COVID-19: Unprecedented Government Support for Business and Employees
20 March 2020 at 6.00pm
The Government has just announced extraordinary measures to help support businesses and employees during this COVID-19 crisis. We have set these out below, along with a summary of the other support that has been made available during the course of this week.
For further details on common questions employers are being asked, please follow this link.
Government Employment Support Package
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has this evening announced the Government's unprecedented combination of measures to protect jobs and employees. The key measures are:
1. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – this is available for all business across the UK and is designed to encourage employers to retain employees on their payroll. Where the employer cannot pay the employees, provided that the employee is retained on the payroll, this Scheme will pay out up to 80% of an employee's wages up to a limit of £2,500 per month (the employer can voluntarily top this up for employees on higher wages but there is no obligation to do so). The Scheme will cover the cost of wages in this way backdated to 1 March 2020. The Scheme will be open initially for at least 3 months and will be extended if necessary. Employers do not have to repay any part of this grant. The Scheme may not physically be able to start paying out the grant for weeks, perhaps until April 2020 (but see point 2).
2. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme – this has been extended so that it will now be interest free for 12 months instead of 6 months. Loans are to be made available from Monday 24 March 2020. This will of course assist with any delays to payments being received under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme above.
3. The next quarter's VAT payments are being deferred until the end of June 2020.
Government Help for Your Business
No rates payments for the next three months. The next rates payments are now due in June.
Information on rates support is available here.
Two new grants:
- £10k for businesses eligible for the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme
- £25k for retail, tourism and hospitality businesses with NAV £15k - £50k
Further information here.
Support for SMEs – Business Interruption Loan Scheme
- All info here.
- Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value.
- The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80 per cent on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims)
- The government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments.
- Scheme available from 23rd March
Coronavirus support and advice for small businesses is available here.
Support for larger businesses
- Further information is available here.
- Bank of England will buy short term debt from companies – either new debt directly from the company or previously issued debt through the secondary market. This means companies will be able to continue financing their short term liabilities.
- It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.
- Access arrangements and other details to be issued week commencing 23 March 2020.
- Further measures are to be announced next week.
HMRC Helpline - 0800 0159 559
A new tax helpline has been established specifically for people concerned by the impact of the crisis on their ability to pay tax. They can be contacted to help with:
- agreeing an instalment arrangement
- suspending debt collection proceedings
- cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately
Further information on tax support is available here.
Business interruption cover will depend on whether your policy includes it. Review your policy or contact your broker. Many people are reporting that their policy does not extend to the COVID-19 crisis. More information can be found from the Association of British Insurers.
Further information for self-employed is available here.
Government Help for your Employees
If, despite the measures announced today, you find that you have to deliver bad news to employees concerning their continued employment and/ or pay, it may help to be able to give them these details:
Benefits and Social Security
Further information on Benefits and Social Security is available here.
Advice NI ‘Welfare Changes’ hotline can be contacted on: 0808 8020020
Advice NI also have a debt advice service: 08000 281881
People who have lost their job
If someone has lost their job due to the crisis, advise them to call the Freephone Benefits Check: 0800 232 1271
If they have paid enough contributions, they may be able to claim new style Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) - 0800 022 4250
People who are in work but who become ill or have to self-isolate
They should apply for statutory sick pay. Further information is available here.
This payment will now be from Day 1 of someone being off work.
They should also call 08002321271 to see if they are entitled to any additional support.
Mortages and Rent
Mortgage lenders have agreed to facilitate a 3 month payment holiday should you require help to meet your mortgage payments. This also includes equity loans for those with Help to Buy Mortgages and for renters/landlords, Buy to Let Mortgages. You must request this. Do not just default.
As mentioned above, buy to let mortgages are included in the 3 months holiday. If you are unable to pay rent, you should notify your landlord so that they can seek the holiday from their lender if relevant. Government will also bring forward legislation to stop eviction cases from proceeding through the courts during this crisis.
For any further information please contact Gareth Walls, Partner, or any member of the Employment & Incentives Belfast team.
Date published: 20 March 2020