Covid-19 update 08.04.2020
DAILY BUSINESS BRIEFING FROM GOVERNMENT’S COVID-19 PRESS CONFERENCE
On a day when it was revealed that more than nine million workers are expected to be furloughed under the government’s job retention scheme, the Chancellor admitted that there was no doubt COVID-19 would have a significant impact on the economy, despite the government’s unprecedented financial interventions.
Asked whether UK unemployment will become as bad as places like Norway, where the jobless rate is above 10% because of the coronavirus outbreak, he replied: “I will be absolutely honest, this will have a significant impact on the economy and not in an abstract way – on people’s jobs and livelihoods.”
He said the job retention scheme – that sees people being furloughed from work and paid 80% of their wages by the government – combined with other government measures would “significantly help mitigate some of the impact”.
Mr Sunak added: “If we weren’t doing all the things we are doing, it would certainly be worse. We are doing the right things.
“I can’t say there won’t be hardship ahead, there will be… but everyone has a role to play and I am confident we will get through it.”
Responding to further questions, he added the schemes had been designed to prevent fraud and that the government would be cracking down on any abuse.
He said the schemes, despite being designed ‘at pace’ had been a balance between ensuring they were simple and accessible while protecting the taxpayer. Mr Sunak said this had influenced some of the decisions made, such as the 28 February ‘cut-off’ date for payroll, and this had unfortunately meant some people have ‘fallen through the cracks’.
And he added while he was confident the schemes had been designed to minimise the risk of fraud or surplus claims, there would be robust scrutiny and auditing.
Chancellor reveals £750m funding to support charities’ ‘unsung heroes’ in the front line against COVID-19
Mr Sunak also announced unprecedented financial support for the hard-hit charity sector at today’s Downing Street press conference.
He pledged £750million funding for charities, of which £370m will be ring-fenced for small local charities supporting vulnerable people. £360m would go to charities providing essential services and supporting vulnerable people; this included up to £200m to hospices with the rest going to organisations such as Citizens Advice, St John Ambulance and those supporting vulnerable children, victims of domestic abuse and disabled people among others.
The government will also match ‘pound for pound’ donations to the National Emergencies Trust as part of the BBC’s Big Night In fundraiser later this month, with a minimum pledge of £20m.
Mr Sunak said that while many of the 170,000 charities in the UK could benefit from some of the existing schemes, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, others were in the front line in the battle against COVID-19 and the government would step in to ensure their work continued, despite the current fall-off in their funding.
“We cannot promise to match the revenue charities have lost pound for pound,” he said. “But some charities are in the front line and provide critical support to vulnerable people in our community. For them to ‘shut up shop’ would be to contravene their very purpose. Those charities are needed more than ever now and are facing a significant loss in revenue.
“At this time, when many are hurting, tired and confined, we need the gentleness of charities in our lives. They give us hope, they make us stronger, and remind us we depend on each other.”
New £1.3m emergency fund to support tourism industry
Earlier today, Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston launched a new emergency fund to support Destination Management Organisations (DMO) in England at risk of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The funding, which is available to any at-risk DMO in England which usually receives at least 50% of its income from commercial sources, will be used to cover operating costs and the cost of employees that cannot be furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme because they provide crucial business support services.
Under the scheme, DMOs will be able to receive up to £2,500 per month for two members of non-furloughed staff who provide crucial business support services and up to £5,000 to cover operating costs.
ADDITIONAL NEW GUIDANCE ON SOCIAL DISTANCING IN THE WORKPLACE
To support businesses that remain open during this period in England, the government has published additional guidance to assist employers, businesses and their staff in staying open safely during coronavirus (COVID-19). For specific settings please refer to sector specific guidance. Guidance has been published for:
- Shops running a pick-up or delivery service
- Tradespeople and working in people’s homes
- Manufacturing and processing businesses
- Logistics businesses
- Outdoor businesses
- Farming: visiting farms for animal health and welfare
- Fishing or other short-term offshore work
- Cargo-shipping or other long-term offshore work
- Transport businesses
- Waste management businesses
These guidelines are not intended to be comprehensive or to represent every business’s situation, but are illustrative examples. Businesses should also look at the advice being published by trade associations and similar groups on how to apply government guidance in their sector. Read the general guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus.
TRANSPORT AND TRAVEL GUIDANCE
A new hub on gov.uk brings together Information for people using transport or working in the transport sector during the Coronavirus outbreak. This includes information on:
- Using public transport
- Driving private vehicles – cars, vans, motorbikes
- Bus and lorry drivers
- Freight, bus and road transport businesses
- Transport workers
- Maritime and shipping
- Aviation and flying
- Overseas travel
ADDITIONAL NEW GUIDANCE RELEASED TODAY
Temporary relaxation of the enforcement of the drivers’ hours rules: all sectors carriage of goods by road
Anyone driving under the EU drivers’ hours rules or the GB drivers’ hours rules and undertaking carriage of goods by road can use the relevant relaxation where necessary. The relaxations are not limited to specific sectors or journeys. These two temporary relaxations will run until 23:59 on Tuesday 21 April 2020.
Apprenticeship programme response
This document sets out guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations in response to the impact of Coronavirus. The guidance has been updated with new information on continuing training and end point assessment for furloughed apprentices, and pausing new funding audits.
MHRA guidance on coronavirus
Guidance for industry covering the Coronavirus outbreak. Added link to Guidance for manufacturers and Good Practice (GxP) laboratories on exceptional flexibilities for maintenance and calibration during the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak in the Inspections and Good Practice section.
Personal protective equipment (PPE): export control process
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, anyone wishing to export personal protective equipment (PPE) to areas outside the EU, European Free Trade Association member states and certain other territories will temporarily need a PPE export licence. The guidance has been updated with a link to a question and answer document by the EU.
HMRC webinar advice
HMRC are delivering a programme of webinars on measures to support employers, employees and the self-employed through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19. You can watch a video of the recorded webinar on the HMRC YouTube channel Coronavirus – (COVID-19): helping employers to support employees
BUSINESS SUPPORT PACKAGES: LATEST INFORMATION & UPDATES
COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
HMRC has published new online guidance about the new coronavirus (COVID-19) Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme which allows small and medium sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to apply to HMRC to recover the costs of paying Statutory Sick Pay to their employees. Details about when the new Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme can be accessed and when employers can make a claim, will be announced as soon as possible.
- Extra protection for businesses with ban on evictions for commercial tenants who miss rent payments.
- Financial assistance for employers unable to pay statutory redundancy payments.
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
- Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs. NEW ONLINE GUIDANCE
- 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England
- Small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
- Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Additional guidance from the British Business Bank here
- A lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans:
- The HMRC Time To Pay Scheme
- Import duties and VAT on vital medical equipment
CAN YOU, YOUR BUSINESS OR EMPLOYEES OFFER CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) SUPPORT?
NHS asks people to share their coronavirus symptoms to help others
A new Coronavirus Status Checker will help the NHS coordinate its response and build up additional data on the COVID-19 outbreak. It is open to anyone in the UK to use on the NHS website and in its initial phase the NHS is particularly keen for anyone who thinks they may be displaying potential coronavirus symptoms, no matter how mild, to complete it. Please share the checker with your employees and networks. You can find more information here.