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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.


Official Guidance


On 11 May, the UK government published Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy.


This document describes the progress the UK has made to date in tackling the Coronavirus outbreak and sets out the government’s plans for the next phases of its response.



Working safely during Coronavirus

The government has also updated its 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:



It is important to note that both the roadmap and the guidance are subject to devolved powers and there may be differences in the approaches taken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


On 24 May, a new £50 million fund for councils across England was announced to prepare for the safe reopening of high streets and other retail spaces. Find more information here.


Testing

The UK government’s online service for booking a Coronavirus test is now live, and you can apply for testing here.


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.


The UK government's Coronavirus business support hub brings together key information for businesses including on funding and support, business closures, your responsibilities as an employer and managing your business during coronavirus as well as information for self-employed people and sole traders.


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.


Social distancing

The most effective way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is to stay at home and away from others by social distancing. Review the official guidance from UK government.


Social distancing for those who are still open:

Employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able to follow Public Health England guidelines including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).

View guidance of how to clean non-healthcare settings.


Additional support for business


Education

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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.

School closures

Schools closed from Monday 23 March, except for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Examinations

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.

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) sets out details for schools, colleges, students, parents & carers on how GCSEs and A levels will be awarded following the cancellation of this year’s exams.

Apprenticeships

  • This video from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) takes employers through the new measures relating to breaks in learning that were recently detailed in the apprenticeship programme response to Coronavirus document.
  • Advice for Tier 2, 4 and 5 visa sponsors in the UK who are sponsoring those affected by Coronavirus.
  • The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education has issued guidance for employers and apprentices.

Guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations about changes to apprenticeships due to coronavirus

Version three of the guidance focuses on:

  • 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

Provider Relief Scheme

The Provider Relief Scheme is for Training Providers with AEB and non-levy apprenticeship contracts for services that were procured as a service under the Public Contract Regulations 2015.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 30 April 2020 and providers will be notified if they are to receive support on or around 15 May 2020.

Guidance for further education (FE) providers on maintaining education and skills training, changes to funding arrangements, data collections and assessment.

Higher Education

Actions and information for higher education (HE) providers:

  • on the government support package available for universities and students; and
  • the process for clearing and student numbers during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Pubs, restaurants and cafes

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On Monday 23 March the UK government announced all non essential businesses are to close. This follows a previous announcement that pubs are restaurants are to close, but granted permission for pubs and restaurants to operate as takeaways.

For employers staying open, it is important to follow social distancing practices using the Public Health England guidelines including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).

View guidance of how to clean non-healthcare settings.

Trade

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The government has published guidance on DIT and financial support for UK businesses trading internationally: Coronavirus guidance for UK businesses.

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.


Transport and travel

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Coronavirus: transport and travel guidance

  • Information for people using transport or working in the transport sector during the coronavirus outbreak.

Northern Ireland

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

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 the launch of the government’s Test and Trace programme

Commenting on the announcement of the government’s Test and Trace Coronavirus programme, BCC Director General Dr Adam Marshall said:

BCC responds to Prime Minister’s announcement on reopening of the retail sector

BCC Director General Adam Marshall comments on the Prime Minister’s announcement on the phased reopening of the retail sector in England, related workplace guidance and enforcement powers.

BCC responds to 14-day quarantine for air passengers

Responding to the planned government announcement of a 14-day quarantine for all air passengers arriving in the UK, BCC Director General Adam Marshall said:

Meet the team - James Martin, Director of Policy

BCC's new Director of Policy, James Martin shares some thoughts in his first week.