COVID 19 UPDATES

INTRODUCTION

 

We have all now been working for some time within the new reality of a world  with coronavirus, but our priority continues to be 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.

Richard Stonier

Partner

Susan Whiting

Partner

 

BUSINESS CLOSURES


The government originally issued guidance on which businesses should shut to help reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus, and has now updated this to include guidance for businesses that may be able to re-open safely.  This guidance can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/shops-and-branches

The government is currently working on a “road map” to gradually allow more businesses to open, and this will be announced on the gov.uk website and through the media.

 
 

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 is open and will continue in its current form until the end of July.  It will then run for a further three months but with some changes which will be announced by the end of May.  To claim under this scheme employers 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.

The information currently available is here:

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

 

JOB RETENTION SCHEME - THE HMRC PORTAL

 

The HMRC Portal opened on 20 April 2020 and the first payments were received by businesses from 30 April 2020.

Applications must be made through the Portal, although there is a phone number to call for those who are digitally excluded.  The latest guidance on how and what to claim is here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/work-out-80-of-your-employees-wages-to-claim-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Agents who are authorised to act on behalf of clients for PAYE matters, will be able to claim.  However, ‘file-only’ agents, including Payroll Bureaus, will not be able access the service for data protection reasons.  File-only agents are still likely to be involved indirectly as employers may need to ask for information held by the agent to make their claim.  Businesses will need the following information for each of their furloughed employees:

  • National Insurance number (NINO)

  • Salary, National Insurance and pension contribution information that allows business to calculate the claim amount.

HMRC will also need the following for the employer:

  • The bank account number and sort code for HMRC to use when they pay the claim.

  • The name and phone number of the person in the business for HMRC to call with any questions.

  • Depending on the type of business: Self-Assessment UTR (Unique Tax Reference), Company UTR or CRN (Company Registration Number).

 

JOB RETENTION SCHEME - FURLOUGH GUIDANCE

 

Our Institute (ICAEW) has just released this guidance on how Furlough will work.  Take heed that they advise not to rely on this for advice at this stage but this is what ICAEW believe is the intention of how the scheme will work.

It should also be noted by point 7 in the rules that the employer will be required to pay the salaries of staff before then applying for the 80% grant back from HMRC.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: furlough guidance
Key policy objectives of the scheme:

  • Overall objective is to keep people at home while enabling employers to retain staff who will be needed when they begin to rebuild their businesses in the future. This will enable work to begin again with a critical core who have the necessary knowledge.

  • Rules as outlined in official statements released at 23 March 2020

  • Furloughed members of staff must not work for the employer during the period of furlough.

  • Furlough is from 1 March 2020, so is to be backdated. It will last for at least 3 months and will be extended if necessary. Note that while the scheme is backdated to the beginning of March as it is intended to support all those employed then, a firm will only be eligible to claim the grant once they have agreed the furlough with their staff and staff have stopped working for the employer. This will of course be subject to employment law in the usual way.

  • It is available to employees on the payroll at 29 February 2020.

  • All UK businesses are eligible, 'any employer on the country, small or large, charitable or non-profit' to use the Chancellor's words.

  • The scheme pays a grant (not a loan) to the employer.

  • The grant will be paid to the employer through a new online system which is being built for this purpose.

  • The employer will pay the employee through payroll, using the Real Time Information (RTI) system as usual, as required by the employment contract. This contract may be renegotiated but that is a matter for employment law. So RTI system reporting of payroll will continue as normal.

 

Scheme will be administered by HMRC:

  • Relevant employees must be designated as furloughed employees.

  • Employers will submit information to HMRC through a new online portal.

  • As this will take time to build, businesses should look to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support cash flow in the meantime. The narrative used in the information released so far says ‘if your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19 they may be able to access support…’. This is a conditional phrase which may relate to existing funds available to the employer. We do not yet know how these might be determined, nor whether there is a bar of some description.

  • Maximum grant will be calculated per employee and is the lower of:

  • 80% of ‘wages’. The notes published so far, use the phrase ‘wage for all employment costs up to a cap of £2,500 per month’. It is our understanding that this includes employers' NIC and pension contributions. Wages will be determined by reference to a defined period (yet to be announced).

  • £2,500 per month. 

 

Illustration
X Ltd employs Mr A at an annual salary of £24,000, so £2,000 per month. Mr A has opted out of auto enrolment.

Each month, Mr A currently receives net pay of £1,665 which is after deducting PAYE of £191 and employees NIC of £144. On this salary, the employer pays employers' NIC of £174.

The available grant for the employer is the lower of

(a)  80% of (£2,000 + £174), and 

(b)  £2,500

So a grant of £1,739.

The cash required by X Ltd to furlough based on maintaining the existing salary is £435 per month. It is a matter for employment law whether the employer is required to pay this top up. Discussions with employees may have agreed that the employee has agreed to a different arrangement during their furlough.

Notes to illustration based on an extended understanding of how the scheme will work.


If Mr A had not opted out of auto enrolment, X Ltd would also be making pension contributions on his behalf. If so, the available grant is based on 80% of (gross salary + Employers' NIC + employers pension contributions paid), subject to the monthly cap of £2,500.


We understand that the rules for the scheme are being designed with underlying reference to employment law. If the individual is still under contract, Mr A can expect to receive his salary in full. The £1,739 grant paid to X Ltd should not be taken as the new maximum cost of employment to the employer unless the contract has been redrafted.


Subject to the employment contract and any amendment, the salary which the employer actually pays the employee during the furlough period may be different to the pay paid used as the reference period and upon which the grant figure is based.


Pubco - a scenario
In the following illustration, the business has already closed as instructed by the government. We have had a number of enquiries along similar lines and are seeking clarification of our understanding of the rules apply.

Mr & Mrs Fuller are the tenants of a pub. They have a substantial wet and food trade as the pub is in a coastal location and does good trade over the Summer. The pub is open all year round.

Mr & Mrs Fuller operate the pub through a limited company (Pubco). They take salaries of £8,600 each and withdraw profits of £30,000 each in the form of dividends. They live above the pub and work long hours being in the pub every day.

Pubco employs three permanent staff supplemented by extra seasonal staff in the Summer months and at Christmas.

The pub closed on 20 March as instructed by the Prime Minister. and following the Chancellor’s announcement on 20 March, Pubco has furloughed its staff other than Mr & Mrs Fuller who are still living above the pub and dealing with the company administration. The contracts of employment of the other staff have been varied to permit furloughing and the three permanent staff members have agreed to accept a pay reduction to 80% of the previous level. The seasonal staff for this year have not yet been hired.

Our understanding is that Pubco will be eligible to receive the government grant support under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for the monthly wages of the 3 permanent staff members. No grant support is available to support the living costs of Mr & Mrs Fuller.

Mr & Mrs Fuller will need to look for alternative support while the pub remains closed.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: ICAEW Tax Faculty further details 
Introduction


https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme/ says:

 

“Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. This applies to employees who have been asked to stop working, but who are being kept on the pay roll, otherwise described as ‘furloughed workers’. HMRC will reimburse 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 per month. This is to safeguard workers from being made redundant. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to March 1st and is initially open for 3 months, but will be extended if necessary”.

The ICAEW COVID-19 hub is at https://www.icaew.com/insights/coronavirus.

 

The tax section is at https://www.icaew.com/insights/coronavirus/uk-practical-business-advice-covid-19.

 

The following paragraphs describe our understanding of the scheme and are our proposed guidance for member.

 

Which businesses are eligible?
1. Eligible businesses include charities and not-for-profit organisations and will include single director companies, although the same rules will apply as to other businesses. The grant applies to all UK based businesses.

Owner/managed companies
2. Many owner managed company director/shareholders pay small salaries and the balance of income as dividends. The scheme does not extend to dividends. Only the salary is relevant to the scheme.

How is payment going to work in practice?
3. We understand that the employer will pay the contractually agreed amounts as required by the employment contract in the usual way. This will involve paying the employee, and HMRC the PAYE and both primary and secondary National Insurance Contributions. The grant will be paid directly to the employer. We do not know how this will operate for employers which use a payroll agency.

4. Employers will claim the grant through a new separate portal to be built by HMRC.

What is the £2,500 maximum grant based on?
5. The £2,500 monthly grant covers all employment costs, ie, salary, employer pension contributions required by auto enrolment (if applicable), and employer NIC. 

6. The earnings period to be used to determine the maximum grant has yet to be clarified. For new employees in particular, options will be needed and also for seasonal staff. However, clearly there will need to be a base line and options being considered are likely to include:

a. Average for a prior period such as 12 months to 1 March  or perhaps the month of February alone for a new employee.

b. For seasonal workers, it might be possible to use the same period last year, such as three months March, April, May 2019.

c. For those working irregular hours or say, on reduced pay (eg, maternity or sick leave) a different previous period may be needed.

 

Will entitlement to other employment benefits continue during the period of furlough?
7. The rules for the grant will not displace the existing employment contract. So for example, we would expect the entitlement to holiday and sick pay would depend on the contract. 

 

Employees eligible
8. Eligible employees are those on the payroll on 1 March 2020. It has yet to be clarified whether or not those re-employed under a new contract will qualify, although the policy intent would seem to support this would be reasonable.

9. We have had many questions asking if workers can be moved in and out of being furloughed if work becomes available to an employer and then ceases again? This has yet to be clarified, but we consider it very likely that they will. The scheme is being designed to allow for flexibility so that furloughed staff can be brought back to work to replace those still working who later become sick. We anticipate that this will be seen as difficult to regulate an anticipate that a minimum period of furlough leave may be built in as a requirement before the person van return to work. So we anticipate that the rules will specifically make provision for:

a. Sickness cover where a continuing employee is now off sick and a furloughed worker can provide cover.

b. Where employees agree to share shifts to enable more of them to continue to be paid.

This will again depend on the employment contracts of those affected.

10. The matter of which employees an employer decides to furlough will be a matter for negotiation with staff and employment law. 

11. The impact on job sharing employees and the decision to furlough will be a matter for negotiation with staff and employment law.

 

12. We presume that, subject to anything different stated in the employment contract, eligible employees would also include apprentices and agency workers.

13. We do not yet know whether the scheme will include deemed employees under the off payroll working rules.

14. An employee does not have to accept furlough if offered, but the employer could then make the employee redundant instead using the usual employment law procedure. 

15. We understand that staff can study while they are being furloughed.

16. It is a condition of the scheme that the employee must do no work at all during the furlough period. The intention of the scheme is to allow employers to pay staff who are without work.  HMRC will of course have visibility of pay records.

Employees with more than one employment
17. While we understand that an employee who is furloughed can do no work at all, our current understanding is that the employee can hold a separate employment with a different and unconnected employer which will be unaffected.

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 the link to ACAS:

Mobile: 07951 356700

Email: sue@evergreenhr.co.uk

Website: evergreenhr.co.ukTwitter:

Sue_Evergreenhr

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

 
 

HELP FOR THE SELF EMPLOYED

Some self-employed individuals, either sole traders or members of a partnership, can benefit from the Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).  A brief overview:

 

  • The self-employed are eligible for a payment equal to 80% of their monthly profits, capped at £2,500, for  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 calculate the amount and invite applications from those they consider eligible.  It is expected that the self-employed will have to wait until June for payments to start.

Although claimants must make their own claim online, we as agents can check your eligibility to claim.  In addition you do not have to work out the amount of the claim; this is done by HMRC.

For those self-employed people who do not benefit from the measures outlined above, a claim can be made for Universal Credit. This can also lead to a discount in Council Tax.

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

 

SOME KEY QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

When can I claim the grant?

The government have said you will be able to claim online between 13 and 18 May, on different days for different taxpayers. HMRC will email you if you have provided an email address (when using the eligibility checker or previously) to confirm when the portal is open for you or may send an SMS message.

Taxpayers can also use the eligibility checker (see below) to check the application portal is now open for them.

How do I claim the grant?

You will need an online account with HMRC, so if you haven’t already got one it is recommended that you do this using the online eligibility checker (see below) or as part of the application process. We understand that if you do it through the online eligibility checker or as part of the application process, you do not have to wait for an authorisation code to arrive through the post. You will need something to prove your identity such as your driving licence or passport. The online eligibility checker is at https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/self-employment-support/enter-unique-taxpayer-reference. If you’re eligible, HMRC will tell you the date you can make your claim from.

I don’t want to wait - How do I open an online account with HMRC now?

Go to HMRC's login page.

Click the GREEN sign in button.

Go to “continue to your account”

Click “Create sign in details”

Enter your email address where asked. (You may be asked for some ID information)

You will now be emailed a confirmation code.

You will be issued with a User ID for your government gateway account which will be sent through the post.

Have your UTR and NINO to hand and access to your emails.

I don’t have a smart phone/computer/ internet

If you cannot access the internet, and you don’t have a household member who can help you, the government have said they will be making alternative arrangements for a phone service but we don’t have details yet.

Can't you make the claim for me?

No, you have to make the claim, but you won’t have to work out the amount of the grant; HMRC will do that, and we can check it for you.

I am in partnership; can I claim for the whole partnership?    

No, each partner must make a separate claim, through their own online account.

Can I make the claim if I am still working or find another job?    

Yes, as long as your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. If you receive the grant you can continue to work, start a new trade or take on other employment including voluntary work, or duties as an armed forces reservist.

When will I get the money?    

The aim is to pay out the money 6 days after the claim is made, but we don’t know how quickly the government will be able to process the payments if they get a lot of applications.

How will it be paid?    

We understand that you will be asked for the bank account details where you want the grant to be paid when you make your claim.

How much will I get?    

You will get a grant of 80% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months.  It is a maximum of £7,500. The average monthly trading profits are worked out from your tax returns for the last three years to 5 April 2019.  Losses which have been brought forward and offset against your profits are ignored.

What are the conditions?    

You can claim if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and all of the following apply:

  • you traded in the tax year 2018 to 2019 and submitted your Self Assessment tax return on or before 23 April 2020 for that year;

  • you traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020;

  • you intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021;

  • you carry on a trade which has been adversely affected by coronavirus

  • your profits are less than £50k and no more than half your total income according to your 2018/19 tax return, or less than £50k and no more than half your total income on average according to the previous three years’ tax returns.

What is meant by “adversely affected”?    

Your business could be adversely affected by coronavirus if, for example: you’re unable to work because you:

  • are shielding;

  • are self-isolating;

  • are on sick leave because of coronavirus;

  • have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus;

  • you’ve had to scale down or temporarily stop trading because: your supply chain has been interrupted;

  • you have fewer or no customers or clients;

  • your staff are unable to come in to work.

 

My profits only exceeded £50k in 2018/19 – does that mean I can’t claim anything?    

You may be able to make a claim. If you weren’t eligible based on 2018/19 HMRC will look back over the two year prior to that. If your average profits over the three years up to and including 2018/19 were less than £50k, and all the other conditions are satisfied, you can make a claim.

What if I made a loss in one of the last three years?    

The loss will be taken into account in calculating your average profits over the last three years.

I’m on parental leave from self-employment; am I still eligible to claim?  

If you’re self-employed but when you apply are taking a break from your trade because of a new baby or adoption, or have done since 6 April 2019, you may still be eligible because HMRC will treat you as still trading.If you claim Maternity Allowance this will not affect your eligibility for the grant.

I am not eligible to claim even though I have been adversely affected by coronavirus   

There may be other forms of help – see our website or app or government website.

 

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.  This claim can now be made online from 26 May by you or your tax agent;

  • 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 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 contact eligible  businesses

A £617million fund aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs.  Businesses must be small, under 50 employees, and they must also be able to demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop of income due to Coronavirus restriction measures. Local authorities will have discretion to make payments of any amount under £10,000.  It will be for councils to adapt this approach to local circumstances.

  • For large businesses: Loans of up to £50million under the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme;

  • 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
 

BUSINESS INTERRUPTION LOAN SCHEME

 

Loan schemes for Small and Medium-sized businesses
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme provides loans of up to £5million to UK businesses with an annual turnover of up to £45million who are adversely impacted by the pandemic.  More detail is available through this link:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-the-coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme

Alternatively the Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan Scheme provides up to £50,000 to small and medium-sized businesses, as follows:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan

 

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

 

VAT payments
VAT payments that are due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 may be deferred until 31 March 2021.  If you normally pay by Direct Debit you will need to cancel this or HMRC may automatically collect your payment.


Income Tax Payments
Income tax payments due on 31 July 2020 under Self-Assessment can be deferred to 31 January 2021.


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

 

CHECKLIST FOR EMERGING FROM LOCKDOWN 

 

As the Government starts to plan their exit strategy to gradually lift the lockdown, how can you prepare your business?

Various well-known retailers are beginning to open with other chains also releasing their plans for phased re-opening in the coming days.  We are currently being drip-fed snippets of information through the media with speculation that some of the wider lockdown restrictions could be lifted in mid-May.  As such we recommend that you start planning now for the ‘new normal’ that is likely to be announced on Sunday 10 May.  There are things that you can do now to ensure you are prepared for the gradual ease of lockdown.

What we do know is that recovery will be gradual. Social distancing measures are likely to remain in place for some time yet.

Some of the strategies being considered are:

  • Staggered office starts

  • Reduced hotdesking and equipment sharing

  • Localised restrictions

  • One-way queuing

  • What will your ‘new normal’ look like?

 

Some things you may want to start thinking about and planning for include:

  • How will your staff travel safely to work?

  • Those who previously may have operated a car share scheme may need to rethink this.

  • Think about the use of public transport and guidelines for your staff who use it.

  • Can you stagger start times for those who use public transport so they are not traveling during peak times?

  • Will you need to enforce PPE for staff or social distancing measures?

  • What is your plan to unfurlough staff?

  • Do you need to look at restructuring your business?

  • Do you have your supply-chain in place ready to start again?

  • Do you currently operate cashless payments?  If not, is this something you can implement?

 

Some additional sector specific thoughts include:

Retail

  • Will you need to limit the entry and exit points?

  • Will you need to re-stock?  Do you hold seasonal or perishable stocks?

  • Will you need markers on the floor?

  • How will you control numbers in your shop?

  • Will you need to rearrange display stands to allow more space or one-way systems?

  • Will you need PPE for your staff?

Pubs/hotels/restaurants/takeaways

  • How will staff work in the kitchen or behind bars?

  • How will you enforce social distancing with customers?

  • With table service, how will you manage payments (contactless only)?

  • Will you be offering a pre-booking service only?

  • How will you manage the pre-booking, is your website etc set up ready for this?

  • Will you need to cater from a reduced menu?

  • You not only need to think about your business but also about issuing revised social distancing guidance to your staff, not just whilst at work but also in relation to their journey to work.  You need to continue to operate a social distancing policy to ensure your staff and clients are safe and protected from the risk of a second outbreak.

 

What can we learn from lockdown?
We need to look carefully at what we have learnt from this lockdown.  We know that coronavirus is here for some time yet and there are risks with any easing of the social distancing rules, that we could potentially see a second spike which could lead to lockdown measures being re-introduced in the future to manage this risk.  We may also have been forced to make decisions and implement new ways of working which otherwise may not have been considered, some of which could benefit us in the long-term.

Some things that you need to reflect on:

  • Do you and your staff need to be physically present, could working from home now be the ‘new normal’?

  • Could working from home, at least part time, offer a more flexible phased approach?

  • Could working from home prove more efficient, more environmentally friendly, or cheaper?

  • Have any of the reactive decisions forced you to diversify and actually improved your overall offering that you could continue to offer post pandemic?

  • Is your website set up to sell your products remotely if needed once again?

  • Have your finances been up to date and robust enough to react quickly to apply for grants and continually review your cashflow?

  • Can you set up better safety regimes to reduce the impact should we have to re-implement lockdown in the future?

 

As business advisers, we have been working with clients of all sizes in all sectors to help them to deal with the impact this outbreak has had on their business, whether helping them apply for funding or preparing cashflow plans through to business restructuring to build in resilience into the future business models. 

If you need advice or help on any of the issues within this article, then do contact us. We offer a free initial consultation and are here to support and protect our businesses and our economy.

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