Tips for small businesses to survive the coronavirus outbreak


Enterprise Nation’s Emma Jones shares her tips for small businesses on how to best to weather the coronavirus storm

Small business founders could be forgiven for diving back under the covers, says Enterprise Nation’s Emma Jones.

But while we shouldn’t underestimate the collateral damage the coronavirus will inflict on our economy, if we keep on reinforcing the doom and gloom, and regurgitating the hypothetical impact, there’s every chance the outcome will only be intensified.

Instead, there are some really helpful initiatives and resources out there that can offer practical support – like how to delay tax payments, pre-sell meals, events and overnight stays and garner the support of your local community behind your local businesses. 

We’re also seeing broad collaboration, resources sharing and more consideration being given to supporting other small firms in the same boat.

Here are some practical things small firms can do now: 

Delay tax payments

Call the HMRC helpline to discuss delaying tax payments to help with cash flow. 0800 0159559

Challenge extended payment terms

Contact the Small Business Commissioner’s office for help if large firms to are asking you to accept extended payment arrangements. 

Debt support

Firms will face increasing pressures and juggling payments, something that most face on a daily basis, is going to be intensified. The Business Debtline offers support and guidance around this.  

Pre-sell future events and meals out 

Restaurants, cafes, pubs, hotels, events and any business that hosts people have been very badly affected.

But you could encourage your customers – especially regulars – to buy now and support you in return for something in the future. 

Set up a Pay it Forward campaign to pre-book meals, a room for the night or a ticket to an event for example, now, based on a promise to deliver in the future. 

This is ideal for high street bars and restaurants affected by the hospitality ban. A joint initiative by Crowdfunder and Enterprise Nation.

 

Loans

The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which has launched today, will give businesses access to bank lending, overdrafts and other finance solutions to help them through the COVID-19 crisis. 

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80 per cent on each loan to give them confidence in continuing to provide finance to small and medium sized firms. 

Note that the borrower always remains 100 per cent liable for the debt. CBILS is operated by the British Business Bank (BBB), loans and other types of finance will be available via the BBB’s official partners.

Sick pay

Small and medium-sized businesses will be able to reclaim a refund on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for employees affected by coronavirus.

This requires new legislation to be introduced and current systems are not set up to facilitate employer refunds for SSP. The government said it ‘will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible’.

The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • This refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees (as of 28 February 2020) will be eligible
  • 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
  • Employers should maintain records of staff absences, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
  • The eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay for self-isolators comes into force
SMEs will be able to reclaim a refund on Statutory Sick Pay for employees affected by Covid-19

SMEs will be able to reclaim a refund on Statutory Sick Pay for employees affected by Covid-19

Job retention

All UK employers will be able to access grants to cover some of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off. 

HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) will reimburse 80 per cent of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

Benefits for the self-employed

Self-employed people are likely to not be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, so the government is making it easier for them make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance:

For the duration of the outbreak, the Universal Credit minimum income floor has been suspended to ensuring self-employed claimants receive support

The self-employed can now access in full Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees (£94.25 a week)

People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront without the current requirement to attend a Jobcentre if they are advised to self-isolate.

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable. at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, for eligible people affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating in line with advice from day one of sickness, rather than day eight.

Business rates relief

To help High Street businesses in England, all retail, leisure and hospitality business will no business rates in 2020-21. Businesses do no need to take any action. It will apply to the next council tax bill in April 2020. 

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority.

Grants for business rates paying businesses

The government will a provide a £10,000 grant to retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value under £15,000.

Retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value between £15,001 and £51,000 can access a £25,000 grant.

Host events online

Where there is an app, there is a way. Once things have settled into a routine, it’s inevitable that we’ll be wanting to take part in events – even if we’re tuning in from home. 

Great technology for this include Go To Webinar or Go To Live, Facebook Live, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and for those on Instagram there’s IGTV.

Support from the banks

Head across to the British Business Bank, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) will replace the Enterprise Finance Guarantee. Loans through CBILS will be increased from a maximum of £1.2million to £5million. 

No interest will be payable for six months and the scheme will launch next week, quicker than it was previously thought.

Apply for temporary government support

For information on sick pay and business rates relief head to the Gov.uk website or have a look on Enterprise Nation’s website for its guide to support, helpfully updated regularly.

Emergency templated work policies

Open data sharing has seen firms share their newly-created policies with other firms. Like this Work From Home Policy template from Seedlegals.

More helpful information and support is emerging every day. As being in lock-down becomes normalised I expect we will see more, not less innovation, some of which may have a positive, lasting legacy.

Small Business Essentials

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