Coronavirus - Advice for businesses

It's important to ensure that all businesses across Wigan Borough feel supported and are prepared to act quickly as the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) continues.

As a council, it is our duty to protect our economy and support our business and enterprise community during these difficult times. We’re working hard to ensure you have access to the latest available help, while highlighting to government where further support is still needed.

For further advice you can speak to the business engagement team. We’re experiencing a high volume of calls and emails but will be in touch as soon as possible.

We're also continuing to work closely with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Business Growth Hub to support and advise business owners, charities and community organisations.

Measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic

The government announcement on Sunday 10th May outlined some amendments to the lockdown which will come into force from Wednesday 13th May. It remains for most people to stay at home, with instructions that they can only leave the home under limited circumstances. These will be:

  • Shopping for necessities (food and medication) as infrequently as possible
  • Exercise outside as many times as they wish
  • Meeting up with no more than 1 person from outside your household at a time, in a public place e.g. a park
  • Medical circumstances or to provide care to a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary. You will still not be able to use areas like playgrounds, outdoor gyms or ticketed outdoor leisure venues, where there is a higher risk of close contact and touching surfaces. It is also advised to continue to avoid public transport wherever possible.

All gatherings above two people will continue to be banned.

These restrictions will be in place for at least three weeks before they are reviewed.

Business that must close

Leisure and hospitality industries must remain closed, and this is enforceable by law. Other non-essential shops and public spaces should also remain closed. These include:

  • Leisure and hospitality industries (enforceable by law), this includes restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, clubs, cinemas, theatres, bingo halls, museums, betting shops, spas, gyms, leisure centres
  • Non-essential retail stores such as clothing and electronics stores, hair, beauty and nail salons and outdoor and indoor markets, excluding food markets
  • Libraries, community centres, and youth centres
  • Indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, arcades and soft play facilities
  • Communal places within parks, such as playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms
  • Places of worship, except for funerals attended by immediate families
  • Hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use (excluding permanent residents and key workers).

Takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational and online retail is still open and encouraged. Postal and delivery services will run as normal. There is no current restriction on the type of products shops can sell if they are permitted to remain open.

How will this be monitored?

Officers from regulatory services will monitor compliance with these regulations, and police support will be provided if appropriate. Businesses and premises that breach them will be subject to prohibition notices and potentially fines. Any business with a trading license may lose it indefinitely.

We recognise the financial impact closing is having on our businesses, however, we would urge businesses to comply with the new restrictions to help keep our residents safe and avoid facing legal action.

Businesses permitted to stay open

From Wednesday 13th May, all workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open e.g. food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories.

Food retailers and food markets, hardware stores, garden centres (from Wednesday 13th May) and certain other retailers can also remain open. As soon as it's practical, workplaces should follow the new COVID-19 guidelines. They will ensure the risk of infection is as low as possible, while allowing as many people as possible to resume their jobs.

Other businesses not listed as premises that must close, are not required to close. However, to reduce social contact and protect employees or other people, the government advises businesses to introduce social distancing.

If employers do not introduce social distancing or allow vulnerable workers (external link) to self-isolate for the period specified, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) may take a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks.

Businesses that charge unfair prices

We have received some reports of shops charging excessive prices. Shops that charge excessive prices to exploit the current situation should be warned they risk being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority for breaching competition law.

All prices must be clear and not misleading. We understand that some prices may have increased slightly due to difficulties in the supply chain because of recent events. We urge our retailers to behave responsibly throughout the coronavirus outbreak.

What support is available for businesses and the self-employed?

The government have announced a range of schemes to support businesses, employees and the self-employed. We know that businesses need this support as soon as possible and are working with our partners and the government as quickly as we can.

You will find all available government support listed below:

Small Business Grant Funding

This is an one off cash grant of £10,000 to eligible companies that already pay little or no business rates through business rate relief schemes. We will write to all eligible companies and will need to confirm bank details so that you can receive payment.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

The scheme will be open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000. The scheme will open for an initial three months and people will be able to make their first claim by the beginning of June.

Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality, leisure and nurseries

In England, businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, and nurseries included on Ofsted’s Early Years Register, will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year.

You do not need to do anything as we have identified eligible businesses and will apply the holiday to your bill.

Cash grant for retail, hospitality and leisure

If your business is in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors you could receive a cash grant depending on the rateable value of your property.

Businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of up to £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000.

Businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000.

We will contact you if you are eligible for this scheme.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

All UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. This applies to employees who have been asked to stop working, but who are being kept on the pay roll, known as ‘furloughed workers’. HMRC will reimburse 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 per month.

The Chancellor has recently announced that this scheme will be extended to October 2020.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme has been expanded to cover all viable firms. The scheme now supports businesses with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to:

  • £5 million for small and medium-sized businesses with a turnover under £45 million
  • £25 million for businesses with a turnover over £45 million
  • £50 million for businesses with a turnover over £250 million

Find out more about the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (external link).

Bounce Back Loan Scheme

The Bounce Back Loan scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. 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.

Find out more about the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (external link).

Statutory Sick Pay Rebate

Small and medium-sized businesses will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for staff sickness absence due to coronavirus. This refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of coronavirus.

Time to Pay

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.

VAT deferral

UK registered businesses will not need to make VAT payments normally due with VAT returns during this period for three months. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020-21 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period.

Deferral of self-assessment payments

Self-assessment payments normally due to be paid to HMRC by 31st July 2020 can now be deferred to January 2021.

COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

The Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger companies to help ease the supply of credit to all businesses. This will support companies which are fundamentally strong but have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze.

Universal Credit and New Style Employment Allowance

If you are not eligible to receive statutory sick pay you can apply for Universal Credit or New Style Employment Allowance.

Protection from eviction for commercial tenants

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction.

These measures will mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30th June 2020. There is the option for the government to extend this period if needed.

This is not a rental holiday. All commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent. Commercial tenants are protected from eviction if they are unable to pay rent.

GM LEP funding

The Greater Manchester LEP, working with the Growth Company, has unlocked an initial £3m package of urgently needed financial support for Greater Manchester businesses battling the impact of coronavirus.

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