Support for small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak

17th March 2020

We know this is an understandably worrying time for many people, particularly small business owners who will have concerns about how to continue operating during the global COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. The Government used its Budget to outline several policies designed to support small businesses during this time, and it’s expected that further measures will be announced as the situation progresses. Read about the support available small businesses impacted by coronavirus.

What advice is the Government giving to small businesses affected by coronavirus?

The Government has published guidance to employers on how to deal with the coronavirus, including information to provide to employees, what to do if you or employee(s) show symptoms and advice on certifying absences.

As the situation is changing daily, we recommend business owners follow additional guidance as and when it is provided by the Government.

Sick pay

Current guidance is that anyone showing symptoms or living in a household with someone who is showing symptoms should self-isolate for 14 days. If your employees aren’t able to work from home, they will be entitled to statuary sick pay (SSP) which is currently set at £94.25 per week.

Ordinarily, employees are not eligible for SSP until the fourth day of sickness. However, in its Budget, the Government said it is temporarily relaxing the rules during the coronavirus outbreak to allow employees to claim from day one.

Additional measures are in place for firms of up to 250 employees. The Government has promised it will refund employers’ SSP payments made to staff off work due to coronavirus for up to two weeks – this applies to those who have symptoms and those who are self-isolating due to people in their household having symptoms.

Business rates

As part of the temporary measures announced by the Government, businesses with a rateable value of below £51,000 will not have to pay any business rates for the financial year 2020/21. It has since extended this to all businesses in the leisure, hospitality and retail sectors.

Cash grants

There is additional support for businesses which are exempt from business rates in the form of cash grants provided via local authorities.

Small businesses which do not bay business rates and are eligible for small business rates/rural rate relief will receive a grant of £10,000 via their local authority. The Government has advised the funding will be available to local authorities in early April – eligible businesses will be contacted directly and do not need to apply.

Following Boris Johnson’s announcement on March 16th that people should avoid venues such as pubs, restaurants and theatres, there was increased pressure from the hospitality sector for support. The Chancellor has since announced that businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 are eligible for a £25,000 cash grant, which will also be provided via local authorities.

What if I have to close because of coronavirus?

As we are already seeing, your business may have to temporarily close as a result of the coronavirus.

If you have business interruption cover as part of your commercial insurance policy, you may be able to claim for any loss of earnings if you are covered for “notifiable diseases”. You will need to contact your insurers directly to find out your next steps.

Additionally, the Government has announced a temporary business interruption loan scheme which is expected to launch imminently. It will guarantee 80% of loans of up to £1.2 million allowing lenders to provide funds to small businesses with confidence.

Tax helpline

If you are struggling to pay your tax bill as a result of the coronavirus, you can call HMRC’s dedicated Time to Pay helpline on 0800 0159 559. Each case is dealt with individually, however you will be able to discuss your payment options and set up an arrangement.

Further support

We will continue to update this page as and when the Government releases new information on the support available to businesses during this worrying time. You can also read our other guides on businesses impacted by coronavirus:

Information correct at time of publication, 17 March 2020.

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