Coronavirus: getting back to business

As the government paves the way for businesses to restart, there have been several key announcements regarding the furlough scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), along with new government guidance for employers to ensure workplaces are as safe as possible.

FURLOUGH SCHEME EXTENDED

This week the Chancellor announced that the furlough scheme is to be extended until 31 October 2020.

The scheme will continue in its current form until the end of July, with changes to allow more flexibility from the start of August so that staff who are furloughed currently can return to work part-time.

Employers will be asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff, and it appears that these workers must continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month. According to the BBC, the Treasury is likely to contribute more than half the salary cost of furloughed workers between August and October.

This period has been badged as a “return to work transition”, allowing companies to manage the return of their staff back into full-time working in stages. More details have been promised this month at which point we will be in touch again.

NEW WORKPLACE SAFETY GUIDES

In tandem with the potential return to the workplace for some employees, on 11 May the government issued guidance, in conjunction with industry, to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible for all concerned.

These eight guides cover a range of different workplace environments and can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19. In particular, to help decide which actions are required, employers will need to carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment.

SELF-EMPLOYMENT INCOME SUPPORT SCHEME (SEISS)

This Scheme has now opened for claims, with payments expected by 25 May. Initial reports to our Institute, the ICAEW, indicate that the process is straightforward.

We have contacted clients who are eligible for the scheme, but it is worth stating two things. Firstly, if you do apply, it’s advisable to keep a copy, or screenshot, of the HMRC calculation and a record of the claim reference number. Secondly, you will need to declare that your self-employed trade has been “adversely affected” by COVID-19 and, following extra guidance just issued, you could meet the criteria if, for example, you’re unable to work because you:

  • are shielding;
  • are self-isolating;
  • are on sick leave due to Coronavirus;
  • have caring responsibilities due to Coronavirus;
  • scaled down your business or stopped trading temporarily because either: your supply chain has been interrupted, you have fewer or no customers/clients, or your staff have been unable to come into work.

For further information or advice on any of the issues raised, or for help with services like bookkeeping, cash flow management or payroll during the Coronavirus pandemic, please call us on 01225 325580, email info@richardsonswift.co.uk, or contact your usual client director.

Please note that this is only a summary of the main issues and should not be construed as advice. Every effort has been made to ensure factual accuracy at the time of publication (14 May 2020), however, the government response to the Coronavirus situation is changing 24-7, so it should not be relied upon completely.