Government Bailout Measures
The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19, but new guidance is being issued daily.
- Government grants will cover 80% of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month, backdated to March 1st and will be open before the end of April for at least three months
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will now be 12 months interest-free, starting Monday 23rd March 2020
- VAT payments: the government is deferring the next quarter of VAT payments from now to mid-June. Businesses will have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills.
- Self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees
- Self-assessments: the next self-assessment payments will be deferred until January 2021
- Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs: businesses with fewer than 250 employees can reclaim up to two weeks’ of Statutory Sick Pay per employee paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
- 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England
- Small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
- Cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses: grants of up to £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank and the government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments
- Support for larger firms through the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility: the Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies
- HMRC Time To Pay Scheme: all businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.
- Insurance claims: 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 as long as all other terms and conditions are met.
Help with your Income
If your income is affected by COVID-19 you may be able to claim Sick Pay or benefits to support you through this period. Your income may be affected due to working less, no longer working, self-isolating, or caring for someone who is sick. You may be able to receive:
1. Sick Pay
2. Contributory Employment and Support Allowance
3. Contributory Jobseekers Allowance
4. Universal Credit
5. Council Tax Support
6. Rent Rebate (Northern Ireland)
7. Help with your rent
8. Help with your mortgage
9. Free School Meals
Advice for Employers and Employees
Employers should consider some simple steps to help protect the health and safety of everyone during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
It’s good practice for employers to:
- keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
- make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
- consider extra precautions for staff who might be more vulnerable, for example if someone is pregnant, aged 70 or over, or has a long-term health condition
- make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace shows symptoms of the virus
- make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
- provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them
- consider if any travel or meetings are necessary and if meetings can be held remotely instead
- keep up to date with the latest government coronavirus advice on GOV.UK
Employers must not single anyone out unfairly. For example, they must not treat an employee differently because of their race or ethnicity.
Self-isolation and sick pay
Employees and workers must receive any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to them if they need to self-isolate because:
- they have coronavirus
- they have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature or new continuous cough
- someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
- they’ve been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
If someone has symptoms and lives alone, they must self-isolate for 7 days.
If someone lives in a household and is the first to have symptoms, they must self-isolate for 7 days. Everyone else in their household must self-isolate for 14 days.
If anyone else in the household starts displaying symptoms, the person with the new symptoms must self-isolate for 7 days. This is regardless of where they are in the 14-day isolation period.
Employers might offer more than SSP – ‘contractual’ sick pay. Find out more about sick pay on ACAS.gov.uk
If an employee or worker cannot work, they should tell their employer:
- as soon as possible
- the reason
- how long they’re likely to be off for
The employer might need to be flexible if they require evidence from the employee or worker. For example, someone might not be able to provide a sick note (‘fit note’) if they’ve been told to self-isolate for more than 7 days.
Find advice about self-isolating on NHS.UK
Social distancing, flexible working and working from home
Current government advice is for everyone to try and stop unnecessary contact with other people – ‘social distancing’. This includes:
- working from home where possible
- avoiding busy commuting times on public transport
- avoiding gatherings of people, whether in public, at work or at home
Employers should support their workforce to take these steps. This might include:
- agreeing to more flexible ways of working, for example changing start and finish times to avoid busier commuting times
- allowing staff to work from home wherever possible
- cancelling face-to-face events and meetings and rearranging to remote calling where possible, for example using video or conference calling technology
Employers need to be especially careful and take extra steps for anyone in their workforce who is at increased risk from coronavirus.
They include, but are not limited to, those who:
- have a long-term health condition, for example asthma, diabetes or heart disease, or a weakened immune system as the result of medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- are pregnant
- are aged 70 or over
- care for someone with a health condition that might put them at a greater risk
Working from home
Where work can be done at home, the employer could:
- ask staff who have work laptops or mobile phones to take them home so they can carry on working
- arrange paperwork tasks that can be done at home for staff who do not work on computers
If an employer and employee agree to working from home, the employer should:
- pay the employee as usual
- keep in regular contact
- check on the employee’s health and wellbeing
Find out more about:
If an employee does not want to go to work
Some people might feel they do not want to go to work if they’re afraid of catching coronavirus. This could particularly be the case for those who are at higher risk.
An employer should listen to any concerns staff may have and should take steps to protect everyone.
For example, they could offer extra car parking where possible so that people can avoid using public transport.
If an employee still does not want to go in, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. The employer does not have to agree to this.
If an employee refuses to attend work without a valid reason, it could result in disciplinary action.
If the employer needs to close the workplace
An employer may want to plan in case they need to close the workplace temporarily.
This might be a difficult time for both employers and staff. It’s a good idea to make sure staff have a way to communicate with the employer and other people they work with.
Short term lay-offs and short-time working
In some situations, an employer might need to close down their business for a short time, or ask staff to reduce their contracted hours.
If the employer thinks they’ll need to do this, it’s important to talk with staff as early as possible and throughout the closure.
Employees can be laid off without pay where there is a specific term in their contract allowing the employer to do so. When an employee is laid off, they might be entitled to a statutory guarantee payment from the employer, limited to £29 a day for a maximum of five days in any period of three months.
On days when a guarantee payment is not payable, employees might be able to claim Jobseekers Allowance.
Find out more about:
Due to the current climate, employers may feel it necessary to make staff redundancies in certain areas of the business where there is a reduction in workload. Correct legal procedure must be followed with a fair consultation process and appropriate notice.
Employees with less than two years’ service are not entitled to redundancy payment and do not have unfair dismissal rights.
Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to. For example, they can decide to shut for a week and everyone has to use their holiday entitlement.
If the employer does decide to do this, they must tell staff at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need people to take.
For example, if they want to close for five days, they should tell everyone at least ten days before.
This could affect holidays that staff have already booked or planned. So employers should:
- explain clearly why they need to close
- try to resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans
If an employee needs time off work to look after someone
Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a ‘dependant’) in an unexpected event or emergency. This could apply to situations to do with coronavirus.
A dependant does not necessarily live with the person, for example they could be an elderly neighbour or relative who relies on the person for help.
There’s no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.
The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation. For example, they might take 2 days off to start with, and if more time is needed, they can book holiday.
If a dependant such as a partner, child or relative in the same household gets coronavirus symptoms, they should receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) as a minimum for this time. They’ll also need to follow self-isolation guidance on GOV.UK.
Find out more about time off for dependants.
As schools in England, Scotland and Wales will be closing, this will have an affect on care and working arrangements. This may be an anxious time for parents, and employers will need to be planning cover at work.
If employees need emergency time off for child care or to make new arrangements, they can use:
- time off to care for someone else (‘time off for dependants‘)
- holiday, if their employer agrees
Employers and employees can consider these steps:
- talking to each other early on about time off that might be needed
- agreeing regular conversations so both can plan ahead
- agreeing flexible working instead of taking longer periods of time off, for example working from home or changing working hours to allow for child care
If any agreement is made, it’s a good idea for it to be in writing.
If someone has coronavirus symptoms at work
If someone becomes unwell in the workplace with coronavirus symptoms, they should:
- tell their employer immediately and go home
- avoid touching anything
- cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
- use a separate bathroom from others, if possible
The unwell person must self-isolate at home for 14 days if they live with others, or 7 days if they live alone.
You can get more advice or help by either:
- using the NHS 111 coronavirus service website
- calling 111, if you cannot access the NHS website
- calling 999, if someone is seriously ill or life is at risk
It’s best for the unwell person to use their own mobile phone or computer to access these services.
If someone with coronavirus comes to work
If someone with coronavirus comes to work, the workplace does not necessarily have to close, but they should follow cleaning advice.