COVID-19 Business FAQs

Since March 2020, 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 30 June 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 in recent weeks.

Common issues being experienced by UK businesses include:

  • Supply chain disruption; as the virus spreads, sectors which rely on global supply chains, such as electronics, are struggling to get parts. Some UK firms are being buffered by inventories built up in the run-up to Brexit.
  • 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 are having to furlough staff, let them go or reduce their hours. It is likely that UK employment levels will be hit dramatically, with experts suggesting the unemployment rate could double by the end of Q2. Conversely, businesses which are in high demand, for example supermarkets, are having to recruit 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 significant economic uncertainty. The outlook is challenging and the final impact will depend on the severity and duration of the shock.

The Government and Bank of England’s actions will help mitigate the impact, with banks playing 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% to facilitate cheaper lending and injecting a further £200 billion into the economy by increasing its holdings of UK government and corporate bonds, to help boost spending and investment.

The BoE is also working closely with the Treasury to support large businesses by offering them cash for their corporate debt. This will enable companies with cash flow issues to pay their staff and suppliers.

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.

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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 have a VAT payment due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 can defer the payment to help manage cash flow. The deferred payment doesn’t have to be paid back until 31 March 2021.

Find out how to defer your VAT payment.

Deferred self-assessment payments – Businesses that are due to make a self-assessment payment on account by 31 July 2020 can defer it until 31 January 2021. There’s no need to apply, and no penalties or interest will be charged.

You can set up a budget payment plan to help spread the cost of the deferred payment.

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.

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.

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.

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 government will also cover any fees.

The scheme opened for applications on 4 May.

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.

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 has 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 September 2020.

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 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.

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.

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 September 2020.

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. The deferred payment doesn’t have to be paid back until 31 March 2021.

Find out how to defer your VAT payment.

Deferred self-assessment payments – Businesses due to make a self-assessment payment on account by 31 July 2020 can defer it until 31 January 2021. There’s no need to apply, and no penalties or interest will be charged.

You can set up a budget payment plan to help spread the cost of the deferred payment.

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 will 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.

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.

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. You must also have traded in the 2019/20 tax year and intend to trade in 2020/21. To benefit from the scheme, more than half of your total income must come from self-employment and your trading profits should be less than £50,000 per year.

The first grant allows people to claim up to 80% of their average monthly trading profit for three months, capped at £2,500 a month. The grant will be paid out in a single instalment capped at £7,500 in total. Applications opened on 13 May 2020 and will close on 13 July 2020.

The second and final grant will allow people to claim 70% of their average monthly trading profit for three months, to a cap of £2,190 a month. This will be paid in a single instalment capped at £6,570 in total. Applications for the second grant will open in August 2020.

You do not need to have claimed the first grant to be eligible for the second. Applicants for the second grant will need to prove their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus on or after 14 July 2020.

HMRC has released a list of examples showing when the ‘adversely affected’ criteria is met for the first and second grants.

For a full list of eligibility criteria and details on accessing the scheme, see the government’s guidance.

If you’re struggling with cash flow while you wait for your SEISS payment, we have put a number of measures in place to help business banking customers with short-term financing needs, including:

  • No arrangement fees for new overdrafts or overdraft limit increases
  • No arrangement fees for 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. 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 2020 and the government has indicated it will extend them if necessary.

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.

5. 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.”

6. 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.

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.

7. 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.

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

To help our business customers manage their cash flow at this difficult time we are suspending arrangement fees for new overdrafts or overdraft limit increases.

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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

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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 will run until the end of October, businesses can ‘furlough’ employees and claim a grant from the government to help cover their wages.

Between March and June, employees had to be furloughed for a minimum of three weeks, however, from July, the minimum period will be removed to allow more flexibility for employers.

Between March and the end of July, the government grant will cover 80% of employees’ wages up to a threshold of £2,500 a month, as well as any associated Employer National Insurance contributions and a minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contribution. From August, employers will have to make a contribution towards the cost of furloughed employees’ wages.

All employers who started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 19 March 2020, are enrolled for PAYE online and have a UK bank account can claim using the scheme.

Enrol for PAYE online.

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.

Claim for wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

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 July. From August, employers will be asked to pay a percentage of furloughed employees’ salaries.

Currently, furloughed workers are unable to carry out any work for their employers. From July workers will be able to be furloughed on a part-time basis.

Until July, employees can be furloughed for a minimum of three weeks. Employees can be furloughed multiple times. From July, the scheme will close to new entrants and employers will only be able to furlough an employee if they have been furloughed for a full three-week period prior to 30 June. The minimum three-week furlough period will also be removed from July, allowing employers more flexibility.

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 19 March 2020 and you notified HMRC that they are on your payroll on or before 19 March 2020.

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, for example if they need to look after children who are currently off school, can be furloughed.

If employees were made redundant, or stopped working for you for another reason, on or after 28 February 2020 and before 19 March, you can rehire and furlough them.

Any employees working reduced hours or for reduced pay cannot currently be furloughed. Currently, furloughed workers are unable to carry out any work for their employers. From July, workers will be able to be furloughed on a part-time basis.

It is also possible to furlough company directors, including those who are directors of their own personal service company. While furloughed company directors can’t do their usual day-to-day work or generate commercial revenue for their company, they are able to carry out reasonable duties to fulfil their statutory obligations to their company.

From July, the scheme will be closed to new entrants. Employees can only be furloughed if they have already been furloughed for a full consecutive three-week period before 30 June. However, there is an exception for employees who returned from maternity, shared parental, adoption, paternity or parental bereavement leave after 10 June. These individuals can be furloughed for the first time, as long as their employer has previously furloughed other employees in the organisation for at least three consecutive weeks between 1 March and 30 June 2020.

See government guidance on which employees can be furloughed

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

From July 2020, the maximum number of employees furloughed in any claim period cannot exceed the number of employees claimed for under any single claim up to 30 June. For example, if you submitted three furlough claims between March and June, for 20 employees, 30 employees and 50 employees respectively, the maximum number of employees you could furlough on a single claim from 1 July would be 50.

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

From August 2020, the level of the CJRS grant will be tapered to reflect the fact that more people will be returning to work.

In June and July
The government will pay 80% of furloughed employees’ wages up to a cap of £2,500 a month, as well as paying employer National Insurance Contributions (ER NICs) and pension contributions, for any hours a furloughed employee does not work.

In August
The government will pay 80% of wages to a cap of £2,500 a month but employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions for hours employees don’t work.

In September
The government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours employees do not work. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500 a month.

In October
The government will pay 60% of furloughed employees’ wages up to a cap of £1,875 a month for the hours the employee does not work. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500.

If any workers are brought back part-time from 1 July, 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.

From July, you will need to pay staff for any hours worked if they are brought back on a part-time basis. In August, September and October you will need to make contributions towards paying 80% of furloughed employees’ salaries.

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 the end of October 2020. At this point it will have been running for eight months.

The scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June 2020. From July, employers will only be able to furlough employees who have previously been furloughed for a full three-week period prior to 30 June.

The final date an employer can furlough someone for the first time is 10 June.

10. 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.

11. 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.

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4. Sick pay and time off

1. How long should employees be off if they have COVID-19 symptoms or live with someone who does?

The government’s stay at home guidance recommends that anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who either lives alone or is the first in their household to develop symptoms stays at home and self-isolates for seven days from the start of their symptoms.

If a member of an employee’s household displays symptoms, they must stay at home for 14 days. If the employee starts showing symptoms at any point during this period, they must stay at home for seven days from when their symptoms appeared, regardless of where they were in the original 14-day isolation.

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.

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.

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.

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5. At work and working from home

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

In March, the government ordered a number of businesses to close, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Businesses which were unable to operate until further notice included restaurants and pubs, hairdressers, barbers, beauty and nail salons, cinemas, gyms, hotels, and spas.

Non-essential retail shops in England were allowed to re-open from 15 June while pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and some leisure facilities and tourist attractions, including museums and galleries, are able to open from 4 July. However, venues which require people to be in close proximity, such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys and spas must remain closed until further notice.

See here for a full list of businesses and venues that must remain closed.

Businesses which are able to reopen safely are encouraged to do so, to help keep the economy moving.

Employees should be allowed to work from home if possible and if workers do need to be on site they need to be able to follow health and safety, including, where possible, staying two metres away from colleagues and regularly washing their hands. Where it is not possible to remain two metres apart, people should remain one metre apart and take mitigations which reduce the risk of transmission, i.e. wear a mask.

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.

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.

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

All businesses are being asked to allow employees to work from home, unless it is impossible for them to do so, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, for some businesses this isn’t an option, for example, construction or manufacturing companies. In England such businesses are being actively encouraged to reopen, if they have been closed, while following steps to ensure workers’ safety.

In Scotland, a number of businesses, including factories and warehouses will be encouraged to reopen from 29 June, as long as relevant guidance is implemented, as part of phase 2 of the reopening route map.

If your employees do need to be on site, either because you are providing an essential service or being encouraged to reopen, 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

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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+.

Around 1.5 million extremely vulnerable people with complex health problems have also been sent letters in recent weeks, asking them to ‘shield’ themselves by self-isolating for 12 weeks.

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.

Employees are unable to claim Statutory Sick Pay if they are self-isolating for 12 weeks due to being vulnerable.

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

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6. Ways to bank

1. Are Lloyds Bank branches still open?

Most of our branches are open 9:30am to 3:30pm, Monday to Friday. We’ve taken the decision not to open branches at weekends.

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. Our branches will open again fully, ready to help you as soon as it’s safe to do so.

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 Business, mobile 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 £999 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.

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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.

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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.