COVID-19 Updates

 Last updated Thursday 9th April 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Business Bulletin 

The British Fashion Council is engaging directly with government in order to closely monitor COVID-19 updates, advice and support for businesses, and to ensure the challenges facing our industry are articulated to the government. As an organisation whose mission is to support and promote British fashion, we are working to take action by:

  • Liaising with government to ensure the challenges facing our industry are articulated and to ask for support for businesses, including ascertaining whether the latest business rate threshold measures will work for fashion businesses
  • Speaking to fashion retailers to see how they can support smaller, independent businesses
  • Urging increased government support to protect self-employed and freelance workers in the fashion industry

We’d like to hear from you so that we may communicate your specific concerns back to our government colleagues. Please reach out to us on info@britishfashioncouncil.com.

Please see this Practical Guidance on COVID-19, authored by Mischon de Reya, for additional business guidance and information.

Chancellor’s Official Statement 5pm 26th March 2020

The UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced further help for the self-employed.  

Self-employed will be able to have 80% of their monthly wages covered by government. This will be based on 3 financial years of information. The support will be capped at £2,500. The scheme will apply to those with trading profits up to £50,000 a year. Further information can be found here:

Scheme link
FAQs link

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Government has published guidance for businesses and workers on how to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

This applies to employees who have been asked to stop working, but who are being kept on the pay roll, otherwise described as ‘furloughed workers’. HMRC will reimburse 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 per month. This is to safeguard workers from being made redundant. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to 1 March and is initially open for 3 months, but will be extended if necessary.

Guidance for Employers
Employers will be able to use a portal to claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ (employees on a leave of absence) monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage. It is expected that the scheme to be up and running by the end of April. Find out more here.

Guidance for Employees
The guidance supports workers understand whether they are eligible for the scheme, and how much the employer can claim if they are unable to operate or if there is no work due to coronavirus (COVID 19). Find out more here.
 

Business Closures

During this time of disruption, the UK Government is not asking all businesses to shut – indeed it is important for business to carry on. Only some non-essential shops and public venues have been asked to close – see more detailed information on the businesses and venues that must close, and those that are exempt.

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. Click here to find out more.

The government understands that employers and businesses may have concerns about how they can remain open for business safely, and so play their part in preventing the spread of the virus. All employees should be encouraged to work from home unless it is impossible for them to do so. Not everyone can work from home: certain jobs require people to travel to, from and for their work – for instance to operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or to deliver front line services. For specific settings please refer to sector specific guidance.

For advice to businesses in other nations of the UK please see guidance set by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.

How to Access Government Financial Support

Following the announcement from the Treasury of the £330bn package of financial measures, here is some guidance for navigating the application process. The Treasury has published a factsheet on its GOV.UK pages with information on how to apply for these different schemes and further information is provided on gov.uk. Businesses should pay close attention to eligibility criteria and other factors such as EU state aid rules.

  1. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
    Available to any employer, business or charity in the UK through HMRC (see details above). Grants to cover up to 80% of salary costs of anyone not working due to Coronavirus but whose job has been retained, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
  2. Commercial Financing Facility
    Available to larger businesses that have had, prior to being affected by COVID-19, a short or long-term rating of investment grade, or financial health equivalent to an investment grade rating. Loans to bridge coronavirus disruption to cashflows.
  3. Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
    This is delivered by the British Business Bank and available for small businesses that may be affected by cash flow interruption. Loans are delivered through accredited lenders. If your existing bank is one of these we recommend you contact your relationship manager to discuss further. Please find further information that may be helpful in preparation here. 
    Government has advised that whether a lender requires a personal guarantee for a loan supported by the (CBILS) is at the discretion of the lender, who is accredited by the British Business Bank. However, a lender is not allowed to take a personal guarantee against a borrower's principle residence under the scheme. So even if a personal guarantee is required under the lender's credit policy, it cannot be taken against the borrower's home. Some major lenders have announced that they are not going to require personal guarantees on loans under CBILS the scheme (of any size). Government has recommended that if businesses are worried about the specific terms of finance facilities available under this scheme, they should speak to their usual lender.
  4. Grants for Retail Hospitality and Leisure Businesses 
    A £25,000 grant for businesses operating from smaller premises. Your Local Authority will contact you if you are eligible for this grant.
  5. Rates Relief 
    100% business rates discount for all retail, leisure and hospitality venues, further details are being provided, this will be administered through Local Billing Authorities, relevant occupiers don’t need to take any action, it will be applied by local councils in April Business Rates invoice. On 23 March 2020 the government confirmed that that some of the exclusions for this relief, such as estate agents and letting agents, have been removed, so that retail, leisure, and hospitality properties that will have been forced to close as a result of the COVID-19 restriction measures will now be eligible for the relief. 
  6. Support for Businesses That Pay Little or no Business Rates (“Small Companies”)
    Grants of £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, expected to be available from 1st April. If you are an eligible business your Local Authority will contact you.
  7. Time to Pay Arrangements – TTP 
    Allowing deferral of current tax debs (including corporation/income tax, payroll taxes and VAT) by converting settlement to instalments over a 3-12 months period. Any business is eligible to apply but must provide supporting facts and documentation to evidence cashflow concerns. Self-employed are also eligible to apply and should contact HMRS on 0800 0159 559.
  8. Statutory Sick Pay – SSP – For Small or Medium Sized Businesses 
    Available to employees from day 1 where they have to self isolate or are unwell because of Covid-19, SMEs can recover this cost from 13th March for a maximum of two weeks’ sickness per employee. We are awaiting further details as to the mechanism for making this claim.
  9. Deferral of VAT 
    VAT payments between 20th March 2020 and end June 2020 will be deferred. Payment of VAT will be deferred to end of the tax year. Further guidance to eligibility and administration of this scheme will follow.
  10. Income Tax Payment Deferral 
    To support self-employed, income tax payments on account due to self-assessment on 31st July 2020 will be deferred until 31 January 2021. This will apply automatically and no application is required
  11. Universal Credit 
    Claimed online or via phone. Freelancers and the self-employed may also benefit through the welfare system, including the £1,000 p.a. increase in the (Universal Credit (UC standard allowance, the equivalent increase in the basic rate of Working Tax Credit and the uprating of Local Housing Allowance. Government is temporarily relaxing the Minimum Income Floor for all self-employed UC claimants for the duration of the outbreak. This means a drop in earnings due to sickness or self-isolation or as a result of the economic impact of the outbreak will be reflected in claimants’ awards.
  12. Contributory Employment and Support Allowance
    Self-employed people unable to work because they are directly affected by Covid-19 or self-isolating will also be eligible for Contributory Employment and Support Allowance. As announced at Budget, this is now payable from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth

Support in the Manufacture of Essential Products

In times when we all need to pull together, the fashion industry can be of service. We are working with officials from both the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) who have confirmed they would be grateful for support in the manufacture of essential products including masks, that could be supported by fashion brands and manufacturers. Companies / individuals who are able to supply anything non-ventilator related are asked to complete the short survey

Production and supply of ventilator components
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is looking for organisations who can support in the supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the United Kingdom as part of the government’s response to COVID-19. If your business can help with the Prime Minister’s call for ventilator production, please click here to register your details.

Government Business Bulletin as at 26th March 2020

The information below is given by government via a business readiness bulletin for trade associations, business representative bodies and business intermediaries to provide important information for our industry on Coronavirus (COVID-19). Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information is as full and as up to date as possible this is a fast-moving situation and we recommend that businesses seek their own independent advice in preparation.

HMRC’s tax helpline is changing

HMRC has a set up a phone helpline to support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to coronavirus. The tax helpline number is changing. You can now call them on 08000 241222. Opening hours are from 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday. Calls to the old helpline number will be redirected automatically.

Producing hand sanitiser and gel for coronavirus (COVID-19)

HMRC have produced guidance on temporary changes to the use and supply of denatured alcohol and duty-free spirits, to help businesses who produce hand sanitiser and gel. All guidance on the production and supply of hand sanitiser can be found here.

Government launches Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp

The UK Government has launched a GOV.UK Coronavirus Information service on WhatsApp. The new free to use service aims to provide official, trustworthy and timely information and advice. To use the free GOV.UK Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp, simply add 07860 064422 in your phone contacts and then message the word ‘hi’ in a WhatsApp message to get started. Further information can be found here.

Hotel accommodation to support key workers and vulnerable people

Guidance has been updated to clarify the exemption for hotels, hostels, and B&Bs to open so they can offer accommodation to key workers and support rough sleepers to keep them off the streets and in suitable accommodation. Further guidance can be found here.

MHRA guidance on coronavirus

Updates have been made to new guidance on exemptions from Devices regulations during the outbreak.

Companies to receive a 3 month extension period to file accounts during COVID-19. Companies House have announced that businesses will be given an additional 3 months to file accounts to help companies avoid penalties as they deal with the impacts of COVID-19. Full guidance on applying for an extension can be found here.

Commercial insurance

Most commercial insurance policies are unlikely to cover pandemics or unspecified notifiable diseases, such as COVID-19. However, those businesses which have an insurance policy that covers government ordered closure and pandemics or government ordered closure and unspecified notifiable disease should be able to make a claim (subject to the terms and conditions of their policy). Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Further information is available.

Protection from eviction for commercial tenants

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction. Further details are now available.

Extension of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) arrangements

BIDs will be able to extend the maximum duration of their BID arrangements until 31 March 2021 by delaying BID ballots due to take place this year. This enables BIDs, and the local authorities who administer the ballot process, to concentrate on responding to the current emergency.

DIT support for UK businesses trading internationally

The advice for UK businesses that export or deliver goods and services abroad and have been impacted by the spread of COVID-19 has been updated.

Employers do not have to report gender pay gaps

Enforcement of the gender pay gap reporting deadlines are suspended for this reporting year (2019/20) due to the Coronavirus outbreak. The decision means there will be no expectation on employers to report their data.

Financial assistance for employers unable to pay statutory redundancy payments

This page has been updated with information about the financial assistance scheme for employers unable to pay statutory redundancy payments.

Online resources for businesses and employers 

For the latest information and advice, employers and business owners should visit guidance for employees, employers and businesses. Check the page regularly for updates and subscribe to receive email alerts.   

Information includes: 

  • Guidance on advice to provide to staff including: how to help prevent spread of COVID-19; what to do if someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 has been in a workplace setting; advice to give to individuals who have travelled to specific areas; and advice for the certification of absence from work resulting from COVID19 
  • Information on the support available to businesses impacted by COVID-19 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 
  • Government is also scaling up the Business Support Helpline so businesses in England, of all sizes, can pick up the phone and speak directly to an advisor (Devolved Administrations have their own equivalent services in place). The number to call is: 0300 456 3565
  • The Small Business Minister and Small Business Commissioner are calling on the UK’s big businesses to speed up payments to their small business suppliers wherever they can to ease COVID-19 related cash flow issues. You can find more information here.
  • HMRC have launched a tax helpline to help businesses concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Find all the information here. The number is: 0800 0159 559
  • Companies House has produced guidance if coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected your company and you need more time to file your accounts. Find all the information here.

Get in touch:

Request for business intelligence: How is COVID-19 impacting businesses?
BFC is engaging directly with government in order to ensure the challenges facing our industry are articulated to the government. We’d like to hear from you so that we may communicate your specific concerns back to our government colleagues. Please reach out to us on info@britishfashioncouncil.com.