This last week has perhaps been the most uncertain, worrying and troublesome time of recent generations for all business owners, however none more so that those within the leisure and tourism industry.
With most major airlines facing the grounding of all flights, holiday companies facing mass cancellations and theatres, hotels, pubs and restaurants being hard hit by the governments recommendations of 'social distancing' and avoiding such public spaces, it is easy to see how many businesses have been left feeling isolated and with little choice but to cease trading.
Yesterday however saw the government's announcement of a package of support for businesses, which will hopefully give those facing these troublesome times a more positive outlook for the short and long term future and the confidence that there is light at the end of this horrendous COVID-19 tunnel. In summary the main support packages are as follows:
- The government will bring forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. This will cover up to 2 weeks Statutory Sick Pay and those with fewer than 250 employee will be eligible.
- The government will increase the Business Rates retail discount to 100% for one year and expand it to the leisure and hospitality sector. It will also increase the planned rates discount for pubs to £5,000. Taken together with existing small business rate relief (which provides full relief for businesses using a single property with a rateable value of £12,000 or less), an estimated 900,000 properties, or 45% of all properties in England, will receive 100% business rates relief in 2020/21.
- A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will soon launch with the aim to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £1.2 million in value.
- The government also plan to provide an additional £2.2 billion in 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 £3,000 to around 700,000 businesses currently eligible for this relief or similar relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs.
- All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support in paying their tax liabilities through HMRC's Time To Pay service. These businesses can contact HMRC's new dedicated COVID-19 helpline for advice and support.
Businesses across the country have also been adopting novel and inspiring strategies to best ensure their survival of these challenging times, for example:
- Restaurants and bars minimising their menus so as to cut down on supplies and waste, keeping a core few favourites on the menu to ensure they can continue to serve customers who do chose to continue utilising their establishments.
- Offering take away and delivery services so as to continue to serve customers who are choosing to remain within their own homes.
- Drive through coffee and food services; where customers dial in to order coffee and snacks, which are then brought out to their cars.
- Pasta and sauce sales; where customers are able to buy packaged pasta (a hard to obtain item in these times of panic buying) direct from the restaurant, with made to order sauces to accompany.
- Restaurants reducing the number of tables so there's some social distancing; however whether this is sufficient to effectively contain the virus we can not say.
- The sale of vouchers for use at a future time.
- Restaurants sending out emails to customers advising that they remain open and are following all hygiene precautions, distancing tables etc.
For more information contact Jenny Burke in our Corporate department
via email or phone on 0333 207 1136.
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