Coronavirus Business Support & Information


Coronavirus (COVID-19) business support and information

Updated: 15/06/2020

The current business environment is understandably a challenging one for our local businesses and their staff. We recognise and understand that coronavirus is likely to be causing concern and possible disruption to businesses of all sizes for the foreseeable future.

This page contains information and links to the latest developments on business support from the UK Government. We have broken down the business support announcements, as well as added links to more general business support, such as contingency planning blogs.

Information on this page is being check daily, however with developments moving so quickly, if you are unsure of anything please contact us directly.

As always, SEMLEP’s Growth Hub Business Support team is ready to help. We are available to contact on the information below. We are happy to help businesses at this time with our free service. If you need further clarification and support on any of the information below or have a question about coronavirus and your business, please contact our business support team:


Join one of our upcoming webinars:

  • 18 June 2020, Connected Networking: Lessons Learnt, book here

Catch up on the business support webinars we have been running, detailing and answering questions on some of the Government support schemes, including:

  • Coronavirus Business Interruptions Loan Scheme (CBILs)
  • Job Retention Scheme (Furlough)
  • Cashflow
  • Smart ways to manage remote teams
  • Employee wellbeing and engagement during a pandemic
  • Adapting your supply chains during a pandemic: imports and exports
  • Driving innovations and understanding the financial support available
  • Remote leadership: Planning for the future
  • How to sell remotely
  • Working safely during the coronavirus outbreak

If you missed them, you can watch the recordings here.

SEMLEP’s Growth Hub teams up with Cranfield University on six-month Business Response Programme

We have partnered with Cranfield University on a new Business Response Programme designed to help SME owner-managers to understand and process the challenges they are facing with COVID-19.

Experts from Cranfield University’s School of Management, with advisers from SEMLEP’s Growth Hub, will support you to update your business strategy and adapt to the current climate. You will receive business counselling, as well access to the programme’s peer to peer network, to get your businesses ready for bounce back, and re-growth. Learn more here.

The government has announced a package of measures to support businesses, including the below.

See also the government’s Coronavirus Business Support homepage. This page helps businesses find out how to access the support that has been made available, who is eligible, when the schemes open and how to apply.

Bounce back loans
Following the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement, the Bounce Back Loan Scheme is now open for applications. Delivered by lenders accredited by the British Business Bank for this scheme, Bounce Back Loans target small and micro businesses in all sectors, providing loans from £2k up to 25% of the business’ turnover with a maximum loan of £50k. Providing lenders with a 100% government-backed guarantee and standardising the application form is expected to lead to a faster process with many loans becoming available within days. Find out more about the announcement here. 

Apply for the coronavirus Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund
A discretionary fund has been set up to accommodate certain small businesses previously outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme. To find out more about what your local authority is doing, click here.

Local authority delivered grants and support
Support from local authorities will take the form of two grant funding schemes, the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund, and a 12-month business rates holiday.

Check with your local authority if you are eligible and if you need to apply here.

Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF)
Additional funding to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBRR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. This grant will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF)
Under the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG) eligible businesses in England in receipt of the Expanded Retail Discount (which covers retail, hospitality and leisure) with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for a cash grants of £10,000 or £25,000 per property.

Read the Government guidance documentation on the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF).

Business Rates Holiday for Retail, Hospitality and Leisure
Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year. More information here. 

For the three above schemes, check with your local authority if you are eligible and if you need to apply here.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme (CBILS)

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), offering loans of up to £5 million to SMEs, managed by the British Business Bank is now available through participating lenders. Find out who the lenders are and more about the scheme here.

Coronavirus Job Retention SchemeFrom 1 July, employers can bring back to work employees that have previously been furloughed for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant for their normal hours not worked. When claiming the grant for furloughed hours employers will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week.

Further guidance on flexible furloughing and how employers should calculate claims has been published and can be found here.

Support for business paying tax through HMRC’s Time to Pay service
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.

Statutory sick pay relief package
Small and medium-sized businesses who employ fewer than 250 employees as of 28th February 2020 will be eligible to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. A rebate scheme is being developed. Further details will be provided in due course, check here for updates. 

Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
Government will support businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for three months. For VAT, the deferral will apply from 20th March 2020 until 30th June 2020.

COVID-19 Corporate Finance Facility – support for larger firms
This will support your company if it has been affected by a short-term funding squeeze, and allow you to finance your short-term liabilities. It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.
The scheme is now open, find out more here.

Coronavirus Future Fund
This scheme will issue convertible loans to UK-based innovation companies which are facing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak, ranging from £125,000 to £5 million. The loans are subject to at lease equal match funding from private investors. The scheme will launch in May 2020, find out more here.

Applying for more time to file your company’s account
Companies House have announced that businesses will be given an additional three months to file accounts to help companies avoid penalties as they deal with the impacts of COVID-19.

Companies will still have to apply for the three month extension to be granted, however, those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take just 15 minutes to complete. Full guidance can be found here.

Self-assessment payments deferred until January 2021
The Self-Assessment payment can be deferred until January 2021.  This is automatic with no applications required.

Announcement from the government relating to rent collection on business premises here.

Travel guidance for employees

To support businesses with employees returning to work from the Monday 15th June, the Department for Transport has developed resources for employers, which you can find here.

The above sets out some steps employers can take to help provide a safe return to work for employees on the transport network, including encouraging active travel, and travel outside peak hours.

Working safely during coronavirus

This guidance, released on 11th May, is to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic. There are eight guides covering a range of different types of work. Read the guides here.
Trading Internationally?

Read the guidance here if you are a UK business trading internationally. The advice is for UK businesses that export or deliver goods and services abroad and have been impacted by the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Additional guidance on social distancing in the workplace
To support businesses that remain open during this period in England, the government has published additional guidance to assist employers, businesses and their staff in staying open safely during coronavirus (COVID-19). For specific settings please refer to sector-specific guidance. Guidance has been published for:

These guidelines are not intended to be comprehensive or to represent every business’s situation but are illustrative examples. Businesses should also look at the advice being published by trade associations and similar groups on how to apply government guidance in their sector

Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19.  Find out more here.

Self-assessment payments deferred until January 2021

If you’re self-employed, Income Tax Self-Assessment due on the 31st July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

How to access the scheme?

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return. Find out more.

Claiming Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance

Those who are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), for example, the self-employed or people earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week, can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance. More details on how to claim can be found here.

Changes to Universal Credit for self-employed people

The government has temporarily changed the way they work out Universal Credit for self-employed people on low incomes. It has suspended the Minimum Income Floor for Universal Credit, meaning self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.

Call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 for more information or view the government’s webpage on self-employment and Universal Credit.

If you want to know how COVID-19 affects the Minimum Income Floor, you can read the latest information about COVID-19 and claiming benefits, including Universal Credit.

Tax relief support through HMRC’s Time To Pay service

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.

IR35: Off-payroll working rules reforms postponed until 2021

Reforms to off-payroll working rules have been delayed by 12 months as part of the government’s Covid-19 economic response package. The rules will now come into effect on 6th April 2021 instead of 6th April 2020. More information can be found here.

The Prince’s Trust and NatWest Enterprise Relief Fund

The £5million Enterprise Relief Fund will offer grants to 18 to 30-year olds across the UK who are self-employed and/or running their own business. In conjunction with cash grants, the initiative will offer one-to-one support and guidance to anyone who needs it and who may be worried about their future. More information about the programme can be found here.


Mental Health and Wellbeing
With everything happening in the world we have produced a guide that offers businesses support and guidance, by signposting the best resources to help you manage this important issue during the crisis. This resource can be used by both employers and individuals and can be found here. 

Get up to date information and guidance on how to support colleagues from the ACAS information on coronavirus. ACAS are the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. An independent public body that receives funding from government, they work with employers and employees to provide free and impartial advice on:

  • employment rights
  • best practice and policies
  • resolving workplace conflict

What to do if an employee needs time off work to look after someone: Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a ‘dependant’) in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP): Those who follow advice to stay at home and who cannot work as a result will be eligible for SSP, even if they are not themselves sick. Employers should use their discretion and respect the medical need to self-isolate in making decisions about sick pay.

Anyone not eligible to receive sick pay, including those earning less than an average of £118 per week, some of those working in the gig economy, or self-employed people, are able to claim Universal Credit and or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

For those on a low income and already claiming Universal Credit, it is designed to automatically adjust depending on people’s earnings or other income. However, if someone needs money urgently they can apply for an advance through the journal.

Certifying absence from work: By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, employers may use their discretion around the need for medical evidence if an employee is staying at home.

The government is strongly encouraging employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to stay at home either as they are unwell themselves, or live with someone who is, in accordance with the public health advice issued by the government.

ACAS have more information on coronavirus and can help with specific queries by phone.

This guidance, for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations, outlines the changes that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is making to the apprenticeship programme during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Futures: National Careers Service Support
Business support: Futures are working with both businesses in SEMLEP looking to manage, motivate and support their workforce and individuals affected by the current crisis to get back in to work and training.

If you are a business that could benefit from support with recruitment, redundancy and training plus much more, find out how to get in touch here. 

To talk to our business advisers about this support contact Futures for Business on 0345 850 8899.

Individual support: Have you lost your job, been made redundant or are worrying about reduced hours? Futures Careers Coaches are still offering the same level of support and will work with you to find and apply for work over the phone, by video chat or email – whichever works best for you. Their support is completely tailored to what you need. Find out what support you could get here. 

To arrange a time to talk to one of Futures careers coaches visit:, email or call 0800 917 9419.

Offer coronavirus (COVID-19) support from your business

See if your businesses can help the efforts in the response to coronavirus by using this tool on the Government website.  The support needed includes things like:

  • medical testing equipment
  • medical equipment design
  • protective equipment for healthcare workers, such as masks, gowns and sanitiser
  • hotel rooms
  • transport and logistics, for moving goods or people
  • manufacturing equipment
  • warehouse or office space, for medical use or storage
  • expertise or support on IT, manufacturing, construction, project management, procurement, engineering or communications
  • social care or childcare

Limiting the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in business and workplaces 

Businesses and employers can help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by reminding everyone of the public health advice. Posters, leaflets and other materials are available.

Employees and customers should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently than normal.

Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products.

This is a difficult time for apprentices, employers and providers of apprenticeship training, assessment and external assurance. The government is committed to supporting apprentices, and employers continue to build the skills capabilities the country needs now and in the future.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is responding by taking steps to ensure that, wherever possible, apprentices can continue and complete their apprenticeship, despite any break they need to take as a result of COVID-19, and to support providers during this challenging time.

The support includes:

  • encouraging training providers to deliver training to apprentices remotely, and via e-learning, as far as is practicable
  • allowing the modification of end-point assessment arrangements, including remote assessments wherever practicable and possible
  • clarifying that apprentices ready for assessment, but who cannot be assessed due to COVID-19 issues, can have their end-point assessment rescheduled
  • apprentices whose gateway is delayed can have an extension to the assessment time frame
  • enabling employers and training providers to report and initiate a break in learning, where the interruption to learning due to COVID-19 is greater than 4 weeks
  • recording breaks in learning so that funding is not unnecessarily disrupted. Get further guidance here.
  • confirming that, where apprentices are made redundant, it is the ambition to find them alternative employment and continue their apprenticeship as quickly as possible and within 12 weeks

More information can be found here and guidance from the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE) on the delivery of assessment here.

If you are confused about any of the above information or would benefit from speaking to a business adviser, please call us on: 0300 01234 35

Business Support Outside of Government

The Government is working closely with Business Representative Organisations and Trade Associations to support the national response to coronavirus, including ensuring messages from Government are heard by all businesses and that business voices are heard by Government. View the list of organisations you can speak with to get advice. Many of these websites also include sector specific guidance and Q&A.

Accelerating Leadership & Productivity in High Ambition SMEs
Local universities have joined together to deliver Alphas, a programme to help SMEs to think about their businesses post COVID-19. The programme offers consultancy, people and grant funding. Find out more and register here.

Support for food and drink manufacturers 
If your food and drink manufacturing business has had to diversify as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, FEAST2 can help. The fully-funded programme offers a range of services to food and drink manufactures including grant funding and business mentoring. Find out more. 

Manufacturing Growth Programme
The Manufacturing Growth Programme is still working to support manufacturing businesses. They have many business improvement projects to choose and can support with grant funding. This can be done remotely. Find out more here.

Silverstone Technology Cluster webinar resource
The Silverstone Technology Cluster has been established as a not-for-profit organisation to support the growth of the high-tech cluster and attract investment to the region. They have a range of webinar content available to view on their YouTube Channel, including topics on engineering, technology and response videos to coronavirus. Watch here. 

Automotive sector business support

SMMT is bringing together sector leaders to provide information and practical advice to the automotive sector. Listen to their latest webinars and sign up for their weekly bulletin. Covid-19 Automotive business support  

Aerospace sector business support

ADS has set up a Coronavirus Hub, containing aerospace-focused guidance and support webinars on topics ranging from cyber security to scenario planning. ADS Coronavirus Hub

Enterprise Nation and Salesforce small business grants
To support small businesses and give back to the community, Salesforce and Enterprise Nation have partnered to offer eligible small businesses the opportunity to receive a £5,000 grant to help them through the COVID-19 outbreak. Find out more. Applications open 1 June. *Eligibility applies

Ever wanted to learn a new skill or develop your knowledge? We’ve collated a list of online course available in the South East Midlands. These distance learning courses range from childcare to logistics, run by local colleges, universities and other training providers. See the list here.

Has your job been affected by the coronavirus pandemic? If so, click here to access employment resources, guidance and support. 

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