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Official guidance from UK government

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.

Local lockdowns

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Update on local restrictions in the UK

Review the list of areas with additional local restrictions. See more information on the UK government's approach to managing local Coronavirus outbreaks.

Containing and managing local Coronavirus outbreaks

As of 18 July, local authorities will have new powers to close specific premises, close public outdoor spaces, and cancel events. These powers will enable local authorities to act more quickly in response to local outbreaks, where speed is paramount to prevent them from spreading more widely. Local lockdown will remain a last resort when other actions have been insufficient. More information is available here.

General guidance

Local lockdown guidance for social distancing

  • This guidance explains how you can see people you do not live with, while protecting yourself and others from coronavirus, if you live in a local lockdown area.

Local lockdowns: guidance for education and childcare settings

  • This guidance sets out what schools, colleges, nurseries, childminders, early years and other educational settings need to do if there's a local lockdown during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Guidance and support for business

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New measures to suppress the virus and keep the number of infections down

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made a statement on new measures to suppress the virus and keep the number of infections down. Review what has changed for businesses in England below:

  • From Monday 14 September, you must not meet with people from other households socially in groups of more than 6. This will apply indoors and outdoors. COVID-19 Secure venues, such as restaurants and hospitality venues, can still host larger numbers in total but groups of up to 6 must not mix or form larger groups. Education and work settings are unaffected, and organised team sports will still be able to proceed, as will weddings and funerals up to 30.
  • Businesses will have a clear duty to support NHS Test and Trace. From 18 September, it will be mandatory for certain businesses to have a system to collect NHS Test and Trace data, and keep this for 21 days. Core COVID-19 Secure requirements will be mandated for hospitality businesses, and egregious breaches enforced.
  • The UK government will support Local Authorities and police forces to respond to breaches of COVID-19 Secure guidelines. Simplified COVID-19 Secure guidance is available here.
  • The UK government will review plans to pilot larger audiences in venues this month. 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. We will review our intention to return audiences to stadia and conference centres from 1 October.
  • The UK government will restrict the opening hours of premises, initially in local lockdown areas, with the option of national action in the future. This has been introduced in Bolton, following a steep rise in cases, and will seek to restrict activities that may lead to a spread in the virus.

These measures apply to England – but there may be different rules if you operate in an area under local lockdown and you should check those rules. For businesses in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, different rules may apply.


Coronavirus (COVID-19): testing guidance for employers

Guidance for employers and third-party healthcare providers on the regulations and legal obligations of running testing programmes.


Venues required by law to record contact details

Premises and venues across England must have a system in place to record contact details of their customers, visitors and staff in the latest move to break the chains of transmission of Coronavirus.


Bounce-back plans launched for consumer and retail industry
On 8 September, Minister for Exports Graham Stuart MP announced a series of new measures to support businesses in the consumer and retail industry to export overseas as part of efforts to help the sector recover from Coronavirus. New plans include creation of a Consumer and Retail Export Academy to help businesses export, via a digital learning syllabus.

Reporting outbreaks of Coronavirus in the UK

UK Chambers should review and share the new guidance for businesses and organisations on how to recognise, contain and report incidents of Coronavirus. The COVID-19 early outbreak management information has been created to make sure that people who run businesses or organisations:

know how to recognise and report an incident of Coronavirus; and
are aware of measures local health protection teams may advise in order to contain it.

Print and download the new action cards developed to provide specific advice on the issues each type of organisation may face now lockdown restrictions have been eased.

The next chapter

On 17 July, the Prime Minister set out the plans for moving to the next phase of the UK government’s response to the virus. The strategy sets out a cautious roadmap to easing existing measures in a safe and measured way, subject to successfully controlling the virus and being able to monitor and react to its spread. The roadmap will be kept constantly under review as the epidemic, and the world’s understanding of it, develops.

Lifting restrictions from businesses in England

In England, from 1 August, if prevalence remains around or below current levels, and COVID-19 Secure guidelines are followed, the UK government will:

  • Give employers more discretion on how they ensure employees can work safely. Working from home is one way to do this, but workplaces can also be made safe by following COVID-19 Secure guidelines.
  • Reopen most remaining leisure settings, namely bowling, skating rinks and casinos, accompanied by COVID-19 Secure guidelines. This will not include particularly high-risk activities and settings such as nightclubs, which will be kept under review.
  • Enable the restart of indoor performances to a live audience, subject to the success of pilots that are taking place as soon as possible. More information is available here.
  • Enable all close contact services to resume, including any treatments on the face such as eyebrow threading or make-up application.
  • Enable wedding receptions; sit-down meals for no more than 30 people, subject to COVID-19 Secure guidelines. Over time, we will assess whether gatherings of this type for other purposes can be made possible and when larger wedding receptions can take place.
  • In September, schools, nurseries and colleges will open for all children and young people on a full-time basis.

All businesses and venues which are listed to reopen on 25 July or 1 August must remain closed until those dates.

People are advised that they may now use public transport but are encouraged to consider alternative means of transport where possible.

More information is available here.

Face coverings mandatory in shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and enclosed transport hubs in England
  • From 24 July, face coverings must be worn in additional enclosed public spaces in England, as the UK government takes further steps to help curb the spread of the virus.
  • Face coverings are mandatory in additional enclosed public spaces from Friday 24 July including:
      • shops;
      • supermarkets;
      • shopping centres; and
      • transport hubs.
  • Venues such as restaurants, pubs and gyms are exempt.
  • Face coverings are not mandatory for:
    • anyone under the age of 11; and
  • See the College of Policing guidelines for face coverings and the regulations.

Reopening in England

On 8 July, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak MP presented a Summer Statement titled A plan for jobs. The Chancellor made a number of policy announcements including:

  • Job Retention Bonus – a one-off payment of £1,000 to UK employers for every furloughed employee who remains continuously employed through to the end of January 2021.
  • Kickstart Scheme – £2 billion fund to pay for six-month work placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on universal credit.
  • Temporary VAT cut for restaurants, hotels and attractions – From 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021, the reduced (5%) rate of VAT will apply to restaurants, hotels and attractions across the UK.
  • Green Homes Grant – providing grants of up to £5,000 per household to make their home more energy efficient in England.

On 9 July, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden MP announced three phases of reopening for some, but not all, English businesses.

Phase one – 11 July

Phase one of the reopening relates to a relatively small section of the leisure sector: open air swimming pools. Review the guidance for operators, including:

  • limiting the number of people within the facility and pool itself, perhaps by using a mandatory online booking system;
  • managing how people move through the facility;
  • enhanced cleaning; and
  • encouragement to shower and change at home, wherever possible (staff and customers).

A number of other leisure facilities may be reopened from the 25 July (see below).

In addition, from the 11 July some open air cultural performances can take place, including gigs, festivals and concerts, but only where they have a ‘limited and socially distanced audience’.

Phase two – 13 July

Phase two of the reopening relates to some, but not all, of the remaining ‘close contact’ facilities – including beauty services, (clothes) tailoring and sports and massage therapists.

This is different to other sectors, as the requirement for reopening is based on the type of service rather than the type of business. For example, a salon that offers one permitted and one forbidden service can open, but only deliver the permitted service. Forbidden services are those which require close proximity to the face. There is no exhaustive list, but some of the forbidden services include:

  • face waxing;
  • eyebrow threading;
  • eyelash treatments; and
  • some (‘intricate’) beard services.

Review the guidance on close contact working. This is similar to guidance issued for those close contact services already reopened eg. hair salons using face shields, social distancing etc.

Phase three – 25 July

Phase three will see many indoor fitness facilities reopen, including indoor pools, gyms and fitness and dance studios. Review the guidance here.

Remaining sectors

There are a number of sectors which have not been given a date to open (in addition to the beauty services above) including:

  • Nightclubs, dance halls, discotheques;
  • Casinos;
  • Sexual entertainment venues and hostess bars;
  • Bowling alleys;
  • Indoor skating rinks;
  • Indoor play areas, including soft-play areas; and
  • Exhibition halls or conference centres which must remain closed for events such as exhibitions or conferences, other than for those who work for the business or organisation who run the venue.

Please note that, whilst theatres can technically open, indoor plays, concert gigs etc. cannot be held until further notice – although there are some pilots going ahead to test how this might work.

The guidance is subject to devolved powers and there may be differences in the approaches taken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Working safely during Coronavirus

The government has updated the guidance for businesses on working safely during Coronavirus. In consultation with industry, this guidance has been produced to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible. There are 8 guides which cover a range of different types of work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe.

Further guidance for employers and businesses including:

Once you have carried out a risk assessment you should display this notice in your workplace to show that you have complied with the guidance on managing the risk of Coronavirus.

Coronavirus Business Support

A full range of business support measures are available to UK businesses and employees. This page helps businesses find out how to access support schemes, who is eligible and how to apply.

The UK government's Coronavirus business support hub brings together key information for business.

Code of practice for the commercial property sector

The UK government has published a code of practice to encourage commercial tenants and landlords to work together to protect viable businesses.

Support to self employed individuals

The Chancellor announced on 26 March that millions of self-employed individuals will receive direct cash grants though the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, a ground-breaking UK-wide scheme for those whose income has been impacted by the Coronavirus.

Test and trace

The NHS Test and Trace service launched across England on 28 May. Those who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive must isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms. Take a look at the NHS test and trace workplace guidance and the Q&A for external stakeholders.

See further guidance for organisations in certain sectors on how to collect details and maintain records of staff, customers and visitors on their premises to support NHS Test and Trace.

Temporary easements in corporate Insolvency and governance

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act has received royal assent and has come into force. The Act introduces temporary easements for AGMs and filing requirements for PLCs, new corporate restructuring tools to the insolvency regime to give companies the time they need to maximise their chance of survival and temporarily suspends parts of insolvency law to support directors.Detailed government guidance on the changes can be found here.

Additional support for business:

Education and Skills

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Help primary school children continue their education during Coronavirus

  • Advice for parents and carers looking after primary school children.

Opening of schools

  • From the beginning of the autumn term, the Department for Education (DfE) will expect all pupils, in all year groups, to return to school full-time. Information on what parents and carers need to know about the opening of schools is available.

Further and Higher Education

Actions and information for Further and higher education: Coronavirus.

  • What colleges and universities and other providers need to do during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Higher education restructuring regime

  • A scheme for higher education providers in England facing financial difficulties as a result of coronavirus

Examinations

Information for schools, students and parents on how:

  • GCSE;
  • AS;
  • A level;
  • vocational; and
  • technical qualifications

will be graded and awarded in summer 2020.

T Level industry placements

  • New package of support to help employers and Further Education (FE) providers deliver high-quality T Level industry placements.
  • The additional support and guidance includes:
    • new guidance setting out the key roles and responsibilities for providers and employers around industry placements, including a guide for students to help them prepare for their placement;
    • additional delivery models for industry placements in the Construction and Engineering & Manufacturing routes, to reflect modern practices;
    • modified delivery targets for Capacity and Delivery Fund placements to reflect the impact of the coronavirus on employers; and
    • an extension of both the Employer Support Fund pilot and the Employer Support Package also in response to Coronavirus.

The Skills Toolkit

The Skills Toolkit is a free online learning platform to boost workplace skills during the Coronavirus outbreak and beyond.

  • High quality, flexible courses in digital and numeracy skills to support learning.
  • Courses on offer will help people gain skills that employers demand and help kick start the country’s economic recovery.

Apprenticeships

      • Further information on calculating wages for furloughed apprentices
      • Clarification that a furloughed employee can start an apprenticeship
      • Information on collecting signatures
      • Additional content on flexibilities of end-point assessment
      • Flexibilities for English and Maths functional skills for Intermediate (level 2) apprentices
      • Flexibilities on qualification certification

ESFA post-16 provider relief scheme (July to October 2020)

  • Information about support available for post-16 training providers during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Tier 4 sponsors, migrants and short-term students

Advice for visa customers who need to apply for a passport

  • Advice for visa customers and applicants in the UK, visa customers outside of the UK and British nationals overseas who need to apply for a passport and who are affected by travel restrictions associated with Coronavirus.

Pubs, restaurants and cafes

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On 23 June, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out further changes to lockdown measures in England to enable people to see more of their friends and family, help businesses get back on their feet and get people back in their jobs. From Saturday 4 July, pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will be able to reopen, providing they adhere to COVID Secure guidelines.

  • Review the guidance on the further easing of Coronavirus restrictions from 4 July 2020.

Eat Out to Help Out

From 3 to 31 August, get a 50% discount when you eat-in at restaurants that are registered.


New plans to ensure pubs, restaurants and cafes offer both smoking and non-smoking outdoor options

People using pubs, restaurants and cafes will soon have greater freedom to choose non-smoking outdoor areas following an amendment tabled on 19 July to legislation in Parliament.

Transport and travel

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Travel corridors update

From today, Tuesday 28 July 2020, passengers will not need to self-isolate when arriving in England from:

Estonia;
Latvia;
Slovakia;
Slovenia; and
St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Spain removed from travel corridors exemption list

If you arrive in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland from Spain on or after 26 July 2020 you will need to self-isolate. Travel corridor countries continue to be reviewed and will be removed immediately should the public health situation change for the worse. Take a look at BCC's response to the announcement that UK arrivals from Spain will have to self-isolate for 14 days.


Face coverings mandatory on public transport and indoor transport hub

Face coverings must be worn in additional enclosed public spaces from 24 July in England. In England you must wear a face covering by law in the following settings:

public transport
indoor transport hubs
shops and supermarkets
indoor shopping centres
banks, building societies, and post offices.

Transport operators can deny access to their public transport services if a passenger is not wearing a face covering, or direct them to wear one or leave a service if they are not wearing a face covering.

Face coverings are not mandatory for anyone under the age of 11 or those with disabilities or certain health conditions. Review the list of face covering exemptions and share with your members. See further guidance and details of the legislation from the College of Policing.

From 15 June, passengers using public transport are required to wear a face covering across all public transport. This applies to trains, buses, trams, ferries and planes.

Safer air travel guidance for passengers

This guidance sets out how to travel safely in airports and on aircraft during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Self-isolation lifted for lower risk countries

From 10 July 2020 you will not have to self-isolate when you arrive in England, if you:

This applies to all travel to England, by train, ferry, coach, air or any other route.

If you have been to or stopped in a country that’s not on the travel corridors exemption list you will have to self-isolate until 14 days have passed since you left that country.

When planning holidays or overseas travel, people should check the latest FCO travel advice on GOV.UK, including whether there are any self-isolation measures in place for their outbound or return journey.

If the country or territory they are visiting is exempt, they will not have to self-isolate on their return to England. Passengers should also stay alert to any changes to local public health measures while they are travelling, including by subscribing to FCO travel advice updates.

Travel corridors: countries and territories exemption list

From 10 July 2020, unless they have visited or stopped in any other country or territory in the preceding 14 days, passengers arriving from the following countries and territories will not be required to self-isolate on arrival into England:

Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are exempt as they are part of the common travel area. The 14 British Overseas Territories are also exempt. This list may be added to over the coming days following further discussions between the UK and international partners.

Information for travel into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be published by the Devolved Administrations.

Your stay abroad

You will have to comply with Coronavirus requirements in the country you travel to. This may include self-isolating or providing your details to local authorities.

Check Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) coronavirus advice for the country you are travelling to.

Make sure you have appropriate travel insurance in case you have unexpected costs.

Guidance for aviation operators and safer air travel guidance for passengers.

  • Department for Transport publishes COVID-secure aviation guidance to support operators and passengers.
  • Guidance for passengers and workers includes advice on wearing face coverings, checking in all baggage and creating safe work spaces.
  • When it is safe for restrictions on travel to be lifted, guidance will help the sector to protect staff and passengers.

Advice for employers

Transport and travel guidance

Guidance and information for people using transport or working in the transport sector during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Driver and Vehicle Agency queries - Northern Ireland

  • Given the ongoing disruption and challenges a customer email has been launched.
  • Customers with Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) queries should contact [email protected] for support.

Trade

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‘Bounce back’ plan for agriculture, food and drink industry launched

  • A ‘bounce back’ plan of trade measures for the agriculture, food and drink industry was announced on 22 June to help support businesses that have been impacted by Coronavirus.

Trade Credit Insurance backed by £10 billion guarantee

  • On 4 June, the UK government announced guarantees of up to £10 billion to Trade Credit Insurance schemes for business-to-business transactions.
  • The measures will support thousands of businesses by protecting against customer defaults or payment delays
  • The scheme is available on a temporary basis for nine months, backdated to 1 April 2020, and available insurers operating in the UK market.

Force Majeure Certificates

These are certificates attesting the existence of force majeure circumstances i.e. circumstances beyond the control of the applicant such as fire, flood, industrial disputes, or in present circumstances, a pandemic. Please note that we can only certify factual details that can be evidenced. We cannot comment as to whether or not Force Majeure applies or argue such claims on behalf of the applicant. It is the responsibility of the applicant to claim Force Majeure and the issuing body’s role is to provide a certificate in support of such claim.

Delaying import duty payments as a result of Coronavirus

HMRC has released guidance on how to request an extension to the payment period for import duty/import VAT payments. Deferment is not automatic and requires immediate action.

Duty deferment account holders - Duty deferment account holders who are experiencing severe financial difficulty as a result of Coronavirus and who are unable to make payment of deferred customs duties and import VAT due on 15 April 2020 can contact HMRC for approval to enter into an extended period to make full or partial payment, without having their guarantee called upon or their deferment account suspended. The account holder should contact the Duty Deferment Office 03000 594243 or by email [email protected] or the Coronavirus helpline on 0800 024 1222. Account holders will be asked to provide an explanation of how Coronavirus has impacted their business finances and cash flow.

Duty Deferment account holders will be able to use their accounts during the extended payment period agreed unless they default on a subsequent payment in that period, in which case HMRC may consider suspending their account. The outstanding payment will not affect their duty deferment limit so they will not need to increase their guarantee to cover the outstanding payment. Where HMRC agree to an extended payment period, interest will not be charged on the outstanding payments provided they are paid in full by the agreed date.

Duty/import VAT payments not covered by a duty deferment account - Registered Importers who pay cash or an equivalent and are facing severe financial difficulties as a direct result of Coronavirus can contact HMRC to request an extension to the payment deadline at the time the payment is due. They will be asked to provide an explanation of how Coronavirus has impacted on their business finances. HMRC will consider this request and decide whether or not to agree an additional time to pay. The decision will be taken on a case-by-case basis and could be refused.

If the request is approved the conditions, including the length of time offered, will depend upon the importer’s individual circumstances and may require the holding of a guarantee for the period of the time extension. We cannot offer this facility to non-registered importers. For further information, please contact the Customs Debt Policy inbox.

Maintaining the flow of trade at the Border

In order to maintain the flow of trade at the border during the current COVID-19 outbreak, Border Control Posts (BCP) may temporarily accept scanned or electronic copies of health certification from competent authorities or operators in some specific scenarios/circumstances in relation to:

  • Third country imports - products of animal origin (POAO) including fish and fishery products for human consumption. It does not include those derived from porcine origin, animal by-products (ABP) other than unprocessed ABPs of porcine origin and high-risk food and feed not of animal origin (HRFNAO). It does not apply to germinal product and live animals (other than live fish).
  • Intra-EU trade - this measure applies to Intra Trade Animal Health Certificates (ITAHCs) and journey logs for livestock imports. Official Veterinarians (OVs) in the UK may also issue ITAHCs and journey logs for livestock exports from the UK to the EU, submitted on TRACES (if applicable) and via email to EU member states.

Any measures taken are only for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. Please refer to gov.uk for wider COVID-19 guidance or speak directly to the relevant BCP for further clarification and if you have questions about a particular import.

Coronavirus: Export Controls and Licences

In this 1-hour webinar, representatives from the Institute of Export & International Trade’s Export Control Profession and the Department for International Trade’s Export Control Joint Unit cover:

  • Continuation of UK export licensing during the pandemic;
  • EU controls relating to PPE and medical supplies and how they apply to UK;
  • Worldwide controls on PPE and medical supplies;
  • Importance for Export Control staff to communicate with their companies and supply chains;
  • The response of the IOE&IT and the Export Control Profession to the crisis.


Phishing, scams and fraud

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In response to recent scams offering spurious financial support or tax refunds, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has published information and guidance including:

In response to the increased threat from mandate fraud during the Coronavirus outbreak, the UK government Counter Fraud Function has issued a mandate fraud guidance document.

BCC responds to enhanced Coronavirus support for businesses

BCC Director General Adam Marshall comments on the Chancellor’s announcement of further support for businesses and jobs as Coronavirus restrictions increase.

BCC responds to 'time is running out’ campaign

BCC Director General Adam Marshall responds to the launch of the government’s ‘time is running out’ campaign, urging businesses to prepare for the end of the transition period.

Chambers of Commerce challenge PM to meet five business tests for Covid restrictions

In a letter to the Prime Minister, BCC Director General Adam Marshall, President Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith and Chamber CEOs from across the United Kingdom set five business tests that must be met to limit the impact of new restrictions on businesses and jobs and take a long-term approach to tackling the pandemic.

BCC and Drax: Breaking down climate barriers for businesses

As part of the Race to Zero, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), in collaboration with energy company Drax Group, is calling on the government to use the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement to work in partnership with businesses to achieve the UK’s climate goals, as many firms continue to manage the impact of Coronavirus.