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Support for Small and Medium-sized Businesses amid Covid-19

Disclaimer: Due to the nature of Covid-19, any information and guidance from the Government can rapidly change. For the latest Government information on Covid-19 and the measures the Government are taking, please visit the UK Government website: www.gov.uk

As a small business, we understand the disruption an outbreak like Covid-19 can have on your business and employees. Please find below guidance and information relating to the Covid-19 outbreak.

On 11 March 2020, Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced the Budget 2020, listing out the emergency measures the Government will take to support public services, individuals and businesses affected by Covid-19.

The Chancellor’s emergency measures were mostly targeted at small and medium sized businesses, including pubs, clubs, restaurants and retailers on UK high streets that have been deserted.

Government Relief for SMEs

  1. Refund on Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”)
  1. If you are a business employing fewer than 250 employees (calculated by the number of people you have employed as of 28 February 2020), you will be entitled to reclaim SSP for sickness absence due to Covid-19, according to the new Budget 2020.
  1. This refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP, which is just under £200.00, per eligible employee who has been off work because of Covid-19. You do not need to be provided with a GP fit note, but you should maintain records of staff absences.
  1. Please be aware that this repayment scheme is currently being worked on by the Government in the coming months to facilitate employer refunds for SSP, as there is currently no such mechanism. We strongly advise that you follow any updates over the coming weeks and months on the changes. Should you require any advice on the same, please do not hesitate to contact us.
  1. If you have any staff who are seeking to travel abroad, you may want to consider whether they need to self-isolate upon their return depending on the country of travel. 
  1. Business Rates Relief
  1. The Government will introduce a business rates retail holiday for the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors in England for the 2020-2021 tax year. These sectors include restaurants, coffee shops and hotels.
  1. If you are in the retail, hospitality and leisure business and operating from smaller premises with a rateable value between £15,000.00 and £51,000.00, a £25,000.00 grant will be provided to you.
  1. Very small companies who do not currently meet the rateable value threshold and therefore pay little or no Business Rates, will also receive a one-off £10,000.00 cash grant to help meet their ongoing business costs. If your business is eligible, you do not need to apply as you will be contacted by your local authority.
  1. Businesses that received the retail discount in the tax year of 2019-2020 will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.
  1. Should you have any enquiries on your business’s eligibility, please contact your local authority for further guidance. Each local authority are likely to have their own methods of implementing the changes. Please be aware that guidance for local authorities on the business rates holiday will be published by 20 March 2020.
  1. Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
  1. This temporary Scheme will be delivered by the British Business Bank to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.
  1. If you are a small or medium sized business relying on lenders to provide you with finance, this Scheme means that the Government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan free of charge. Lenders can therefore continue to provide such businesses with finance without worry.
  1. This Scheme supports loans of up to £5 million in value and businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free. More details of this will be made available in the coming weeks.
  1. Tax Liabilities
  1. All businesses and self-employed people who are in financial distress and have outstanding tax liabilities may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs. This will be through HMRC’s ‘Time to Pay’ service.
  1. HMRC will evaluate your situation on a case-by-case basis and arrangements can be agreed based on your individual circumstances and liabilities. During the Covid-19 outbreak, the usual 3.5% annual interest on deferred tax payments will be waived.
  1. HMRC have dedicated a Covid-19 helpline for advice and support and, if you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to the Covid-19 outbreak, we highly recommend you contact the helpline or contact us to do so for you.
  1. This is a tricky and unprecedented time for all. We recommend you peruse the Government website for further updates and guidelines with regards to the types of relief your business may be entitled to. Alternatively, we are happy to act on your behalf in seeking such reliefs for your business.
  1. Insurance
  1. We encourage all businesses that have insurance policies in place to check their terms and conditions and to contact their providers or legal representatives if they are unsure as to any terms because they differ significantly from business to business.
  1. Those businesses whose policies cover pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered. The Government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that it was sufficient to make a claim if the advice from the Government has been to avoid pubs, theatres etc.
  1. Please be aware, most businesses are unlikely to be covered in case of a pandemic unless their insurance policy specifically covers for that. Most standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics. It is always important to check and receive legal advice if you are unsure. 
  1. Struggling to pay Rent
  1. It is advised that you speak with your landlord straight away and explain the situation.
  1. At present, there are no Government guidelines or changes to the legislation about relaxing enforcement action that a landlord can take against a tenant for non-payment of rent.
  1. Your landlord may consider varying the rent payment dates to assist your business.
  1. The National Landlord’s Association has advised for all tenants to inform the landlord of their current position. As stated above, some high street banks are offering lending, subject to you meeting their eligibility requirements. 
  1. If you do not contact your landlord and are unable to pay the rent, then you risk the landlord taking enforcement action.
  1. Force Majeure
  1. You may need to review any contracts you have with your suppliers and customers as to whether the contract can be performed due the outbreak of COVID-19.
  1. We can assist you and provide you with any advice you require regarding your obligations under the contract.

Should you require any advice in relation to how Covid-19 may affect your business, please contact us on 020 7052 3545 or by email on enquires@kaurmaxwell.com.

Please follow us at ‘Kaurmaxwell’ for all your latest updates!

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