Latest government announcements for workers and businesses

Helping hand with a sunset background

The Government has announced an unprecedented package of measures aimed at supporting workers and businesses. The key points are below - we will update with more detail as soon as we can and as further measures are announced.

Flexible furlough scheme comes into force

UPDATE (30 June): Employers can return furloughed workers on a part-time basis from 1 July. Employers can pay staff normal wages for the hours worked and can claim from the furlough scheme at the furlough rate for those hours they are not working (subject to the same caps).

The scheme only applies to employees who were furloughed by 10 June 2020. If your employees were not furloughed by that date, you cannot claim under the revised scheme.

Pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers to re-open

UPDATE (23 June): Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced that pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers in England can re-open on 4 July. Customers should maintain the two metre social distancing where possible, but the rules will be relaxed to "one metre plus".

Pubs, bars and restaurants offering indoor table service will be required to keep contact details of customers to help with contact tracing. Hairdressers and barbers can open providing protective measures are taken.

More businesses to re-open in Scotland

UPDATE (15 June): First minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced that many more businesses will be able to open from 29 June. Shops of all sizes will be able to open providing they have an external entrance and can meet strict distancing and hygiene rules (this means that shopping centres will remain closed for the timebeing). Dentists will be allowed to reopen for urgent care from Monday 22 June. Professional sport will be allowed to resume behind closed doors and places of worship will reopen for individual prayer from 22 June.

Non-essential shops open

UPDATE (15 June): Non-essential retailers in England who can demonstrate they are "COVID Secure" have re-opened.

Further delay to domestic reverse VAT charges

UPDATE (10 June): The Government have announced a further five-month delay (until 1 March 2021) to the introduction of the domestic reverse VAT charge for construction services due to the impact of coronavirus.

Non-essential shops can re-open

UPDATE (9 June): The business sectretary, Alok Sharma, has confirmed that non-essential retailers will be allowed to re-open from Monday 15 June providing they meet the Government guidelines are are "COVID Secure" and follow the guidance for shops.

Face masks to be compulsory on public transport

UPDATE (4 June): It will be compulsory for all passengers (with very limited exceptions) to wear face masks on public transport in England from 15 June. Face coverings must be worn on buses, trams, trains, coaches, aircraft and ferries. Failure to wear a covering could lead to a fine. Exceptions include very young children, disabled people and those with breathing difficulties. The face covering does not have to be a surgical mask - homemade masks are acceptable proving it covers the mouth and nose.

People in Scotland are currently recommended to wear masks in shops and on public transport. In Northern Ireland, people are advised to consider wearing a mask when social distancing cannot be observed. Face coverings have not yet been recommended in Wales.

Quarantine rules for travellers entering the UK announced

UPDATE (4 June): The home sectretary, Priti Patel, has announced that from 8 June 2020, there will be new rules for those travelling to the UK. Travellers will be required to:

  • complete an online form with journey and contact details before they travel
  • self isolate for 14 days at the address provided in the online form

The information provided in the form will be used to check that you are observing the quarantine rules. You may be fined for failure to complete the form or following the self isolation rules. The rules apply to both residents and visitors with very few exceptions (those who have travelled from and spent 14 days or more in Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man).

First non-essential businesses re-open

UPDATE (1 June): Open-air markets and car show rooms have joined garden centres (which were permitted to re-open on 13 May) in the first tranche of non-essential businesses that have been permitted to re-open in England. Those businesses opening are expected to be "COVID secure" and follow the guidance for shops. Other non-essential shops will be permitted to open from 15 June.

No firm date has been set for the re-opening of shops in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Self employed income support scheme extended

UPDATE (27 May): The Self employed income support scheme will pay a second grant covering a further three months average monthly earnings. The grant will be reduced to 70% of earnings (capped at £6,570) and will be paid in a single instalment. Applications for the second grant will open in August. 

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Chancellor announces details on the future of furlough scheme

UPDATE (27 May): The chancellor has announced further details of the next phase of the Coronavirus Job Protection Scheme. There will be a phased increase in the contribution employers are asked to make.

Date

Employer contribution

Government contribution

June & July

0%

80% of wages, plus employers' National Insurance (NI) and statutory pension contributions

From 1 August

Employers' NI and statutory pension contributions

80% of wages

From 1 September

10% of wages plus employers' NI and statutory pension contributions

70% of wages

From 1 October

20% of wages plus employers' NI and statutory pension contributions

60% of wages

Employers will be able to return furloughed workers on a part-time basis from 1 July. Employers will pay staff normal wages for the hours staff are working and claim from the furlough scheme when they are not (subject to the same caps). As this is a new scheme, any employers who want to furlough staff who are not already furloughed will need to do so by 10 June (in order to complete the minimum three week furlough period).

The scheme will finish on 31 October.

Coronavirus Test and Trace system launched

UPDATE (27 May): The NHS Test and Trace system will begin contacting those in England who have deemed to be at risk of infection from 28 May 2020. Tracers will contact people who test positive for coronavirus to identify anyone they have been in "close" contact with. Those contacts will be assessed and any contacts deemed to be at risk of contracting the virus will be instructed to self isolate for 14 days - whether they have symptoms or not.

  • Anyone who develops symptoms should isolate for seven days and members of their household should isolate for 14 days.
  • Those with symptoms should book a test online or by calling 119.
  • If the test comes back negative, no further action is required and all members of the household can return to normal.
  • If the test is positive, the test and trace team will get in touch to identify anyone the infected person has been in "close" contact with.
  • Any of those contacts deemed at risk will be contacted by the team with instructions to isolate for 14 days. Those contacts will only be tested if they develop symptoms. Their household is not required to isolate unless someone in the household becomes ill.

Similar schemes are in place in Northern Ireland and schemes are expected in Scotland and Wales shortly. A contact tracing app is currently in trials on the Isle of Wight.

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Scheme opens

UPDATE (26 May): The Statutory Sick Pay scheme is now open. Employers can reclaim up to two-weeks' SSP paid to current or former employees for periods of sickness beginning on or after 13 March 2020.

Government announces the phased opening of non-essential shops

UPDATE (25 May): Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced that outdoor markets and car showrooms can re-open from 1 June 2020. He announced that other non-essential shops will be able to open from 15 June 2020. However, this date relies on the country meeting the five tests set out by the Government. Businesses must also meet new guidelines in issues such as safe distancing, cleaning, managing entrances and exits, managing staff and deliveries and PPE. They have issued guidance for shops "detailing the measures they should take to meet the necessary social distancing and hygiene standards". 

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Scheme to open

UPDATE (20 May): The Statutory Sick Pay scheme announced by chancellor, Rishi Sunak, will open on 26 May. The scheme allows employers to reclaim any SSP paid to current or former employees for periods of sickness beginning on or after 13 March 2020.

The repayment covers up to two weeks starting from the first qualifying day of sickness, for employees that have been unable to work because:

  • have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms
  • cannot work because they are self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms
  • are shielding and have a letter from the NHS or a GP telling them to stay at home for at least 12 weeks

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme extended

UPDATE (20 May): The loan scheme for larger businesses has been extended by the treasury. Large firms will now be able to receive up to £200m from the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) - previously the maximum loan was £50m.

Coronavirus Job Protection Scheme extended

UPDATE (12 May): The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced that the Coronavirus Job Protection Scheme has been extended again until October 2020. Workers will continue to received 80% of pay (up to £2,500 per month) whilst on furlough but from August businesses will be expected to "start sharing" the cost of the scheme. Employers using the scheme will be able to bring employees back from furlough on a part-time basis to support the transition back to work.

HMRC has issued revised guidance on what it considers a 'reasonable excuse' when considering appeals against late filing penalties. The deadline for appealing HMRC penalties and decisions has also been extended where the usual deadline cannot be met as a result of the coronavirus.

Back-to-work safety guidance published

UPDATE (12 May): The Government has published eight guides, each covering a different type of work, explaining how employers, employees and freelance workers can work as safely as possible. Guides cover

Each guide contains advice on subjects including risk assessment, high risk groups, cleaning, personal protective equipment, social distancing, managing customers, visitors and contractors and handling goods.

Government COVID-19 recovery strategy published

UPDATE (11 May): The Government has published its COVID-19 recovery strategy. The 60-page document details the phased approach they will take to lifting restrictions. The precise timetable will be subject to the infection risk at each point and the effectiveness of measures to control the spread of the virus. The new guidance states that from Wednesday 13 May:

  • Those who can work from home should continue to do so.
  • Those who cannot work from home should return to work if their workplace is open. Workplaces that should be open include food production, construction and manufacturing, logistics and distribution and scientific research laboratories.
  • Workplaces should follow the new "COVID-19 secure" guidelines as soon as reasonably practicable.
  • Workers should avoid public transport wherever possible.
  • People should wear a face covering indoors where social distancing is not possible or where contact between those who do not normally meet is likely.
  • Those showing symptoms, or who live with someone showing symptoms, must continue to self-isolate.
  • Those who have been advised to 'shield' will be advised to shield for some time yet.
  • Protections for vulnerable locations such as care homes and prisons will be adjusted.

From 1 June (subject to meeting the Government's five tests):

  • Non-essential retail will begin to open where it is safe to do so.
  • There will be a phased return to school for early years settings and schools.
  • Cultural and sporting events can take place behind closed doors.

From 4 July (subject to meeting the Government's five tests):

  • Some remaining businesses and premises can open including those in personal care (hairdressers and beauty salons), hospitality businesses (pubs, food service providers and accommodation), public places and leisure facilities (such as cinemas).
  • Venues which are, by design, crowded may still not be permitted to open or may only open in part.
  • Business should meet the new "COVID-19 secure" guidelines.

Phased re-opening announced

UPDATE (10 May): The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has outlined a sketch of when and how restrictions could be lifted (providing certain criteria are met). From Monday 11 May, workers in England who cannot work from home (such as those in manufacturing and construction) should be "actively encouraged" to return to work providing it is safe to do so, avoiding public transport wherever possible. The five tests are:

  • the NHS must be able to cope
  • there must be a 'sustained and consistent' fall in the daily death rate
  • the rate of infection must decrease to manageable levels
  • supplies of PPE should be sufficient to meet demand
  • being confident any relaxing of restrictions do not risk a second peak that would overwhelm the NHS

From 1 June at the earliest, there may be (subject to the same criteria) a phased reopening of shops and some primary-aged children may begin to return to school. By July, some hospitality businesses and other public places may be able to open providing they are safe and enforce social distancing measures. Further details are expected shortly.

HMRC to contact eligible self employed about SEISS

UPDATE (4 May): HMRC have announced they will be writing to 3.5 million self-employed workers who may be eligible for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme. Those that are eligible will be able to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of three months' average trading profits (up to a maximum of £7,500).

HMRC have launched an online tool today to help the self-employed assess whether they qualify for the grant.

Bounce Back Loan Scheme opens for applications

UPDATE (4 May): The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) has opened for applications. To apply, you will need to complete a short, online form on your accredited lender's website. Businesses will also need to self certify that:

  • its activity is UK-based, and it was established by 1 March 2020
  • it has been adversely impacted by Coronavirus
  • it is not currently using a government-backed Coronavirus loan scheme (unless it is using BBLS to refinance a whole facility)
  • it is not in bankruptcy, liquidation or undergoing debt restructuring

New loan scheme launched

UPDATE (27 April): The Government has announced a new fast-track, loan scheme providing a 100% government-backed guarantee for lenders. Businesses will be able to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 and will have access to the cash in a matter of days. The loans will be interest free for the first 12 months and no repayments will be due until after the first 12 months. The Bounce Back Loan scheme will open on 4 May 2020 and businesses will be able to apply online through a short and simple form.

Free Skills Toolkit launched

UPDATE (27 April): The Government wants businesses to encourage staff to boost their skills while they are furloughed. It has lanched the Skills Toolkit which offers a range of free courses from Open University, FutureLearn, Google Digital Garage, Cisco Networking Academy and the University of Leeds and Institute of Coding among other. Find free, high quality digital and numeracy courses in the Skills Toolkit

Coronavirus Job Protection Scheme goes live

UPDATE (20 April): The Coronavirus Job Protection Scheme has now gone live. Employers can make a claim for furloughed workers' wages online. The Government has also updated the guidance to help employers work out if they are eligible for the scheme and how much they can claim. Before you make a claim, you will need:

  • to check if you and your employees are eligible for the scheme
  • to work out how much you can claim
  • certain information PAYE information

Claim for wages through the Coronavirus Job Protection Scheme.

Business Interruption Loan Scheme opens

UPDATE (20 April): The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme will has opened. The scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses access finance of up to £5 million.

Job protection scheme extended

UPDATE (17 April): The Coronavirus Job Protection Scheme will be extended for a further month until the end of June 2020. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said the scheme would be extended again "if necessary".

Government announces opening date for Business Interruption Loan Scheme

UPDATE (16 April): The Government announced that the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) will open on Monday 20 April 2020. The scheme will provide the lender with an 80% government-backed guarantee on a range of financial products that are interest-free for the first 12 months. The scheme will help provide finance of up to £25m for businesses with turnover from £45m up to £250m, and up to £50m for those businesses with a turnover of more than £250m who are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Updated guidance on job protection scheme released

UPDATE (16 April): HMRC has written to employers explaining when and how they can access the Coronavirus Job Protection Scheme.

They have also clarified some amendments to the scheme:

  • employers can claim for employees that were employed as of 19 March 2020 (included in a PAYE RTI submission on or before that date)
  • employees that were employed as of 28 February 2020 (and on payroll) but were made redundant between 28 February and 19 March 2020 also qualify for the scheme if you re-employ them and put them on furlough

Claims can be made online via the GOV.UK website and will paid within six days. The online claim service will go live on 20 April 2020. You can claim yourself or use your authorised PAYE agent. If you make the claim, you will need:

Measures to assist with payment difficulties agreed

UPDATE (9 April): The Financial Conduct Authority has agreed a range of temporary measures to help people experiencing payment difficulties as a result of COVID-19. The measures will provide short-term support for those using some of the most common consumer credit products including loans, overdrafts and credit cards.

COVID-19 Innovation competition launched

UPDATE (3 April): UK registered businesses can enter an Innovate UK competition to win a share of up to £20 million. Applications must demonstrate both realistic and significant benefits for society that tackle the disruption caused by COVID-19. The competition opens on Friday 3 April 2020 and closed on Friday 17 April 2020 at 12:00pm.

Updated guidance on sick pay scheme published

UPDATE (3 April): New guidance has been published today on the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Scheme including advice on who can use the scheme and what records employers must keep.

NOTE: the online service for reclaiming SSP is not yet live. We will update this page as more information is published.

Loan scheme rules relaxed

UPDATE (3 April): The government has announced a relaxation of the rules governing the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and Corporate Finance Scheme after complaints from many businesses that the schemes were inaccessible. The new measures mean:

  • applications for the Coronovirus Business Interruption scheme will no longer be limited to businesses that have already been turned down for a commercial loan by their bank
  • banks will be banned from asking for business owners to provide personal guarantees for borrowings up to £250,000
  • larger firms (with a turnover up to £500 million) will be able to apply for the Corporate Finance Scheme for loans up to £25 million

MOT expiry dates extended during COVID19

UPDATE (2 April): MOT expiry dates for cars, motorcycles, light vans and other light vehicles due on or after 30 March 2020 will be automatically extended by six months. You are not required to do anything but you must ensure your vehicle is still safe to drive.

Temporary rules on unused holiday announced

UPDATE (31 March): There will be a temporary new law which will allow employees and workers who are unable to take their annual leave as a result of the coronovirus outbreak to carry over up to four weeks' paid holiday over a two-year period. This could include:

  • those self-isolating or too sick to take all their holiday
  • those sent home due to lack of work (‘laid off’ or ‘put on furlough’)
  • those who have continued working and could not take paid holiday (as in the case of keyworkers)

Those who are sent home because there is no work will continue to accrue holiday as normal. Find updated advice from Acas.

Resilience fund announced for Welsh businesses

UPDATE (30 March): A £500 million Economic Resilience Fund has been launched by the Welsh Government to support Welsh businesses and charities who are experiencing a downturn as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The fund aims to plug the gaps in the support schemes already announced by the UK Government.

Employer's NI and Statutory pension contributions to be covered by job protection scheme

UPDATE (29 March): The government announced that they are extending the Coronavirus Job Protection Scheme. They will also cover the employer's national insurance contributions and minimum pension contributions under auto enrolment payable on the wages of furloughed staff. The additional support is worth up to £300 per month for each furloughed employee. This is in addition to the grant covering up to 80% of wages for furloughed staff that would otherwise be made redundant.

New government guidance also makes it clear that any staff member that has been made redundant after 28 February 2020 can be re-employed and placed on furlough instead.

Those on furlough will be able to volunteer during the coronavirus outbreak without risking their pay.

UK-wide scheme to support self employed announced

UPDATE (27 March): A UK-wide Self-Employed Income Support Scheme has been announced to support the self employed. Eligible applicants will receive a cash grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profit over the last three years. HMRC will identify eligible taxpayers and will contact them directly.

These payments will be paid for at least three months and will be capped at £2,500 per month.

Those who pay themselves a combination of salary and dividends through their own company do not qualify. They will be covered for their salary by the Coronavirus Job Protection Scheme instead if they operate a PAYE scheme.

Extension of filing deadlines permitted by Companies House

UPDATE (26 March): Businesses will be given an additional three months to file accounts with Companies House if they are being impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Under normal circumstances, companies that file accounts late would be issued with an automatic penalty.

The extension is not automatic and businesses will have to apply to extend their filing deadline for their company accounts. Applications can be made online.

It has also been announced that large employers (those with more than 250 staff) will not be obliged to publish their gender pay gap report this year.

Government announces wide-ranging measures to tackle coronavirus outbreak

UPDATE (23 March): See our latest news story 'Massive support package aims to keep people in jobs' for all the details on the announcements below

  • Cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas and gyms were told they must close and must not re-open until further notice. 
  • The government is setting up a coronavirus job retention scheme to protect people’s jobs and incomes.
  • Employers will be able to get a grant to cover up to 80% of wages for employees who are not working but are kept on the payroll, up to £2,500 per employee a month. This will be backdated from 1 March for three months.
  • The next quarter of VAT payments will be deferred for all businesses until the end of June.
  • Self-assessment income payments will be deferred and business interruption loans will be interest free for 12 months, rather than the six months previously announced.

This announcement followed earlier measures to support the retail and hospitality sector. Read our coverage of that announcement.

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