“The Government has announced a number of measures to help people and businesses to deal with COVID-19 / Coronavirus. The current position, as updated for announcements made yesterday (17 March 2020) is summarised below.”


Business Loan Scheme and Large Business Liquidity Assistance

A Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme has been introduced through the British Business Bank to assist businesses; funding potentially available to each business has been increased from £1.2 million to £5 million following the announcement on 17 March.


Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest-free, as Government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments; the Government will stand as guarantor for up to 80% of the value of the loan.


Further details are to be announced soon, to alleviate concerns that the mechanics of the loan funding will be made available too late for many small businesses.


The Government has also announced substantial liquidity support, targeted at large businesses.


Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

  • Will cover employees who are unable to work because they have been told to self-isolate or they have to care for others in the same household who have been told to self-isolate
  • Employers will not need to insist on a “fit note”
  • SSP to be paid from day 1 of self-isolation rather than from day 4
  • ‘Small’ employers with fewer than 250 employees (as at 28 February 2020) will be able to claim a refund of their COVID-19 / Coronavirus-related SSP costs for 2 weeks per employee

Business Rates Relief and Associated Grants (NB 2020/21 Only So Far)

  • Business Rates Retail Discount to be increased to 100% for all retail businesses, and the scope is to be widened to cover all leisure and hospitality sectors
  • Businesses that pay little or no rates because of Small Business Rates Relief (i.e., rateable values of up to £15,000) or Rural Rate Relief will be eligible for a grant of £10,000 (increased from the original £3,000)
  • Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from ‘smaller’ premises with a rateable value exceeding £15,000 (i.e., the Small Business Rate Relief threshold) but below £51,000 will be eligible for grants of £35,000

Time to Pay Tax Liabilities and Waiver of Penalties and Interest

There is now a dedicated helpline with 2,000 experienced staff to support affected businesses with their tax liabilities:

0800 015 9559 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm; Saturday, 8am to 4pm)


HMRC will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulties contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to COVID-19


IR35 Roll-Out Postponed

The roll-out of IR35 to the private sector will be postponed for 12 months to April 2021.


Announcing the change to Parliament late on 17 March, Steve Barclay, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was keen to point out that this is a “deferral, not a cancelation”.


Help with Mortgages

Mortgage lenders have agreed to support affected customers by agreeing payment holidays of up to 3 months – a “forbearance” re. Note that interest will continue to accrue.


Business Interruption Insurance

The Government has confirmed that those businesses that have the appropriate cover for business interruption risks should be able to make a claim as a result of its recommendation that people avoid pubs, clubs and theatres, etc. This addresses concern that insurance companies would not pay out on relevant policies unless or until the Government expressly forbade people to patronise such establishments.


Help with Benefits

  • Employment Support Allowance will be payable in appropriate circumstances from day 1 rather than day 8, for those directly affected or self-isolating according to Government advice
  • People will be able to claim Universal Credit and advance payments where directly affected by COVID-19 / Coronavirus, or self-isolating according to Government advice, without needing to attend a Job Centre
  • The Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed to help offset self-employed claimants’ income losses, where directly affected by COVID-19 / Coronavirus or self-isolating according to Government advice
  • A “fit note” will not be required for people claiming ESA or UC as a result of COVID-19 / Coronavirus