Covid-19: Small business financial support from the Government

Last updated: 8.7.20 

HBXL have been helping building firms across the UK for 20 years and it’s never been more important during the Covid-19 crisis to lend our support in these difficult times. So we hope you find this summary of the Covid-19 small business financial support from the Government useful, together with Health & Safety advice to make sure you’re ‘Covid-secure’ in a work setting.

Guidance on working safely outdoors issued by the government on 11.5.20 >>

‘Support finder’ tool from the government to help you, whether you’re a businesses or self-employed, to quickly and easily determine what financial support is available to you during the coronavirus pandemic >>

The Chancellor’s package of measures

Below you will find the detail on the following:

  • Kickstart Scheme 6-month work placements aimed at those aged 16-24 who are on Universal Credit and are deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment
  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (allows you to temporarily lay off staff at 80% of their normal salary up to £2500/month per employee)
  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans to SMEs of 25% of turnover  through the British Business Bank
  • Self-Employed Income Support Scheme Those eligible will receive a cash grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profit over the last three years
  • Deferring of VAT payments
  • Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses
  • Small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme for PAYE/VAT etc.
  • Deferment of Income Tax Self-Assessment payment until 31.1.21.
  • Recommendations from the FMB regarding Health & Safety on site

Kickstart scheme – launched 8.7.20

The new Kickstart fund will subsidise six-month work placements for people on Universal Credit aged between 16 and 24, who are at risk of long-term unemployment.

For each “kickstarter” job, the government will cover the cost of 25 hours’ work a week at the National Minimum Wage – £4.55 for under 18s, £6.45 for 18 to 20-year-olds, and £8.20 for 21 to 24-year-olds. Funding available for each job will cover 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for those 25 hours a week, plus the associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. Employers will be able to top up that payment if they wish.

The scheme will open for applications in August, with the first jobs expected to start in the autumn, and run until December 2021 – with the option of being extended.

It will cover England, Scotland and Wales, and the government said it would provide additional funding to Northern Ireland for a similar scheme.

Job Retention Scheme – EXTENDED TO 31.10.20

29.05.2020 The Government has given an update to the scheme:
1. from 30 June 2020 the scheme will be closed to new entrants  – so a new entrant must be furloughed by 10 June 2020.
2. From 1 July 2020, businesses will be given the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part time.
2. From 1 August 2020, businesses must pay towards the furlough scheme by paying ER NICs and pension contributions
3. From 1 September 2020, businesses will pay 10% of wages for furloughed staff plus ER NICs and pension contributions
4. From 1 October 2020 businesses will pay 20% of wages plus ER NICs and pension contributions
4. Then the scheme will close.

BBC furlough image for June-October

A step-by-step guide from the government on claiming for your employees’ wages >>

Essentially, the government will subsidise 80% of the cost of so-called “furloughed employees” for the duration of the crisis up to a maximum of £2,500/month per employee – gross.

Furlough is an expression more common in the US than the UK and means laying-off staff because of a shortage of work.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – Applications opened 4.5.20

You can visit the British Business Bank here to apply.

The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will support SMEs with access to loans of 25% of their turnover up to a maximum of £50,000. The Government will provide lenders with a 100% guarantee and will pay any fees and interest for the first 12 months.

The guarantee of 100% on each loan (subject to pre-lender cap on claims) will give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The scheme is being delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the government-owned British Business Bank.

There are 40 accredited lenders able to offer the scheme, including all the major banks.

You can visit the British Business Bank here to apply.

VAT Deferment

The other welcome announcement on Friday was the deferment of VAT liabilities falling due up to 30 June until the end of the financial year i.e. 5 April 2021. It’s worth noting that it is a deferment not a writing-off but again it could be a useful improvement to the working capital of many businesses. Unfortunately, it doesn’t assist businesses that pay little or no VAT due to the nature of their trade. Whilst the government hasn’t made any announcement it’s unlikely they will take a firm stance in relation to a delayed PAYE payment so this could be an area to explore bearing in mind possible penalties.

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 (April 2021) to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

Statutory Sick Pay

We have mentioned previously the government meeting the cost of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for 2 weeks and the extension of Time to Pay arrangements. Whether these provisions are enough remains to be seen but it is clearly the government’s intention that businesses should not fail as a result of the Corona Virus Outbreak alone.

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result 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. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force
  • the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

Small business rates relief

An increase from the proposed £3,000 cash grant to 700,000 small businesses (those eligible for Small Business Rate Relief) to a £10,000 cash grant. We think this will also apply for those eligible for rural rates relief.

You are eligible if:

  • your business is based in England
  • you are a small business and already receive SBBR and/or RRR
  • you are a business that occupies property

How to access the scheme – You do not need to do anything. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant.

Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs and grants should be directed to the relevant local authority.

Find your local authority. Find your local authority

Time to PAY scheme

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.

If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, please call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559.

Income Tax Self-Assessment

Payments due on the 31 July 2020 may be deferred until 31 January 2021. You are eligible if you are due to pay your second self-assessment payment on account on 31 July. You do not need to be self-employed to be eligible for the deferment.

The deferment is optional. If you are still able to pay your second payment on account on 31 July you should do so.

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged if you defer payment until January 2021.


Health & Safety advice

Recommendations from the FMB regarding Health & Safety on site

You’ll find other advice and news on COVID-19 from the FMB here.

  • The builder should undertake a risk assessment of the situation, including any concerns from workers and clients. It is vital that the risk involved in each job is assessed, and that key considerations around health and welfare are the primary concerns for any work you undertake.
  • Builders and clients should communicate as much as possible via phone, email and video call, in order to minimise face to face contact, including any signing of documents or provision of certificates.
  • Note that sharing mobile phones/tablets/pens etc may risk infection.
  • No work should be carried out in households which are self-isolating, are shielded, or are showing Coronavirus symptoms unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the household, such as emergency plumbing, heating or electrical repairs, or other safety risk, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so, taking all possible precautions. See Government advice on vulnerable groups.
  • No work should be carried out by any tradesperson who is showing Coronavirus symptoms, however mild.
  • Call ahead on the day to check that no one in the household has started to show symptoms of the virus, has been diagnosed or is self-isolating.
  • Remember not to shake hands, this is often instinctive.
  • If the part of the home that the builders are working in can be divided off from the rest of the house, leaving the clients in residence with sufficient kitchen and bathroom facilities, this will enable any emergency work to be carried out whilst still observing social distancing. Where this is not possible, residents should stay in a different room with the door closed.
  • The Government’s recommendation of keeping two metres apart should be applied stringently. Any time spent closer than two metres must be kept to an absolute minimum. Government has provided advice on social distancing.
  • Separate washing facilities and refreshment stations should also be arranged where possible.
  • Whilst on site, continue to follow the advice on frequent hand-washing when not wearing gloves, using hand sanitiser and not touching the face.
  • Tools must not be shared between workers. Under no circumstances should PPE, including facemasks be shared.
  • Workers should take their breaks separately, for example eating lunch in their own vehicles or well away from each other. Consider staggered break times.
  • Workers should not travel together to site in the same vehicle, and should avoid public transport. If this is not possible then they will not be able to work.
  • Construction workers are not classed as critical workers, and therefore do not have access to childcare being provided through schools. This may make it difficult for them to continue working.
  • Use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as facemasks, gloves and safety glasses, can be extended to cover all of the time on site, rather than only the time when they are necessary during dust-producing tasks for example. Disposable equipment should be used if at all possible. The HSE has issued advice on using facemasks to avoid transmission of Coronavirus.
  • Good housekeeping and keeping a safe, tidy site is even more important than usual. Tools and equipment should be cleaned and disinfected, at the start and finish of any job, and all materials left tidily. There is information on the Government website about cleaning workspaces, but nothing specific to construction sites.
  • If at any time a worker on site feels unsafe, they should assess how to leave whatever they are working on in a safe state, contact their employer, and leave the site. Employers should make sure that any operatives going to a site to carry out emergency work are aware of this.
  • Any clothing worn on site should be changed as soon as you get home and washed so as not to harbour viruses. Any re-useable PPE (e.g. safety glasses) should be washed. Any wipes, disposable gloves etc should be bagged up and disposed of in accordance with local waste regulations.

Construction Leadership Council advice

The Construction Leadership Council has also issued a Site Operating Procedure to apply during the Coronavirus crisis. This can be found at the CLC website.

The changes in Site Operating Procedures – Version 4 are minimal and include:
  • Removal of the requirement for face to face contact to be kept to 15 minutes or less
  • The section on PPE now links to the latest Government guidance on face coverings
  • References to one-way systems and the reconfiguration of seating and tables and an update on portable toilets
  • The requirement to share risk assessments with the workforce
  • Clarification on when to travel to work, as set out in the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy
  • Updated links and wording on social distancing.

Other useful links

The government’s current publication on Covid-19 support

Advice from Federation of Small Businesses

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme lenders

Advice from ACAS for employers and employees

Mental wellbeing during the pandemic from Mind charity