18th March 2020
Given the current situation we find ourselves in, Government are making announcements daily that will impact on businesses and individuals. We have set out below what has been announced to date and what you as a business should consider:
During this difficult time the management of your business cash-flow will be key to survival. The following actions should be taken to ensure your business stays as cash positive as possible:
- Continue to monitor payments from debtors, be patient and understanding where possible and agree early payment discounts in extreme circumstances
- Speak to your bank to see what they can do for you, whether it be extend your overdraft facility or grant you a repayment holiday on any existing loans you may have
- Contact your landlord and any other finance providers to see if they will agree deferred payment arrangements
- Look at any upcoming expenditure that can be delayed or look to spread any payments over a length of time
- HM Revenue & Customs have announced a contact number to discuss ‘time to pay arrangements’ this will allow you to agree payment plans for any upcoming liabilities such as Income Tax, Corporation Tax, VAT or PAYE. The contact number to use is 0800 0159 559.
If your sales have been affected then consider the stock you have at hand, stock levels need to be kept at an efficient level to ensure stock does not become perishable or depreciate in value.
Review Staff Costs
Businesses will be forced to make anguishing decisions about their costs (of which staff normally form a significant part) in order to maintain the viability of their business through this difficult patch.
Look carefully at the terms contained in your employment contracts. +Some (but not many) have clauses that cover ‘lay-offs’ and/or ‘short-time working’ which you might be able to make use of. Others may have no minimum or fixed hours/pay entitlement (i.e. causal or ‘zero’ hours), which might be a basis to legitimately reduce working hours/pay in accordance with the contract.
Anything that leads to a reduction in pay should be agreed with staff as a temporary measure if at all possible, to be clear on the consequences to your staff and to mitigate against the risk of successful claims against the company. Honest and open consultation with staff is therefore vital.
ACAS are also looking at updating their guidance to employers and the following link should be used as a starting point:
Contact telephone number for ACAS is 0300 123 1100
The government has confirmed that the advice to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres etc is enough for businesses to claim on their insurance where they have appropriate business interruption cover for pandemics in place.
Review your insurance policy and assess what cover you have to see if you are covered for business interruption. The government has advised that most businesses will not be covered for business interruption specific to pandemics or government ordered closure.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
This will be paid from day 1 rather than day 4 and will also apply for those who self-isolate even if they do not show symptoms. The cost of providing SSP for up to 2 weeks will be refunded by the Government in full for employers with less than 250 employees.
Support for those not entitled to SSP
The Government expect people not entitled to SSP to access financial support through the benefits system – in particular, ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance (the new name for contributory ESA) and Universal Credit.
Support provided by Government
As at today’s date the following announcements have been made to help businesses during these difficult times:
To ensure that businesses have access to the funds they need, the Government will:
- provide support for liquidity amongst large firms, with a major new scheme being launched by the Bank of England to help them bridge Coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
- increase the amount businesses can borrow through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £1.2 million to £5 million, and ensuring businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as Government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments
- include new legal powers in the Covid Bill enabling us to offer whatever further financial support we think necessary to businesses
Through providing £20 billion of business rates support and grant funding to help the most-affected firms manage their cash-flow during this period the government will:
- give all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England a 100% business rates holiday for the next 12 months
- increase grants to small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief from £3,000 to £10,000. Money will be made available to local authorities from early April and as a business you will be contacted directly (no need to apply)
- provide further £25,000 grants to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000
Mortgage lenders have agreed they will support customers that are experiencing issues with their finances as a result of Covid-19, including through payment holidays of up to 3 months. This will give people the necessary time to recover and ensure they do not have to pay a penny towards their mortgage in the interim.
To support the food industry and help provide meals for people who need to self-isolate, Government will relax planning regulations to allow pubs and restaurants to start providing takeaways without a planning application.
We will continue to update our guidance with any further announcements and details that will help support businesses. If you are unsure about any of the above detail or would like to discuss your circumstances specifically, please do call the office on 01768 892336.