COVID-19 Advice For Small Businesses

Small Business Coronavirus Pandemic Advice

Businesses are finding themselves in an unprecedented situation with regards to the coronavirus pandemic. The inevitable economic recession is hard to anticipate due to the nature of this particular virus and we’re not yet sure when we’ll be back to ‘business as usual’. That’s why it’s so important to plan for your business’ short, medium and long term survival at this time.

Many small, independent businesses have been forced to close temporarily and must access the Government’s support schemes to stay afloat, in addition many staff have been furloughed too. Even if you’re a business director and have furloughed yourself you are still allowed to carry out essential business administrative activities. This includes conducting business with your accounting team who may be able to suggest specific financial methods to help your business at this time.

We’re receiving updates and refinements to the support on offer on a daily basis and our team are hard at work taking calls and emails from our clients. Please do keep in contact with us so we can assist you in whatever way possible.

Understandably many small businesses have the same concerns right now, you may find some of the answers you’re looking for on this page – but please feel free to contact us for specific guidance.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

A step-by-step guide to furloughing employees and claiming CJRS grants from the government.

Small to Medium Business Grants

Read all of the information on the latest grants offered to businesses negatively effected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Small to Medium Business Loans

Detailing the government backed loans available to small to medium businesses in the UK

Latest Updates

29/05/2020 – Rishi Sunak announces planned changes to the furlough scheme. Aug: employers to pay NI and pension contributions. Oct: employers to pay 20% of salary / gov 60% of salary.

25/05/2020 – Non-Essential retail may open from 15th June subject to coronavirus levels in the UK

12/05/2020 – Furlough scheme extended until the end of October

20/04/2020 – The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Portal is now open – claim by 22nd April to receive funds by 30th April

17/04/2020 – Employee furlough scheme extended until the end of June.

15/04/2020 –  Furlough start date extended to 19th March.

12/04/2020 – Only 1.4% of business loans approved out of 300,000+ applied for.

08/04/2020 – Rishi Sunak announced £750 million in funding for charities – more on this link.

01/04/2020 – Don’t forget to cancel your VAT direct debit if you wish to take advantage of the VAT deferral scheme.


Are any of the government grants open to my business?

On the 19th March the government announced two grants that would be applicable to certain small businesses:

  1. The Small Business Grant Fund applies to all businesses who receive either Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) or Rural Rates Relief (RRR), these businesses will be eligible for a payment of £10,000
  2. The Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant applies to businesses in England which would have been in receipt of the Expanded Retail Discount and have a rateable value of less that £51,000. Those Businesses with a rateable value up to and including £15,000 will receive £10,000 and those with a rateable value of over £15,000 but below £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000

The local authorities are responsible for the distribution of these grants and most businesses have now been contacted if they qualify. If you believe you should be in receipt of either of these grants but have not received communications to that effect, please contact your local authority who should be able to help.

How do I furlough my staff members and/or myself?

Furloughing a staff member is quite simple really, but there are certain documents and procedures you’ll need to follow.

You should initially discuss your decisions with the staff member/s in question individually, then issue them a letter which they should sign and return for your records. We’ve provided a letter template here in our blog along with more information about the process you should follow.

Remember as a director or company owner you can also furlough yourself. You will be allowed to carry out essential business roles such as running payroll and paying business tax, rent, utilities, etc… But you should not be performing any profit-making business activities.

Download our quick guide to furloughing your staff here:


Can I furlough someone on a zero hour contract (gig worker)?

You can only claim for furloughed employees that were employed on 19 March 2020 and who were on your PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. This means an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before 19 March 2020.

Their 80% furlough amount will be based on an average salary calculation. Use the tools mentioned on our infographic to work out how much you may claim for furloughed staff.


Should I defer my VAT payments?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. If it would benefit your business to defer then that is a business decision you may decide to make – but remember VAT will need to be paid by the end of the 2020-2021 financial year, so you will need to plan for this eventuality. VAT returns must still be filed as usual, only payment will be deferred.

Remember to cancel any VAT direct debit you may have set up if you wish to defer your VAT.

What can I do to keep my business going if I must stay closed long term?

Unfortunately for many businesses long term closure is a real threat. Your only option will be to diversify into a business that can adapt to the current demand for products or services – which is vastly different in our current climate.

Examples of diversification could be:

  • Restaurants can diversify to take advantage of the takeaway market – they may also decide to sell niche produce via their food and drink suppliers (remember not to sell alcohol without an off-licence!)
  • Retail shops can diversify into online shops via a website. A simple Wix/Shopify/WordPress can be quick to set up and effective, especially if you have a local customer base.
  • Any business with a van can diversify into the home delivery market which has seen a surge in requirements.

My business is still running but money coming in has dramatically reduced - what should I do?

If your business is running but income has reduced there are a variety of steps you could take to try and balance thins out in the short, medium or long term. Short term you can consider furloughing staff members to reduce your outgoings. Medium term you can try to offer a more diverse variety of services / products. Longer term you can diversify into other business areas or methods.

You business may also be able to access government grants to assist with utility and rent payments, or a business loan. Find out more about these options here.

What about SSP, maternity pay, etc...

SSP, maternity pay and contractual benefits should still apply no. The government will still be funding these as usual. It was announced in MArch that SSP will be applicable from day one when related to COVID-19 (confirmed or suspected). The government is also offering a refund of 14 days worth of SSP for employee absences which have been due to COVID-19 (confirmed or suspected) in the past.

Useful Links

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Contacting Us

We’re here for you. We are of course experiencing unprecedented levels of contact from our valued clients, but we are working hard to get in touch with everyone as quickly as possible. While we’re operating a skeleton staff in our Manchester and Stockport offices, all other staff are working from home and we are still fully operational. So please contact us via the usual phone numbers and email addresses, or you can complete this contact form.

Call Stockport: 0161 477 6789
Call Manchester: 0161 336 2222
Call London: 0203 174 1436

We’re also looking to keep you up to date as efficiently as possible. We have begun sending important email updates to all clients:

  • if you’re a client and you’re not receiving these communications please sign up here
  • if you’re not a client but you’d like to receive our marketing updates, including COVID-19 advice, please sign up here