COVID-19 Update

Latest update on Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK (updated on 26th May 2020)

  1. Back to work? Safety at work guidelines
  2. Business Support from the Government
  3. Travel
  4. Other sources to consult and approved by the BLCC to deal with orders being cancelled by business customers, retaining ownership to goods supplied, handling consumer cancellations and negotiating with landlords.

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

As from Wednesday 13 May, employees who cannot work from home are encouraged to go back to work but under strict safety guidelines. 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:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

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

We do however feel it is necessary to comment on the main points and help you to understand the practical side. These are:

Furloughed employees

The chancellor announced on 20th March that the government will reimburse 80% of the salary for employees who have been designated and notified rightfully by their employers as “furloughed”. This measure is subject to a cap of £2,500 per month per employee (gross).  To qualify for the scheme furloughed employees should not undertake work while they are furloughed and the minimum period is 3 weeks.

The BLCC has successfully applied for furlough for many members with UK staff in April. Refunds from the UK Government to the employers, have been made within a week.

The scheme was updated on 12 May and will be extended to the end of July in its current form. It will become more flexible but also less generous as from August, allowing a mix of furloughing and working, but with smaller contributions from the Government. The main points are:

  • The scheme will continue in its current form until the end of July and changes to allow more flexibility will come in from the start of August. More specific details and information around its implementation will be made available by the end of this monthso the scheme carries on as it is until the end of July and no changes until then and more details by the end of May
  • Scheme extended by 4 more months until end of October
  • New flexibility from August
  • From the start of August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff – The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month. – this is an indication that the level of government support would begin to taper away after August

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-extends-furlough-scheme-until-october

Self-Employed

The scheme to support self-employed people through the Corona virus, is as follows:

  • Those that qualify receive a cash grant from HMRC based on 80% of profits, up to £2,500 per month,
  • The initial grant is for the three months, from 1 March through to the end of May 2020, but could be extended for a longer period.

To be eligible, the following conditions will be taken into account:

  • Applicants must be self-employed or a member of a trading partnership,
  • Have lost trading profits due to COVID-19,
  • Have filed a tax return for 2018-19. Late filers will have four weeks from 26 March 2020 to do so,
  • Have traded in 2019-20; be currently trading at the point of application (or would be except for COVID-19) and intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21,
  • Have trading profits of less than £50,000 and more than half of total income from self-employment. This can be with reference to at least one of the following conditions:
    • Your trading profits and total income in 2018-19,
    • Your average trading profits and total income across up to the three years between 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19.

There is no need to apply to HMRC as they will contact you if you are eligible. HMRC will use existing data to make this judgement. The initial three-month grant will be paid directly to a nominated bank account in a single lump sum. The grants are expected to be paid out at the beginning of June. The reason for this delay is likely down to three main factors: the 4 weeks additional filing time for late filers, the requirement to set up a complex new system at the same time as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and to reduce the risk of fraud.

It is assumed that those self-employed who have experienced a significant drop in income due to COVID-19 disruption will need to apply for Universal Credits or Business Continuity Loans to tide them over until June.

VAT Deferment

The Chancellor has also stated that all VAT due between 20 March and 30 June 2020 can be deferred – there is no requirement to inform HMRC of this  - the VAT due in this deferment period must be paid to HMRC before 31 March 2021. If you normally pay by direct debit and wish to defer your payment you should cancel this direct debit.

You can opt-in to the deferral simply by not making VAT payments due in this period.

There will also be no interest charged on any deferment provided it is repaid prior to 31 March 2021.

Should you wish, you can continue to make payments as normal during the deferral period. Any VAT refunds or reclaims will continue to be processed as usual.

VAT returns must still be submitted – and Try Lunn & Co have put procedures in place to allow this to continue.

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.

If your business rates are between £15,000 and £51,000, you will receive a grant of £25,000 which you do not have to pay back. This will be sent to you by post or e-mail by your local council.

If you do rent premises and fall under Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR), you will receive a £10,000 grant which you do not have to pay back. 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.

If you have any further questions regarding any of the above please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

3. Travel

To Belgium

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

https://www.info-coronavirus.be

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:

https://media.interieur.gouv.fr/deplacement-vers-france-covid-19/index-en.html

To the UK

At this moment in time, we have no reported problems for businesspeople wanting to travel to the UK but the Government’s advice remains that only essential travel should be undertaken. Travel to the UK will however change radically from 8 June onwards as there will be new rules for entering or returning to the UK. You will:

  • need to provide your journey and contact details when you travel to the UK
  • not be allowed to leave the place you’re staying for the first 14 days you’re in the UK except in very limited situations (known as ‘self-isolating’)

If you are planning to arrive back in the UK on or after 8 June, you must read the guidance on entering the UK from 8 June.

Important: this guidance will be reviewed every 3 weeks.

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

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-travellers-exempt-from-uk-border-rules/coronavirus-covid-19-travellers-exempt-from-uk-border-rules

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:

https://media.interieur.gouv.fr/deplacement-vers-france-covid-19/index-en.html

 

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.

www.foxwilliams.com/COVID-19-legal