COVID-19 Business FAQs

Since March 2020, many UK businesses have come under an increasing amount of pressure due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

These FAQs aim to provide answers to some of the most pressing questions being asked by business owners, as well as directing you to useful sources of further information and support.

Topics covered include: how businesses and the economy are being affected by COVID-19, how businesses can navigate the current crisis, what financial support is available, the best ways to access banking facilities during the pandemic and how businesses can help support their employees and keep them safe.

This information was last updated on 5 November 2020. Please keep checking for further updates.

1. General questions

1. How has COVID-19 affected UK businesses?

COVID-19 has had a huge and unprecedented impact on businesses around the globe.

Common issues being experienced by UK businesses include:

  • Supply chain disruption; as the virus spreads and governments impose national restrictions, sectors which rely on global supply chains are struggling to get parts. Some UK firms are being buffered by inventories built up in the run-up to Brexit. UK-EU trade talks continue ahead of the end of the transition period at the end of this year.
  • Drop in demand; while some sectors, including grocers, are seeing a rise in demand others, especially the travel and hospitality industry, are seeing significantly reduced activity.
  • Staffing issues; many sectors have had to furlough staff, let them go or reduce their hours. It is likely that UK employment levels will be hit dramatically, with the Bank of England predicting the unemployment rate could peak at 7.75% in 2021. Conversely, businesses which are in high demand, for example some supermarkets, are recruiting at speed to cope with rising demand and staff shortages due to sickness and self-isolation.

If your business is being affected by any of these issues, take a look at the government’s business support website.

2. What impact is COVID-19 likely to have on the economy?

COVID-19 has caused almost unprecedented global economic uncertainty. The near-term outlook remains challenging and the final impact will depend on the severity and duration of the shock.

The onset of the pandemic saw UK GDP decline sharply in Q2, by 19.8%, as the country locked down for the first time. The easing of COVID-19 related restrictions saw GDP rebound by 15.5% in Q3, however another national lockdown will significantly restrain activity in Q4 2020. The recovery should pick up speed in 2021 as restrictions are eased, but there is currently heightened uncertainty around both the path of the virus and new UK-EU trading arrangements.

The latest government and Bank of England’s actions will help mitigate the impact, with banks continuing to play an important part of the solution.

3. How has the Bank of England reacted to COVID-19?

The Bank of England (BoE) has put a package of measures in place to support businesses and the economy.

This includes cutting interest rates to a record-low of 0.1% and injecting funds into the economy by increasing its holdings of UK government bonds to £875 billion (Quantitative Easing), to help boost market confidence, spending and investment.

Government-bank lending schemes have helped many businesses to access credit since the onset of the pandemic (see below). These schemes have recently been extended until the end of January 2021, alongside some technical changes to the proposed terms. The Bank of England lending facility, the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), is specifically designed to support larger firms.

Find out about the COVID Corporate Financing Facility.

The BoE has also taken steps to help banks continue lending, including offering long-term funding at interest rates at, or close to, 0.1% and providing additional support to banks that offer more lending to small and medium-sized businesses.

It has reduced the amount of capital that banks and building societies need to set against their lending to UK businesses and households and has also temporarily reduced the regulatory burden placed on banks so they can focus on helping businesses and individuals affected by coronavirus.

These particular measures will support up to £190 billion of bank lending to businesses, more than 13 times the net amount lent to businesses in 2019.

See the Bank of England’s latest coronavirus announcements.

4. What steps can I take to protect my business from the effects of COVID-19?

While the situation is constantly evolving and it’s impossible to fully predict how your business will be affected by COVID-19, there are steps you can take to help protect your company and ensure you are prepared for recovery.

These include:

  • Ensure you, or your HR team are familiar with all the latest coronavirus guidance from the government
  • Keep employees regularly updated about how the business is being affected and any changes being introduced
  • Ensure you are receiving all the support you’re entitled to
  • Review your supply chain to help you anticipate and mitigate against any disruptions
  • Assess your cash flow situation
  • Consider whether your business needs to adapt in the face of current restrictions
  • Assess how your business is being impacted by current restrictions and how it’s likely to affect your forecast for the coming months. Will you need all your staff to do the volume of work you anticipate, or should you consider furloughing some or reducing hours?

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has launched a Coronavirus Hub providing advice and support for businesses. Take a look at the hub.

The government has launched a dedicated business support website to help businesses navigate this period.

See full details of the government’s financial support for businesses.

2. Government and financial support

1. I’m a small business owner, what government support am I entitled to and how do I access it?

The government has announced an unprecedented package of measures aimed at supporting businesses financially through the disruption caused by COVID-19, including:

Deferred VAT payments – UK registered businesses that had a VAT payment due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 were able to defer the payment to help manage cash flow. Initially the amount had to be paid by March 2021, however, this has now been extended, interest free, until 31 March 2022.

A New Payment Scheme process for paying deferred VAT is expected to be put in place in early 2021. 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.

Those able to pay their deferred VAT can still do so by 31 March 2021.

See more information on Gov.uk.  

Deferred self-assessment payments – Businesses that were due to make a self-assessment payment on account by 31 July 2020 were able to defer it until 31 January 2021, with no penalties or interest charged. 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.

All self-assessment taxpayers not able to pay their tax bill on time, including those who cannot use the online service, can use HMRC’s Time to Pay Self-Assessment helpline to agree a payment plan.

See Gov.uk for advice on what to do if you cannot pay your tax bill on time.

Business rates discount for retail, hospitality and leisure – Businesses in these sectors in England will be eligible for a business rates holiday for the 2020-21 tax year. Retail properties that have a rateable value below £51,000 may also be eligible for a grant of up to £25,000 from their local authority. The definition of retail, hospitality and leisure business has been expanded to cover estate agents, lettings agencies and bingo halls, among others.

Early years nurseries will also be eligible for the business rates holiday.

There’s no need for businesses to apply. Local authorities will reissue your bill as soon as possible.

See a full list of businesses covered by the rates discount.

For more information on cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, contact your local authority.

In Wales, all retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £500,000 or below will receive 100% non-domestic rates relief in 2020-21.

See more about rates relief in Wales

In Scotland, retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will get 100% rates relief from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. In addition, all non-domestic properties in Scotland will get 1.6% rates relief.

See more about rates relief in Scotland

In Northern Ireland, businesses in the hospitality, tourism and leisure, retail (excluding certain supermarkets and off-licences) and childcare sectors don’t have to pay business rates for the financial year up to 31 March 2021.

See more about rates relief in Northern Ireland

Small Business Grant Scheme - All businesses in England that occupy a property and are eligible for small business rate relief or rural rate relief will be provided with a one-off £10,000 grant to help meet ongoing business costs.

The grants will come directly from your local authority. Businesses should have received their grant by 30 September 2020. If you think you should have been eligible for a grant but haven’t received one, contact your local council.

Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) – Businesses will be able to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 using a fast-track finance scheme which offers 100% government-backed guarantees to lenders. Businesses remain 100% liable for the debt.

The scheme is aimed at offering easy access to financial support for small businesses and companies who will be able to apply using a short, simple online form.

Loans available under the scheme will be interest-free for 12 months and no repayments will be due during the first 12 months. 

The scheme opened for applications on 4 May 2020 and has a current deadline for new applications of 31 January 2021.

In November, the Chancellor announced that businesses which had already taken out a Bounce Back Loan may be eligible to top up their loan. Customers should note that the combined value of their original loan and top up cannot exceed 25% of their originally stated turnover, and is subject to an overall cap of £50,000.

Find out more about the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and how to apply

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) – This temporary government-backed loan guarantee scheme aims to help businesses cope with the impact of lost or deferred revenue caused by COVID-19.

The government will provide banks with an 80% guarantee on loans of up to £5 million and up to six years. Businesses remain 100% liable for the debt.

The scheme is open to eligible UK-based businesses with an annual turnover of below £45 million.

The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of capital and interest repayments.

Applications for CBILS are open until 31 January 2021.

Find out the eligibility criteria and how to apply for CBILS.

Coronavirus Future Fund - The Future Fund provides government-backed loans of between £125,000 and £5 million to UK-based companies, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors. These loans are aimed at businesses that are unable to access other government support programmes because they are pre-revenue or pre-profit. On 30 June 2020, the criteria for the Future Fund was widened to include companies which have participated in accelerator programmes. The government initially made £250 million available under the scheme, however, by the end of June 2020, £320 million of support had been allocated to more than 320 companies.

The scheme is delivered by the British Business Bank and is open for applications until the end of January 2021.

See how to apply for the Future Fund.

Time to Pay Service – All businesses and self-employed people who are experiencing financial distress and have outstanding tax liabilities can use the Time to Pay service to pay back their debt in monthly instalments.

To see if you’re eligible for the scheme, call the dedicated HMRC hotline on 0800 024 1222.

The government has launched a business support website dedicated to helping businesses navigate COVID-19. Visit the website for more information on financial support.

2. What financial help and support is available for large businesses?

The government has announced a package of support aimed at helping larger businesses through the current crisis. Measures include:

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) – The CLBILS provides an 80% government guarantee to lenders to enable larger businesses to borrow up to 25% of turnover, to a maximum of £200 million.

This scheme is designed for large firms that do not qualify for the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).

Companies borrowing more than £50 million through the scheme will be subject to restrictions on dividend payments, senior pay and share buy-backs during the period of the loan.

Finance backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest and businesses will be 100% responsible for paying any money borrowed back, as well as interest and any fees charged by the lender.

Applications for CLBILS are open until 31 January 2021.

Find out more about the scheme and check your eligibility

COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) – The Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger investment-grade companies which are being affected by a short-term funding squeeze.

Companies that wish to draw from the CCFF beyond 12 months from 19 May will be subject to restrictions on dividend payments, senior pay and share buy-backs during the period.

From 9 October 2020, it was announced that firms requesting financing from the CCFF will be asked to provide an up-to-date credit rating. Where the firm’s credit rating has dropped below investment grade, the Treasury will ask for additional information before deciding the appropriate level of support.

Businesses that have drawn under the CCFF will be able to make an early repayment if they wish to. This offers greater flexibility to exit the Facility where businesses are able to find alternative forms of funding.

Find out more about the Bank of England’s scheme and check your eligibility.

Coronavirus Future Fund – This £500 million fund provides government-backed loans of between £125,000 and £5 million to UK-based companies, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors. These loans are aimed at businesses that are unable to access other government support programmes because they are pre-revenue or pre-profit.

The scheme is delivered by the British Business Bank and is open for applications until the end of January 2021.

See how to apply for the Future Fund.

Deferred VAT payments – UK registered businesses that have a VAT payment due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 can defer the payment to help manage cash flow. Initially the amount had to be paid by March 2021. This has now been extended, interest free, until 31 March 2022.

A New Payment Scheme process for paying deferred VAT is expected to be put in place in early 2021. 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.

Those able to pay their deferred VAT can still do so by 31 March 2021.

See more information on Gov.uk.

Deferred self-assessment payments – Businesses that were due to make a self-assessment payment on account by 31 July 2020 were able to defer it until 31 January 2021, with no penalties or interest charged. 

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.

All self-assessment taxpayers not able to pay their tax bill on time, including those who cannot use the online service, can use HMRC’s Time to Pay Self-Assessment helpline to agree a payment plan.

See Gov.uk for advice on what to do if you cannot pay your tax bill on time.

Business rates discount for retail, hospitality and leisure – Businesses in these sectors in England will be eligible for a business rates holiday for the 2020-21 tax year. Retail properties that have a rateable value below £51,000 may also be eligible for a grant of up to £25,000 from their local authority. The definition of retail, hospitality and leisure business has been expanded to cover estate agents, lettings agencies and bingo halls, among others.

Early years nurseries will also be eligible for the business rates holiday.

There’s no need for businesses to apply. Local authorities will reissue your bill as soon as possible.

See a full list of businesses covered by the rates discount.

For more information on cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, contact your local authority.

In Wales, all retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £500,000 or below will receive 100% non-domestic rates relief in 2020-21. 

See more about rates relief in Wales.

In Scotland, retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will get 100% rates relief from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.  In addition, all non-domestic properties in Scotland will get 1.6% rates relief. 

See more about rates relief in Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, businesses in the hospitality, tourism and leisure, retail (excluding certain supermarkets and off-licences) and childcare sectors don’t have to pay business rates for the financial year up to 31 March 2021.

See more about rates relief in Northern Ireland.

3. What financial help and support is available for the self-employed?

The government has announced a number of measures aimed at providing financial support to people who are self-employed.

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) provides grants to help support self-employed individuals struggling due to coronavirus.

The scheme is open to anyone who is self-employed or a member of a trading partnership and has filed a tax return for 2018-19 as such. 

It originally consisted of two grants. The first grant allowed people to claim up to 80% of their average monthly trading profit for three months, covering March, April and May, capped at £2,500 a month and the second allowed people to claim 70% of their average monthly trading profit for three months, covering June, July and August, to a cap of £2,190 a month.

Applications for the first two grants are now closed.

In September 2020, the Chancellor announced an extension to the scheme which will run for six months from 1 November 2020 to 30 April 2021. Again, the scheme is divided into two grants, each covering three months.

The third grant will provide a taxable sum covering 80% of average monthly trading profits, covering November to January, paid out in a single instalment and capped at £7,500 in total.

The fourth grant will cover February to April 2021. The level at which the grant will be set will be published following a government review.

The online application service for the third grant will be available from 30 November 2020. You do not have to have claimed the previous SEISS grants to claim one of the extension grants. However, you do need to meet the same eligibility criteria.

See full eligibility criteria.

See more about the SEISS extension.

If you’re struggling with cash flow while you wait for your SEISS payment, you may benefit from:

  • New overdrafts or overdraft limit increases
  • New or increased Invoice Finance facilities.

Visit our overdraft page for more information on how to apply.

Find out more about Invoice Finance.

Self-employed individuals can also claim Universal Credit if their income drops or ceases due to COVID-19. The Chancellor has dropped the Minimum Income Floor to make it easier for people to claim. The Universal Credit standard allowance has been increased by £1,000 for the 12 months from 6 April 2020, equating to around an extra £80 a month.

Apply for Universal Credit.

4. My business is facing increased coronavirus restrictions, is there any additional financial support available?

The financial support offered to businesses facing increased coronavirus restrictions varies between nations.

In England, businesses forced to close due to national or local lockdown restrictions can receive a support grant of up to £3,000 per month, dependent on their rateable value.

  • Properties with a rateable value of £15,000 or under will receive grants of £667 per two weeks of closure (£1,334 per month).
  • Properties with a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 will receive grants of £1,000 per two weeks of closure (£2,000 per month).
  • Properties with a rateable value of £51,000 or over will receive grants of £1,500 per two weeks of closure (£3,000 per month).

In addition, businesses in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors that suffered from reduced demand due to local restrictions introduced between 1 August and 5 November will be eligible for backdated grants at 70% of the value of closed grants up to a maximum of £2,100 per month.

Businesses should apply for grants directly to their local council. 

The devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have announced their own support packages for businesses affected by increased coronavirus restrictions.

See details of Scotland’s Strategic Framework Business Fund.

See details of Wales’ Economic Resilience Fund.

See details of Northern Ireland’s Localised Restrictions Support Scheme.

Businesses across all UK nations can also access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

See more about the scheme.

5. What support is available for commercial renters?

New measures mean that commercial tenants who are struggling to pay their rent due to COVID-19 will be protected from eviction.

The measures, which prevent tenants from being evicted due to missing a payment, currently last until at least 31 December 2020.

However, it’s important to note that the measures aren’t a rental holiday and any tenants who are struggling to pay their rent should speak to their landlord as soon as possible to arrange a payment plan.

6. Can I get any help with my business energy and utility bills?

While there is no specific energy support package in place for commercial energy customers, any businesses in financial distress are encouraged to speak to their utilities providers and see if there’s a way to restructure their bills.

Ofgem has said: “Any energy customer in financial distress will also be supported by their supplier which could include debt repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary.”

7. Due to COVID-19 many of my customers are late paying their invoices and it’s causing me cash flow issues. What can I do?

If you’re a small business, with under 50 staff, the office of the Small Business Commissioner can offer help and advice on late payments.

Take a look at the Small Business Commissioner website for more information or give them a call on 0121 695 7770.

Larger businesses will need to pursue any debt recovery through the courts.

If late payments are impacting your cash flow, we offer a number of solutions which could help, including Invoice Finance.

We are currently offering a package of support that has been created to help relieve some of the immediate pressures that you may experience while helping you to take advantage of the working capital that an Invoice Finance facility can provide.

Service Fee: To limit your charges while your invoice levels recover, we are offering facilities with zero service charge for the first month and no arrangement fee.

Reduced Discount Charge: To enable you to plan ahead more confidently, we are offering a 1% discount margin which will be applied to all funding provided until 31 March 2021.

Speak to one of our specialists on 0800 169 4356 or get in touch with your Relationship Manager to see how we can help support you.

8. What help and support is there for businesses trading internationally?

If your business exports or delivers goods and services abroad and has been impacted by COVID-19, or is struggling with supply chain issues, the Department for International Trade is able to support you in a number of ways, including:

  • providing assistance with customs authorities to ensure smooth clearance of goods
  • offering advice on intellectual property and business continuity
  • finding alternative suppliers.

For more information, see the government’s dedicated Business Support website.

See how we can help support your business with international trade at this time.

In addition, our Invoice Finance solutions can be offered on both domestic and export debt with a wide range of currencies available. For more information please call one of our specialists on 0800 169 4356.

Find out more about Invoice Finance solutions.

9. Can I extend my overdraft as a contingency for coronavirus?

Business customers can apply for new overdrafts or overdraft limit increases to help manage cash flow.

For businesses with a turnover of up to £3 million, please call our business management team on 0345 072 5555 to discuss your lending needs.

For businesses with a turnover of £3-100 million, please contact your Relationship Manager.

10. I already have a business loan with Lloyds Bank. Can I pause payments while my business is closed?

As part of measures to help businesses manage cash flow during this difficult time, we are offering capital repayment holidays on loans for companies which have been severely impacted by coronavirus.

To find out more, please contact your Relationship Manager or give our business management team a call on 0345 072 5555.

We’re also offering Asset Finance repayment holidays of up to three months for existing facilities.

Find out more about how to apply for an Asset Finance repayment holiday.

11. Is there any support available to help reduce the administrative burden on my business?

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act was passed on 25 June 2020 and includes a number of measures designed to relieve the burden on businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak, including;

  • temporary easements for Annual General Meetings and filing requirements for public limited companies
  • new corporate restructuring tools added to the insolvency regime to give companies time to maximise their chances of survival
  • a temporary suspension for parts of insolvency law
  • automatic extensions for confirmation statements, registrations of charges and event-driven filings, i.e. a change to your company’s directors
  • more time to file accounts.

See more about the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020.

3. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

1. What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and how can it help my business?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) aims to help businesses retain their employees, even if, due to COVID-19, they don’t currently have any work for them to do.

Under the scheme, which was first introduced in March 2020 and has been extended until March 2021, businesses are able to ‘furlough’ employees and claim a grant from the government to help cover their wages.

The scheme has been adapted a number of times to take into account the changing circumstances facing businesses, with employers being asked to make contributions to furloughed employees’ wages between August and October.

From 1 November 2020, employers will be able to claim government grants to cover 80% of furloughed employees’ wages for hours not worked. Employers will be asked to pay National Insurance and employer pension contributions for hours not worked.

Claims for wages through the CJRS can be made online. Once the claim has been submitted and approved by HMRC you should receive a payment within six working days.

Information on how to claim through the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be released shortly.

Find out more about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

2. What is a ‘furloughed’ employee?

A furloughed employee is someone who is kept on the company payroll but isn’t currently working. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme means that 80% of their salary up to £2,500 a month will be paid by the government until the end of March 2021.

Since July, workers have been able to be furloughed on a part-time basis. 

While they are furloughed, employees retain the same rights as when they are at work, including the right to Statutory Sick Pay and maternity and paternity rights.

3. Which of my employees can be furloughed?

Any employees can be furloughed, as long as they have been on your PAYE payroll since on or before 30 October 2020.

Workers can be furloughed on a full or part-time basis and full-time, part-time, flexible and zero-hour contract staff can all be furloughed.

Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees. However, they are allowed to continue with their training.

Employees who are shielding due to health concerns or who have caring responsibilities can be furloughed.

If employees were made redundant on or after 23 September 2020 you can rehire and furlough them.

In July, the scheme temporarily closed to new entrants. However, from 1 November 2020, it reopened to new entrants and neither the employer nor the employee needs to have previously claimed or been claimed for under CJRS to make a claim.

See government guidance on which employees can be furloughed

4. Is there a limit to how many employees I can furlough?

There is no limit to the number of eligible employees you can furlough at any one time.

See full eligibility criteria.

5. When do I have to start making contributions to furloughed staff’s pay?

During the summer months, the level of the CJRS grant was tapered to reflect the fact that more people were able to work.

From August to October 2020, employees were asked to contribute to furloughed employees’ wages for hours not worked. However, from November, the government committed to paying the full 80% of furloughed employees’ wages for any hours not worked. Employers will be asked to pay National Insurance and pension contributions for hours not worked.

For workers furloughed on a part-time basis, employers will pay 100% of their salary plus ER NICs and pension contributions for the hours worked.

The scheme will be reviewed in January 2021 to see if economic conditions have improved sufficiently to ask employers to once again make contributions to furloughed employees’ wages.

6. What is the process for furloughing an employee?

If you need to furlough some employees it is a relatively simple process.

Employees need to be consulted and have to agree to be furloughed. Once an agreement has been reached, you’ll need to gain the written consent of all affected workers and keep a record of this.

Claims for grants under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme can be made online.

You will need to calculate how much you are claiming for and also be able to provide the following information:

  • EPAYE reference number
  • the number of employees being furloughed
  • each employee’s National Insurance Number
  • the claim period – start and end date
  • the amount being claimed, including employer National Insurance and pension contributions
  • bank account number and sort code
  • claimant’s name and contact number.

The grant will be paid via BACS into a UK bank account.

Calculate how much you can claim under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The government is advising employers to claim in advance of an imminent payroll, or when they run their payroll.

Make a claim online

If you’re using an agent to claim on your behalf, they will need to be authorised to do PAYE online for you. You can give authorisation by accessing HMRC Online Services and selecting ‘Manage Account’.

If you are furloughing more than 100 employees, you’ll need to upload a file for each employee including;

  • full name
  • National Insurance number
  • payroll number (optional)
  • furlough start date
  • furlough end date (if known)
  • full amount claimed.

7. If the government pays 80% of my furloughed employees’ salaries, do I have to make up the other 20%?

You can do so if you wish, but you are under no obligation to top up payments made under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

You will need to pay National Insurance and pension contributions for any hours not worked by furloughed staff and wages, plus National Insurance and pension contributions for any hours worked if your staff are furloughed on a part-time basis.

8. Can I hire someone who is currently being furloughed by another company?

Yes, you can hire someone who is being furloughed from another company. It is fine for furloughed employees to work as long as it is unconnected to the company they are furloughed from.

If you are hiring a furloughed worker, complete the PAYE new starter checklist as usual including statement C.

See the starter checklist for PAYE.

9. How long will the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme run for?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is set to run until 31 March 2021. At this point it will have been running for 13 months.

The scheme temporarily closed to new entrants from 30 June 2020. However, it reopened in November.

10. Is there a financial incentive to bring employees back from furlough?

The government previously announced plans for a Job Retention Bonus. Under the scheme, employers would get a £1,000 grant for each employee brought back from furlough who was still employed by 31 January 2021. Bonuses were scheduled to be paid in February 2021. However, in November, it was announced that the Job Retention Bonus would no longer be paid in February due to furlough being extended until March 2021.

The government confirmed it would reconsider the bonuses at an appropriate time.

11. What is the Job Support Scheme?

The Job Support Scheme was designed as a replacement for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and provides grants to cover a proportion of employees’ wages if employers are experiencing reduced demand or are legally obliged to close due to COVID. It was due to launch on 1 November 2020 but was postponed when the CJRS was extended.

12. What are lay-offs?

Lay-offs are when you ask your employees to stay at home or take unpaid leave as there’s not sufficient work for them to do. There’s no limit to how long you can lay staff off for, but if it’s longer than four consecutive weeks or six weeks in 13 they can apply for redundancy.

Unless your employees’ contracts allow for unpaid or reduced pay lay-offs, you’ll still have to pay their full wage. If the contract does allow for unpaid lay-offs, you’ll need to pay statutory lay-off pay which is £29 a day for five days in any three-month period.

If you are considering lay-offs, it’s worth seeing if the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a viable alternative.

See more about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

13. What is short-time working?

Short-time working is when you ask your employees to work reduced hours due to lack of work.

Employees on short-time working are entitled to guarantee pay which is £29 a day for five days in any three-month period. You can top this up if you wish.

If you need employees to work reduced hours, they won’t be eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

It’s worth consulting with them to see if you can come to a solution that suits everyone.

4. Sick pay and time off

1. When should my employees self-isolate?

Government advice is that people should self-isolate if:

  • they have any symptoms of coronavirus (the most common symptoms to watch out for are a new continuous cough, a high temperature and/or a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell).
  • they’ve tested positive for coronavirus
  • they live with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive
  • someone in their support bubble has symptoms or has tested positive
  • they’ve been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 App
  • they arrive in the UK from a country considered to have high levels of coronavirus.

If they have symptoms or test positive themselves, the self-isolation period is ten days, otherwise it’s 14 days.

See the government’s stay at home advice.

2. Can employees work if they are self-isolating?

If employees are able to work from home and aren’t feeling ill themselves, they should be able to work while self-isolating.

If they aren’t feeling able to work, they can call in sick following your usual procedures.

3. Are employees entitled to sick pay while self-isolating?

Employees who follow advice to stay at home will be paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are unable to work, even if they are not ill themselves. For example, if they are self-isolating because a family member is displaying symptoms.

There is no need to pay SSP if employees are self-isolating due to travelling to another country.

Under the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, employers with fewer than 250 employees can claim back the current rate of SSP for current or former employees for periods of sickness from 13 March 2020.

The rebate covers up to two weeks’ worth of payments to employees who have coronavirus or cannot work as they are self-isolating.

There’s no need for a fit note to make the claim.

See more about how to claim under the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme.

5. At work and working from home

1. What is the Tier system and how does it affect my business?

In October 2020 the government introduced a new tier system of Local Covid Alert Levels for England. A similar system has been introduced in Scotland and is expected to be introduced in Wales once the current ‘Firebreak’ lockdown ends on 9 November. Depending on which tier your local area is in, your business may face extra restrictions or be forced to close.

All regions of England, regardless of what Tier they are in, are currently in lockdown until 2 December 2020. It is expected that the Tier system will resume when lockdown ends.

2. Does my business have to close due to COVID-19?

Whether your business has to close or not depends on which area of the UK you are based in.

England, Scotland and Wales are taking varying approaches to businesses remaining open or reopening, so it is important to check the latest advice for your nation.

England is currently under lockdown until 2 December 2020, with a number of businesses, including hospitality venues, hairdressers, gyms and non-essential shops, being required to close by law.

See the full list of businesses which have to close.

When England’s lockdown restrictions are lifted it is thought that the country will revert to the Local Covid Alerts System which will see certain types of businesses in Tier 3 areas having to close.

Wales implemented a ‘Firebreak’ lockdown between 23 October 2020 and 9 November 2020 which saw a number of businesses, including non-essential retail, pubs and restaurants and entertainment venues such as cinemas temporarily closing their doors.

See more about Wales’ Firebreak lockdown.

Scotland introduced five COVID Protection Levels which each region will fall into. At the higher levels various sectors including hospitality and non-essential retail will face closures.

See more about Scotland’s Protection Levels.

See keeping safe guidance for employers and businesses in England.

See keeping safe guidance for employers and businesses in Wales.

See keeping safe guidance for employers and businesses in Scotland.

3. What should I do if my employees can’t work from home?

All businesses are being asked to allow employees to work from home, if they can, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, for some businesses this isn’t an option, for example, construction or manufacturing companies. 

If your business is able to remain open and employees do need to be on site, it’s important to follow the government guidelines to keep them safe, including:

  • Where possible, maintaining at least two metres between workers at all times
  • Encouraging workers to regularly wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using hand sanitiser if soap and water is not available.

See keeping safe guidance for employers and businesses in England.

See keeping safe guidance for employers and businesses in Wales.

See keeping safe guidance for employers and businesses in Scotland.

The UK government has produced a series of guides to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible. The eight guides cover a range of industries, including construction and other outdoor work, factories, plants and warehouses, restaurants offering takeaway and delivery and offices and contact centres.

See the UK government safe working guides.

Employees are allowed to travel to work. However, they are being encouraged to avoid busy commuting times on public transport, so it’s worth considering whether they can work flexible hours to avoid rush hour.

See the Health and Safety Executive’s guide to social distancing at work.

Get advice from the HSE on conducting a risk assessment for your business

4. My business has had to close due to COVID-19. Can I claim on my business insurance?

Unfortunately, the majority of business insurance policies do not cover business interruption due to pandemics or unspecified notifiable disease such as COVID-19.

It is, however, worth checking through the terms and conditions of your policy closely. If it covers government-ordered closure and pandemics or government-ordered closure and unspecified notifiable disease you should be able to make a claim.

You may also be covered if you purchased a ‘non-damage, denial of access’ extension to a business interruption policy.

If you’re unsure what your policy covers, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) recommends checking with your broker or insurer.

See the ABI’s COVID-19 information hub.

5. If employees are working from home, do I have to provide them with appropriate equipment and pay for their utilities?

The government has asked businesses to take “every possible step” to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT equipment and support.

If staff have agreed to work from home voluntarily, or chosen to work from home, there is no need to make a contribution towards their utility bills.

If they are working from home involuntarily, employees could claim up to £6 a week tax relief to cover any additional costs they are incurring. They can’t claim for things that are for both private and business use, for example broadband, but can claim for things related to work, for example business telephone calls or extra gas and electricity costs.

This amount can be covered by employers as a tax-free allowance, or claimed as tax relief via HMRC.

6. Are there any GDPR implications if employees are working from home?

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has said that data protection should not be a barrier to homeworking and data protection law does not prevent staff from using their own devices and communications equipment.

Businesses do, however, need to consider security measures related to homeworking, including:

  • Whether workers can access a VPN (virtual private network) or will have to use an unsecured network
  • If you need a BYOD (bring your own device policy)
  • The increased risk of phishing scams.

The ICO has also said that it understands businesses might have to divert resources away from usual compliance work and that it won’t penalise organisations that it knows need to prioritise other areas or adapt their approach in these extraordinary times.

See the ICO’s hub on data protection and coronavirus.

7. Can I make employees take annual leave, or cancel annual leave they have booked?

If your business is seeing a reduction in work it is possible to make employees take their annual leave on particular days, as long as you give them appropriate notice.

Under the Working Time Directive, notice should specify which days the leave is required to be taken on and be given twice as many days in advance as the number of days in the request. For example, if you require workers to take a week off, you would need to give them two weeks’ notice.

On the other hand, if your business is a key part of the national effort you may find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to cancel leave due to staff shortages. In this case, you should give at least twice as much notice as the period of leave booked i.e. ten days’ notice for five days’ leave.

If you are struggling to allow staff to take their full allocation of annual leave, the government has amended regulations to allow annual leave to be carried over into the next two years.

During these difficult times, annual leave is likely to be a sensitive subject for many employees, so before you ask people to take or cancel leave it’s worth having a conversation with staff to explain your reasoning and see if there are any alternative solutions.

See more about new rules around annual leave.

8. What steps do I need to take to look after vulnerable employees?

The government has identified a number of people who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus and asked them to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. These include:

  • People over the age of 70
  • Pregnant women
  • People with severe chest conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma
  • People with chronic heart disease, kidney disease or liver disease
  • Diabetics
  • People with chronic neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or MS
  • People with a weakened immune system, for example due to chemotherapy
  • People who have problems with their spleen
  • People who are seriously overweight with a body mass index of 40+.

If any of your employees fall into any of these groups, you should take steps to protect them by carrying out a risk assessment and strongly encouraging them to work from home if possible.

If it’s not possible for them to work from home there are a number of options to consider, including moving them into another role which can be carried out at home, temporarily suspending them on full pay, allowing them to take unpaid leave or furloughing them.

Employees with underlying health conditions could qualify as disabled, in which case employers have a duty of care to make reasonable adjustments to their role.

Employers also have a duty of care to protect the health and safety of pregnant employees and should alter their working conditions or hours to avoid significant risks.

Clinically extremely vulnerable people with complex health problems, including people with cancer who are currently undergoing chemotherapy and people with cystic fibrosis, are currently being asked to ‘shield’ in England. If people being asked to shield are unable to work from home, they should not go to work while England is under increased lockdown restrictions until 2 December 2020.

Depending on the circumstances, these employees could be furloughed, or they may qualify for Statutory Sick Pay, Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit.

Guidance on shielding and protecting extremely vulnerable people from COVID-19.

6. Ways to bank

1. Are Lloyds Bank branches still open?

Most of our branches are open as normal although we may have to temporarily close a branch on occasion.

To protect you and our colleagues, we’ve put social distancing measures in place at our branches so you can bank with us safely. When you visit, we may ask you to wait outside if it’s busy and things may take a little more time to complete, but we’ll help you as quickly as we can, so please bear with us. 

We are asking customers to wear a face covering inside if they are able to.

We would encourage customers to only visit a branch if absolutely necessary, both for your safety and that of our staff. Where possible, please use Online for Businessmobile banking or telephone banking, or speak to your Relationship Manager.

The below FAQs will help provide alternative ways of carrying out tasks which you may normally complete in branch.

2. How do I set up Online for Business, the Internet Banking service?

You can set up online banking, enabling you to manage and control your finances online easily and securely, using our three-step registration process.

You’ll need to;

  1. Complete the online registration form
  2. Print the form, sign it and collect any other required signatures
  3. Post the signed form to the freepost address.

It usually takes 12 working days from the date you return your signed registration to us to get you fully set up, however we are currently experiencing high volumes so there may be some delay in processing applications. We’ll keep you up to date via email and send you a welcome pack, including your card and card reader, in the post.

Register for Online for Business.

View our Online for Business Guides.

You can also manage your money via tablet or mobile phone using our mobile banking app.

Find out more about Business Mobile Banking.

Commercial Banking Online is the online banking platform where you can access your cash management and payment products in one place.

Find out more about Commercial Banking Online.

To apply to use Commercial Banking Online, speak to your Relationship Manager.

3. How can I pay in cheques without visiting a branch?

There are other ways to pay in cash or cheques without having to visit a branch:

Via the mobile banking app – you can deposit cheques of up to £1,000 using your device’s camera. There’s a £2,000 deposit limit per day.

At the Post Office® – Business Banking customers can pay in at any branch of the Post Office® using a personalised paying-in slip and a cheque deposit envelope, which can be obtained at the Post Office® or in branch. Payments will take an additional day to be credited to your account.

4. How can I cancel a Direct Debit or claim a refund on a Direct Debit that’s been made?

Direct Debits can be cancelled via Online for Business or by writing to or calling the relevant company.

If a Direct Debit has been taken in error, please contact our Everyday Banking team or speak to your Relationship Manager.

See when you can claim a refund for a Direct Debit under the Direct Debit Guarantee.

5. How can I order a replacement bank card or card reader?

It’s easy to request a replacement authentication or debit card via Online for Business. Just log in, select ‘More Actions’ then ‘Account Services’ and ‘Request Replacement Card’.

You can also order a replacement card reader using Online for Business. Simply log in, click on the Admin drop down on the top right-hand side of the home screen and then ‘Order additional card reader’. Alternatively, you can call us on 0345 300 0116 to request a new one.

For more help using Online for Business see our guide.

6. How can I stop a cheque?

You can stop up to five cheques at a time via Online for Business. Simply log in, select ‘More actions’ then ‘Account services’ and ‘Request to stop a cheque’ and complete the required form.

Requests can be completed for cheques which have not been applied to the recipient’s account. However, you cannot stop a cheque it if it has been cashed or used already.

Requests can take up to 24 hours to process and you’ll be sent a text message confirming once a request has been completed.

There are no fees for stopping cheques.

For more help using Online for Business see our guide.

All lending is subject to status.

While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information provided is correct, no liability is accepted by Lloyds Bank for any loss or damage caused to any person relying on any statement or omission. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances. Specific advice should always be sought in each instance.

Coronavirus support

Find information and support for your business from accessing your account and managing cash flow to the Coronavirus Business Loan Interruption Scheme.

Planning ahead

Create and maintain effective plans to make your business as resilient as possible and minimise the impacts of coronavirus on your staff, supply chain and finances.

Coronavirus Business Loan Interruption Scheme

Find out if your business is eligible and how to apply.

Important legal information

The products and services outlined on this site may be offered by legal entities from across Lloyds Banking Group, including Lloyds Bank plc and Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets plc. Lloyds Bank plc and Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets plc are separate legal entities within the Lloyds Banking Group.

Calls may be monitored or recorded in case we need to check we have carried out your instructions correctly and to help improve our quality of service. Please note that any data sent via e-mail is not secure and may be read by others.

Lloyds Bank is a trading name of Lloyds Bank plc, Bank of Scotland plc and Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets plc. Lloyds Bank plc. Registered Office: 25 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HN. Registered in England and Wales no.2065. Bank of Scotland plc. Registered Office: The Mound, Edinburgh EH1 1YZ. Registered in Scotland no. SC327000. Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets plc. Registered office 25 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HN. Registered in England and Wales no. 10399850. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under registration number 119278, 169628 and 763256 respectively.

Eligible deposits with us are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). We are covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). Please note that due to FSCS and FOS eligibility criteria not all business customers will be covered.

Lloyds Banking Group includes companies using brands including Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland and their associated companies. More information on Lloyds Banking Group can be found at www.lloydsbankinggroup.com

While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information provided is correct, no liability is accepted by Lloyds Bank for any loss or damage caused to any person relying on any statement or omission. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances. Specific advice should always be sought in each instance.