Coronavirus – business support and advice
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The government’s new Health Protection (Coronavirus Business Closures) (England) Regulations, 2020 came into effect 21 March requiring certain businesses to close until further notice.
The list of businesses affected was extended by the government Friday 23 March and the Regulations require that all non-essential premises close immediately and stay closed to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Premises that are required to close include restaurants, pubs, places of entertainment (theatres, cinemas), leisure facilities and most retailers.
Exemptions include supermarkets, food shops, takeaways, pharmacies, petrol stations, garages, banks, post offices, and DIY/hardware shops.
Premises that fail to comply with the Regulations will be committing a criminal offence. The Council and police have powers to close premises and premises that fail to comply can be prosecuted and may face unlimited fines.
Please make sure that you check the guidance to clarify if you can continue trading or if you must close.
The Council and police will be monitoring compliance with these regulations and will take enforcement action to close premises when required. Please make sure that you follow the government’s requirements to keep yourselves and our community safe.
If you wish to report a premises that is failing to comply, please contact Environmental Health and Trading Standards on 020 8356 4911/3000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also report businesses that are not complying with closure regulations using this form:
(Updated 26 May)
The government has announced the proposed timeline for the reopening of businesses and to support you in preparing for this they have produced a series of working safely and covid secure guides for different industries.
There is specific guidance for customer facing shops and branches on the steps you must take before you can reopen your business.
This guidance includes:
- thinking about risk
- who should go to work
- social distancing at work
- managing your customers, visitors and contractors
- cleaning the workplace
- personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings
- workforce management
- inbound and outbound goods
- where to obtain further guidance
You must make sure that the risk assessment for your business addresses the risks of covid-19, using the guidance to inform your decisions and control measures.
If you have fewer than five workers, or are self-employed, you don’t have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment.
Your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have done everything you need to.
There are interactive tools available to support you from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
We will update this section with government guidance and Council support over the coming weeks.
If you have any questions about the covid secure and working safely government guidelines please direct these to HSE Covid-19 enquiries on 0300 790 6787 (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 8pm)
or via their working safely enquiry form.
Download our social distancing poster to display in your premises:
You can also see our social distancing illustrated guide for businesses.
Planning rules regarding change of use have been temporarily relaxed so that restaurants, cafes and pubs can provide a takeaway and delivery service only.
If you intend to do this, you should notify planning and environmental health and make sure you adhere to food safety guidance.
The government has issued guidance on food safety and coronavirus control measures for those food businesses that are continuing to trade.
Premises that can remain open must make sure that the government’s social distancing rules are followed.
Social distancing involves reducing day-to-day contact with other people as much as possible, in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Businesses and workplaces should encourage their employees to work at home, wherever possible.
If you can’t work from home then you can still travel to work. This is consistent with the Chief Medical Officer for England’s advice.
The advice on social distancing measures applies to everyone and should be followed wherever possible.
Workplaces need to avoid crowding and minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres (3 steps) between individuals wherever possible.
This advice applies both to inside the workplace, and to where staff may need to interact with customers.
Staff should be reminded to wash their hands regularly using soap and water for 20 seconds and particularly after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing. Where facilities to wash hands are not available, hand sanitiser should be used.
Workers should cover any coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then dispose of the tissue in a bin and immediately wash their hands.
The practical implementation of this advice will depend on the local circumstances; see examples for various industries.
A few general indicators will be relevant to the majority of business settings:
- make regular announcements to remind staff and/or customers to follow social distancing advice and wash their hands regularly
- encourage the use of digital and remote transfers of material where possible rather than paper format, such as using e-forms, emails and e-banking
- provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water, hand sanitiser and tissues and encourage staff to use them
- where it is possible to remain 2 metres apart, use floor markings to mark the distance, particularly in the most crowded areas (for example, where queues form)
- where it is not possible to remain 2 metres apart, staff should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face if possible
- where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible
- as much as possible, keep teams of workers together (cohorting), and keep teams as small as possible
Additionally, for customer-facing businesses:
- use signage to direct movement into lanes, if feasible, while maintaining a 2 metre distance
- regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded
- use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the premises if they have symptoms
- if feasible, place plexiglass barriers at points of regular interaction as an additional element of protection for workers and customers (where customers might touch or lean against these, ensure they are cleaned and disinfected as often as is feasible in line with standard cleaning procedures)
See further information on social distancing and adults who are at increased risk of coronavirus.
The government has provided further guidance that will assist employers, businesses and their staff in staying open safely during coronavirus. It covers:
- what to do if someone develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) on site
- travel arrangements
- sick pay
- certifying absence from work
- what to do if an employee needs time off work to look after someone
- limiting spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in business and workplaces
- cleaning and waste
- handling post or packages
This is a challenging time for everyone, and is likely to be especially difficult for apprentices, who are often new to the world of work, employed on short contracts, and can be especially reliant on face-to-face support and guidance, and on-the-job learning.
Our guidance sets out the Council’s recommendations and is informed by the approach we are taking with our own Council apprentices, as well as guidance from the government, the Department for Education (DfE)/Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), and Public Health England.
The government is providing additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBRR).
This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.
Businesses classed as within retail, leisure and hospitality sectors (including pubs) with a rateable value of over £15,000 and up to £51,000 will be eligible to apply for a £25,000 grant in 2020/21 in addition to their relief from business rates.
Businesses classed as within retail, leisure and hospitality sectors (including pubs) with a rateable value up to and including £15,000 will be eligible to receive a £10,000 grant in 2020/21 in addition to their relief from business rates.
(Last updated 22 May).
On Saturday 2 May the government announced £617M of extra funding for businesses throughout the UK through the new discretionary grants fund.
The new fund is aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs, currently outside the scope of the existing business grant fund scheme, and local authorities will be responsible for administering the grants.
Guidance from the government was shared with local authorities on 13 and 20 May and we’re now able to share the following information:
How much funding will be provided to businesses?
- the government confirmed on 20 May that Hackney will receive a discretionary grant allocation of £3.4m
- grants will have 3 levels, £25k, £10k, and discretionary grants of any amount up to £10k
- this limited funding will mean we can only support a few hundred businesses
Who is the grant aimed at?
Local authorities have been asked to prioritise the following types of businesses for grants from within this funding pot:
- small businesses in shared offices or other flexible workspaces
- regular market traders with fixed building costs, such as rent, who do not have their own business rates assessment
- bed and breakfasts which pay council tax instead of business rates
- charity properties in receipt of charitable business rates relief which would otherwise have been eligible for small business rates relief or rural rate relief
This list is not exhaustive and local authorities are able to use their discretion to determine which businesses are a priority for the scheme.
The guidance states the funding is primarily and predominantly aimed at:
- small and micro-businesses – small businesses must have fewer than 50 employees a balance sheet total of not more than £5.1m and a turnover of not more than £10.2m, micro-businesses must have no more than 10 employees, a balance sheet of not more than £316,000 and a turnover of not more than £632,000
- businesses with relatively high ongoing fixed property-related costs
- businesses which can demonstrate they have suffered a significant fall in income due to the Covid-19 crisis
- businesses that were trading on the 11 March 2020
- businesses which occupy property, or part of a property, with a rateable value or annual rent or annual mortgage payments below £51,000
Businesses are not eligible for this grant if:
- they qualify for the existing small business grant fund, retail, hospitality and leisure grant funds
- they are in administration, insolvent or where a striking off notice has been made
Businesses who have accessed the coronavirus job retention scheme or self-employment income support scheme are eligible.
Local authorities have been advised that grants will need to be distributed via an application process.
What happens next?
The Council has been working hard preparing for this new grant programme despite the limited information we had up until 13 May.
A cross-council group has completed collating business data on the priority areas identified by the government alongside our own coronavirus business impact monitoring logs which include the results of our recent business survey and hundreds of case studies of businesses affected by the pandemic.
We’re making great progress in the development of our grant application process and working through the complexities of how we will distribute the grants, perform eligibility checks and manage the huge staffing resource required to perform these tasks.
Initial identifications suggest that in excess of 7,000 businesses in the borough fall within the priority areas outlined by the government and we anticipate that many more than this will apply for the fund so it is essential that we have a robust application process and staff in place to process these applications as swiftly as possible.
Overall our aim is to ensure that this fund can be used to support those businesses facing severe difficulties as a result of Covid-19 and who have not been able to access existing grant support.
The fund is significantly smaller than the previous coronavirus grant programmes introduced by the government and will only be able to support a few hundred businesses in Hackney but we know these grants could be a lifeline to many of you and we’ll be launching the programme as quickly as we possibly can.
We are now awaiting further information in the form of FAQs from the government on the discretionary grant scheme.
As soon as we have a launch date we’ll share this and full criteria before we open for applications and in the meantime we’ll provide weekly updates in our Hackney Business Network newsletter and on these pages.
The government has launched a new tool to help businesses find coronavirus financial support. After answering a series of questions, businesses are signposted to a list of support they may be entitled to.
The temporary coronavirus business interruption loan scheme supports small and medium-sized businesses with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to six years.
The government will also make a business interruption payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any fees levied by the lender, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.
The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the government-owned British Business Bank. There are 40 accredited lenders able to offer the scheme, including all the major banks.
The Department for Business has launched the new Future Fund scheme to support innovative companies that are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Future Fund will provide government loans to UK-based companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors.
If you cannot maintain your current workforce because your operations have been severely affected by coronavirus, you can furlough employees and apply for a grant that covers 80% of their usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month.
The self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by coronavirus.
The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
The government will bring forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses to reclaim statutory sick pay (SSP) paid for staff sickness absence due to coronavirus.
This refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of coronavirus.
HMRC has a set up a phone helpline to support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to coronavirus.
The helpline allows any business or self-employed individual who is concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus to get practical help and advice. Up to 2,000 experienced call handlers are available to support businesses and individuals when needed.
HMRC are also delivering a programme of webinars to support employers, employees and the self-employed through this period of disruption.
The webinars will cover topics like:
- the coronavirus job retention scheme
- refunding eligible statutory sick pay costs
- furloughed employees and more
This is an automatic offer with no applications required. UK Registered businesses will not need to make VAT payments normally due with VAT returns during this period.
Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020-21 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.
Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return.
The Mayor of London is offering 100% free fundraising to help businesses to secure trade by pre-selling vouchers, goods and services.
Through the Pay It Forward initiative, small businesses can offer customers the option to buy goods and services in advance based on a promise to deliver in the future, helping to secure trade through this difficult time.
This means people can book and look forward to future activities – such as meals, events, hotel bookings etc – while supporting their favourite small businesses to stay afloat.
It takes moments to sign up and start a fundraising campaign, allowing the public to pledge funds in exchange for future rewards when this is all over.
Arts Council England will offer individuals and organisations working in the cultural sector new financial support during this crisis, totalling £160 million.
They have repurposed all existing investment strands to be able to offer this support.
London’s funders are working together to provide coordinated funding to support groups responding to the needs of communities affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The London Community Response – which will be coordinated by London Funders – will be available to organisations facing immediate financial pressures and uncertainty because of the coronavirus. These include increasing demands for services, higher staff absences, fewer volunteers and lower donations.
To help VCS organisations based in England continue to provide mental health services – or provide additional support – organisations can apply for grants of £20,000 or £50,000 for projects lasting up to 12 months through the new Coronavirus Mental Health Response Fund.
The Film and TV Charity is offering a number of different ways to support businesses through this changing and difficult time, from emotion support, financial assistance, advice from industry experts and a reminder that even if you’re isolated, you are not alone.
Find out more about their Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund, urgent financial support and much more.
London Growth Hub has brought together essential resources to help your business manage and mitigate its exposure to the impact of coronavirus. This includes:
- one-to-one advice and support to help London businesses face the challenges of COVID-19. Book a call
- factsheets and guides brought to you by the London Growth Hub to help your business respond to the COVID-19 outbreak
- checklists to prepare your business
- external guidance from The British Chambers of Commerce, ACAS, UK Hospitality, The Association of British Insurers and other leading industry experts
- links to sector-specific support
Tell us about the impact that coronavirus is having on your business by filling out our monitoring form.
We will use it to better understand your individual business pressures and the wider economic impact on Hackney.