COVID-19 Business Support Update
As we emerge slowly from lockdown, now is a good time to “take stock” of things and look ahead to how we can run our businesses in the so-called “New Normal” environment we face.
It seems reasonably certain that some form of social distancing will remain, and many businesses are adopting new ways of working within the rules. The Government has published guidance to assist employers: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
We suggest you keep reviewing these guidelines as they are amended frequently. It will be best practice to undertake a risk assessment taking into account the Government guidance to provide protection for the employer as well as the employee. For those businesses who may need to invest in protective screens, one of our manufacturing clients has pivoted their business to produce these, so let us know and we can connect you.
Update on business support
The previously reported Government support schemes continue.
The Job Retention scheme has been extended until October, although we are not yet sure what percentage of support the Government will provide post July and whether it will contain more flexibility; e.g. part furlough arrangements and no minimum 3-week period. We will let you know as further details emerge.
Self-employed income support grants are now open for applicants on-line and we have no confirmation yet as to whether the Government will extend the scheme. If they do, we will provide you with further information. We are not able to process claims for our clients due to HMRC restrictions on this, but the system calculates your entitlement for you based on an average of your last 3 year’s self-employed profits on your tax returns. We have already had some clients querying their calculation, especially those with a short timeline of being self-employed as the calculation often brings in the first year of self-employment when profits can be quite low.
The online service you will use to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for employees taking sick leave due to COVID-19 (or self-isolating) will be available from 26 May 2020. See: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-back-statutory-sick-pay-paid-to-employees-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19
We still await further details to be published around the discretionary SME grant fund devised to support businesses who did not qualify for the original scheme. This will be administered by Local Authorities and we will keep you informed of further announcements about the scheme when nearby Local Authorities provide further guidance.
Bounce back and CBILS loans remain available to businesses. The former has the benefit of being 100% guaranteed by the Government with no capital or interest to pay in the first year, with a maximum loan of the lower of £50,000 or 25% of revenue. We have had several clients in contact with us who were unsure whether to apply. Our advice would be that if you are in any doubt about requiring the funds you should make an application. If the funds do not end up being needed you can repay them at no cost in the next 12 months or potentially utilise them to refinance other, more expensive, borrowings or utilise to fund further business growth.
Just a reminder that you can find out what Government support schemes are available here: https://www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder
It is worth checking to ensure you have applied for all that you are entitled to and giving us a call if you need any advice. Also remember the mortgage holiday scheme has been extended if you need to use it.
Key points to consider right now
The reality of the situation is that not all businesses are going to survive despite the Government’s support schemes. If your customers are in isolation and cannot get to you or you cannot deliver or they cannot pay you, there is the reality of reduced or no sales for the next few months and even beyond if the virus remains.
It is worth remembering that the situation we face is one we cannot change. What you can do is stay healthy and help ensure your loved ones do too. After all, if the business closes and you are healthy you can start again, whilst of course the reverse may not be true.
Many businesses are re-purposing or pivoting their operations and are adapting to the new ways of doing things. We are helping some with digital bookkeeping and forecasting with “What if” scenarios so they can look at all possible outcomes.
We suggest you focus on the following as we start to emerge from this crisis:
• Stay healthy, follow the Government guidelines for you, your family, co-workers, employees and community. Continue to work from home where you can.
• Complete a risk assessment, taking into account government guidelines to ensure your business is following best practice in keeping you and your people safe.
• Plan based on what you think your business will look like in six months’ time. The best way to predict your future is to create it.
• If you have been affected and workload has reduced, take time out to work on your business rather than in your business. Get some key actions down on paper.
• Estimate your cash flow over the next six months – we can help, if required.
• Once you have a grasp on your figures and you consider you have a “viable” business (can you survive for the next six months?). Perhaps get your members of staff involved in a discussion of likely trading conditions and get their input on reducing costs and maintaining revenues.
• Review your list of products and services and eliminate those that are unprofitable or not core products/services.
• Get rid of customers who will not pay.
• Review your debtors list and chase up overdue invoices – at this point cash is king.
• Offer existing debtors extended payment terms and/or discounts, if necessary and they are a customer you want to keep in the long term.
• Agree extended payment terms with suppliers wherever you can.
• Put extra effort into making sure your relationships with your better customers are solid.
• If you unfortunately decide your business is not viable – talk to us and we will run through the options. There are additional protections in place for businesses with solvency issues.
In conclusion, as we enter a new phase in this crisis you need to maintain your health and welfare as well as planning for getting your business back on track. We are delighted we have not yet had to have difficult conversations with any of our clients about their future viability and long may this continue.