We know that many of our members working in private practice or for small organisations are anxious about how their business will cope over the next few months.
You make an invaluable contribution to the mental health of the nation and it's vital that access to counselling and psychotherapy can continue throughout this outbreak. We'll be working hard to provide you with all the information about financial and other support you may be able to access as well as working to represent our members interests to Government and help minimise the impact on your businesses.
What support is available?
The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19. They include:
Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis
This applies to employees who have been asked to stop working, but who are being kept on the pay roll, otherwise described as ‘furloughed workers’. HMRC will reimburse 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 per month. This is to safeguard workers from being made redundant.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to 1 March and is initially open for three months, but will be extended if necessary
All UK-wide employers with a PAYE scheme will be eligible – this includes the public sector, local authorities and charities.
How to access the scheme
You'll need to designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change. Changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation.
Once the new online portal is live, submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings (HMRC will set out further details on the information required)
HMRC is working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.
Visit the Government's Business Support portal
Deferring VAT and Income Tax
The Government is supporting businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for three months. If you’re self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.
For VAT, the deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.
All UK businesses are eligible.
Statutory sick pay
The Government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the statutory sick pay (SSP) repayment mechanism.
The refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19. Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note.
If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online. Those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website.
You're eligible for the scheme if your business is UK based, and is small or medium-sized employing fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020.
How to access the scheme
A rebate scheme is being developed. Further details will be provided once the legislation has been passed.
More about Statutory sick pay relief package
Small business grant funding
A small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief (SBBR) or rural rate relief
The Government will provide additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs.
You're eligible if your business is based in England and already receives SBRR or rural rate relief.
How to access the scheme
Funding for the scheme will be provided to local authorities by government in early April.
More about Small business grant funding
Local Discretionary Business Grant Fund
The recently announced LDBGF provides an additional £617m nationally for small businesses that are outside the scope of existing support grants created in response to COVID-19.
Some businesses not eligible to receive support through the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants Fund (RHLGF) include:
- businesses in shared spaces
- regular market traders
- small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief
- bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates
The LDBGF will aim to support such businesses, however local authorities are free to make payments to other businesses based on local economic need.
Once the new fund goes live there will be three levels of grant payments. The maximum is set at £25,000, and there will also be grants of £10,000.
Local authorities will have discretion to make payments of any amount under £10,000. They can adapt this approach to local circumstances.
The newly announced fund is not yet open for applications, but a fully developed scheme is currently estimated for launch by the start of June 2020.
The Government is providing further guidance to help councils prepare for applications. Your council should offer guidance on eligibility as soon as it's available, including an opening date for grant applications.
More about Local Discretionary Business Grant Fund
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch week commencing 23 March to support primarily SMEs to access bank lending and overdrafts.
The Government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The Government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value.
Businesses can access the first 12 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments.
You're eligible for the scheme if your business:
- is UK based, with a turnover of no more than £41 million a year
- meets the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria
How to access the scheme
The full rules of the Scheme and the list of accredited lenders is available on the British Business Bank website. All the major banks offer the scheme - there are 40 accredited providers in all. You should talk to your bank or finance provider (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible and discuss your business plan with them.
Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan
Small businesses will benefit from a new fast-track finance scheme, announced on 27 April, providing loans with a 100% government-backed guarantee for lenders. The scheme will open on 4 May 2020.
Businesses will be able to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 and access the cash within days
Loans will be interest free for the first 12 months, and businesses can apply online through a short and simple form
More about Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan
Support for businesses paying tax
All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.
These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.
You're eligible if your business pays tax to the UK government and has outstanding tax liabilities.
How to access the scheme
If you've missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, call the HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559. If you're worried about a future payment call nearer the time.
More about Support for businesses paying tax
Self-employment Income Support Scheme
The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant. The scheme will be open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000. The scheme will be open for an initial three months with people able to make their first claim by the beginning of June.
To be eligible for the scheme you must:
- be self-employed or a member of partnership
- have lost trading or partnership trading profits due to COVID-19
- file a tax return for 2018-19 as self-employed or a member of a trading partnership. Those who have not yet filed for 2018-19 will have an additional four weeks from this announcement (26 March) to do so
- have traded in 2019-20, be currently trading at the point of application (or would be except for COVID 19) and intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
- have trading profits of less than £50,000 and more than half of your total income come from self-employment. This can be with reference to at least one of the following conditions:
- your trading profits and total income in 2018-19
- your average trading profits and total income across up to the three years between 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19
How to access the scheme
HMRC will use existing information to check potential eligibility and invite applications once the scheme is operational. HMRC will then pay the grant directly to eligible claimants’ bank account. HMRC is urgently working to deliver the scheme; grants are expected to start to be paid out by beginning of June 2020.
Eligible individuals who have not submitted their returns for 2018-19 will have four weeks’ notice from the date of the announcement to file their returns and so become eligible.
HMRC is urgently working to deliver the scheme. Grants are expected to start to be paid by the beginning of June 2020. This time is necessary to ensure that the scheme is both deliverable and fair.
In the interim the self-employed will still be eligible for other government support including more generous universal credit and business continuity loans.
More about Self-employment Income Support Scheme
Protection from eviction for commercial tenants
Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction.These measures will mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30 June.
There is the option for government to extend this period if needed. This is not a rental holiday. All commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent. Commercial tenants are protected from eviction if they are unable to pay rent.
All commercial tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are eligible.
How to access the scheme
The change will come into force when the Coronavirus Bill receives Royal Assent. No action is required.
Financial support: mortgages, rent and Universal Credit
Mortgage lenders will offer a three month holiday for people in financial difficulty as a result of the virus. Contact your lender for details.
The Government announced a radical package of measures to protect renters and landlords affected by coronavirus, including a complete ban on evictions.
The Universal Credit standard allowance will increase, for the next 12 months by £1,000 a year. The Working Tax Credit basic element will also increase by £1,000 a year. The minimum income floor for accessing Universal Credit has been suspended for everyone affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus, so self-employed people can now access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to SSP for employees.
More about Universal Credit and how to claim online
Anyone having difficulty paying council tax or rent can get support and advice from their local council.
Where can I access this help?
The new Government business support portal helps businesses find out how to access the support that's available, who is eligible, when the schemes open and how to apply.
What support is available from banks?
UK Finance, the trade body which represents UK banks, has said support will be offered to customers who get into financial difficulties due to coronavirus and banks have started to confirm that help that will be available. These include temporary credit limit increases, payment holidays and waived missed payment fees on credit cards, loans and mortgages, and penalty-free access to savings. We would encourage members who think they may be affected to contact their bank, building society and credit card provider(s) as soon as possible to discuss the support available to them.
Will my business insurance cover me for losses due to coronavirus?
Most commercial insurance policies are unlikely to cover pandemics or unspecified notifiable diseases, such as COVID-19.
Businesses that have an insurance policy that covers government ordered closure and pandemics, or government ordered closure and unspecified notifiable disease, should be able to make a claim (subject to the terms and conditions of their policy). Guidance is available on the Association of British Insurers (ABI) website.
What about income protection insurance?
With an income protection plan you could be covered if you’re unable to work as a result of infection by coronavirus, as you would be for any other viral infection, provided you don’t have applicable personal medical exclusions on your insurance certificate.
If you have a policy, contact your provider for information. If you’re thinking about taking out a policy but not sure, get impartial consumer advice from Citizens Advice.
COVID-19 business support across the nations
Working on your behalf
We'll be speaking with other professional bodies and stakeholders to ensure that the right support is available to enable our members to carry on working and providing your services to anyone who needs them.
We’ve already contacted the FSB about how the Government can help protect self-employed people from the business impacts of coronavirus. We'll be seeking to work with others to increase support and reduce the financial impact on our members.
Guidance and resources for members
Coronavirus: Business support update
The Chancellor extends furlough scheme as Self-Employment Income Support Scheme opens for applications
Coronavirus: Government support measures won't help all self-employed, says our Workforce Lead
Kris Ambler says we are working as hard as we can on behalf of our members during the crisis