PEM response to Coronavirus (COVID-19): Practical Guidance for clients and contacts.

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UPDATED: 27 March 2020
We recognise that the current situation regarding the spread of COVID-19 is a cause of great concern to many, however, we want to assure our clients and contacts that we are committed to ensuring the continuity of our services and support to you.
Our approach has been, and will be, to closely follow government guidance and take whatever steps are necessary to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
Our approach
  • We’ve created a central team to co-ordinate our response to ensure that we can keep our team safe while continuing to deliver our services with minimal disruption to our clients and contacts.
  • Following government guidance, we are working towards remote working for our staff and we have the technological capability to allow this. We would like to assure our clients that all information and data is secure when it is accessed remotely.
  • To reduce the chance of contamination we have reduced all unnecessary business travel and training. Face to face meetings will be replaced with video conferencing, virtual meetings and phone calls where possible.
  • We have postponed all event activity for the foreseeable future.
Client assurance and support

We are aware that many of you are going to require additional assistance through this difficult period and we want to work with you through this challenging time.

  • We are ready to deliver our services to you as seamlessly as possible so that any disruption is minimised.
  • As far as possible we are happy to adapt our procedures to meet any specific requirements that you may have.
  • For work being carried out in the next 12 weeks, please note that your existing PEM contact will be calling you to discuss how and when this work can be undertaken and where possible, we will conduct the work through alternative means.

We have put the following FAQ’s together to highlight the practical support being given to businesses, employers and employees. We will update this guidance regularly but if you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to speak to your PEM contacts directly.

Kind regards

Warren Tilbury
Managing Partner, PEM

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Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The government will launch a new, temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, to support businesses with easier access to bank lending and overdrafts. The government will pay the first 12 months of interest and will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. This new guarantee will initially support up to £1 billion of lending on top of current support offered through the British Business Bank.

Furthermore large businesses will also be supported through this time by the Bank of England, with the total loan package expected to be up to £330bn. 

More info can be found here: COVID-19: Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) was launched on Friday 20 March as part of a wider range of measures to help all UK employers.

The JRS represents  an unprecedented step in helping employers retain their workforce during the Covid-19 crisis with the intention being that the economy will be quicker to recover if there are not widespread redundancies. The JRS relief is being backdated to 1 March 2020 and is being introduced for an initial three-month period to 31 May 2020.

Where employees are designated as “furloughed employees’, an employer can pay 80% of such employees pay (up to a cap of £2,500) and claim this back from the Government. Employers can top-up salaries if they choose to.

For a detailed breakdown of the scheme visit our page here Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

VAT payments deferred

The VAT deferment applies automatically to all businesses and will benefit around two million taxpayers. VAT returns still need to be submitted on time and repayment claims will still be processed as normal.

For more information and a Q&A from our VAT experts visit COVID-19: Deferment of VAT Q&A

HMRC – Time to Pay

HMRC has been instructed to show increased leniency regarding time to pay arrangements for taxation payments and a dedicated helpline has been set up for any businesses concerned about their ability to make future payments (0800 015 9559). This allows businesses a time-limited deferral period on HMRC liabilities that are owed and a pre-agreed time period to pay these sums back. These tailored arrangements will give a business the time it needs to pay HMRC to support their recovery while operating through any temporary financial challenges that occur. To ensure ongoing support, HMRC have made a further 2,000 experienced call handlers available to support firms in difficulty. HMRC will also waive late payment penalties and late payment interest where businesses experience difficulties contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to COVID-19.

Rates Relief

For the year 2020 to 2021, it was announced that the business rates retail discount will be increased to 100% for all properties with a rateable value of less than £51,000, and for all businesses in the hospitality and leisure sector, such as museums, theatres, gyms and pubs. 

Small business grant funding

The government recognises that many small businesses pay little or no business rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR). To support those businesses, the government will provide £2.2 billion of funding for Local authorities in England. This will provide £10,000 to around 700,000 business currently eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate Relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs. For a property with a rateable value of £12,000, this is one quarter of their rateable value, or comparable to 3 months of rent. Most properties that are eligible for SBRR will have a lower rateable value, and so this will represent an even greater proportion of their annual rent.

In addition to a 2020/21 business rates holiday, a £25,000 grant will also be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from premises with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. There is no need to apply for this grant which will be paid by the local authorities.

Are employees entitled to sick pay if they are off due to the coronavirus?

Usual sick leave and pay entitlements apply if someone has coronavirus. Employers with under 250 employees will get a 100% refund on statutory sick pay for up to 14 days per employee.

Employees who have been advised to self-isolate by their GP or NHS 111 will be eligible to receive statutory sick pay, which is currently paid at a rate of £94.25 per week. Until further notice this sick pay will be paid from the first day.

If somebody chooses to self-isolate without being advised, they will not be entitled to statutory sick pay.

What should you do if an employee needs time off work to look after someone?

Employees are entitled to unpaid time off work to help someone who depends on them. For example;

  • if they have children that need to be looked after because their school has closed; or
  • they need to stay at home to help their child or another dependent if they’re sick or need to go into isolation or hospital.

There’s no statutory right to receive payment for this time off, but you should refer to your policy as some employers have offered to pay staff in such cases.

Stay up-to-date

We highly recommend that businesses stay up-to-date and follow advice from organisations such as:

Public Health England (PHE)

Public Health Wales

Health Protection Scotland (HPS)

Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel advice

ACAS

Please note that whilst the above is accurate as of the date of publication (27 March 2020) the situation is very fluid, and changes will inevitably occur. We advise that you consult the government’s official guidance for the latest available information.