COVID-19 Update

Latest update on Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK (updated on 22nd June 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 (CJRS)

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”.

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

On 29th May the chancellor outlined how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will operate moving forward to allow for employees to return to work part time. The new details are outlined below.

  • The CJRS will close to new entrants on 30 June 2020. The final date employers could furlough staff for the first time was 10 June 2020.
  • From 1 July 2020, employers can bring back employees to work part-time, for any amount of time and any shift pattern. Any claim under CJRS will be limited to normal hours not worked.
  • June/July 2020 – Government will continue to pay 80% of costs up to the £2,500 cap.
  • August 2020 – Government will pay 80% of wages up to £2,500 cap, but employers will have to cover employers’ NIC and pension costs for the hours the employee does not work.
  • September 2020 – Government will pay 70% of wages up to a reduced £2,187.50 cap. Employers will pay employers’ NIC, pension costs and 10% of wages to a total cap of £2,500.
  • October 2020 - Government will pay 60% of wages up to a reduced £1,875 cap. Employers will pay employers’ NIC, pension costs and 20% of wages to a total cap of £2,500.
  • The cap will be proportional to hours not worked.
  • The CJRS will be closed-down 31 October 2020.

We recommend you plan carefully the months ahead if you have employees on furlough where you either continue as per now, start introducing part-time working (up to 31 October) or bring them back to work fully. Also consider longer-term planning after the end of the CJRS scheme.

Our payroll administrators can advise you on the practical side and our legal department can provide the variation agreements to avoid problems with employees after the scheme is finished.

Self-Employed (SEISS)

The chancellor has extended the SEISS for a final three-month period to 31 August 2020.

This means that the self-employed who are eligible to claim will have received six-months financial support from government.

As before, applicants will have to wait until the last month of the claim period, August 2020, to make a claim.

The changes are as follows:

  • SEISS extended for three months to 31 August 2020
  • Applications covering the June – August 2020 period will open in August.
  • Grant available will be 70% of eligible earnings (previous quarter 80%).
  • Maximum grant for the three-months will be £6,570 (previous quarter £7,500) paid in a single instalment.
  • Eligibility criteria remains unchanged.
  • A self-employed person can claim for the second grant, to August 2020, even if they had not claimed for the first grant.

More information on these changes will be published 12 June 2020. Claims for the first quarter (March-May 2020) will close 13 July 2020.

If you did not claim for the first quarter, to May 2020, as your business at that time was not adversely affected, but will be affected in the quarter to 31 August 2020, it will be possible to claim for the second quarter.

If you are eligible to make a claim for this second grant under the scheme you will still be subject to the same rules regarding eligibility. These are:

  • 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.

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

Since 15 June, Belgium re-opened its borders for travel to and from the European Union, including the United Kingdom and the four other Schengen countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway). However, it is up to each country to decide whether to open its borders, for example we do not know if France will allow UK citizens to travel over their territory.

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

Home secretary Priti Patel has declared that she will follow through with Britain’s 14-day quarantine scheme.

Under this new system that starts on June 8 people who enter the country have to complete an online form, give their location, contact information and this will be followed with 14-days self-isolation. The ones refusing to comply with this, will face serious consequences.

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