COVID-19 Government Support for Businesses and Employees

As of 18 March, 2020

These are the temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this challenging period. Please watch the updates, we will provide new information, very frequently as well as easy to understand, mini glossaries in the bottom to help you with the special terms. We hope you will find it helpful.

The Government supports businesses including:

  • a sick pay relief package for Small and Medium Businesses (SMEs) with up to 250 employees.
  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme
  • IR35 changes has been delayed until April 2021

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

Small- and medium-sized businesses and employers will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The criteria are:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • Small and Medium-sized companies 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 employees who has claimed SSP (and fulfilling the criteria) due to COVID-19
  • providing you maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a General Practitioner fit note
  • the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

HMRC advice for employees

HMRC advises employees to stay home if they have COVID-19 infection symptoms even if very mild, for 7 days. Government is clear that employers should support their staff’s welfare, especially during an extended response.

By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness (employees can self-certify). After 7 days, to make it easier for people to provide evidence to their employer that they need to stay at home, we are developing an alternative form of evidence to the fit note. These will shortly be available through NHS111, online.

HMRC expects employers to show flexibility in the evidence they require from employees.

Statutory Sick Pay will be paid from day 1 instead of day 4 for those affected by coronavirus.

Mortgage holiday

Three months mortgage payments holiday are available to those who are struggling with the mortgage repayments. Please contact your lender directly to apply.

Other contributions

Of course, many self-employed people cannot claim SSP as detailed above, for those who can’t, the government will make it quicker and easier to request and receive ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit.

The government will also be temporarily relaxing the requirements of the minimum income limit in Universal Credit for those directly affected or self-isolating according to government advice for the duration of this situation.

Support for businesses paying business rates

The government will introduce a business rates retail holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

A grant of £25,000 will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. Guidance will be published by 20 March.

Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates

Funding will be available for local authorities to support small businesses – which do not have a turnover of more than £10.2 million, a balance sheet total of more than £5.1 million and does not have more than 50 employees- that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief.

If this support is applicable to your business, you will be contacted by your local authority – no need to apply.

Funding for the scheme will be provided to the local councils by government in early April. Local authorities will be provided with guidance, shortly.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

This new loan scheme delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch next week to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts with a guarantee of 80% on each loan in the sphere of SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises). The Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million. Government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments, therefore the first 6 months of that finance is interest free.

Support for businesses with outstanding tax liabilities

This support is aimed at businesses and self-employed in financial distress, who may be eligible to receive support with their tax through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. Normally HMRC will want to be paid by direct debit. The maximum timescale allowed for doing this will normally be 12 months. Time to pay of over 12 months will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances. 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.


If your business has cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to make a claim, from 17 March 2020.

Check the terms and conditions of your specific policy and contact your providers. For the majority of UK businesses standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.


Balance sheet: is a summary of the financial balances of an individual or organization

Business rates: a tax on the occupation of non-domestic property. This is the equivalent of council tax in the private sector.

Employment and Support Allowance: is a United Kingdom welfare payment for adults younger than the State Pension age who are having difficulty finding work because of their long-term medical condition or a disability. It is a basic income-replacement benefit.

Rural rate relief: This can be awarded to the only post office, the only general store, the only public house, the only petrol filling station, or a food shop in a ‘designated rural settlement’ and it is a tax relief on the properties of that business, like if a private person wouldn’t have to pay council tax on their property.

Sick Pay Relief: You can get £94.25 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work. This will rise to £95.85 per week after the 6th April 2020. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks. If you’re self-isolating because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you can get SSP if you’re eligible. You should tell your employer as soon as possible.

Small business rate relief: you are eligible if your property’s rateable value is less than £15,000. your business only uses one property – you may still be able to get relief if you use more. Full relief is available on properties with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.

Universal Credit: is a benefit for working-age people, replacing six benefits and combining them into one payment: income support. (Includes e.g. housing benefit, job seeker’s, etc.)