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  Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQS

 

 HR issues, including: workplace rules and attendance, vaccination, testing, self-isolation, sick pay and international travel and quarantine
 Financial support for your business
 Furlough under the extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the Extended CJRS)

Disclaimer: These FAQs are intended to provide information and guidance on the HR and employment law implications of the Covid-19 situation in England. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. 

Financial support for Business

Last updated on 19/01/2022

Question 1 of these financial support FAQs last updated on 19/01/2022. The remaining questions were last updated on 05/08/2021 and are currently under review.

1. What support for business is there in respect of the costs of Statutory Sick Pay?

The Government has provided support for small and medium sized employers to cope with the extra costs of paying Covid-19 related SSP by refunding eligible SSP costs under the SSP Rebate Scheme. The scheme initially covered periods of absence up to 30 September 2021. It has been reintroduced in light of high levels of Covid-19 related absence due to the Omicron variant. Employers are now able to submit claims in respect of employees who were off work on or after 21 December 2021. 

Under the initial scheme, employers were able to submit more than one claim per employee but could not claim more than two weeks’ SSP in total per employee. This limit has been reset so that an employer can claim up to two weeks’ SSP per employee even if they had already claimed under the previous scheme for that employee.

Full details are set out in the Government guidance, but we summarise some key points about the operation of the reintroduced scheme below.  Only employers with fewer than 250 employees are eligible, with the size of the employer being determined by the number of people employed on their PAYE payroll as at 30 November 2021.

Connected companies can also use the scheme if their total combined number of PAYE employees was fewer than 250 as at 30 November 2021. 

Employers can claim in respect of employees who transferred to them under TUPE if they had fewer than 250 employees (including TUPE transferred employees) across all PAYE payroll schemes as at 30 November 2021. The new employer can only make claims for SSP it has paid, not SSP paid by the previous employer.

The scheme covers all types of employment contracts, including full-time, part-time and those on zero hour contracts. 

Employers can make more than one claim per employee, but cannot claim for more than two weeks per employee in total. (Note that, under the initial SSP Rebate Scheme, employers could claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the SSP Rebate Scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ended on 30 September 2021, so although it is still referenced in the Government guidance, this is not an issue under the reintroduced SSP Rebate Scheme.)

Employers can claim a repayment of up to 2 weeks' SSP per employee starting from the first qualifying day of sickness, if an employee is unable to work because they:

  • have coronavirus symptoms or have tested positive for Covid-19;
  • are self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms or has tested positive for Covid-19;
  • are self-isolating because they have been notified by the NHS or public health bodies that they have come into contact with someone with coronavirus; or
  • have been notified by the NHS to self-isolate before surgery for up to 14 days.

While claims can usually be made from the first day of an employee’s period of sickness absence, if the absence started before 21 December 2021, an employer can only claim from that date.

(Note that under the initial SSP Rebate Scheme that ran until 30 September 2021, employers could also claim in respect of an employee who was unable to work because they had been advised by letter to shield because they’re clinically extremely vulnerable and at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus. However, although it still appears in the Government guidance, this provision is no longer applicable because the shielding guidance has now ended.)

Employers must have already paid their employees’ SSP before they can claim it back under the SSP Rebate Scheme. 

Employers are required to maintain records of staff absences, but, to make a claim, do not have to get employees to provide them with a GP fit note. Employers can, however, ask that employees give them an isolation note from NHS 111 if they are self-isolating and cannot work because of Covid-19.

In order to claim, employers must keep a record of the following employee details (for at least 3 years following the date they receive payment for a claim):

  • the dates the employee was off sick;
  • which of those dates were qualifying days for SSP;
  • the reason the employee said they were off work – e.g. if they had symptoms or had tested positive, or someone they lived with had symptoms or had tested positive; and
  • the employee’s National Insurance number.

The SSP Rebate Scheme is a form of state aid. The Government guidance flags that companies should check that any amounts they receive under the SSP Rebate Scheme do not, when combined with other aid received, exceed de minimis limits. The guidance provides a link to an online calculator to assist with this. Employers must print or save their state aid declaration (from their claim summary) and retain this until 31 December 2024.

2. Are Business Rates being adjusted to help businesses cope with the impact of Covid-19?

The government had already announced the Business Rates retail discount will be increased to 50% in 2020-21. Due to the impact that Covid-19 will have, further measures are being introduced by the government to mitigate business disruption:

  • To support small businesses affected by Covid-19 the government has expanded the Business Rates retail discount further to 100% till March 2021.
  • The 100% relief will also be expanded to the leisure and hospitality sectors.
  • These temporary measures, taken together with existing Small Business Rates Relief, mean that around 900,000 properties, or 45% of all properties in England, will
  • receive 100% business rates relief in 2020-21.

There are additional business rate relief programmes available. Please see here for more details

You do not need to take any action. Your local council will apply the discount automatically if your business is eligible.

You can estimate the business rate relief using the business rates calculator.

Local authorities will be fully compensated for these Business Rates measures so that their capacity to provide services will not be impacted by these measures. 

Guidance for Local Authorities is published here. Please note guidance for Business Rates relief in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is slightly different.

3. Is there any direct funding available for businesses for 2020-21/2021-22 to mitigate the impact of Covid-19?

The government has introduced additional grant funding for businesses eligible for the Small Business Rates Relief Scheme (SBRR):

  • To support those businesses, the government will provide £2.2 billion of funding to be distributed by Local Authorities in England.
  • This will provide a one off £10,000 cash grant to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate Relief. The maximum rateable value for a property will be £15,000
In most cases you do not need to apply as your Local Authority will contact you directly if your business qualifies. Please note the guidance for eligibility differs slightly for NI, Scotland, and Wales. 

For further details, please see here.

For 2021/22:

Since 2019/20 the government has provided a Business Rates Retail Discount for retail properties which for 2020/21 it expanded to include the leisure and hospitality sectors.

On 3 March 2021 the government confirmed that the Expanded Retail Discount would continue to apply in 2021/22 at 100% for three months, from 1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021, and at 66% for the remaining period, from 1 July 2021 to 31 March 2022.

The government confirmed that there would be no cash cap on the relief received for the period from 1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021. From 1 July 2021, relief will be capped at £105,000 per business, or £2 million per business where the business is in occupation of a property that was required, or would have been required, to close, based on the law and guidance applicable on 5 January 2021.

As in the previous year, in most cases you do not need to apply as your Local Authority will contact you directly if your business qualifies. Please note the guidance for eligibility differs slightly for NI, Scotland, and Wales.

4. What if my business has outstanding tax liabilities that I may not be able to pay in due time because of Covid-19 related business disruption?

The government is setting out measures that will seek to enable those businesses and self-employed individuals with outstanding tax liabilities to receive support with their tax affairs:

  • HMRC has set up a dedicated Covid-19 helpline (0800 024 1222) to help those in need, and they may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangements.
  • Time to Pay arrangements were previously used in response to flooding and the financial crisis, giving businesses a time-limited deferral period on HMRC liabilities owed and a pre-agreed time period to pay these back.
  • To ensure ongoing support, HMRC have made a further 2,000 experienced call handlers available to support firms when needed.

HMRC may also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulties contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to Covid-19.

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.

This allows businesses and individuals to pay off their debt by instalments over a period of time.

These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

You are eligible if your business:

pays tax or duties to the UK government
has outstanding tax liabilities

Additionally, the Government announced deferments of VAT that were originally due in March 2021 may be repaid over 11 smaller instalments spread between 2021/2022.

5. My business is struggling to access finance due to Covid-19’s impact on lender confidence, is there any new government help with financing?

There were a number of schemes available to access finance delivered by the British Business Bank (BBB) and various other accredited institutions, these included:

  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) (Closed 31 March 2021)
  • Coronavirus (Large) Interruption Loan Scheme (C(L)BILS) (Closed 31 March 2021)
  • Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) (Closed 23 March 2021)
  • The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) (31 March 2021)
  • The Future Fund (Closed 31 January 2021)

 Details of these closed schemes can be found on the British Business Bank’s website here.

There is currently one Government-backed finance scheme, also administered by the BBB, which is open, named the Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS). Its details are as follows:

Launched on 6 April 2021, the RLS provides financial support to businesses across the UK as they recover and grow following the coronavirus pandemic.

You can apply to the scheme if Covid-19 has affected your business. You can use the finance for any legitimate business purpose – including managing cashflow, investment and growth. However, you must be able to afford to take out additional debt finance for these purposes.

If your business has already borrowed from any of the other coronavirus loan schemes – namely:

  • the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS)
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
  • the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS

RLS is still open to you, although the amount you have borrowed under an existing scheme may in certain circumstances limit the amount you may borrow under RLS.

RLS will run until 31 December 2021, subject to review. Find further guidance, and how to apply, here.

If you have not found an answer to your question here please contact covid19.enquiries@makeuk.org for further assistance.