Covid-19: Government support for business

On 17 March 2020, the Chancellor issued an update in respect of a temporary financial package aimed at providing support for businesses.

Briefly, the confirmed measures include:

  • a statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs;
  • a 12 month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England;
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief;
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000;
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance; and
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme.

Statutory sick pay for employees off work because of COVID 19

Legislation is pending which will allow SME’s and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay as a result of Covid-19.  The government states that it will work with employers to set up the repayment mechanism to be used. The eligibility criteria (as set out on the government website) includes:

  • cover for up to 2 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 being determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020); and
  • employers should maintain records of absences and payments of SSP (although GP fit notes will not be required).

Other measures

Business rates holiday for certain sectors

A business rates holiday for those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors:

  • retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000, will be provided with a grant of £25,000.

You should approach your local authority with any questions about eligibility.  The government has indicated it will provide guidance to local authorities this Friday, 20 March.

Those eligible for Small Business Rate Relief and Rural Relief

Those smaller businesses who pay little to no rates and are currently eligible for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) or rural relief may receive a one-off grant of £10,000. The government has stated that if you are eligible for SBRR or rural relief then you do not need to apply for this grant, and your local authority will contact you.  It is understood that the government will provide local authorities with funding in early April to enable local authorities to issue these grants.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is expected to launch next week (23 March). This scheme supports loans of up to £5 million and the first 6 months will be interest free.  This scheme can be accessed by applying to one of the banks accredited to the Scheme.

HMRC’s Time To Pay Scheme

If you are facing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19, you may be able to claim for HMRC’s Time To Pay Scheme.  Eligibility will depend on individual circumstances and liabilities.  HMRC has set up a dedicated helpline number which you can contact on 0800 0159 559.

We will be providing further updates as and when the information is released.