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 and Universal Credit
Public Health Advice
Travel Advice
Local support
BID Leicester operations

We will update this page on an ongoing basis. Last update: 27 May 2020, 12:21.

Current Government advice

Currently government measures are:

  • On 11 May the Government set out the Covid-19 recovery strategy, detailing current restrictions and a ‘road map’ for lifting these restrictions. Current government advice is to stay alert, control the virus and, in doing so, save lives.
  • People must stay at home unless necessary to go out for specific reasons: for work, where you cannot work from home; going to shops that are permitted to open to get things like food and medicine; to exercise, or, from Wednesday 13 May, spend time outdoors for recreation; any medial need, to donate blood, avoid injury or illness, escape risk of harm or to help a vulnerable person. A fuller list of the reasons you can leave home is set out in the regulations. There is also guidance on staying safe outside your home.
  • If you are helping someone who is isolating or vulnerable, please read these guidelines on how to help safely.
  • When you do need to go out, you should follow the guidelines on staying safe outside your home. This includes the key advice that you should stay two metres apart from anyone outside of your household. Face coverings can help us protect each other and reduce the spread of the disease if you are in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible, for example on public transport or in some shops.
  • The process of reopening has begun, but certain businesses are still required to close. Read more on Business Closures and support available for businesses below.
  • You should travel to work, including to provide voluntary or charitable services, where you cannot work from home and your workplace is open. As soon as practicable, workplaces permitted to be open should be set up to meet the new COVID-19 secure guidelines.
  • At all times, workers should follow the guidance on self-isolation if they or anyone in their household shows coronavirus symptoms. 
  • Police and other relevant authorities have powers to enforce these new measures, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.
  • 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”
  • Clinically vulnerable people are advised to stay at home as much as possible, including people over the age of 70, other adults who would normally be advised to have the flu vaccine (such as those with chronic diseases) and pregnant women.

Leicester City Council have translated this advice into the languages most commonly spoken in Leicester – click here to read.


Government ordered closures

Business Reopening
All non-essential retail will be able to reopen in England from 15 June. Reopening guidance for retail has been published online. 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.

Outdoor sports facilities – such as tennis and basketball courts, golf courses and bowling greens – can open, but you should only use these alone, with members of your household, or with one other person from outside your household, while keeping two metres apart at all times.

As soon as practicable, workplaces permitted to be open should be set up to meet the new COVID-19 secure guidelines.

Business Closures
For the time being, certain businesses and venues are required by law to stay closed to the public. These include:

  • restaurants and cafes, other than for takeaway
  • pubs, cinemas, theatres and nightclubs
  • libraries, community centres, and youth centres
  • indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, gyms, arcades and soft play facilities
  • some communal places within parks, such as playgrounds and outdoor gyms
  • places of worship (except for funerals)
  • hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use, excluding use by those who live in them permanently, those who are unable to return home and critical workers where they need to for work

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.

These closures are enforceable by law.

> 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.

Schools
From 1 June, Primary schools will welcome back children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, while nurseries and other early years providers will begin welcoming back children of all ages. Guidance on actions that should be taken to prepare for reopening can be found online.

A-level and GCSE exams, and primary school SATs – usually taken in May and June – have been cancelled.
Free school meals or food vouchers are available for pupils not attending school. Click here for up to date education and childcare information.

> 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.


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.

Answer a few questions on this new government tool for businesses and self-employed and it will tell you which #Coronavirus (COVID-19) support measures are available to you.

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
Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme
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. The scheme will be in place until 31 October. However the details will be reviewed in July with a view to make the scheme flexible to support the transition back to work from August.

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: Check if you can claim, and then claim online.

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: Click here to apply on the Leicester City Council website.

Click here for government guidance for businesses about this scheme.

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: Click here to apply on the Leicester City Council website.

Click here for government guidance for businesses about this scheme.

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/

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: The online portal to claim is now open. Check if you are eligible and begin a claim online.

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: VAT: This is an automatic offer with no applications required. Click here for more info.
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

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. 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.

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The new Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £25m to firms with an annual turnover of between £45m and £500m. This will give banks the confidence to lend to many more businesses which are impacted by coronavirus. Facilities backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest.

Eligibility: To be eligible, your business must be UK-based in its business activity; have an annual turnover between £45 million and £500 million; be unable to secure regular commercial financing and have a borrowing proposal which the lender would consider viable, were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, and believes will enable you to trade out of any short-term to medium-term difficulty. Businesses from any sector can apply, except the following: banks and building societies; insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers); public-sector organisations, including state-funded primary and secondary schools.

How to access: You can apply online now. 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.

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.

Chancellor sets out extra £750 million coronavirus funding for frontline charities. Click here for more.

High street shops and other companies under strain will be protected from aggressive rent collection and asked to pay what they can during the coronavirus pandemic. Read more here.

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme offers 100% government backed loans for small businesses. Businesses will be able to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 and access the cash within days. Loans will be interest free for the first 12 months, and businesses can apply online through a short and simple form. Read more here.

Read further detail on all the government initiatives above on the government’s dedicated business support portal.

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


Financial support

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]eicester.gov.uk
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

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 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. 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 has ceased operation until further notice, in response to the current coronavirus restrictions.

Rail companies have reduced 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.


Local Support

Keep up to date with the latest information on COVID-19 through Leicester City Council’s Your Leicester newsletter. You can also follow council news on Twitter and Facebook

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.

We arranged an online webinar to help support businesses accessing the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. A recording of the webinar can be accessed by emailing [email protected]

On 1 May, Government announced £6.1m funding boost to help BIDs continue to support businesses during these challenging economic times, and recognising the crucial role for BID’s as we move into the recovery phase from the current crisis. We welcome this announcement and look forward to hearing more details on the scheme.

To comply with government guidelines and in the interests of staff and public safety, the Street Ambassador service has been paused for the months of April and May. The rest of 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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