Two significant elements of the measures announced by the Government to ease the financial impact of the Coronavirus crisis have been business rates reliefs and grants to certain ‘at risk’ businesses.
These include grants for businesses in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors, a grant for businesses that pay no or little business rates and 100 per cent business rates relief for businesses working in certain sectors.
Details of this are available in our earlier update which is available on our COVID-19 Business Support Hub by clicking here.
Estate agents, lettings agencies and bingo halls
Businesses in a wide range of sectors that have been particularly badly hit by the Coronavirus crisis are now eligible for a 100 per cent discount on their business rates from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.
The Government has now confirmed that this list of sectors now includes estate agents, lettings agencies and bingo halls, as they have been adversely affected by the pandemic and were not in the original list of industries.
The full list of sectors to receive a discount is as follows:
- Music venues
- Small hotels
- Sports clubs
- Night clubs
- Estate agents
- Lettings agencies
- Bingo halls
Where a property has been closed owing to the crisis, it will still be treated as occupied.
However, where a property becomes vacant in the next 12 months, a 100 per cent full rate will be charged after three months of void rate holiday, unless the rules are amended.
Local Billing Authorities will administer the application process and they should already have knowledge of which properties are eligible, so it would be best to contact them in the first instance.
Many businesses will be struggling with a variety of issues due to the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, but a key consideration for many will be employment costs and staff safety.
The Government has taken significant steps to help businesses protect jobs by introducing measures that seek to subsidise wages and provide refunds for those on sick pay as a result of the virus.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The Chancellor has announced a scheme to reimburse up to 80 per cent of the cost of the wages of ‘furloughed workers’ up to £2,500 per employee per month.
This scheme will initially run for three months from 1 March 2020 and will be backdated. The Scheme will be administered by HMRC and all UK businesses and charities will be eligible.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has now published detailed guidance for operation of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which confirms that:
- The scheme applies only to workers who were on the payroll on 28 February 2020;
- Workers made redundant since 28 February 2020 can be included in the scheme, if you agree to take them back on; and
- The scheme covers full-time and part-time employees, employees on agency contacts and employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts.
If businesses are unable to wait until the scheme is fully implemented then they may wish to seek immediate financial assistance via the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support cash flow in the meantime.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
Anyone who contracts Coronavirus, or who is required to self-isolate under the Government’s current guidance may be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP).
Only qualifying employees, whose average weekly earnings are above £118 are entitled to SSP. SSP is paid at a rate of £94.25 per week.
Full details of the new measures can also be found on our COVID-19 Business Support Hub.
The Government has provided further advice to employees, which can be found by clicking here.
Contractual Sick Pay
It may be necessary to pay additional sick pay in circumstances where this is provided for in a contract of employment, in the employee handbook, or even where it is usual practice to do so.
Layoffs owing to reduced work
It is possible that businesses, especially those in certain sectors, will see a reduced workload as a consequence of Coronavirus.
In these circumstances, and where allowed for in the contract of employment, employees can be laid off temporarily.
Employees who are laid off must be paid a guaranteed payment of up to £29 a day, for five days in any three-month period up to a maximum of £145. After four weeks, employees may be able to request that they are made redundant.
In most cases, businesses are likely to make use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme now that it is available to employers.
Here to Help
If you require assistance with your payroll or have queries regarding any of these measures, please contact our team today.