Coronavirus: Advice for businesses and the self-employed

Coronavirus: Advice to businesses and the self-employed 

We understand just how worrying the situation is for businesses right now, and we will ensure that you are updated on all the key business support from central Government and from this Council as soon as we have it.   

Our immediate advice is to keep up to date with all the government’s announcements - see the GOV.UK website for government response updates.

In addition, we have contacted trade and business support organisations across London and the UK to bring you as much funding and business advice as we can find, and we will also be updating you on services from the Council’s own teams.  We are here to support you and the local economy. 

Central Government advice and guidance for businesses 

Central Government have a new website with all their business measures in one place, which is available to access at www.businesssupport.gov.uk

The government has updated its guidance to assist employers and businesses in providing advice to staff. Find out more on the Government website. It has also 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. Find what support is being offered to businesses on the GOV.UK website.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for employees, employers and businesses: information on healthcare advice for employers and support for businesses. 

Coronavirus: if your company cannot file accounts with Companies House on time: if Coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected your company and you need more time to file your accounts, you should act before your filing deadline.  

Find advice on decontamination for businesses on the Government website, where a possible or confirmed COVID-19 case has spent time while experiencing symptoms. 

Businesses should remind their staff to follow Public Health England advice to: 

  • always carry tissues and use them to catch your cough or sneeze, then bin the tissue, and wash your hands with soap and water 
  • wash your hands often with soap and hot water, especially after using public transport and before handling food 
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands 
  • avoid close contact with people who are unwell 
  • use hand sanitising gel if hand washing facilities are not available 

There is information from the Department for Work and Pensions about the support available for claimants during the COVID-19 pandemic on the GOV.UK website.

If you are self-employed

The Government has introduced a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to help those who are self-employed and have lost income due to the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Offering a taxable grant worth 80% of your profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next three months, the scheme is open to those who traded in the tax year 2019-20, have self-employed trading profits of less than £50,000 and more than half of your income comes from self-employment.

You can find out more about the scheme on the Government website and those who are eligible will be contacted by HMRC and invited to apply online.

We will update this section with further guidance as soon as we can.

Pricing and Price Marking 

Businesses still have a responsibility to comply with the law when selling goods. All goods should have a price on or associated with them so that customers can determine the price they will be expected to pay for an item without having to ask.

We are asking residents to report any instances of excessive charging or businesses not displaying pricing to trading.standards@rbkc.gov.uk. We are looking at our options under current legislation to address this kind of abuse but will also report this to Government to make a case for emergency legislation to tackle this.

COVID-19 related scams

We would also like to remind everyone to be on the lookout for Coronavirus related scams. It is essential that you remain vigilant to protect yourselves from scammers, both on the doorstep and online. If you receive suspicious emails or communications, ignore, delete and report to Actionfraud. We are aware of a number of scams currently circulating, visit our news pages for the details.

RBKC Business Rates

Support for businesses that pay business rates

2020/21 - Business rates holiday 

The Government has announced that there will be a business rates holiday (business rates relief) for those within the retail, hospitality and leisure industries for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

This will apply to those businesses receiving retail relief on 11 March 2020 but also many other businesses that provide leisure and hospitality services.

The Council is currently working through the list of all businesses paying business rates in the borough to identify those who fall within these three sectors and it is anticipated that many will not have to pay any rates for next year.

Further guidance was issued on 25 March 2020 and additional relief is now also available to estate agents, letting agents and bingo halls. These businesses will now also receive 100% business rates relief for the tax year April 2020 and March 2021.

For our larger businesses, the Council is still awaiting the final outcome of discussions with the EU regarding State Aid rules. Currently, if state aid rules were applied then this would mean that business rates could only be reduced by a maximum of €200,000 over a three-year period. Early indications are that the threshold of €200,000 will increase so it is possible that some larger organisations may still be liable for some business rates next year. The Council will be writing to all impacted businesses shortly to explain.

The Council is working to update its computer systems to reflect all of these new Government measures and revised bills for 2020/21 will be issued shortly.

Therefore, if you currently pay by Direct Debit, the Council will not be taking payment in April 2020. If you pay by an alternative method, you will not be expected to make a payment in April whilst you await your updated bill.

If you think that you may still be liable for some business rates in the year and would like to still make a payment in April, this will not be possible by Direct Debit but please use one of the alternative payment methods as set out on the Council’s website.

Government grant

The Government has also announced a grant of up to £25,000 for smaller businesses who are eligible for retail relief as of 11 March 2020 and where the rateable value of premises is less than £51,000.

If your property has a rateable value of up to £15,000, you will be entitled to a grant of £10,000. If your rateable value is between £15,001 and £51,000, you are entitled to £25,000.

The Council is in the process of writing to all businesses eligible for this grant requesting details for making this payment. We are committed to ensuring that this money is passed on to you as quickly as possible to support you through these difficult times so please do send the completed form with the accompanying document to us as soon as you can.

The grant is payable to the person who, according to the billing authority’s records, was the ratepayer on the 11 March 2020.  Therefore, if you have a rating agent who acts on your behalf we would encourage all businesses to ensure it is the rate payer who completes the form.

Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates 

Businesses in the borough that are currently in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) can receive additional funding from the Government through a one-off grant of £10,000. All businesses that were in receipt of SBRR at 11 March 2020 are eligible and this grant is being provided to help you meet ongoing business costs. 

The Council is in the process of writing to all businesses eligible for this grant requesting details for making this payment. We are committed to ensuring that this money is passed on to you as quickly as possible to support you through these difficult times so please do send the completed form with the accompanying document to us as soon as you can.

There are some aspects of the guidance that remain unclear and in particular for those who are not eligible for Small Business Rates Relief but whose rates are calculated using the small business rates multiplier. Officers are currently reviewing the guidelines and the Council is in the process of writing to all businesses eligible for this. 

If you think you are eligible for any of the above but have not received a letter within the next 10 days or you cannot gain access to your business premises to collect the post, please email us at: covid19businessrates@rbkc.gov.uk 

Commercial waste services

In order to further assist small and large businesses during this difficult time, the Council has decided to suspend all invoices for commercial waste services for the next three months. This means that we will not be issuing the normal quarterly invoices for the April-June period. All invoices have been suspended for the time being. We have written to commercial waste service users to inform them and you should receive your letter in the coming days.

Additionally, in accordance with Government policy to resist the spread of the virus we will not be making site visits, deliveries, arranging face to face meetings or any other unnecessary contact save in an emergency.

We are still here to support and assist you. If you have any concerns, please contact us by email on commercial.waste@rbkc.gov.uk and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

If you are a business in Council commercial property

The Council has decided to suspend rent invoicing for three months on storage units we own and let, with effect from Monday 30 March 2020. This means that we will not be issuing the normal invoices, which would have been issued to start in April 2020.  All invoices have been suspended for the time being. We have written to storage unit holders to inform them and you should receive your letter in the coming days.

We will continue to monitor the situation and review this rent suspension after the three months, after which rent for this period may be charged at a later date. For those storage unit holders with ongoing and outstanding rent, you will be contacted about that directly. 

We are still here to support and assist you. If you have any concerns please contact us by email on street.trading@rbkc.gov.uk and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

If you are renting a commercial property from the Council, we have written to you to inform you that the Council has decided to suspend rent for three months on commercial premises we own and let, with immediate effect. This means that we will not be issuing the normal quarterly demand for rent from March. All bills have been suspended for the time being subject to review after the three month period.

If you have any questions about this, please do get in touch by email: propertyinformation@rbkc.gov.uk

Information for food businesses

What you need to know about Coronavirus and food

It is very unlikely that you can catch Coronavirus from food. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. It is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging. However everyone should maintain good hygiene practice and wash their hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Find out the Government’s lastest information and advice on all aspects of food preparation and storage, including food hygiene, packing and disposal.

Food businesses being temporary takeaway only

The Government has announced that all food businesses, including pubs, restaurants and cafes should close to the public to prevent large groups of people gathering and spreading the virus. 

However, the Government is introducing changes to planning legislation to allow pubs and restaurants to be used as hot food takeaways without requiring planning permission, for a temporary period of up to 12 months only, in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Businesses will be required to tell us when the new use begins and ends which you can do by contacting planning@rbkc.gov.uk  

More information can be found on the GOV.UK website.  

Food deliveries

We have also been advised by the Government not to undertake planning enforcement action which would result in unnecessarily restricting deliveries of food and other essential deliveries during this period.   

You can read the full copy of this Statement for more information

As a food business operator, we appreciate you may have some concerns, however, there is currently no evidence that you can catch Coronavirus from food.   

It is important that you ensure that food is protected from contamination, so it is good practice to cover open food and wash fresh fruit and vegetables. The use of sneeze guards is recommended for open food. If you provide takeaway cutlery, condiments etc for your customers then you may wish to review the storage of these so these cannot be contaminated. 

You should ensure all staff handling food or working in areas where food is prepared/stored, wash their hands thoroughly and you should remind your staff of your sickness policy. You should also be reviewing your cleaning policies to ensure adequate and regular cleaning and sanitising. 

Public Health England and the NHS state that the most effective way of minimising the risk of catching the virus and spreading is to wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after going to the toilet, before eating, after blowing your nose, sneezing and coughing. 

You should follow the government advice on the GOV.UK website if you or any of your staff have travelled. If you or your staff are feeling unwell then you need to visit the NHS 111 Online website for advice on what to do. 

If you offer any shisha pipes at your establishment, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic situation you should consider ceasing this service for the time being. If you do provide this service, then you must ensure that you provide clean/sanitised equipment and sharing of equipment must be avoided at all times. 

If you have any concerns or questions, you should check the latest government advice or go to Public Health England’s FAQs on the virus. There is also further guidance on the NHS website

If you have specific food safety or health and safety questions please email us at: environmentalhealth@rbkc.gov.uk, or call us on tel: 020 7361 3002. 

Finance 

Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme 

A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch next week to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. Businesses can access the first 12 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments. More information can be found on the British Business Bank website.

Insurance 

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. Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.    

In addition a package of measures to support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees was also announced Find out more on the GOV.UK website

Taxes  

The Government has announced that it will be deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for three months and if you are self-employed, your self-assessment income tax payments for July 2020 will be deferred to January 2021.

You can find out more information about tax deferrals on the GOV.UK website.

A new helpline to the HMRC's Time to Pay service, so businesses and the self-employed can arrange to defer tax payments. 

Entrepreneurs' Tax Relief, for business owners who sell their firms, has been scaled down to relief on profits of up to £1m over their lifetime, from the previous £10m relief on profits. 

Employment allowance to increase by £1,000 allowing certain businesses who employ staff to reduce their National Insurance bill by £4,000. 

Benefits 

The Government has issued advice about coronavirus and claiming benefits, which will continue to be updated on the Universal Credit website

The key points are: 

  • If you cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay you will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of your illness.
  • Statutory Sick Pay will be payable if you are staying at home on Government advice, not just if you are infected by coronavirus. This will apply from 13 March 2020. 
  • In light of the current coronavirus outbreak, the Department for Work and Pensions has taken the precautionary decision to temporarily suspend all face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits.  
  • If you have a jobcentre appointment but are staying at home on Government advice or have been diagnosed with coronavirus, you will not be sanctioned if you tell DWP in good time. 
  • If you are staying at home as a result of coronavirus, your mandatory work search and work availability requirements will be removed to account for a period of sickness. 
  • If you are self-employed and claiming Universal Credit, and are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus, the Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) will not be applied for a period of time whilst you are affected. 
  • If you are affected by coronavirus you will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without physically attending a jobcentre. 
  • If you employ people, you are urged to use your discretion about what evidence, if any, you ask for when making decisions about sick pay. 
  • If you have fewer than 250 employees, you will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay for employees unable to work because of coronavirus. This refund will be for up to 2 weeks per employee. 

Information from other agencies and trade organisations

Support from the Portobello Business Centre in RBKC funded by the Council

PBC are planning to provide business support services until further government announcements.

If you need business advice you can book a telephone call/meeting with one of PBC’s business advisors. You will also be able to book a Skype call so there is no need to attend at their office. Please call on tel: 020 7460 5050 to discuss. 

Federation of Small Businesses -  Coronavirus (COVID-19) online information hub.  FSB has added the latest information and advice (23 March) about what small businesses and the self-employed can do to protect their businesses. 

RBKC Supply Chain will continue offering the following services during the COVID-19 pandemic: 

  • one to one meetings with local companies using video conferencing facilities such as Skype or Microsoft Teams or voice only services such PowWowNow 
  • brokering opportunities with buyers as and when they arise 
  • assistance with obtaining basic or higher levels of accreditation again using remote conferencing and email
  • critical review of any tenders by our tendering specialist prior to submission 
  • information on the unfolding pandemic and support for businesses  

More information about the project can be found at the RBKC Supply Chain website

Please contact: David McAlpine, Director, MTW Consultants Ltd, email: david@mtwconsultants.co.uk or phone: 07891 165 207 

  • Nat West - Funding for SMEs impacted by coronavirus from Nat West. More information can be found on the Nat Wat website
  • Lloyds Bank - support package for businesses impacted by coronavirus. More information can be found of the Lloyds website.  
  • TfL – Important update for business tenants: TfL have a range of support for tenants and business occupiers during this time and they have created a set of FAQs to help which you can find on the TfL website
  • Westway have advice and information for their businesses available on the Westway Trust website.

Guidance for convenience stores – The Association of Convenience Stores has some useful guidance for corner shops. Find more information on the ACS website.

It includes:

  • Home delivery guidance 
  • Guidance on claiming grants and compensation 
  • Guidance on employment law and colleague support 
  • A devolved administrations briefing 
  • Posters for stores on home deliver, handwashing, collections and more 
  • A template letter for critical workers

 Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Government has announced that all UK employers will be eligible for a scheme via HMRC which will support them in continuing to pay employees’ wages who unable to work due to social distancing or self-isolation in response to the Coronavirus.  

Government grants will cover 80% of retained workers’ salary of up to £2500 a month per worker, and this is eligible for employees in jobs backdated to 1 March 2020.  More information is available on the GOV.UK website.   

Traders at Council run markets  

The Council will not be accepting any new applications for trading on Portobello Road and Golborne Road market. If you are a permanent trader your rent will be waived for 12 weeks from 6 April 2020 and will be reviewed in June 2020.  If you are a temporary trader, the Council is not expecting you to trade to maintain your attendance record. This will be placed on hold for the foreseeable future.   

The Council has also made changes to how markets operate in line with social distancing guidance from the Government. Only food stalls (fruit and veg, fishmongers etc) as well as household goods (cleaning products etc) will operate.  

The reduced number of stalls will be spaced out at a two-market stall gap between them to encourage social distancing. 

If you have a specific street trading question email us at: street.trading@rbkc.gov.uk or call us on tel: 020 7727 7684.