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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 19 June 2020

Coronavirus alert level reduced, but restrictions will remain
The UK’s coronavirus alert level has been downgraded to level three.

The announcement, from the UK’s chief medical officers, means the virus is now ‘in general circulation’ and could lead to a further relaxation of restrictions.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who led today’s Downing Street briefing, warned that the downgrading of the alert level did not mean the end of the pandemic.

He said: “This doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. The virus is still in circulation and localised outbreaks are likely to occur.”

Mr Williamson said the estimate for the ‘R’ rate remained unchanged from last week, at 07.-0.9 – but pledged to bring “all children, in all year groups” back to school in September – with funding packages, which can be tailored for schools to target the needs of the students they teach, also announced to catch up and make up for lost teaching time.

New tool to help businesses identify whether they can reopen safely
The government has developed a tool to help businesses to reopen safely during coronavirus. This tool encourages businesses to carry out a risk assessment and helps to identify the workplace adjustments that they should make. Employers have the legal responsibility to protect their employees and other people on site, such as customers and visitors.

This tool will help businesses to easily find out what they should do. Employees can also use this tool to check what their workplace needs to do to keep people safe. The tool can be found here.

Additional updates and guidance

Deferral of VAT payments due to coronavirus
There have been temporary changes to VAT payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 to help businesses manage their cash flow. The update includes information regarding the end of the VAT deferral period. Find more information here.

HMRC’s latest Employer Bulletin
The Employer Bulletin (June 2020, Issue 84) – click here to view – includes all of the latest COVID-19 updates to help businesses continue to meet payroll obligations to HMRC and to claim any relevant grants and rebates during this challenging time. It includes the latest update on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, along with updates on the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and a reminder for reporting Expenses and Benefits for the tax year ending 5 April 2020.

Government provides further halt to business evictions and more support for high street firms
A new code (click here) provides support to shops and local firms planning their future recovery with their landlord. A new code of practice has been developed with leaders from the retail, hospitality and property sectors to provide clarity for businesses when discussing rental payments and to encourage best practice so that all parties are supported.

Self-employed new parents can claim support grant
Self-employed parents whose trading profits dipped in 2018/19 because they took time out to have children will be able to claim for a payment under the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS), the government has announced. Further details of the change for self-employed parents will be set out by the start of July in published guidance – click here.

Trade negotiations started with Australia and New Zealand
The government has published its negotiation objectives for trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand – click here to view.

New satellite data made available to help tackle public challenges
The public sector can access new satellite images of the UK to help issues such as town planning and flood mapping.The data archive, launched by the UK Space Agency’s Space for Smarter Government Programme has updated its free optical and radar data sets of Britain and Northern Ireland. View the data here.

Unlocking the power of location: The UK’s geospatial strategy
The government has published a strategy setting out how the UK will unlock the power of location data. The new strategy sets out steps to increase data access, develop skills and support innovation across the UK’s geospatial community. Location data, also known as geospatial data, is used across sectors as diverse as infrastructure, housing and retail. Details are available here.

Flood-hit farmers can now apply to £6m fund
The latest application round of the Farming Recovery Fund is now open to eligible farmers to apply for grants to help them recover from February floods. Click here for more information.

Webinars to support employers with ‘new furlough’
From July 1st 2020, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is changing and the government is running a series of webinars to help employers get ready for the new scheme.

Employers will be able to bring previously furloughed employees back to work part time and decide the hours and shift patterns they work to suit the needs of their business. From August 1st, employers will be asked to contribute towards wages costs.

For the latest information, join the following live webinar:
Extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and flexible furloughing – you will be taken through the changes, flexible furloughing, claim periods and key dates. You can ask questions using the on-screen text box.

Choose a date and time here.