SUPPORT FOR YOUR BUSINESS 
DURING COVID-19

Coronavirus Business Support & advice

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We will keep you updated about support for UK businesses during the recent Coronavirus outbreak. We want to ensure you get a balanced view of developments, safeguard your business and maintain a "business as usual" outlook.

Self employed individuals laptop at home during COVID-19

Covid-19 Business support eligibility calculator

Use our calculator to find out which Government Business support programmes your business could be eligible for

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What Support is Available to Businesses?

Package

Employee

Self Employed

Limited Company (Director)

Free Funding

Deferrals/ Debts

Day to day support

Small business contractor looking at their funding support options during coronavirus

Funding for your business

The UK Government has announced a range of measures and grants to ensure there is minimal disruption to small businesses during this time.

Several UK banks have also stepped in to provide working capital support and reduced fee borrowing to ensure that SME's have access to capital.

HMRC’s Time to Pay system:

The HMRC Time to Pay System can help businesses facing short-term cash flow issues. Companies that need to access this system can find government advice here. A dedicated helpline has also been launched so businesses in financial distress with outstanding tax liabilities can get help fast on 0800 015 9559.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme:

The government has also announced a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, to allow small businesses to apply for a loan of up to £5 million, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees.

The Government has announced the £330 billion will be made available and if more is needed then it will be provided. These loans will be interest free for 6 months.

Coronavirus £10,000 business grant:

The government has also announced a £10,000 cash grant for the country’s 700,000 smallest businesses which it increased from an initial £3,000.

Business Rates retail discount:

The government has also announced it will temporarily increase the Business Rates retail discount in England to 100% for 2020-21 for properties below £51,000 rateable value. Businesses in the hospitality and leisure industry will also be eligible for up to a £25,000 grant.

Banking Working Capital support:

Some banks have begun to make dedicated funds available for firms experiencing coronavirus-related hardship. For example, NatWest bank have announced £5bn of Working Capital Support for business that will see disruption. Lloyds Banking Group has announced £2bn of arrangement fee free finance available to support small businesses and Barclays have highlighted their 12-month capital repayment holidays and its £14bn SME lending fund. You can find more at CBI

Statutory Sick Pay Refunds:

Refunds will be given for businesses and employers that are required to access Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)s.

3 month mortgage repayment holiday:

The Government has announced that individuals experiencing difficulty with making mortgage repayments will have a 3 month mortgage repayment holiday to provide breathing space.

Government Business Support Helpline:

You can contact the Government Business Support Helpline using the numbers below:

Picture of newspapers updating about Coronavirus business impacts

Latest Announcements

Everyday we'll provide you with a brief update of how things are developing with the current coronavirus outbreak and how this may impact you as a contractor, small business or self employed individual.

Latest Developments week ending Friday 27th March

Key Stories:

  • UK goes on lockdown - the UK lockdown is effective from Tuesday24th
  • Support announced for the self employed - self employed workers can claim up to 80% of their average monthly profits over the last 3 years up to £2,500. Anyone earning over £50,000 a year will not be able to claim and a bulk payment for March to June will be made in June.
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is now live. More than 40 providers can provide access to the scheme which comes with 12 months of interest free payments and an 80% guarantee on the loan from the Government.

Other News:

You can check here for the latest COVID-19 statistics on cases

Updates

Which companies are winning and losing during Covid-19?

April 6, 2020

Whilst there's clear winners like Ocado and Zoom with the current Covid-19 outbreak, others are seeing a range of volatility. Apart from Bear Grylls.

Business Contracts - stipulations which impact coronavirus

Generally there a range of provisions within contracts between you and your customers or suppliers depending on the industry and type of work.

We'd advise that you review these contracts to check if any of the provisions or clauses below have been covered.

Small business owner signing a contract

Sick Pay:

Work from Home Policies:

  • All organisations have been asked to make provisions for working at home.
  • If you're an SME business and employee staff here's some advice for setting-up a home working solution
  • If you're a self-employed freelancer or contractor the nature of work you're carrying out for your end-client will determine the technical requirements for working remotely. There may be security and confidentiality issues for you to consider.

Late Payments/ Getting Paid:

  • If you feel that your client or customer may default on a payment or be late to pay then we'd recommend picking-up the phone to discuss this with them. A one-to-one conversation is a lot more personal than writing an email and will help play to people's human nature and kindness. Take time to explain why you're anxious about being paid and try to agree on mutually beneficial payment dates moving forward.

Redundancy:

  • If you're an employee, your contract should have a minimum notice period which can vary from as little as a week if you've not been employed for very long, all the way up to 6 or even 12 months for more senior staff. The situation we've found ourselves in with coronavirus doesn't mean that our employment laws have changed, so there are still strict rules in place regarding redundancy processes and outcomes. Read more about these here: Gov UK redundancy rights
Self employed woman holding umbrella

Insuring against coronavirus risks

The government will be making a range of provisions to ensure that small businesses and self employed individuals have sufficient cover in the extent of any serious economic disruption.

You may already have cover though depending on the type of insurance you may have taken out.

What insurance cover you may have purchased:

  • Public liability insurance: public liability insurance will not cover you for loss of earning or income due to Covid-19.
  • Employers liability: as of 13 March 2020 employees who self-isolate in accordance with guidance from Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland or Public Health Wales will be eligible to receive SSP, which is currently paid at a rate of £94.25 per week. For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full.
  • General business insurance: general commercial insurance packages are highly unlikely to include provisions for diseases like Covid-19.
  • Business interruption insurance: you will need very specific business interruption insurance for 'notifiable diseases' or 'denial of access' extensions which would could allow you to make a claim. This type of coverage is rare.
  • Travel insurance: if you have travelled against Government travel advice then you will have invalidated your policy. If you have been advised to leave where you are and return back to the UK then it is likely that your out of pocket costs will be covered. You will also need to transfer your coverage to include any other destinations. If you have to quarantine overseas then you should be covered with your medical insurance coverage.
  • Income protection insurance: this form of coverage typically has a waiting period before it kicks in. Waiting periods can vary from a week to 4 to 12 months. Self-isolation is only likely to be covered for those income protection policyholders with a day one benefit or a one week waiting period.
  • Trade credit insurance: this will not cover loss of volume (i.e. customers buying less) but will cover late payments and if a customer goes insolvent. This ensures that late payments will not put your company under strain.

What does general business insurance cover?

A typical business insurance policy is designed to cover standard risks in and around the workplace. Given the events of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is unlikely that a standard business insurance policy will cover these events. However, given the impacts on small businesses the government is making funding and grants available to businesses impacted by Covid-19.

A small number of businesses could have cover in place that may have clauses for business interruption that includes notifiable diseases, however this type of extension is unlikely to be included in a standard policy. Typical commercial insurance policies will provide cover for a variety of risks like theft or losses from fire or floods and may have temporary provisions following these types of events.

In some cases, there could be provisions within your insurance around your workplace if these premises have been contaminated and you are no longer able to work there, but this is not very common.

Business Interruption Insurance:

If you have purchased business interruption insurance then this generally covers you for loss of income during periods when you cannot carry out your usual business due to an unexpected event. This type of insurance aims to compensate you for any shortfalls in profits/ increased costs of running your business if such an event happens.

Business interruption insurance will cover you for damage caused by a named peril (i.e. fire, flood, storm or general breakdown of equipment). Some policies may include cover if employees are unable to access the business (i.e. the building being cordoned off due to terrorism, fire or structural integrity of the building). This is known as 'restricted access' cover or 'non-damage business interruption'. This is typically an add on to a policy.

As a contractor, freelancer or self employed individual it is unlikely that you will have purchases this type of insurance but you should check if this was included/ bundled into your insurance.

The Association of British Insurers say the following:

"Insurance for business interruption resulting from Covid-19 is likely to be rare.  Businesses who are concerned about the impacts of Covid-19 should check the scope of their cover, and check with their insurance adviser or broker. Standard business insurance policies are designed and priced to cover standard risks and are therefore unlikely to provide cover for the effects of global pandemics like Covid-19."

Read more here

What business interruption clauses could include Covid-19?
  • Notifiable Diseases Extensions: most notifiable disease extensions cover specific diseases, therefore Covid-19 is unlikely to apply. Some extensions may be more general, in which case you may be covered if Covid-19 is present in the business.
  • Non-damage, denial of access Extensions: this is a rare extension to purchase. This applies when you experience a loss of trading if the location of your office is cordoned off/ you are denied access to the premises by authorities.

IT Equipment Insurance:

  • You should ensure you get important electronic devices insured during this time as these will become more critical if you're working from home and if travel becomes limited.

Private Medical Insurance:

Private medical insurance will not cover you for testing of Covid-19.

Private medical insurance providers are unclear about the coverage for patients currently but you can find information for a few insurers below:

Employee Sick Days:

  • The CBI is recommending that employers extend Statutory Sick Pay to all contracted workers, including agency staff and those on flexible/zero hours contracts

Accounting Support During Covid-19

It really is important to stay on top of your accounting processes, reporting and deadlines as it will give you the visibility you need to steer your business through this challenging time.

If this situation prevents you from filing accounts and/or returns to Companies House or HMRC on time, it's best to notify the relevant people as early as possible.

We'll advise on what you can do to stay on track and keep ahead.

Accountants providing support to a small business owner during the Covid 19 outbreak

Travel & general expenses

Keep track of all your receipts and business expenses during the next few months. We are unsure if there will be changes to allowable expenses, but you should keep a record of all additional business expenses incurred due to the pandemic. Forma will help you account for these and claim tax relief when the government provides further guidance.

Improving cashflow

There are a several ways you can improve cashflow within your business, but naturally, you should also be cautious of completely pulling back on all of your payments.

Financial circumstances will differ significantly from person to person, but it might be wise to pull back on discretionary spend for a while. Whether it's a decision to skip your morning Venti Soy Quadruple Shot Latte with No Foam or pass on that luxury lunch baguette, try to feel good about making a positive and responsible decision, rather than feeling like you've denied yourself something you normally have. This situation won't last forever.

It's likely that you will be working at home for a while and this alone has the potential to reduce expenditure if you're not paying for travel and subsistence. However, you should look at your monthly subscriptions and weigh-up what's essential and what's not.

Most importantly though, as mentioned above, if you're self employed you should speak to your customers regularly to help ensure you are paid you in full and on time.

Self assessment deadlines

Even in tough times, it's highly advisable to set aside tax liabilities as they accrue - tax debt can be a slippery slope and often hard to recover from. Make sure your accountant is on top of your tax calculations so you know exactly how much money you should have in reserve to cover tax bills.

We're fast approaching the end of the current 2019/2020 tax year, so our advice is to ask your accountant to prepare and file your self assessment return as quickly as possible. Amounts won't be due until the end of January 2021, but the sooner you know with 100% confidence how much this will be, the better.

Year end deadlines

You should still ensure that you file your company accounts on time. If leniency around corporation tax payments is required, HMRC will be more likely to help if you have conformed with preparation and filing deadlines.

Filing delays

We recommend meeting filing deadlines wherever you can, but if unprecedented circumstances prevent you from doing so, here are two links you can follow for guidance:

Apply for more time

Difficulty Paying

Business Travel & Refunds

Several countries are now opting to close their borders and transport operators are now operating at up to an 80% reduction in their service and will be limiting the number of passengers on services.

If you have any current trips planned then these are likely to be disrupted until at least 31st March but this is likely to continue on longer.

View from a plane of someone traveling for business

FCO travel advice

The FCO are continuously publishing travel changes as the situation develops. You can find the FCO travel advice here.

Trade fairs/ conferences:

Most trade fairs and conferences have been postponed or cancelled in the near future. The organisers of the events will provide their own updates on refunds. We would strongly advise against travelling to other countries given current Government advice, different quarantine measures in place and significant disruptions to travel services. You will also likely invalidate any travel insurance by going against Government advice.

Underground/ TFL refunds:

The London underground will now start operating at a reduced "Saturday and Sunday" service. This is largely aimed to help medical workers get to work.

Given that all workers are being asked to work from home, you may no longer need your TFL/ London Underground season pass. You can claim a refund (there is also a £5 admin fee) if any of the following are true:

  • 6 weeks remaining on an Annual ticket
  • 7 days remaining on a Monthly ticket
  • 3 days remaining on a 7 day ticket

You can claim a TFL travel refund here and you can also claim this for illness here. For a full list of refund reasons click here and you can also contact them on 0343 222 1234.

Season ticket for rail refunds:

You are able to request refunds on rail tickets depending on how long is left on them, who you bought them from. This is subject to an administration charge of up to £10 and you can find the season ticket terms and conditions here.

Planes & Holidays:

Refunds are based on whether you went against Government advice at the time. If you travelled to a country that the government had advised against then this would've voided your insurance policy. Read our coronavirus business travel advice here.

  • easyJet - for any flights cancelled will be providing a full refund, you can find easyJet coronavirus advice here.
  • Ryan Air - the company has removed its flight change fee for any flight in March and April. To check your flight status you'll have to login to your account and you can the Ryan Air coronavirus refund policy & advice here.
  • Booking.com - it is unclear what the exact policy is currently.
Pile of IR35 books

IR35

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, on Tuesday 17th March 2020 Chief Treasury Secretary Steve Barclay announced that the IR35 tax reforms would be pushed back by one year, less than a week after the controversial measures were confirmed in the Budget.

IR35 postponed to 6th April 2021

The government has announced a last-minute postponement to the implementation of the Off-Payroll Tax to the private sector in light of the recent Covid-19 outbreak, with the legislation now due to be reintroduced in April 2021.

The decision was taken following significant pressure from contractors and campaigners who warned that the inevitable loss of work due to the virus for contractors deemed ‘inside IR35’ and effectively forced into ‘zero rights employment’ would prove catastrophic.

“This is a deferral in response to the ongoing spread of Covid-19 to help businesses and individuals,” announced Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay MP.

“This is a deferral and not a cancellation, and the Government remains committed to reintroducing this policy to ensure people working like employees but through their own limited company pay broadly the same amount of tax as those employed directly.”

Forma is here to help guide and support you through this dramatic change to IR35 private sector implementation. Please get in touch with us to arrange a free consultation call to discuss your limited company accounting and tax planning options.

View our Accounting Packages Here

Business Resources & Staying Productive

There are a range of great online tools to ensure you maintain productivity, client collaboration and general business planning from home.

We'll provide our recommendations below and ways to continue to advertise and promote your services.

Self employed business owner working remotely

Setting up an online store:

Now could be a great opportuity to either add functionality to your current website to sell your products/ services online or you may want to launch a website with this functionality.

If you don't know how to code and want to be able to take payments online quickly, then we highly recommend the SOS guide to selling online. This highly accessible guide will walk you through the steps of building a Shopify store and different activities you could offer online.

Read more here.

Best remote working apps/ software:

Meeting/ Collaboration Software:

  • Hangouts: Google Hangouts is a free tool to easily schedule a video discussion and chat with other employees. Links are automatically included on your Google calendar.
  • Zoom: offers free group meetings of up to 40 minutes for up to 100 participants.
  • Slack: you're bound to have heard about Slack. Their free plan means you can integrate with up to 10 different tools and easily communicate between your team.
  • Microsoft Teams: this is included within any Microsoft Office 365 business premium package and lets you easily create a team chat, organise meetings in Outlook and collaborate with a lot of other partners.

Project Management:

  • Trello: trello and project management go hand in hand. It's one of the easier project management tools to use and is great for smaller teams/ individuals managing a few projects.
  • ClickUp: we use ClickUp for all our projects and highly recommend this tool because it has an unbelievable amount of functionality, native apps and it's super cheap if you need to upgrade from their free plan.
  • Evernote: is an amazing meeting notes and general notepad organiser which helps you search through and categorise your notes. It also automatically updates between your computer and phone and has a range of integrations.

Health & Wellbeing:

  • Calm: for anyone that needs better quality sleep, to practice mindfulness and relaxing background music then this app will help teach you how to improve your mindfulness and relaxation.
  • Headspace: headspace is all about teaching you meditation and you can start off for free to get into the swing of it before you decide to purchase.
  • Lumosity: this app will keep you on your toes and is proven to improve memory and focus with bitesize 'games'.
  • Better Help: this is a convenient and discreet way to connect with a counsellor who can help you with anything you may need to talk to someone about.

Learning:

  • Skillshare: you can get 2 months free with Skill Share which provides a huge variety of bitesize masterclasses on everything from photography to spreadsheets.
  • Blinkist: we love Blinkist. It distills all the key takeaways from the best nonfiction books out there in about 15 - 20 minute audio (or text) summaries.
  • Udemy: you can find extensive courses to help develop skills and expertise in technology and a range of other sectors.
  • Duolingo: learn a new language from just 15 minutes a day for free.

Top freelancer platforms:

  • UpWork: create a profile quickly on UpWork and explore a range of projects.
  • TalMix: TalMix is an on-demand platform for a range of projects ranging from 1 day to 1 year. Predominantly aimed at consultants, this is a great platform to build up a profile and connect with you customers.
  • Move Me On: built by ex-consultants for consultants, Move Me On aims to connect freelance consultants with large corporates.
  • Bark: this is a relatively new platform where you can advertise and respond to projects in a wide variety of industries.

Best working from home products:

Best Laptop Stands:

Best Ergonomic Mouse:

Best podcasts:

  • Freakonomics Radio: should Trader Joes run the US? Freakonomics apply various obscure principles to daily life.
  • Bloomberg Business Week: the latest news from the world of business and finance.
  • HBR Idea Cast: 30 minute discussions around personal business improvements
  • Masters of Scale: hosted by Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, he interviews various business leaders about specific lessons they've learned.
  • TED Talks Daily: in 20 minutes or less, this Podcast provides a range of topics to get you thinking.
  • Today in Focus: an indepth discussion of various topics from Guardian journalist.

Best YouTube channels:

Cheddar:

Covers a variety of business topics around product innovation, technology, services and ideas. From interstellar colonization and bioengineering to tales of true and fascinating financial crime there are a load of interesting topics but some of our favourite videos include: Why all fast food chains look the same today, the marketing backstab that shook big beer, the fake heiress that scammed New York's elite and why Krispy Kreme failed in Australia.

Business Casual:

Business casual examines the rise (and sometimes the fall) of large companies and larger than life entrepreneurs and business tycoon's. Their updates are sporadic but well worth a watch everytime they bring something new out.

Some of our favourite videos include: Lamborghini - never insult a tractor tycoon, How Elon saved Space-X and Tesla at the same time, and AOL - the rise and fall of an internet giant.

Last Week Tonight:

You've probably seen John Oliver pop up all over the internet as a quick 30 second video on Facebook but his show goes to great lengths to uncover corporate wrongdoing in hilarious ways.

We like his videos on automation, the WWE and warehouses.

Polymatter:

Polymatter analyze a range of large businesses out there and disects their strategy, business model or general rise to the brand they are today. We've enjoyed their videos on How Ikea became Sweden's national brand, how Singapore sanitized gambling and Huawei - the big picture.

Vox:

Vox provide explainers on a range of topics designed to teach viewers about different cultures, controversial topics and general science questions. There are some interesting videos on how robot writers could change the internet, how ads follow you around on the internet and how India runs the world's largest election.

Doctor holding stethoscope to check for coronavirus

What to know/ do if you think you have it

We wanted to reiterate what you need to know and do if you believe you may have coronavirus.

Symptoms:

Stay at home if you have either:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new, continuous cough – this means you've started coughing repeatedly
Coronavirus common symptoms

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you're staying at home.

Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you're staying at home

What to do if you think you have it:

  • Self Isolate - you will need to self isolate for 2 weeks and ensure you let anyone know that you may have come into contact with
  • Do not go to your Doctor - you risk infecting other people and the doctor will be unable to help. You can book online doctor appointments to get an opinion.
  • Avoid A&E - you should actively avoid going to A&E unless you feel critically ill. Most people experience very mild symptoms.
Coronavirus NHS 111 Advice

What to take if you think you have it:

Antibiotics do not help as they do not work against viruses.

There have been reports that you should avoid ibuprofen and instead take paracetamol to help combat the infection. It is believed anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and neurofen could be a factor in aggravating the infection.

Source: Anti-inflammatories may aggravate Covid-19, France advises - The Guardian

What can I be doing to help?

We get it, everyone is saying the same thing. The ways to safeguard the health of you and those around you are simple though:

  • Wash your hands - it's simple and effective. Ensure you wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds, particularly before and after going out in public.
  • Avoid traveling as much as possible - you should minimise your travel as much as possible by working from home and avoiding going into the office where possible.
  • Social distancing - avoid social functions and going out to busy restaurants, cafes and locations with a lot of other people.
  • Avoid interacting with the at risk - you should avoid visiting parents/ grandparents that are over the age of 65 and anyone with pre-existing health conditions which could mean their immune system is compromised.

Key Business Contacts & Support Services

You can find more information and frequent updates from the list of contacts below which we will continue to update as things progress.

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