Coronavirus: support for Sandwell businesses

The outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus is affecting every area of people’s lives. We are thinking about you.

Think Sandwell wants you to have up-to-date information from credible sources. We are reviewing this page daily.

Last update: Tuesday 31 March, 3.15pm.

Immediate health concerns

Staying at home

For employees

For self-employed people

For businesses

Childcare

Home working

Local support: giving and receiving

Mental health and wellbeing



Immediate health concerns

Here is the latest NHS advice on what to do if you have (or someone you care for has) symptoms of COVID-19 coronavirus.

The government has also published specific health advice around the COVID-19 coronavirus infection.

Staying at home

Here are the new government rules on staying at home and away from others.

For employees

COVID-19 government guidance for employees.

Statutory Sick Pay
Here is government information for employees about statutory sick pay. Here is how to claim sick pay as an employee.

Isolation notes
This is how to get an isolation note for your employer. You can also apply for an isolation note for someone else.

Working Time Regulations
Essential workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 will be able to carry it over into the next two leave years. Here is the government press release on the relaxation of the Working Time Regulations.

For self-employed people

Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
If you’re self-employed (earning £50,000 or less) you will be able to get a grant equivalent to 80 per cent of your income, paid initially in a taxable lump sum covering March, April and May (this may be extended if needed). The grant will be based on your average monthly profits, up to £2,500 per month. Please note you cannot apply for this scheme yet. HMRC will contact you if you are eligible, and invite you to apply online. Grants will start to be paid at the beginning of June. Read the latest on this Self-employment Income Support Scheme from the government. There are answers to FAQs about the SEISS on the government’s Business Support pages.

If you think you would be eligible for the SEISS but have not yet submitted a tax return for 2018/19, you have until 23 April to file your return and therefore be eligible for the scheme.

Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay for self-employed people
In the meantime self-employed people who have seen their income drop due to the coronavirus pandemic may be able to claim Universal Credit. Read about updates to Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay for people classed as self-employed.

Self Assessment Payment Helpline
If you can’t pay your self assessment tax bill, contact the Self Assessment Payment Helpline on 0300 200 3822 (open on Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm). If you’ve filed your return and owe less than £10,000 you might be able to arrange to pay in instalments online.

For businesses

Here is the latest COVID-19 government guidance for employers and businesses. It includes advice about short-term business rates relief and the package of government support available to businesses.

Business closures
This is the latest guidance on which businesses and premises must close (following the Prime Minister’s address on Monday 23 March).

Cleaning
For premises still open, here is government guidance on cleaning.

Statutory Sick Pay
Small businesses (fewer than 250 employees) will be able to claim back the cost of providing Statutory Sick Pay (for up to 14 days) to any employee due to coronavirus. The government is drawing up the rebate scheme and we will update this page when we know how you can apply.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme means UK employers can access support to continue paying part of the salaries of employees who are on temporary leave (‘furloughed workers’) during this crisis. The online service to make a claim isn’t live yet, but you can find out whether your business is eligible and how much you can claim. Explainer: what are ‘furloughed’ workers? The Black Country Chamber of Commerce‘s page of valuable briefing papers – ‘Managing the impact of coronavirus’ – includes one on furlough leave.

Business rates
See Sandwell Council‘s page on business rates – and latest updates in response to the March Budget and COVID-19.

Council support in Sandwell
Here is info on what Sandwell Council is doing to support businesses, including suspending court action for recovery of business rates, and negotiating payments where possible.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans are now available through participating lenders, delivered through British Business Bank. Here are the answers to SMEs’ frequently asked questions.

Alternative finance
This open-source list of links to funding sources and other support for SMEs has been compiled by Montana Corporate Finance in West Bromwich, which says: “Please satisfy yourself as to the fees, charges, interest and/or any other fees that may be payable for each financial product/service from any given Lender/Funder. The list of contacts is supplied in good faith, subject to due diligence, and by no means exhaustive”. Please note that Think Sandwell and Sandwell Council cannot endorse or approve any of the links; we are just sharing the information in case it is helpful to you.

Deferring VAT and income tax payments
The government is providing support around deferring VAT and income tax payments.

If you can’t pay your business tax bill due to coronavirus you can reach the HMRC Coronavirus Helpline for free on 0800 0159 559. The line is open on Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm and on Saturday from 8am to 4pm.

International trade
Here is the latest government guidance for businesses trading internationally, regarding Department for International Trade support and financial support.

Annual General Meetings
We have heard the regulations surrounding the requirement for companies to hold AGMs are being relaxed to comply with the current need for social distancing. We will share the details when published by the government.

The Black Country Chamber of Commerce has a dedicated page and package of support for local businesses, including briefing papers and a business helpline. BCCC is also holding online industry-specific business clinics and webinars: see what’s coming up.

Black Country Growth Hub also offers comprehensive information on its Coronavirus Support pages.

Audit, tax, advisory and risk firm Crowe UK has a comprehensive page of advice to help businesses manage the impact of coronavirus, with webinars planned to share knowledge and support. This page includes a valuable COVID-19 funding support flowchart to give you the latest on the support your organisation may be eligible to claim.

West Midlands Combined Authority has launched a Covid-19 Business Support website, rounding up online resources and courses, health advice for working at home, and more.

For businesses > grants

The government is providing an additional £2.2bn funding for local authorities to support eligible SMEs with grants. If Sandwell Council is your local authority you don’t need to do anything. We will write to you if you are eligible.

If you ARE eligible we will contact you directly in the coming weeks. Based on the size of your enterprise you can expect to receive either £10,000 or £25,000 in a one-off grant.

The Small Business Grant Scheme is for businesses who already pay little or no business rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR). If this applies to your Sandwell business, you will receive a one-off grant of £10,000 to help you meet your ongoing business costs. You will be contacted directly regarding this.

The Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme provides all eligible businesses (in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors) with a one-off cash grant per property. Again, if this applies to you in Sandwell, expect Sandwell Council to contact you directly.

As a guide, businesses in these sectors with a property with a rateable value of:

  • £15,000 and under will receive a grant of £10,000
  • Between £15,000 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000.

You will probably be aware if your business falls into one of the grant categories. However if you are unsure you can contact Think Sandwell for information. In the majority of cases you do not need to do anything, as Sandwell Council will write to you.

Childcare

If you or your staff have concerns or issues relating to childcare please check the information relating to provision within the borough on Sandwell Council’s Family Information Service Hub website.

Sandwell Early Years Team
can be contacted on 0121 569 4960.

Please be aware that you cannot legally set up ad hoc, onsite childcare provision. Check the government pages relating to the legal requirements for childcare, and how childminders and childcare providers register with Ofsted, and any exemptions.

Home working


ACAS has published guidelines to help employers and employees remain practical, flexible and sensitive to one other’s situations when working from home. The guidelines also outline employers’ responsibilities regarding health and safety when an employee is working from home.

Enterprise Nation has published this useful guide suggesting six tech tools for holding meetings and events online.

The Coronavirus Tech Handbook is a more in-depth, crowd-sourced document about solutions for remote working.

The Remote Work Survival Kit is a crowd-sourced document full of useful ideas – including ideas for entertaining children.

Local support: giving and receiving

Sandwell Council’s page on coronavirus includes details of emergency support for local people.

Sandwell Council
has also compiled a list of community groups that can help locally with people in isolation.

There are several other ways you can help locally: www.sandwell.gov.uk/coronaviruscanyouhelp. If you are safe to volunteer as an individual, you can register with SCVO (Sandwell Council of Voluntary Organisations). If your business is able to donate and/or deliver supplies, or offer the support of employees, please complete this form. You can also donate money to help vulnerable residents (all funds will be protected to help those most in need).

The Black Country Growth Hub has published a list of current calls for equipment to help the healthcare industry. The list includes PPE, ventilators, antigen testing equipment and more.

If you can afford it, a monetary donation to Smethwick Food Bank would help it to continue supporting local people.

Mental health and wellbeing

The Black Country Emotional Support Helpline (as shared by Healthwatch Walsall) can be contacted on 0808 802 2288. It is open from Monday to Friday from 6pm to 1am and on Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 1am.

This post from the mental health charity Mind relates to coronavirus and wellbeing. It’s a useful one to share with people who may be anxious.

:-)