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Covid-19 Q&A

On a daily basis the NAA continue to work closely with BEIS, Local Government and DIT reference business support. Indeed, based on member feedback, we are raising specific “common” questions and seeking clarification at this early stage in the process. Below is a very brief update on the latest information as well as some of the questions raised for which we seek clarification. This is the status as on March 24th 2020.

Following the Governments advice that all non-essential businesses should close, currently the advice is as follows:

Should only key workers still go to work in person?

If it is impossible for you to work from home, you are able to go to work. For example, this will apply to those who do manual labour, such as in the construction and manufacturing industries, as well as those who provide services that cannot be done from home, such as restaurant workers providing takeaways. You are able to go to work if you absolutely have to, unless you are a vulnerable member of society, in which case we urge you to stay at home as per the guidance.

Why are you allowing construction/manufacturing to carry on as before? 

If it is impossible for you to work from home, you are able to go to work. For example, this will apply to those who do manual labour, such as in the construction and manufacturing industries, as well as those who provide services that cannot be done from home, such as restaurant workers providing takeaways.

I understand the UK Government will issue further communications today to clarify this to businesses and employees. Please keep up to date with the latest Government advice at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19, should anything change we will notify you ASAP.

For those businesses still operating here is a summary of the best practice being shared by tier 1 companies in response to the COVID-19 crisis

  • Homeworking where possible for both staff and operations
  • If not possible to home work split office staff across 24hr period to reduce concentration of people at any one point
  • Split shift patterns to isolate staff (social distancing for those who have not been stood down) 10-minute gaps between shifts
  • Increased cleaning regime; cleaning both before and after shift, plus increased agency cleaning
  • Production employees banking hours (100-150 hours)
  • Try to identify employees at High Risk who previously have not disclosed underlining health problems, offer of 1-2-1 meetings and confidentiality to encourage openess
  • Personal Protective Equipment (Gloves) available for people to wear as they move around the plant, minimising frequent touch points
  • All non-essential activities suspended
  • Review pedestrian flows and routing to minimise cross contamination
  • Delivery drivers confined and monitored
  • Where possible quarantine of products for suitable length of time – use an A4 sheet showing the date and time of arrival of the goods
  • Conversion of meeting rooms to enable staff on breaks to practice social distancing
  • Stopped all visitors to site/plant
  • Stopped all non-essentials staff meetings
  • Payslips moved from paper to electronic
  • Rolling break pattern to minimise staff congregating

 Job Retention Scheme

  • Eligible for all employers operating PAYE scheme.
  • An employee must be identified as “furloughed”  (i.e. if asked to stop working but are being kept on the payroll)
  • 80% will be reimbursed by HMRC to max of £2,500/month
  • Backdated to 1st March and initially available for three months
  • Companies must identify employees as “furloughed” and notify them of this change. Note: changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation
  • A portal is being developed by HMRC as the delivery mechanism with employers having to submit details including those identified as “furloughed workers” and their salaries
  • The first grants are expected to be paid mid/end April pending release of the portal.

Guidance for Employers – please click here

Guidance for Employees – please click here

Business Interruption Loan (CBILS)

  • For SME’s only with turnover < £45m
  • Max request £5m
  • Interest free with 12 months
  • Access: Via your banks. The lender will have an 80% government backed guarantee
  • We are advising all eligible members to investigate this option to inject working capital to be able to “bridge” until the Job Retention Scheme opens

COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

  • Supports short term funding squeeze for larger organisations
  • Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies (using commercial paper)
  • Access: Via your bank to establish if they can issue commercial papers
  • If unable to, UK Finance or Bank of England websites can provide further assistance but your banks should signpost

SSP (Statutory Sick Pay)

  • Available for staff sickness absence due to COVID-19
  • Refund by Gov will cover two weeks
  • Only available for SME’s (< 250 employees)
  • Repayment mechanism for employers being discussed

Investing in England's North West - European Regional Development Fund
Partners Department for Business Innovation and Skills Finance Birmingham