Weekly Brief 16 – Friday 17 April

News 17 Apr 2020

News from the FSB's press, policy and Public Affairs teams across the UK

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.

We want to hear from you

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 

Coronavirus webinars 

Register free to join our weekly coronavirus webinar every Friday, where we provide the latest information and guidance on what support and options are available to help you and your firm get through the current disruption. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) is also running a series of webinars for employers. You’ll need to register in advance.

Coronavirus job retention scheme

The HMRC portal for the job retention scheme will go live on this coming Monday 20 April. Our legal hub contains full guidance on the scheme and the steps you’ll need to take to furlough an employee. The date an employee has to have been on an your payroll in order to be in scope has changed from 28 February 2020 to 19 March 2020.

The Government has also provided further guidance on forming the basis of furlough pay for employees returning from maternity, paternity, adoption, sick or bereavement leave. More information has also been issued on the details needed from employers to claim a grant, the circumstances in which an employee should not be furloughed by multiple employers, and the rights of contractors in scope of IR35 in the public sector. HMRC is responsible for the payment and management of amounts to be paid under the scheme. 

Covid-19 survey

We’ll be launching a new survey on the impacts of coronavirus early next week. Keep an eye on your inbox and check our social media channels to take part. If you’re a member, please do join our Big Voice community if you haven’t already done so. 

Trade disruption 

We’re interested to hear from members engaged in international trade who are experiencing disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic. Are you encountering supply chain disruption? Are able to ship orders to international customers? Have you seen an increase in logistical costs? To share your experiences, please drop us a line.

Wellbeing hub

The spread of Covid-19 will be causing stress and worry for small businesses and the self-employed, so it's more important than ever to take steps to support your own mental health and that of any employees you may have. 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 4,000-strong, we'd love you to join in the conversation. 

The Small Business Week in Review

Monday

Speaking to the Telegraph our National Chairman Mike Cherry stressed that if problems persist with the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS), the Government could look at the Switzerland model where state-backed loans have been issued far more efficiently. His comments came as Business Secretary Alok Sharma stated that only around one per cent of enquiries about the scheme have so far translated into a loan.  

Tuesday

Our Policy & Advocacy Chairman Martin McTague met with the new Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, alongside representatives from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Make UK, the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the British Chamber of Commerce. “Very constructive discussions about defeating coronavirus and ensuring a strong economic recovery,” tweeted Starmer after the meeting.

Wednesday

The Times covered reports from FSB that directors left out of current government support measures have been left “frightened and bewildered”. We have received more than 500 emails to our dedicated self-employment email hub, and we are now sharing those first hand experiences with government. Mike Cherry told the paper that those who are not being helped include “hard-working people who have built up successful businesses and paid taxes all their lives.” His comments also appeared on the front page of the Financial Times. 

The Sun covered the results of a new FSB survey which shows that one in ten small firms were thinking about closing, selling or handing on their business as the coronavirus lockdown was taking effect. 

Meanwhile, UK Finance revealed that lenders have provided over £1 billion to small firms through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Lending Scheme (CBILS) to date. Mike Cherry said that, while this improvement marks a starting point, major banks claim their approval rates for standard commercial loans are many times higher than they are for CILS loans. He flagged member accounts of finding it difficult to get to the formal application stage as banks are still slow to respond to enquiries. The development was covered by The Guardian and the Daily Mail.

Thursday

After FSB shone a light on the issue, the Daily Mail reported that Royal Mail is charging firms over £1,200 to forward their post for three months after being forced to shut. Mike Cherry called the fees “exorbitant” and said they “cannot be justified.” FSB is calling on Royal Mail to suspend these charges to help small firms at this time of national emergency.

Elsewhere, FSB’s Craig Beaumont appeared on ITV with Martin Lewis to discuss the support available for the self-employed, and what more the Government could do to fill gaps in the support landscape. 

Friday

Speaking to the BBC, Mike Cherry once again highlighted the struggles of directors who have been excluded from the Government’s support mechanisms.

From the Corridors of Power

  • 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. 
  • The Government is beta testing a guidance portal for employees, employers, businesses, all under the via Gov.UK supported by all Govt departments. More will be published on this in due course.
  • The Department for Business has invited us to take part in a series of calls to discuss how BAME business owners are being adversely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, and what can be done to alleviate these difficult and disproportionate circumstances.

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