COVID-19: Government advice and support

The BID Foundation is emphasising government advice and support on coronavirus, which should be reviewed by all those working in BIDs and where possible communicated through levy payers and to those in local communities.

Outside of the primary concern of health risks posed by the virus, we understand that many are now facing serious business impacts, and will continue to do so, as only essential travel and retail continues.

Please take the time to read the summary below, to access the further information on gov.uk via the links provided, and consider communicating this advice to your network. This advice in some parts is specific to England and we recognise that devolved nations are following suit with business support in particular.

The BID Foundation continues to support BIDs - please stay connected via these pages, our social media channels and latest webinars.

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This advice was updated on 24/03/20 at 0700 hours. Announcements are now being made on a regular basis so plesae be sure to check government information.

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COVID-19: Advice and Support

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Health advice

Travel advice

Employers advice

Employees advice

Business support

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Health advice

 Stay at home

The single most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

You should only leave the house for one of four reasons:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.

  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.

  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.

  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

These four reasons are exceptions - even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.

 

What should you do if you develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)

It is very important that individuals with symptoms that may be due to coronavirus and their household members stay at home. Staying at home will help control the spread of the virus to friends, the wider community, and particularly the most vulnerable.

The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of:

  • A new continuous cough and/or
  • high temperature

For most people, coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a mild illness.

If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started.

If you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.

If you have coronavirus symptoms:

  • do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
  • you do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home
  • testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home


See full stay-at-home guidance


What should you do if you have hospital and GP appointments during this period?

We advise everyone to access medical assistance remotely, wherever possible. However, if you have a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment during this period, talk to your GP or clinician to ensure you continue to receive the care you need and consider whether appointments can be postponed.

Handwashing and Respiratory Hygiene

There are general principles you can follow to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • washing your hands more often - with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser when you get home or into work, when you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid close contact with people who have symptoms
  • cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home

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Travel advice

Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel advice has been updated as of 17th March to advise British nationals against all but essential international travel to all destinations. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. All countries may restrict travel without notice. 

If you now need to change or cancel your travel plans, follow these steps:

  • contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers
  • get in touch with your insurance provider
  • continue to follow the NHS coronavirus guidance

The FCO was already advising against all but essential travel or all travel to some areas or countries due to risks that do not relate to COVID-19. This advice remains in place. Check FCO travel advice pages for the latest information.


Air travel

If you’re due to travel to an area affected by coronavirus, keep up-to-date with the latest information from your travel company or airline.

Guidance for staff in the transport sector

Gov.uk provides guidance to those working in the transport sector around helping to stop the spread of coronavirus. This includes: what to do if someone becomes unwell; advising passengers they should not travel if they are feeling unwell with symptoms of coronavirus; and how to help to protect others from infection, including using announcements and public notices.

See the full advice for staff in the transport sector.

Cleaning and waste

Limiting spread in transport hubs

Arrivals into the UK

 

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Advice for Employers

 

Closing non-essential shops and public spaces

Last week, the Government ordered certain businesses - including pubs, cinemas and theatres - to close. The Government is now extending this requirement to a further set of businesses and other venues, including:

  • all non-essential retail stores - this will include clothing and electronics stores; hair, beauty and nail salons; and outdoor and indoor markets, excluding food markets.
  • libraries, community centres, and youth centres.
  • indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, arcades and soft play facilities.
  • communal places within parks, such as playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms.
  • places of worship, except for funerals attended by immediate families.
  • hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use (excluding permanent residents and key workers).

More detailed information can be found here, including a full list of those businesses and other venues that must close. Businesses and other venues not on this list may remain open.

Stopping public gatherings

To make sure people are staying at home and apart from each other, the Government is also stopping all public gatherings of more than two people.

There are only two exceptions to this rule:

  • where the gathering is of a group of people who live together - this means that a parent can, for example, take their children to the shops if there is no option to leave them at home.
  • where the gathering is essential for work purposes - but workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace.


Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Under the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

This applies to employees who have been asked to stop working, but who are being kept on the pay roll, otherwise described as ‘furloughed workers’.

HMRC will reimburse 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 per month. This is to safeguard workers from being made redundant. 

All UK-wide employers with a PAYE scheme will be eligible – this includes the public sector, Local Authorities and charities

https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme/

For further information on support, see Business Support


Certifying absence from work

By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, it is for the employer to determine what evidence they require, if any, from the employee. This does not need to be fit note (Med 3 form) issued by a GP or other doctor. The Government has said it will bring forward an online service for gaining a sick note and providing this to employers.

Your employee will be advised to isolate themselves and not to work in contact with other people by NHS 111 or PHE if they are a carrier of, or have been in contact with, an infectious or contagious disease, such as COVID-19.

We strongly suggest that employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to stay at home due to suspected COVID-19, in accordance with the public health advice being issued by the government.

Statutory Sick Pay for employees

Statutory sick pay (SSP) is extended to all of those who are eligible and asked to self-isolate, even if they are not showing symptoms.

During the Coronavirus outbreak SSP will be paid from the first day of absence, not the fourth.

Those who are in self-isolation should be treated as being on sick leave as they are “helping to protect others from the virus and should not be penalised for doing the right thing”.

Employers do not need a sick note from a GP. The Government has said it will bring forward an online service for gaining a sick note and providing this to employers.

 

Reclaiming Statutory Sick Pay (SMEs)

The Government has announced it will bring forward legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19

employers with fewer than 250 employees 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 any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19

employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note

eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force

 

What to do if a member of staff or the public with confirmed COVID-19 has recently been in your workplace

Closure of the workplace is not recommended.

The management team of the office or workplace will be contacted by the PHE local Health Protection Team to discuss the case, identify people who have been in contact with them and advise on any actions or precautions that should be taken.

A risk assessment of each setting will be undertaken by the Health Protection Team with the lead responsible person. Advice on the management of staff and members of the public will be based on this assessment.

The Health Protection Team will also be in contact with the case directly to advise on isolation and identifying other contacts and will be in touch with any contacts of the case to provide them with appropriate advice.

Advice on cleaning of communal areas such as offices or toilets will be given by the Health Protection Team.

Full advice for employers can be found on gov.uk.

This covers:

  • A new portal explaining all coronavirus support for businesses
  • Preventing spread of infection
  • Paying and reclaiming Statutory Sick Pay (from first day of absence, and for those self-isolating for up to 14 days)
  • Guidance on facemasks
  • What to do if an employee or a member of the public becomes unwell
  • What to do if a member of staff or the public with suspected COVID-19 has recently been in your workplace
  • When individuals in the workplace have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • Returning from travel overseas to affected areas
  • Certifying absence from work
  • Cleaning offices and public spaces where there are suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • Rubbish disposal, including tissues
  • Handling post, packages or food from affected areas



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Advice for Employees

Full advice for employees can be found on gov.uk.


Stay at home

The Government has advised that people work from home, wherever possible.

Your employer should support you to do this. Please refer to employer guidance for more information.

See Health Advice for full guidance on staying at home.


Will my employer be obliged to pay me if I have to stay at home?

The government has introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which your employer may access to continue paying part of employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

For more details see the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

For those that are going to work, or working from home, but are asked to self-isolate (see guidance):

Statutory sick pay (SSP) is extended to all of those who are eligible and asked to self-isolate, even if they are not showing symptoms.

During the Coronavirus outbreak SSP will be paid from the first day of absence, not the fourth.

Those who are in self-isolation should be treated as being on sick leave as they are “helping to protect others from the virus and should not be penalised for doing the right thing”.

By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness (i.e. employees can self-certify). After 7 days, it is for the employer to determine what evidence they require, if any, from the employee. Employers do not need a sick note from a GP. The Government has said it will bring forward an online service for gaining a sick note and providing this to employers.


What about if I have a zero hours contract?

As a PAYE employee, your employer may access support to continue paying part of your salary, if you would otherwise have been laid off during the crisis. This may be done through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

For more details see the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

You may also be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay should you be asked to self isolate. Check with your employer if you’re unsure.


What about if I’m self employed?

No measures have yet been announced to support the self-employed. You can apply for Universal Credit.

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Business Support

The Government has set out a package of temporary and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by the coronavirus.

For full details see the Coronavirus Business Support Hub

This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:

  • a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for UK employers to access support to continue paying part of their PAYE employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis

  • a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality, leisure businesses and nurseries in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

  • a £25,000 grant per property for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000

  • £10,000 grant per property for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or below

  • 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

  • 3 month protection from eviction due to unpaid rent for all commercial tenants
    (see details)

  • a 3-month VAT referral for all UK businesses

  • statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs

  • a deferral of July 2020 self-assessment tax payments due, until January 2021
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme - to help those struggling to pay tax obligations


For full details see the Coronavirus Business Support Hub

 Insurance

Businesses should check with their insurance provider if they are covered. Many businesses are unlikely to be covered as most business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property, which will exclude pandemics. Some businesses may have purchased a specific add on relating to notifiable diseases, but some of these will still specify damage to the building. Some businesses may have purchased supply chain or denial of access cover which may meet their needs in this case.

 

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