Since the beginning of lockdown, many measures have been set out in an effort to stabalise businesses against the negative impact of COVID-19; from the initial support to protect UK high streets to more recent developments for young workers and making homes more energy efficient.
Small businesses in the UK can now register their interest in joining ‘Help to Grow’, the government’s new scheme to help SMEs prosper post-pandemic.
The Help to Grow: Management initiative will launch in June and support small businesses to achieve their growth goals.
The scheme, announced at Budget 2021, will enable small businesses to access a 12-week-programme delivered by leading business schools across the UK.
The second strand of Help to Grow, Help to Grow: Digital is expected to help 100,000 SMEs and is due to launch in the autumn.
In addition to being able to access advice through an online platform, eligible businesses will also be able to get a discount of up to 50% on the costs of approved software, worth up to £5,000.
The schemes are open to UK businesses with between five and 249 employees that have been operating for more than one year. Charities are not eligible for the management scheme and only businesses registered at Companies House can apply for the digital scheme.
As part of the government’s Plan for Jobs, the new £2 billion Kickstart scheme will create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country.
The scheme, that will pay for six-month work placements for 16-24 year olds in receipt of universal credit and at risk of long term unemployment, opened on 2 September 2020 and will be available across a range of different sectors in England, Scotland and Wales with the first placements likely to be available from November.
There will also be extra funding to support young people to build their experience and help them move into sustained employment after they have completed their Kickstart funded job.
Employers will receive funding for 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions.
Full guidance for employers is available here.
There will also be a £1,000 grant per individual for employers who take on new trainees aged 16-24 in England.
In addition, there will be a £2,000 grant for employers per apprentice under 25 and £1,500 for those over 25. This will be for six months starting 1 August 2020, in England.
There was also announced a raft of additional funding for job finding services and training.
Up to £5,000 per household will be available to make homes more energy efficient; this will be match-funding £2 to £1 of the homeowners’ expenditure.
Up to £10,000 fully funded grants will be available for low-income households.
£1bn of grants have been made to public sector bodies to improve energy efficiency and £50m towards the social housing decarbonisation fund.
Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction.
These measures will mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until June 2021.
A review of the commercial landlord and tenant legislation is due to be launched.
This is not a rental holiday and tenants will still be liable for the rent.
Statutory demands and winding up petitions issued to commercial tenants are to be temporarily voided and changes will be made to the use of Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery, building on measures already introduced in the Coronavirus Act.
Landlords and investors are being asked to work collaboratively with High Street businesses unable to pay their bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ban on evictions for residential property continues for four weeks, taking the total ban to six months.
A new notice period is to be in place until May 2021.
Once eviction hearings restart, the judiciary will carefully prioritise the most serious cases including those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse.
Businesses with supply chains which rely on Trade Credit Insurance and who are experiencing difficulties maintaining cover due to coronavirus will get support from the government, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen has announced.
The government will temporarily guarantee business-to-business transactions currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance, ensuring the majority of insurance coverage will be maintained across the market. They will provide £10 billion worth of guarantees.
This will support supply chains and help businesses to trade with confidence as they can trust that they will be protected if a customer defaults on payment.
The scheme will be backdated to 1 April and available for nine months.
To help get personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitiser to NHS workers as quickly as possible, Business Secretary Alok Sharma is easing administrative requirements and barriers to imports of these essential tools, without compromising on their safety.
This includes asking the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authorities to fast-track PPE through the product safety assessment process and prioritise this activity over other market surveillance activity.
Also, allowing PPE equipment providing protection against COVID-19 which lack the CE mark onto the market provided products meet essential safety requirements, and providing new guidance for local authorities and ports and borders enforcement officers on the import and safety testing of hand sanitiser.
The FCA are offering a temporary payment freeze on loans and credit cards for up to three months, for consumers negatively impacted by coronavirus.
This allows customers who are negatively impacted by coronavirus, and who already have an arranged overdraft on their main personal current account, up to £500 charged at zero interest for three months.
It also ensures that all overdraft customers are no worse off on price when compared to the prices they were charged before the recent overdraft pricing changes came into force, and that consumers using any of these temporary payment freeze measures will not have their credit file affected.
Full details can be found on their website here.
Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to make a claim.
Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.
On 24 March the government released further details relating to insurance claims covering notifiable disease policies, unspecified notifiable disease policies, government ordered closures and event coverage.
The government have issued a comprehensive list of rules that have been relaxed.
This can be found here.