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Coronavirus – Guidance for Businesses and Employees

Outside of the primary concerns of health risks posed by the outbreak of coronavirus, we’re aware that this is a hugely challenging time for businesses and their staff.
Peter Williams
Nicole Gordon
Deputy CEO

Outside of the primary concerns of health risks posed by the outbreak of coronavirus, we’re aware that this is a hugely challenging time for businesses and their staff. In order to help ensure you are fully informed, we have created this page to link you to the advice and guidance you may need for your business.

The Government has set out a package of temporary and targeted measures to support businesses through this period of disruption caused by the coronavirus including:

  • a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year
  • a £25,000 grant will also be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) and Rural Rates Relief
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional financial help
  • a statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

Support for businesses who pay business rates

The government is introducing a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. A £25,000 grant will also be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 (more detail above).

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to southwarkbusinessdesk [at]

For other businesses, while business rates instalments would be due in April and May, please be assured that if you are unable to pay Southwark Council will not be undertaking any recovery or enforcement activity for unpaid rates at this time.  They will keep this under review and encourage businesses to contact them at an appropriate time to revise payment terms.  

Cash grants for businesses will be awarded over the coming weeks and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is now open for applications - updated on 25 March 2020. See below.

Business grants

Business grants are now available for small businesses covered by the two schemes recently announced by the Chancellor listed above. The small business grant provides any business that is receiving small business rate relief with a cash grant of £10,000. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to business currently eligible for SBRR (Small Business Rates Relief) or Rural Rate Relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs. 

The retail, hospitality and leisure grant provides businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant. Businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of under £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000 per property and businesses with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000 per property.

Southwark Council are already making grants to eligible small businesses where they have the business’s bank account details. Payments should arrive in accounts from this Friday 27 March. 

If you believe you are eligible for a grant, please provide your business bank account details securely by entering them here. Southwark Council will then undertake any necessary checks before they begin payments. Qualifying businesses will receive payment directly by bank transfer.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is now open for applications. The scheme supports a wide range of business finance products and can provide smaller businesses with loans of up to £5 million, with no interest for the first 12 months. The scheme provides the lender with a government backed guarantee of 80% of the loan and there is no fee for businesses accessing the scheme.

Businesses can access the scheme through participating lenders.  You can find out more information about the scheme, eligibility criteria and how to apply on the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme website.

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

The Government is bringing forward emergency legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible - the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note

The eligibility period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force. The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.

Guidance for those who are self-employed

Local authorities are continuing to seek clarity from the government on support available to those who are self-employed, but these current measures are in place

- Income tax deferral to January 2021 – this will happen automatically and no application is required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

- HMRC Time to Pay scheme – support is available to all firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of COVID-19 and have outstanding tax liabilities. To access this support, please call HMRC’s helpline: 0800 0159 559.

You can claim Universal Credit if you are self-employed, providing you meet the usual eligibility criteria. From 6 April, the government will relax the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor for the duration of the outbreak. New claimants will not need to attend the job centre to demonstrate gainful self-employment.  You can find more information in the government’s guidance on self-employment and Universal Credit

Support organisations are advising anyone who thinks they may need to apply for Universal Credit to do so as early as possible.

Free advertising in Southwark News

To support local businesses, Southwark News is offering free digital advertising during the outbreak. You can find out more on the Southwark News website and get in contact at ads [at]

Support for businesses paying tax

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.


Businesses should check with their insurance provider if they are covered. Many businesses are unlikely to be covered as most business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property, which will exclude pandemics. Some businesses may have purchased a specific add on relating to notifiable diseases, but some of these will still specify damage to the building. Some businesses may have purchased supply chain or denial of access cover which may meet their needs in this case.

Social distancing measures and closure of businesses

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 23 March, guidance has been issued detailing all businesses that are to close. In addition, all employees are now expected to work from home, unless they are essential workers.

Essential businesses that are permitted to remain open must:

- Ensure a distance of two metres between customers and shop assistants

- Only allow people to enter the shop in small groups to ensure that spaces are not crowded

- Apply queue control outside the premises

For the latest information and advice, employers and business owners should regularly visit the guidance for employers and businesses page on the government website

ACAS have also published information for employees and employers including information on simple steps to help protect the health and safety of staff, sick pay and absence from work.

Southwark Council will be updating on Government measures and how schemes will be managed through local authorities. You can also email them with any concerns, questions or feedback on how this is affecting your business at southwarkbusinessdesk [at]   

London Growth hub have published support or businesses here.

Better Bankside services

The Better Bankside team can be contacted via email, as always, do get in touch if there is anything more we can be doing to support your business. We will keep this page updated with new information. You can also follow @BetterBankside on twitter.

If you are considering applying for government relief and would like help with completing the application, do get in touch.

Currently, our responsive street cleansing team continue to maintain high standards throughout the neighbourhood, and our recycling service remains fully operational. Working with our partners we have put in place additional safeguards to protect the teams delivering these valued services.

If you are using our recycling contractor, Paper Round and your business has a reduced requirement for waste collections as a result of remote working, you can contact the Paper Round helpdesk on 020 7407 9100 to update them on your requirements.

Due to the current Government advice, Southwark Council have taken the decision to stand down the Wardens for a period of three weeks (from 26/03/29) so they will no longer be patrolling the area. However, we are in touch with the local neighbourhood police team and they are continuing to patrol to provide a highly visible presence in the area. They have been visiting businesses to provide advise and support. 

We've been receiving updates from the Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade about keeping empty offices/premises protected, policing in the neighbourhood and fire safety and prevention. Read through the guidance here.

Following Government advice to avoid gatherings and unnecessary contact, all events due to take place this month have been postponed and will be rescheduled at an appropriate time. We will continue to review the evolving situation with regards to the calendar beyond April. We look forward to welcoming you again soon. 

If you're a restaurant, cultural attraction, shop, or gym and have online content/services/products we can help promote, please get in touch with Josie Clarke at jc [at]

Most importantly, we hope you all stay safe and well.

Thank you in advance for your ongoing support.



Created Mar 18 2020