Surviving the Coronavirus: what every business needs to know
There’s no two ways about it; the Coronavirus is causing problems of an unprecedented scale for businesses across the globe. The unknown brings about all kind of concerns, including the health of a workforce – your biggest asset – together with how you continue to make ends meet financially.
By Sonia Older
23 March 2020, UK
But help is at hand to guide you through these uncertain times! Focus Group is here to allay your fears and ensure your business stays operative and as productive possible.
Here’s our Coronavirus response toolkit
Money worries are rife, especially among small businesses, so let’s take a look at the package of financial measures available to shore up the economy against the Coronavirus impact…
Here’s our Coronavirus response toolkit
- Government grants – Some £330bn of guaranteed loans has been pledged, allowing businesses to access funds on ‘favourable terms’. For SMEs this means an extension of the Business Interruption Loan facility to allow businesses to borrow up to £5m, with government covering up to 80 per cent of any losses with no fees. No interest payments will be due for the first six months.
- Business rates holiday – There will be no payments required for up to 12 months. This has been extended to all firms in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector. You will be contacted by your local authority - you do not need to apply.
- Funding grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 are available for small businesses. You can apply for these through your local authority.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will be in place by 23rd March and will result in the government, encouraging finance providers to continue lending to small businesses throughout the crisis. These are available through nearly 40 business lenders and could prove the solution to keeping business up and running over the next few months. To see if your business is eligible, please see the government's guide to supporting businesses.
If your business is having trouble paying tax as a result of the Coronavirus, HMRC has now set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline, contactable on 0800 0159 559.
During a period of closure, stay in regular contact with employees and continually review the changing situations and guidelines with them, especially with regards to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), which will be their main concern, along with paying bills, mortgages and feeding the family.
The current rate of SSP is set at £94.25 per week, paid by you for up to 28 weeks – claimable also by those self-isolating because of Coronavirus. Government is busy establishing new legislation to allow small businesses to reclaim two weeks’ worth of SSP to cover costs of any absences due to COVID-19. The repayment policy has yet to be laid out formerly but applies to businesses with fewer than 250 employees. This will provide two million businesses with up to £2bn to cover the costs of large-scale sick leave.
Make sure you accurately record staff absences and note that they DO NOT need to provide you with a GP documentation.
What if my staff need to self-isolate?
Employers are required to provide sick pay to employees who self-isolate. Your usual workplace sick leave policy and pay entitlements also apply if an employee has Coronavirus.
Remind all employees to inform you of their absence ASAP, and your existing workplace policy regarding sick pay and pay entitlements apply if an employee has Coronavirus.
SSP is now payable from day one of self-isolation, but it simply a temporary measure in response to the outbreak.
What do I do if I’m self-employed, a sole trader or on a zero-hours contract of employment?
Currently, the newly announced sick pay regulations do NOT extend to self-employed people or workers on zero hours contracts. This could change over the coming weeks and/or months, so it is worth continually checking the government website. It also remains unclear what is to be done should self-employed or zero contract workers should do if they need to self-isolate.
The advice, at present, is for anyone in these two classifications to apply with any relevant benefits ASAP and to explore your options with regards to business interruption loans, financing options, payment breaks and mortgage holiday.
During this time, the benefits system has been boosted by £500m, including a temporary halt to the minimum floor in the universal credit and quicker payments for employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants.
Please do stay up-to-date with the daily news announcements given every afternoon via BBC1.
Does the Business Interruption Insurance cover COVID-19?
In these uncertain times, businesses of all sizes and sectors will naturally be concerned over any prospective loss of income, customer base and suppliers. It’s time to thoroughly check your business insurance policies, as some may not cover this type of scenario.
Check your policy for:
- Business Interruption cover. This is relevant to Coronavirus so check the wording and restrictions to this type of cover. Many policies will protect against mainly know diseases rather than new viruses, etc.
- Coronavirus has been deemed to be a ‘Notifiable Disease’ so you may have cover in specific scenarios.
- Your cover could be dependent on certain events happening before it kicks in, such as:
- Your business being closed by the government or local authority.
- The Notifiable Disease is present at your workplace or within a specified distance of your premises.
It’s worth reminding yourself and others that insurance policies and, even Business Interruption, will only cover for loss of income or profit should your business be closed.
With regards to the refunding of extra statutory sick pay if an employee has suspected Coronavirus, businesses with less than 250 employees will claim back SSP from the government. If you have extra cover in place for sick employees, this should cover you.
Check your policies wording carefully and/or call your insurer to go over your level of cover.
Making a claim
Should you need to make a Business Interruption insurance claim, you will need to provide evidence of the damage caused to your business by closure and estimated loss of earnings. This will include evidence to prove earnings and medical documentation for sick employees.
What if I’m not covered for Coronavirus?
You may want to consider switching your policy immediately, however, recent weeks has seen an increase in insurers removing cover from all new policies, with COVID-19 now no longer a ‘unforeseeable event’.
Key topics to address if closure is necessary
Your priorities are to ensure your employees are clear on:
- The contact details of key personnel
- The latest NHS health and government guidelines
- Your pay and absence policies
It may be possible for your employees, even those self-isolating, to work from home for the foreseeable. If so, you need to equip them with the necessary tools to carry out their tasks, such as laptops with conferencing capabilities, mobile phones and cloud-based solutions to continue business as seamlessly and productively as possible.
Focus Group can assist and advise on all aspects of communication solutions, covering Voice, IT and Connectivity solutions to get you up and running remotely, quickly and efficiently. Call our experts today on 0330 024 2000 to see how we can work together during these uncertain times.
We could also help you make valuable cost savings too, by switching your business gas and electricity provider, ticking another worry off the list at this present time. Our energy team are contactable on 0330 024 2006.