UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak set out Friday two sets of further measures to support businesses that are forced to close as a result of coronavirus restrictions.
Government grants will support eligible businesses by paying two-thirds of the salary (67%), up to a maximum of £2,100 a month, for each employee unable to work where lockdowns occur.
Employers will, however, need to pay Employer National Insurance and pension contributions.
Businesses will be eligible for the grant only while they are subject to the COVID-19 restrictions and only if employees are away from work for a minimum of seven consecutive days.
Sunak said in a Tweet: “The scheme applies to all business premises legally required to close. That includes those told to operate on a collection-only or delivery basis.”
The six-month scheme, which will be reviewed in January, begins on 1 November. Grants will be paid by HM Revenue and Customs in arrears from the beginning of December.
The measures are designed to complement the existing Job Support Scheme, announced in September, which applies where employees are working at least one-third of their normal working hours. It also works alongside the job retention bonus scheme, which was set out in July.
The government issued a Q&A fact sheet on the Job Support Scheme’s expansion for closed businesses.
Cash grants for fixed costs
The chancellor also announced increased grants towards businesses’ fixed costs where they are forced to close. The payments are extended to businesses shutting as a result of national lockdowns — in addition to the previous local lockdown trigger. Payments will also be made earlier, after only two weeks of closure rather than three previously.
The amounts that can be claimed by businesses for fixed costs depend on their rateable value (used to determine the local tax to be paid):
- Small businesses with a rateable value of or below £15,000 can claim £1,300 per month;
- Medium-size businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 can claim £2,000 per month;
- Larger businesses can claim £3,000.
Meanwhile, a recent survey of decision-makers working for UK small and medium-size businesses (SMEs) carried out on behalf of CIMA found that 71% of SMEs are confident that they will be trading after Christmas and 26% are looking to hire new employees.
In addition, the survey found that two-thirds (68%) of SMEs have had to rethink their business model. Of those businesses, 32% have implemented a reduction in product or service range, 30% have changed their supply chain, and 28% have transformed their sales and marketing strategy to directly target customers.
— Oliver Rowe (Oliver.Rowe@aicpa-cima.com) is an FM magazine senior editor.