Weekly Brief 15 - Friday 09 April 2020

News 9 Apr 2020

Details about the job retention scheme and social distancing at work

A wrap of the week's small business news from FSB's Westminster Press, Policy and Public Affairs Office. To sign-up for Weekly Brief emails, please use this link.

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Coronavirus hub

FSB has secured a hugely ambitious package of government measures aimed at supporting the small business and self-employed community through this difficult period. Please visit our dedicated coronavirus hub for information and guidance as well as the Government's support hub. If you are impacted by current disruption we'd like to hear from you - please get in touch.

Latest advice and opportunities

Job retention scheme

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has updated its guidance on the job retention scheme to include clarifications around the eligibility of different types of employment relationships, including those involving company directors, and more detail on what are classified as ‘regular wages.’ The head of HMRC stated yesterday that the retention scheme would be online by 20 April.

Social distancing at work

The Government has also published a fresh guide for employers on social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic. It includes tailored advice around how to manage different social distancing scenarios, alongside other measures that might be implemented to protect workforces while trade continues.

Innovation funding

Innovate UK has created grants for businesses looking to develop solutions to mitigate the global disruption caused by Covid-19. Projects must demonstrate both realistic and significant benefits for society (including families, communities and individuals) or an industry which has been severely impacted by the pandemic. You can claim 100 per cent of project costs up to a maximum of £50,000. The deadline to apply is 12pm on Friday 17 April.

Pensions guidance

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has issued new Covid-19 guidance for employers, covering automatic enrolment, the maintenance of pension contributions, and payroll processes. The TPR has said it will “take a proportionate and risk-based approach towards enforcement decisions, in light of these challenging times, with the aim of helping to get employers back on track and supporting both employers and savers.” If you’re facing pressing challenges in this area, you can contact the regulator online.

New immigration system

The Home Office has published a guide on its new points-based immigration system which is set to take effect from 1 January of next year. The guide covers an overview of the key changes that the new system will bring for businesses and the steps you can take to prepare for them.

Clean Air Zones

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has delayed the introduction of a number of Clean Air Zones in response to current disruption. The Government still expects the introduction of many Clean Air Zones to be no later than January 2021, and will keep the delay as short as possible.

Wellbeing hub

The spread of Covid-19 will naturally be causing increased stress and worry, so it's more important than ever to take steps to support the mental health of both you and your employees. Our dedicated wellbeing hub includes resources that can help.

Facebook group

FSB has launched a Facebook group for members, small business owners and the self-employed to chat, share best practice and offer support to each other. Now close to 4,000-strong, we'd love you to join in the conversation. 

The small biz week in review

Monday

Monday saw the start of the 2020/21 tax year in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which ushered in a delay to IR35 changes, the option to delay tax payments if you’re self-employed, and an increase in National Insurance Contribution thresholds.

Tuesday

FSB’s Head of Policy Sonali Parekh appeared on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours to discuss how small businesses are adapting and innovating in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
A toolkit by Mental Health at Work, produced alongside FSB, was published, providing tips for small businesses and the self-employed for handling the pandemic.

Wednesday

FSB National Chair Mike Cherry joined Mental Health England for a podcast to discuss how FSB has been campaigning for small firms and the self-employed during the pandemic.
Elsewhere, Mike Cherry told the Financial Times that FSB is still hearing widespread complaints about customer service from those approaching their banks for emergency loans.

Thursday

FSB and its members continued to shine a light on teething problems with the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) in the FT, Times and City AM this morning.  

From the corridors of power

We continue to have discussions across Government on developing issues in the wake of major employment support package announcements. We are bringing forward case study examples to different departments (with thanks to Field Staff): pressing the case for action on how different schemes need to be followed through and delivered properly, or reformed.

This week, we persuaded the Department for Business to bring representatives from the British Business Bank to our latest conference call, and discuss the Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). We used the call to express members’ dissatisfaction at how banks have not been following through on what the Govt sponsored scheme was intended to achieve, and the customer service difficulties they were facing. There was agreement to continue these discussions and have the BBB come on the calls again – as cash flow for businesses now, is the utmost priority.

Sir Keir Starmer is the new leader of the Labour Party, Anneliese Dodds is Shadow Chancellor and Ed Miliband returns to the frontbench as Shadow BEIS Secretary. We are in contact with Sir Keir’s leadership team and Ed about developing policy agendas and our policy priorities; in particular looking into the intricacies of the Job Retention Scheme, the delivery of LA grants and what more could be done to support CBILS via case studies; as well as ways to support company directors.

We continue to take part in regular Department for Business conference calls with our opposite numbers, involving different business groups and trade bodies, to discuss what more the department and Government could be doing to make all the different support packages as accessible and efficacious as possible for small businesses.

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