,000. There is a lower maximum for agriculture at €100,000 and aquaculture and fisheries at €120,000

Employers can claim under the scheme online. Guidance on the requirements of the scheme and how to claim is available here

There is no set end date for the scheme. Government will announce when it is coming to an end.

2. Are Business Rates being adjusted to help businesses cope with the impact of Covid-19?

The government had already announced the Business Rates retail discount will be increased to 50% in 2020-21. Due to the impact that Covid-19 will have, further measures are being introduced by the government to mitigate business disruption:

  • To support small businesses affected by Covid-19 the government has expanded the Business Rates retail discount further to 100% till March 2021.
  • The 100% relief will also be expanded to the leisure and hospitality sectors.
  • These temporary measures, taken together with existing Small Business Rates Relief, mean that around 900,000 properties, or 45% of all properties in England, will
  • receive 100% business rates relief in 2020-21.

There are additional business rate relief programmes available. Please see here for more details

You do not need to take any action. Your local council will apply the discount automatically if your business is eligible.

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

Local authorities will be fully compensated for these Business Rates measures so that their capacity to provide services will not be impacted by these measures. 

Guidance for Local Authorities is published here. Please note guidance for Business Rates relief in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is slightly different.

3. Is there any direct funding available for businesses for 2020-21/2021-22 to mitigate the impact of Covid-19?

The government has introduced additional grant funding for businesses eligible for the Small Business Rates Relief Scheme (SBRR):

  • To support those businesses, the government will provide £2.2 billion of funding to be distributed by Local Authorities in England.
  • This will provide a one off £10,000 cash grant to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate Relief. The maximum rateable value for a property will be £15,000
In most cases you do not need to apply as your Local Authority will contact you directly if your business qualifies. Please note the guidance for eligibility differs slightly for NI, Scotland, and Wales. 

For further details, please see here.

For 2021/22:

Since 2019/20 the government has provided a Business Rates Retail Discount for retail properties which for 2020/21 it expanded to include the leisure and hospitality sectors.

On 3 March 2021 the government confirmed that the Expanded Retail Discount would continue to apply in 2021/22 at 100% for three months, from 1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021, and at 66% for the remaining period, from 1 July 2021 to 31 March 2022.

The government confirmed that there would be no cash cap on the relief received for the period from 1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021. From 1 July 2021, relief will be capped at £105,000 per business, or £2 million per business where the business is in occupation of a property that was required, or would have been required, to close, based on the law and guidance applicable on 5 January 2021.

As in the previous year, in most cases you do not need to apply as your Local Authority will contact you directly if your business qualifies. Please note the guidance for eligibility differs slightly for NI, Scotland, and Wales.

4. What if my business has outstanding tax liabilities that I may not be able to pay in due time because of Covid-19 related business disruption?

The government is setting out measures that will seek to enable those businesses and self-employed individuals with outstanding tax liabilities to receive support with their tax affairs:

  • HMRC has set up a dedicated Covid-19 helpline (0800 024 1222) to help those in need, and they may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangements.
  • Time to Pay arrangements were previously used in response to flooding and the financial crisis, giving businesses a time-limited deferral period on HMRC liabilities owed and a pre-agreed time period to pay these back.
  • To ensure ongoing support, HMRC have made a further 2,000 experienced call handlers available to support firms when needed.

HMRC may also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulties contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to Covid-19.

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.

This allows businesses and individuals to pay off their debt by instalments over a period of time.

These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

You are eligible if your business:

pays tax or duties to the UK government
has outstanding tax liabilities

Additionally, the Government announced deferments of VAT that were originally due in March 2021 may be repaid over 11 smaller instalments spread between 2021/2022.

5. My business is struggling to access finance due to Covid-19’s impact on lender confidence, is there any new government help with financing?

There were a number of schemes available to access finance delivered by the British Business Bank (BBB) and various other accredited institutions, these included:

  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) (Closed 31 March 2021)
  • Coronavirus (Large) Interruption Loan Scheme (C(L)BILS) (Closed 31 March 2021)
  • Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) (Closed 23 March 2021)
  • The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) (31 March 2021)
  • The Future Fund (Closed 31 January 2021)

 Details of these closed schemes can be found on the British Business Bank’s website here.

There is currently one Government-backed finance scheme, also administered by the BBB, which is open, named the Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS). Its details are as follows:

Launched on 6 April 2021, the RLS provides financial support to businesses across the UK as they recover and grow following the coronavirus pandemic.

You can apply to the scheme if Covid-19 has affected your business. You can use the finance for any legitimate business purpose – including managing cashflow, investment and growth. However, you must be able to afford to take out additional debt finance for these purposes.

If your business has already borrowed from any of the other coronavirus loan schemes – namely:

  • the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS)
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
  • the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS

RLS is still open to you, although the amount you have borrowed under an existing scheme may in certain circumstances limit the amount you may borrow under RLS.

RLS will run until 31 December 2021, subject to review. Find further guidance, and how to apply, here.

If you have not found an answer to your question here please contact [email protected] for further assistance.