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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 26 May 2020

High streets set for a June reopening amid £50m recovery boost
Thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centres across England are set to reopen next month once they are COVID-19 secure and can show customers will be kept safe, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed over the Bank Holiday weekend.

At the same time, a new £50 million Reopening High Streets Safely Fund was announced by High Streets Minister Simon Clarke to help councils in England introduce a range of safety measures in a move to get people back to work and customers back to the shops.

At Sunday’s Downing Street press conference, the Prime Minister said that from June 1st 2020, it intends to allow outdoor markets and car showrooms to reopen, subject to all premises being made COVID-secure.

From June 15th 2020, the government intends to allow opening by a list of further retailers, ranging from shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, if the government’s five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines.

Businesses will only be able to open from these dates once they have completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks. They must have taken the necessary steps to become COVID-19 secure in line with the current Health and Safety legislation.

The Prime Minister confirmed that other businesses, including hairdressers, nail bars and beauty salons, as well as the hospitality sector, will remain closed, because the risk of transmission in these environments is higher where long periods of person to person contact is required.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “The high street sits at the heart of every community in the country. Enabling these businesses to open will be a critical step on the road to rebuilding our economy, and will support millions of jobs across the UK.”

Updated guidance for the retail sector was published alongside this announcement, detailing the measures retailers should take to meet the necessary social distancing and hygiene standards. You can find the guidance here.

You can also join a free webinar, hosted by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to find out more about how to make your retail workplace COVID-secure.

  • Thursday 28 May, 11am: Shops and branches – Guidance for people who run shops, branches, stores or similar environments – click here.

You can read the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement at the daily coronavirus press conference on 25 May 2020 here.

Further information on the £50m Reopening High Streets Safely Fund can be found here. The funding comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is intended to help adapt urban centres and green spaces for social distancing during the pandemic. The money will be allocated to councils on a per capita basis and will be ready to spend from 1 June 2020.

Innovative space companies sought for £1m fund to tackle space debris
New government funding for innovative solutions to tackle the growing problem of potentially hazardous space debris, has been announced.

The UK Space Agency is providing up to £1 million for organisations to come up with smart solutions to this problem by using cost effective ways to monitor objects in low Earth Orbit, or applying artificial intelligence to make better use of existing orbital data.

The new funding is part of the UK Space Agency’s plans to grow its national space surveillance and tracking (SST) capability and, working with international partners, become a global leader in space sustainability.

Organisations will be able to bid for a maximum grant award of £250,000, out of a £1 million funding pot. Space surveillance and tracking is a growing international market, forecast to potentially reach over £100 million by 2035. With the demand for SST increasing, this provides an opportunity for the UK space industry to take a leading role in the sector.

The call for applications is open from 26 May 2020 and will close on 10 July 2020. Find out more here.

Additional updates and guidance

The coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme is now live on GOV.UK
If you’re an employer with fewer than 250 employees, you can now claim for coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). If you have a tax agent, they can also make claims on your behalf. To make a claim now, please visit GOV.UK and search ‘Check if you can claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees due to coronavirus (COVID-19)’.

6,000 new supported homes as part of commitment to end rough sleeping
Plans (available to view here) to provide thousands of long-term, safe homes for vulnerable rough sleepers taken off the streets during the pandemic were unveiled on May 24th 2020 by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. The £160 million commitment this year is an acceleration of the £381 million announced for rough sleeping services at Budget (now extended to £433 million). The funding will ensure that 6,000 new housing units will be put into the system, with 3,300 of these becoming available in the next 12 months.

£300 million additional funding for local authorities to support new test and trace service
Local authorities will be central to supporting the new test and trace service in England, with the government providing a new funding package of £300 million. Click here to find out more.

Shortage occupation list: call for evidence

The Government has commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to compile a UK Shortage Occupation List (SOL). This is a list of occupations in the UK which are in shortage, and where migrant workers may be needed to fill the gap.

Businesses and organisations are encouraged to submit their own consultation responses. The consultation closes on 24 June 2020 at 11.45pm. Click here for more information.

SELEP Coronavirus Business Recovery survey

Take part in our Coronavirus Business Recovery Survey to let us know how you are preparing your business for the next phase in socially distanced and COVID-secure enterprise. Click here to take the survey.