Coronavirus Business Advice for Local Businesses - 23 March

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Plymouth business news

23 March 2020

We know that a lot of businesses are waiting for detail of how to claim the finance support announced by Government and are awaiting this ourselves from central government. As soon as we have this information we will turn it around as soon as possible to get it out to you. This will be shared via email, our website and our social media feeds. Please find below an overview of the latest advice and guidance for COVID-19

If you have any specific concerns or are in need of support please contact us.

Business rates bills and payments

Council Leader Tudor Evans has announced that all business rates payments will be deferred until June 2020 meaning that we will not expect any payments to be made until then.

Any Direct Debits which are in place do not need to be cancelled, please rest assured that we will not be taking any payments by Direct Debit until June 2020, as will be detailed in the updated bill you will receive from us.

The business rates bill for 2020/21 which you recently received may not be correct and we will be reissuing all bills before payment is due in June 2020. We are working hard to ensure that all bills are rescheduled so that there are 10 monthly instalments starting from June 2020 until March 2021.

Find out more about Business Rates

Business interruption loan scheme

The  Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme (CBILS) opens for applications today and supports a wide range of business finance products, including term loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance facilities and can provide facilities of up to £5m for smaller businesses across the UK who are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions of cashflow.


  • Up to £5m facility:
  • The maximum value of a facility provided under the scheme will be £5m, available on repayment terms of up to six years.
  • 80% guarantee:
  • The scheme provides the lender with a government-backed, partial guarantee (80%) against the outstanding facility balance, subject to an overall cap per lender.
  • No guarantee fee for SMEs to access the scheme:
  • No fee for smaller businesses. Lenders will pay a fee to access the scheme.
  • Interest and fees paid by Government for 12 months:
  • The Government will make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees[1], so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.[2]
  • Finance terms:
  • Finance terms are up to six years for term loans and asset finance facilities. For overdrafts and invoice finance facilities, terms will be up to three years.
  • Security: 
  • At the discretion of the lender, the scheme may be used for unsecured lending for facilities of £250,000 and under. For facilities above £250,000, the lender must establish a lack or absence of security prior to businesses using CBILS. If the lender can offer finance on normal commercial terms without the need to make use of the scheme, they will do so.
  • The borrower always remains 100% liable for the debt.

Find out more on the CBILS website here

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support Measures

On Friday 20 March 2020, the government announced an unprecedented range of support measures for business and employers.

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:

  • a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (see section below)
  • deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
  • a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)
  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England

View the rest of the Guidance here

Job Retention scheme

As part of the Government's announcements on Friday the Job Retention scheme was announced, a summary of the scheme's measures have been outlined by Ashfords' and are:

1. The government will pay 80% of staff salaries

·     How will employers claim this? The government will set up a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Employers need to designate affected employees as “furloughed workers” and notify those employees of this change. Employers will then need to submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (yet to be published).

·     Are there any eligibility criteria for employers? No, all UK businesses whatever their size will be eligible. 

·     Will it apply to employers who have already had to lay off employees due to COVID-19? Yes, as long as the employees are brought back into the workforce and instead granted a leave of absence.

·     What happens with furloughed employees during this period? Furloughed employees will remain on an employer’s pay roll and would not be laid off. Employees cannot carry out any work for their employer while they are furloughed. 

·     Is it to be backdated? Yes, it will be backdated to the start of March 2020. 

·     How long will it last for? It will last for three months initially, but the government have said they would extend the scheme for as long as necessary

·     What will it cover? A grant for 80% of wages up to £2,500 per employee. The full £2,500 is only available for employees earning £37,500 or more. Employers are free to top up this amount to cover the difference in salary, but do not have to. There is no limit on the number of employees that the grant can be claimed for as long as they correctly ‘furloughed’. We are waiting to see if the £2,500 is inclusive of employee benefits.

·     Who is an employee for the purposes of this scheme? The government have simply said that the scheme will apply to individuals enrolled in PAYE. It is not clear how this will apply for casual or zero hours workers. 

·     Is it re-payable? No, it’s a grant not a loan.

·     When will employers be able to access the scheme? HMRC are urgently working on the scheme and are hoping to have it set up before the end of April 2020.

2. The government has increased the support for workers and the self-employed 

·     What can workers and the self-employed claim? Workers and the self-employed are not eligible for either the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or statutory sick pay (SSP). SSP is only available for employees earning a minimum of £118 per week (£120 per week from 6 April 2020). Instead they can access Universal Credit (UC) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

·     What measures had the government already introduced? For those that are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or are self-isolating, the government has: -  Suspended the minimum income floor for UC; -  Removed the requirement to attend a jobcentre in order to claim UC; and -  Provided for ESA to be paid from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day.

·     What are the new changes? The rate of UC has been increased to the equivalent of statutory sick pay (SSP), £94.25 per week (£95.85 from 6 April 2020).  As an aside, the government have also postponed the extension of the IR35 off payroll tax rules to medium and large companies in the private sector until April 2021 as a result of COVID-19. For more information in relation to this please click here.

Temporary changes to Plymouth City Council's Building Control services

Plymouth City Council's Building Control will continue to provide its statutory function during this challenging and unpredictable time.

At the time of the release of this statement (23 March), PCC is implementing measures that they hope will ensure customers experience an undisrupted service until the Government advises that business practices can return to normal:

View further details here

ACAS coronavirus advice for employers and employees

The ACAS website includes new details on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), use of holiday leave, increased advice around hygiene in the workplace and guidance for when employees need to self-isolate.

View the udated Coronavirus advice 

Coronavirus, an advisory webinar for employers (Multiple dates available)

This free webinar will provide practical advice for employers to help manage the impact of Coronavirus in the workplace. It includes steps that can help reduce the spread of the virus; effective ways of communicating with employees; self-isolating, time off, sickness certification and sick pay; altering working hours, shift patterns and working arrangements; remote working and the use of technology.

Register to attend

Resources for self-isolation

To help those who are self-isolating or social distancing, some organisations have developed resources to help keep our brains and bodies active in and around your home.

  • 64 Million Artists are responding to the current coronavirus situation with Create to Connect: two weeks of fun, free creative challenges anyone can take part in if they’re isolating, distancing, or working from home.
  • Sport England has compiled some of the most useful tips on how you can get active when you're at home, if you're well enough.

Digital Tools & Useful Information to support during Covid-19

The Heart of the South West LEP's Digital Skills Partnership have drawn together information on digital tools and freely available digital training to support the use of those tools, as well as a list of free online learning for individuals across a wide range of digital skills levels and topics.


Toolkits and Insights


Other Tools for Remote Working

Google Hangouts Meet and Google Classroom

Google is offering free access to advanced features on Hangouts Meet to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally until 1/07/2020. 

Find out more about Google here.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams are offering a free version of Teams that lifts restrictions on how many users can be part of a team and allows users to schedule video calls, conferences, chat, share files and access 3rd party integrations.

Video training on how to use Microsoft Teams can be accessed here.


The free version of Zoom enables video conferencing with unlimited 121 calls, group calls with 40 min limit and chat functions.

Check out Zoom here.


Remote Working Webinars

Remote working with Microsoft Teams by Upskill Digital (Microsoft Partner)
When: 25/3/2020 11am
What: Free 45-minute session about how you can empower your team and organisation with Microsoft Teams. Including tips in creating a productive remote working environment.
Sign up here: Remote working with Microsoft Teams

Managing remote teams effectively by Upskill Digital (Microsoft Partner)
When: 26/3/2020 11 am
What: Free 45-minute session on challenges, cohesion, motivation, digital tools, and reducing overheads through remote working.
Sign up here: Managing Remote Teams Effectively


Free courses to develop Digital and Technical Skills

  • BT Skills for Tomorrow - Free short video tutorials aimed at business. In the 'Expanding your Skillset' section you can find short tutorials on Data Science, Data Visualization, Basics of Code and Machine Learning.
  • Future of Tech - Library of resources from CompTIA that include videos and interactive tutorials in Big Data, Cyber Security, Digital Health, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence.
  • Cisco Networking AcademyOnline courses in the Internet of Things, Linux, Cyber Security, Entrepreneurship. 
  • Google Digital GarageOnline mini-courses in Digital Marketing, Data, Time Management, Productivity and more.
  • Institute of CodingOffering a wide range of industry-inspired courses co-designed by a network of employers and educations.
  • Code AcademyAdvanced courses Data Science, Web Development and Mobile Development. Free Pro Academy offers unlimited access passes for 10,000 college students across the world.
  • Future LearnIncludes disease outbreak prevention courses.
  • Learn My WayOffers courses on Google, Outlook, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and productivity tools.
  • Lynda - LinkedIn LearningLinkedin Learning with over 4000+ courses.


Open Calls and Competitions

Rapid Call to support Ventilator Innovation

The Frontier Tech Hub, Global Disability Innovation Hub, University College London’s Institute for Healthcare Engineering and the Department for International Development (DFID) are looking at ways to increase the production of the ventilators vital for treating people with Covid-19 respiratory problems in the UK.

They are seeking innovators who have made ventilators that could be scaled. They are looking for te Rapid Call to support Ventilator Innovation chnologies from across the globe, especially emerging markets, that can be rapidly adapted to be manufactured in the UK.

The winning technology will be adapted for manufacture and used in the UK by a team at UCL through UCL’s Institute for Healthcare Engineering with GDI Hub, and will receive a licensing fee.

Find out more


Resources for Schools


  • Cyber School - Free-to-attend for Primary and Secondary school students. Classes are held twice daily and last 1 hour. Students attend via Zoom. There are before and after classes for students to complete cyber assignments. Classes will be started on the 30th of March.
  • Barefoot - Cross-curriculum lessons and resources that are easy to teach for teaching via video link.
  • 2Simple - Cross-curriculum Digital tools.14 day free trial. Paid thereafter.

Secondary and FE Colleges

  • Code Academy Pro - Course in Web Development, Mobile Development and Data Science. Free Code Academy Pro unlimited access passes for 10,000 college students across the world.
  • Cyber School - Free-to-attend for Primary and Secondary school students. Classes are held twice daily and last 1 hour. Students attend via Zoom. There are before and after classes for students to complete cyber assignments. Classes will be started on the 30 March.
  • iDEA - Offering mini-courses in digital, enterprise and employability skills. As mini subjects are completed you move through your Bronze, Silver, Gold.


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Keep up to date with news and advice on our COVID-19 business support page 

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