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Support and information for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic

The current business environment is understandably a challenging one for our local businesses and their staff. We recognise and understand that coronavirus is likely to be causing concern and possible disruption to businesses of all sizes for the foreseeable future.

This page contains information and links to the latest developments on business support from the UK Government. We have broken down the business support announcements, as well as added links to more general business support, such as contingency planning blogs.

Information on this page is being check daily, however with developments moving so quickly, if you are unsure of anything please contact us directly.

Business support team

As always, SEMLEP’s Growth Hub Business Support team is ready to help. We are available to contact on the information below. We are happy to help businesses at this time with our free service. If you need further clarification and support on any of the information below or have a question about coronavirus and your business, please contact our business support team:

To help us support businesses, please fill in this 3-minute survey so we can best understand the challenges businesses are facing at this time.


Government support for businesses

The UK Government has announced plans in regard to business support to help businesses during this pandemic. Below is a breakdown of the package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.The package of measures to support businesses includes:

Financial support for business


Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme (CBILS)
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), offering loans of up to £5 million to SMEs, managed by the British Business Bank is now available through participating lenders. Find out who the lenders are and more bout the scheme here.

Other business support measures


Government guidance

Guidance for employers
The government has set-up a dedicated page with a comprehensive suite of information for businesses and individuals relating to the COVID-19 virus. Businesses should read and follow this advice for employers.

Trading Internationally?
Read the guidance here if you are a UK business trading internationally. The advice is for UK businesses that export or deliver goods and services abroad and have been impacted by the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

This guidance, for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations, outlines the changes that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is making to the apprenticeship programme during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Support for the self-employed

Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

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.  Find out more here.

Self-assessment payments deferred until January 2021

If you’re self-employed, Income Tax Self-Assessment due on the 31st July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

How to access the scheme?

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return. Find out more.

Claiming Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance

Those who are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), for example the self-employed or people earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week, can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance. More details on how to claim can be found here.

Changes to Universal Credit for self-employed people

The government has temporarily changed the way they work out Universal Credit for self-employed people on low incomes. It has suspended the Minimum Income Floor for Universal Credit, meaning self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.

Call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 for more information or view the government’s webpage on self-employment and Universal Credit.

If you want to know how COVID-19 affects the Minimum Income Floor, you can read the latest information about COVID-19 and claiming benefits, including Universal Credit.

Tax relief support through HMRC’s Time To Pay service

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. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

IR35: Off-payroll working rules reforms postponed until 2021

Reforms to off-payroll working rules have been delayed by 12 months as part of the government’s Covid-19 economic response package. The rules will now come into effect on 6th April 2021 instead of 6th April 2020. More information can be found here.

Supporting employees

Get up to date information and guidance on how to support colleagues from the ACAS information on coronavirus.ACAS are the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. An independent public body that receives funding from government, they work with employers and employees to provide free and impartial advice on:

    • employment rights
    • best practice and policies
    • resolving workplace conflict

What to do if an employee needs time off work to look after someone: Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a ‘dependant’) in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations related to coronavirus (COVID-19). For example:

If they have children they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed to help their child or another dependant if they’re sick, or need to go into isolation or hospital

There’s no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP): Those who follow advice to stay at home and who cannot work as a result will be eligible for SSP, even if they are not themselves sick. Employers should use their discretion and respect the medical need to self-isolate in making decisions about sick pay.

Anyone not eligible to receive sick pay, including those earning less than an average of £118 per week, some of those working in the gig economy, or self-employed people, are able to claim Universal Credit and or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

For those on a low income and already claiming Universal Credit, it is designed to automatically adjust depending on people’s earnings or other income. However, if someone needs money urgently they can apply for an advance through the journal.

Certifying absence from work: By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, employers may use their discretion around the need for medical evidence if an employee is staying at home.

The government is strongly encouraging employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to stay at home either as they are unwell themselves, or live with someone who is, in accordance with the public health advice issued by the government.

ACAS have more information on coronavirus and can help with specific queries by phone.

How businesses can help


Limiting spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in business and workplaces 

Businesses and employers can help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by reminding everyone of the public health advice. Posters, leaflets and other materials are available.

Employees and customers should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently than normal.

Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products.

Other business support information

If you are confused about any of the above information or would benefit from speaking to a business adviser, please call us on: 0300 01234 35

Business Support Outside of Government

The Government is working closely with Business Representative Organisations and Trade Associations to support the national response to coronavirus, including ensuring messages from Government are heard by all businesses and that business voices are heard by Government. View the list of organisations you can speak with to get advice. Many of these websites also include sector specific guidance and Q&A.

Manufacturing Growth Programme

The Manufacturing Growth Programme is still working to support manufacturing businesses. They have many business improvement projects to choose and can support with grant funding. This can be done remotely. Find out more here.

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