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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.
Nicole Gordon

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 Job Retention Scheme
  • 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
  • bounce back loans for small businesses
  • a statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme
  • a support package for charities

Business rates relief and grants

The government has introduced a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. The council will apply rates relief automatically. Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to southwarkbusinessdesk [at], or you can see a list of eligible businesses here on the government website.

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.  

Grants are now available for businesses that get Small Business Rates Relief, and for small businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector:

  • Businesses in receipt  of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) will receive a cash grant of £10,000
  • Retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of under £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000 per property
  • Retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000 per property

The council will make grant payments directly to all eligible businesses.

If you are eligible for a grant payment but haven't received it automatically, Southwark Council are asking businesses to provide their bank account details securely using the council’s business grant request form

Job Retention Scheme

The chancellor has announced the furlough scheme is to be extended until the end of October. After July, employers will be asked to contribute financially. 

The government’s Job Retention Scheme allows businesses to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salaries while they are on temporary leave (furlough). Employers can claim 80% of furloughed employees’ usual monthly wages, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions. Payments can be backdated to 1 March 2020. Businesses can expect payment within 6 working days of the claim. More here.

Guidance for those who are self-employed

Self-employed individuals whose business has been adversely affected by coronavirus are now able to apply for a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant, worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500, paid in a single instalment. Check if you are eligible here.

You can claim Universal Credit if you are self-employed, providing you meet the usual eligibility criteria. From 6 April, the government relaxed 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.

HMRC has updated its advice for businesses and individuals affected by coronavirus to make clear that the six-month income tax self assessment deferral for payments due in July applies to all taxpayers, and not just those who are self-employed.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is 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.

On 2 April changes to the scheme were announced to enable more businesses to access financial support during the lockdown. Previously, government-backed loans for small businesses were only available to firms that had been turned down for a commercial loan from their bank, but this is no longer the case. Larger businesses will also be eligible for more help with government-backed loans of up to £25m for firms with revenues of between £45m and £500m.

Bounce Back loans for small businesses

The Chancellor has announced a new loans scheme which will allow small businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 and access the cash within days. Loans will be interest free for the first 12 months, businesses can apply online through a short and simple form. More on this scheme here. 

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.

Support for charities

On Wednesday 8 April, the Chancellor announced a new package of funding for charities including:

  • £750 million pot for frontline charities across the UK – including hospices and those supporting domestic abuse victims
  • £360 million direct from government departments and £370 million for smaller charities

Government will match donations to the National Emergencies Trust as part of the BBC’s Big Night In fundraiser later this month – pledging a minimum of £20 million

More information here.

Deferral of VAT payments

If you are a UK VAT registered business and have a VAT payment due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, you have the option to defer the payment until a later date or pay the VAT due as normal. Over 10,000 businesses have already successfully applied for the extension. Companies will also temporarily be extended greater flexibilities, including holding AGMs online or postponing the meetings.

More information here 

Southwark Council Business Hardship Fund 

Small businesses that have been unable to access government support may be eligible to receive a grant of up to £10,000 through Southwark Council's Business Hardship Fund. APPLICATIONS NOW CLOSED, SOUTHWARK COUNCIL ARE IN THE PROCESS OF AWARDING GRANTS.

More information here.

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, or see more information here.


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.

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.

The Culture at Risk team at the GLA have set up resources available for London’s night-time economy and culture and creative industries.

Better Bankside services

As always, do ng [at] (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 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 crisis situation, Southwark Council have taken the decision redeploy the Wardens to carry our critical Covid-19 related tasks across the borough, including delivering PPE. 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 advice 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 have been postponed and will be rescheduled at an appropriate time. We will continue to review the evolving situation and 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 Nicole Gordon at ng [at]

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

Thank you in advance for your ongoing support.



Created Mar 18 2020