How have the government responded to coronavirus so far?
The spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) across the UK has had a huge impact on businesses, jobs and households, leading to several significant temporary changes to UK economic policy.
The government have made announcements on an almost daily basis, outlining economic support for businesses, jobs and households that have been affected by coronavirus. Summaries of the key announcements can be read here:
- 17 March 2020: Updated UK Government advice for travel, businesses and people
- 20 March 2020: Chancellor outlines further measures to protect jobs, businesses and households against economic impact of COVID-19
- 26 March 2020: Chancellor announces new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme for those affected by COVID-19
A full list of government support for businesses can be found on the GOV.UK website.
Please find a summary and links to the most relevant and updated guidance below.
W/C 18 May 2020
- Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate scheme
From Tuesday 26 May 2020, small and medium-sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, will be able to apply to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments they have made to their employees.
- Business webinars: working safely during coronavirus
- Monday 1 June, Construction and other outdoor work – Guidance for people who run outdoor working environments.
- Tuesday 2 June: Offices and contact centres – Guidance for people who run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments
- Top-up to local business grant funds scheme
A discretionary fund has been set up to accommodate certain small businesses in England previously outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme. This additional fund is aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs.
W/C 11 May 2020
- The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy
The government’s roadmap for how and when the UK will adjust its response to the COVID-19 crisis.
- Working safely during coronavirus: construction sector guidance published
This guidance is to help employers, employees and the self-employed in the UK construction industry understand how to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Self-Employment Income Support Scheme open for applications
As of this week, self-employed individuals or members of partnerships whose business has been adversely affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits.
- Furlough Scheme extended to October
The government have confirmed that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will continue until the end of October. Furloughed workers across the UK will continue to receive 80% of their current salary, up to £2,500, but new flexibility will be introduced from August to get employees back to work and boost the economy. Further details are expected later this month.
- Temporary Changes to the Planning System
The Ministry for Housing (MHCLG) has published an update on planning matters, including temporary measures to make it easier to operate the planning system.
- Holiday entitlement and pay during coronavirus
Guidance from the government on how holiday entitlement and pay will operate during the coronavirus pandemic, where it differs from the standard holiday entitlement and pay guidance.
- Construction site working hours Q&A
The government has published an update on planning and construction working hours. This statement expects local planning authorities in England to approve requests to extend construction working hours temporarily to ensure safe working in line with social distancing guidelines until 9pm, Monday to Saturday, unless there are compelling reasons against this. Questions and answers on this announcement are available.
W/C 4 May 2020
- Business rates revaluation postponed
A revaluation of business rates will no longer take place in 2021 to help reduce uncertainty for firms affected by the impacts of coronavirus.
- New webinars to boost support for SMEs during coronavirus
The Department for International Trade has launched new support for SMEs during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in the form of nearly 100 expert-led webinars. The webinars will offer practical advice to SMEs and focus on issues businesses trading internationally are facing.
W/C 27 April 2020
- A new Bounce Back Loan Scheme for small businesses
The government is introducing a 100% guaranteed Bounce Back Loan scheme aimed at supporting small businesses that have been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). The scheme is due to launch on Monday 4 May.
- An update from the Planning Inspectorate
This week, the Planning Inspectorate provided an update on plans to continue during lockdown and what they hope to achieve in the next three and six months, with the first pilot digital hearing due to take place on 11 May.
- Webinars to help businesses understand the government support available
Government departments are hosting a series of webinars to help businesses understand the support available. On Tuesday 5 May, the Department for Business will be hosting one on ‘Financial support for small businesses during coronavirus (COVID-19)’.
W/C 20 April 2020
- Government Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp updated for businesses
You can now text ‘hi’ to +44(0)7860 064422 via Whatsapp to receive information on business support measures. The service will reply with a set of menu options - select option 5 for relevant links to GOV.UK guidence.
- New measures to protect UK high street and other businesses from aggressive rent collection and closure
The government will temporarily ban the use of statutory demands and winding up orders where a company cannot pay their bills due to coronavirus. Government is also laying secondary legislation to provide tenants with more breathing space to pay rent by preventing landlords using Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) unless they are owed 90 days of unpaid rent.
- New coronavirus business support finder tool launched
A new ‘support finder’ tool has been launched to help businesses and self-employed people across the UK to quickly and easily determine what financial support is available to them during the coronavirus pandemic.
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is now live
W/C 13 April 2020
- Further information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme:
- Furlough scheme cut-off date extended to 19 March
Following a review of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme delivery system and to ensure the scheme helps as many people as possible, government have now confirmed that the eligibility date has been extended to 19 March 2020– the day before the scheme was announced.
- Launch date for Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme announced
Government have now confirmed that the online claim service for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be launched on Monday 20 April 2020. Any entity with a UK payroll can apply, including businesses, charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) updates:
- PPE Hub launched
A new hub containing guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE) containing information for both health and social care settings and other workers and sectors.
- Can your business offer coronavirus support?
The government has welcomed support from businesses who wish to offer their production facilities to help produce PPE where they can meet the required specifications for use by the NHS and care sector. If you think you might be able to help, follow the link above.
- Coronavirus Business Support Hub launched
A new Coronavirus Business Support Hub aims to bring together key information for businesses including on funding and support, business closures, responsibilities as an employer and managing your business during the outbreak of COVID-19. The hub also includes information for self-employed people and sole traders.
- Details of Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme published
A government-backed loan scheme for large businesses affected by coronavirus has been expanded to cover all viable firms, which could be applicable to clients. The scheme will be launched from Monday 20 April 2020.
- The impact of COVID-19 on HM Land Treasury
An update from HM Land Treasury on how they are delivering their services during the coronavirus outbreak.
- Planning Inspectorate COVID-19 Update
An update on how the Planning Inspectorate are working through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- COVID-19 mental health campaign launched
Public Health England’s (PHE) Every Mind Matters platform has launched new advice focused on looking after people’s mental wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
W/C 6 April 2020
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) extended
The government has announced it is extending the CBILS so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible should they need finance to keep operating during this difficult time. Further details are to be announced in the next few weeks.
- Social distancing in the workplace during COVID-19: sector guidance
The government has published updated guidance for employers in the construction sector on social distancing during COVID-19.
- HMRC COVID-19 Seminars
These HMRC videos provide an overview of the support available to help businesses, self-employed individuals and employers and their employees deal with the economic impact of COVID-19.
- New guidance on COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
In the Budget 2020, the Chancellor announced details about a new COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme. This scheme will allow small and medium sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to apply to HMRC to recover the costs of paying Statutory Sick Pay to their employees. HMRC has published new online guidance which includes information about who can use the scheme and the records employers must keep.
- Government support for exporters and investors
The Department for International Trade has outlined the support available to UK exporters and international investors. This comes after the news that UK businesses will now be eligible to secure export insurance cover to markets including the EU, US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland with immediate effect. Find out more here.
- New Term Funding for SMEs
The Bank of England has announced a new Term Funding Scheme with additional incentives for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises that will open for drawings on 15 April. This compliments other schemes announced by the Bank and HM Treasury that are designed to support households and businesses during the period of economic disruption, caused by the outbreak of COVID-19.
- Updates from the Regulator of Social Housing
The regulator's announcements in response to the outbreak will be updated on this page.
W/C 30 March 2020
- A letter from government to the construction sector
The government has written to everyone working in the construction sector with advice in regards to COVID-19. The letter states “to help ensure that it is safe for you to operate in your workplace, the industry has worked to develop Site Operating Procedures (SOP), which were published by the Construction Leadership Council. These align with the latest guidance from Public Health England. As this health guidance updates, the SOP will reflect any changes." Read the full letter here.
- Councils can now hold virtual planning meetings
A temporary amendment has been made to the 1972 Local Government Act to help authorities deal with the crisis caused by the Covid-19. All council meetings can now take place without members being in the same location and therefore continue over the weeks ahead of social distancing. The new rules will run until 7 May 2021, subject to Parliament approving the act’s renewal every six months.
- Insolvency law amended to help companies continue trading while they explore options for rescue
Government have announced they will make changes to enable UK companies undergoing a rescue or restructure process to continue trading, to help them avoid insolvency. This will include enabling companies to continue buying much-needed supplies (such as energy, raw materials or broadband), while attempting a rescue, and temporarily suspending wrongful trading provisions retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for three months for company directors so they can keep their businesses going without the threat of personal liability. Further information to follow.
- Small Business Grants Fund
Funds have been made available for councils in England to provide grants to small businesses – more than £12 billion has been provided as of 3 April 2020 and the government has made clear that this money must reach businesses as quickly as possible. This guidance sets out the details and eligibility criteria for the fund and will inform businesses about the operation and delivery of the funding scheme. Applies to England only.
W/C 23 March 2020
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan
This scheme will provide government-backed loans of up to £5 million to small and medium businesses.
- Covid Corporate Financing Facility
This facility is designed to support liquidity among larger firms, helping them to bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through the purchase of short-term debt in the form of commercial paper.
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme open to all UK employers for at least three months starting from 1 March 2020. The scheme should be in place by the end of April and is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by the virus. Guidance for employers has now been published.
- Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
This scheme will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by coronavirus. It will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
- Protection for commercial tenants
Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction. These measures will mean no business will be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment in the next 3 months.
- Gender pay gap reporting deadline suspended
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, government have taken the decision to suspend enforcement of the gender pay gap deadlines for this reporting year (2019/20). The decision means there will be no expectation on employers to report their data if they haven’t done so already.
- Businesses can apply for more time to file accounts
Businesses can now apply for a 3-month extension for filing their accounts with Companies House. Those affected by coronavirus must cite this in their application.
- Deferral of VAT payments due to coronavirus
Temporary changes have been made to the VAT payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 to help businesses manage their cash flow.
- Visas extended for those currently unable to return home due to COVID-19
Visa nationals who cannot return home due to the pandemic will be able to extend their visa. The extension will apply to anyone whose leave expired after the 24 January and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation. This will last until 31 May.
- Government launches Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp
The service will provide information on topics such as coronavirus prevention and symptoms, the latest number of cases in the UK, advice on staying at home, travel advice and myth busting.
- Ticket refunds for rail passengers
Government will temporarily suspend normal franchise agreements with rail operators and transfer all revenue and cost risk to the government for a limited period. Anyone holding an advance ticket will be able to refund it free of charge. All season ticket holders can claim a refund for time unused on their tickets free of administrative charges.
We will continue to update this page regularly as further details are announced.
Visit the RIBA's COVID-19 hub for regularly updated advice and guidance for architects.