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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 24 September 2020

Chancellor outlines ‘Winter Economy Plan’ to protect jobs and support businesses

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled the government’s plan to protect jobs and support businesses over the coming months, including a new Job Support scheme which will start in November.

Delivering a speech in Parliament, the Chancellor announced a package of measures including:

  • new Jobs Support Scheme which will run for six months, during which time workers must do at least one third of their normal hours, and the government and employer will pay one-third each of the lost hours
  • an extension of the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). An initial taxable grant will be provided to those who are currently eligible for SEISS. The initial lump sum will cover three months’ worth of profits for the period from November to the end of January next year, worth 20% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £1,875. An additional second grant may be made be available for self-employed individuals to cover the period to the end of April 2021
  • Cut in VAT to 5% for the tourism and hospitality sectors to be extended to the end of March next year
  • new Payment Scheme for businesses who deferred their VAT bills, giving them the option to pay back in smaller instalments rather than a lump sum next March
  • Pay as You Grow flexible repayment system for firms repaying a Bounce Back Loan
  • Extended payment terms for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) 
  • Extension to end of November for applications for the government’s coronavirus loan schemes
  • Measures put in place to protect businesses from insolvency will also be extended

The announcement comes after the Prime Minster set out further measures to combat the spread of the virus over the winter.

The Chancellor said: “The resurgence of the virus, and the measures we need to take in response, pose a threat to our fragile economic recovery. Our approach to the next phase of support must be different to that which came before.

“The primary goal of our economic policy remains unchanged – to support people’s jobs – but the way we achieve that must evolve.”

Speaking to journalists later in the afternoon, Mr Sunak re-confirmed that supporting jobs was his ‘number one priority’, but admitted that it would not be possible to sustain support at the same level as offered to people in the spring.

“The economy is going to change and adapt, I can’t promise everyone will go back to the job they used to have,” he responded.

However, he did pledge to up the measures if tougher restrictions are to come, saying he was “ready to do whatever was necessary” for the long-term benefit of the economy.

More detail on the announcement is available here and the Chancellor’s full speech can be found here. You can read the Prime Minister’s statement to the House of Commons yesterday here.

New rules for businesses to display official NHS QR code posters

The government has launched the NHS COVID-19 app alongside a new legal requirement for certain venues to display official NHS QR code posters as part of the national coronavirus testing and contact tracing programme.

Displaying NHS QR code posters to support the NHS COVID-19 app will be a legal requirement from today, 24 September, for all venues open to the public which are already being asked to use a logbook for Test and Trace.

Businesses and venues which need to display an NHS QR code COVID-19 poster from 24 September are:

  • hospitality;
  • leisure and tourism;
  • close contact services;
  • places of worship; and
  • local authority venues

Additional updates and guidance

Working safely during coronavirus

Guidance on the closure of certain businesses and venues in England as part of further social distancing measures has been updated to reflect changes in rules about social contact, and requirements for certain businesses and venues to collect data for test and trace.

Guidance for the performing arts has been updated with priority actions to take to protect staff and customers; guidance on social gatherings of more than six people; and mandatory test and trace requirements.

Guidance for vehicles has been updated with priority actions to take to protect staff and customers.

Government extends support to stop business evictions this year

Commercial tenants will be protected from the risk of eviction until the end of 2020 helping businesses to protect jobs.

Green Homes Grant skills training competition

A competition which provides funding for programmes which can deliver a suite of training solutions to support the Green Homes Grant scheme is now open.

Find out more about the Green Homes Grant skills training competition here.

Transport-Technology Research and Innovation Grants

Innovative transport start-ups with a focus on decarbonisation or COVID-19 recovery can bid for a share of more than £1 million in Department for Transport funding.

The latest round of Transport Technology Research and Innovation Grant funding is open to entrepreneurs and innovators looking to create a better transport system.

New expert panel established to support UK trade negotiations

The Department for International Trade (DIT) is convening five leading economic and trade experts to advise DIT’s Chief Economist on how best to incorporate wider global economic developments – including the impact of COVID-19 and increased protectionism – into its economic and trade modelling.

HMRC support webinars

You can get information on the changes to the current Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in September and October as well as the extension to Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Job Retention bonus and flexible furloughing by attending one of HMRC’s webinars. Choose a date and time for these webinars.

From March 1 2021, the way VAT is collected in the construction industry is changing. Find out how to apply the VAT reverse charge for construction services by attending one of HMRC’s webinars. Choose a date and time for the webinar on VAT.