It was the news that every business owner was dreading, but now a second UK-wide lockdown is upon us, forcing a wide range of businesses to shut until December.
For areas such as Lincolnshire, where there have generally been fewer cases of coronavirus than elsewhere, this will be frustrating, but thankfully, the lockdown has been paired with renewed financial support which will help to ease the burden. There is also the hope that, with a concerted effort across the whole country, the lockdown will help bring the virus back under control.
Whether this lockdown ends on 2 December as planned or if it must be extended, the next few months will be difficult for every business, and this means it’s crucial that business leaders are aware of all the support available to them, that they identify the right support for them and that they are able to access the measures they and their employees are entitled to.
Of course, one of the most important of these support packages is the furlough scheme. As we approached the end of October, many employers were agonising over the difficult decisions they would have to make as they approached the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Being able to furlough workers with government support was a lifeline for many businesses and their employees in the first lockdown, and as the country began its recovery in the summer, many were able to bring people back either full time or part-time.
Thankfully, the furlough scheme has been extended again to cover the lockdown period. Even better, the scheme will be just as generous as it was during the first lockdown in spring and it will also allow for part-time working, with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
For now, the scheme has been extended to December, at which point the Job Support Scheme is set to begin. However, there is speculation that if the lockdown is to be extended, the furlough scheme might also remain for longer.
So far, our advisers have helped more than 500 employers in our area to make use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, accessing more than £10 million in payments which directly supported workers.
As well as the furlough scheme, there is a wide range of additional support which is still available to help businesses affected by the pandemic.
Business premises which are forced to close will be able receive grants worth up to £3,000 per month under the Local Restrictions Support Grant. Local councils will also be given funding to provide one-off payments to support businesses more broadly, to the value of £20 per head.
To reflect the changes to the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme has also been raised to 80% of average trading profits for the month of November.
Payments will be made more quickly, with the claims window being brought forward from 14 December to 30 November.
Over the three months that the scheme is calculated across, with the 40% payment for December and January, the total level of the third grant amounts to 55%. This means that the maximum grant is now £5,160.
While we would have all hoped that a second lockdown could have been avoided, we now have a duty to adapt to the new situation and do what we can to protect our businesses, our workers and our communities.
The next few months will be hard, but with the right support, advice and guidance, we will get through this and see better days ahead.
For professional advice and to access a range of expert support services, you can contact our team.