Covid-19

Keeping your workplace and business healthy

The novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has become a major source of uncertainty for global markets. There has been widespread a global impact. But please remember this will come to an end, and medical experts around the world are on the case.

 

Here at the TTF we will be monitoring the spread of the virus on behalf of our membership, and will be sharing the latest information and advice from experts to keep yourself, your employees, and customers feeling confident, assured, safe, healthy, and productive.

Key updates and restrictions

All of the UK is under some form of ‘lockdown’, with England joining Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, after introducing new National Restrictions from Thursday 5 November until at least Wednesday 2 December.

 

Restrictions vary between the devolved Government’s, and it is important to check what local restrictions apply to you. However, in general, hospitality and retail businesses are closed, household mixing is restricted, and people are advised to work from home where possible.

 

It should be noted that the construction industry and the supply chain attached are able to continue to work under restrictions under the various devolved governments, according to both the Construction Leadership Council, and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

 

However, firms must provide a safe operating environment for employees unable to work from home, employing all possible measures to restrict potential exposure, and these are detailed in the CLC Safe Operating Guidelines (version 6).

 

The Government has extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) until 31 March 2021, and employees may be placed on furlough with up to 80% of their wages (up to £2,500) covered per month by the Government.

ASK THE EXPERTS

Need further advice on Covid-19? Call the NHS 111 line.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an  illness that can affect your lungs and airways, which is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

 

Some of the common symptoms of coronavirus include a cough, a high temperature, shortness of breath, or a sudden loss of taste and smell, but individuals have reported a wide range variation.

 

If you do have any of these symptoms, you must self isolate and request a COVID-19 test. This test is free. You can find more information on the NHS website.

 

To find out more about Covid-19, including answers to the most common questions about the virus, we suggest you use the NHS website. If you are concerned about any symptoms you may be showing, please contact NHS 111.

ORDER A TEST

Free testing is available for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms.

What should I do as a business

There are three simple actions we must all do to keep on protecting each other. These are:

 

  • Wash hands – keep washing your hands regularly
  • Cover face – wear a face covering in enclosed spaces
  • Make space -stay at least 2 metres apart – or 1 metre with a face covering or other precautions

 

All businesses in the UK must take action to limit the spread of the COVID-19, and the Government as of 5 November 2020 is advising worker to work from home where possible.

 

If your employees are not able to work from home, businesses must reduce the spread of COVID-19 by providing a safe space to work. In general, the advice is to keep employees at least two metres apart, or where this is not possible add additional safety measures.

 

Some of the basic measures all businesses should take are regularly disinfecting surfaces, providing barriers, and limiting the number of employees in a workspace at one time.

 

How do these measures apply to the manufacturing and construction sectors

 

Even as new restrictions are introduced, as of 5 November 2020, the advice from both national and devolved government continues to be that ‘construction sites (and supply chains) are able to stay open as long as they can do so safely.

 

All working in the construction supply chain should seek to operate using Safe Site Operating Procedures, as provided by the Construction Leadership Council.

 

These documents reiterate that formal assessments must be undertaken to determine the COVID-19 risk in each aspect of the business although, the fundamental messages about actions required remain the same:

 

  • Anyone who can work from home should continue to do so
  • Anyone with symptoms should not return to work, and should instead self-isolate, as should members of their household.
  • Maintaining 2m distances throughout the working day
  • Guidance and increased facilities for hand washing and hygiene
  • Frequent cleaning of shared equipment and contact points

 

However, there remain some differences between national and devolved Governments in the UK on restrictions (detailed in one of our blogs in October 2020), and firms should also check if any local restrictions will affect them.

 

 

The UK Government is regularly updating information for businesses and employers on what actions they should take in relation to Covid-19. We will also continue to check and update this page for short insights.

How is Government supporting business

Since the onset and escalation of Covid-19, the Government has been seeking to respond to the needs of businesses disrupted by measures such as calls to stay at home.

 

The first set of these announcements came during the Budget on 12 March 2020. This included a £12bn response package, supporting public services such as the NHS, supporting the ability of SME’s to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay, and ensuring low-interest loans for businesses. This followed on from steps taken by the Bank of England to ease monetary policy, including cutting rates, offering cheap funding to banks, and lowering capital buffers to ensure lending continues.

 

As the scale of the epidemic and the impact of efforts to ‘flatten the curve’ become clear, the Government announced £350bn in further support for businesses on 17 March 2020. The most significant aspect of this announcement was the £330bn in state backed loans for all businesses through the banking system with the Bank of England.

 

These have been further announcements of support since then including 100% Government supported loans for SMEs, the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme till December, and more. Below we’re highlighting the key areas of support from Government which businesses in the timber industry are most likely to find useful. You can find the full set of business relief measures on Gov.Uk.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)?

 

CJRS allows for employees to receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500.

 

CJRS was first introduced by the Government in March 2020, and while it was due to be replaced by the Job Support Scheme, has been extended until 31 March 2021 following the announcement of further restrictions on businesses in November 2020 in England.

 

Who is eligible? 

 

All employers with a UK bank account and UK PAYE schemes can claim the grant. Neither the employer nor the employee needs to have previously used the CJRS.

 

If you let go of an employee due to your concern about the end of the furlough scheme coming to an end before 31 October 2020, you can rehire them under the scheme.

 

More information can be found at Gov.UK.

Job Support Scheme

What is the Job Support Scheme? 

 

The Job Support Scheme (JSS) aims to top up the wages of employees unable to work full-time because of coronavirus restrictions over the winter.

 

The new scheme is set to replace the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which was due to end in November, but has since been extended unti l31 March 2020. It is not clear at which point the JSS will takeover.

 

However, under this scheme there are two strands of support:

 

• JSS Open: for businesses that are operating, but facing decreased demand.
JSS Closed: for businesses that are legally required to close their premises as a direct result of coronavirus restrictions.

 

JSS Open requires an employee work a minimum of 20% of their usual hours, with the employer to continue to pay them as normal for the hours worked. The employer will pay 5% of reference salary for the hours not worked, up to a maximum of £125 per month, with the discretion to pay more than this if they wish. The government will pay the remainder of 61.67%, of reference salary for the hours not worked, up to a maximum of £1,541.75 per month. The result is employees will continue to receive at least 73% of their normal wages, where they earn £3,125 a month or less.

 

JSS Closed will mean an employee unable to work due to COVID restrictions will receive around two thirds of their normal pay, paid by their employer and fully funded by the government, to a maximum of £2,083.33 per month, although their employer has discretion to pay more than this if they wish.

 

How long will the scheme run for?

 

At the moment the Government has stated it will run until at least 30 April 2021.

 

What businesses are eligible for this scheme?

 

Just like the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, businesses will have to apply. It is open to employers who didn’t take part in the furlough scheme. All small and medium-sized businesses are eligible, but larger businesses will be required to prove they’ve been adversely affected by coronavirus.  Employees cannot be on a redundancy notice while taking part.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

How long will this scheme run for?

 

The deadline to apply for the scheme has been extended to 31 January 2021. 

 

Am I eligible?

 

All UK based businesses with an annual turnover of below £45m can apply. It remains important your borrowing proposal is considered viable by the lender. 

 

The lender must believe this loan will enable your business to trade out of any short-to-medium term difficulty. 

 

How can I access the scheme?

 

CBILS is available through the British Business Bank’s 40+ accredited lenders, which are listed on the British Business Bank website here

 

In the first instance, you should approach your own provider – ideally via the lender’s website. You may also consider approaching other lenders if you are unable to access the finance you need. 

 

Are there fees to borrow under CBILS?

 

There is no guarantee fee for SMEs to use the CBILS scheme. Instead, lenders will pay a fee to access the scheme. 

 

I am getting other kinds of aid to help respond to COVID-19 – can I still get a loan? 

 

Yes, you are still eligible for the loan scheme. Receiving business rate reliefs or grants unrelated to the CBIL scheme does not affect eligibility. 

 

When do I have to pay it back? 

 

The maximum term for CBILS has been extended from six years to 10 years, those businesses that need to free up cashflow can extend their loan terms to drastically reduce their monthly payments. With the downside being a greater charge in total interest costs.

 

More information: 

 

For more information on the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, please visit the British Bank’s page and their website and read our article on Accessing the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Support for businesses paying tax

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. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

New restructuring tools to be added to insolvency law

The changes being made include:

  • Giving companies greater breathing space from creditors seeking to ensure their debts for a period of time while they seek a rescue or restructure;
  • Protecting their supplies to allow them to continue trading during this period; and;
  • A new restructuring plan, which will bind creditors

 

Key safeguards for creditors and suppliers will be included to ensure they are paid, while existing laws against fraudulent trading and the threat of director disqualification will continue to act as an effective deterrent against reckless misuse of these new measures.

 

Wrongful trading provisions are also being suspended retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for three months so directors can keep their businesses going without the threat of personal liability.

 

More information: 

 

You can find out more in Business Secretary, Alok Sharma’s announcement on the 28 March and our article on the New Restructuring Tools to be added to Insolvency Law.

Deferral of VAT payments

When will deferral of VAT payments apply? 

 

Businesses which deferred their VAT due to coronavirus will no longer have to pay a lump sum at the end of March. Businesses will be allowed to spread their deferred VAT bill over 11 smaller repayments with no interest to pay.

 

Am I eligible?

 

All VAT-registered UK businesses are eligible.

 

How do I access it?

 

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. UK Registered businesses will not need to make VAT payments normally due with VAT returns during this period.

 

Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020-21 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

 

Do I need to cancel my direct debit if I want my VAT payment to be deferred?

 

Businesses who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they wish to defer their VAT payments. HMRC has now confirmed that it will not automatically cancel collection of VAT payments by direct debit.

 

Businesses will also need to remember to reinstate their direct debit mandate once the deferral is over and to make arrangements to pay the accumulated VAT by the end of the 2020/21 tax year.

 

Will interest be due if payment has been deferred? 

 

HMRC will be inhibiting all default surcharges and interest will not be accrued on amounts deferred as a result of this announcement.

 

Would there be penalties if I do not render my VAT on time? 

 

HMRC said that while surcharges would be “inhibited” during the deferral period, businesses need to continue to render their VAT return on time.

 

If you’re in temporary financial distress because of COVID-19

 

If you are experiencing financial difficulties more help is available from HMRC’s Time to Pay service.

 

More information:

 

For more information please read the Government’s guidance on deferring VAT payments and HM Government’s Business Support page on VAT deferral.

Deferral of Self-Assessment payment

When does the deferral of income tax apply? 

 

The deferral for income tax self assessment applies to the second payment on account for 2019/20 due on 31 July 2020 which is deferred until 31 January 2021. This is an automatic offer and no application is required.

 

Am I eligible? 

 

All taxpayers with a second self-assessment payment on account due on 31 July 2020 can defer payment until 31 January 2021. It is not necessary to be self-employed to be eligible for the deferral.

 

How do I access it?

 

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged if you defer payment of your July 2020 payment on account until January 2021.

 

HMRC have also scaled up their Time to Pay offer to all firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of coronavirus and have outstanding tax liabilities.

 

When can I access it?

 

On 31 July 2020 when your self-assessment payment on account, ordinarily due to be paid on that date, may be deferred until 31 January 2021.

 

Do I have to defer my tax payment? 

 

The deferral is optional. Taxpayers can still pay the July payment if they wish to avoid a larger payment in January 2021.

 

Do I need to cancel my direct debit? 

 

Any taxpayer who wishes to defer payment needs to cancel any direct debit set up for this payment on account and ensure they reinstate it in time for the January 2021 payment.

 

Should I still file my self assessment returns?

 

Self assessment returns should still be filed by their due date and it may be advantageous to file the 2019/20 return as soon as possible after 5 April 2020.

 

This might help facilitate the tax payment due in January 2021 and highlight any refund due, including as a result of any loss relief available.

 

If you’re in temporary financial distress because of COVID-19

 

If you are experiencing financial difficulties more help is available from HMRC’s Time to Pay service.

 

More information: 

 

For more information, please see the Government’s page on being unable to pay your tax bill on time, and the Government’s Support for Businesses page.

Bounce Back Loans

What are ‘Bounce Back Loans’?

 

The scheme aims to help small and medium-sized businesses borrow quickly. Loans of between £2,000 and £50,000 are on offer.

 

The Government has revealed a repayment plan for the Bounce Back Loan. The loan can be extended extended from six to 10 years, nearly halving the monthly repayment for businesses.

 

Businesses who are struggling can now choose to make interest-only payments and anyone in real trouble can apply to suspend repayments all together for up to six months.

 

Businesses credit rating will not be affected by this.

 

How do I apply?

 

Similar to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme, firms will be able to access these loans through a network of accredited lenders.

 

The scheme is open to applications until 31 January 2021. Find out more at Gov.UK.

How is this affecting the timber industry?

The timber trade, in reflection of the larger construction sector, faced a significant decrease in demand for products and services as most respondents believe the COVID-19 pandemic is a high to severe level threat to their company and sector.

 

The impact from the pandemic was immediate as respondents having reported a decrease to their cash flow and many customers and suppliers have already asked for an extension to their payment.

 

Along with the rest of the construction, the timber industry has largely returned and grown month on month towards a resumption of normal activity since the harsh lockdown measures of April were lifted.

 

You can read our surveys of membership from April when the lockdown was most firmly in place here. 

 

We also have worked with our partners in the Confederation of Timber Industries to produce a report on how the timber supply chain is being affected by COVID-19. Largely, firms are expecting to return to work in May in concert with Government advice and with the rest of the construction industry. View the article and report here.

 

Also make sure you are subscribed to our newsletter which contains regular updates and the latest advice we are provided by health experts, your colleagues, and the UK Government.