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Coronavirus resources for SMEs

We’ll be updating this page daily and sending out regular briefings with all the new information that’s been added.

We are living in unprecedented times. And because of this, the Government is introducing unprecedented measures to support businesses through this difficult period. The current and rapidly changing advice on Covid-19 can be overwhelming but we want to help you get the full picture.

We’ve compiled this resource hub to provide some more clarity for SMEs who are looking for more information on the provisions and support available to them. We’ll keep this page as up to date as possible, but for all the latest information and measures the Government is taking to support employees, employers and businesses, please visit the UK Government website.

Latest updates

  • On 5 January 2020, the Chancellor announced one-off top up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses worth up to £9,000 per property, as well as a £594 million discretionary fund for other impacted businesses.
  • The furlough scheme has been extended until the end of April 2021.
The rapidly evolving nature of the coronavirus outbreak means that information and advice can change quickly. For all the latest information and measures the Government is taking, please visit the UK Government website, the Scottish Government website, the Welsh Government website or the Northern Irish Government website.

Loans and Grants

The Future Fund

  • Now open for applications – link to apply here.
  • Announced by the Chancellor on 20 April, the Future Fund issues convertible loans to innovative UK companies with good potential, that typically rely on equity investment and are currently affected by Covid-19.
  • The scheme, will help these companies through the current period of economic disruption and the recovery, so they are able to continue their growth trajectory and reach their full economic potential. The Scheme is designed by government and delivered by the British Business Bank.
  • The Government has made £250 million available for the Future Fund, and will keep this amount under review. The scheme is open for applications until the 31 January 2021.
  • UK-based companies provided with between £125k and £5m in government support, with third-party investors at least matching the government commitment. This means the minimum loan to a company is £250k with no maximum, since there is no upper limit on the amount that additional investors may co-invest.
  • Scheme operates on a commercial basis to deliver an initial commitment of £250m of new government funding.
  •  Financing will be unlocked by additional third-party investment on a match funded basis.
  • The lead investor (not necessarily the largest investor) has to submit the application.
  • Applications submitted via an online platform based on a set of standard terms and eligibility criteria.
  • Applications are expected to take a minimum of 21 days from initial application to funding being awarded, according to the BBB.
    • Eligibility criteria:
  • Companies must be UK-incorporated and if part of a corporate group, only the parent company is eligible.
  •  Companies in receipt of the loans will be required to have previously raised at least £250k in equity investment from third party investors in the last five years.
  • Only eligible companies that can attract at least 50% of third-party investment will receive funding.
  • Companies cannot have any of their shares traded on a regulated market, multilateral trading facility or other listing venue.
  • The company must have been incorporated on or before 31 December 2019.
  • At least one of the following must be true for the company:
    • – Half or more employees are UK based
    • – Half or more revenues are from UK sales
  • Full details on what information startups will need to provide as part of the application process are listed via these FAQs.
  • For more details click here.

Bounce Bank Loan Scheme

  • The Bounce Back Loan scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000. They will be able to access this cash within days of applying.
  • The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.
  • Banks will only be able to charge 2.5% interest once the interest free period for the first 12 months is over.
  • Loan terms will be up to 6 years. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan.
  • The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders.
  • You cannot apply if you’re already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).
  • The new Bounce Back Loans scheme is now open for applications, until 31 March 2021.
  • You can find further information about the scheme, including eligibility, here.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, who are an accredited lender, will enable businesses with a turnover less than £41 million to apply for a loan of up to £5m (increased from £1.2 million), with the UK government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees.
  • Interest payments and any lender-levied fees for businesses will be covered by the government for an initial period of up to twelve months, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.
  • The aim is to increase the supply of credit to small- and medium-sized enterprises and provide business advice services.
  • CBILS went live on the 23rd March, will run until the 31 March 2021, and you can access the scheme through participating lenders via the British Business Bank.
  • There is further information for small businesses on the CBILS businesses and advisors page and there are 40+ accredited lenders currently participating in the scheme.
  • Personal guarantees may be required for facilities above £250K but will be capped at 20% of the outstanding balance after business asset recoveries.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

  • Introduced on Friday 20th March, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will allow all UK businesses to continue to pay employees that would have otherwise been laid off due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • To access this scheme employees will need to be designated as ‘furloughed workers’ and notified.
  • The definition of ‘furlough’ is to allow or to force someone to be temporarily absent from their employment.
  • In this case, HMRC will cover 80% of the wages of furloughed employees, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
  • The scheme has been backdated to March 1st.
  • You can only submit one claim at least every 3 weeks, which is the minimum length an employee can be furloughed for.
  • HMRC have confirmed that PAYE salaried limited company directors can furlough themselves but only perform statutory duties.
  • Extended eligibility:
    • The scheme has been extended until 30 April 2021.
    • For periods from 1 November onwards employers can now claim for employees  on their PAYE payroll on or before 30 October 2020. This means that the employee must have been notified to HMRC through an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee on or before 30 October 2020.
    • Keep your eye on the government’s official guidance page for updates. Acas also have some useful advice on furloughing employees.
  • Local Restrictions Support Grant

    • Grants are available for businesses that have been negatively affected by local Covid-19 restrictions. These are split into three categories:
    • LRSG (Open)
      Businesses under Tier 2 and 3 restrictions that have been severely impacted, but not been forced to close, may be able to apply for a cash grant of up to £1,050 for each 14 day cycle from local councils. More details are available here.
    • LRSG (Closed)
      Businesses under Tier 2, 3 and 4 restrictions that have been forced to close, may be able to apply for a cash grant of up to £1,500 for each 14 day cycle from local councils. More details are available here.
    • LRSG (Addendum)
      Businesses under that have been forced to close due to national restrictions from 5 November to 2 December, can apply for a grant of up to £3000 for each 28 day period. For the national lockdown beginning 5 January, businesses can apply for a one off grant of up to £9000. Further details are available here.

    Additional Restrictions Grant

    • Local councils are also able to provide additional discretionary grants to businesses that do not directly pay business rates as well as businesses that do not have to close but which are impacted.

    COVID-19 research support and funding

    • The launch of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard have committed up to $125 million in seed funding to speed-up the response to the COVID-19 epidemic by identifying, assessing, developing, and scaling-up treatments.
    • NHSX is calling on all innovators who can support the elderly, vulnerable and self-isolating during COVID-19 to apply for government funding of up to £25,000 to test their solution.
    • Unprecedented is a hub for businesses directly engaged in the fight against Covid-19. It is a place to find mentors, partners and investment to help businesses get support.
    • UK Research & Innovation is offering funding for ideas that address the COVID-19 crisis. Funding available for projects of up to 18 months in duration and their is no closing date.
    • A new Accelerator run by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) is offering free support to help SMEs rapidly innovate during the COVID-19 crisis 

Tax Payment Deferrals

HMRC’s ‘Time to Pay’ service expansion

  • Those in financial distress due to coronavirus may be eligible for HMRC’S Time to Pay service which allows SMEs and those who are self-employed to defer tax payments.
  • Decisions on how much extra time businesses get to pay are agreed on a case-by-case basis with HMRC.
  • HMRC will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business has problems meeting its filing obligations or paying its taxes due to COVID-19.
  • Businesses should contact HMRC’s new dedicated COVID-19 helpline on 0800 0159 559. HMRC have made an extra 2,000 call handlers available to cope with the increased demand.

Deferring VAT and Income Tax Payments

  • Applying from 20th March to 30th June, the government has suspended VAT for three months.
  • All UK businesses are eligible.
  • For the self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.
  • There is no need to apply, it is an automatic offer, refunds and reclaims to be paid as usual.
  • Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020/2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period.
  • A new deferred payment scheme will open in early 2021.

Refunds on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

  • The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme has now launched.
  • The Government has announced that UK businesses with less than 250 employees can reclaim the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for those eligible employees who take up to 14 days off sick as a result of coronavirus.
  • The size of an employer will be determined by the number of employees they have had as of 28th February.
  • Those who are self-employed or not eligible for sick pay can claim Employment and Support Allowance immediately, rather than having to wait until day eight as was previously the case.
  • Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19.
  • The eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force.
  • It is important employers maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a note from their GP.
  • In the case that evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 Online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS Website.

Further Relief Options

The importance of maintaining cash-flow for SMEs

  • £30 million funding is now available for innovations to help revolutionise the way we fly.
  • Simple Usability are giving away a customer insights package worth £5,000 to one lucky startup. Find out more here.
  • Both the Small Business Minister and Small Business Commissioner are calling on the UK’s big businesses to speed up payments to their small business suppliers wherever they can to ease COVID-19 related cash flow issues.
  • This has been backed by the Entrepreneurs Network, British Chambers of Commerce, Enterprise Nation, Federation of Small Businesses, Institute of Directors, IPSE, and ICAEW.
  • Morrisons have implemented such measures and announced that their suppliers who have between £100k and £1m turnover will receive immediate payment upon presentation of their invoice. For other suppliers with less than £100k in turnover they will need to wait 14 days.
  • To battle the cash flow crisis, Tesco have pledged with “immediate effect” to pay small suppliers within five days, rather than the usual 14.
  • On the 25th March, Sainsbury’s pledged to help smaller suppliers during the coronavirus emergency by paying them immediately and making finance available.
  • Unilever have announced they are helping customers and suppliers during the pandemic with €500m cash flow relief. They will also facilitate early payment for their most vulnerable small and medium sized suppliers to help them with financial liquidity.
  • Enterprise Nation has teamed up with Crowdfunder to offer support via live chat and launch ‘Pay it Forward’, a scheme designed to help small businesses pre-sell their services on the promise that their customers can redeem them later. Already over £1,000,000 has been raised!
  • eBay UK has launched a 30-day payment holiday for all 300,000 UK businesses registered on the site. New businesses registering will not have to pay any fees to list or sell until 31 May 2020.
  • Twenty startup organisations including Tech London Advocates and The Entrepreneurs’ Network have launched a campaign called Save Our Startups (SOS) and have written an open letter to the PM calling for better support measures.

Other Resources

Technology to help support your business work from home

  • Launched by Pearson, UK Learns is offering hundreds of courses designed to support workers who find themselves either furloughed or out of work owing to COVID-19. 
  • Digital Boost is a new service helping small businesses and charities boost their digital skills. Sign up here for early access to free expert advice through virtual 1-to-1 sessions and hands-on workshops. Brought to you by F4S and BCGDV.
  • Search Marketing Consultant Micheal Brennan has created a free course, to teach businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 how to grow their website traffic and perform better on Google.
  • Playfair Capital is hosting a remote edition of its Female Founder Office Hours event. 30 VCs will join to discuss how we can increase access to funding and support.
  • The video communications provider Zoom has created some resources to help you work from home.
  • SeedLegals is allowing businesses to create a free Work from Home policy.
  • Google is providing free access to the enterprise version of Hangouts Meet to all G-Suite and G-Suite for Education users.
  • Cisco is offering the free version of its Webex service with no time restrictions. In addition, it will allow up to 100 meeting participants and has added toll-free dial-in features with a 90-day license for businesses that are not already customers.
  • Cafe X has made Challo – a collaboration service that helps you stay connected with your clients, teams and partners – available for free until July 1st.
  • Facebook’s Business Hub is now available for all businesses to access. Previously a resource for Facebook employees and health experts, it will now be opened up to the wider world.
  • VC Cafe has compiled a list of 100+ startups offering free products and services in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • durhamlane, in partnership with TWM, are offering a free, comprehensive 10 week e-learning program focusing on sales development. This content is designed to reinvigorate sales best practice and help retain a winning mindset whilst based at home. Find more about the course here.
  • Please note as a result of the increased numbers of people working from home, there is an increased risk of online fraudulent activity such as phishing scams and ransomware. As a starting point, the charity anti-fraud Take Five has published advice on steps you can take to protect your business from these scams during the outbreak.

Ensure you look after your mental wellbeing

  • With all the emotional and financial pressures at the moment, you might be feeling anxious or worried about coronavirus. Mental health charity Mind has published some useful advice with simple things you can do to combat this and look after your mental wellbeing. Included in this are plans for staying at home if you need to self isolate, tips for managing anxiety and how to keep up with the latest news without it affecting your mental health.

General Useful Links