FAQs

I’m not a business, how are you supporting me?

The Business Support measures outlined on these pages are designed to protect people’s jobs – but there are other measures in place to support people’s financial security. More information about the Government’s response is available here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. If you are looking for health information and advice, go to the NHS’s coronavirus pages.

 

You’ve announced something but not yet issued the detail – or it is not available immediately – where is it?

The Government is working to get you the detail you need to see as fast as possible. This includes urgent, intensive discussions with banks, trade unions and business groups, and work to design systems, to ensure all the measures we announce are deployed quickly, are effective and reach the right people.

The package of Government support for businesses during coronavirus is unprecedented – for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, for example, we’re having to build our systems from scratch. HMRC are working night and day to get the scheme up and running and we expect the first grants to be paid within weeks.

This website will be updated as more information becomes available.

 

I run a business, how can I help right now?

Protect your staff: On Friday 20 March the Chancellor outlined how the Government is doing its best to stand behind you – and asked you to do your best to stand behind your workers. We know the last thing many of you want is to lose your valued staff. Please look at the schemes and advice available to you and consider how you can use them to support your employees in the difficult weeks ahead. This is an essential part of protecting people and protecting the UK economy – and it’s on all of us.

Spread the word: You can help the Government share this information to other businesses by using this toolkit.

Offering more support: A number of businesses are also not only getting involved in local community efforts, but flooding offers of more support into Government departments. We are working closely with many businesses across the country already. If you want to get involved, we will update this answer shortly with more details on the best way to get in touch.

Ventilators: In the meantime, if you can support the supply of ventilators, please register your details.

Tell us how your business might be able to help with the response to coronavirus. Find out more here.

 

Why are you taking steps like closing pubs that are damaging to businesses like me?

The coronavirus outbreak is the biggest public health emergency in a generation. It calls for decisive action, at home and abroad, of the kind not normally seen in peacetime. This is why we are doing everything we can to tackle the pandemic and mitigate its impact. The overriding objective is to save lives, protect the vulnerable and support the NHS so it can help those who need it the most. Guided by the best scientific advice, with our clear action plan and through looking out for each other, we will rise to this challenge together.

There is more information on closures here: Coronavirus Financial Support Schemes

 

How are you going to ensure that firms use money to pay furloughed workers wages?

Government will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of the scheme with scope to claw back fraudulent or erroneous claims.

 

Can workers claim redundancy pay whilst on the Job Retention Scheme?

No. This scheme ensures that workers will continue to be employed and paid a proportion of their wages and therefore not entitled to redundancy pay.

 

I employ people on zero hours contracts / gig economy workers. Can they access support?

With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, you can claim to cover wages for employees on temporary leave (“furlough”) due to coronavirus. This can be for any type of contract, including a zero-hour contract or a temporary contract. The scheme allows you to claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month.

For employees whose pay varies, there are more details about how much you can claim here.

Further information on support for employees is available here.

 

What if my business does not have insurance cover for a pandemic?

Businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their broker or insurer to understand what they are covered for. However, we recognise that many businesses, particularly SMEs, don’t have insurance cover for a pandemic and so we have made cash grants available to help businesses bridge through this period.

 

Do these schemes comply with EU state aid rules?

The Government will notify the Commission accordingly in line with State Aid procedures.

 

What if I am self-employed?

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month. Find out more here.

 

What further measures has the Government put in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus?

While the public have responded to our call to isolate or socially distance themselves, we now need to do more in order to save more lives, protect the vulnerable and to protect the NHS. We must now go even further and put in place further measures across the UK to reduce the spread of the virus.

This means that the Government has instructed all entertainment and hospitality premises, including pubs, bars and restaurants, across the country will close.

 

Which businesses are closed?

On 23 March the government stepped up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and save lives. All businesses and venues outlined in the government’s guidance here must close.

Takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational in line with the guidance. Online retail is still open and encouraged and postal and delivery service will run as normal.

Frequently asked questions about business closures can be found here.

 

How long will closures last?

We are asking the businesses and venues outlined above not to open for trade from close of trade 23 March 2020.

The first point of review for these measures will be in three weeks. This review will consider their necessity and effectiveness in light of changing circumstances.

Frequently asked questions about business closures can be found here.

 

Should businesses who have been told to close worry about security of their stock and premises? Will the government accept liability?

Businesses should ensure to leave all premises secure with the appropriate level of security surveillance. We would expect companies to have the appropriate insurance.

 

My staff aren’t able to work from home due to the nature of our work, what can I do to help them?

If people are able to work from home and it is practical, then they should do so. All public sector, frontline or other staff need to follow the public health guidance. That means that if they have symptoms, they too should stay at home for 7 days, or 14 days if a member of the household has symptoms.

 

In a lockdown, how do I keep my company staffed?

GOV.UK provides advice on business continuity management. The link below provides details on developing your own plan. It includes a Business Continuity Management toolkit to help you identify all the issues you need to consider and how to make your own arrangements to manage business interruption.

 

Who are classed as key workers?

Schools have closed but schools, and all childcare providers, are being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children – children who are vulnerable, and children whose parents are critical to the coronavirus response (“key workers”) and cannot be safely cared for at home.

The Government has issued guidance for those workers considered to be vital in areas across the UK whose children will be offered priority to continue to attend school. The list covers:

  • Health and social care;
  • Education and childcare;
  • Key public services;
  • Local and national government;
  • Food and other necessary goods;
  • Public safety and national security;
  • Transport;
  • Utilities;
  • Communication and financial services.

If employees’ work is critical to the coronavirus response or they work in one of the critical sectors listed, then their children will be prioritised for education provision. If workers think they fall within the critical categories above, they should confirm with you as their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service.

Further information about the roles identified as key to delivering the coronavirus response can be found on GOV.UK.

 

What should an employer do if they think their workers are critical but not on the list?

Employers should carefully consider the guidance. It sets out the key workers who will not be able to work from home. Employers should help their staff find alternative arrangements to support them working from home. They can contact the Government department responsible for their sector if they have any questions.

 

What will happen if businesses do not close?

As of 2pm on 21 March 2020, closures are now enforceable by law in England and Wales due to the threat to public health.

Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers, with police support if appropriate, will work together to issue prohibition notices challenging unsafe behaviours where businesses do not follow these restrictions.

Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers will monitor compliance, and businesses who fail to comply can also receive fines. Officers will also have powers to prosecute for breaches of regulations.

As agreed with the devolved administrations these measures will be extended to Scotland and Northern Ireland by Ministerial Direction once the Coronavirus Bill is in force.

 

How do I tell the difference between genuine communication from the Government and messages from scammers?

Businesses should be aware there are fraudsters out to scam them who may present themselves as the Government.

Do not give out private information (such as bank details or passwords), reply to text messages, download attachments or click on any links in emails if you’re not sure they’re genuine.

For more guidance on how to avoid and report scams and phishing click here.

 

My business works with food is there any guidance I need to know about?

Important information for food businesses on what you need to know about coronavirus and food can be found here.

 

What support is available to commercial tenants who miss rent payment?

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction.

Many landlords and tenants are already having conversations and reaching voluntary arrangements about rental payments due shortly, but the Government recognises businesses struggling with their cashflow due to coronavirus remain worried about eviction.

These measures, included in the emergency Coronavirus Bill currently going through Parliament, will mean no business will be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment in the next 3 months. Find out more here.

 

With heightened uncertainty and pressure at this time, I really do not have the time for gender pay gap reporting this year. What can I do?

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) took the decision on 24th March to suspend enforcement of the gender pay gap deadlines for this reporting year (2019/20).

The decision means there will be no expectation of employers to report their data. Find out more here.

 

With the current disruption, will the reform of off-payroll working rules still go ahead?

As part of a coordinated action by the government to support businesses and individuals, the reform of off-payroll working rules has been delayed by 12 months.

The government still believes it is right to address the fundamental unfairness of non-compliance with the existing off-payroll working rules. However, we also recognise the reforms would be a significant change for both businesses and contractors.

Delaying means changes will not need to be implemented until 6 April 2021. Find out more here.

 

I have questions about employment and employing my staff – where can I go?

To get advice for employers and employees on workplace rights, rules and best practice and specific advice in relation to coronavirus including: – Sick reporting and pay – Self-isolation – Work absence including caring for someone Please visit the ACAS website.

 

What proof do my employees need to provide to take sick leave?

By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, it is for the employer to determine what evidence they require, if any, from the employee. This does not need to be a fit note issued by a GP or other doctor.

The NHS has launched a new isolation note. This new temporary system will enable people who are advised to self-isolate to obtain an isolation note via NHS 111 online or the NHS website. This can then be used as evidence for absence from work, to avoid patients visiting their GP practice unnecessarily. Employees should go to this link and complete the online questionnaire to access the isolation note (first they will need to provide information about their location and symptoms).

 

I employ people on zero hours contracts / gig economy workers. Can they access support?

With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, you can claim to cover wages for employees on temporary leave (“furlough”) due to coronavirus. This can be for any type of contract, including a zero-hour contract or a temporary contract. The scheme allows you to claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month.

Gig economy workers who have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions (NICs), even through multiple jobs, will be entitled to new style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). If they have not made sufficient contributions, they can apply for Universal Credit.

The Government has introduced a £20 per week increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit basic element. This means that for a single Universal Credit claimant (25 or over), the standard allowance will increase from £317.82 to £409.89 per month.

To make it easier for those affected by coronavirus, including self-isolators, to access ESA and Universal Credit, the 7 day waiting period for the new style ESA has been temporarily removed. This adjusts the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor and ensures new Universal Credit claims and advances will be available without needing to visit a job centre.

For employees whose pay varies, there are more details about how much you can claim can be found on GOV.UK.

Further information on support for employees is available on GOV.UK.

 

How does this impact my apprentices or apprenticeships?

For guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations in response to the impact of coronavirus please visit the following page on GOV.UK.

 

I cannot afford to pay my mortgage, what do I do?

To support customers, whether they are impacted directly or indirectly by the coronavirus, mortgage lenders will offer a three-month payment holiday for those customers that are experiencing issues with their finances as a result of coronavirus. Employers and employees who are concerned about their current financial situation should get in touch with their lender at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss if this is a suitable option for them.

 

Can I get any help to reduce my business’ energy bills?

A business in financial distress should speak to their energy supplier about their energy bill and ways to restructure payments. Find more information here on GOV.UK.

 

What can I do as a small business experiencing late payments from bigger businesses?

If you are a small business (under 50 staff) who has not been paid by a business larger than you, you can contact the office of the small business commissioner who can offer advice and offer help with late payment issues. If your business does not meet the conditions for the SBC to intervene in your case, you can pursue the debt recovery through the courts. More information is available on the Small Business Commissioner website.

Businesses can also call the office of the small business commissioner on 0121 695 7770. Office hours are Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.

 

Can I help with the supply of ventilators?

We have had an overwhelmingly positive response from businesses and thank them for offering their support. To work at pace, we are now testing proof of concepts from a number of suppliers with the support of a team of expert clinicians. We continue to welcome offers from ventilator manufacturers with existing products which are CE mark and MHRA approved for use in the UK. These offers should be sent to existing.ventilators@dhsc.gov.uk.