Advice and support for businesses
You can watch a video of the recorded webinar on the HMRC YouTube channel Coronavirus – (COVID-19): helping employers to support employees.
Government updates affecting the tourism industry
Winter Economy Plan and latest COVID-19 guidance
Further to today’s announcement by the Chancellor, we are pleased to share a summary of the next phase of Government support as well as the latest updates to guidance to help you run your business.
Today the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced new measures in his Winter Economy plan, the next phase in the Government’s support for businesses and the economy. This includes help for the hospitality and tourism sectors, which he described as “two of our most affected sectors”.
Key announcements include a new Jobs Support Scheme, extending the Self Employment Income Support Scheme and 15% VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism sectors until March 2021, and help for businesses in repaying government-backed loans.
Tax cuts and deferrals
- The VAT reduction from 20% to 5% for the hospitality and tourism sectors will be extended until the end of March 2021.
- Businesses who deferred their VAT will no longer have to pay a lump sum at the end of March next year. They will have the option of splitting it into smaller, interest free payments over the course of 11 months next financial year.
- Self-assessed income tax payers who need extra help can now benefit from a 12-month extension on the “Time to Pay” self-service facility, meaning payments deferred from July 2020, and those due in January 2021, will now not need to be paid until January 2022.
New Jobs Support Scheme
The furlough scheme will not be extended. Instead a new six-month Jobs Support Scheme will start in November:
- The Government will directly support the wages of people in viable work. Businesses facing reduced demand can avoid making employees redundant by keeping them on shorter hours.
- The employee will work at least a third of their normal hours paid by the employer.
- For the hours not worked, the Government and the employer will each pay one third of their equivalent salary.
- The level of grant will be calculated based on employee’s usual salary, capped at £697.92 per month.
- All SMEs are eligible for the scheme, but larger firms can apply too if their turnover is affected by coronavirus.
- Employers that are retaining furlough staff on shorter hours can claim both the Job Support Scheme and the Jobs Retention bonus.
Self Employment Income Support Scheme Grant (SEISS)
- SEISS will be extended on similar terms as the new Job Support Scheme
- An initial taxable grant will be provided to those who are currently eligible for SEISS and are continuing to actively trade but face reduced demand due to coronavirus.
- The initial lump sum will cover three months’ worth of profits for the period from November to the end of January 2021, worth 20% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £1,875.
- An additional second grant to cover the period from February 2021 to the end of April – this may be adjusted to respond to changing circumstances.
- A new Pay as you Grow repayment system will provide flexibility for firms repaying a Bounce Back Loan. This includes:
- Extending repayments from 6 to 10 years
- Interest-only payments,
- Suspending repayments for up to six months if needed.
Credit ratings won’t be affected.
- The Government has said it intends to give Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme lenders the ability to extend the length of loans from a maximum of six years to ten years if it will help businesses to repay the loan.
- The application deadline for all coronavirus loan schemes – including the future fund - has been extended to 30 November
Further updates for businesses
The new NHS COVID-19 app is now available
The new NHS COVID-19 app is now available to download for free in England and Wales and is the fastest way to see if you or your business are at risk from coronavirus.
Hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses are required to request contact details from staff, customers and visitors, and display the official NHS QR code poster. You should have NHS QR code posters visible on entry so customers who have downloaded the new NHS COVID-19 app can use their smartphones to easily check-in.
Updated guidance reflecting the new restrictions in England
This week, the Government announced further updates to their guidance and provided some useful points of clarifications.
You can also see a summary of what has changed including face coverings, working from home, businesses and meeting people safely. This includes confirmation food and drink must be ordered from, and served at, a table in licensed premises.
Guidance on when to wear a face covering and the exemptions is available. The guidance defines a face covering as “something which safely covers the nose and mouth" and "must securely fit round the side of the face". A visor is not classed as a face covering. Also in shops employees need to wear masks even if they are behind a screen.
Businesses need to promote the wearing of face coverings by staff and customers and compliance through signage and other appropriate means in order to be COVID-secure. There is no obligation on businesses to enforce these new measures. Rather than simply refuse entry to someone not wearing a face covering, a business may instead ask that individual to put one on, bearing in mind that some people are exempt. If an individual is acting anti-socially or against the rules, staff will be able to ask them to leave, or call the police if necessary. This is a matter for the police, who can take measures if people do not comply with this law without a valid exemption. The penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will now double to £200 for a first offence.
The safer transport guidance for operators reflecting new legislation on social contact and the requirement for passengers to wear face coverings in taxis and private hire vehicles.
Business meetings of up to 30 remain permitted
Meetings of up to 30 people indoors are allowed in permitted venues if social distancing can be maintained and the venue can demonstrate it has followed the COVID-19 guidance. If permitted venues have multiple, separate meeting facilities, these can be hired out simultaneously for separate meetings/events if social distancing can be maintained, groups can be kept separate, and the venue can demonstrate it has followed the COVID-19 guidance.
Changes to hospitality services within hotels
Hospitality services within hotels, such as hotel dining rooms and bars will need to follow the new requirement to close to the public between 10pm-5am. Hotels will still be able to provide food and drink through room service as long as it is ordered by phone or online.
Update to coach operators and whether coach tours can go ahead
If it is possible to ensure that groups of more than six do not mingle on a tour, coach tours of over six people on the coach can go ahead. People must stay in their groups of up to six (or larger if they are from one household) on all parts of the tour - for example whilst in hospitality settings and when visiting attractions as well as whilst on the coach.
Legislation does not place any capacity constraints on public transport services, private hire vehicles or leisure tours. Operators should continue to provide Covid-secure transport services which can accommodate multiple groups of six people. DfT will update the transport guidance shortly to clarify and assist passengers and operators.
Other guidance updates
- The Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can't do
- Meeting with others safely guidance reflecting the new guidance in the areas of social distancing, seeing friends and family and rules in other venues and activities. The guidance outlines the exceptions where more than six people can meet including that where a group includes someone covered by such an exception (for example, someone who is working), they are not counted as part of the gatherings limit.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon to outline the Government’s response to the rising number of Coronavirus cases, including new restrictions in England.
- From Thursday 24 September all pubs, bars, and restaurants must operate a table service only (except for takeaways)
- Also, from Thursday, all hospitality venues must close at 10:00pm. Takeaways should also close, but they can continue to provide delivery services after 10:00pm
- The requirement to wear face coverings has been extended to include staff in retail, all users of taxis/private hire and to staff and customers in indoor hospitality with the exception of when seated at a table to eat or drink.
- In retail, leisure, tourism and hospitality settings, the Government’s COVID-19 secure guidelines will become legal obligations. Businesses will be fined and can be closed if they breach the rules.
- From Monday 28 September a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions. Up to 30 will still be able to attend funerals.
- Business events, and large sports events, will not be able to reopen from 1 October as intended.
- Office workers who can work from home have been asked to do so. In professions where this is not possible, people should continue to go into their workplace.
- The rule of six will be extended to all adult indoor team sports.
These rules will be enforced by tighter penalties. The penalty for breaking the rule of 6 or not wearing a mask when required will double to £200 for a first offence. The police will be provided with extra funding, and given the ability to draw on military support when needed.
New measures to support and enforce self-isolation in England from 28 September
From 28 September, people will be legally required to self-isolate when instructed to by NHS Test and Trace. Fines for those breaching self-isolation rules will start at £1,000, in line with the penalty for breaking quarantine after international travel, and can increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences and for more serious breaches, including for those preventing others from self-isolating. For example, this could include business owners who threaten self-isolating staff with redundancy if they do not come to work. A number of steps will be taken to make sure that people are complying with the rules.
A payment of £500 will be available for people in England who are on lower incomes, cannot work from home and have lost income as a result of self-isolating. Local Authorities are setting up these self-isolation support schemes which are expected to be in place by 12 October. Those who start to self-isolate from 28 September will receive backdated payments once the scheme is set up in their Local Authority.
Tighter restrictions to be introduced in North East England from 18 September
In a statement today Health Secretary Matt Hancock outlined the tighter restrictions that will come into force from tomorrow 18 September for Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham.
- Residents of these areas should not socialise with other people outside their own households or support bubble.
- Hospitality for food and drink will be restricted to table service only
- Late night restrictions of operating hours will be introduced, so leisure and entertainment venues must close between 10pm and 5am.
Residents of these areas have also been advised to adhere to the following guidance:
- Not to socialise with other people outside of their own households in all public venues.
- To take holidays only within your own household or support bubble
- Only to use public transport for essential purposes, such as travelling to school or work
- To avoid attending amateur and semi-professional sporting events as spectators
New NHS COVID-19 app to support test and trace
Launching on 24 September, the new NHS COVID-19 app will help businesses meet the new legal requirement to record the contact details of customers, visitors and staff on their premises.
Following the launch of the new COVID-19 app, customers and visitors in England will be able to check-in on entry with their phone instead of filling out a check-in book or tool specific to a business. This will allow NHS Test and Trace to contact customers with public health advice should there be a COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses who are already using their own QR system are being encouraged to switch to the NHS Test and Trace QR code. An alternative check-in method must be maintained to collect the contact details of those who don’t have the app, for example a handwritten register.
You should create and display a QR code if you are:
- A business, place of worship or community organisation with a physical location that is open to the public
- An event which is taking place in a physical location
- Once you have registered for your QR code you are being encouraged to display the NHS QR code posters in a place that is visible on entry to the business. Find out more
New measures and restrictions in place
From 14 September new measures are in effect, including a restriction on social gatherings of more than 6 people and a requirement for businesses to collect visitor data to support the NHS Test and Trace system.
The guidance on working safely during COVID-19 has been updated with priority actions for businesses to take, including steps for collecting information for the Test and Trace system and rules on gatherings of more than 6 people. Sector-specific guidance is available for the following:
- Performing arts
- Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services
- Heritage locations
- Hotels and other guest accommodation
- The visitor economy
- Guidance for small weddings, civil partnerships and receptions has also been updated.
Following requests for more detail, please see the following clarifications from DCMS:
- COVID-19 secure venues will be able to host business events of up to 30 people taking into account Visitor Economy guidance, including social distancing requirements.
- The intention remains to reopen exhibition and conference centres from the 1 October but this will need to be continually assessed in light of the recent spike in cases.
- If it is possible to ensure that groups of more than six do not mingle on a guided tour, it can go ahead. This would potentially be the case for a day trip or shorter tours of a visitor attraction.
Areas with restrictions
Despite the introduction of new national restrictions in England, people in areas with local restrictions should continue to follow the rules in their specific area within private homes and gardens, and in public venues including pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues, or visitor attractions and parks. These areas include Blackburn with Darwen, Oldham and Pendle, Bolton, Leicester City, North of England, Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull.
Local lockdown updates:
New restrictions in Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull announced
New restrictions on meeting other people have been announced in order to push down the coronavirus rate of infection in Birmingham (city council area), Sandwell (metropolitan borough council area), Solihull (metropolitan borough council area). From Tuesday 15 September residents in these areas will not be able to mix with any other households, indoors or in private gardens, except for those in a support bubble. This applies both inside and outside the city boundaries.
Leicester City – reopening of some businesses
From 15 September, the following businesses and venues can reopen or restart in Leicester City
- skating rinks
- bowling alleys
- indoor play areas, including soft play areas
- exhibition centres and conference halls for external attendees
- indoor performances
- close contact services, which are any treatments on the face such as eyebrow threading or make-up application
- wedding receptions and celebrations, including for up to 30 people in the form of a sit-down meal
Calculate how much to claim through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Updated guidance is available to help employers calculate employees’ working and furloughed hours for workers who came off furlough partway through a claim period. Employers using this calculation do not need to amend previous claims.
This afternoon the Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference with the introduction of some new measures from Monday 14 September in England.
General measures and rule of six
- From Monday 14 September, it will no longer be legal to meet socially in groups of more than 6. This will apply indoors and outdoors, including in private homes and hospitality settings like the pub. There will be a limited number of exemptions.
- This single measure replaces both the existing ban on gatherings of more than 30 and the current guidance on allowing 2 households to meet indoors.
Work settings and weddings and funerals
- Education and work settings are unaffected, and organised team sports will still be able to proceed, as will weddings and funerals up to 30. From Monday 14 September, this limit will be enforceable in law.
COVID Secure venues – tourism and hospitality
- COVID-19 Secure venues, such as places of worship, restaurants and hospitality venues, can still host larger numbers in total but groups of up to 6 must not mix or form larger groups. This rule will not apply to individual households or support bubbles of more than 6 who will still be able to gather together.
- Premises and venues where people meet socially will be legally required to request the contact details of a member of every party, record and retain these details for 21 days, and provide them to NHS Test & Trace without delay when required.
- The government will support local authorities to make further and faster use of their powers to close venues that are breaking the rules and pose a risk to public health.
- Fines will be levied against hospitality venues that fail to ensure their premises remain COVID Secure.
- The government will boost the enforcement capacity of local authorities by introducing COVID Secure Marshalls to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres, and by setting up a register of Environmental Health Officers that local authorities can draw upon for support.
- The government will restrict the opening hours of premises, initially in local lockdown areas, with the option of national action in the future.
Simplified guidance is available on gov.uk.
Events, conferences and sport
- Plans to pilot larger audiences in venues later this month will be reviewed along with the intention to return audiences to stadiums and conference centres from 1 October. That doesn’t mean the programme will be scrapped entirely. The Culture Secretary is expected to provide an update in due course.
- Planned sports pilot events will be limited to smaller, safer numbers, with strict conditions to ensure social distancing, and will not take place in areas where incidence is high.
- The government will take steps to improve compliance with border requirements. They will simplify the Passenger Locator Form needed for travelling to the UK, and take measures to ensure these are completed and checked before departure.
- Border Force will step up enforcement efforts at the border to ensure arrivals are complying with the quarantine rules.
New grants for businesses affected by local lockdowns
Businesses in England required to close due to local lockdowns or targeted restrictions will now be able to receive grants worth up to £1,500 every three weeks. To be eligible for the grant, a business must have been required to close due to local COVID-19 restrictions. The largest businesses will receive £1,500 every three weeks they are required to close. Smaller businesses will receive £1,000. Payments are triggered by a national decision to close businesses in a high incidence area. Each payment will be made for a 3-week lockdown period. Each new 3-week lockdown period triggers an additional payment. Currently these payments are available in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle, and Oldham as part of an ongoing trial scheme.