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ACE News

17 JUL 2020

CORONAVIRUS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

All the health advice, business support and best-practice

Last updated: 17 July 2020 (5.00pm).

To help ACE members ensure they are aware of the latest information on the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis, we have produced this online resource.

We will be updating this page as and when new information is made available. However, given the fast-moving nature of the situation, please ensure you also keep up-to-date with the latest from the government, through the links outlined below. 

We've launched season two of our webinar series, Navigating COVID-19 covering the major issues your business is currently facing. Sign-up now.

Please skip to a section:

1. Financial support – Loans, grants, HMRC, deferrals.
2. Employment schemes –  Furloughing staff, the self-employed income support scheme.
3. HR, Health & Safety – Site operation, key workers, working from home.
4. Other – Procurement, contracts, apprenticeships, planning and more.



1. FINANCIAL SUPPORT

LOANS

Bounce Back Loans A new 100% government-guaranteed loan scheme specifically for loans between £2,000 and up to £50,000. Cash will be interest free for 12 months and no repayments will be required during that period. Small businesses can easily apply online by completing the two page form. More info.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – The temporary scheme is offered by more than 40 lenders including the big four banks (Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and RBS) and supports businesses with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance, of a value of up to £5 million and for up to six years.

No guarantees are required on loans up to £250,000 and only 20% is required on amounts above that. The first 12 months are interest free. It is open to any business in the UK with turnover of less than £500 million. More info.

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme – As above but for larger businesses, with an annual turnover of over £45 million. All viable businesses can apply for up to £25 million of finance. Firms with a turnover of more than £250 million can apply for up to £50 million of finance. More info.

COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility – For larger companies not covered by CBILS (see above), the Bank of England scheme will buy short-term debt supporting businesses which are fundamentally strong, but which have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze. More info.

▶️ Replay our webinar 'Bank loans and finance' on the options available to you:


GRANTS

Small Business Grants (England) – Small businesses that already pay little or no business rates can access this one of grant of £10,000. This is distributed by local authorities to help businesses meet their ongoing costs. More info.

Small Business Grants (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) – As above, but administered by the devolved governments in Cardiff, Holyrood and Stormont.


HMRC

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rebate scheme – Small and medium-sized businesses can reclaim sick pay paid for staff sickness absence. This refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of coronavirus. More info.

Time to Pay – 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. More info.


DEFERRALS

VAT – Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments have been deferred for three months. This is an automatic offer with no application required. More info.

Companies House – Businesses will be given an additional three months to file accounts to help companies avoid penalties as they deal with the impacts of COVID-19. More info.

Gender pay gap reporting – The Government Equalities Office has suspended the obligation for companies to report on their gender pay gaps for this financial year (2020/21). More info.

Industry levy – CITB have announced that they will be suspending the levy collection for an initial period of three months. More info.

▶️ Replay our webinar 'Emergency Response' on the immediate financial actions to take:



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2. EMPLOYMENT SCHEMES

CORONAVIRUS JOB RETENTION SCHEME

All employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary. HMRC will reimburse 80% of their staff's wages, up to £2,500 per month, to safeguard workers from being made redundant or “furloughed”.

The scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to 1 March 2020 and is initially open for three months to employees who were on the payroll on or before 19 March 2020.

The scheme was recently extended to 30 October and given additional flexibility including the ability to include part-time work. Employers can access it here.

SELF-EMPLOYMENT INCOMES SUPPORT SCHEME 

Supports self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19.The scheme will provide a one-off grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant. The scheme will be open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000. 

Applications for a second round of grants, worth 70% of profits up to a cap of £2,190 a month, will open in August.

📄 Download the updated ACE guidance for more detailed information and an FAQ on the coronavirus employment schemes. Latest update: 16 June 2020.

🔗 Read our Blog on ensuring the ongoing wellbeing of your furloughed staff.

🔗 Wendy Lasebikan, HR Director at ACE, on flexible furlough and what it means for your business.

▶️ Replay our webinar on flexible furlough, the expanded Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme:

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3. HR, HEALTH & SAFETY

WORKING FROM HOME

The Prime Minister shared (17 July) that from 1 August, if prevalence remains around or below current levels, and COVID-19 Secure guidelines are followed, the Government will give employers more discretion on how they ensure employees can work safely. Working from home is one way to do this, but workplaces can also be made safe by following COVID-19 Secure guidelines.

Up until that point and as of 23 March 2020, the official advice is for people in the UK to stay at home. You should only travel to and from work if this "absolutely cannot be done from home".  More info.

CONSTRUCTION SITES

In England and Wales the advice currently stands excludes construction sites. To implement the Government’s social distancing recommendations, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has published new Site Operating Procedures. The fifth version of these were published on 1 July. It is strongly recommended that these procedures are implemented by every operational construction site. On 30 March the CLC published advice for the temporary suspension of sites.

On 23 June, the Prime Minister announced that social distancing was to be reduced from 2m to "1m plus". We will share updated guidance as and when this is published.

In Scotland, the CICV Forum has recently (23 June) updated its Site Operating Procedures.  

KEY WORKERS

Schools closed for most pupils on Friday 20 March 2020. However, owing to the nature of their work, staff of a number of ACE members may qualify as a key worker. This means that they could be eligible for the educational provision in nurseries and schools.

Examples of who might qualify include those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operational, and those working on transport systems through which the supply chains pass. Other roles covered include those working in the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), IT and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies.

These "key workers" may continue to work from an office. The government has produced detailed guidance for people who work in offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments. 

🌐 Visit the Construction Leadership Council for more on construction site operation.

🔗 Read our Blog from ACE Emerging Professionals on the tips and tricks for a healthy and productive workplace at home.

▶️ Replay our webinar 'People in a Pandemic' covering the HR issues and COVID-19:

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4. OTHER

PROCUREMENT

The Cabinet Office published a Procurement Policy Notice on responding to COVID-19. It emphasises the flexibilities available under the regulations for public authorities to make urgent/direct awards in exceptional circumstances (by-passing much of the usual process). This relief was extended to 31 October in June.

On 20 March, the Cabinet Office published a second notice with information and guidance for public bodies on payment of their suppliers to ensure service continuity during and after the current coronavirus outbreak.

A new Scottish Procurement Policy Note, SPPN 8/2020 - Recovery and Transition from COVID-19 was issued in June by the Scottish Government and will come into effect on 1 July. It complements SPPN 5/2020 - Supplier Relief, which has been extended beyond its initial expiry date of 30 June until a yet to be determined date.

▶️ Replay our webinar on Procurement and COVID-19:

CONTRACTS

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) have updated their note covering contractual issues caused by Coronavirus (9 April).

The CLC have also shared an open letter to the industry asking the sector to “help itself” by boosting cashflow through the supply chain. (8 April).

The Government offered its support to the construction industry, by outlining its expectations from businesses as they manage and enforce B2B contracts during the COVID-19 emergency, encouraging collaborative discussions to resolve issues. The CLC has published related guidance for all companies in the supply chain. (7 May)

The Disputes and Collaboration group for the CLC COVID-19 Task Force has published guidance on futureproofing contract amendments in light of COVID-19. Before any changes to contracts are made, you will need to seek professional advice. Please note that the article linked above is for information purposes only and it is up to each company to decide its own contractual position in relation to the current situation. (14 July)

🔗 Read our Blog by Rosemary Beale, ACE Contracts Advisor, on Coronavirus and Contracts.

APPRENTICESHIPS

The Department for Education has published a second version of its apprenticeship guidance. The web-page covers guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers, end-point assessment organisations and external quality assurance providers.

In addition it has published specific advice for employers who are furloughing apprentices.

PLANNING

Planning permissions – On 23 June 2020, Government extended planning permission deadlines, saving hundreds of construction projects’ permissions from expiring. More info from gov.uk.

Planning committees – Sec 78 of The Coronavirus Act 2020 empowers the Secretary of State to bring in regulations that allow for provisions for council meetings, including local planning authorities, to be held remotely and without councillors being physically present. This creates a framework for virtual council activity. It is now up to the Secretary of State to bring forward the regulations.

Manchester – The chief executive of Manchester City Council has been delegated powers to decide planning applications during the COVID-19 outbreak. Joanne Roney will also make decisions on listed building consent and tree-preservation orders. Read more at the Planner magazine.

OTHER RESOURCES

Build UK and UK Hospitality have soft-launched Open Doors 2020, a new website to enable those currently working on site to find local accommodation.

Department for International Trade has shared a resource for companies who trade internationally and deliver services abroad.

ACAS has published information for employees and employers, including information on simple steps to help protect the health and safety of staff, sick pay and absence from work.

HSE has published guidance for employers on protecting home workers.

🔗 Browse all of ACE's coronavirus/COVID-19 content.

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Guidance: Coronavirus Employment Schemes

16 June 2020

Full guidance note on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and sister scheme for the self-employed.

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