Our website uses cookies to enhance the visitor experience (what's a cookieCookies are small text files that are stored on your computer when you visit a website. They are mainly used as a way of improving the website functionalities or to provide more advanced statistical data.). Are you happy for us to use cookies during your visits?
Please note: continuing without making a choice equates to giving us your consent, which you can withdraw at any time via our cookies policy page.

Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus website message – updated 31 March 2020

Dear Clients,

Given the rapidly-changing situation with coronavirus, our priority is the safety and well-being of our clients and colleagues. We can assure you that we are following government guidance and precautions, so that we remain open for business, but we are replacing face to face meetings with telephone or video meetings and working from home wherever possible. You can still contact us by telephone, email or by using our Tally Exchange secure portal to exchange information.

Understandably, we are receiving unprecedented levels of calls because of the concern being generated, and the difficulty in finding answers to many questions. We are here to help you to find reliable sources of information so that you can make your own informed decisions about your business. We will be keeping this page updated for any significant announcements affecting business.

But please call us if you need to talk to us.

Business closures

The government has now issued guidance on which businesses should shut to help reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus. This guidance can be found here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment _data/file/874732/230320_-_Revised_guidance_note_-_finalVF.pdf

There are still some grey areas. At present, it seems government is still expecting some businesses not mentioned specifically to make their own decisions about whether to shut, taking into account the safety of staff, customers and the nature of their business.

Coronavirus job retention scheme

Government grants of 80% of payroll costs of PAYE employees (subject to a cap of £2,500 per month) will be paid to any employer in the UK and Northern Ireland, backdated to 1 March 2020, for workers on the payroll at 29 February. The scheme will be open before the end of April and will continue for at least 3 months. To claim under this scheme employers will need to:

  • identify “furloughed workers” who would otherwise have been laid off or made redundant, because they have no work. This would not include employees on short-time working;
  • submit information to HMRC about the furloughed employees and their earnings through a new online portal.

Directors who are company owners are eligible to receive a grant in the same way as other employees, if they too have no work. This will be based on salary, not dividends. Employers must pay their staff through the payroll, using the Real Time Information (RTI) system in the usual way, before making a claim. The claim will be based on salary at 29 February or, where pay is variable, the claim will be based on the higher of either:

  • the same month’s earning from the previous year
  • average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year.

Only the minimum employer pension contributions under auto-enrolment will be taken into account in the grant claim calculation. The minimum period for furlough is 3 weeks, and only one claim per three weeks can be made.

It seems the grant payments to employers cannot be made using existing systems for PAYE so a reimbursement system is being urgently worked on. The information currently available is here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Employment law aspects of the job retention scheme

The government have pointed out that employers still need to follow employment law when dealing with the issues of lay-offs and redundancies. The furlough must be agreed with staff. The worker remains employed while they are “furloughed” (and continue to accrue holiday and be protected under employment law) but not perform any work. Their contract of employment may mean that in normal circumstances they are entitled to full pay, so the employer will still have to pay the additional amount over 80%. Some contracts may have a “lay-off clause” so this needs to be looked at. However, as the alternative to furlough leave is probably redundancy, employers may choose not to supplement the government’s payment.

There are some difficulties to consider, for example choosing between short-time working where there is less work for all employees rather than laying off employees and using the job retention scheme. This is an area where specialist employment law advice is required, so please speak to your usual legal or HR adviser (our associate Sue Green’s details are given below) or use this link to ACAS:

https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus/if-the-employer-needs-to-close-the-workplace

Help for the self employed

The Chancellor has made his long-awaited announcement about help for the self-employed. A brief overview:

  • The self-employed will be eligible for a payment equal to 80% of their monthly profits, capped at £2,500, for the next three months;
  • Only those with trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or on average over the previous three years will be eligible;
  • The payment will be based on their average monthly profits over the last three financial years;
  • There is an additional requirement that most of their income must come from their self-employment
  • This is available to currently registered businesses who have a self-assessment tax return for 2018/19. If they have not submitted their 2018/19 return yet, they have four weeks to do so. 

The grant payment will be made as a lump sum covering the three months to May 2020 inclusive. HMRC will calculate the amount and invite applications once the scheme is operational. It is expected that the self-employed will have to wait until June for payments to start.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme 

Other Government support for businesses

The other main measures so far are:

  • Refund of up to 2 weeks’ SSP due to coronavirus for employers with fewer than 250 employees;
  • Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses for the 2020/21 tax year, and a £25,000 grant per property for those in these sectors whose premises have a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. Local authorities will contact eligible businesses;
  • A one-off grant of £10,000 to any businesses currently entitled to Small Business Rate or Rural Relief; as above, local authorities will contact eligible businesses;
  • Loans of up to £5million interest free for the first 6 months to be launched next week (see below);
  • Corporate financing facility: The Bank of England has set up a scheme to finance working capital by purchasing commercial paper from larger businesses “making a material contribution to the UK economy”;
  • Insurance: the government and insurance industry have clarified who should be able to make a claim for business interruption loss.
  • Self-employed people will receive universal credit at a rate equivalent to SSP.

Follow this link for full details that are currently available.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

There is now a little more information about the “Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme”, including eligibility, on the British Business Bank website:

https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/

Loans are welcome in the short time but at some point need to be repaid. If you intend to apply for a loan, it is just as important as ever to have a carefully prepared business plan and means of repayment.

Help with Tax Payments

  1. VAT payments

The next quarter of VAT payments will be automatically deferred, so no VAT payments will need to be made until the end of June.

  1. Income Tax Payments

Income tax payments due on 31 July 2020 under Self-Assessment will be automatically deferred to 31 January 2021.

  1. HMRC “Time to Pay”

For businesses and the self-employed worried about being able to pay outstanding tax liabilities, there is a dedicated HMRC helpline: 0800 0159 559.

For those who are unable to pay due to coronavirus, HMRC will discuss your specific circumstances to explore:

  • agreeing an instalment arrangement;
  • suspending debt collection proceedings;
  • cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately.

Opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 4pm.  The helpline will not be available on Bank Holidays.

As for any loan, please remember that these measures are deferrals, not cancellations, and ultimately these liabilities will still be due.

Employment issues and working practices

Our associate Sue Green of Evergreen HR has issued some useful Q and A’s for employers which you can access here:

http://evergreenhr.co.uk/blog/coronavirus-key-things-you-need-to-know

Or contact Sue for tailored HR advice:

Mobile: 07951 356700
Email: sue@evergreenhr.co.uk
Website: evergreenhr.co.uk
Twitter: Sue_Evergreenhr

Working from home and associated cyber and insurance issues

Sadly, our contacts within the UK 200 group and their associate CFC Underwriting Limited are advising us that cyber criminals are using Coronavirus as a way in to make more attempts at phishing, hacking and other cyber crime. The National Cyber Security Centre has issued an alert on the increase in phishing attacks. When employees are at home they can be more prone to this type of attack, so please ensure your employees remind themselves of best practice and do not open your (or their) systems to hackers:

https://www.cfcunderwriting.com/resources/advisories/2020/03/client-advisory-cybercriminals-exploiting-coronavirus/

Now is the time to check your insurance cover is adequate, e.g. for use of equipment at employees’ homes and employers’ liability. Does your policy include event cancellation cover which you may be able to claim on?

Remember employers are still responsible for employees’ health and safety when they are working from home. A health & safety questionnaire may be useful in creating an audit trail to show that you have adopted reasonable measures to ensure staff safety while working from the home environment.

Filing accounts at Companies House 

As of 25 March, if your accounts will be late because your company is affected by COVID-19, you can apply for an automatic and immediate 3 month extension to file your accounts.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-more-time-to-file-your-companys-accounts

Request a Callback

  • Book a Free Consultation
  • Get a Fixed Quote

Find out how to Make more, Keep more and Work less

How Big is Your Business?

About You