Advice for business regarding the coronavirus pandemic
Crime Prevention advice for empty commercial premises
The coronavirus has necessitated businesses close across London leaving many empty buildings: this will likely be the first time your building is going to be empty for an extended period of time.
There is a concern that your property could be at risk of being targeted: this could potentially come in the form of an illegal occupation, the theft of stock or criminal damage.
The risk factor to your premises will naturally be dependent on a number of factors: area, local criminality, size, stock, security and this is an ‘aide memoire’ for assisting you in your decision making.
The Metropolitan Police Service are maintaining a visible presence across the capital and are committed to preventing any crime. However, we need your help to ensure that your buildings are as secure as they can be.
As a rule, it is important that you focus on the risks to your premises and regularly review your security. Work in partnership online to reduce the risk by sharing information with your local business community, crime reduction partnership and local police, more… (links to Police advice .pdf)
The Business Crime team are available for strategic support and connectivity via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
What the HM Government advice means for businesses
Thanks to the team at TaxAssist Accountants in East Finchley for this breakdown of UK Government announcements (March 2020) re businesses:
- At last week’s Budget, the Chancellor provided £30 billion of support to the economy to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
- Yesterday, on 17th March, The Chancellor announced unprecedented support for business and workers – to protect against the economic emergency. This includes unlimited loans and guarantees to support firms and help them manage cashflows through this period. The Chancellor will make available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of UK GDP.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable businesses to apply for a loan of up to £5 million, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees. Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments. It is hoped that the scheme will be up and running by the beginning of next week.
Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR)
- SBBR relief will be given to all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England in the form of a 100% business rates holiday for the next 12 months
- Grants will be provided to small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief. The amount suggested has increased from £3,000 to £10,000
- £25,000 grants will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000
The news that there will be a £10,000 cash grant to some businesses eligible for SBBR will be most welcome. Small businesses that pay little or no business rates and are eligible for SBBR or rural rate relief will be contacted by their local authority – they do not need to apply. The funding will be provided to local authorities in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided by government shortly.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
The government will bring in legislation to allow employers to reclaim statutory sick pay relating to absences as a result of Coronavirus.
The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:
- This refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work 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 will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19.
- Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note.
- Eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force.
- The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.
For those who are eligible for SSP where it would normally be paid from the fourth day of sickness it will temporarily be available from the first day of absence.
We are awaiting full details from the Government regarding this and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) changes and we will advise you as soon as this becomes available.
Employment and Support Allowance
As per Budget 2020 for those self-employed or who are not eligible for SSP financial support is available under the ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance and also Universal Credit via the welfare system.
There are additional support measures for the retail sector:
- The Government has confirmed that the advice to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres etc. is sufficient for businesses to claim on their insurance where they have appropriate business interruption cover for pandemics in place. However, businesses should check with their insurance provider if they are covered. Many businesses are unlikely to be covered as most business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property, which will exclude pandemics. Some businesses may have purchased a specific add on relating to notifiable diseases, but some of these will still specify damage to the building. Some businesses may have purchased supply chain or denial of access cover which may meet their needs in this case.
- To support the food industry and help provide meals for people who need to self-isolate, The Government will be relaxing planning regulations to allow pubs and restaurants to start providing takeaways without a planning application
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. These businesses can contact HMRC’s new dedicated COVID-19 helpline from 11 March 2020 for advice and support. To ensure ongoing support, HMRC have made a further 2,000 experienced call handlers available to support firms and individuals when needed. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.