Price Bailey’s support to businesses in their fight against the impact of the coronavirus pandemic

Never did we think, back in early March 2020, that the effects of COVID-19 would be as widespread and long-lasting as they have been; there is not a business nor individual that has not been affected.

Price Bailey continue to work hard, keeping up to date with both the Government and Local Authority initiatives and supporting clients with a huge amount of experience and knowledge within the firm.  

This summary is updated regularly and can be used as a reference document as we trade through this together.

Last updated: 24 November 2020

 

 

Government and Local Authority initiatives 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

 

Offered from the 01 March, the CJRS was a lifesaver for many businesses during the first lockdown period. Further information on how the scheme was initially launched as well as the terms and eligibility can be read in our Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) article.

On the 31 October, Boris Johnson announced a second national lockdown for England. With non-essential retail and hospitality and leisure businesses forced to close, he announced an extension to CJRS that was due to finish on that day; initially this was announced as a month’s extension but was later revised and extended for 5 months until the end of March, with a review in January 2021. But on the 17th December, before the January review date, the Chancellor announced a further extension to the scheme, making it available until the end of April 2021 and importantly continuing to pay up to 80% of an employee’s usual wages.

The scheme was made available again from the 01 November with the online system being available to claim form 11 November. Our article Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) furlough extended until March has further detail.

Claims need to be submitted by the middle of the following month for the previous months furloughed hours. This is a tight time scale for many management teams who may already be juggling more plates than they normally do. The tight timescales are likely to be so that the Government can judge the cost of CJRS on the economy before their January review date.  

We are aware that HMRC is already starting to ‘compliance check’ some businesses that have used the scheme to make sure that it has been used in line with its conditions and the correct amount has been claimed. You can read more in our article What to expect when HMRC compliance check your use of the furlough scheme.

Job Support Scheme (JSS)

On the 24 September 2020, in a further attempt to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, businesses and jobs, the Chancellor announced details of the Job Support Scheme (JSS). The scheme was initially due to take over from the CJRS at the end of October, but due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the UK, the Government announced lockdown V2 and CJRS V2 to support alongside it.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), was due to come to an end on the 31 October with the JSS taking over supporting those businesses still operating with reduced demand. It was designed to protect viable jobs throughout the winter period, but we expect the scheme to carry businesses through the spring and summer months of 2021.

The JSS was designed to drive the 10% of the working population still on furlough in mid-September 2020 back to work in some capacity, and protect jobs that might otherwise be at risk from falling demand. This scheme will likely be used to complete this role in the spring of 2021.

The scheme is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses with larger businesses subject to a financial assessment test to demonstrate they require government funding. The expectation is that large employers will not be making capital distributions to their shareholders whilst accessing the scheme.

To be eligible, the employee needed to be working at least 33% of their usual hours. This requirement is to formalise the fact that this scheme is to support viable jobs. The 33% was due to be reviewed after the initial three months and was presumably going to be increased. The Government scheme shares some of the cost of the 66% balance of hours not worked. The scheme will pay for a third of hours not worked, with the employer covering another third and the employee taking a reduction in wage to cover the other third.

With the scheme expected to take over from CJRS V2 in the spring, you can use our JSS calculator to understand the cost to you as a business and the impact on your gross pay as an employee in advance here.

 Job Support Scheme expanded for those closed due to COVID-19 restriction

Following the JSS announcement, on the 9 October, the Government announced an expanded version of the JSS to support those businesses who are required to shut due to local or regional restrictions (those in level 3 scenarios).

The expanded scheme would see two-thirds of employees’ salaries paid by the Government if a business is legally forced to close and the staff cannot work.

The grant was due to cover 67% of an employees’ salary up to £2100 per month. Employers were required to contribute towards wages like previously seen and would only be asked to cover NICS and pension contributions, a tiny proportion of overall employment costs. It is estimated that around half of potential claims are likely not to incur employer NICs or auto-enrolment pension contributions and so face no employer contribution.

This expanded version of the JSS will likely run alongside the JSS scheme in spring of 2021 if we are still subject to localised lockdowns. Businesses will only be eligible to claim the grant if they are subject to restrictions, and employees must be off work for a minimum of seven consecutive days. Payments to businesses will be made in arrears, via an HMRC claims service.

Kickstart scheme

COVID-19 continues to impact the labour market, with continued employer uncertainty, we have seen record numbers of redundancies. With further Lockdown restrictions expected, one of the hardest-hit brackets is the 16-24-year-olds. Some of our hardest-hit sectors, leisure and hospitality, are heavy recruiters of this age bracket; and with thousands leaving full-time education with limited employment prospects the Government have stepped in and hope to generate them opportunities.

How does the Kickstart scheme work?

The Kickstart scheme is available to employers of all size and provides funding for 25hrs per week, per employee for 6 months. The funding covers the vast majority of the employment costs:

The job placement must be new and filled by young people (aged 16-24-years-old), who are currently on universal credit; and at risk of long-term unemployment.

To qualify for the scheme placements must:

  • Be new jobs,
  • Must not be in replacement of existing vacancies or self-employed contractors,
  • Be for a minimum of 25 hours per week for six months,
  • Must be paid at least National Minimum Wage.

Employers will be required to make at least 30 placements available between when the scheme opened in November 2020 and December 2021. This would normally rule out smaller employers, but the Government have allowed those not wishing to recruit 30 to pool their requirements with other companies.

Kickstart gateways such as local authorities, charities or trade bodies can take applications from multiple employers and make one application over 30. Click here to find your local registered Kickstart gateway. The gateway route may also increase the chances of a successful application as they will have greater experience of submitting applications.

For further information, you can read our article: Could the Kickstart Scheme support your 2021 strategy and help you recruit talent?

Business cash flow support

Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG)

Businesses closed due to national lockdown

The Local Restrictions Support Grant LRSG supports businesses that have been required to close due to the national restrictions between 5 November and 2 December 2020. Businesses that were open as usual, but were then required to close between 5 November and 2 December 2020 due to the national restrictions imposed by the Government may be eligible for LRSG.

Administered by your local authority, you may be eligible if your business:

  • is based in England
  • occupies a property on which it pays business rates (and is the ratepayer)
  • has been required to close because of the national restrictions from 5 November to 2 December 2020
  • has been unable to provide its usual in-person customer service from its premises

This could include non-essential retail, leisure, personal care, sports facilities and hospitality businesses. It could also include businesses that operate primarily as an in-person venue, but which have been forced to close those services and provide a takeaway-only service instead.

LRSG counts towards your total de minimis state aid limit of €200K over a 3 year period. If you have reached this threshold, you may still be eligible under the COVID-19 temporary framework.

Grant size will be based on rateable value:

  • Property with a rateable value of £15,000 or less, you may be eligible for a cash grant of £1,334 for each 28-day qualifying restrictions period.
  • Property with a rateable value over £15,000 and less than £51,000, you may be eligible for a cash grant of £2,000 for each 28-day qualifying restrictions period.
  • Property with a rateable value of £51,000 or above, you may be eligible for a cash grant of £3,000 for each 28-day qualifying restrictions period.

You can apply via your local council’s website – Find the website for your local council.

Businesses closed due to local lockdown

In September 2020 the Government announced LRSG, supporting those businesses forced to close due to local lockdowns. On the 9 October amendments were made to the LRSG further benefiting those sectors/ areas impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

A grant up to £3,000 per month is available subject to the business applying having been shut due to restrictions for a minimum period of two weeks (previously 3).

Administered by your local authority, you may be eligible if your business:

  • is based in England
  • occupies a property on which it pays business rates (and is the ratepayer)
  • is in an area of local restrictions and has been required to close because of local restrictions that resulted in a first full day of closure on or after 9 September
  • has been required to close for at least 14 days because of the restrictions
  • has been unable to provide its usual in-person customer service from its premise

For example, this could include non-essential retail and personal services that operate primarily as an in-person venue, but which have been forced to close those services and provide a takeaway-only service instead.

Eligible businesses can get one grant for each non-domestic property within the restriction area.

The precise set of businesses eligible for the scheme may vary between each local council area under local restrictions in recognition of the specific conditions in each area.

LRSG counts towards your total de minimis state aid limit of €200K over a 3 year period. If you have reached this threshold, you may still be eligible under the COVID-19 temporary framework.

Grant size will be based on rateable value:

  • Properties with a rateable value of £15,000 or under will receive grants of £667 per two weeks of the closure (£1,334 per month).
  • Properties with a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 will receive grants of £1,000 per two weeks of the closure (£2,000 per month).
  • Properties with a rateable value of £51,000 or over will receive grants of £1500 per two weeks of the closure (£3,000 per month).

The grant will be extended to cover each additional 14-day period of closure. If your business is closed for 28-days, or 2 payment cycles, it will receive £1,334, £2,000 or £3,000, depending on the rateable value of the property.

You can apply via your local council’s website – Find the website for your local council.

Businesses legally open within local lockdown but affected

The Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG (Open)) supports businesses that have been severely impacted due to temporary local restrictions.

Businesses that have not had to close but which have been severely impacted due to local restrictions (Local COVID alert levels: High or Very High) may be eligible.

Eligible businesses may be entitled to a cash grant from their local council for each 28 day period under local restrictions.

Local councils have the discretion to provide grant funding for businesses under this scheme. They will use their discretion in identifying the right businesses to receive this funding, based on their application process.

Your business may be eligible if it:

  • is based in England
  • is in an area subject to ‘High’ or ‘Very High’ local restrictions since 1 August 2020 and has been severely impacted because of the local restrictions
  • was established before the introduction of Local COVID alert level: High restrictions
  • has not had to close but has been impacted by local restrictions

LRSG counts towards your total de minimis state aid limit of €200K over a 3 year period. If you have reached this threshold, you may still be eligible under the COVID-19 temporary framework.

The grant will be based on the rateable value of your property on the date of the start of the local restrictions. The local councils will be expected to provide funding under the following tiers unless there is a local need to deviate.

  • Property with a rateable value of £15,000 or less, you may be eligible for a cash grant of up to £934 for each 28 day period.
  • Property with a rateable value over £15,000 and less than £51,000, you may be eligible for a cash grant of up to £1,400 for each 28 day period.
  • Property with a rateable value of £51,000 or above, you may be eligible for a cash grant of up to £2,100 for each 28 day period.

Businesses that are not required to close but are impacted may continue to receive funding under LRSG (Open) if restrictions are increased to Local COVID alert level: Very High. 

If a national lockdown in announced funding under this scheme will cease.

You can apply via your local council’s website – Find the website for your local council.

Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG)

Vital support for those businesses that have not yet been eligible for funding

Local authorities have been given additional funds to support businesses with Additional Restrictions Grants (ARGs). The scheme is predominantly aimed to support those businesses that have not been eligible for grants previously due to not directly paying business rates; although each local authority is given the freedom to determine their eligibility for the grants.

Previous Local Restrictions Support Grants (LSRGs) have been set amounts based on the rateable value of the premises in which you trade. This means if you did not pay rates, you were not eligible, and a number of business slipped through the Governments support net. ARGs though, are much more flexible with eligibility and the amount of the grant being decided by the local authority, which means it can be tailored to support the local economies.

The Government has released funds on the expectation that businesses that are not legally forced to close but, nonetheless, are severely impacted, benefit from the money; which could include businesses:

  •  which supply the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors
  • in the events sector
  • or those required to close but which do not pay business rates.

With all local authorities having varying criteria, it is difficult to detail how the funds will be administered, but you can find further information about the eligibility in your area here. Local authorities will likely open a window for applications, possibly in multiple phases with different criteria for each so it is important businesses study the local criteria for their area.

The amounts of the loans are expected to be relatively small for the majority but can be up to £10k. Those not eligible are:

    • those that are trading effectively
    • those businesses that are in administration or are insolvent.

VAT

The VAT deferral scheme enabled businesses to defer VAT payments which would have been due for payment between the period 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 (i.e. payments in respect of VAT returns due at the end of February, 31 March and 30th April).

The government initially announced that any payments that had been deferred in this period would have to be paid in full by 31 March 2021. However it has since been announced that businesses who did defer payments in that period will be able to opt to pay the debt off in up to 11 instalments over a longer period of time. Instalments can be made up until 31 March 2022 without any late payment interest being charged.

It is necessary to opt into this scheme as it is not automatic and businesses can choose how many instalments to make the payment over. There will be conditions which must be met in order to opt-in, including that you must be up to date with VAT returns and must be able to pay the deferred VAT by Direct Debit.

It is not yet possible to opt in to the new payment scheme, but we are expecting that the online opt-in process will be available in early 2021. The current guidance suggests that businesses will need to opt-in themselves, a process not able to be done by their accountants or other professional advisers;  therefore requiring their own Government Gateway account to be able to opt-in.

If you do not opt into the scheme and have not agreed alternative arrangements with HMRC, the deferred VAT must be paid in full by 31 March 2021.

For further information or advice please contact Dougie Todd a VAT partner at Price Bailey.

Support for the self-employed 

There have been 4 phases of support announced by the Government for the self-employed. Eligibility has been the same throughout the grants. Individuals can apply if 50% of their annual income is derived from self-employed work, and their average annual self-employed trading profit is £50k or less.

The grants are taxable income and also subject to National Insurance contributions.

Individuals will need to prove they have been adversely affected by COVID-19. They do not need to have claimed previous phases to claim the newer phase.

Phase 1 – Grant covering March, April & May, capped at £7,500

The first phase announced 26 March offers individuals a grant of up to 80% of their average monthly trading profits, paid in one lump sum up to £7,500 (£2,500pm).

Phase 2 – Grant covering June, July & August, capped at £6,570

The second phased announced 29 May offered individuals a grant of up to 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid in one lump sum up to £6,570 (£2,190pm).

To be specifically eligible for phase 3 and 4 individuals must:

  • have been previously eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme first and second phases (although they do not have to have claimed the previous grants)
  • declare that they intend to continue to trade and either:
    • are currently actively trading but are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus
    • were previously trading but are temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus

Phase 3 – Grant covering November, December & January, capped at £7,500, online applications will go live 30 November 2020.

The third phase announced 5 November offers individuals a grant up to 80% of their 3 months average monthly trading profits, paid in one lump sum up to £7,500 (£2,500pm).

Phase 4 – Grant covering February, March & April, further details to be announced.

For further information relating to the above grants or any other personal tax issues, please contact Michael Morter.

Funding solutions during COVID-19  

The Chancellor, Bank of England, British Business Bank and HMRC created a combination of unprecedented support options for UK businesses throughout the pandemic.

Businesses raised £ 175bn in the initial 6 months of the pandemic environment, and mainstream banks suggest they completed their 5 year planned lending objectives within the first 3 months. Lenders will be keen to make sure that you had a viable business before the pandemic and that you have a strong repayment vehicle. Loans are required to be repaid, and therefore government initiatives such as the CJRS and grants with no repayment should be utilised to their full potential before applying for debt.

There are several options available when it comes to funding your business during COVID-19:

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

Open until the 31 March 2021 in its current form, CBILS offers loans and other lending products of up to £5m, where the Government secures 80% of the facility to provide comfort to lenders.

Loans can be taken over a maximum of 6 years with fees and interest being paid for by the Government for the first 12 months. Most lenders are allowing 12-month capital payment holidays from the start of the loan, so there is no repayment due till month 13. Overdrafts and invoice finance facilities are available for terms of up to 3 years.

Businesses applying for a CBILS loan will need to prove that they had a viable business that could repay the borrowing prior to COVID-19. The monies borrowed will be expected to support the business through COVID-19 difficulties.

Post-March 2021 the Chancellor has suggested that an alternative funding initiative will be made available.

For further information and eligibility criteria, read our detailed article Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) or contact Simon Blake, who leads our Strategic Corporate Finance team.

Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS)

 

Open until the 31 March 2021 the BBLS was designed to administer cash to smaller businesses quickly. Businesses can borrow from £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover with a maximum loan of £50,000.

If you already have a Bounce Back Loan but borrowed less than you were entitled to, you can top up your existing loan to your maximum amount.

This scheme provides a government guarantee against 100% of the loan. The loans are director lead, meaning the directors of the company confirm their eligibility and request the amount they wished to borrow. The funds have been made available within days of application by many of the lenders. Interest rates are a standard 2.5% after the initial 12 months interest and capital free period.

On the 24 September as part of the Governments Winter Economy Plan, the Chancellor announced that before your loan is due for repayment your lender will approach you to discuss:

  • Extending the term of your loan to 10 years (from 6 years),
  • Moving to interest-only repayments for a period of 6 months (which can be used up to 3 times),
  • Pausing your repayments for a period of 6 months if you have already made at least 6 repayments (you can use this option once).

All of these were offered with the promise that if taken out, your credit score will not be impacted. This will come as a welcome relief to many who face repaying the cash they required in the depths of lockdown. We are aware from talking to lenders, due to no repayment being due until spring 2021 at the earliest, the mechanism for extending these loans, if you wish to, will be released in the New Year. 

Companies can transfer loans of up to £50,000 issued under CBILS to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.

For further information on this initiative, read our detailed article or contact William Wilson.

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)

On Friday 3 April 2020, the chancellor detailed a new scheme, much like CBILS, but for larger businesses that did not meet the requirement of CBILS nor COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility.

Currently open until 31 January 2021 CLBILS offers funding solutions up to £200m, where the Government secures 80% of the lend. This, as the name suggests, is for larger businesses with an annual turnover above £45m. This scheme can only be accessed if an applicant has been unable to secure regular commercial finance, so it is advisable to contact your lender in the first instance to see what packages are available and suitable.

Lenders will still be expected to conduct their usual credit risk checks. This scheme allows lenders to specifically support businesses that were viable before the COVID-19 outbreak but now face significant cash flow difficulties that would otherwise make their business unviable in the short term. COVID-19 must have impacted firms, and businesses must evidence that the loan will help them trade out of short-medium term difficulty.

The scheme supports a wide range of financing options including short term loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance. Businesses will remain responsible for repaying any facility they may takeout.

To be eligible, a business must:

  • be UK-based in its business activity
  • have an annual turnover above £45m
  • be unable to secure regular commercial financing
  • have a borrowing proposal which the lender:
    a. would consider viable, were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic
    b. believes will enable you to trade out of any short-term to medium-term difficulty

Businesses from any sector can apply, except for banks and building societies; insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers); public-sector organisations, including state-funded primary and secondary schools.

If borrowing over £50m then business owners must agree to restrictions on dividend payments, senior pay and share buy-backs during the period of the loan.

We are experienced in raising different types of funds for many different situations and demonstrating viability is something we often get asked to support with.

To find out more, please contact Simon Blake, who leads our Strategic Corporate Finance team.

 Coronavirus Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF)

Available for at least 12 months from 20 March 2020, and for as long as those businesses who make a material contribution to the UK economy require support in easing cash flow issues.

The CCFF will provide funding to businesses by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity, issued by firms making a material contribution to the UK economy.

 

This is the vast majority of the £330bn scheme that was highlighted by the Bank of England and the Chancellor. However, The Bank of England has already warned that many retailers will not qualify due to their credit ratings. As of 1 March 2020, Companies must be able to demonstrate that they were investment grade. Financial companies (which we interpret as institutions rather than services businesses) are not eligible to apply. Commercial Paper issued by leveraged investment or private equity funded vehicles or from companies within groups that are predominantly banks, investment banks or building societies are not eligible if securities are being issued by a finance subsidiary its parent company should guarantee them.

Commercial paper is an unsecured, short-term debt instrument issued by a company.

CCFF will purchase sterling-denominated commercial paper, with the following characteristics:

  1. Maturity of one week to twelve months
  2. Where available, a credit rating of A-3 / P-3 / F-3 / R3 from at least one of Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch as at 1 March 2020.
  3. Issued directly into Euroclear and/or Clearstream

Non-standard features such as extendibility or subordination will not be acceptable.

If firms have different ratings from different agencies, and one of those is below investment grade, then the commercial paper will not be eligible. We believe that the minimum facility size is £1m.

Businesses do not need to have previously issued commercial paper to participate. However, it seems likely at this stage that Commercial Paper will need to be listed (i.e. tradeable), and that any dealing counterparties must be appropriately authorised for FSMA 2000. This could create delays, complexity and enhanced compliance requirements for businesses that have not had to manage these type of securities before and therefore be a practical barrier to access.

It was positive to see that the bank will operate in both the primary and secondary markets, subject to the other side being appropriate.

We see this as an opportunity for businesses to not only inject capital to stabilise but also to improve corporate governance and the ability to access wider forms of capital in the mid-term. As concerning as these times are, there is an opportunity here for certain types of businesses.

To find out more, please contact Chand Chudasama from the Strategic Corporate Finance team.

 The Future Fund (TFF)

Currently open until 31 January 2021, TFF took some time to gain momentum, possibly due to understanding and the fact that loans are only classed as approved once the Convertible Loan Agreement document is issued.

TFF provides government loans of between £125k and £5m to high growth innovative companies using a Convertible Loan Note (CLN). The loan will need to be at least matched by funding from private investors, and the company must have raised at least £250k in private third party investment in the past five years.

The CLN turns into the most senior class of shares when:

  1. In the future, the business raises further capital that is equal to the whole bridge funding round
    b. On sale or IPO
    c. After 36 months, the loan will likely turn into shares, or, be repaid with a premium.

The business is eligible if:

  • it is UK-incorporated – if part of a corporate group, only the parent company is eligible
  • none of its shares are traded on a regulated market, multilateral trading facility or another listing venue
  • it was incorporated on or before 31 December 2019
  • at least one of the following is true:
    • half or more employees are UK-based
    • half or more revenues are from UK sales

Loans will have an 8% interest rate and looking at the application V approved figures it would seem that criteria are tight.

For information on this initiative read our blog on The Future Fund: 10 terms and what to do next or contact Chand Chudasama from the Strategic Corporate Finance team.

Debt Advisory Service

Due to the volume of applications for funding being seen by the lenders, being prepared before approaching them for lending is important. You can listen to our podcasts How to prepare your business and approach your lender for a loan during COVID-19 or read our accompanying blog that provides top tips and things to consider as well as a live example.

Whilst these schemes provided relief to many, in our daily conversations with clients, we observed gaps in the market. Firstly, those with structurally high levels of existing debt. Secondly, pre-profit businesses who may struggle to access CBILS and for whom the normal ‘start-up’ loan support is not sufficient and where the shareholder base are not able to deploy further equity funding.

Due to our extensive experiences across our strategic corporate finance team, we are well prepared to support these two markets as well as any other company struggling to raise funding. You can read about the services we have on offer to support you raise debt in this difficult climate by reading our Debt advisory services webpage. You can also read how our team supported a client to raise funds in just such an environment in our case study.

Due to the number of headwinds rearing their head into the New Year, we expect cash flow to be a concern for many. With us entering a recession, we expect two years of economic slowdown; reducing the speed at which businesses can return to normal. Post this two-year slowdown, with positivity growing business owners and management teams will be wanting to push growth, but if your debt is not structured correctly, this can suppress growth and even cause cash flow issues.

One positive of COVID-19 on the lending market is the innovation that has presented itself; aside from there being many other ways to fund a business other than debt, there are now many lenders providing alternative finance. Please let us know if you feel you may be hindered by debt as you maximise on future opportunities.

Employment Law during COVID-19

Legal aspect of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

To furlough employees, you need an agreement – The Treasury Direction says that to claim under the furlough scheme, the employer and employee must have agreed in writing that the employee will cease all work (para 6.7). Notification alone is not sufficient. This document also needs to be kept for five years. Further, as stated above, any salary reduction is a breach of contract without express agreement from the employee.

Furlough agreements are required to include the time period for which the employee will be out of work. This time period will likely be the period that the Job Retention Scheme remains in place, subject to a minimum of 3 weeks. If an employee comes back to work after the set period and you do not require them to work still, you can ‘re-furlough’ them for a further period of time.

A furlough agreement is a temporary variation of the contract of employment, and the employees will revert to their normal terms following furlough. However, some employers are using furlough agreements to introduce and agree on permanent changes such as the right to put the employees on short-time working or to lay them off temporarily.

This is a complex area of law, and legal advice should be obtained before making such changes.
In respect of contractual terms which have not been varied by agreement, the underlying contract of employment continues to apply during the furlough period, as do an employer’s statutory obligations which often override contractual terms, particularly around termination of employment, for example, timings of consultation on a collective redundancy process.

Our Employment Law team can draft furlough agreements at a set cost on a per company, rather than per employee basis.

To read some commonly asked questions to our legal team, please see our article An employment law Q&A for dealing with COVID-19. 

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Scheme (CSSP)

For small and medium-sized businesses with less than 250 employees, two weeks Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) can be reclaimed per eligible employee absent due to COVID-19 (this includes both Coronavirus sickness and isolation absence) on or after 13 March 2020. Employees will not need to present a GP fit note but can be supplied an isolation note from NHS111 online to satisfy their employer.

The Coronavirus SSP Rebate Scheme is now open for employers to make a claim. The process broadly follows the same format as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) claims, for those also claiming through CJRS.

The information employers will need to make a claim is:

  1. Claim period
  2. Number of employees
  3. Amount claimed.

In contrast with the CJRS, you are not required to provide the individual employee’s names or NI numbers. For more information and updates on the application process, please read our article  Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (CSSP) published 28 May 2020.

Claims can only be made for periods that have already passed.

Cash collection during COVID-19

With nearly half of all businesses seeing reduced turnover compared to the previous year due to COVID-19, there will undoubtedly be cash flow pressures for some.

In a normal trading environment, 96% of SMEs will have experienced a bad debt, and 70% will have at least one commercial dispute every three years.

The normal process of recovering owed funds can be lengthy, costly and without guarantee of success; because of this, an average of £40bn is written off by SMEs every year. Cash is always important, but now more than ever, business owners need to be recovering and retaining the cash that is rightly theirs.

Escalate dispute resolution and debt recovery, launched in 2017 after 7 years of planning and investment, is a game-changer in its field. It offers a fixed fee recovery with no fees until the funds are recovered and no fees if the case is not won.

Due to its set up, everyone is incentivised to recover funds quickly, whereas, with the normal process open-ended fee structures and hourly rates, that is not always the case. Recoveries of £1k and above are completed, and the case is assessed and agreed to be taken on often with 24hrs. This assessment is carried out for free, so SME owners know if they have a viable case from very early on in the discussion.

Further information, including case studies, can be found on our Escalate webpage. For some top tips in managing, debtors read our article: Responding to Coronavirus: Unlocking cash from your balance sheet. For further information, please contact Matt Howard or email Escalate@pricebailey.co.uk.

If the worst is to happen and funds are not recovered due to insolvency steps taken by your client then maximising on bad debt relief is a key consideration. For further information, read our article VAT and bad debt reliefs.

Price Bailey’s response to COVID-19

There is no doubt that many of you are concerned about how this pandemic will affect your business day-to-day and the impact on any upcoming strategic decisions. Please remember that we are here to support you with any immediate planning or personnel questions you might have, however small. Your Price Bailey contact will be happy to talk through your concerns and work with you to find the right solution for your business, so do give us a call. 

As a result of the Government’s decision to move the country into a national emergency lockdown to mitigate the impacts of the virus, and the associated advice and restrictions on social contact, we have decided to close all Price Bailey locations from the morning of 24 March 2020.

Our Board, partners and teams were well prepared for this scenario.

You can be assured that we have a robust business continuity plan in place, which will enable us to minimise the impact on our service to you. Since the beginning of the outbreak, we have been making preparations for our people to work from home, and mobile telephone numbers have been added to the website for most contacts. No matter who you speak to, or what day of the week it is, you can be confident you’ll always get the same experience.

For more information, read our response to COVID-19.

Please take care of yourself and those you hold dear.

 

We always recommend that you seek advice from a suitably qualified adviser before taking any action. The information in this article only serves as a guide and no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of this material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.

 

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