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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 29 May 2020

Chancellor unveils detailed plans for ‘new furlough’

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled his detailed plans for employers to start paying towards their furloughed staff and extend reduced support to self-employed workers.

Changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will enable businesses to bring back staff part time from July and introduce a taper requiring firms to contribute to their salaries from September onwards – a month later than expected.

In the face of growing calls, the Chancellor also announced at today’s Downing Street press conference that financial help would also be extended for sole traders for a further three months, although the grant available would be reduced by 10% to 70% of their profits and capped at £6,570.

The key changes to the furlough scheme are:

  • In August, the taxpayer will continue to pay up to 80% of salaries (to a maximum of £2,500). However, employers will be required to start paying National Insurance and pension contributions.
  • From September, the taxpayer will continue to pay up to 70% of salaries (to a maximum of £2,190) with employers expected to contribute 10%
  • In October, the taxpayer contribution will reduce to 60% with the employer contribution set at 20%
  • From July, employers will also be able to bring back staff on a part-time basis

Finally, the Chancellor confirmed that at the end of October, the scheme will close for good. It will also be closed to new entrants from June 30.

Announcing the latest measures, the Chancellor said: “These measures are on a scale unmatched by any government in recent history and will continue to be among the most generous in the world.

“Now our thoughts, energies and resources must turn to looking forward, planning for the recovery and we will need the dynamism of our whole economy as we fight our way back to prosperity.

“We will develop new measures to grow the economy, to back business, to boost skills and to help people thrive in the new post-COVID world.

“Today, a new national collective effort begins to reopen our country and kick-start our economy.”

Full details are available here.

£1 million grants payouts to support fishing industry

A £1 million grants scheme supporting innovative ways to sell fish and shellfish has awarded the first grants to projects across England.  The Domestic Seafood Supply Scheme was set up in April to help projects that will increase the sale and consumption of locally caught seafood.  It has approved 13 significant projects that have the potential to deliver wider collective benefits. It is seeking further clarification on a number of other projects which will be considered at a further panel meeting on 8 June 2020.

Guidance has also been published on the further support available for the fishing industry which can be viewed here.

Innovation Grant Funding

£1m new funding for Defence Innovation

£1m of Defence Innovation funding has been set aside for civil sector support for the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) innovation priorities.

Industry and academia are being urged to submit their ideas to help MOD with its most pressing problems to face future threats.

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) will oversee the Innovation Focus Areas and is particularly keen to hear from those who’ve never before worked with Defence. For more information click here

Suppliers can bid for funding by submitting their ideas through the Open Call for Innovation (click here to access). If you have an idea and aren’t sure if it fits the bill, DASA’s Innovation Partners are on hand to advise (click here to contact).

Innovators encouraged to bid for funding to help security assurance of consumer smart devices

The government has launched a £400,000 funding pot for innovators to design schemes to boost the security of internet-connected products.

The programme aims to support the development of the market of assurance schemes for consumer smart products, known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Click here for more information. 

Assurance schemes demonstrate that a device has undergone independent testing or a robust and accredited self-assessment process. These schemes are vital in enabling consumers to make security-conscious purchasing decisions. Application packs are available here.

Find out about all the current funding opportunities at Innovate UK here.

Additional updates and guidance

Government to publish code of practice with commercial sector in boost to high street

A working group has been established by the government with the commercial rental sector to develop a code which encourages fair and transparent discussions between landlords and tenants over rental payments during the coronavirus pandemic, and to provide guidance on rent arrear payments and treatment of sub-letter and suppliers. Click here for more information. 

Relaxation of Veterinary Medicines Regulations

In light of the enhanced precautions on social distancing, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate has relaxed the enforcement of specific provisions of the Veterinary Medicines Regulations (VMR) to allow a suitably qualified person (SQP) to supply veterinary medicines from temporary premise (click here for more information).

Wholesale dealers will be allowed to supply veterinary medicines to SQPs at such temporary premises. More information is available on the statement from the VMD here.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency guidance

For the latest Maritime and Coastguard Agency guidance and information on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Contingency Plan and Guidelines for the Services provided to seafarers, please use these links:

  • Guidance and information to follow in the event of COVID-19 outbreak impacting UK seafarer services (click here)
  • Coronavirus contingency plan and guidelines for the services provided to seafarers and shipowners by the MCA (click here)
  • The Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) Fund During the COVID-19 Period (click here)
  • Amendment 2 COVID 19 – minimising risk to ships’ crews and maritime sector workers (click here)

Information for Help to Buy: Equity Loan customers during Coronavirus

Updated guidance and FAQs on what coronavirus means for Help to Buy: Equity Loan customers is available here

Action taken to halt sales of fingerprick coronavirus antibody testing kits

Anyone supplying these types of tests should temporarily stop this service. The Agency has recently updated its guidance on home antibody testing kits, to ensure that the public and industry have the latest information on the reliability of test results and what they mean. Click here for more information. 

Coronavirus support from Business Representative Organisations and Trade Associations

Business Representative Organisations and Trade Associations are providing coronavirus related support for specific sectors. Click here to view the updated information with Made in Britain and the Federation of Master Builders.