Coronavirus: Support and advice for small businesses

News article

Business support for those affected by COVID-19

In the Budget (11 March) and on 17 March, the Chancellor announced a plan to provide support for businesses affected by Covid-19.

The measures include Business Support Grant Schemes, an extension of statutory sick pay (SSP), a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, business rates support and a dedicated coronavirus helpline for businesses seeking a deferral on tax liabilities.

Business Support Grant Schemes

The Northern Ireland Executive has announced two grants to be made available to businesses impacted by coronavirus.

A grant of £10,000 is to be made available to all small businesses who are eligible for the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme. Another grant of £25,000 is to be provided to companies in the hospitality, tourism and retail sectors with a rateable value from £15,000 up to £51,000.

Further details on these two grants including how to apply are due to be announced soon. We will update our page Business Support Grant Schemes as soon as these details are made available.

Statutory Sick Pay Rebate for SMEs

The Government will bring forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.

The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible - the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to self-isolators comes into force

The online service you’ll use to claim back Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is now available. See Coronavirus: Check if you can claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable businesses to apply for a loan of up to £5 million, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees. Businesses can access the first 12 months of that finance interest-free. The government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments.

The scheme is now available - see Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme - for small businesses.

For further information, see the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme FAQs for SMEs.

Rates relief

Business rates support has been announced to assist Northern Ireland businesses impacted by COVID-19.

This includes a delay in rates bills, a four-month rates holiday for business ratepayers and rate relief for those sectors hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic including those businesses in hospitality, tourism, leisure, retail and childcare.

For more information, see COVID-19: Emergency rates package for businesses.

HMRC Time to Pay

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.

These businesses can contact HMRC’s new dedicated COVID-19 helpline for advice and support.

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s coronavirus helpline on 0800 024 1222.

First published 19 March 2020