26th March 2020
COVID-19 DAILY UPDATE
- Some good news, if we can call it that at such times. The Treasury confirmed to us last evening that amusement arcades are definitely entitled to the 100% rates relief from 1st April. This takes away any potential arguments with Local Authorities and means the grants of £10k and £25k will also be automatically available.
- Please note that the grants are handled differently in Scotland, England and Wales. In England the grants are per hereditament and are automatically granted by the Council. In Scotland it seems the grants are per business and you have to apply directly to the Council. Forms are already available on many Scottish Council’s websites. The Welsh Government has not yet published details of how it is going to administer the scheme. I have been on a Conference call this afternoon with Scottish Tourism Minister, Francis Ewing, where these points and some of those below were raised.
- Details of the scheme in England have been published here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/874772/small-business-grant-fund-and-retail-guidance.pdf
- Details of the scheme in Scotland can be found here: https://www.mygov.scot/non-domestic-rates-coronavirus/
- We are lobbying hard to get the rates relief extended to the leisure industry supply chain and I have today again written to the Chancellor on this very point.
INSURANCE I had a long conversation with a broker yesterday about the mix of policies members have and I fed back the frustrations, well understood, of members who feel that they have paid for cover that insurance companies seem unwilling or unable to cover. It does seem that many policies just don’t cover, pandemics, business interruption based upon government order or require illness to have occurred on the premises, or for business interruption only to be based on physical denial of access. Your broker will be best placed to advise on your specific circumstances. We have made Government and others aware of your issues.
LOANS I have received reports from some members that lenders are requiring any loan to be secured on business owners residential property. In my letter to the Chancellor I have made it clear that this is unacceptable. The loans are 80% guaranteed by the Government and are specifically designed to help businesses get through the current crisis. The rules set by the British Business Bank envisage loans up to £250k being unsecured (although left to the banks to decide). Please let me know if you are having this issue as I will pursue this with Government.
COMPANIES HOUSE RETURNS Companies House has today agreed to permit a three month delay in filing annual accounts BUT YOU HAVE TO APPLY. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-more-time-to-file-your-companys-accounts
- One of the most frequent questions I get asked, and we are asking of government, is what are the rules around furloughing our people. We still await details. What we know so far is that you will be able to get a rebate of 80% of employment costs via a portal to be established by HMRC. This will be backdated to March 1st. Workers who are furloughed must not work at all. We are asking for some flexibility with that to allow small maintenance and security tasks to be undertaken. Furloughed workers remain on the payroll. They must be asked and consent obtained, preferably in writing, that they are happy to be furloughed. You may pay them the additional 20% to bring their wages up to their current amount but you don’t have to. It is worth to keep checking the Government’s Covid-19 Business Support page. As soon as I hear more I will let you know.
- Sick Pay The Government will bring forward legislation to allow small-and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to Covid-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:
- The refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work and claimed SSP because of COVID-19.
- Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020.
- Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website.
- The eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force (likely 26/03/20).
- The Government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible. Further details will be provided in due course once the legislation has passed.
- Existing rules around the treatment of staff remain in place. So if you are having sadly to make redundancies, lay offs or reduce hours, you must continue to follow existing employment law.
TIME TO PAY A number of members have had trouble getting through to HMRC. Remember they will consider applications to delay MGD. One member has suggested a telephone number that seemed to get answered by someone helpful – so if you are having trouble try this number 0300 322 9481.
SCAMS With lots of people working remotely and new schemes flying around on the back of the Coronavirus, inevitably there are cyber criminals trying to exploit the confusion. PLEASE BE EXTRA VIGILANT.
Finally, thank you for the suggestions around charity work that can be done during this period. One good idea that was put forward was for those members with catering outlets to offer a free takeaway food service to health service workers. Please let us know if you are doing anything like this so we can publicise it and try and bring a bit of cheer in these dark times.