Advice for Businesses:
Information from BEIS and Public Health England on how to keep their employees safe during the crisis is available here: Keeping Employees Safe
The Government has created a website which provides details of the various support packages that have recently been launched for businesses and their employees which is available here: Business Support Website.
Details of some of the most significant measures are listed below:
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme information - The scheme will help SMEs access loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to six years. The scheme will be operated through accredited lenders via the British Business Bank.
- British Business Bank Eligibility information
- Corporate Financing Facility information - The Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger companies.
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme information - Any UK employer with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary (80% of wages) for those that would otherwise have been laid off during the crisis.
- Small Business Grant Funding information - Additional funding for Local Authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBRR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. A one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.
- Support for Businesses Paying Tax information – Businesses and the self-employed who are in financial distress with outstanding tax liabilities may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs via HMRC’s ‘Time To Pay’ service.
- VAT deferral information – Supporting businesses to defer VAT payments for 3 months.
- Statutory Sick Pay Rebate information – Enabling SMEs to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for staff sickness absence due to coronavirus, covering up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work due to coronavirus.
- Deferral of Self-Assessment information – Payments that should ordinarily due to be paid to HMRC by 31 July 2020 may now be deferred until January 2021
- Support for Businesses outside of Government information.
- Wider business support information.
Advice for Employees:
- Coronavirus Self-employment Income Support Scheme information – If they have suffered a loss in income, the self-employed will be eligible for a taxable grant worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month. This will be available for three months and will be paid from the beginning of June.
- Statutory Sick Pay Information.
- Universal Credit Information.
- Employment and Support Allowance Information.
- Lay-offs and short time working Information.
- Problems in paying tax bills information.
Government measures with telecoms companies to support vulnerable consumers
The Government has confirmed that major ISPs and mobile providers (BT/EE, Openreach, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, Three, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and KCOM) have agreed the following commitments to support vulnerable consumers:
- Providers will work with customers who find it difficult to pay their bill as a result of Covid-19 to ensure that they are treated fairly and appropriately supported.
- Providers will remove all data allowance caps on all current fixed broadband services.
- Providers will offer some new mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected and the most vulnerable continue to be supported.
- All providers will ensure that vulnerable customers or those self-isolating receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines cannot be carried out
- Ofcom have suspended all existing consultation deadlines and information requests.
- Ofcom have put all new consultations, decisions and information requests on hold.
- Ofcom are discussing with the Government the implementation deadlines of the European Electronic Communications Code, as this may need to be delayed. Ofcom will provide a further update on this as soon as possible.
- Ofcom will we take a ‘pragmatic approach’ to enforcement of end of contract notifications, and state that they recognise the challenges facing providers at this time and the steps they need to take to respond to the impact of the coronavirus.
Further information is available here: Ofcom information on COVID-19
Openreach operational disruption
During the week beginning 23rd March, it was widely reported that Openreach was experiencing operational disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown in India (where some Openreach back-office functions are based).
As of 31st March, Openreach have stated that:
- They have cleared the backlog of ports that had built up due to disruption last week.
- They are now pretty much operating as business as usual in this area.
- New orders should now be accepted/rejected and port activations completed within normal SLAs.
- Their voice contact channels are still closed and will be for at least the rest of the week but they hope to re-open their e-chat by the weekend.
Osborne Clarke Information hub
Associate member of ITSPA, Osborne Clarke LLP have a hub of insights on the legal issues relating to coronavirus which can be accessed here.