CORONA VIRUS UPDATES

We know that this is a worrying time for all.


To help you keep updated on any information regarding the Corona Virus pandemic we will be posting information on this page.

For all the latest information direct from the UK Government please visit their website using the following link GOV.UK/coronavirus

LATEST NEWS

June 2020
04 Jun
Debenhams to start reopening shops after lockdown

Debenhams is to reopen its first stores in Northern Ireland on Monday, followed by 50 shops in England the week after.

It says three stores with street access in Belfast, Newry and Rushmere will be able to open following updated guidance from the NI Executive.

Debenhams collapsed into administration for the second time in a year in April after coronavirus ramped up the pressures facing the business.

It has struck deals with landlords to keep 120 stores open.

However, 17 stores will remain closed for good when coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted. It is still in discussions over a "handful" of others.

The future of its five main stores in Wales has been secured after it reached agreement on business rates. Debenhams threatend to close them if it did not get the same level of support enjoyed by its stores in England.

Steven Cook, managing director of Debenhams, said: "We are delighted to be welcoming customers back to our stores in the coming weeks.

"From the installation of perspex screens at till points to the roll-out of social distancing procedures and PPE, we have been working hard to ensure our colleagues and customers can work and shop with confidence.

"Our reopening plans follow the successful conclusion of lease negotiations on 120 stores, meaning that the vast majority of our stores will be reopening."

 

source from BBC news

01 Jun
Public schools begin to reopen

As of this week, many schools in England were given the all clear to open to all students, though parents remain wary of sending their children back to school.

Whilst in some areas, schools have remained closed to non-essential worker children, many schools have opened to children in reception, year 1 and year 6 after many have missed over 10 weeks of in-school learning.

The reopening comes as a result of easing of lockdown rules that include groups of 6 people from different households being able to meet, at a distance of course.

Schools have stayed open despite lockdown as a result of the coronavirus for children of key workers such as NHS workers and children that may be vulnerable, but as of today all students are allowed to return to school for distanced learning.

Classrooms have been seen to have been entirely changed around and reorganized with rows of desks facing the front of the classrooms rather than being pushed together as they would normally be.

Practices of regular hand-washing and sanitization continue to be encouraged.

May 2020
27 May
NHS doctor revealed as antibody 'super-donor' after COVID-19 recovery

Alessandro Giardini, who spent a week in intensive care, has an antibody level in his plasma around 40 times that of the average.

The discovery was made as part of an NHS trial to analyse the blood of 435 covid-19 patients.

Mr Giardini, a consultant in the cardiology department of Great Ormond Street children's hospital, spent seven days on a ventilator in intensive care after falling ill with COVID-19.

*Sourced from Sky news*

22 May
Coronavirus: Immune clue sparks treatment hope

UK scientists are to begin testing a treatment that it is hoped could counter the effects of Covid-19 in the most seriously ill patients.

It has been found those with the most severe form of the disease have extremely low numbers of an immune cell called a T-cell.

T-cells clear infection from the body.

The clinical trial will evaluate if a drug called interleukin 7, known to boost T-cell numbers, can aid patients' recovery.

 

*Sourced from BBC

20 May
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance join forces with coast guard to help transfer patients during coronavirus outbreak

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance  are collaborating with HM Coastguard, the search and rescue arm of the Maritime Coastguard Agency, in order to safely transfer time critical patients with an unknown coronavirus status from the Isle of Wight to hospitals on the mainland.

Doctors and specialist critical care paramedics from the charity are using the larger Maritime Coastguard Agency aircraft to treat critically ill and injured patients whilst transferring them to hospital.

The front of the aircraft is sealed off to protect pilots, who cannot wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) whilst flying, from any airborne droplets, and the back of the aircraft is fitted out with a washable decontamination lining.

 

*SOURCED FROM PORTSMOUTH NEWS*

19 May
Coronavirus: Jobless claims surge by record 856,500 in April to highest level since 1996

Official figures have shown an increase of 856,500 people submitting benefit claims last month as the coronavirus crisis took its toll on jobs.

The update from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the so-called claimant count, measured through Universal Credit applications, at its highest level since 1996 at 2.1 million in total.

The growth is the largest monthly leap in claims on record, according to the ONS.

We are hoping to be able to help as many people as possible find work during these hard times. 

Please register with us today, or call 02392361115 and hopefully we can support you in your next career move.

 

*Sourced from Sky news*

18 May
coronavirus testing for anyone over five displaying symptoms

The government has announced that anyone over the age of five who is displaying symptoms can now be tested for coronavirus.

The announcement was made on 18th May in Parliament by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Testing had previously been limited to people with symptoms who are key workers, hospital patients, care home residents, over-65s and those who need to leave home to work in England and Scotland.

 

*Sourced from Portsmouth news*

 

 

12 May
Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) for Offices and contact centres

Offices and contact centres

Guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.

This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. Request an accessible format.

This document is to help employers, employees and the self-employed in the UK understand how to work safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, keeping as many people as possible 2 metres apart from those they do not live with. We hope it gives you freedom within a practical framework to think about what you need to do to continue, or restart, operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand how important it is that you can work safely and support your employees’ health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that many businesses of this type are currently closed for their usual service. We hope this document will help those who are already working because they cannot work from home, as well as help other people think about how to prepare for when they return to work. The government is clear that workers should not be forced into an unsafe workplace.

This document has been prepared by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) with input from firms, unions, industry bodies and the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and in consultation with Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Public health is devolved in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales; this guidance should be considered alongside local public health and safety requirements and legislation in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. For advice to businesses in other parts of the UK please see guidance set by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.

We expect that this document will be updated over time. This version is up to date as of 12 May 2020. You can check for updates at www.gov.uk/workingsafely. If you have any feedback for us, please email workingsafely@beis.gov.uk.

This document is one of a set of documents about how to work safely in different types of workplace. This one is designed to be relevant for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.

This document sets out guidance on how to work safely. It gives practical considerations of how this can be applied in the workplace.

Each business will need to translate this into the specific actions it needs to take, depending on the nature of the business, including the size and type of business, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated.

This guidance does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment or equalities and it is important that as a business or an employer you continue to comply with your existing obligations, including those relating to individuals with protected characteristics. It contains non-statutory guidance to take into account when complying with these existing obligations. When considering how to apply this guidance, take into account agency workers, contractors and other people, as well as your employees.

To help you decide which actions to take, you need to carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards. This risk assessment must be done in consultation with unions or workers.

Indoor environments such as:

  • offices
  • contact centres
  • operations rooms

In this section

Objective: That all employers carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment.

Everyone needs to assess and manage the risks of COVID-19. As an employer, you also have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety. This means you need to think about the risks they face and do everything reasonably practicable to minimise them, recognising you cannot completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19.

You must make sure that the risk assessment for your business addresses the risks of COVID-19, using this guidance to inform your decisions and control measures. A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace. If you have fewer than 5 workers, or are self-employed, you don’t have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment. Your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have done everything you need to. There are interactive tools available to support you from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Employers have a duty to consult their people on health and safety. You can do this by listening and talking to them about the work and how you will manage risks from COVID-19. The people who do the work are often the best people to understand the risks in the workplace and will have a view on how to work safely. Involving them in making decisions shows that you take their health and safety seriously. You must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers. As an employer, you cannot decide who the representative will be.

At its most effective, full involvement of your workers creates a culture where relationships between employers and workers are based on collaboration, trust and joint problem solving. As is normal practice, workers should be involved in assessing workplace risks and the development and review of workplace health and safety policies in partnership with the employer.

Employers and workers should always come together to resolve issues. If concerns still cannot be resolved, see below for further steps you can take.

Where the enforcing authority, such as the HSE or your local authority, identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks, they will consider taking a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. For example, this would cover employers not taking appropriate action to socially distance, where possible. The actions the HSE can take include the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements.

How to raise a concern

  • contact your employee representative
  • contact your trade union if you have one
  • use the HSE contact form
  • contact HSE by phone on 0300 003 1647

1.1 Managing risk

Objective: To reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures, in order of priority.

Employers have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures. Employers must work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace so that everybody’s health and safety is protected.

In the context of COVID-19 this means working through these steps in order:

  1. In every workplace, increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning.

  2. Businesses and workplaces should make every reasonable effort to enable working from home as a first option. Where working from home is not possible, workplaces should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (keeping people 2m apart wherever possible).

  3. Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.

    Further mitigating actions include:

    – increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
    – keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
    – using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
    – using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
    – reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)

  4. Finally, if people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, then you will need to assess whether the activity can safely go ahead. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.

    In your assessment you should have particular regard to whether the people doing the work are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

The recommendations in the rest of this document are ones you should consider as you go through this process. You could also consider any advice that has been produced specifically for your sector, for example by trade associations or trades unions.

If you have not already done so, you should carry out an assessment of the risks posed by COVID-19 in your workplace as soon as possible. If you are currently operating, you are likely to have gone through a lot of this thinking already. We recommend that you use this document to identify any further improvements you should make.

1.2 Sharing your risk assessment

You should share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce. If possible, you should consider publishing it on your website (and we would expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so).

Below you will find a notice you should display in your workplace to show you have followed this guidance.

(This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. Request an accessible format.)

In this section

Objective: That everyone should work from home, unless they cannot work from home.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Staff should work from home if at all possible. Consider who is needed to be on-site; for example:

    – workers in roles critical for business and operational continuity, safe facility management, or regulatory requirements and which cannot be performed remotely.

    – workers in critical roles which might be performed remotely, but who are unable to work remotely due to home circumstances or the unavailability of safe enabling equipment.

  2. Planning for the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively.

  3. Monitoring the wellbeing of people who are working from home and helping them stay connected to the rest of the workforce, especially if the majority of their colleagues are on-site.

  4. Keeping in touch with off-site workers on their working arrangements including their welfare, mental and physical health and personal security.

  5. Providing equipment for people to work at home safely and effectively, for example, remote access to work systems.

2.1 Protecting people who are at higher risk

Objective: To protect clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.

Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals have been strongly advised not to work outside the home.

Clinically vulnerable individuals, who are at higher risk of severe illness (for example, people with some pre existing conditions), have been asked to take extra care in observing social distancing and should be helped to work from home, either in their current role or in an alternative role.

If clinically vulnerable (but not extremely clinically vulnerable) individuals cannot work from home, they should be offered the option of the safest available on site roles, enabling them to stay 2m away from others. If they have to spend time within 2m of others, you should carefully assess whether this involves an acceptable level of risk. As for any workplace risk you must take into account specific duties to those with protected characteristics, including, for example, expectant mothers who are, as always, entitled to suspension on full pay if suitable roles cannot be found. Particular attention should also be paid to people who live with clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Providing support for workers around mental health and wellbeing. This could include advice or telephone support.

  2. See current guidance for advice on who is in the clinically extremely vulnerable and clinically vulnerable groups.

2.2 People who need to self-isolate

Objective: To make sure individuals who are advised to stay at home under existing government guidance do not physically come to work. This includes individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19 as well as those who live in a household with someone who has symptoms.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Enabling workers to work from home while self-isolating if appropriate.

  2. See current guidance for employees and employers relating to statutory sick pay due to COVID-19.

  3. See current guidance for people who have symptoms and those who live with others who have symptoms.

2.3 Equality in the workplace

^Objective: To treat everyone in your workplace equally.

In applying this guidance, employers should be mindful of the particular needs of different groups of workers or individuals.

It is breaking the law to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic such as age, sex or disability.

Employers also have particular responsibilities towards disabled workers and those who are new or expectant mothers.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Understanding and taking into account the particular circumstances of those with protected characteristics.

  2. Involving and communicating appropriately with workers whose protected characteristics might either expose them to a different degree of risk, or might make any measures you are considering implementing inappropriate or challenging for them.

  3. Considering whether you need to put in place any particular measures or adjustments to take account of your duties under the equalities legislation.

  4. Making reasonable adjustments to avoid disabled workers being put at a disadvantage, and assessing the health and safety risks for new or expectant mothers.

  5. Making sure that the steps you take do not have an unjustifiable negative impact on some groups compared to others, for example, those with caring responsibilities or those with religious commitments.

In this section

Objective: To maintain 2m social distancing wherever possible, including while arriving at and departing from work, while in work, and when travelling between sites.

You must maintain social distancing in the workplace wherever possible.

Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.

Mitigating actions include:

  • further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)

Social distancing applies to all parts of a business, not just the place where people spend most of their time, but also entrances and exits, break rooms, canteens and similar settings. These are often the most challenging areas to maintain social distancing.

3.1 Coming to work and leaving work

Objective: To maintain social distancing wherever possible, on arrival and departure and to ensure handwashing upon arrival.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Staggering arrival and departure times at work to reduce crowding into and out of the workplace, taking account of the impact on those with protected characteristics.

  2. Providing additional parking or facilities such as bike racks to help people walk, run, or cycle to work where possible.

  3. Limiting passengers in corporate vehicles, for example, work minibuses. This could include leaving seats empty.

  4. Reducing congestion, for example, by having more entry points to the workplace.

  5. Providing more storage for workers for clothes and bags.

  6. Using markings and introducing one-way flow at entry and exit points.

  7. Providing handwashing facilities, or hand sanitiser where not possible, at entry and exit points and not using touch-based security devices such as keypads.

  8. Providing alternatives to touch-based security devices such as keypads.

  9. Defining process alternatives for entry/exit points where appropriate, for example, deactivating turnstiles requiring pass checks in favour of showing a pass to security personnel at a distance.

3.2 Moving around buildings and worksites

Objective: To maintain social distancing wherever possible while people travel through the workplace.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Reducing movement by discouraging non-essential trips within buildings and sites, for example, restricting access to some areas, encouraging use of radios or telephones, where permitted, and cleaning them between use.

  2. Restricting access between different areas of a building or site.

  3. Reducing job and location rotation.

  4. Introducing more one-way flow through buildings.

  5. Reducing maximum occupancy for lifts, providing hand sanitiser for the operation of lifts and encouraging use of stairs wherever possible.

  6. Making sure that people with disabilities are able to access lifts.

  7. Regulating use of high traffic areas including corridors, lifts turnstiles and walkways to maintain social distancing.

3.3 Workplaces and workstations

Objective: To maintain social distancing between individuals when they are at their workstations.

For people who work in one place, workstations should allow them to maintain social distancing wherever possible.

Workstations should be assigned to an individual and not shared. If they need to be shared they should be shared by the smallest possible number of people.

If it is not possible to keep workstations 2m apart then businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate and if so take all mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Review layouts and processes to allow people to work further apart from each other.

  2. Using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help workers keep to a 2m distance.

  3. Only where it is not possible to move workstations further apart, arranging people to work side by side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face.

  4. Only where it is not possible to move workstations further apart, using screens to separate people from each other.

  5. Managing occupancy levels to enable social distancing.

  6. Avoiding use of hot desks and spaces and, where not possible, for example, call centres or training facilities, cleaning and sanitising workstations between different occupants including shared equipment.

3.4 Meetings

Objective: To reduce transmission due to face-to-face meetings and maintain social distancing in meetings.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Using remote working tools to avoid in-person meetings.

  2. Only absolutely necessary participants should attend meetings and should maintain 2m separation throughout.

  3. Avoiding transmission during meetings, for example avoiding sharing pens and other objects.

  4. Providing hand sanitiser in meeting rooms.

  5. Holding meetings outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms whenever possible.

  6. For areas where regular meetings take place, using floor signage to help people maintain social distancing.

3.5 Common areas

Objective: To maintain social distancing while using common areas.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Working collaboratively with landlords and other tenants in multi-tenant sites/buildings to ensure consistency across common areas, for example, receptions, staircases.

  2. Staggering break times to reduce pressure on break rooms or canteens.

  3. Using safe outside areas for breaks.

  4. Creating additional space by using other parts of the workplace or building that have been freed up by remote working.

  5. Installing screens to protect staff in receptions or similar areas.

  6. Providing packaged meals or similar to avoid fully opening staff canteens.

  7. Encouraging workers to bring their own food.

  8. Reconfiguring seating and tables to maintain spacing and reduce face-to-face interactions.

  9. Encouraging staff to remain on-site and, when not possible, maintaining social distancing while off-site.

  10. Regulating use of locker rooms, changing areas and other facility areas to reduce concurrent usage.

  11. Encouraging storage of personal items and clothing in personal storage spaces, for example, lockers and during shifts.

3.6 Accidents, security and other incidents

Objective: To prioritise safety during incidents.

In an emergency, for example, an accident or fire, people do not have to stay 2m apart if it would be unsafe.

People involved in the provision of assistance to others should pay particular attention to sanitation measures immediately afterwards including washing hands.

In this section

4.1 Manage contracts

Objective: To minimise the number of unnecessary visits to offices.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Encouraging visits via remote connection/working where this is an option.

  2. Where site visits are required, site guidance on social distancing and hygiene should be explained to visitors on or before arrival.

  3. Limiting the number of visitors at any one time.

  4. Limiting visitor times to a specific time window and restricting access to required visitors only.

  5. Determining if schedules for essential services and contractor visits can be revised to reduce interaction and overlap between people, for example, carrying out services at night.

  6. Maintaining a record of all visitors, if this is practical.

  7. Revising visitor arrangements to ensure social distancing and hygiene, for example, where someone physically signs in with the same pen in receptions.

4.2 Providing and explaining available guidance

Objective: To make sure people understand what they need to do to maintain safety.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Providing clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on arrival, for example, signage or visual aids and before arrival, for example, by phone, on the website or by email.

  2. Establishing host responsibilities relating to COVID-19 and providing any necessary training for people who act as hosts for visitors.

  3. Reviewing entry and exit routes for visitors and contractors to minimise contact with other people.

  4. Coordinating and working collaboratively with landlords and other tenants in multi-tenant sites, for example, shared working spaces.

In this section

5.1 Before reopening

Objective: To make sure that any site or location that has been closed or partially operated is clean and ready to restart, including:

  • an assessment for all sites, or parts of sites, that have been closed, before restarting work
  • carrying out cleaning procedures and providing hand sanitiser before restarting work

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Checking whether you need to service or adjust ventilation systems, for example, so that they do not automatically reduce ventilation levels due to lower than normal occupancy levels.

  2. Most air conditioning systems do not need adjustment, however where systems serve multiple buildings or you are unsure, advice can be sought from your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineers or advisers.

  3. Opening windows and doors frequently to encourage ventilation, where possible.

5.2 Keeping the workplace clean

Objective: To keep the workplace clean and prevent transmission by touching contaminated surfaces.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Frequent cleaning of work areas and equipment between uses, using your usual cleaning products.

  2. Frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, such as door handles and keyboards, and making sure there are adequate disposal arrangements.

  3. Clearing workspaces and removing waste and belongings from the work area at the end of a shift.

  4. Limiting or restricting use of high-touch items and equipment, for example, printers or whiteboards.

  5. If you are cleaning after a known or suspected case of COVID-19 then you should refer to the specific guidance.

5.3 Hygiene: handwashing, sanitation facilities and toilets

Objective: To help everyone keep good hygiene through the working day.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency, avoid touching your face and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available.

  2. Providing regular reminders and signage to maintain personal hygiene standards.

  3. Providing hand sanitiser in multiple locations in addition to washrooms.

  4. Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets to ensure they are kept clean and social distancing is achieved as much as possible.

  5. Enhancing cleaning for busy areas.

  6. Providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection.

  7. Where possible, providing paper towels as an alternative to hand dryers in handwashing facilities.

5.4 Changing rooms and showers

Objective: To minimise the risk of transmission in changing rooms and showers.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Where shower and changing facilities are required, setting clear use and cleaning guidance for showers, lockers and changing rooms to ensure they are kept clean and clear of personal items and social distancing is achieved as much as possible.

  2. Introducing enhanced cleaning of all facilities regularly during the day and at the end of the day.

5.5 Handling goods, merchandise and other materials, and onsite vehicles

Objective: To reduce transmission through contact with objects that come into the workplace and vehicles at the worksite.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Cleaning procedures for goods and merchandise entering the site.

  2. Cleaning procedures for vehicles.

  3. Introducing greater handwashing and handwashing facilities for workers handling goods and merchandise and providing hand sanitiser where this is not practical.

  4. Regular cleaning of vehicles that workers may take home.

  5. Restricting non-business deliveries, for example, personal deliveries to workers.

In this section

PPE protects the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment, such as face masks.

Where you are already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, you should continue to do so.

At the start of this document we described the steps you need to take to manage COVID-19 risk in the workplace. This includes working from home and staying 2m away from each other in the workplace if at all possible.When managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear is not beneficial. This is because COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE.

The exception is clinical settings, like a hospital, or a small handful of other roles for which Public Health England advises use of PPE, for example, first responders and immigration enforcement officers. If you are in one of these groups you should refer to the advice at:

Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 outside clinical settings or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.

Unless you are in a situation where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is very high, your risk assessment should reflect the fact that the role of PPE in providing additional protection is extremely limited. However, if your risk assessment does show that PPE is required, then you must provide this PPE free of charge to workers who need it. Any PPE provided must fit properly.

6.1 Face coverings

There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms.

A face covering can be very simple and may be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. It just needs to cover your mouth and nose. It is not the same as a face mask, such as the surgical masks or respirators used by health and care workers. Similarly, face coverings are not the same as the PPE used to manage risks like dust and spray in an industrial context. Supplies of PPE, including face masks, must continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards.

It is important to know that the evidence of the benefit of using a face covering to protect others is weak and the effect is likely to be small, therefore face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk, including minimising time spent in contact, using fixed teams and partnering for close-up work, and increasing hand and surface washing. These other measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace and government would therefore not expect to see employers relying on face coverings as risk management for the purpose of their health and safety assessments.

Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by law, including in the workplace. If you choose to wear one, it is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.

Employers should support their workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one. This means telling workers:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and after removing it
  • when wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands
  • change your face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
  • continue to wash your hands regularly
  • change and wash your face covering daily
  • if the material is washable, wash in line with manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in your usual waste
  • practise social distancing wherever possible

You can make face-coverings at home and can find guidance on how to do this and use them safely on GOV.UK.

In this section

7.1 Shift patterns and working groups

Objective: To change the way work is organised to create distinct groups and reduce the number of contacts each employee has.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. As far as possible, where staff are split into teams or shift groups, fixing these teams or shift groups so that where contact is unavoidable, this happens between the same people.

  2. Identifying areas where people directly pass things to each other, for example office supplies, and finding ways to remove direct contact, such as using drop-off points or transfer zones.

7.2 Work-related travel

7.2.1 Cars, accommodation and visits

Objective: To avoid unnecessary work travel and keep people safe when they do need to travel between locations.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Minimising non-essential travel –consider remote options first.

  2. Minimising the number of people travelling together in any one vehicle, using fixed travel partners, increasing ventilation when possible and avoiding sitting face-to-face..

  3. Cleaning shared vehicles between shifts or on handover.

  4. Where workers are required to stay away from their home, centrally logging the stay and making sure any overnight accommodation meets social distancing guidelines.

7.2.2 Deliveries to other sites

Objective: To help workers delivering to other sites such as branches, or suppliers’ or customers’ premises to maintain social distancing and hygiene practices.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Putting in place procedures to minimise person-to-person contact during deliveries to other sites.

  2. Maintaining consistent pairing where 2-person deliveries are required.

  3. Minimising contact during payments and exchange of documentation, for example, by using electronic payment methods and electronically signed and exchanged documents.

7.3 Communications and Training

7.3.1 Returning to Work

Objective: To make sure all workers understand COVID-19 related safety procedures.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Providing clear, consistent and regular communication to improve understanding and consistency of ways of working.

  2. Engaging with workers through existing communication routes and worker representatives to explain and agree any changes in working arrangements.

  3. Developing communication and training materials for workers prior to returning to site, especially around new procedures for arrival at work.

7.3.2 Ongoing communications and signage

Objective: To make sure all workers are kept up to date with how safety measures are being implemented or updated.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Ongoing engagement with workers (including through trades unions or employee representative groups) to monitor and understand any unforeseen impacts of changes to working environments.

  2. Awareness and focus on the importance of mental health at times of uncertainty. The government has published guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19).

  3. Using simple, clear messaging to explain guidelines using images and clear language, with consideration of groups for which English may not be their first language.

  4. Using visual communications, for example whiteboards or signage, to explain changes to schedules, breakdowns or materials shortages to reduce the need for face-to-face communications.

  5. Communicating approaches and operational procedures to suppliers, customers or trade bodies to help their adoption and to share experience.

Objective: To maintain social distancing and avoid surface transmission when goods enter and leave the site.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Revising pick-up and drop-off collection points, procedures, signage and markings.

  2. Minimising unnecessary contact at gatehouse security, yard and warehouse. For example, non-contact deliveries where the nature of the product allows for use of electronic pre-booking.

  3. Considering methods to reduce frequency of deliveries, for example by ordering larger quantities less often.

  4. Where possible and safe, having single workers load or unload vehicles.

  5. Where possible, using the same pairs of people for loads where more than one is needed.

  6. Enabling drivers to access welfare facilities when required, consistent with other guidance.

  7. Encouraging drivers to stay in their vehicles where this does not compromise their safety and existing safe working practice, such as preventing drive-aways.

01 May
Past the peak

That's right.. we've heard it straight from Boris!

WE ARE PAST THE PEAK! Hopefully this means we can begin to plan for the future and find out what our new normality will be.

As we wait for an announcement next week from Boris to find out what the next stages may be, here's an update from the BBC reporting on yesterdays live Coronavirus update.

 

PM Boris Johnson said he will set out a "comprehensive plan" next week on how to restart the economy, reopen schools and help people travel to work following the coronavirus lockdown.

He said the UK was "past the peak" of the virus outbreak, but stressed the country must not "risk a second spike".

The government has set out five tests that must be met before lockdown restrictions can be eased, including:

  • making sure the NHS can cope
  • a "sustained and consistent" fall in the daily death rate
  • rate of infection decreasing to "manageable levels"
  • ensuring supply of tests and PPE can meet future demand
  • and being confident any adjustments would not risk a second peak "that overwhelms the NHS"
April 2020
28 Apr
UK holds minute's silence for key workers who died

A minute's silence has been held across the UK to commemorate the key workers who have died with coronavirus.

Today at 11:00 many of the UK, stood in silence to remember over 100 NHS workers who have lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

Our thoughts are with all those who have lost someone due to Covid-19 and we would like to thank you our NHS and key workers during this difficult time.

 

14 Apr
Avoiding fake news surrounding COVID-19

Since the growth of cases in coronavirus, the UK anti-fake news unit have been seeing over 10 cases per day producing misleading and often completely incorrect information regarding COVID-19.

Where fake-news articles are posted online or on social media platforms, the unit will look to remove the post but are looking into ways of tackling the content where removal is not possible.

The unit intend to contact all social media platforms with the intent of tackling false narratives from being posted online that may provide false advice and may affect the livelihood of many.

Further, the unit have contacted telecoms companies requesting that text messengers thought to be scams or provide false information to the public, be blocked and removed.

Oliver Dowden, the secretary for culture and digital, expressed “we need people to follow expert medical advice and stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. It is vital that this message hits home and that misinformation and disinformation which undermines it is knocked down quickly”.

It is clear that many articles have been posted for scare-mongering but it is vital that as a nation, we remain positive and follow only the advice published by government or health officials.

06 Apr
Defence Firm Babcock To Make 10,000 Ventilators

Defence firm Babcock has said it will be manufacturing 10,000 ventilators to help deal with the coronavirus crisis.

The plan comes nearly two weeks after Dyson said it had received a government order for 10,000 ventilators.

Both devices still have to pass stringent medical tests before they can be accepted.

The move came as tech giant Apple, best-known for phones and computers, said it would start making face shields for medical workers.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook tweeted on Sunday that it has designed and is now making the protective gear.

The tech giant plans to make more than one million shields a week, which will be shipped first to US medical workers and then distributed globally.

It has also sourced 20 million face masks which it is donating worldwide to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, Babcock said in a statement that it had "responded quickly to the UK Prime Minister's UK Ventilator Challenge".

"We are proud to have been awarded a contract by the Cabinet Office to manufacture 10,000 Zephyr Plus ventilators, subject to regulatory approvals; a product being developed in collaboration with an established major international supplier of critical care ventilators," the firm added.

The supplier, believed to be based outside the UK, has asked not to be named.

A ventilator is a machine that helps a person breathe by getting oxygen into the lungs and removing carbon dioxide.

A shortage of ventilators to treat coronavirus patients with acute symptoms is seen as one of the major problems facing the NHS as it battles the pandemic.

Babcock's statement did not say where the ventilators would be manufactured, but it has factories in Scotland and south-west England.

06 Apr
Covid-19 Self-employment Income Support Scheme

Following the Government’s announcement, it is now possible to claim a grant if you are self-employed.

The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, recently announced by Rishi Sunak, allows a self-employed worker to claim a taxable grant of to 80% of your trading profits to a maximum of £2500 per month until at least June.

You may be eligible to apply if you are a self-employed individual and:

  • have submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
  • traded in the tax year 2019-20
  • are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
  • intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
  • have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19

Further, your self-employed trading profits must fall below £50,000 with more than half of your income coming from self-employment. This may be determined by a range of factors including having trading profits in the tax years 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 of less than £50,000.

If you began trading self-employed between 2016 and 2019, the HMRC will use only the years that you have filed a self-assessment for.

The HMRC will use the data submitted for the tax year 2018/19 to identify those who may be eligible for the grant and will be assessing any late returns filed in the usual way.

How to apply:

Although it is not possible to apply for this grant, the HMRC are in the process of contacting those who are eligible for the scheme and will be inviting those who are eligible to apply online. It is not necessary to contact the HMRC at this time.

Should you have any questions regarding the grant please contact the V3 Recruitment team on 02393 911111.

05 Apr
The Queen's Televised Address To The Nation

“We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us”

On Sunday 5th April Her Majesty The Queen carried out a special televised address to the nation amid the coronavirus pandemic, this was only the fifth of her 68-year-reign.

While The Queen broadcasts a recorded message each year on Christmas Day, the only other events to be marked in this way are the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 and the First Gulf War in 1991.

I am sure I speak on behalf of the entire nation when I say not only was it an honour to have a televised address from Her Majesty The Queen in such uncertain times, it was also comforting to hear that as a nation we are unite and we will succeed.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/queens-speech-coronavirus-full-transcript-text-read-a9448531.html

Stay Home - Protect The NHS - Save Lives

 

03 Apr
RBS says revamped loan scheme will make 'big difference'

A revamped loan fund for ailing firms hit by the coronavirus lockdown will have an immediate impact, RBS has said.

RBS chairman Sir Howard Davies admitted there had been problems but expects to see a "sharp increase" in lending to small firms in the next few days.

On Thursday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak overhauled the scheme amid claims banks were taking advantage of the crisis.

The government has pledged to guarantee £330bn of loans but only £145m has been lent so far.

Small firms say they have struggled with onerous eligibility criteria for the government-backed loans, which are being issued by High Street banks and other lenders.

They have also complained of facing interest rates of up to 30% and being asked to make unreasonable personal guarantees.

It comes as the UK is facing recession as large parts of the economy are shut down.

On Friday, the influential Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) survey showed Britain's dominant services industry suffered its biggest slump in March since 1996, sinking from a reading of 53.2 to 34.5.

Any figure below 50 marks contraction.

Mr Sunak said that under changes to the Coronavirus Business Interuption Loan Scheme (CBILS):

  • Applications will not be limited to businesses that have been refused a loan on commercial terms, extending the number who benefit. However, the Treasury has not capped the interest rates banks can charge.
  • Banks will be banned from asking company owners to guarantee loans with their own savings or property when borrowing up to £250,000
  • Larger firms with a turnover of up to £500m will also be eligible for more help - with state-backed loans of up to £25m available to firms with revenues of between £45m-500m.

Sir Howard, who used to chair the Financial Services Authority (now known as the Financial Conduct Authority), told the BBC's Today programme that the process of checking borrowers' eligibility had been "difficult".

He also said RBS had struggled with the demand after inquiries about the loans jumped "by 45 times" in a week.

"I think we have to accept that the scale of this process and the speed with which it's been put in place has caused challenges for everybody," he said.

"But we've had good discussions with the Treasury and small firms, and I think the changes announced overnight will make a quite a big difference."

March 2020
30 Mar
Daily coronavirus cases fall 10 per cent

Daily coronavirus cases have dropped for the first time in weeks, according to the latest figures.

Stocks rallied as the number of daily coronavirus cases fell 10 per cent on Sunday compared to the previous day. 

However, the gains were not sustained and the FTSE 100 is down 0.87 per cent this morning. 

The drop in new cases could spark hope that the pandemic has peaked, however one day’s figures are not sufficient to deduce whether lockdown measures across the world have been successful in bringing the virus under control. 

The number of people diagnosed with coronavirus was 59.232 on Sunday, and the total number of cases has reached 723,362, the Financial Times reported.

In the UK the number of confirmed cases stands at 19,522, with 2,433 new cases confirmed yesterday. The death toll has reached 1,228. 

This morning it was reported that coronavirus is showing early signs of slowing in the UK. Professor Neil Ferguson told the Guardian that data showed social distancing measures were beginning to work.

However, yesterday it was announced that the UK’s lockdown measures, announced on Monday, could last longer than six months. 

Deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries said the measures will be reviewed every three weeks, but the UK will likely not get back to normal within six months. 

“So I think three weeks for review, two or three months to see whether we’ve really squashed [the curve of the spread of Covid-19],” she said.

“It is plausible that it could go further than that.”

Meanwhile, Ferguson, an epidemiology adviser, yesterday said that it was “optimistic” that the lockdown measures would be eased off by May.

26 Mar
Claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme

Claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme

Use this scheme if you're self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income due to coronavirus.

Published 26 March 2020

From:

HM Revenue & Customs

Contents

  1. Who can apply
  2. How much you’ll get
  3. How to apply
  4. After you’ve applied
  5. Other help you can get

This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed.

Who can apply

You can apply if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:

  • have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
  • traded in the tax year 2019-20
  • are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
  • intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
  • have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19

Your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income come from self-employment. This is determined by at least one of the following conditions being true:

  • having trading profits/partnership trading profits in 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your total taxable income
  • having average trading profits in 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your average taxable income in the same period

If you started trading between 2016-19, HMRC will only use those years for which you filed a Self-Assessment tax return.

If you have not submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, you must do this by 23 April 2020.

HMRC will use data on 2018-19 returns already submitted to identify those eligible and will risk assess any late returns filed before the 23 April 2020 deadline in the usual way.

How much you’ll get

You’ll get a taxable grant which will be 80% of the average profits from the tax years (where applicable):

  • 2016 to 2017
  • 2017 to 2018
  • 2018 to 2019

To work out the average HMRC will add together the total trading profit for the 3 tax years (where applicable) then divide by 3 (where applicable), and use this to calculate a monthly amount.

It will be up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for 3 months.

We’ll pay the grant directly into your bank account, in one instalment.

How to apply

You cannot apply for this scheme yet.

HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online.

Individuals do not need to contact HMRC now and doing so will only delay the urgent work being undertaken to introduce the scheme.

You will access this scheme only through GOV.UK. If someone texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it is a scam.

After you’ve applied

Once HMRC has received your claim and you are eligible for the grant, we will contact you to tell you how much you will get and the payment details.

If you claim tax credits you’ll need to include the grant in your claim as income.

Other help you can get

The government is also providing the following additional help for the self-employed:

If you’re a director of your own company and paid through PAYE you may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.

Published 26 March 2020

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

26 Mar
Health chief's demand as coronavirus measures for self-employed announced

Tax reforms have already made 12,000 doctors leave the UK, says Secretary General of the Independent Health Professionals’ Association

The Secretary General of an association that represents thousands of health care professionals has demanded equal rights for equal tax, in response to Chancellor Rishi Sunak's announcement of emergency measures to help the self-employed during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Unveiling a new income support scheme that will pay self employed workers a grant of up to £2,500 a month, worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, the Chancellor hinted the trade-off for this will be the self-employed and the employed paying the same tax and National Insurance rates in the future.

"If we all want to benefit equally from state support, we must all pay in equally in the future," said Mr Sunak.

However, Dr Iain Campbell, Secretary General of the Independent Health Professionals’ Association (IHPA), says that existing tax reforms for the self-employed have already likely caused a 12,000 reduction in the number of doctors in this country.

Her Majesty’s Treasury, speaking on behalf of the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has previously said it has seen no evidence of NHS staff shortages as a result of the IR35 tax changes, that see self-employed contractors classed as ‘disguised employees’.

This means self-employed doctors and nurses can no longer claim back legitimate costs such as temporary accommodation and transport as business expenses, but instead must foot them personally.

Unlike employed workers, self employed do not receive holiday pay or sick pay.

Now, as he announced new measures to support the self-employed through the pandemic, Mr Sunak said he would look to address what he called an inconsistency in self-employed contributions in the future when working to “right the ship” after the crisis.

He said: “Rather than be too specific right now about future tax policy, it’s just an observation that there’s currently an inconsistency in contributions between self-employed and employed.

“And the actions taken today, which is very significant, tens of billions of pounds of support for those who are self-employed treating them the same way as those who are employed, it does throw into light the question of consistency and whether that is fair to everybody going forward.

“Especially as when we get through this and are chipping in together to right the ship afterwards making sure everyone is doing their bit as well.

“And I think that is a very fair and reasonable observation to make at this time.”

However, in response, Dr Campbell demanded 'equal rights for equal tax' for self-employed workers, who do not receive holiday pay or sick pay, and are often disadvantaged in other ways.

He told us: "The mantra should not be same role, same tax - it should be same tax, same rights."

Dr Campbell has previously called for the suspension of IR35 tax legislation, that has seen self-employed contractors classed as ‘disguised employees’, which means they can no longer claim back legitimate costs such as temporary accommodation and transport as business expenses but instead must foot them personally.

He says this has likely caused a 12,000 reduction in the number of doctors in this country, and that he believes the stress and anxiety it can trigger is harming the mental health of some medics – including a surgeon who he said has twice tried to take his own life.

Other critics say the legislation has forced many thousands of workers to leave other areas of the contracting sector.

Earlier this month, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay announced that the planned roll-out of the latest IR35 reforms, that will see responsibility for IR35 assessment transferred from contractors to large and medium companies, would be pushed back by one year - less than a week after the April roll-out was confirmed in the Budget.

However, Dr Campbell says the roll out has only been suspended in the private sector, so health care professionals working in the public sector - such as the NHS are still - will continue to struggle due the Off Payroll rues.

"The NHS is still at big risk and there will be preventable loss of life if the reforms are not suspended," claimed Dr Campbell. 

Last year, Dr Iain Campbell told us that IR35 legislation that is already in place, and a controversial tax policy called the Loan Charge that targets people who used tax management schemes, that has been linked with multiple suicides, were creating a staffing and mental health crisis in the NHS

A spokesman for HM Treasury, speaking on behalf of the HMRC said that “no-one has to use a disguised remuneration or other avoidance scheme”.

However, in written evidence given to the House of Lords and published on the Parliament website, Dr Campbell said IR35 legislation, designed to clamp down on what the HMRC calls ‘disguised employees’, had wrongly taken away self-employed status from tens of thousands of doctors and nurses, many of whom provide temporary and emergency cover for the NHS.

This means they can no longer claim back legitimate costs such as temporary accommodation and transport as business expenses but instead must foot them personally.

Accusing HMRC of “deliberate misrepresentation”, he told the House of Lords: “We [IHPA] hold evidence obtained by FOI [Freedom of Information request] which shows the claims HMRC made to your lordships with respect to not foreseeing any great impact on the NHS are demonstrably incorrect.”

Original source Plymouth Live

26 Mar
CITB suspends levy payments

The CITB has suspended the issue of its levy bills, due for payment in 2020, for an initial period of three months. The bills will subsequently be issued for the full year.

The delay will provide immediate financial relief to construction employers during the coronavirus crisis, the CITB said

In normal times CITB assesses and sends out levy bills each April in accordance with legal requirements. CITB levy bills are usually due for payment in May, but CITB will not seek collection on the suspended bills until August, or later if possible.

Sarah Beale, CITB Chief Executive, said: “Everyone in construction is facing extreme pressure at the moment and it’s right that we provide financial relief where we can to protect employers and ensure that the industry is as prepared as possible for the economic recovery that will come when the crisis lifts.

“CITB is reviewing all of its work to respond to the changing skills needs of industry. We are continuing to re-evaluate our services, funding and grants to adapt them to meet industry’s changing priority needs.”

All levy bills, raised before 2020, should have been paid by this point. Employers in arrears should contact CITB to discuss payment options.

26 Mar
Deferral of VAT payments as a result of COVID-19

The Chancellor announced a VAT payments deferral on 20 March to support businesses with cash flow during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This means that all businesses with a UK VAT registration have the option to defer VAT payments due between 20 March and 3‌0‌‌ June.

You therefore have until 3‌1‌‌ March 2021 to pay any VAT deferred as a result of this announcement.

You do not need to inform HMRC if you wish to defer payment. You can opt in to the deferral simply by not making VAT payments due in this period. If you pay by Direct Debit you should cancel this with your bank. You should do so in sufficient time so that HMRC does not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of their VAT return.

Should you wish, you can continue to make payments as normal during the deferral period. HMRC will also continue to pay repayment claims as normal.

You must continue to submit VAT returns as normal.

26 Mar
Coronavirus: Rishi Sunak to unveil financial aid for self-employed

Self-employed workers facing financial difficulties as a result of coronavirus are set to be offered a package of support from the government.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will unveil the measures later.

He set out plans for 80% wage subsidies for staff kept on by employers last week - and the PM has said he wants similar protection for freelancers.

However, Boris Johnson added he could not promise the UK would beat the virus "without any kind of hardship at all".

The total number of people in the UK to die with Covid-19, the disease caused by Coronavirus, has reached 465.

Mr. Sunak said last week that the government would cover wages of up to £2,500 a month for staff being kept on by their employer, as part of "unprecedented" measures to prevent workers from being laid off.

The chancellor later said drawing up plans to help self-employed people had proved "incredibly complicated".

Dr. Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "For many people that have seen their businesses disappear in the blink of an eye, things like statutory sick pay or universal credit just isn't enough.

"It doesn't need to be perfect - we just need a system in place," he told the BBC's Today programme.

John Healey, a self-employed driving instructor from Lancashire, said: "We don't need a lot, we just need something.

"But by doing nothing, we just go to the wall, basically," he told the Today programme.

Why is it taking so long to help the self-employed?

Self-employed bailout ‘problematic’

Jobless struggling to claim benefits

BBC Newsnight's political editor Nick Watt said all the indications from talking to ministers and Conservative MPs were that the chancellor would match the 80% salary support given to PAYE employees.

He said one minister said the reason why it had taken so long was because it was fiendishly complicated but "when this chancellor acts, he acts big".

BBC business editor Simon Jack said calculating a support wage for the self-employed was so difficult because their income could be lumpy, irregular and intermittent.

Government sources said they had struggled to find a way to avoid paying people who do not need help.

Below is the video of the earlier announcement where the chancellor outlined support for PAYE workers.

26 Mar
UK government fends off criticism with plan to pay self-employed

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is expected to announce that the taxpayer will pay self-employed workers up to 80% of their recent earnings to help contain the economic impact of coronavirus, as 470,000 extra benefits claims sparked warnings of an “unemployment crisis”.

Sunak has been under growing pressure to do more for the UK’s 5 million self-employed after announcing an unprecedented job retention scheme for employees last Friday, that will see thousands paid to stay at home.

It comes as Covid-19 claimed the life of a 21-year-old woman from Buckinghamshire, according to her family, and Britain’s deputy ambassador to Hungary, who was 37. It was announced on Wednesday night that the number of confirmed UK cases stood at 9,529 people and the death toll had risen by 41 to 463.

The prime minister promised on Wednesday that the government was preparing to “put its arms around every worker.” He said the self-employed would be offered “parity” with employees – though Whitehall sources cautioned that did not mean the two schemes would be identical.

Details of the support package were still being finalised last night, but sources with knowledge of the plan suggested it would echo the promise of covering 80% of recent earnings that Sunak made to employees last week.

It could be subject to a lower cap than the £2,500 in monthly pre-tax income available in that scheme, however – because the self-employed tend to pay less tax. Some groups, including those already claiming universal credit, could be excluded.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, the prime minister said: “I genuinely don’t think there’s been a time in our history in the last century, certainly, when the government of this country has put its arms around so many people to get us through a very tough time. We will get through it, and we will get through it together.”

Sunak significantly increased the generosity of universal credit as part of last week’s package, and made it available to more self-employed workers.

A sharp surge in claims for universal credit has underlined the severe economic toll the coronavirus is already taking on Britain’s workforce.

The work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, revealed on Wednesday that 477,000 people had applied for the benefit in the past nine days. That is more than during any entire month of the 2008-09 financial crisis.

“We don’t know if they’re self-employed or at different stages, and I want to assure people that help, even if it’s not currently the level of help they would like, is there to help them through the safety net of the welfare state,” she said.

Karl Handscomb, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The unprecedented surge in new universal credit claims shows that the UK is already in the midst of an unemployment crisis. The increase in claims is putting huge pressure on our social security system, and is driven by a huge hit to family incomes.

“The government was right to increase the generosity of the benefits system last week. It now needs to ensure the resources are there so that claims are processed quickly, and people receive support as soon as possible.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is redeploying 10,000 staff to help process the extraordinary upsurge in new applications, making it the department’s main focus in the weeks ahead.

Its permanent secretary, Peter Schofield, said: “We made a decision that managing claims and making payments is a number one priority for DWP. Operationally we can deprioritise other things.”

The department has so far redeployed 1,500 members of staff to help with the sharp rise in universal credit claims, and is to increase this to 3,900 by the end of the week.

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, who will return to the backbenches in ten days’ time when a new Labour leader takes over, used what is likely to be one of his final speeches from the frontbench to call for the government to announce details of its scheme for supporting self-employed workers urgently.

“If people claim fraudulently while still working, they will rightly be prosecuted. But right now millions of cabbies, childminders, plumbers, electricians, painters and decorators and actors have all lost work or closed down their businesses. As have builders, designated as the self-employed under the construction industry scheme and they have no income. They need a solution, now,” he said.

Meanwhile businesses continued to demand clarity about who can keep travelling to work, as firms called for workers to come in despite Monday’s plea by the prime minister for the nation to “stay at home”.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, tweeted: “It’s clear that many firms do not know whether to stay open or to close.” She said she would meet the business secretary and request better guidance.

The warnings come amid widespread confusion among businesses about how to respond to the lockdown. Halfords, the car parts, bike and servicing group, is reopening some of its stores this week after being designated an essential service. It had closed its shops on Monday night as Johnson addressed the nation.

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct retail chain had intended to remain open but was forced to backtrack after a public outcry.

Frances O’Grady, the director general of the TUC, said the government needed to crack down on non-essential companies making staff attend work, telling ministers they needed to directly intervene if employers flouted the rules.

“Companies like Sports Direct shouldn’t be putting their profits before people’s lives. No one in non-essential services should be forced to go to work. And no one should be sacked for following official instructions and staying home,” she said.

Off-licences and other shops licensed to sell alcohol are now allowed to stay open, after an 11th-hour change, while several companies are lobbying ministers to be allowed special treatment.

The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, called for tough enforcement action against companies forcing their staff to travel to work in non-essential jobs during the lockdown.

“This is wrong. It’s risking the health of workers, their families and wider society. In the absence of a clear government instruction to end non-essential work I am taking legal advice about whether Greater Manchester police or other agencies can take enforcement action against companies which are exposing their employees in this way.”

26 Mar
That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief

Great article by Scott Berinato or Harvard Business Review

March 23, 2020

We’ve made our coronavirus coverage free for all readers. To get all of HBR’s content delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Daily Alert newsletter.

Some of the HBR edit staff met virtually the other day — a screen full of faces in a scene becoming more common everywhere. We talked about the content we’re commissioning in this harrowing time of a pandemic and how we can help people. But we also talked about how we were feeling. One colleague mentioned that what she felt was grief. Heads nodded in all the panes.

If we can name it, perhaps we can manage it. We turned to David Kessler for ideas on how to do that. Kessler is the world’s foremost expert on grief. He co-wrote with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. His new book adds another stage to the process, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of GriefKessler also has worked for a decade in a three-hospital system in Los Angeles. He served on their biohazard’s team. His volunteer work includes being an LAPD Specialist Reserve for traumatic events as well as having served on the Red Cross’s disaster services team. He is the founder of www.grief.com which has over 5 million visits yearly from 167 countries.

Kessler shared his thoughts on why it’s important to acknowledge the grief you may be feeling, how to manage it, and how he believes we will find meaning in it. The conversation is lightly edited for clarity.

HBR: People are feeling any number of things right now. Is it right to call some of what they’re feeling grief?

Kessler: Yes, and we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.

You said we’re feeling more than one kind of grief?

Yes, we’re also feeling anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Usually it centers on death. We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday. Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.

What can individuals do to manage all this grief?

Understanding the stages of grief is a start. But whenever I talk about the stages of grief, I have to remind people that the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. It’s not a map but it provides some scaffolding for this unknown world. There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.

Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.

When we’re feeling grief there’s that physical pain. And the racing mind. Are there techniques to deal with that to make it less intense?

Let’s go back to anticipatory grief. Unhealthy anticipatory grief is really anxiety, and that’s the feeling you’re talking about. Our mind begins to show us images. My parents getting sick. We see the worst scenarios. That’s our minds being protective. Our goal is not to ignore those images or to try to make them go away — your mind won’t let you do that and it can be painful to try and force it. The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking. If you feel the worst image taking shape, make yourself think of the best image. We all get a little sick and the world continues. Not everyone I love dies. Maybe no one does because we’re all taking the right steps. Neither scenario should be ignored but neither should dominate either.

Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. This will be familiar advice to anyone who has meditated or practiced mindfulness but people are always surprised at how prosaic this can be. You can name five things in the room. There’s a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. It’s that simple. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay. You have food. You are not sick. Use your senses and think about what they feel. The desk is hard. The blanket is soft. I can feel the breath coming into my nose. This really will work to dampen some of that pain.

You can also think about how to let go of what you can’t control. What your neighbor is doing is out of your control. What is in your control is staying six feet away from them and washing your hands. Focus on that.

Finally, it’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways. A coworker got very snippy with me the other day and I thought, That’s not like this person; that’s how they’re dealing with this. I’m seeing their fear and anxiety. So be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment.

One particularly troubling aspect of this pandemic is the open-endedness of it.

This is a temporary state. It helps to say it. I worked for 10 years in the hospital system. I’ve been trained for situations like this. I’ve also studied the 1918 flu pandemic. The precautions we’re taking are the right ones. History tells us that. This is survivable. We will survive. This is a time to overprotect but not overreact.

And, I believe we will find meaning in it. I’ve been honored that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s family has given me permission to add a sixth stage to grief: Meaning. I had talked to Elisabeth quite a bit about what came after acceptance. I did not want to stop at acceptance when I experienced some personal grief. I wanted meaning in those darkest hours. And I do believe we find light in those times. Even now people are realizing they can connect through technology. They are not as remote as they thought. They are realizing they can use their phones for long conversations. They’re appreciating walks. I believe we will continue to find meaning now and when this is over.

What do you say to someone who’s read all this and is still feeling overwhelmed with grief?

Keep trying. There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, “I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,” or “I cried last night.” When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn’t help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.

In an orderly way?

Yes. Sometimes we try not to feel what we’re feeling because we have this image of a “gang of feelings.” If I feel sad and let that in, it’ll never go away. The gang of bad feelings will overrun me. The truth is a feeling moves through us. We feel it and it goes and then we go to the next feeling. There’s no gang out to get us. It’s absurd to think we shouldn’t feel grief right now. Let yourself feel the grief and keep going.


Scott Berinato is a senior editor at Harvard Business Review and the author of Good Charts Workbook: Tips Tools, and Exercises for Making Better Data Visualizations and Good Charts: The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations.

26 Mar
GOVERNMENT UNVEALS PACKAGE FOR SELF-EMPLOYED

As you may have seen the Government have just announced an update to the support for Self-Employed.

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme Key points are:

- 80% of average profits over past 3 years

- Maximum of £2500 per month - Deliverable and fair / targeted support

- Trading profits up to £50K only

- Make majority of income from self-employed.

- Must have tax return for 2019 - 95% of people will benefit

- Accessible not later than June

- Allow anyone who missed filing deadline in Jan can apply

- For now - self-employed can access business loan

- Tax payments can be deferred

- Universal credit accessed in full.

If you have any questions in the meantime please do not hesitate to contact us and we will let you know if there are any further developments.

0330 3350400

26 Mar
Claim for wage costs through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Guidance for employers on the coronavirus (COVID-19) Job Retention Scheme.

Published 26 March 2020

From:

HM Revenue & Customs

Contents

  1. Who can claim
  2. Employees you can claim for
  3. Work out what you can claim
  4. What you’ll need to make a claim
  5. Claim

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme open to all UK employers for at least three months starting from 1 March 2020. We expect the scheme to be up and running by the end of April. It is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).

Employers can use a portal to claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ (employees on a leave of absence) usual 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. Employers can use this scheme anytime during this period.

The scheme is open to all UK employers that had created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on 28 February 2020.

Who can claim

Any UK organisation with employees can apply, including:

  • businesses
  • charities
  • recruitment agencies (agency workers paid through PAYE)
  • public authorities

You must have created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 28 February 2020 and have a UK bank account.

Where a company is being taken under the management of an administrator, the administrator will be able to access the Job Retention Scheme.

Public sector organisations

The government expects that the scheme will not be used by many public sector organisations, as the majority of public sector employees are continuing to provide essential public services or contribute to the response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, we expect employers to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion – and correspondingly not furlough them. This also applies to non-public sector employers who receive public funding for staff costs.

Organisations who are receiving public funding specifically to provide services necessary to respond to COVID-19 are not expected to furlough staff.

In a small number of cases, for example where organisations are not primarily funded by the government and whose staff cannot be redeployed to assist with the coronavirus response, the scheme may be appropriate for some staff.

Employees you can claim for

Furloughed employees must have been on your PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020, and can be on any type of contract, including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts

The scheme also covers employees who were made redundant since 28 February 2020, if they are rehired by their employer.

To be eligible for the subsidy, when on furlough, an employee can not undertake work for or on behalf of the organisation. This includes providing services or generating revenue. While on furlough, the employee’s wage will be subject to usual income tax and other deductions.

This scheme is only for employees on agency contracts who are not working.

If an employee is working, but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, they will not be eligible for this scheme and you will have to continue paying the employee through your payroll and pay their salary subject to the terms of the employment contract you agreed.

Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. When employers are making decisions in relation to the process, including deciding who to offer furlough to, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.

To be eligible for the subsidy employers should write to their employee confirming that they have been furloughed and keep a record of this communication.

Employees hired after 28 February 2020 cannot be furloughed or claimed for in accordance with this scheme.

You do not need to place all your employees on furlough. However, those employees who you do place on furlough cannot undertake work for you.

If your employee is on unpaid leave

Employees on unpaid leave cannot be furloughed, unless they were placed on unpaid leave after 28 February.

If your employee is on Statutory Sick Pay

Employees on sick leave or self-isolating should get Statutory Sick Pay, but can be furloughed after this.

Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough.

If your employee has more than one job

If your employee has more than one employer they can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate, and the cap applies to each employer individually.

If your employee does volunteer work or training

A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation.

However, if workers are required to for example, complete online training courses whilst they are furloughed, then they must be paid at least the NLW/NMW for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.

If your employee is on Maternity Leave, contractual adoption pay, paternity pay or shared parental pay

Individuals who are on or plan to take Maternity Leave must take at least 2 weeks off work (4 weeks if they work in a factory or workshop) immediately following the birth of their baby. This is a health and safety requirement. In practice, most women start their Maternity Leave before they give birth.

If your employee is eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance, the normal rules apply, and they are entitled to claim up to 39 weeks of statutory pay or allowance.

Employees who qualify for SMP, will still be eligible for 90% of their average weekly earnings in the first 6 weeks, followed by 33 weeks of pay paid at 90% of their average weekly earnings or the statutory flat rate (whichever is lower). The statutory flat rate is currently £148.68 a week, rising to £151.20 a week from April 2020.

If you offer enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay to women on Maternity Leave, this is included as wage costs that you can claim through the scheme.

The same principles apply where your employee qualifies for contractual adoption, paternity or shared parental pay.

Work out what you can claim

Employers need to make a claim for wage costs through this scheme.

You will receive a grant from HMRC to cover the lower of 80% of an employee’s regular wage or £2,500 per month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that subsidised wage. Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included.

At a minimum, employers must pay their employee the lower of 80% of their regular wage or £2,500 per month. An employer can also choose to top up an employee’s salary beyond this but is not obliged to under this scheme.

We will issue more guidance on how employers should calculate their claims for Employer National Insurance Contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions, before the scheme becomes live.

Full time and part time employees

For full time and part time salaried employees, the employee’s actual salary before tax, as of 28 February should be used to calculate the 80%. Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included.

Employees whose pay varies

If the employee has been employed (or engaged by an employment business) for a full twelve months prior to the claim, you can claim for the higher of either:

  • the same month’s earning from the previous year
  • average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year

If the employee has been employed for less than a year, you can claim for an average of their monthly earnings since they started work.

If the employee only started in February 2020, use a pro-rata for their earnings so far to claim.

Once you’ve worked out how much of an employee’s salary you can claim for, you must then work out the amount of Employer National Insurance Contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions you are entitled to claim.

Employer National Insurance and Pension Contributions

All employers remain liable for associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on behalf of their furloughed employees.

You can claim a grant from HMRC to cover wages for a furloughed employee, equal to the lower of 80% of an employee’s regular salary or £2,500 per month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on paying those wages.

You can choose to provide top-up salary in addition to the grant. Employer National Insurance Contributions and automatic enrolment contribution on any additional top-up salary will not be funded through this scheme. Nor will any voluntary automatic enrolment contributions above the minimum mandatory employer contribution of 3% of income above the lower limit of qualifying earnings (which is £512 per month until 5th April and will be £520 per month from 6th April 2020 onwards).

National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage

Individuals are only entitled to the National Living Wage (NLW)/National Minimum Wage (NMW) for the hours they are working.

Therefore, furloughed workers, who are not working, must be paid the lower of 80% of their salary, or £2,500 even if, based on their usual working hours, this would be below NLW/NMW.

However, if workers are required to for example, complete online training courses whilst they are furloughed, then they must be paid at least the NLW/NMW for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.

What you’ll need to make a claim

Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. Employers may need to seek legal advice on the process. If sufficient numbers of staff are involved, it may be necessary to engage collective consultation processes to procure agreement to changes to terms of employment.

To claim, you will need:

  • your ePAYE reference number
  • the number of employees being furloughed
  • the claim period (start and end date)
  • amount claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of 3 weeks)
  • your bank account number and sort code
  • your contact name
  • your phone number

You will need to calculate the amount you are claiming. HMRC will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of your claim.

Claim

You can only submit one claim at least every 3 weeks, which is the minimum length an employee can be furloughed for. Claims can be backdated until the 1 March if applicable.

What to do after you’ve claimed

Once HMRC have received your claim and you are eligible for the grant, they will pay it via BACS payment to a UK bank account.

You should make your claim in accordance with actual payroll amounts at the point at which you run your payroll or in advance of an imminent payroll.

You must pay the employee all the grant you receive for their gross pay, no fees can be charged from the money that is granted. You can choose to top up the employee’s salary, but you do not have to.

When the government ends the scheme

When the government ends the scheme, you must make a decision, depending on your circumstances, as to whether employees can return to their duties. If not, it may be necessary to consider termination of employment (redundancy).

Employees that have been furloughed

Employees that have been furloughed have the same rights as they did previously. That includes Statutory Sick Pay entitlement, maternity rights, other parental rights, rights against unfair dismissal and to redundancy payments.

Once the scheme has been closed by the government, HMRC will continue to process remaining claims before terminating the scheme.

Income tax and Employee National Insurance

Wages of furloughed employees will be subject to Income Tax and National Insurance as usual. Employees will also pay automatic enrolment contributions on qualifying earnings, unless they have chosen to opt-out or to cease saving into a workplace pension scheme.

Employers will be liable to pay Employer National Insurance contributions on wages paid, as well as automatic enrolment contributions on qualifying earnings unless an employee has opted out or has ceased saving into a workplace pension scheme.

Tax Treatment of the Coronavirus Job Retention Grant

Payments received by a business under the scheme are made to offset these deductible revenue costs. They must therefore be included as income in the business’s calculation of its taxable profits for Income Tax and Corporation Tax purposes, in accordance with normal principles.

Businesses can deduct employment costs as normal when calculating taxable profits for Income Tax and Corporation Tax purposes.

Published 26 March 2020

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme?utm_content=bufferfce45&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin.com&utm_campaign=buffer

25 Mar
Companies to receive 3-month extension period to file accounts during COVID-19

Businesses will be given an additional 3 months to file accounts with Companies House to help companies avoid penalties as they deal with the impact of COVID-19.

From today (25 March 2020), businesses will be able to apply for a 3-month extension for filing their accounts.

This joint initiative between the government and Companies House will mean businesses can prioritise managing the impact of Coronavirus.

There are approximately 4.3 million businesses on the Companies House register, and all companies must submit their accounts and reports each year. Under normal circumstances, companies that file accounts late are issued with an automatic penalty.

As part of the agreed measures, while companies will still have to apply for the 3-month extension to be granted, those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take just 15 minutes to complete.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:

  • "We have outlined a business support package on an unprecedented scale, backing companies, and their employees through these challenging times."
  • "But it is important that our support is not limited to financial assistance. We are determined to help businesses in any way we can so that they can focus all their efforts on dealing with the impact of Coronavirus, and this new offer of a 3-month extension for filing accounts is part of that."

Companies House Chief Executive, Louise Smyth said:

  • "We recognise that these are uncertain times for businesses and that’s why we’re doing all we can to help."
  • "By easing the burden, we can help businesses through this period and enable them to thrive in the future. I would encourage companies who believe they would benefit from this new flexibility to make an application in good time."

Head of Corporate Governance, Institute of Directors, Roger Barker said:

  • These measures will be welcomed by directors impacted by COVID-19. Our members will be pleased to see the government taking proactive steps to support them through this difficult time. By easing the administrative burden that comes with running a business, the government is supporting businesses to focus on the fundamentals during this exceptional period.

The government is also in close consultation with company representative bodies, legal practitioners and others, to look at solutions for the impact COVID-19 may have on companies’ ability to hold Annual General Meetings. Updated guidance on this matter will be published in due course.

 

 

25 Mar
More sites closing down

Bovis Homes, Barratt Developments, Taylor Wimpey and Speller Metcalfe have joined the likes of ISG and Galliard in closing their sites in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bovis Homes said: “Following the government’s statement yesterday we have commenced decommissioning activity at all of our sites. There will be teams going on-site in the short term for the essential work of making the sites safe and secure.

“During this period we will be rigorously reinforcing to our people and subcontractors the need to follow government guidelines, especially those around hygiene and social distancing. We will be constantly reviewing this situation in line with the government’s position.

“For those customers who expect and wish to move in over the coming days, we will look to do the right thing and facilitate this if it is at all practical.”

Barratt Developments said: “We have taken the decision to temporarily close our 400 offices and sites across the country. We are in the process of doing this safely and securely, as quickly as possible.”

Taylor Wimpey said: "Today, we have taken the decision to close our show homes, sales centres, and construction sites across the UK to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Although the latest government guidance has not ordered the closure of construction sites, we are taking action because we believe it is the right thing to do. As we need to make sure that we close down our construction sites in a responsible manner, it is necessary for a small amount of work to continue to ensure we leave our sites safe and secure. Please be assured that we will be sending our employees and subcontractors home as soon as is practically possible and that all employees and subcontractors have received guidance on appropriate social distancing on site."

Speller Metcalfe said: “With government advice currently unclear, we have agreed that the morally responsible course of action is to suspend site operations as soon as is possible, in order to reduce risk to our staff and our supply chain and in the national interest of preserving life.

“Our site teams are currently working hard to ensure that sites are shut down safely and securely, as well as making preparations for safe and prompt continuation of works as soon as we are able to do so.

“The only sites which will remain open are those where we are delivering critical works for the NHS – ensuring the well-being of those who continue to work on these sites will be our number one priority and we will be working closely with our clients and supply chain to ensure all possible measures are in place to ensure social distancing and enhanced hygiene regimes are adhered to at all times.

“Speller Metcalfe’s office functions will continue to operate as usual, with staff working from home and available via email and mobile.

“As a competent and socially-responsible contractor we firmly believe that this is the best thing to do to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of all. We hope that other contractors continue to follow suit, and call on the government to officially close all sites as far as is possible in this time of national emergency.”

Knight Build Ltd, a £60m turnover contractor based in Essex, is another deciding to pull offsite. HSEQ manager Dominick Gallagher explained: We at KBL, have made the decision to reluctantly close all of our sites for the next three weeks. Once again, the government have issued an unclear message to the construction industry, which is in turn contributing massively to overcrowded Tubes and construction environments, such as welfare facilities, where social distancing is clearly not being followed."

He added: “We believe the risk is too great and we have a duty of care to ensure that we do not risk contributing to the pandemic and we certainly do not wish to put any of our staff, labour resources, subcontractors or supply chain in any way of harm. Hopefully the government will address the issue with the self-employed in a time when they are preaching about the importance of looking after the vulnerable.”

Earlier this morning we reported that ISG and Galliard had also decided to close down their sites until the health crisis is resolved.

The decisions to close sites come depsite Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, saying that it was fine to keep construciton sites open. He said just last night: “Advice for the housing, construction & building maintenance industries: If you can work from home, do so. If you are working on site, you can continue to do so. But follow Public Health England guidance on social distancing.”

25 Mar
The Government urgently needs to come up with a plan to support self-employed workers

What a great representation by John McDonnell in Parliament yesterday for the self-employed, agency workers and people on reduced hours.


Let's get a decision made for these hard working people and also including the temporary agency workers and workers asked to work on reduced hours.


https://twitter.com/johnmcdonnellMP/status/1242484700599353350?s=20

24 Mar
CORONAVIRUS BUSINESS INTERRUPTION LOAN SCHEME (CBILS) – ACCREDITED LENDERS AND PARTNERS

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is now available through participating lenders

HOW CAN I ACCESS THE SCHEME?

CBILS is available through the British Business Bank’s 40+ accredited lenders, which are listed on the British Business Bank website here. Note: Not every accredited lender can provide every type of finance listed.

In the first instance, businesses should approach their own provider – ideally via the lender’s website. They may also consider approaching other lenders if they are unable to access the finance they need.

Decision-making on whether you are eligible for CBILS is fully delegated to the 40+ accredited CBILS lenders. These lenders range from high-street banks, to challenger banks, asset-based lenders and smaller specialist local lenders.

Note: if the accredited lender can offer finance on normal commercial terms without the need to make use of the scheme, they will do so.

Additional application notes:

Given there is likely to be a big demand for facilities once the scheme goes live, we ask you to please:

  • Consider applying via the lender’s website in the first instance. Telephone lines are likely to be busy and branches may have limited capacity to handle enquires due to social distancing
  • Consider the urgency of your need – it is possible that some businesses may be looking for regular longer-term finance rather than ‘emergency’ finance, and there may other businesses with a more urgent need to speak with a lender

 WHAT TYPES OF FINANCE ARE AVAILABLE AND WHO OFFERS WHICH TYPE?

CBILS supports a wide range of business finance facilities, including:

  • Term loans
  • Overdrafts
  • Asset finance
  • Invoice finance

Note: Not every lender can provide every type of finance listed.

CBILS is available through the British Business Bank’s 40+ accredited lenders, which are listed on the British Business Bank website here.

AM I ELIGIBLE FOR FINANCE UNDER CBILS?

The scheme is designed to support smaller businesses (SMEs) who don’t meet a lender’s normal lending requirements for a fully commercial loan or other facility, but who are considered viable in the longer-term.

To be eligible for a facility under CBILS, your business must:

  • Be UK based in its business activity with annual turnover or no more than £45m
  • Have a borrowing proposal which, were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, would be considered viable by the lender, and for which the lender believes the provision of finance will enable your business to trade out of any short-to-medium term difficulty
  • Smaller businesses from any sector[1] can apply for the full amount of the facility.

 Please review our quick eligibility checklist here 

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR SMEs

Please note: The CBILS guarantee is to the lender and not the business. As with any other commercial transaction, the borrower is always 100% liable for repayment of the facility supported by CBILS

CBILS decision making is fully delegated to the accredited lenders. Any queries from a business with an active or historic EFG facility, including guarantee fee collection or alterations to their repayment profile should raise them with their lender, and not with the British Business Bank.

For further information, please read our CBILS FAQs for SMEs document

If you are an Accredited Lender, or a prospective Lender, please click here to go to our Lender pages.

[1] Exclusions: Banks, Building Societies, Insurers and Reinsurers (but not insurance brokers); The public sector including state funded primary and secondary schools; Employer, professional, religious or political membership organisation or trade unions.