This is clearly a very difficult time for all of us as small business owners, and I want to reassure you that FSB is working day and night to get as much support for you as possible – talking to the UK government, devolved administrations and the banks among others.
We have already managed to get some significant support, but there is much more to do, including for the self-employed specifically, and making sure that measures already announced are being implemented swiftly.
I thought I would give you a rundown of where we are with some of the key issues and activity:
All small employers will be able to access financial support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary, for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off due to the crisis. This could be either because the work that person does is not viable any more, for the time of the crisis, or because the business cannot operate any more.
The scheme is not yet live, as legislation will need to be amended, but when it is it will work as follows:
- The employer will need to designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and tell them of this change. The worker will then not be able to undertake any work.
- HMRC will require details through an online portal.
- HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers’ wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
We are continuing to seek clarity on some specific details of this scheme, including whether it would cover an employee who is partially furloughed (i.e. working fewer hours than normal). We understand this scheme will become operable in April, with payments backdated to March 1 if needed.
While financial help for employees is welcome, and in line with what FSB had been calling for, there is not a similar level of support for the self-employed who have so far been offered access to Universal Credit at £96 a week.
We have been strongly making the case to the Government at the highest levels – including Number 10, the Treasury, BEIS and DWP – over the last few days that this is nowhere near enough, and that urgent and significant support is needed for this vital group. As a result, the Prime Minister pledged on Sunday that the government would be “standing behind” the self-employed – we’re now working hard to get that pledge turned into quick and concrete action.
Overall, we are seeking to secure improved support for the self-employed and all small business owners.
Small Business Rates Relief for the smallest firms in England was something FSB was instrumental in achieving long before this current situation. Those businesses will now get a £10,000 government grant as part of coronavirus support measures already announced. This will be administered through local authorities, who should be contacting you if you are eligible in the coming days.
Those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England who usually pay rates will now have 100% relief for a year from April 1, as will nurseries after the government’s announcement to close childcare providers at the same time as schools.
Small firms that operate as retail, hospitality or leisure businesses with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000 in England, will be eligible for a £25,000 grant, which will be administered through local authorities.
A number of similar measures are in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, although there are some differences in detail from nation to nation. There is a breakdown of that on our coronavirus advice page https://www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.html
We are looking at what further rates reliefs could be given to sectors not yet included in supply chains, and some other reforms too.
A temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme has now come into effect, delivered by the British Business Bank, to support primarily small and medium sized businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.
We are now pushing the banks to make sure that this is passed on and the lenders get the money to the small businesses that need it without delay. Many small businesses may struggle to get in touch with their bank today, due to an unsurprising wave of interest – so our advice is to hold on if you can and contact them later in the week.
Rents and mortgages
The UK government has announced with banks that mortgage holidays will be available for three months – this counts for small businesses that own their properties, as well as private households, which will be useful for members on both counts. At the end of last week, it also announced protections for private households that rent, meaning that for three months they cannot be evicted.
Yesterday we secured a win for small business renters too, with that three month protection extended to them. As we go forward we are asking all major landlords to small businesses to provide as generous support as possible.
You can find more information and guidance on our website fsb.org.uk/coronavirus which we’re constantly updating.
Your businesses are the backbone of the UK’s economy, and it is vital that you are helped and supported through this difficult period. FSB is working tirelessly to secure that help, support and information, and it is at times like this that all the FSB community really is here to support you and make sure your voice is heard.
With best wishes,