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ACE News

19 MAR 2021

CORONAVIRUS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

All the health advice, business support and best-practice

Last updated: 19 March 2021 (1.00pm).

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. 

Replay our webinar series, Navigating COVID-19 which covers the major issues businesses are facing. Members are encouraged to sign-up to receive email alerts directly from the Government on the latest rules, advice and guidance.

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

Recovery Loan Scheme – The new scheme ensures businesses of any size can continue to access loans and other kinds of finance worth up to £10 million per business. Once received, the finance can be used for any legitimate business purpose, including growth and investment. The Government guarantees 80% of the finance to the lender to ensure they continue to have the confidence to lend to businesses. The scheme launches on 6 April 2021 and is open until 31 December 2021, subject to review. Loans will be available through a network of accredited lenders, whose names will be made public in due course. The RLS replaces other Government backed loan schemes (outlined below). More info.

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. The scheme was extended to the end of March 2021 and has been replaced with the Recovery Loan Scheme. 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. The scheme was extended to the end of March 2021 and has been replaced with the Recovery Loan Scheme. 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. The loan scheme was extended to the end of March 2021 and has been replaced with the Recovery Loan Scheme. 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 – The Chancellor announced that VAT bills will be spread over 11 smaller payments during his Winter Statemen (24 September). More info soon.

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

The "furlough scheme" was recently extended to 30 September 2021 and includes additional flexibility including the ability to include part-time work.

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 July 2021, to safeguard workers from being made redundant or “furloughed”. This percentage decreases gradually to 60% of staff wages in September 2021. Employers can access it here.

The previously announced Job Retention Bonus, – a £1,000 one-off payment to firms that had retained furloughed staff until the end of January 2021 – has been scrapped and will be replaced with a new "retention incentive" that will be deployed at an “appropriate time”.

JOB SUPPORT SCHEME

Initially announced by the Chancellor during his Winter Statement (24 September 2020), the Job Support Scheme was a six month scheme meant to start when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme concludes. It is expected to be open to all small and medium sized firms, while larger companies who can demonstrate a fall in turnover are also be eligible. When it was previously announced, employers only needed to contribute 5% of workers' wages and employees only need to work a minimum of one day a week. This meant that employees could take home at least 73% of pay for working a new minimum 20% of hours.

SELF-EMPLOYMENT INCOMES SUPPORT SCHEME 

This supports self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19.The scheme will provide a series of grants to self-employed individuals or partnerships. The scheme is open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000. 

HMRC used the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the first grant. Applications for a second round of grants, worth 70% of profits up to a cap of £2,190 a month, were completed in Summer 2020. 

The scheme's third round of grants were widened. The profits covered by the scheme have doubled from what was previously announced to 40%, and the maximum grant for November 20 to January 21 is now worth £3,570, up from £1,875.

A further 600,000 self-employed people who have been excluded from support measures are now eligible to claim grants for the February 21 to April 21period, from the end of April, then for May to September, from late July. They will be worth 80% of three months' average trading profits, up to £7,500, for those who saw their turnover fall by 30% or more. For people whose turnover fell by less than that, they will get a 30% grant.

Find out more at gov.uk.

CONSTRUCTION TALENT RETENTION SCHEME 

The Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) Talent Retention Scheme helps talented individuals showcase their experience and expertise, while helping businesses find the skills they need. A partnership between Government and industry, the not-for-profit programme is supported by business associations, member companies, professional institutions and unions. ACE was instrumental in bringing the sector together through the CLC to back the launch of the platform for the benefit of its members and the wider industry. 

🔗 Find out more about the CLC's Construction Talent Retention Scheme and how your business can get involved.

📄 Download the ACE guidance on the Chancellor's Job Support Scheme written by affiliate Beale & Co at our COVID-19 hub (Latest update: 25 September).

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

▶️ Replay our latest webinar on the business support available, including the return of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme:

▶️ Watch a webinar on the Construction Talent Retention Scheme for businesses:

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3. HR, HEALTH & SAFETY

WORKING FROM HOME & THE OFFICE

In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland there are currently national lockdowns in place. You should work from home if possible. However, people who work in critical national infrastructure or construction are exempt. All unnecessary travel should be avoided, but people can continue to travel for work if required.

Previously, there were different tiered systems in place in England and Scotland, while Wales and Northern Ireland also had separate rules. Keep abreast of the current restrictions and local rules by clicking the links above. 

The UK Government has published a range of guidance to help businesses support their people working from home. This includes advice on the reasonable adjustments that should be made for those with health issues or disabilities, how to claim tax relief for new equipment bought,  and how to get help from Access to Work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

To ensure people are safe wherever they work, the Government has also produced 14 guides for working safely during coronavirus outbreak. which covers a range of workplaces (home, offices, fleets, factories, construction sites, etc..)

CONSTRUCTION SITES

In England and Wales the guidance currently excludes construction sites which are encouraged to remain open. 

However, to implement the Government’s social distancing recommendations, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has published new Site Operating Procedures. The seventh version of these were published on 7 January 2021. 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. In Scotland, the CICV Forum updated its Site Operating Procedures. (23 June).  

The  CLC has also produced guidance on the use face coverings at construction sites (29 Sep) while Transport for London has produced specific guidance aimed at those working on construction sites in the capital (4 Aug).

🌐 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's COVID-19 taskforce 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)

The CLC followed this up with a COVID-19 Cost Assessment Toolkit which helps businesses calculate the value of the disruption caused by the pandemic.

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

▶️ Replay our ACE Insight webinar on risk, professional indemnity insurance and contracts post-COVID:

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

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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Coronavirus Employment Schemes

16 June 2020

Guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and scheme for the self-employed.

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