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 22 April 2021. 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:

  • Lockdown closures; a number of sectors, including hospitality, leisure, personal services and non-essential retail have been greatly affected by mandated closures due to local and national lockdowns.
  • Supply chain disruption; as the virus spreads and governments impose national restrictions, sectors which rely on global supply chains are struggling to get parts. 
  • Drop in demand; while some sectors, including grocers, have seen a rise in demand others, especially the travel and hospitality industry, have experienced significantly reduced activity.
  • Staffing issues; many sectors have had to furlough staff, let them go or reduce their hours. It is possible that UK employment levels will rise significantly. The Bank of England is predicting that the unemployment rate could rise to 6.5% from its present level of around 5%, although it may reduce that forecast in light of the government’s decision to further extend its furlough scheme. 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.

Lockdowns and local restrictions throughout much of 2020 saw UK GDP decline by 9.8% across the year. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has forecast GDP growth of 4% in 2021. It is expected that growth will pick up relatively quickly once restrictions are eased, and as the vaccine rollout continues.  

The government and Bank of England’s ongoing financial support measures 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-backed lending schemes have helped many businesses to access credit since the onset of the pandemic (see below). The initial schemes were in place until the end of March 2021 and the new Recovery Loan Scheme, which is also government backed, launched in April 2021. The Bank of England lending facility, the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), was 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
  • Regularly 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, businesses now have the option to spread payments over up to 11 instalments by the end of March 2022.

To use the scheme businesses must:

  • still have deferred VAT to pay
  • be up to date with their VAT returns
  • join by 21 June 2021
  • pay the first instalment when they join
  • pay instalments by Direct Debit (although an alternative route is possible for businesses which are unable to pay via Direct Debit.)

See more about the new payment scheme and how you can opt in.

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 until 30 June 2021, after which they will receive a 66% discount until 31 March 2022. 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 and discount

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 (PDF, 215KB).

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 and 2021-22.

See more about rates relief in Wales (PDF, 453 KB)

In Scotland, retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will get 100% rates relief from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2022. In addition, all non-domestic properties in Scotland will get 1.6% rates relief in the 2020-21 tax year.

See more about rates relief in Scotland

In Northern Ireland, businesses in the hospitality, tourism and leisure, retail (excluding certain supermarkets and off-licences), manufacturing and childcare sectors don’t have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 financial years.

See more about rates relief in Northern Ireland

VAT cuts for hospitality sector - VAT for the hospitality and tourism sectors has been cut from 20% to 5% until 30 September 2021.  This will be followed by six months of a discounted 12.5% rate before returning to the standard 20% on 31 March 2022. The VAT cut and discount applies to:

  • food and non-alcoholic beverages sold for on-premises consumption
  • hot takeaway food and hot takeaway non-alcoholic beverages
  • sleeping accommodation in hotels, holiday accommodation, pitch fees for caravans and tents, and associated facilities
  • admission to various attractions, including theatres, circuses, fairs, amusement parks, museums, zoos, cinemas, concerts and exhibitions.

See further government guidance on the temporary VAT cut.

Recovery Loan Scheme – The Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) launched on 6 April 2021 and supports access to finance for UK businesses as they recover and grow following the Covid-19 pandemic.

RLS aims to help businesses affected by Covid-19 and can be used for business purposes, including, managing cashflow, investment and growth. It is designed to support businesses that can afford to take out additional finance for these purposes. Businesses who have taken out a CBILS, CLBILS or BBLS facility are able to access the new scheme.

A key aim of the Recovery Loan Scheme is to improve the terms on offer to businesses, but if a lender can offer a business the choice of a commercial loan on better terms, without requiring the guarantee provided by the RLS, they should do so.

The Scheme will run until 31 December 2021, subject to review. You can borrow between £25,001 and £10 million, from 1 to 6 years. Find out more and check eligibility.

Government-backed lending schemes BBLS & CBILS (now closed) - The Bounce Back Loan Scheme  and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme have now closed for new applications.

If you applied for one of these schemes by 31 March 2021, we will process your application and issue the relevant documentation in due course.

If you have taken out a Bounce Back Loan, before your first repayment is due, your lender will contact you about the option to:

  • repay back some or all of your loan
  • stick with your current payment arrangement
  • provide additional support, including Pay As You Grow options or help to deal with financial difficulties.

Pay As You Grow Options include:

  • extending your loan term to 10 years
  • moving to interest-only repayments for six months (you can do this up to 3 times)
  • deferring repayments for six months (you can do this once).

Find out more about these schemes.

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.

Business grants for closed businesses – Local authorities have been given funds to provide grants to businesses which have been forced to close or face restrictions due to local and national lockdown restrictions. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are each operating slightly different schemes, so it’s important to check exactly what support you are entitled to.

See more about England’s Restart Grant scheme.

See details of Scotland’s Strategic Framework Business Fund, including a one-off Restart Grant that was paid on April 19.

See details of Wales’ Restrictions Business Fund.

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

For more information about the financial support on offer to businesses, see our Guide to government help for businesses.

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

Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) – now closed

The Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) provided funding to large corporate businesses by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity. It was open to firms ‘making a material contribution to the UK economy' such as employing large numbers of people or having their corporate HQ in the UK.

The CCFF closed to new applications on 31 December 2020.

Businesses that have used the CCFF can make an early repayment if they wish. This gives them greater flexibility to move to alternative sources of funding, if appropriate. The Bank of England will usually apply a fee  to the price offered for early repayment. 

For full details of the scheme, see the Bank of England’s website.

Recovery Loan Scheme – The Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) launched on 6 April 2021 and supports access to finance for UK businesses as they recover and grow following the Covid-19 pandemic.

RLS aims to help businesses affected by Covid-19 and can be used for business purposes, including, managing cashflow, investment and growth. It is designed to support businesses that can afford to take out additional finance for these purposes. Businesses who have taken out a CBILS, CLBILS or BBLS facility are able to access the new scheme.

A key aim of the Recovery Loan Scheme is to improve the terms on offer to businesses, but if a lender can offer a business the choice of a commercial loan on better terms, without requiring the guarantee provided by the RLS, they should do so.

The Scheme will run until 31 December 2021, subject to review. You can borrow between £25,001 and £10 million, from 1 to 6 years. Find out more and check eligibility.

Government-backed lending scheme CLBILS (now closed) - The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme has now closed for new applications.

If you applied for the scheme by 31 March 2021, we will process your application and issue the relevant documentation in due course. Find out more about this scheme.

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, businesses now have the option to spread payments over up to 11 instalments by the end of March 2022.

To use the scheme businesses must:

  • still have deferred VAT to pay
  • be up to date with their VAT returns
  • join by 21 June 2021
  • pay the first instalment when they join
  • pay instalments by Direct Debit (although an alternative route is possible for businesses which are unable to pay via Direct Debit.)

See more about the new payment scheme and how you can opt in.

VAT cuts for hospitality sector - VAT for the hospitality and tourism sectors has been cut from 20% to 5% until 30 September 2021. This will be followed by six months of a discounted 12.5% rate before returning to the standard 20% on 31 March 2022. The VAT cut and discount applies to:

  • food and non-alcoholic beverages sold for on-premises consumption
  • hot takeaway food and hot takeaway non-alcoholic beverages
  • sleeping accommodation in hotels, holiday accommodation, pitch fees for caravans and tents, and associated facilities
  • admission to various attractions, including theatres, circuses, fairs, amusement parks, museums, zoos, cinemas, concerts and exhibitions.

See further government guidance on the temporary VAT cut.

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 until 30 June 2021. For the following nine months, eligible businesses will receive a 66% discount. 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 should have reissued your bill.

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

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 and 2021-22.

See more about rates relief in Wales (PDF, 453 KB).

In Scotland, retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will get 100% rates relief from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2022. In addition, all non-domestic properties in Scotland will get 1.6% rates relief in the 2020-21 tax year.  

See more about rates relief in Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, businesses in the hospitality, tourism and leisure, retail (excluding certain supermarkets and off-licences), manufacturing and childcare sectors don’t have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 financial years.

See more about rates relief in Northern Ireland.

Business grants for closed businesses – Local authorities have been given funds to provide grants to businesses which have been forced to close or face restrictions due to local and national lockdown restrictions. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are each operating slightly different schemes, so it’s important to check exactly what support you are entitled to.

See more about England’s Restart Grant scheme.

See details of Scotland’s Strategic Framework Business Fund, including a one-off Restart Grant that was paid on 19 April.

See details of Wales’ Restrictions Business Fund.

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

For more information about the financial support on offer to businesses, see our Guide to government help for businesses

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 has been extended several times and is made up of five grants in total, covering earnings from March 2020 to September 2021.

Applications for the first three grants, which covered the period from 1 November to 31 January 2021, are now closed.

The fourth grant will cover February to April 2021. It will provide a taxable grant worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £7,500 total. This will be paid in a single instalment and individuals will be able to claim from late April, with applications remaining open until 31 May 2021.

To be eligible for the fourth grant you must:

  • have had a trading profit of less than £50,000 in the 2020-21 tax year
  • make at least half your income from self-employment
  • have traded in both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 tax years, and have submitted your tax return for 2019-20 by 2 March 2021.

If you aren’t eligible based on your 2020-21 profits, HMRC will look back at previous years, to 2016-17.

Claimants should also intend to continue trading and have experienced a significant reduction in their trading profits due to coronavirus.

As part of the 2021 Budget, a fifth and final SEISS grant was announced to cover the period from May 2021.

The amount eligible individuals receive for the fifth grant will be based on how much their turnover has been reduced in the last tax year.

  • 80% of 3 months’ average trading profits, capped at £7,500, if they’ve experienced a turnover reduction of 30% or more
  • 30% of 3 months’ average trading profits, capped at £2,850, if they’ve experienced a turnover reduction of less than 30%.

Applications for the fifth grant are expected to open at the end of July 2021.

See more about the fourth SEISS grant.

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

  • New overdrafts or overdraft limit amends
  • 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 £20 a week until 30 September 2021.

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 which are facing or have faced increased coronavirus restrictions varies between nations.

In England, eligible hospitality, leisure, personal care and retail businesses will be able to apply for one-off Restart Grants of up to £18,000 to help them prepare for reopening.

Non-essential retail businesses will get up to £6,000 per premises, while hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care businesses and gyms will receive up to £18,000 based on their rateable value.

See more about Restart Grants and check your eligibility.

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 including a one-off Restart Grant which was paid on 19 April 2021.

See details of Wales’ Restrictions Business 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 30 June 2021.

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.

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 may be able to offer 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.

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. The scheme can also be used to support employees who have caring responsibilities or who have been advised to shield due to health concerns.

Under the scheme, which was first introduced in March 2020 and has been extended until 30 September 2021, businesses are able to ‘furlough’ employees and claim a grant from the government to help cover their wages for any hours not worked.

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 2020.

From 1 November 2020 to 30 June 2021, employers are able to claim government grants to cover 80% of furloughed employees’ wages for hours not worked up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. Employers will be asked to pay National Insurance and employer pension contributions for hours not worked.

From 1 July until 31 July, the government will pay 70% of furloughed employees’ wages for hours not worked up to a maximum of £2,187.50 a month. Employers will pay 10% of employees’ wages not worked up to a maximum of £312.50 a month. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions.

From 1 August until the end of September, the government will pay 60% of furloughed employees’ wages for hours not worked up to a maximum of £1,875 a month. Employers will pay 20% of employees’ wages not worked up to a maximum of £625 a month. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions.

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.

See how to make claims online.

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 a percentage of their salary up to a monthly cap will be paid by the government until the end of September 2021. The percentage of workers’ salaries covered by the government will be tapered from July to reflect that more businesses should be able to operate as normal. Employer contributions will top up the government support to make up the 80%.

Since July 2020, 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 for a certain amount of time.

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 2020, 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?

At various points the level of the CJRS grant has been tapered to reflect the fact that more people were able to work.

From November 2020 to 30 June 2021 the government will pay 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.

During July, the government grant will cover 70% of wages for hours not worked, with employers contributing 10% plus NICs and pension contributions. During August and September, the government will pay 60% with employers paying 20% plus NICs and pension contributions.

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.

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 to 100% of employees’ salaries.

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.

From July, you will need to pay a percentage of employees’ salaries for hours not worked to make up the 80%, as the level of the government grant reduces.

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 30 September 2021. At this point it will have been running for 19 months.

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

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 2020, it was announced that the Job Retention Bonus would no longer be paid in February due to furlough being extended.

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

11. Does my business have to be struggling financially for me to furlough employees?

There are cases where employees can be furloughed even if their employer is not closed or facing a reduction in demand. These include:

  • if they are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance to shield
  • if they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus, including caring for children who are at home as a result of school closures, or caring for a vulnerable individual in their household.

To deter fraudulent claims under the CJRS, from February 2021 details of companies which have claimed grants from 1 December 2020 onwards will be published on Gov.uk, including company name, the value of the claim within a banded range and the company number.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

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. When will my business be able to open again?

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all published roadmaps out of lockdown, to give a framework to when businesses can start to reopen if certain criteria are met.

In England, this process starts from 12 April when non-essential retailers, outdoor attractions and personal care businesses will hopefully be able to reopen. It is hoped that all restrictions will be lifted by 21 June 2021.

See England’s lockdown roadmap.

See Scotland’s timetable for easing restrictions.

See Wales’ Coronavirus Control Plan

See Northern Ireland’s Pathway Out of Restrictions.

2. What steps can I take to help keep my employees safe?

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.

If your employees are working on site, the following government guidance may be useful.

Keeping safe guidance for employers and businesses in England.

Keeping safe guidance for employers and businesses in Wales.

Keeping safe guidance for employers and businesses in Scotland.

Keeping safe guidance for employers and businesses for Northern Ireland.

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.

See the UK government safe working guides.

If employees are regularly attending their place of work, it is recommended they complete two lateral flow tests each week to help detect asymptomatic cases of coronavirus. These tests can be self-administered and provide results within 30 minutes.

See more about testing your workforce.

Employees who are shielding or clinically vulnerable may need extra support. See guidance on shielding and protecting extremely vulnerable people from COVID-19

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Ways to bank

1. Are Lloyds Bank branches still open?

The safest way to bank with us at the moment is online. But, if you do need to visit a branch, most are open 9.30am-2pm Monday to Friday.

See what hours your local branch is open.

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.

Coronavirus support

Find information and support for your business from accessing your account and managing cash flow to government-backed lending schemes.

Business mentoring

Find out how mentoring could help you lead your business through COVID-19 with confidence.

Government-backed lending schemes

Find out about the Recovery Loan Scheme and BBL Pay As You Grow options.

Important legal information

Lloyds Bank is a trading name of Lloyds Bank plc, Bank of Scotland plc, Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets plc and Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets Wertpapierhandelsbank GmbH.

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.

Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets Wertpapierhandelsbank GmbH is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets plc. Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets Wertpapierhandelsbank GmbH has its registered office at Thurn-und-Taxis Platz 6, 60313 Frankfurt, Germany. The company is registered with the Amtsgericht Frankfurt am Main, HRB 111650. Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets Wertpapierhandelsbank GmbH is supervised by the Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht.

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.

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.