The Government delivered its 2020 Budget on Wednesday 11 March, which included a range of measures designed to support individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19. We’ve pulled together a list of the key measures that your business needs to be aware of.
1. Extension of Statutory Sick Pay
The Government has previously announced that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be temporarily extended so that it is paid from the first day of sickness absence for people affected by COVID-19 (see our employer’s guide to coronavirus for more information). The Budget sets out the Government’s intention for SSP to be further extended to cover individuals who are unable to work either because they have been advised to self-isolate, or because they are caring for others who are self-isolating.
2. Alternative ‘fit note’ requirement
As previously reported, the Government has suggested that employers should use their discretion as to whether they require staff members to provide them with ‘fit notes’ when they’re off sick for 7 days. In this Budget, the Government has announced that it will temporarily allow an alternative to the ‘fit note’; individuals advised to self-isolate will now be able to obtain a notification via NHS 111 which they can use as evidence for their absence.
3. Support for the self-employed
The Government has announced that self-employed individuals who are not entitled to receive SSP will receive additional support through the welfare system; steps will be taken to make it quicker and easier for them to receive benefits.
4. SSP refunds to SMEs
The Government will be bringing in a scheme to refund COVID-19 related SSP costs to SMEs (employers with fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020). These refunds will be limited to 2 weeks per individual. Those employers should not require that their staff provide GP fit notes, but should keep adequate records of absences.
5. Business rates reliefs for small businesses
Business rates relief for the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors will be increased to 100% for 2020-21. The discount for pubs in England with a rateable value below £100,000 will also be increased to £5,000 for one year from 1 April 2020.
6. £2.2 billion grant funding for small business
The Government has said that it will provide £2.2 billion of funding for local authorities in England to support small businesses in meeting their ongoing business costs. This will provide grants of £3,000 to approximately 700,000 currently eligible for Small Business Rates Relief.
7. HMRC’s dedicated COVID-19 helpline
HMRC has set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline to help businesses and self-employed individuals who are facing financial difficulties and who may be able to agree a Time to Pay arrangement. This will provide tailored deferral periods on outstanding tax liabilities. Businesses can call the helpline on 0800 0159 559.
8. Support for lending to SMEs
The Government has announced plans to launch a temporary loan scheme (the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme) to support businesses accessing bank loans and overdrafts by guaranteeing 80% on each loan. This will support up to a further £1 billion of lending to SMEs with a turnover of no more than £41 million.
We’ll be updating our Q&A as and when legal changes come into force, and make sure you keep an eye out for our dedicated Coronavirus updates.
Before joining Sparqa Legal as a Senior Legal Editor in 2017, Frankie spent five years training and practising as a corporate disputes and investigations lawyer at leading international law firm Hogan Lovells. As legal insights lead, Frankie regularly contributes to Sparqa Legal’s blog, writing content across employment law, data protection, disputes and more.