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Coronavirus Hub

Keeping you up to date and supporting your business

As the Coronavirus continues to impact the operations of businesses, learn more about the steps that Chambers and members can implement to minimise impact on local communities and support the UK government's strategy.

  • This information is based on official guidance from the UK government and will be amended as and when we receive updated information.
  • If you have any queries please contact your local Chamber.

*Page last updated 24 March 2020*

Business support and official guidance

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For the latest information and advice, UK employers and business owners should visit the official guidance for employers and businesses. Businesses should check for daily updates and subscribe to receive email alerts to ensure they are acting on the most up to date information.

Coronavirus Business Support

A full range of business support measures have been made available to UK businesses and employees.

This page helps businesses find out how to access the support that has been made available, who is eligible, when the schemes open and how to apply.

Additional support for business

Trade

The government has published guidance on DIT and financial support for UK businesses trading internationally: Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for UK businesses


Pubs and restaurants



Additional support:

Support available from UK government

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The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme opened for applications on 23 March. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme supports a wide range of business finance products, including term loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance facilities. Find out more about the CBILS and how to apply.

How to access government financial support if you or your business has been affected by Coronavirus? Review the HM Treasury Coronavirus factsheet.

A number of private lenders are also making funds available to small businesses impacted by Coronavirus, including £2 billion from Lloyds Banking Group and £5 billion from NatWest.


The 2020 Budget announced a plan to provide support for businesses affected by Coronavirus. These measures were supplemented with further UK government responses on 17 and 20 March.

Key measures

  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - Government grants will cover 80% of the salary of retained workers, up to a total of £2,500 a month. The scheme, open to any employer in the country, will cover the cost of wages backdated to March 1st and will be open before the end of April for at least 3 months.
  • Deferral of VAT for 3 months - VAT payments will be deferred for 3 months (until 30 June 2020). This is an automatic offer with no applications required. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020 to 2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. For the self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021. Self-employed will get full Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay.
  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme - a new scheme delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable small and medium sized businesses to apply for a loan of up to £5m, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses and with no interest due for the first twelve months. Those loans will now be available on Monday 23rdMarch.

  • Time to Pay upscaled - a dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities to receive support with their tax affairs. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement.
  • Increased Business Rates Relief - the UK government is temporarily increasing the Business Rates discount to all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England to 100% for 2020-21, irrespective of rateable value.
  • £25,000 cash grant - for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000.
  • Statutory Sick Pay - will be temporarily available to those who are advised to self-isolate and people caring for those within the same household who display Coronavirus symptoms and have been told to self-isolate. A new style Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit will be available to those that are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the UK government in full. This will provide 2 million businesses with up to £2billion to cover the costs of large-scale sick leave.
  • £10,000 cash grant to small businesses - there will be a £10,000 cash grant to small firms in England eligible for Small Business Rate Relief. This will be delivered by Local Authorities.
  • Government backed and guaranteed loans– there will be an initial £330bn to support companies in the form of government-backed loans for any business who needs access to cash, with more capacity as required.
  • Three-month ban on evictions for commercial tenants - Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction.This willmean that no business will be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment in the next 3 months. Commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent after this period.

There may be some variations to the above measures announced among devolved nations. Further information on support for businesses in the devolved nations can be found here:

FAQs on UK government support measures

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Please note that this information will be updated as and when more guidance becomes available on how to access UK government support:


Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

What is it?

The UK government is temporarily increasing the Business Rates discount to all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England to 100% for 2020-21, irrespective of rateable value. Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019 to 2020 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.

There may be some variations among the devolved nations.In Northern Ireland there will be a three-month rates holiday for all business ratepayers, excluding public sector and utilities. The effect of this is that no rates will be charged for Q2 2020 and will be shown as a 25% discount on the annual rate bill. Business rate bills will also not be issued until June 2020. In Wales, retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will receive a 100% business rates discount.

Am I eligible?

You are eligible for the business rates holiday if your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector. Properties that will benefit from the relief will be occupied hereditaments that are wholly or mainly being used: as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues, for assembly and leisure, as hotels, guest & boarding premises and self-catering accommodation. For more information please refer to the Expanded Retail Discount 2020/21: Coronavirus Response – Local Authority Guidance.

What do I need to do to access it?

There is no action for you. This will apply to your next bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill automatically to exclude the business rate charge.

Who do I need to speak to?

In England, speak to your local authority (likely to be the billing authority for rates).For details on accessing schemes in the devolved nations follow the links at the bottom of the document.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

What is it?

The UK government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan, up to £5 million in value. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme supports a wide range of business finance products, including term loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance facilities. Businesses can access the first 12 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments.At the discretion of the lender, the scheme may be used for unsecured lending for facilities of £250,000 and under. Finance terms are up to six years for term loans and asset finance facilities and up to up to three yearsfor overdrafts and invoice finance facilities.

Am I eligible?

A link to British Business Bank’s eligibility checklist can be found here.

What do I need to do to access it?

The scheme went live on 23 March 2020, speak to your business banking provider or one of the accredited lenders.

Who do I need to speak to?

You should talk to your bank or finance provider (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible and discuss your business plan with them. For further information click here.

Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF)

What is it?

The Bank of England will provide funding - aimed at large businesses - by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity. The facility will offer financing on terms comparable to those prevailing in markets in the period before the impact of Covid-19. The facility will look through temporary impacts on firms’ balance sheets and cash flows by basing eligibility on firms’ credit ratings prior to the Covid-19 shock. The scheme will operate for at least 12 months.

Am I eligible?

The scheme is open to firms that can demonstrate that they were in sound financial health prior to the impact of Coronavirus. Companies who wish to use the scheme do not need to have issued commercial paper before.Here is further information for firms looking to participate in the scheme.

When can I access the scheme?

The scheme opened for applications to participate on 23 March 2020.

Who do I need to speak to?

Speak to your bank. It is important to note that not all banks issue commercial paper. If your bank does not issue commercial paper, UK Finance has provided a list of those banks that are able to assist.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

What is it?
Government grants will cover 80% of the salary of retained workers, up to a total of £2,500 a month. The scheme, open to any employer in the country, will cover the cost of wages backdated to March 1st and will be open before the end of April for at least 3 months.The employer can choose to fund the differences between the grant and an employee’s salary but does not have to.

Am I eligible?

All UK businesses are eligible

What do I need to do to access it?

You will need to:

  • Designate affected employees as furloughed workers (when staff members are required to take an unpaid leave of absence) and notify your employees of this change - changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation. Workersshould not undertake work while they are ‘furloughed’.
  • Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required).

HMRC are currently working to set up a system for reimbursement as existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.If your business needs short term cash flow support, you may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.

Who do I need to speak to?

HMRC. This scheme is currently expected to open by the end of April. We will advise on any updates as soon as possible.

Deferral of VAT for 3 months

What is it?

VAT payments will be deferred for 3 months (until 30 June 2020). Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020 to 2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. For the self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021. Self-employed will also get full Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay.

Am I eligible?

All UK businesses are eligible.

What do I need to do to access it?

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

Who do I need to speak to?

This is an automatic offer with no applications required.

Grants to small businesses  in England  eligible for Small Business Rate Relief 

What is it?

The government will provide additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 (increased from the £3,000 announced at budget) to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs.

Am I eligible?

You are eligible if your business is eligible for SBRR (rateable value of less that £15,000) or rural rate relief.In Wales, businesses are eligible for Small Business Rates Relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.

What do I need to do to access it?

You will be contacted by your local authority and do not need to apply. There are likely to be variations across the devolved nations. For example, in Scotland, there is a similar scheme but the mechanism for distribution currently remains unconfirmed.

Who do I need to speak to?

In England, you will be contacted by your local authority and do not need to apply. For details on accessing schemes (when available) in the devolved nations follow the links at the bottom of the document.

Grants for retail, hospitality and leisure small businesses

What is it?
A £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premise.

Am I eligible?

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000 are eligible. There may be some variations among the devolved nations. In Scotland, hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000 are eligible. In Wales, hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £12,001 and £51,000 are eligible.

What do I need to do to access it?

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the grants in England should be directed to the relevant local authority (likely to be the billing authority for rates).

Who do I need to speak to?

In England, speak to your local authority.For details on accessing schemes (when available) in the devolved nations follow the links at the bottom of the document.

Statutory Sick Pay

What is it?

Small-and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. SSP is payable from day one of sickness absence.

Am I eligible?

The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible - the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of  SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from  NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the  NHS website
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of  SSP to those staying at home comes into force

If you are not eligible for  SSP – for example if you are self-employed you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can now make a claim for Universal Credit or a new style Employment and Support Allowance. From 6 April 2020, the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed and will last for the duration of the outbreak. New claimants will not need to attend the jobcentre to demonstrate gainful self-employment.

What do I need to do to access it?

A rebate scheme is being developed. Further details will be provided in due course once the legalisation has passed.

Who do I need to speak to?

TBC, but likely to be the Department for Work and Pensions. We will advise on any updates as soon as possible.

Time to Pay

What is it?
All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

Am I eligible?

You are eligible if your business pays tax to the UK government and has outstanding tax liabilities.

What do I need to do to access it?

If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, please call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559. If you’re worried about a future payment, HMRC advice to call them nearer the time.

Who do I need to speak to?

HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559

Further information on support for businesses in the devolved nations can be found here:

General FAQs

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Cash flow

Does my business still need to pay tax as usual?

The UK Government has announced changes to the way businesses pay tax:

Deferral of VAT payments from 20 March until 30 June 2020. These are automatic: all are eligible with no application required. No business will need to pay VAT liabilities from this period until 5 April 2021.

12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England. This is for properties used as shops; restaurants and cafes; drinking establishments; cinemas and live music venues; hotels, guest and boarding premises; and self-catering accommodation.

Income Tax Self-Assessment payments due on 31 July 2020 deferred until 31 January 2021.

HMRC operates a helpline for businesses affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Links to information on measures in:

Does my business still need to pay utility companies as usual? Will utility services be cut off if I cannot pay?

There has been no official announcement of enforced suspension of billing by utility companies (as of 23/3/20). Businesses should check for announcements by their suppliers and contact them for clarification of changes to terms and conditions if necessary.

Does my business still need to pay rent as usual? Will eviction rules still apply?

The UK Government has announced that commercial tenants unable to pay rent in the next three months because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction.

Will my business be able to access bank funding?

UK Finance represents banks and other organisations that lend to businesses. It states that its members are ‘putting in place emergency measures, including extensions to overdraft, invoice finance and other working capital facilities, payment holidays and fee waivers’. Businesses worried about cashflow should contact their bank / finance provider to discuss the help available.

What happens if my business doesn’t get paid? Or what if my business is unable to pay suppliers?

Refer (in this section) to government support for business interruption. There has been no official statement from the UK government (as of 23/3/20) on the role of the Small Business Commissioner during the Coronavirus crisis. Or changes to measures in the Enterprise Act 2016 (those aimed at reducing late payments). Statements from the SBC encourage businesses to pay promptly and accelerate invoicing where possible.

Travel and trade

Will employees be able to travel in the UK or internationally?

Business should plan for an indefinite period of heavy restrictions to international travel across all regions of the globe. Official FCO guidance (correct as of 23/3/20):

‘As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.’

For travel within the UK, businesses should check in with official guidance and news alerts on social distancing and self-isolation rules. Government advice on movement is evolving by the day.

Will airports and seaports remain open to ship goods?

UK seaports remain open. Operators state their intention to stay operational through the crisis subject, to evolving government guidance. The UK government updated its official guidance for seaports on COVID-19 on 19 March. This focuses on procedures for reporting and processing of cases in #marine settings.

The global shipping industry reports disruption to freight movements. particularly to vessels inbound from Asia. This follows from factory shutdowns and other disruptions to production and logistics.

Airports worldwide remain open to freight movements, subject to official guidance. But the disruption to passenger flights and personal travel has affected air freight. Passenger planes carry just over half of the world’s air freight by weight: the reduction in passenger flights has forced up cargo rates for dedicated freight planes on some routes.

Will my business be able to send and receive goods internationally? And what happens to goods en route to countries with closed borders?

Some countries are restricting export of goods judged to be essential in the coronavirus crisis. The UK has banned certain medicines from parallel export (where goods intended for UK patients are sold overseas).

The Department for International Trade has a dedicated Coronavirus web resource for companies that trade internationally. This includes a commitment to support importers find alternative overseas suppliers where supply chains are interrupted.

Education

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The Department for Education (DfE) has announced proposals to award students a calculated grade for their GCSEs, AS and A levels this summer, and to provide an exam option for those that wish it as soon as is reasonably possible after schools reopen.

Guidance for schools, colleges and local authorities on maintaining educational provision

Schools, colleges and early years settings to close

  • Schools will close from Monday 23 March, except for children of key workers and vulnerable children.
  • Examples of key workers include NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work to support the country’s fight to tackle coronavirus.
  • To support nurseries at this time, they will be eligible for a business rates holiday for one year and the government will continue to pay funding to local authorities for free childcare entitlements.

NHS guidance

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Review the NHS information about how Coronavirus is spread and how to avoid catching or spreading germs.

Stay at home guidance for people with confirmed or possible Coronavirus infection.

Mental health support

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Review the information from Mind on Coronavirus and your wellbeing with advice and support while self-isolating or working from home.

Contact your local Chamber

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To find your local Chamber of Commerce, search below: