As the Government continues to monitor the unstable economic environment, largely due to the new Omicron variant and the apprehension surrounding it, Rishi Sunak has announced new measures to support businesses in sectors affected most.
The first key support mechanism is a £1bn pot, administered by your local authority, to help the hospitality and leisure sector manage lost income caused by sickness and cancellations. Those in the sector can claim one-off grants of up to £6k per premises. The conditions of which are dependent on the local authority but it is likely that businesses will need to prove a loss of income due to cancellations or other COVID-related issues.
Local authorities have been instrumental in the survival of UK SMEs, administering huge amounts of money in a timely manner to businesses throughout the pandemic. They have learnt how and where the money is best placed, and have been given an extra £100m to inject through discretionary grants to businesses outside of the hospitality and leisure sector. The conditions and grant sizes are dependent on the local authority, but it is likely to support those involved in the hospitality supply chain and industries that continue to be affected by COVID i.e. travel.
A further £60m has been added to the culture recovery fund which has been a lifeline to theatres and museums, injecting over £850m into the related sectors. This was originally set at £30m, but was quickly doubled on 23 December after cultural groups called for further support. The sector continues to be hit with a number of festive performances being cancelled due to COVID related illness and isolation measures.
Employers, who continue to navigate the world of HR in a COVID climate, have been supported with the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme. Launched at the beginning of the pandemic, but removed in September 2021 as infections were reducing and the vaccines were having a positive effect, it allows employers to claim back up to 2 weeks of statutory sick pay per employee, costs that are normally covered by the company.
Statutory sick pay is up to £96.35 per week, this can be costly if a large employer has an ‘outbreak’ of COVID with multiple employees off at any one time; especially when coupled with the likely loss of income due to the absence. The scheme is open to SMEs with less than 250 employees.
These new and reviewed schemes will be welcomed by the benefiting business, coupled with the ongoing VAT and rates reductions in the sector until the end of March 2022. But, there are a number of sectors and business types that will not be seeing the benefit and therefore a further £1.5bn has also been added to the local authority relief fund for them to administer as required.
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