Coronavirus – A Few Coping Strategies for Business Owners

What if your employees contract the virus?

The Government have announced that anybody off work because of Coronavirus (and even those advised to self-isolate but are not showing symptoms or are not unwell) are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day 1.

The SSP rates are £94.25 per week for 2019-20 and £95.85 per week for 2020-21. This can normally be paid for a maximum period of 28 weeks and its likely your payroll software will be able to deal with the management of this.

What is less clear is the issue regarding contractual sick pay, especially as there may be complex situations where employees have been in contact with people with the virus, or who are at risk, and you feel it’s advisable for them to self-isolate and not risk infecting other members of staff. We would strongly recommend revisiting the contracts of employment and taking HR advice if there are any doubts. It’s also an area that can be discussed with the staff to hopefully come to a mutually agreeable way forward.

You may also benefit from contingency planning. How can you reorganise tasks if key staff are incapacitated? Spending a little time to plan for these possibilities may save you head-aches should staff be unable to work.

Have you considered Home Working arrangements?

Is it possible to organise a home working scheme for staff? This will not be feasible for all staff, production workers or retail staff for example, but staff that spend their days in front of a computer screen could be supplied with a laptop and work from home.

Where appropriate, there are a wealth of online meeting services that could be utilised to keep in touch with home workers.

Do you depend on the services of sub-contractors?

If yes, you may want to organise a list of alternative contractors you can call on if needed. This should help to minimise disruption if your present sub-contractors are unable to work.

How secure are your supply lines?

You may want to consider sourcing alternative suppliers if your present supply lines are adversely affected by the flu. China, as we know, supplies a growing number of components many of which find their way into British made goods.

Should you be rethinking your business plans?

It is difficult to gauge the possible spread of the Coronavirus but if epidemic conditions arise there is a real possibility that we may see a downturn in global, and therefore UK, economic activity. This, combined with any Brexit fallout, may indicate that the time is right to rethink your business plans for 2020.

Be prepared.

For example, if restaurant table covers drop due to cancellations, launching or promoting an existing home delivery (take-away) service could help to maintain turnover. Likewise, retailers suffering from drops in footfall could create or promote an existing, online shop.

What are the government doing by way of grants or tax breaks?

This is likely to change day-by-day but at the time of setting out this report, details had been announced in a press release by the Government on 13 March 2020 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-support-for-employees-benefit-claimants-and-businesses

  • Employees who are unable to work or are advised to self-isolate because of Coronavirus are eligible for SSP from day 1, rather than the normal rule of the 4th day of illness. This measure will be applied retrospectively from 13 March 2020.
  • Businesses with less than 250 employees will be able to claim the SSP back from the Government for a period of up to 2 weeks for each employee.

There is a new Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme delivered by the British Business Bank. Although it’s early days details that are known so far are: –

  • The Government will guarantee 80% of the loan allowing banking decisions to say yes to become that much easier.
  • Terms can be from 3 months to up to 10 years for term loans and asset finance, and up to 3 years for revolving facilities and invoice finance.
  • There is also a dedicated helpline to assist businesses and self-employed individuals struggling with tax liabilities. Through this helpline businesses should be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. We would recommend that if you are likely to face any cash flow issues with Government debt that you contact us as soon as possible so that we can help assist in any way possible.
  • A £3,000 cash grant to 700,000 of the smallest businesses will be delivered by local authorities although details of exactly who will receive this and how has yet to be announced.
  • Business rates for retail operations will be discounted for many properties for the year 2020-21.
  • In the Budget the Small Business Employer’s Allowance has been increased from £3,000 to £4,000. This will give most businesses’ a rebate of Employer’s National Insurance starting from 05 April 2020 for the first £4,000.

What happens if you are personally affected? How we can help…

Let us hope that the UK government is successful in containing the Coronavirus outbreak and limiting disruption to your business. In the event that the virus becomes more aggressive, here are a few ways we could possibly help if you are unable to work:

  • Read the attached resource Providing you with innovative solutions for a successful future designed to help you and your team agree on a short-term plan.
  • Complete the attached Tough Times Business Checklist
  • If you are unable to maintain in-house accounting functions – bookkeeping, VAT, credit control and payroll for example – consider outsourcing. We know your business and could step-in to keep record keeping up-to-date and meet those important filing deadlines.
  • We can help you rethink your business plans and if necessary help you organise additional funding if it should be required.
  • We are well connected in the local business community. If you need to source alternative suppliers or sub-contractors we may be able to recommend someone.
  • We can recommend online meeting software that you could use in place of face-to-face meetings with suppliers and customers.

Call anytime to discuss these or any other concerns you may have.