Support and Advice for Business
Job Retention - Extension of the Furlough Scheme
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) i.e. the original furlough scheme, and a suspension of the Job Retention Scheme which was to begin this month.
The extended CJRS will operate in a similar way as before with the level of the grant the same as that available under the CJRS in August. That means that the Government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 and employers will pay employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and pension contributions only for the hours the employee does not work.
An eligible employee is one who is on PAYE payroll by 23:59 on 30th October 2020 and on any type of contract and working arrangements, and employers claiming for a grant for furlough hours will need to report and claim for a minimum period of 7 consecutive calendar days. Flexible furloughing will be allowed in addition to full-time furloughing.
The Job Support Scheme, which was scheduled to come in on Sunday 1st November, has been postponed until the furlough scheme ends.
Further guidance is expected to issue but in the meantime, some further information is available on the HM Treasury website https://www.gov.uk/government/news/furlough-scheme-extended-and-further-economic-support-announced
Grant Schemes - Localised Restrictions Support Scheme
The NI Executive have recently launched two different grant schemes to help businesses affected by the recent lockdown restrictions introduced across the region.
Localised Restrictions Support Scheme
This scheme is operated by the Department of Finance.
To qualify, businesses must meet 3 eligibility criteria:
1. The business must occupy a property within Northern Ireland
2. The business must fall into at least one of the following categories:
– It operates as one of the following: cafe, restaurant, hotel, guesthouse, registered bed & breakfast or pub. This will be validated through various local government and other official information sources.
– It operates as a close contact services (as detailed in the Health Protection Regulations) and occupies commercial premises such as hairdressers and barbers, beauty salons, day spas, nail bars, tattoo parlours, sports and massage therapy, wellbeing and holistic therapies, tanning, dress fitting, tailoring and fashion design, electrolysis and body piercing.
– It operates as a campsite or caravan park for touring caravans, cinema, a museum, a gallery, a bingo hall, a funfair, an indoor amusement arcade, an indoor visitor attraction, a trampoline park, an inflatable park, an escape room, a bowling alley, or an ice rink.
– It is a business which has been required to close or severely limit operations at their premises under the Health Protection Regulations.
3. The business must have been open to the public and trading at the start of the restriction period set by the Health Protection Regulations (unless the applicant business is a wet pub which serves drink only)
There are three levels of support available to businesses who fall into the eligible categories listed above and whose application is successful. The level of support that successful applicants will receive is based on the Total Net Annual Value (NAV) of the property from which the business operates:
1. Lower rate: £800 for each week that the restrictions apply for:
– a business that is the sole occupant operating from a property with an NAV of £15,000 or less,
– a guesthouse or bed & breakfast with a capital value (which means it is valued as a domestic property for rates); or
– a business that is the occupier of a part of a property which is restricted with any NAV.
2. Standard rate: £1,200 for each week that the restrictions apply for a business that is the sole occupant of a property with an NAV between £15,001 and £51,000.
3. Higher rate: £1,600 for each week that restrictions apply for a business that is the sole occupant of a property with an NAV of £51,001 or more.
Guidance has been issued by the Department of Finance and can be found here https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/downloads/localised-restrictions-support-scheme-guidance.pdf
To make an application for this scheme , please follow this link https://www.nibusinesscovidfinancialsupport.finance-ni.gov.uk/
Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme
This scheme is administered by Invest NI on behalf of the Department for the Economy and comes in 3 parts
• Part A – Businesses that are required to close or cease trading as result of the Health Protection Regulations and are not eligible for the Local Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS) will be eligible for a flat grant payment of £600 per week.
• Part B – Businesses that are not required to close or cease trading as result of the Health Protection Regulations but are within the supply chain of those that are and are significantly impacted and do not pay business rates will now all receive a payment of £300 per week.
At present only Part A is open for applications. FAQs on Part A of the scheme can be found here https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/sites/default/files/2020-10/Covid-Restrictions-Business-Support-Scheme-Part-A-FAQs-28-Oct-2020.pdf, guidance notes are here https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/sites/default/files/2020-10/Covid-Restrictions-Business-Support-Scheme-Part-A-Guidance-Notes-28-Oct-2020.pdf and applications can be made via this link https://www.investni.com/covid-restrictions-business-support-scheme-part-a?utm_source=referral&utm_medium=nibi&utm_campaign=cbrss
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
This scheme will be provided by the British Business Bank through participating providers including Danske, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank, and will offer more attractive terms for both businesses applying for new facilities and lenders, with the aim of supporting the continued provision of finance to UK businesses during the Covid-19 outbreak. The scheme will provide the lender with a government-backed guarantee against the outstanding facility balance. The Government will also cover the first 12 months of interest payments, so businesses will benefit from lower initial repayments. The business remains liable for repayments of the capital. The maximum value of a facility provided under the scheme will be £5 million.
More information can be found at https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/
Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)
The Government has also announced the creation of a Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme which is intended to support larger businesses, with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million, to access loans of up to £25 million.
The scheme to be delivered through commercial lenders with the Government providing lenders with an 80% guarantee on individual loans for businesses that would be otherwise unable to access the finance they need. Facilities backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest.
To access CLBILS, a business must be based in the UK, have an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million and be unable to secure regular commercial financing, and they must also have a borrowing proposal which the lender would consider viable, if not for the coronavirus pandemic and believes will enable the business to to trade out of any short-term to medium-term difficulty.
More information about the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme can be found at – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-the-coronavirus-large-business-interruption-loan-scheme
Self-Employed Income Support Scheme
The Chancellor announced a Self-Employed Income Support Scheme on Thursday 26 March. This scheme will pay self-employed people a direct cash grant of 80% of their average profits over the last 3 years, up to £2,500 a month for those with average profits of £50,000 or less. The income scheme will cover the three months to May with grants paid in a single lump sum instalment covering all 3 months and will start to be paid at the beginning of June. More information about this scheme can be found on the following link – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-gives-support-to-millions-of-self-employed-individuals .
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
Due to changes which the Government have passed through Parliament, employers with fewer than 250 employees are now able to reclaim up to 2 weeks of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) per employee for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020. The mechanism for reclaiming SSP is not yet in place.
VAT payments for the next quarter (i.e. the period from 20 March to 30 June 2020) will be deferred. Taxpayers will have until the end of the tax year 2020/21 to pay any VAT liabilities that accumulate over the deferral period.
As a result of the announcement by the Finance Minister Conor Murphy MLA on Tuesday 17 March ( https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/news/covid-19-ps100m-emergency-rates-package-businesses ), all businesses in Northern Ireland will not pay any rates for the first three months of this year, saving businesses a total of £100 million. The Minister has said that as part of the Executive’s budget, he will bring proposals forward for a reduction in the regional business rate that will also benefit all businesses.
On Wednesday 18 March, the NI Executive announced that they would be introducing a grant scheme for some businesses. This has two elements:
- A £10,000 for all businesses who are eligible for the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme (i.e. all businesses with a Rateable Net Annual Value (NAV) up to £15,000); and
- A grant of £25,000 to companies in the retail, hospitality and tourism sectors with a NAV between £15,000 and £51,000.
Businesses are now able to register online to receive the £10,000 Small Business Grants. To ensure that your business gets the grant it is entitled to, please go to the following Department for the Economy webpage and provide the requested details – https://www.covid-19smallbusinessgrants.economy-ni.gov.uk/
Registration for applications for the £25,000 Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and leisure Grant is now open. Further details on eligibility and how to apply can be found on the following website – https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-£25000-retail-hospitality-tourism-and-leisure-grant
HMRC has set up a new helpline to help businesses concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus (COVID-19). 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.
For those who are unable to pay due to coronavirus, HMRC will discuss your specific circumstances to explore:
- agreeing an instalment arrangement
- suspending debt collection proceedings
- cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately
If you run a business or are self-employed and are concerned about paying your tax due to coronavirus, you can call HMRC’s helpline for help and advice on 0800 0159 559.
Tourism Sector Advice
Tourism NI has set up a dedicated tapeline service and online enquiry facility to assist the sector with any queries they may have as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The service can be accessed by calling 028 95925313 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Sunday.
What Belfast Chamber is doing
We are working closely with other Chambers of Commerce and business organisations from across Northern Ireland to press the Executive to support local businesses to help them cope with the impact that the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Survey of Local Businesses Paints Bleak Picture for Many Businesses, Concerns Over Slow Government Support and Fears for the Future
- Business Groups Unite to ask Executive to ‘Fill in Covid-19 Funding Gaps’
- City Business Leaders Unite to Call for More Urgent Support Amid Fears Belfast Businesses are Losing Out
- COVID-19 Member Update – Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
- Belfast Chamber welcomes unprecedented move to save jobs and incomes
- Local Chambers of Commerce discuss COVID-19 pandemic impact with Economy Minister
- COVID-19 Member Update – Government Loans Scheme
- Belfast Chamber welcomes Grants Scheme to help businesses deal with COVID-19 outbreak COVID-19: Member Update regarding Rates
- Statement from Belfast Chamber regarding financial package
- Joint Letter to First Minister and Deputy First Minister regarding COVID-19 Support for Businesses
- Belfast Chamber Calls for Budget Support to Overcome Coronavirus Impact on Economy
- COVID-19 Member Update – Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme