Coronavirus: Advice for Businesses

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in December 2019. As the situation in the UK develops, we have pulled together the sources below to help you stay informed by reading the latest information.

Skip to:
Current Government Advice
Government ordered closures
Support for Businesses
Financial Support: mortgages, rent and Universal Credit
Public Health Advice
Travel Advice
Local support
BID Leicester operations

We will update this page on an ongoing basis. Last update: 26 March 2020, 17:53.


Current Government advice

Currently government measures are:

  • Everyone should stay at home and away from others – this means only going outside for food, health reasons or essential work; staying 2 metres (6ft) away from other people, and washing your hands as soon as you get home. Read full guidance on staying at home and away from others.
  • All non-essential shops and public places have been closed. Parks will remain open but only for individuals and households to exercise once per day. Read more on Business Closures and support available for businesses below.
  • The government has stopped all public gatherings of more than two people who do not live in the same household. This includes social events such as weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies. This excludes funerals, which can be attended by immediate family.
  • Police and other relevant authorities will have powers to enforce these new measures, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.
  • The new measures listed above will initially last for three weeks from 23 March, at which point they will be reviewed.
  • Continue to follow public health advice including frequent handwashing – read more on public health advice below.
  • All people with flu-like symptoms – a fever above 37.8C or a persistent cough – should self-isolate (stay at home, away from other people) for seven days if you live alone, or 14 days if you live with other people. If your symptoms get worse or are no better after seven days seek medical advice
  • If one person in any household has a persistent cough or fever, everyone living there must stay at home for 14 days
  • Those people should, if possible, avoid leaving the house “even to buy food or essentials” – but they may leave the house “for exercise and, in that case, at a safe distance from others”

Chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty said the group of people who should take “particular care to minimise their social contact” were:

  • People over the age of 70
  • Other adults who would normally be advised to have the flu vaccine (such as those with chronic diseases)
  • Pregnant women

You do not need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation. If symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 7 days, contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, call NHS 111. People should only use the NHS “where we really need to” – and can reduce the burden on workers by getting advice on the NHS website where possible. For a medical emergency dial 999.

If your employer requires a sick note, this is available from NHS 111 online. If you live with someone that has symptoms and need to go into isolation, you can get a note from the NHS website.

If you are helping someone who is isolating or vulnerable, please read these guidelines on how to help safely.


Government ordered closures

Business Closures
Cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK were ordered to close on 20 March and not reopen – although they can offer takeaway services. Nightclubs, theatres, cinemas and gyms have also been told to shut their doors.

On 23 March the Government, stepped up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. All non-essential premises must now close. Takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational in line with guidance on Friday 20 March. Online retail is still open and encouraged and postal and delivery service will run as normal.

Retail and public premises which are permitted to remain open must ensure a distance of two meters between customers and shop assistants; let people enter the shop only in small groups, to ensure that spaces are not crowded and provide queue control outside of shops and other essential premises that remain open.

Where hotels, hostels, and B&Bs are providing rooms to support homeless people, through arrangements with local authorities and other public bodies, they should remain open. Rooms may also be provided to frontline homelessness workers who are included in the key worker category.

As of 2pm on 21 March 2020 the closures announced on 20 March are enforceable by law. The government will extend law and enforcement powers to include all businesses that have been ordered to close.

> Click here for a list of all non-essential businesses and premises that must now shut, and information on which businesses can remain open.

> Click here for COVID-19 advice for accommodation providers

> Click here for our advice on securing your business

> Read more on support available for businesses below.

School Closures
Schools in England, Scotland and Wales will close on Friday to everyone except vulnerable children, and those with a parent identified as a key worker. Schools in Northern Ireland will shut from Monday 23 March.

A-level and GCSE exams, and primary school SATs – usually taken in May and June – have been cancelled. No re-opening information has been given – closures are until further notice.

Some schools will be kept open with skeleton staff to provide support for the children of key workers. Information on key workers and what to do if you are a key worker and your child’s school is closed can be found online here: gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision


Suppport for Businesses

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19. Skip to:
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Deferring VAT and Income Tax
Statutory sick pay relief package
Business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
Small business grant funding
Cash grants up to £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
Support for nursery businesses
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
Support for businesses paying tax
COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility
The Self-employment Income Support Scheme
Protection from eviction for commercial tenants
Commercial Insurance
Other support measures

Support for Businesses through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

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.

Eligibility: All UK-wide employers with a PAYE scheme will be eligible – this includes the public sector, Local Authorities and charities.

How to access the scheme: You will need to designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change. Once the new online portal is live, submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings (HMRC will set out further details on the information required)

HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers. Click here for more information on who can claim and how to claim.

Support for Businesses through deferring VAT and Income Tax

The government is supporting businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months. If you’re self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

For VAT, the deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.

Eligibility: All UK businesses are eligible.

How to access the scheme: This is an automatic offer with no applications required. Businesses will not need to make a VAT payment during this period. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020 to 2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal. Click here for more info.

For Income Tax Self-Assessment, payments due on the 31 July 2020 will be deferred until the 31 January 2021.

Eligibility: If you are self-employed you are eligible.

How to access the scheme: This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period. Click here for more information

A statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs

The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the statutory sick pay repayment mechanism. This refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because 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.

Eligibility: You are eligible for the scheme if your business is UK based, and is small or medium-sized employing fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020.

How to access the scheme: A rebate scheme is being developed. Further details will be provided in due course once the legislation has been passed. Click here for more information.

A 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England

Government will introduce a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

Eligibility: You are eligible for the business rates holiday if your business is based in England and your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector.

How to access the scheme: There is no action for business owners. This will apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill automatically to exclude the business rate charge. They will do this as soon as possible.
Click here for more information.

Find information on Business Rates from Leicester City Council here: leicester.gov.uk/business/business-rates/

Small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief

The government will provide additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs.

Eligibility: you are eligible if your business is based in england and already recieves SBRR or rural rate relief.

How to access the scheme: Funding for the scheme will be provided to local authorities by government in early April. Click here for more information.

Cash grants up to £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

The Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme provides businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property. Businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of £15,000 and under will receive a grant of £10,000. Businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000.

Eligibility: you are eligible if your business is based in England and is in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector.

How to access the scheme: you do not need to do anything. Your local authority will contact you if you are eligible. Click here for more information.

Support for nursery businesses that pay business rates

There will be a business rates holiday for nurseries in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

Eligibility: You are eligible for the business rates holiday if your businesses is based in England, is occupied by providers on Ofsted’s Early Years Register and are wholly or mainly used for the provision of the Early Years Foundation Stage

How to access the scheme: There is no action for you. This will apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill to exclude the business rate charge. They will do this as soon as possible. Click here for more information.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance

A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will support primarily small and medium-sized businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. Businesses can access the first 12 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments.

Eligibility: You are eligible for the scheme if: your business is UK based, with a turnover of no more than £41 million per annum, and your business meets the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria.

How to access the scheme: The full rules of the Scheme and the list of accredited lenders is available on the British Business Bank website. All the major banks offer the scheme; there are 40 accredited providers in all. Click here to for more information.

Support for larger firms through the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

Under the new Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), the Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies. This will support your company if it has been affected by a short-term funding squeeze, and allow you to finance your short-term liabilities.

Eligibility: Companies – and their finance subsidiaries – that make a material contribution to the UK economy are able to participate in the facility. More information on eligibility can be found on the Bank of England Website.

How to access the scheme: In order to access the CCFF, you will need to contact your bank. It is important to note that not all banks issue commercial paper. If your bank does not issue commercial paper, UK Finance will provide a list of banks that are able to assist. Click here for more information.

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme

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. HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant.

Eligibility: To be eligible for the scheme you must meet all the criteria below:

  • Be self-employed or a member of partnership;
  • Have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19;
  • File a tax return for 2018-19 as self-employed or a member of a trading partnership. Those who have not yet filed for 2018-19 will have an additional 4 weeks from this announcement (26 March) to do so;
  • Have traded in 2019-20; be currently trading at the point of application (or would be except for COVID 19) and intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021
  • Have trading profits of less than £50,000 and more than half of your total income come from self-employment. This can be with reference to at least one of the following conditions:
    > Your trading profits and total income in 2018/19
    > Your average trading profits and total income across up to the three years between 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19.

How to access the scheme: HMRC will use existing information to check potential eligibility and invite applications once the scheme is operational. HMRC will then pay the grant directly to eligible claimants’ bank account. HMRC is urgently working to deliver the scheme; grants are expected to start to be paid out by beginning of June 2020.

In the interim the self-employed will still able eligible for other government support including more generous universal credit and business continuity loans. Click here for more information.

Support for businesses paying tax through the Time to Pay service

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

Eligibility: you are eligible if your business pays tax to the UK government and has outstanding tax liabilities.

How to access the scheme: If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, please call the HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559. If you are worried about a future payment call nearer the time. Click here for more information.

Protection from eviction for commercial tenants

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction.These measures will mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30 June. This is not a rental holiday. All commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent. Click here for more information.

Commercial Insurance

Most commercial insurance policies are unlikely to cover pandemics or unspecified notifiable diseases, such as COVID-19. Those businesses which have an insurance policy that covers government ordered closure and pandemics or government ordered closure and unspecified notifiable disease should be able to make a claim (subject to the terms and conditions of their policy).

Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Find out more about insurance claims for notifiable diseases, government order closure and event cancellation here.

Other Support Measures

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Companies House has announced that businesses will be able to apply for a 3-month extension for filing their accounts. Click here for more information.

If your business trades internationally, read this guidance from the Department for International Trade.

Read further detail on all the government initiatives above on the government’s dedicated business support portal: businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/

Read more about what government is doing to support businesses here: gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

Other sources of advice for businesses:
> Federation of Small Businesses
> Acas


Financial support: mortgages, rent and Universal Credit

Mortgage lenders will offer a three-month holiday for people in financial difficulty as a result of the virus. Read more here: gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-announces-additional-support-to-protect-businesses

The Government announced a radical package of measures to protect renters and landlords affected by coronavirus, including a complete ban on evictions gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters

The Universal Credit standard allowance will increase, for the next 12 months, by £1,000 a year. The Working Tax Credit basic element will also increase by £1,000 a year. The minimum income floor for accessing Universal Credit has been suspended for everyone affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus, meaning self-employed people can now access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees. Find out about Universal Credit and how to claim online: gov.uk/universal-credit

Anyone having difficulty paying council tax or rent can get support and advice from Leicester City Council. Contact the team on 0116 454 1005 or email [email protected]
For housing benefits advice, call 0116 454 1006, or email [email protected]

Help is also available for local people who are experiencing financial crisis that has left them without funds for utility bills or food. To make a claim for crisis support, people should email their name and contact number to [email protected] A member of council staff will then call back between 9.30am and 4pm Monday to Friday and the application will be completed over the phone.

For more information on the range of benefits available visit leicester.gov.uk/your-community/benefits-and-support


Public Health Advice

Public Health England
Coronavirus: Latest information: gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

Public Health England (PHE) recommends that the following general cold and flu precautions are taken to help prevent people from catching and spreading COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • Always wash your hands when you have been outside
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • Avoid close contact with people

Face masks for the general public are not recommended to protect from infection – there is no evidence of benefit from their use outside healthcare environments.

Follow @PHE_uk on Twitter for the latest health advice.

Department of Health and Social Care
Follow the @DHSCgovuk twitter page for regular updates.

NHS
Check the NHS website for advice for the public: nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19

You can find this advice translated into other languages thanks to a partnership between Doctor’s of the World, British Red Cross, Migrant Help and Clear Voice: doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/coronavirus-information/

Looking after your mental health
If you have to stay at home because of coronavirus, it’s important to take care of your mind as well as your body. Read these tips from the NHS on how to protect your mental wellbeing and cope with how you may feel while staying at home.


Travel Advice

Foreign travel
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises British people travelling abroad to return to the UK now, if commercial flights are still available. This advice was published on 23 March and takes effect immediately. The FCO advises British people against all non-essential travel. Read government travel advice here.

Impact on travel to and within Leicester
Current government advice discourages all non-essential travel.

First Bus Leicester have reduced their service to Saturday timetable, and Arriva Midlands are operating special timetables. Leicester’s Park and Ride service will cease operation from 7pm on Friday 27 March until further notice, in response to the current coronavirus restrictions.

Rail companies are reducing train services. Operators will still run core services to ensure key workers can get to their jobs and the flow of goods continues. Passengers are advised to check the time of their train on the National Rail Enquiries website before travelling.

The government is making arrangements with rail companies so that commuters with rail season tickets will receive a refund if they choose to stay at home during the coronavirus outbreak. More info will be added here when available.

Public places and events
Official government advice states everyone should avoid gatherings and crowded places. Mass gatherings will no longer be supported by healthcare staff.

In light of this, if you are due to be attending an event, please check directly with the venue or organiser for the latest information.


Local Support

See the Leicester City Council website for updates on local services including waste collection: leicester.gov.uk/your-council/service-updates-in-leicester/

People who would like to offer their services to help Leicester’s response to the coronavirus outbreak can now formally register as a volunteer. The city council has teamed up with Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL) and other voluntary sector partners to help mobilise the hundreds of people who want to help out – and put them in touch with those in need of help. Find out more and sign up on the VAL website: volunteerleicestershire.org.uk/covid-19


BID Leicester operations

We are postponing all briefings and events, including:

  • The first BID Social event at East Street Lanes
  • Independent Leicester business briefing
  • Architects of Air Luminarium

We are committed to delivering these events when it is safe to do so and will release further information in due course.

The BID team are working remotely but still available via telephone and email. Click here to see how to contact the team. Please do not hesitate to contact us if there are any specific concerns affecting your business you would like to discuss.
If you’re not sure who to contact, email us and someone will get back to you: [email protected]

We are sending email communications to all levy-payers on support available to businesses. If you want to be added to our e-newsletter list, email Sarinda: [email protected]

You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for updates.

We continue to be in close contact with officers in the Council and will update levy-payers from official sources as advised.

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