Small Business Advice on COVID-19

By March 16, 2020 March 23rd, 2020 Insights
Covid 19 Small Business

Many people are currently trying to get to grips with the new situation. The COVID-19 virus has halted the world of business, as global supply chains have been affected and people have been asked to stay at home in many cases. For small businesses, these times are stressful – not only are there health and safety considerations to remember but also the economic impact is unprecedented. So what is the latest small business advice on COVID-19?

It is important to note that the situation is ongoing and rapidly changing. The current government advice is for people to limit non-essential gatherings, such as going to pubs or the theatre. However, new measures might limit how businesses operate so follow the latest information: guidance for the public and guidance for businesses.

Your responsibilities as an employer

Employers have a duty under health and safety legislation to ensure the welfare of their employees. Employees also must take reasonable measures to look after their health and safety, as well as those they work with. There must be cooperation between the employer and the employee to ensure the workplace remains safe during this difficult time.

The current government advice is that anyone showing symptoms of the virus should self-isolate. The symptoms include a persistent cough, fever and headaches. Where possible, employees that are self-isolating can be asked to work from home.

Temporary changes to Statutory Sick Pay

The government responded to the COVID-19 crisis with measures unveiled in the Budget 2020. The big thing to note is the small business advice on COVID-19 and temporary reform of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). The amended regulations mean:

  • Individuals who need to self-isolate in accordance with the guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland and Public Health Wales are entitled to SSP.
  • The Government will reimburse SMEs (those with fewer than 250 employees) any SSP they pay for the first 14 days of sickness.
  • Employers should keep a record of staff absences but they are not required to ask employees for a GP fit note.

For the self-employed and those not entitled to SSP, the government has made access to Employment and Support Allowance available from day one of self-isolation or sickness.

Pay for those working from home

While the government’s small business advice on COVID-19 doesn’t yet require people to close shop in most cases, employers can arrange to allow employees to work from home as an additional measure. If you ask your employees to work from home and they aren’t sick or self-isolating, you will need to pay normal salaries during this time. If employees are self-isolating but able to work, you will also be required to pay the usual wage.

The legal right for lay-offs

The economic impact of the coronavirus will be felt by many small businesses across a variety of sectors. The government has announced a range of financial measures to support business and those are outlined below. However, you might also consider lay-offs and short time working to avoid resorting to redundancy. This can only be done where employees agree to be laid off or kept on short-time working, or in situations where it is mentioned in the contract. You might also consider Variations of Contract although you will need the employees’ consent to do this.

Insurance coverage and business closure

Depending on the sector you work in, your business might be forced to shut down. For example, the current government advice is for the public to avoid visiting venues like pubs or cinemas. It’s important to note that this is advice, and not a direct order by the government to close. This can mean that your business is not protected by insurance. Furthermore, the Association of British Insurers claims that most businesses wouldn’t be covered in either case. Their official statement on the topic says, “Standard business interruption cover – the type the majority of businesses purchase – does not include forced closure by authorities as it is intended to respond to physical damage at the property which results in the business being unable to continue to trade”. Some extensive covers might include a mention of infectious disease, which could help your business make the claim.

Financial support for SMEs

As mentioned above, the government announced financial support for small business during Budget 2020. These measures are aimed at ensuring the financial disruption of the coronavirus remains limited. Aside from the mentioned help with SSP, the measures include:

  • A 100% Business Rates retail discount for a year, with the reduction expanded to also include leisure and hospitality sectors.
  • £2.2 billion in funding support for small businesses that fall under the Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR) scheme.
  • Temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
  • HMRC’s Time to Pay service can support SMEs and the self-employed with possible tax deductions or schemes.

Get small business advice on COVID-19

The times are stressful and many business owners are worried about the health and safety of employees and loved ones. On top of this, the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak is undoubtedly going to be unprecedented. The situation is ever-changing and the most important thing right now is to follow the government’s advice and to stay on top of any measures that can help your business.

If you want to talk about the impact of the virus and receive small business advice on COVID-19, you can contact us at Devonshire Green. Our experts are working hard to ensure we do our best to support small businesses at these difficult times. Contact us today with questions you might have about limiting the financial impact of the virus on your business.