Every business in the UK has now been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Even those in vital sectors that continue to operate are seeing reduced turnover and demand due to quarantine and self-isolation. But the government, Bank of England, and local authorities have implemented a number of emergency measures to shore up finances by those hit hardest by the outbreak. The aim is to accept that the UK economy will be dented by the virus, rather than destroyed.
With that in mind, the majority of schemes are designed to preserve the status quo of trading prior to the outbreak. Aid takes the form of deferred payments, low-cost loans and – in a minority of cases – small scale grant funding.
We have briefly outlined the options available to different sections of the UK economy below.
For Recruitment Agencies
Crucially, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is available to recruitment agencies.
Agency workers who pay income tax through PAYE will qualify your company for the available support. It means that you may claim up to 80 per cent of your PAYE placements’ salaries, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. The scheme is intended to run for three months from March 1st, and all employees paying PAYE on or before February 28th 2020 will qualify.
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For Small Businesses
The most significant emergency package for SMEs is the introduction of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).
This initiative supports SMEs by providing access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance. The scheme supplies financing of up to £5 million, with a maximum loan term of six years.
The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and lenders’ fees. The structure ensures no up-front costs to borrowing, and that initial payments will remain affordable to the individual business.
Up to 80 per cent of each loan is underwritten by the UK government. This step was taken to encourage commercial lenders to provide support where it is required with full confidence. The publicly-owned British Business Bank will be the guarantor of commercial loans made under the scheme.
It is strongly advised that all UK-based SMEs with financial questions consider the options available under the CBILS.
Small businesses that pay lower or no business rates may be entitled to a one-off emergency grant of £10,000. This is a payment made to assist in covering ongoing business costs.
Firms which received small business rate relief (SBRR), tapered relief, or rural rate relief (RRR) on or prior to March 11th may be able to claim. Claims should be made by contacting your local authority.
Finally, the government will permit the deferral of VAT payments for small businesses. Follow the government guidelines for applying for deferred VAT payments.
For Larger Firms
Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Bank of England have launched a joint initiative called the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF). This scheme is intended to ease the debt burden on larger enterprises.
Under the initiative, the Bank of England will purchase the short-term debts of corporate businesses. The intention is to remove the debt burden from any single point of weakness in the supply chain, and to re-inject capital into the market.
This scheme will be useful to suppliers of services to enterprises. In many cases, these firms will have broad outward exposure to customers who now face difficulties paying for services. The CCFF will enable these large suppliers to relax collection of outstanding debt while continuing to deliver on vital services.
Employers presently have two priorities: to keep operating, and to keep their existing teams together. There is support available for both of these objectives.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is available to employers whose team members pay income tax via PAYE. For teams primarily comprising of contractors, there are other options (see ‘Employees & Contractors’, below).
But not all support is funding or finance. Some of the help available to you is information and sharing experiences. Our guide to running a remote team for the first time will help you to set up, and get back to work. It contains simple tips to secure your systems and operate remotely, as a cohesive team, while working from home.
For Employees & Contractors
One of the toughest challenges of the outbreak has been resolving the needs of the individual. The official advice to individuals facing financial hardship is to apply for universal credit. This takes the form of a monthly payment (twice-monthly in Scotland) to assist with cost of living expenses.
According to latest reports, around 950,000 Britons made new claims for universal credit since March 16th. However, under normal circumstances that figure would usually be closer to 100,000. That is by far the greatest single increase in the number of claimants since the allowance was introduced.
While the claims process has been slowed by the demand placed on it, universal credit remains the best place for individuals to begin. We have also seen how localised community schemes have been set up to respond to redundancies, furloughed staff, and lockdowns. The self-employed can also defer tax liabilities.