COVID-19 Update

Latest update on Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK (updated on 2 November 2020)

  1. Safety at work guidelines
  2. Business Support from the Government
  3. Travel
  4. Other sources to consult and approved by the BLCC

Below you will find the latest information on business support provided by the UK Government, who can get back to work and updates on how to get from the UK to Belgium.

NB: the notes below are based upon information the government have published so far and as they do not seem always to know how to implement the new policies,  we are dealing with a moving target.


1. Safety at work

In order to make sure that your employees are safe, you should read and act upon the Government’s following guidelines which are subdivided per sector:

Note that employees who can work from home, should continue to do so.


2. Business Support from the British Government

You can find the latest updates for both businesses and employees on the following links:

Support for Businesses

Guidance for Employees

Herewith also some more detailed explanations of the different schemes in place:

On Saturday 31 October the UK Government announced that the UK would be going into a National Lockdown from the 5 November to 2 December 2020 (current dates provided by the UK government). They also made a further announcement regarding the Job Support Scheme (‘’JSS’’), this scheme that was due to commence in November has now been postponed until December and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (‘’CJRS’’ or “furlough scheme”) will remain open until December.

The level of the grant will mirror levels available under the CJRS in August, meaning the UK Government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £ 2,500 and employers will pay employers National Insurance Contributions (‘’NICS’’) and employers pension contributions. As under the current CJRS, flexible furloughing will be allowed in addition to full-time furloughing.

To be eligible to claim under the extended CJRS, employees must be on an employer’s PAYE payroll by 23:59 30 October 2020. Neither the employer nor employee needs to have previously used the CJRS.

As with the current CJRS, employers can choose to top up employee wages above the scheme grant at their own expense.

A link to the guidance announced by the UK government on 31 October is here:


Job Support Scheme (JSS) as from 1 December

A new Job Support Scheme will be introduced from 1 December to protect jobs where businesses are facing lower demand over the winter months due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Under the scheme, which will run for five months, the government will contribute towards the wages of employees who are working fewer than normal hours due to decreased demand.

There are two schemes:

  • JSS Open is for employers who remain open and face reduced demand and
  • JSS Closed is for businesses who have been legally required to close their premises as a direct result of coronavirus restrictions set by the UK government.

You can read more details on the following factsheets

Job Support Scheme Expansion for Closed Business Premises (pdf)

JSS Open Factsheet (pdf)

The latest factsheets summarises the latest changes to JSS Open.  These include:

  • The minimum hours required for employees to work has dropped from 33% to 20% of normal hours and the employer contribution for non-worked hours has dropped from 1/3 to 5%
  • The UK government will pay 61.67% of hours not worked up to a cap of £1,541.75 (under the previous announcement the government contribution was 1/3 of hours not worked up to a cap of £697.92)
  • The employer contribution of 5% of non-worked hours is paid up to a cap of £125 per month based on a reference salary of £3,125.
  • This will ensure employees earn a minimum of at least 73% of their normal wages where their usual wages do not exceed the reference salary
  • Large employers (with 250 or more employees) will have to meet a financial impact test, so the scheme is only available to those whose turnover has stayed level or is lower now than before experiencing difficulties from Covid-19
  • Fully public funded organisations are not expected to use the scheme, as has been the case with the CJRS, but partially publicly funded organisations are eligible where their private revenues have been disrupted.
  • Employers must have agreed the temporary working arrangement for shorter hours in writing with employees (or union)
  • Claims will be able to be made, in arrears, online from 8 December 2020.

The government has said further guidance on the steps that employers need to take to calculate and make a claim to the Job Support Scheme will be published by the end of October.

The Job Support Scheme will start from 1 November and you will be able to claim in December. Grants will be paid on a monthly basis.

The scheme will operate in addition to the Job Retention Bonus. You and your employees can benefit from both schemes in order to help protect viable jobs.

Our payroll administrators and our legal team can advise you on the practical side of things as Variation Agreements to the existing employment contracts will have to be made.


Extension to the reduced rate of VAT for Hospitality and Tourism

The government has extended the temporary reduced rate of VAT (5%) to tourist attractions and goods and services supplied by the hospitality sector. This relief came into effect on 15 July 2020 and will now end on 31 March 2021 across the UK.

VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme

If you deferred payments that were due between 20 March and 30 June 2020, then these payments need to be made to HMRC by 31 March 2021. You can use the New Payment Scheme to spread these payments over equal instalments up to 31 March 2022. Alternatively, you can make payments as normal by 31 March 2021 or make Time To Pay arrangements with HMRC if you need more tailored support.

Business Rate Relief for small businesses

If you rent or use your own premises in the UK, you may receive a business rates tax holiday up to April 2021. This will be sent to you by post or e-mail by your local council.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

To support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance, banks get Government support to keep lending.

Having worked closely with Her Majesty's Treasury and the British Business Bank, CBILS can provide facilities of up to £5 million for UK smaller businesses (SMEs) who are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to their cashflow.

Many small businesses that have applied for a government backed CBILS loan thus far have been offered standard overdrafts and loans – without the Government's 80% guarantee – on the basis that they fit the banks’ criteria for this type of lending.

The Chancellor has now confirmed that this is not the intention of his CBILS scheme and that from now on all businesses affected by the COVID-19 disruption should be offered a CBILS loan with the government guarantee.

Who is eligible for CBILS?

To help you understand if you may be eligible, please ensure you answer yes to the following points below:

  • Your application must be for business purposes
  • You must be a UK-based SME with annual turnover of up to £45 million
  • Your CBILS-backed facility will be used to support primarily trading in the UK
  • You wish to borrow between £25,001 up to a maximum of £5 million.
  • Loan term 1- 6 years.
  • No arrangement fees. No security fees. No interest payments for 12 months.
  • Capital Repayment Holiday up to 12 months meaning nothing to pay for 12 months.
  • Loans in the scheme are limited to 25% of your 2019 turnover or double your annual wage bill whichever is greater.

Further eligibility applies. If banks can offer finance on normal commercial terms without the need to make use of the CBILS scheme, then they will do so.

You can find out more information and how to apply for the scheme by going to your Business Banking homepage, or speaking to your Relationship Manager.

HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

If you are struggling to pay your taxes to HMRC whether that is PAYE, VAT or Corporation tax you can contact HMRC on 0800 0159 559, to ask for a payment plan.

New Self Assessment Self-Serve Time To Pay Scheme

If you deferred paying your July 2020 Payment on Account, you will need to pay the deferred amount, in addition to any balancing payment and first 2020/21 Payment on Account, by 31 January 2021. This may be a larger payment than you usually pay in January.

If you're unable to pay your Self-Assessment (SA) bill in full by 31 January 2021, you can set up a Time to Pay payment plan of up to 12 months online without speaking to us. If you have SA tax debts of up to £30,000, you'll able to access this Time to Pay facility through GOV.UK and will get automatic and immediate approval. If your SA debts are over £30,000, or you need longer than 12 months to repay your debt in full, you will still be able to use our Time to Pay arrangement by calling HMRC.


3. Travel

To Belgium

Belgians who want to travel back to Belgium should check the latest news on the following website:

You can also contact them by calling +32 78 15 17 71 – opening hours between 9h and 18h BE time (7d/7)

In order to travel through France, you can generate an International Travel Certificate for France in French & English with a QR code that can be used on their smartphone or tablet:

To the UK

Before you travel to the UK, please check the Government’s website:

There are also some exceptions to the quarantine obligation which can be consulted on the following list:

In order to travel to the UK through France, transiting you can generate an International Travel Certificate for France in French & English with a QR code that can be used on their smartphone or tablet:


4. Other approved sources

The BLCC also recommends the following webpages provided by its Members to deal with issues such as:

  • Dealing with orders being cancelled by business customers.
  • Retaining ownership to goods supplied
  • Handling consumer cancellations.
  • Negotiating with landlords.