Category: COVID-19 (page 1 of 2)

Chancellor unveils three-point plan for jobs

On 8 July, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a three-point plan to support jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic when he delivered a Summer Economic Update to Parliament.

Mr Sunak confirmed the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will end as planned this October. The Chancellor said furloughing had been the right measure to protect jobs through the first phase of the crisis. The second phase will see a three-point plan to create jobs, support people to find jobs and to protect jobs.

The CJRS will be followed by a Job Retention Bonus, which will be introduced to help firms keep furloughed workers in employment. This will see UK employers will receive a one-off payment of £1,000 for each furloughed employee who is still employed as of 31 January 2021. To qualify for the payment, employees must earn above the Lower Earnings Limit (£520 per month) on average between the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the end of January 2021.

The Chancellor also launched a £2 billion Kickstart Scheme that will aim to create subsidised six-month work placements for young people aged 16-24 who are claiming Universal Credit. Funding available for each placement will cover 100% of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus the associated employer national insurance contributions (NICs) and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. Employers will be able to top this wage up. Continue reading...

Flexible furloughing starts on job retention scheme

On 1 July, changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) saw flexible furloughing introduced, so employees will no longer have to be furloughed for a minimum period of three weeks.

Following the change the CJRS has more flexibility to allow claims on a pro rata basis. Employers will be able to permit employees to work some of the week and be furloughed for the rest.

An employee needs to have been furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks between 1 March and 30 June to be eligible for furlough from 1 July. Additionally, after 1 July, employers may be subject to a cap on the number of employees that can be claimed for in a CJRS claim they are able to make.

The CJRS changes have effect from 1 July until the closure of the scheme on 31 October.

Parents returning from statutory maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, shared parental leave and bereavement leave are broadly exempt from the CJRS furlough changes. So parents who are returning to work over the coming months will be eligible for the CJRS despite the scheme closing to new entrants on 30 June.

Additionally, from 1 August, the level of the grant will be reduced each month. From August the employer will need to pay employer national insurance and pension contributions for the time the employee is furloughed. For August, the government will continue to pay 80% of wages up to a maximum of £2,500 proportional to the hours the employee is furloughed. For September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to £2,187.50, and for October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a maximum of £1,875. During these months employers will have to top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to the £2,500 cap. Continue reading...

Late payment crisis has worsened during Coronavirus lockdown

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has found that the UK’s late payment crisis has worsened during the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown.

62% of small businesses have been subject to late or frozen payments during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research carried out by the FSB. Just 10% of small firms have agreed changes to payment terms with their clients. In addition, 65% of small businesses that supply goods or services to other businesses have experienced being paid late or having payments frozen.

The FSB has called on policymakers to give the Small Business Commissioner additional powers to investigate and fine repeat late payment offenders.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, said:

‘Before the COVID-19 outbreak struck, many small firms were already under immense financial pressure because of late payments.

‘Cash is still very much king for small firms, and withholding it has pushed many to the brink at a time when they’re at their most vulnerable. Our endemic culture of treating small businesses as free credit lines against their will must be brought to an end.’

Changes to insolvency and company law going through Parliament

The government is making changes to insolvency and company law as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill outlines that struggling companies will be given extra time to consider rescue plans presented to them. As part of the changes, companies will have 20 business days to consider a rescue plan, which can be extended to 40 days at the discretion of creditors or the Court.

The Bill stipulates that a company will remain under the control of directors; however, the insolvency process must be overseen by a licensed insolvency practitioner.

Additionally, restructuring plans have been introduced in the Bill, which will bind creditors and allow the insolvency process to adjust as the COVID-19 pandemic changes.

Colin Haig, President of insolvency trade body R3 said:

‘This Bill represents the biggest change to the UK’s insolvency and restructuring framework for almost 20 years.

‘The measures contained in this Bill will support the profession’s efforts to help businesses navigate the enormous economic damage caused by the pandemic.’

COVID-19: delay to VAT reverse charge on construction services

On 5 June 2020, HMRC announced a five-month delay to the introduction of the domestic VAT reverse charge for construction services, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.

The change will now apply from 1 March 2021 and will overhaul the way VAT is payable on building and construction invoices as part of moves to reduce fraud in the sector. Under the domestic reverse charge, the customer receiving the service must account for the VAT due on these supplies on their VAT return, instead of paying the VAT to the supplier..

The change was originally scheduled to come into effect from 1 October 2019, but was then deferred for 12 months, after industry bodies highlighted concerns about lack of preparation and the impact on businesses.

Now the start date has been put back from 1 October 2020 to 1 March 2021.

There will also be an amendment to the original legislation. Businesses are excluded from the reverse charge on relevant supplies where they are end users, or intermediary suppliers. If so they must inform their subcontractors, in writing, that they are end users or intermediary suppliers.

HMRC says the additional amendment is designed to make sure both parties are clear whether the supply is excluded from the reverse charge. It reflects recommended advice published in HMRC guidance and brings certainty for subcontractors as to the correct treatment for their supplies. Continue reading...

Chancellor announces changes to Job Retention Scheme

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced changes to the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS), which will be slowly wound down between July and October.

The changes mean businesses will be able to bring furloughed employees back on a part-time basis from 1 July.

Furloughed staff will continue to get 80% of their salary until the scheme finishes at the end of October. However, employers will be expected to gradually contribute more towards furloughed employees’ salaries.

The taxpayer contribution will remain at 80% during August but employers will have to pay national insurance and employer pension contributions.

In September, employers will be asked to start paying 10% towards people’s wages, which will rise to 20% in October.

JRS closes to new entrants from 30 June, but more critically, 10 June is the last date by which an employee can be put on furlough for the first time.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General at the Confederation of British Industry, said:

‘Introducing part-time furloughing as more stores and factories start to open will help employees to return to work gradually and safely. Many more businesses will feel supported during this vital restart phase.

‘Firms understand the scheme must close to new entrants at some point and that those using it in future will need to make a contribution to help manage the costs. Continue reading...

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme goes live

On 26 May 2020, HMRC opened up its Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rebate claim service.

Eligible employers are able to recoup up to two weeks’ worth of SSP payments made to employees off work for COVID-19-related reasons since 13 March 2020 (16 March 2020 if the employee was shielding). This is an ongoing scheme for which an end date has not yet been announced.

The scheme is potentially worth up to £191.70 per employee that an employer has made SSP payments to for COVID-19-related reasons.

For the purposes of making a claim, it does not matter whether the employee was displaying symptoms themselves or was living with someone who was displaying symptoms. It also does not matter whether the employer topped up their earnings (although only the SSP element is eligible for the rebate).

A rebate cannot, however, be claimed in relation to employees who were furloughed at the time of illness or absence, and for whom the separate Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant was claimed.

Employers will be eligible for an SSP rebate if they had a Pay as You Earn (PAYE) scheme as of 28 February 2020, and (along with any connected employer) employed fewer than 250 employees as at that date. Employers must also be within their State Aid limits under the EU Commission temporary framework.

Loan size increased to £200 million under large business interruption scheme

Several changes to the CLBILS scheme have taken effect from 26 May. The government has extended the maximum loan size available through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) from £50 million to £200 million.

However, companies borrowing more than £50 million through the CLBILS will be subject to restrictions on dividend payments, senior pay and share buy-backs during the period of the loan. This will include a ban on dividend payments and cash bonuses, except where they were previously agreed.

Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

‘It is good to see the government continue to listen to business concerns and make improvements to existing schemes.

‘These important changes could make a real difference to larger firms in particular, and alongside the other lending support schemes will help ensure that more businesses of all sizes get access to the finance they need to help weather this unprecedented economic storm.’

Future Fund launches to give start-ups coronavirus support

On 20 May 2020, the government launched its Future Fund package, which aims to support start-up businesses not eligible for other COVID-19 rescue measures.

The Future Fund offers government loans of between £125,000 and £5 million to UK-incorporated companies, provided private investors at least match the funding supplied by the state.

The package is aimed at supporting innovative early stage companies not eligible for existing COVID-19 support.

The Future Fund is administered by the government-backed British Business Bank (BBB). The loans can be repaid or converted into shares in the Investee Company in a variety of circumstances, including fundraisings, exit events and upon the maturity of the loans.

The fund is currently due to run until at least the end of September.

Government borrowing could rise to £300 billion

The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) has suggested that government borrowing may rise to £300 billion in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The think tank has been working to estimate the cost of the COVID-19 crisis to the government’s finances, and has incorporated official data from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

The CPS’s COVID-19 counter has put forward an estimated £127 billion in direct bailout costs and £119 million in indirect costs, such as lower tax revenue. The data is based on the OBR’s three-month lockdown scenario, followed by three months of ‘looser restrictions’.

The CPS stated that, when these estimated costs are added to the £55 billion of borrowing already forecast for 2020, a deficit of £301 billion is produced. This represents 15% of GDP.

Robert Colvile, Director of the CPS, said:

‘The government has acted throughout this crisis to save lives and protect livelihoods. But while it is clear to everyone that extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, they also incur extraordinary costs.

‘It is vital to get the most accurate possible picture of the burden the government is taking on in order to assess the full scale of the rebuilding that lies ahead.’

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