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 and will be updated as announcements are made.

Spring Budget extends support for businesses and self-employed

Update (3 March): Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, confirmed what many were hoping for in his Spring Budget. He confirmed that the furlough scheme would be extended until 30 September. The Self-Employed Income Support scheme would also be paying out two further grants to those still affected by the pandemic. The Recovery Loan Scheme will launch on 6 April 2021 and is scheduled to run until 31 December 2021 (subject to review), taking over from the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) which both close to applications on 31 March 2021. Other measures included an extension to the business rates holiday, a freezing of VAT registration and deregistration thresholds, inheritance tax, lifetime pension contribution limits. There will also be new grants to support businesses as they re-open.

VAT Deferral Payment Scheme opens

Update (23 February): Over half a million businesses who deferred VAT payments last year can now pay the VAT they owe in smaller monthly instalments. The online VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme is now live. Businesses that deferred VAT payments between March and June 2020 now have the option to pay their deferred VAT in full before 31 March. Those who want to spread their paymetns must opt in to the VAT Deferral Scheme. They can then pay what is owing in equal consecutive monthly instalments from March 2021.

Four-step plan to ease lockdown announced

UPDATE (22 February): The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has set out a four-step plan to ease the current lockdown in England. Subject to the meeting of strict criteria, the lockdown will be lifted as follows:

  • Step one from 8 March: All schools will re-open. After school sports and activities will be permitted. Two people will be able to take part in outdoor recreation in public spaces.
  • Step one from 29 March: Outdoor gatherings of up to six people or two households will be permitted. Outdoor sports facilities will re-open. Organised adult and children's sports can restart.
  • Step two from 12 April: Non-essential retail (including hairdressers), public buildings, outdoor leisure (such as beer gardens, zoos and theme parks) indoor leisure (such as swimming pools and gyms) and self-contained holiday accommodation will all re-open subject to wider social contact rules meaning mixing between different households indoors will not be allowed. Funerals with up to 30 people and weddings with up to 15 people can continue.
  • Step three from 17 May: (subject to data) The rule of six will be abolished for outdoor gatherings and replaced with a limit of 30 people. Two households will be able to mix indoors (although the rule of six will continue to apply in hospitality settings).
  • Step three from 17 May: (subject to data) Hotels, restaurants, pubs, cinemas and sporting events can re-open (subject to social distancing). Up to 10,000 spectators will be able to attend large outdoor seated venues.
  • Step three from 17 May: (subject to data) Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions, funerals and wakes.
  • Step four from 21 June: All remaining restrictions on social contact to be removed and the final sections of the economy to re-open.

More help for self-employed tax payers

UPDATE (19 February): The government is giving self-employed tax payers more time to pay their tax before a late payment penalty is applied. Self-employed taxpayers will now not be charged the 5% late payment penalty for paying their tax late providing the tax owing is paid by 1 April 2021 or a 'time-to-pay arrangement' has been agreed.

Government extends workplace COVID testing programme

UPDATE (7 February): The criteria for joining the workplace rapid testing programme has been changed to businesses with more than 50 employees - previously 250. An online portal has been launched to allow businesses in England to sign up and order tests for their employees.   

Mandatory hotel quarantine to be introduced for some UK arrivals

UPDATE (5 February): From 15 February anyone travelling to the UK from a country on the UK’s travel ban list will be required to quarantine in a government-approved facility for 10 days.

Businesses get longer to pay back support loans

UPDATE (4 February): Businesses will now get longer to repay government Bounce Back Loans. The chancellor announced a number of changes that will give businesses that have taken out a loan more breathing space as the impact of the pandemic continues. The chancellor said that the changes give businesses "greater flexibility and time to repay their loans on their terms". The changes businesses the option to:

  • extend the repayment period from six to ten years
  • make interest-only payments for six months up to three times during the repayment period
  • pause repayments entirely for six months

Businesses can make use of the third option from their first repayment meaning businesses can choose to make no loan repayments for 18 months after they first take out the loan.

HMRC delay self assessment late filing penalties

UPDATE (26 January): HMRC have updated their guidance to state they will not be issuing fines for late self assessment tax return submissions until 28 February 2021. However, the deadline of 31 January remains for payments. Late payments will incur interest at 2.6%. HMRC are urging customers to file their self assessment as soon as possible to avoid any last minute problems and to allow sufficient time to apply for a Time to Pay arrangement to pay their tax bill should it be required.  

All travel corridors to the UK close

UPDATE (18 January): All travel corridors to the UK closed at 04.00 on 18 February. Anyone arriving in the UK from anywhere outside the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man will need to self-isolate upon arrival for 10 days. You must have proof of a negative coronavirus test to travel to England.

Additional support announced for business affected by the new lockdown

UPDATE (05 January): Chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced that businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure will be supported through the latest lockdown with new lockdown grants worth up to £9,000 per property. This money is in addition to the business rate relief package and extended furlough scheme that has already been announced.

New lockdown measures come into force

UPDATE (04 January 2021) Prime minister, Boris Johnson, today announced that England will enter a new lockdown from Tuesday 5 January. Non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will be required to close. Pub and restaurants will also be required to close except for where they are providing a takeaway service. People should stay at home and only leave for the purposes of work (where it is not possible to work from home), medical appointments, essential shopping and one hour of daily exercise. Schools will also be closed except for vulnerable and keyworker children. The new lockdown in England will be reviewed on 15 February. This announcement follows an earlier, similar announcement from Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

Furlough scheme extended until April 2021. Covid-19 business loan schemes extended until March 2021

UPDATE (17 December): Chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, today announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) scheme will be extended for another month until the end of April 2021. Businesses will also have until the end of March to access the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme. These loan schemes had been due to close at the end of January. The chancellor said the government will hold a budget on 3 March to outline the next stage of its response to the pandemic.

All non-essential shops in England to re-open

UPDATE (23 November): Prime minister Boris Johnson has told the House of Commons that all non-essential shops in England will re-open when the current lockdown ends on 2 December. Pub and restaurant closing times will be eased and gyms and places of collective worship will also re-open. Spectators will also return to some sporting events. The good news was tempered with confirmation that the three-tiered measures will return and that the rules will be toughened. Regions will find out which tier they are in on Thursday.

Job Retention and Self-Employment Income Support schemes extended until March 2021

UPDATE (5 November): Chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be extended for a further five months until the end of March 2021.

England to re-enter lockdown

UPDATE (31 October): Following a significant increase in cases and deaths, the government has announced that England will enter a month-long lockdown from 00.01 Thursday 5 November. It will last until 2 December. All non-essential shops and hospitality will close as will bars, pubs, and restaurants apart from for the purposes of takeaways. To support businesses the furlough scheme, which was due to end on 31 October, will be extended to cover this second lockdown.

Winter Support Scheme to support businesses with ongoing struggles

UPDATE (22 October): The chancellor of the exchequer has unveiled a new package of measures to increase the "generosity and reach" of the winter support schemes.

Job Support Scheme extended

UPDATE (12 October): The chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has announced that from 1 November, the government's Job Support Scheme will include extra support for any business that is required to close under new coronavirus restrictions or local lockdowns.

Chancellor announces further measures to support businesses and jobs

UPDATE (24 September): Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has announced a new Job Support Scheme which will start on 1 November once the current furlough scheme comes to an end (31 October). It will help employers keep employees in work on shorter hours while demand is lower over the winter months. The new scheme aims to: Job support scheme

  • support viable jobs
  • support the businesses that need help the most (all small and medium-sized businesses will be eligible)
  • help businesses across the whole of the UK even if they have not previously used the furlough scheme

The scheme will run for six months and employers who retain staff on shorter hours will be able to claim the Job Support Scheme and the Job Retention Bonus. Employees must work at least one third of their normal hours and be paid for that as normal by the employer. For the remaining hours not worked, the employer and government will each pay one third of the wages each. This means that employees will receive 77% of their normal wages.

Other announcements included:

  • The self-employed small business grants will also be extended on a similar basis to the Job Support Scheme.
  • Businesses that have taken out a 'bounce back loan' can extend repayments from six to ten years.
  • The government guarantee on Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans will also be extended to 10 years.
  • A new loan guarantee programme will be announced in January.
  • The temporary reduction on VAT on supplies of food, non-alcoholic drinks, accommodation and admission to attractions (from 20% to 5%) is being extended until 31 March 2021.
  • Businesses that deferred their VAT bills will have more time to pay through the New Payment Scheme. It gives businesses the option to pay back in smaller instalments by making 11 smaller interest-free payments during the 2021-22 financial year rather than one lump sum.
  • Self-assessment taxpayers can further defer payments from July 2020, and those due in January 2021, until January 2022.

Government announces new coronavirus restrictions

UPDATE (22 September): Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced a range of new measures which could be in place for up to six months as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise. Employees who can work from home must do so. Pubs and restaurants must close by 10pm and can only offer an at-table service from Thursday 24 September and all staff in retail and hospitality must wear a face covering or mask.

The planned re-opening of conferences and sporting events in October has been delayed and COVID-secure guidelines released earlier in the year will become legal obligations. Firms found breaching the rules could be fined or closed down.

Second phase of support for the self-employed opens

UPDATE (17 August): Millions of self-employed people can claim a second grant under the Self-employed income support scheme from today. The scheme will pay a grant of up to £6,570 to eligible self-employed workers who have been and continue to be affected by the Coronavirus crisis. HMRC will contact those who are potentially eligible for the second and final SEISS grant.

More businesses to get back to business

UPDATE (15 August): Further businesses in England are permitted to open from today. The list of businesses that can re-open includes those offering close contact services (such as nail salons and waxing services), bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls, children's soft play areas, theatres, music venues and comedy clubs can all re-open providing they follow the COVID-secure working guidance.

Further guidance on Job Retention Bonus announced

UPDATE (31 July): The Government has announced further details of the Job Retention Bonus which was announced by the chancellor. The bonus will pay employers £1,000 per eligible employee. Employers will be able to claim the bonus for eligible employees who have been furloughed if they are employed continuously until the end of January 2021. Employees must earn at least the lower earnings limit. Employers will be able to claim the bonus from the GOV.UK website from February 2021.

Revised guidance on face masks issued

UPDATE (23 July): The Government has updated its guidance on facemasks just hours before they become mandatory in shops in England. Anyone who does not abide by the rules could face a fine of £100.

From Friday 24 July face masks must be worn by members of the public in enclosed public spaces including shops, supermarkets, shopping centres (but not by shop staff) and in transport hubs such as bus and train stations (the wearing of masks is already compulsory on public transport in England). It will also be compulsory to wear a facemask when buying food and drink from a shop or cafe to take away. Facemasks can be removed if customers are eating or drinking on-site. Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities and health conditions are exempt from the requirement.

Some businesses and venues are also exempt from the requirement. These include:

  • hairdressers and close-contact services
  • eat-in restaurants, cafes and pubs where other measures to control the risks are in force
  • entertainment venues, including cinemas and theatres
  • visitor attraction
  • gyms and leisure centres
  • dentists or opticians (NHS guidance DOES require them in hospitals)

Face coverings will be required in cafes and take-away restaurants that do not provide table service, other than in designated seating areas.

Face masks to be compulsory in shops

UPDATE (14 July): It has been announced that face masks or coverings will be compulsory in shops in England from 24 July. There will be fines of up to £100 for shoppers who do not comply. Face masks are already compulsory in Scotland and many other European countries. Mask wearing has been advised in enclosed public spaces and NHS facilities since 15 June. However, there are no plans for masks to become mandatory for office workers.

Businesses can apply to join 'Eat out to help out' scheme

UPDATE (13 July): Businesses can now apply to join the 'Eat out to help out' scheme that was announced by the chancellor in his summer statement. Hospitality establishments registered to the scheme will offer a 50% reduction, up to a maximum of £10 per person, to all diners who eat and/or drink-in all day, every Monday to Wednesday, between 3 and 31 August 2020. The Government has produced a range of free, promotional materials for businesses who register for the scheme.

More businesses to open over the coming weeks

UPDATE (9 July): Some leisure facilities, performances and beauty services will be allowed to re-open over the coming days and weeks.

  • Open air performances, festivals and theatre shows will be able to open from Saturday 11 July. A number of indoor tests will be run to help establish a safe way for indoor venues to open in the future.
  • Outdoor swimming pools and water parks can re-open from 11 July.
  • Indoor swimming pools, gyms, leisure and sports facilities can re-open from 25 July.
  • Grassroots sports (starting with cricket) can recommence from 11 July.
  • Spas, beauticians, tanning salons and other close-contact services can re-open (subject to restrictions on particularly high-risk activities) from Monday 13 July.

Chancellor announces a summer statement in response to coronavirus

UPDATE (8 July): Chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced a package of measures to protect jobs and kick start key sectors of the economy.

  • A new Job Retention Bonus will be paid to employers who bring staff back from furlough. UK employers will be paid £1,000 for each employee who is continuously employed until the end of January 2021 earning over the lower earnings limit (£520 per month).
  • There will be a new Kick Start Scheme to support the creation of jobs for young people aged 16-25. Funding will cover 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus employer NICs and minimum statutory employer pension contributions. The scheme will target those on Universal Credit who are deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment.
  • There will be additional funding for employers providing traineeships. The Government will fund employers in England who provide trainees aged 16-24 with work experience, at a rate of £1,000 per trainee.
  • From 1st August 2020 to 31st January 2021, the Government will pay employers in England £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25 and £1,500 per apprentice aged over 25. This is in addition to previously announced incentives.
  • The rate of VAT will be cut on food and non-alcoholic drinks from 20% to 5% from 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021. The reduced (5%) rate will apply to supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises across the UK. The reduced rate also applies to supplies of accommodation and admission to attractions across the UK.
  • A temporary 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme will run throughout August. Every diner in participating establishments across the UK will receive a 50% discount (up to £10 per head) on their meal. The discount can be used unlimited times and will be valid Monday to Wednesday on any eat-in meal (including on non-alcoholic drinks). Participating establishments will be fully reimbursed for the 50% discount.
  • The nil rate band of Residential Stamp Duty Land Tax will be extended with immediate effect from £125,000 to £500,000 until 31 March 2021.
  • A new Green Homes Grant to support green jobs will provide homeowners and landlords with vouchers to pay £2 for every £3 to be spent making a home energy efficient (up to £5,000 per household). For those on the lowest incomes, the scheme will fully fund energy efficiency measures of up to £10,000 per household.
  • The Government also announced a range of measures to support the creation of jobs including: a Construction Talent Retention Scheme to support the redeployment of workers at risk of redundancy; a new Office for Talent which will focus on attracting, retaining and developing top research and science talent across the UK and internationally; a Green Jobs Challenge Fund to help environmental charities and public authorities create and protect 5,000 jobs in England; and an Automotive Transformation Fund to develop and embed the next generation of cutting-edge automotive technologies in batteries, motors, electronics and fuel cells.

More businesses open

UPDATE (4 July): On 4 July further businesses were permitted to open, providing they followed Government guidance on social distancing and other sector-specific advice to minimise the risk of a spike in coronavirus cases. Businesses that could re-open included:

Travel corridors announced

UPDATE (3 July): The Government is easing the rules on self-isolation for travellers returning to England from a number of specified countries. From 10 July, you will not be required to self-isolate for 14 days when returning to England if you have only been to or stopped in countries on the 'travel corridor list' or common travel area during the previous 14 days. The self-isolation period will still apply if you pass through or stay in a country not on the list. Travellers will still be required to complete an online form with journey and contact details before they travel. Passengers with coronavirus symptoms should not travel.

PPE VAT exemption extended

UPDATE (3 July): The temporary scrapping of VAT on PPE has been extended until 31 October.

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 time being). 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 has 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 secretary, 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 secretary, 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 showrooms 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.

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.


Employer contribution

Government contribution

June & July


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 receive 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.
  • Businesses 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 launched 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 others. 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 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 Coronavirus 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 that will allow employees and workers who are unable to take their annual leave as a result of the coronavirus 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 key workers)

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 2020): 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 sectors. Read our coverage of that announcement.

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