This page will be updated with information, guidance and advice from the Government, NHS and other relevant authorities regarding the steps individuals, groups and businesses can take to prevent the spread of disease or if they suspect they may be infected.
COVID-19 is an illness that can affect your lungs and airways and is caused by a virus called coronavirus. It is now clear that this will be one of the greatest challenges of our generation, and something that will only be overcome through community perseverance – with every individual taking the necessary steps to prevent the spread and protect our most vulnerable.
All Government guidance and support on COVID-19 can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Frequently Asked Questions about what you can and cannot do under current guidelines can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do
If you have specific queries or concerns, please do not hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will endeavour to answer them as quickly as possible.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19: National Lockdown
The Prime Minister announced a new national lockdown in January. Since then, our collective efforts, and our world leading vaccination programme, have successfully reduced the virus' prevalence, as well as hospitalisations and fatalities. That said, we must not let our guard slip, and we must continue to all work together to abide by the rules and prevent this progress from being undone - the numbers of new patients has thankfully fallen, but our hospitals remain under real pressure. We must protect them and their staff.
The vaccination programme has been progressing rapidly and we are now in a position to look forward to emerging from this pandemic. The Prime Minister has set out a plan for how this will be achieved, starting with the return of pupils to schools on March 8th. This will be followed by a gradual relaxation of measures over the following months, full details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-spring-2021/covid-19-response-spring-2021-summary
For the meantime, the measures introduced in January continue to apply and are outlined below.
Summary: what you can and cannot do
You must stay at home. The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
You should follow this guidance immediately. This is the law.
You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:
- shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
- go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
- exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
- meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
- seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
- attend education or childcare - for those eligible
If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local - unless it is necessary to go further, for example to go to work. Stay local means stay in the village, town, or part of the city where you live.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. You should not attend work
You cannot leave your home to meet socially with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with (if you are legally permitted to form one).
You may exercise on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
You cannot meet other people you do not live with, or have not formed a support bubble with, unless for a permitted reason.
Stay 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household.
Colleges, primary and secondary schools will remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until February half term.
Early years settings remain open.
Higher Education provision will remain online until mid February for all except future critical worker courses.
Who this guidance is for
This guidance is for people who are fit and well. There is additional advice for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus and households with a possible or confirmed coronavirus infection. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should follow resumed shielding guidance and should not attend work, school, college or university. You should limit the time you spend outside the home. You should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential.
Hands. Face. Space.
Approximately 1 in 3 people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and could be spreading it without realising it.
Remember - ‘Hands. Face. Space.’
- hands – wash your hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds
- face – wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet
- space – stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings)
In all circumstances, you should follow the guidance on meeting others safely.
When you can leave home
You must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. This is the law. The police can take action against you if you leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’, and issue you with a fine (Fixed Penalty Notice).
You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
A ‘reasonable excuse’ includes:
You can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home. This includes, but is not limited to, people who work within critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing that require in-person attendance
You can also leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services.
You can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating.
Education and childcare
You can only leave home for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children where the child is eligible to attend. Access to education and children’s activities for school-aged pupils is restricted. See further information on education and childcare. You can continue existing arrangements for contact between parents and children where they live apart. If you live in a household with anyone aged under 14, you can also form a childcare bubble.
Meeting others and care
You can leave home:
- to visit people in your support bubble ( if you are legally permitted to form one)
- to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work, not to enable social contact between adults)
- to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people
- to provide emergency assistance
- to attend a support group (of up to 15 people)
- for respite care where that care is being provided to a vulnerable person or a person with a disability, or is a short break in respect of a looked-after child.
You can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.You should maintain social distancing. See exercising.
You can leave home for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and for emergencies.
You can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth or, accessing other maternity services, or to be with a baby receiving neonatal critical care. There is NHS guidance on pregnancy and coronavirus.
You may leave home, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse).
You may also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment.
Animal welfare reasons
You can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment.
Communal worship and life events
You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, to attend a funeral or event related to a death, to visit a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony. You should follow the guidance on the safe use of places of worship and must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble. Weddings, funerals and religious, belief-based or commemorative events linked to someone’s death are all subject to limits on the numbers that can attend.
Further reasonable excuses
There are further reasonable excuses. For example, you may leave home to fulfil legal obligations, or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property, for the purpose of picketing, or where it is reasonably necessary for voting in an election or referendum.
Meeting other people
It is against the law to meet socially with family or friends unless they are part of your household or support bubble. You cannot leave home for recreational or leisure purposes (such as for a picnic or a social meeting).
You should minimise time spent outside your home, but you can leave your home to exercise. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
You can exercise in a public outdoor place:
- by yourself
- with the people you live with
- with your support bubble (if you are legally permitted to form one)
- in a childcare bubble where providing childcare
- or, when on your own, with 1 person from another household
This includes but is not limited to running, cycling, walking, and swimming. Personal training can continue one-on-one unless everyone is within the same household or support bubble.
Public outdoor places include:
- parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests
- public gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them)
- the grounds of a heritage site
Outdoor sports venues must close, for example:
- tennis courts
- golf courses
- swimming pools
Children under 5, and up to 2 carers for a person with a disability who needs continuous care, are not counted towards the gatherings limits for exercising outside.
If you (or a person in your care) have a health condition that routinely requires you to leave home to maintain your health - including if that involves travel beyond your local area or exercising several times a day - then you can do so.
When around other people, stay 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household - meaning the people you live with - or your support bubble. Where this is not possible, stay 1 metre apart with extra precautions (like wearing a face covering).
You must wear a face covering in many indoor settings, such as shops or places of worship where these remain open, and on public transport, unless you are exempt. This is the law. Read guidance on face coverings.
Support and childcare bubbles
You have to meet certain eligibility rules to form a support or childcare bubble. This means not everyone will be able to form a bubble.
It is against the law to form a support bubble if you do not follow these rules.
You are permitted to leave your home to visit your support bubble (and to stay overnight with them). However, if you form a support bubble, it is best if this is with a household who live locally. This will help prevent the virus spreading from an area where more people are infected.
If you live in a household with anyone aged under 14, you can form a childcare bubble. This allows friends or family from one other household to provide informal childcare.
You must not meet socially with your childcare bubble, and must avoid seeing members of your childcare and support bubbles at the same time.
Where and when you can meet in larger groups
There are still circumstances in which you are allowed to meet others from outside your household, childcare or support bubble in larger groups, but this should not be for socialising and only for permitted purposes. A full list of these circumstances will be included in the regulations, and includes:
- for work, or providing voluntary or charitable services, where it is unreasonable to do so from home. This can include work in other people’s homes where necessary - for example, for nannies, cleaners, social care workers providing support to children and families, or tradespeople. See guidance on working safely in other people’s homes. Where a work meeting does not need to take place in a private home or garden, it should not - for example, although you can meet a personal trainer, you should do so in a public outdoor place.
- in a childcare bubble (for the purposes of childcare only)
- where eligible to use these services, for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children. Access to education and childcare facilities is restricted. See further information on education and childcare.
- for arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents or guardians
- to allow contact between birth parents and children in care, as well as between siblings in care
- for prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them
- to place or facilitate the placing of a child or children in the care of another by social services
- for birth partners
- to provide emergency assistance, and to avoid injury or illness, or to escape a risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
- to visit someone who is dying or to visit someone receiving treatment in a hospital, hospice or care home, or to accompany a family member or friend to a medical appointment
- to fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service
- for gatherings within criminal justice accommodation or immigration detention centres
- to provide care or assistance to someone vulnerable, or to provide respite for a carer
- for a wedding or equivalent ceremony. This should only be in exceptional circumstances and is limited to 6 people.
- for funerals - up to a maximum of 30 people. Wakes and other linked ceremonial events can continue in a group of up to 6 people.
- for elite sportspeople (and their coaches if necessary, or parents/guardians if they are under 18) - or those on an official elite sports pathway - to compete and train
- to facilitate a house move
Support groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support - but they must take place at a premises other than a private home.
Where a group includes someone covered by an exception (for example, someone who is working or volunteering), they are not generally counted as part of the gatherings limit. This means, for example, a tradesperson can go into a household without breaching the limit, if they are there for work, and the officiant at a wedding would not count towards the limit.
If you break the rules
The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups. This includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines (fixed penalty notices).
You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.
Protecting people more at risk from coronavirus
If you are clinically vulnerable, you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. There is additional advice for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should follow resumed shielding guidance and should not attend work, school, college or university. You should limit the time you spend outside the home. You should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential.
Going to work
You may only leave your home for work if you cannot reasonably work from home.
Where people cannot work from home they should continue to travel to their workplace. This includes, but is not limited to, people who work in:
- critical national infrastructure
- childcare or education
- essential public services
This is essential to keeping the country operating and supporting sectors and employers.
Where it is necessary for you to work in other people’s homes - for example, for nannies, cleaners or tradespeople - you can do so. Otherwise, you should avoid meeting for work in a private home or garden, where COVID-19 Secure measures may not be in place.
Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working. Where people cannot work from home, employers should take steps to help employees avoid busy times and routes on public transport.
The risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.
Going to school or college
Colleges, primary (reception onwards) and secondary schools will remain open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until February half term.
In the circumstances, it is not possible for exams in the summer to go ahead as planned. The Department for Education will accordingly be working with Ofqual to consult rapidly to put in place alternative arrangements that will allow students to progress fairly.
Providers can continue with the vocational and technical exams that are due to take place in January, where they judge it right to do so.
Those students who are undertaking training and study for the following courses should return to face to face learning as planned:
- Medicine & dentistry
- Subjects allied to medicine/health
- Veterinary science
- Education (initial teacher training)
- Social work
- Courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments and or mandatory activity which is scheduled for January and which cannot be rescheduled (your university will notify you if this applies to you).
Returning students should be tested twice upon their return to university, or they should self-isolate for ten days instead.
Students who are not on these courses should remain where they are wherever possible, and start their term online, as facilitated by their university or college until at least mid-February. This includes students on other practical courses not on the list above.
We have previously published guidance to universities and students on how students can return safely to higher education in the spring term. This guidance sets out how we will support higher education providers to enable students that need to return to do so as safely as possible following the winter break.
If you live at university, you should not move back and forward between your permanent home and student home during term time.
For those students who are eligible for face to face teaching, you can meet in groups of more than your household as part of your formal education or training, where necessary. Students should expect to follow the guidance and restrictions. You should socially distance from anyone you do not live with wherever possible.
There are several ways that parents and carers can continue to access childcare:
- Early years settings (including nurseries and childminders) remain open
- Childminders should continue to allow children to attend as normal except for school-aged children. Childminders caring for school-aged children (including reception children) should only admit vulnerable children and children of critical workers.
- Vulnerable children and children of critical workers can continue to use registered childcare, childminders and other childcare activities (including wraparound care)
- parents are able to form a childcare bubble with one other household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is under 14. This is mainly to enable parents to work, and must not be used to enable social contact between adults
- some households will also be able to benefit from being in a support bubble
- nannies will be able to continue to provide services, including in the home
You must not leave your home unless you have a reasonable excuse (for example, for work or education purposes). If you need to travel you should stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live – and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall. The list of reasons you can leave your home and area include, but are not limited to:
- work, where you cannot reasonably work from home
- accessing education and for caring responsibilities
- visiting those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare
- visiting hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health
- buying goods or services that you need, but this should be within your local area wherever possible
- outdoor exercise. This should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your area to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)
- attending the care and exercise of an animal, or veterinary services
If you need to travel, walk or cycle where possible, and plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport. This will allow you to practise social distancing while you travel.
Avoid car sharing with anyone from outside your household or your support bubble. See the guidance on car sharing.
If you need to use public transport, you should follow the safer travel guidance.
You can only travel internationally – or within the UK – where you first have a legally permitted reason to leave home. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting.
If you do need to travel overseas (and are legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work), even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice.
UK residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.
Foreign nationals are subject to the ‘Stay at Home’ regulations. You should not travel abroad unless it is permitted. This means you must not go on holiday.
If you are visiting the UK, you may return home. You should check whether there are any restrictions in place at your destination.
Staying away from home overnight
You cannot leave your home or the place where you are living for holidays or overnight stays unless you have a reasonable excuse for doing so. This means that holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed.
This includes staying in a second home or caravan, if that is not your primary residence. This also includes staying with anyone who you don’t live with unless they’re in your support bubble.
You are allowed to stay overnight away from your home if you:
- are visiting your support bubble
- are unable to return to your main residence
- need accommodation while moving house
- need accommodation to attend a funeral or related commemorative event
- require accommodation for work purposes or to provide voluntary services
- are a child requiring accommodation for school or care
- are homeless, seeking asylum, a vulnerable person seeking refuge, or if escaping harm (including domestic abuse)
- are an elite athlete or their support staff or parent, if the athlete is under 18 and it is necessary to be outside of the home for training or competition
If you are already on holiday, you should return to your home as soon as practical.
Guest accommodation providers such as hotels, B&Bs and caravan parks may remain open for the specific reasons set out in law, including where guests are unable to return to their main residence, use that guest accommodation as their main residence, need accommodation while moving house, are self-isolating as required by law, or would otherwise be made homeless as a result of the accommodation closing. A full list of reasons can be found in the guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England.
Accommodation providers are also encouraged to work cooperatively with local authorities to provide accommodation to vulnerable groups, including the homeless.
Care home visits
Visits to care homes can take place with arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows. Close-contact indoor visits are not allowed. No visits will be permitted in the event of an outbreak.
You should check the guidance on visiting care homes during COVID-19 to find out how visits should be conducted. Residents cannot meet people indoors on a visit out (for example, to visit their relatives in the family home). There is separate guidance for those in supported living.
Funerals are allowed with strict limits on attendance, and must only take place in COVID-19 secure venues or in public outdoor spaces unless in exceptional circumstances.
Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people. Linked religious, belief-based or commemorative events, such as stone settings and ash scatterings can also continue with up to 6 people in attendance. Anyone working is not counted in these limits. Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.
Weddings, civil partnerships and religious services
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to 6 people. Anyone working is not included. These should only take place in exceptional circumstances, for example, an urgent marriage where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery.
Weddings and civil partnerships must only take place in COVID-19 secure venues or in public outdoor spaces unless in exceptional circumstances.
Places of worship
You can attend places of worship for a service. However, you must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble. You should maintain strict social distancing at all times.
You should follow the national guidance on the safe use of places of worship.
Sports and physical activity
Indoor gyms and sports facilities will remain closed. Outdoor sports courts, outdoor gyms, golf courses, outdoor swimming pools, archery/driving/shooting ranges and riding centres must also close. Organised outdoor sport for disabled people is allowed to continue.
Elite sport may continue. There is further guidance on the phased return of elite sport.
You can still move home. People outside your household or support bubble should not help with moving house unless absolutely necessary.
Estate and letting agents and removals firms can continue to work. If you are looking to move, you can go to property viewings.
Wherever you live, you may be able to get financial help
- financial support packages for businesses
- financial support for closed businesses as a result of tiering restrictions
- claim for employee wages through Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- check if you can claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
- financial support if you’re off work because of coronavirus
Businesses and venues
Businesses and venues which must close
To reduce social contact, the regulations require some businesses to close and impose restrictions on how some businesses provide goods and services. The full list of businesses required to close can be found in the guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England, but includes:
- non-essential retail, such as clothing and homeware stores, vehicle showrooms (other than for rental), betting shops, tailors, tobacco and vape shops, electronic goods and mobile phone shops, auction houses (except for auctions of livestock or agricultural equipment) and market stalls selling non-essential goods. These venues can continue to be able to operate click-and-collect (where goods are pre-ordered and collected without entering the premises) and delivery services.
- hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs; with the exception of providing food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect and drive-through. All food and drink (including alcohol) can continue to be provided by delivery.
- accommodation such as hotels, hostels, guest houses and campsites, except for specific circumstances, such as where these act as someone’s main residence, where the person cannot return home, for providing accommodation or support to the homeless, or where it is essential to stay there for work purposes
- leisure and sports facilities such as leisure centres and gyms, swimming pools, sports courts,fitness and dance studios, riding centres, climbing walls, and golf courses.
- entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, amusement arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, go-karting venues, indoor play and soft play centres and areas (including inflatable parks and trampolining centres), circuses, fairgrounds, funfairs, water parks and theme parks
- animal attractions (such as zoos, safari parks, aquariums, and wildlife centres)
- indoor attractions at venues such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks must also close, though outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open for outdoor exercise.
- personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons. Tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services must also close. These services should not be provided in other people’s homes
- community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities, as set out below. Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services – for example for people who do not have it at home – and for click-and-collect services
Some of these businesses and places will also be permitted to be open for a small number of exempt activities. A full list of exemptions can be found in the guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England, but includes:
- education and training – for schools to use sports, leisure and community facilities where that is part of their normal provision
- childcare purposes and supervised activities for those children eligible to attend
- hosting blood donation sessions and food banks
- to provide medical treatment
- for elite sports persons to train and compete (in indoor and outdoor sports facilities), and professional dancers and choreographers to work (in fitness and dance studios)
- for training and rehearsal without an audience (in theatres and concert halls)
- for the purposes of film and TV filming
Businesses and venues which can remain open
Other businesses and venues are permitted to stay open, following COVID-19 secure guidelines. Businesses providing essential goods and services can stay open. The full list of these businesses can be found in the guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England, but includes:
- essential retail such as food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, building merchants and suppliers of building products and off-licences
- market stalls selling essential retail may also stay open
- businesses providing repair services may also stay open, where they primarily offer repair services
- petrol stations, automatic (but not manual) car washes, vehicle repair garages and MOT services, bicycle shops, and taxi and vehicle hire businesses
- banks, building societies, post offices, short-term loan providers and money transfer businesses
- funeral directors
- laundrettes and dry cleaners
- medical and dental services
- vets and retailers of products and food for the upkeep and welfare of animals
- animal rescue centres, boarding facilities and animal groomers (may continue to be used for animal welfare, rather than aesthetic purposes)
- agricultural supplies shops
- mobility and disability support shops
- storage and distribution facilities
- car parks, public toilets and motorway service areas
- outdoor playgrounds
- outdoor parts of botanical gardens and heritage sites for exercise
- places of worship
- crematoriums and burial grounds
Healthcare and public services
The NHS and medical services remain open, including:
- dental services,
- audiology services,
- other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health
We are supporting the NHS to carry out urgent and non-urgent services safely, and it is vital anyone who thinks they need any kind of medical care comes forward and seeks help.
The majority of public services will continue and you will be able to leave home to visit them. These include:
- Jobcentre Plus sites
- courts and probation services
- civil registrations offices
- passport and visa services
- services provided to victims
- waste or recycling centres
- getting an MOT, if you need to drive when lawfully leaving home
Recognising the significant challenges posed by these times, the Chancellor has outlined the latest of a long line of financial support measures, supporting jobs and businesses.
Financial and employment support
Winter Economy Plan
On 24th September, the Chancellor announced the Winter Economy Plan - a package of measures designed to support businesses and employees through the winter months.
These measures include:
Support for businesses to bring people back to work and save jobs with a new Job Support Scheme and an extension to the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
Help for the hospitality and tourism sectors through a continuation of the reduction in VAT
Support for over 1 million businesses to relieve pressure on their finances and cashflow through an extension to the application period for four government-backed loans schemes, and changes to the terms of repayment for Bounce Back Loans (BBLS) and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILS)
New payment schemes to ease the burden of paying deferred VAT and Self-Assessment tax liabilities.
The introduction of the Job Support Scheme from 1 November 2020 will protect jobs over the coming winter months. The Scheme will allow employees to work a minimum of 33% of their usual hours, and for every hour not worked the employer and the government will each pay one third of an employee’s usual pay up to a cap.
Support for employees and individuals:
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS or Furlough scheme):
I welcome that the CJRS has been extended until March, following the introduction of nationwide and subsequent localised restrictions. Under the extension the Government will pay 80 per cent of wages up to a cap of £2,500, with employers paying employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and pension contributions only for the hours the employee does not work. Flexible furloughing will be allowed in addition to full-time furloughing. More than 9.6 million jobs have been protected through our job retention scheme which would otherwise have been at risk. Around 1.1 million firms have benefitted from this support.
Job Support Scheme Extension:
This will be introduced in March, following the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Local Restrictions Support Grant:
In addition, the Government has unveiled the Local Restrictions Support Grant to support businesses required impacted by these measures - with different schemes depending on whether your business is forced to shut by law, or experiencing reduced demand as a result of the measures.
Under Tier Three restrictions the following venues have been required to shut by law:
- Hospitality (e.g. restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs) – excluding takeaways/drive-throughs
- Accommodation: hotels, B&Bs, campsites, and guest houses
- Indoor entertainment venues:
- Indoor play centres and areas, including trampolining parks and soft play
- Bingo halls
- Bowling alleys
- Skating rinks (excluding outdoor skating rinks)
- Amusement arcades and adult gaming centres
- Laser quests and escape rooms
- Cinemas and theatres (excluding drive-in cinemas/theatres)
- Concert halls
- Snooker halls
- Events businesses (excluding drive-in events)
Further details of these schemes for closed businesses and open businesses impacted by falling demand should check the Government website, or that of their local authority, for further information. Local Councils were also given funds under the 'Additional Restrictions
Information and support for individuals
It is understandable that people are concerned about the financial impact this situation may have. As such, the Chancellor and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions have announced a package of measures to support people across the country at this time.
These measures include a Hardship Fund for individuals who require financial support, to be offered by local authorities through local Council Tax Support schemes and Mortgage Repayment Holidays for those affected by COVID-19, including for landlords who's tenants are unable to pay rent.
Ministers have also taken steps to ensure those who need financial support are able to access it, these measures are outlined below.
For those already claiming support
- If you are unable to attend an assessment your benefits will continue to be paid whilst the appointment is rearranged.
- People who need to claim ESA or Universal Credit because of coronavirus will not be required to produce a fit note.
- Claimants who notify the Department for Work and Pension that they are staying at home or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 will not be sanctioned and conditionality requirements will be reviewed to ensure they are reasonable (claimants must ensure they notify the DWP in good time to ensure these steps can be taken).
- Claimants who are staying at home as a result of coronavirus will have their mandatory work search and work availability requirements removed to account for a period of sickness.
For people who need to make a new claim for financial support
It is to be expected that the many people who are required to stay at home or are infected by coronavirus may need financial support, and quickly.
It has been announced that:
- Those affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance up front without physically attending a jobcentre.
- The 7 waiting days for ESA for new claimants will not apply if they are suffering from coronavirus or are required to stay at home – so it will be payable from day one.
Support for Self-Employed
The UK Government recognises the continued impact that coronavirus (COVID-19) has had on the self-employed and has taken action to provide support.
The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Grant Extension provides critical support to the self-employed in the form of two grants, each available for three month periods covering November 2020 to January 2021 and February 2021 to April 2021.
To be eligible for the Grant Extension self-employed individuals, including members of partnerships, must:
- have been previously eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme first and second grant (although they do not have to have claimed the previous grants)
declare that they intend to continue to trade and either:
are currently actively trading but are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus
were previously trading but are temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus
The extension will last for six months, from November 2020 to April 2021. Grants will be paid in two lump sum instalments each covering a three-month period.
The first grant will cover a three-month period from 1 November 2020 until 31 January 2021. The Government will provide a taxable grant covering 55% of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £5,160 in total.
The grant will be increased from the previously announced level of 40% of trading profits to 80% for November 2020. This therefore increases the total level of the grant from 40% to 55% of trading profits for 1 November 2020 to 31 January 2020.
The Government are providing broadly the same level of support for the self-employed as is being provided for employees through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in November due to its extension. And then the Job Support scheme in December and January.
The second grant will cover a three-month period from 1 February 2021 until 30 April 2021. The Government will review the level of the second grant and set this in due course.
The grants are taxable income and also subject to National Insurance contributions.
The online service for the next grant will be available from 30 November 2020. HMRC will provide full details about claiming and applications in guidance on GOV.UK in due course.
Guidance and support for employees self-isolating:
In order to back businesses and employees in staying at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Government have announced a range of support measures, as well as changing the application process for existing benefits.
- People who cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of their illness – The Government will ensure this measure applies retrospectively from 13 March 2020.
- Statutory Sick Pay will be payable to people who are staying at home on government advice, not just those who are infected, from 13 March 2020 – employers are urged to use their discretion about what evidence, if any, they ask for.
- If employees need to provide evidence to their employer that they need to stay at home due to coronavirus, they will be able to get it from the NHS 111 Online instead of having to get a fit note from their doctor.
Financial Support for Business
Information on the support available for businesses and the self employed can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/financial-support-for-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19
The government announced an extension to four temporary loan schemes, which have helped over a million businesses to date. This means that that the Bounce Back Loans, CBILS and the Future Fund – are being extended until March 2021 for new applications. full details of these schemes are below.
These measure include:
- For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of Statutory Sick Pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full.
- The Government is introducing a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.
- Businesses closed by law will receive £3,000 per month and, with in light of the England-wide restrictions, the Chancellor has announced additional grants for closed businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector of up to £9,000.
- Local Authorities have repeatedly been given increased budgets to address increased demand, including economic need and to support public health measures. Some of this money is being used for a discretionary grant scheme and you may wish to visit website of the Council where your business is located to find out more about the schemes available.
- A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable all businesses to apply for a loan of up to £5 million, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees. Businesses can access the first 12 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover these initial interest payments. After feedback from businesses, the Chancellor has worked with banks to make this more easily accessible and banned personal guarantees for loans under £250,000. The Government has now announced it intends to allow CBILS lenders to extend the term of a loan up to ten years, providing additional flexibility for UK-based SMEs who may otherwise be unable to repay their loans. Deadlines for applications has now been extended until March 2021.
- Coronavirus Bounce Back Loans have been announced by the Government in response to the difficulties some small businesses have face in accessing the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. The scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to apply for loans of up to £50,000, with the Government guaranteeing 100% of the loan and no fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. The Government has now added a Pay as you Grow option for these loans – meaning all businesses that borrowed under the BBLS will have the option to repay their loan over a period of up to ten years.
- Launch of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - giving UK employers support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. This will now continue until March 20221 with increased flexibility for part-time workers.
- The Coronavirus Future Fund will issue convertible loans between £125,000 to £5 million to innovative companies which are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak.
- 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. For Time to Pay support if you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559. More information on HMRC support for those affected by COVID-19 can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19
- VAT deferral ‘New Payment Scheme’ – The government will give businesses which deferred VAT due in March to June 2020 the option to spread their payments over the financial year 2021-2022. Over half a million businesses deferred VAT payments, a cash injection of £30 billion into the UK economy when it needed it most. Rather than paying in full at the end of March 2021, businesses will be able to choose to make 11 equal instalments over 2021-22. All businesses which took advantage of the VAT deferral can use the New Payment Scheme. Businesses will need to opt in, but all are eligible. HMRC will put in place an opt-in process in early 2021.
- Enhanced Time to Pay for Self-Assessment taxpayers – The government will give the self-employed and other taxpayers more time to pay taxes due in January 2021, building on the Self-Assessment deferral provided in July 2020. Taxpayers with up to £30,000 of Self-Assessment liabilities due will be able to use HMRC’s self-service Time to Pay facility to secure a plan to pay over an additional 12 months. This means that Self-Assessment liabilities due in July 2020 will not need to be paid in full until January 2022. Any Self-Assessment taxpayer not able to pay their tax bill on time, including those who cannot use the online service, can continue to use HMRC’s Time to Pay Self-Assessment helpline to agree a payment plan.
In addition to the measures announced by the Government, the decisions taken by the Bank of England on 11 March 2020 mean that banks are in a better position to provide additional credit to smaller businesses. Details of these measures can be found here: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/news/2020/march/boe-measures-to-respond-to-the-economic-shock-from-covid-19
To find the support available to your business, use the Government's Coronavirus Support Finder tool here: https://www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder
Full guidance for employees, employers and businesses, including employee rights and the correct steps to take to prevent the spread of disease, can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19
Specific guidance has also been published for businesses who trade internationally. This can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-uk-businesses/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-uk-businesses-trading-internationally
Businesses can get advice from the government’s Business Support Helpline by contacting them using the below details;
More information on the advisory services available to businesses can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/business-support-helpline
Foreign Office Guidance
Developments in the coronavirus pandemic remain uncertain around the world. No travel is risk-free. If you are legally permitted to travel abroad and are planning travel in the future, even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, follow this checklist.
Advice regarding travel, particularly around entry and quarantine requirements, is likely to change at short notice for the foreseeable future. Please continue to check FCDO advice before booking or travelling abroad.
Local Support Services
Local authorities will be key in the fight against COVID-19 and supporting our most vulnerable through this period. Councils will also be responsible for delivering some of the support already announced by the Government.
For information on the services offered by Lancashire County Council, including delivery of social care, education, care homes and public transport, please visit: https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/health-and-social-care/your-health-and-wellbeing/coronavirus/
For information on the services and support offered by Fylde Borough Council, including deferral of council tax and localised business support, please visit: https://new.fylde.gov.uk/
Specific business support from Fylde Borough Council can be found here: https://new.fylde.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/
Fylde Borough Council will also be coordinating a Community Hub. This will support the isolated and lonely residents of the Borough who do not have friends, family or neighbours to assist during the period of isolation required as a result of the Coronavirus. For more info on the help offered by FBC, or to get involved and help in the fight against COVID-19, please visit: https://new.fylde.gov.uk/communitysupport/.
For those who fall under the jurisdiction of Preston City Council, please find their guidance and advice here: https://www.preston.gov.uk/article/2275/Coronavirus-COVID-19-
The Government’s overall action plan to tackle COVID-19 Coronavirus can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-action-plan
Information on the Bill being put forward by Government to support these measure can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-bill-what-it-will-do/what-the-coronavirus-bill-will-do
As we face this crisis, I know many will hold concern for relatives in care or suffering with dementia - those of you with these concerns may wish to view the Alzheimer's Society COVID-19 information page here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/coronavirus-covid-19
For those with pets or animals to care for, and who may be concerned about exercising or entertaining their pets whilst in self isolation, detailed guidance has been issued by the RSPCA. This can be found here: https://www.rspca.org.uk/coronavirus
Many people may have had to cancel travel arrangements or postpone events as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, with many now left at a financial loss or having to claim through insurance companies. Which? consumer guide have created a dedicated Coronavirus consumer rights hub with tips and advice covering a wide range of issues, this can be found here: https://www.which.co.uk/news/coronavirus/