Coronavirus update 1 – 20 March 2020
Firstly, I want to update you on our news following the recent changes announced by the government, particularly regarding school closures, which is going to directly affect us.
As you may know, Carolyn and Debbie both have school age children, so from this coming Monday, 23 March, they will now be based at home. However, they are planning to work on a near to full time basis, so if you need to contact them, please do so, and ideally send them an email in the first instance. If it then transpires that a conversation is going to be best, then one of us can call you, and if appropriate, the appropriate client manager (Jaymie Ross or Tina Wallace) may become involved.
Otherwise we are pleased to confirm that we are operating as normal, and all other members of the team are working at our office, and it is very much “service as usual”, with the exception of face to face meetings, which we are trying to minimise for obvious reasons.
I am also pleased to let you know that we have a new member of staff joining us next week – Carolyn Dool, who is going to join our accounts team, and also provide assistance on payroll and bookkeeping work. She will be working part time to start with, and (childcare permitting!) we hope that she will be able to increase her hours later in the year.
The government have announced a vast number of initiatives and measures over the last week, several of which are directly relevant to many of our clients. In a general newsletter such as this, I cannot provide a vast amount of detail, but the main highlights in terms of business support have been as follows:
- Any business that needs access to cash to pay their rent, salaries, suppliers, or to purchase stock, will be able to access a government-backed loan on "attractive terms" (which have not yet been specified). That support will be delivered to small and medium businesses via the new Business Interruption Loan Scheme (announced at the Budget), which will now provide loans of up to £5 million, with no interest due for the first six months. The scheme is intended to be up and running by the start of next week.
- The retail, hospitality and leisure sectors have been hit very hard, so all businesses in those sectors (not just those with a rateable value of less than £51,000, as previously announced), will pay no business rates at all for 2020/21.
- Those businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value below £51,000 will also be eligible for an additional cash grant of up to £25,000 per business, to help them through this period.
- In addition, any small business that is already eligible for 100% business rates relief will receive a grant of £10,000 (not £3,000, as previously announced) to help with business costs.
Regrettably it is not yet clear how these items are to be administered, and whether any will be automatic, or if not, what the application process will be. For business rate reductions, it is likely that you will need to apply to your local council for relief.
In addition, the following measures were announced in the Budget and have not (to date) been updated.
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to be paid from the first day of absence, not the fourth, where people have the virus or have to self-isolate, or care for such people.
- Support through Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance for self-employed people and others not entitled to SSP.
- Full funding of the cost of two weeks’ SSP for small and medium-sized employers whose workers have claimed SSP as a result of coronavirus.
- If you need time to pay your tax liabilities because of issues arising from coronavirus, contact HMRC on 0800 0159 559. They have promised to be sympathetic but do make sure that you can honour any agreement that you make with them. Ideally contact them before the liability becomes due, and then you should not incur late payment penalties.
Finally, in separate announcements:
- The government is postponing the reforms to the off-payroll working rules, IR35, from 6 April 2020 to 6 April 2021. This was going to affect contractors whose end-user is a large or medium sized company in the private sector.
- For those individuals in difficulty due to coronavirus, mortgage lenders will offer at least a three-month mortgage holiday, and applications for this will need to be made directly to the lender.
If you have any questions, please do speak to your regular contact or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, I trust this update is helpful, and we will aim to produce further updates periodically, as further measures are published. Our thoughts are with all of our clients and we do hope that you are able to remain healthy and positive at such a difficult time.