Coronavirus support for Sandwell businesses: general information

We know this pandemic is unimaginably stressful for many businesses – and the challenges are ongoing. Please know Sandwell Council is working hard to support you wherever and however possible. Please see also our pages on grants and finance – including grants being administered via Sandwell Council.

This page was last updated in April 2021.

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> Go to to coronavirus support for Sandwell businesses.

Here is guidance on what you can and cannot do during the current national lockdown.

In February 2021, Sandwell Council’s Environmental Health team issued a letter to businesses in the borough, outlining vital control measures for limiting the spread of coronavirus. You can read a PDF of the letter here.

See also Sandwell Council’s warning to Sandwell shops and supermarkets, published in late January.

The Covid-19 government guidance for employers and businesses includes advice about business rates relief and the package of government support available to businesses. There are also a number of downloadable publications providing guidance for employees, employers and businesses about Covid-19.
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Business responsibilities and NHS Covid-19 app: Test and Trace
Businesses which are open have a responsibility to ensure Covid-19 safety measures are followed such as social distancing and face coverings where appropriate. Businesses now have a legal duty to download and display the NHS QR code and keep a log of all visitors to the premises for 21 days who do not have access to the NHS app. The council will close or fine businesses where rules are not followed and could prosecute those who continue to fail to meet requirements.

Healthy Sandwell has produced this comprehensive page of information on the NHS Covid-19 app. Scroll down to a dedicated section for businesses and organisations

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (also known as the furlough scheme)
The Chancellor’s announced in his Budget on Wednesday 3 March that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is being extended until the end of September, with employees receiving 80 per cent of their current salary for hours not worked. Employers will be asked to contribute 10 per cent in July and 20 per cent in August and September.

You can sign up for a webinar from HMRC: ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’. Various dates are available.

Job Support Scheme – postponed
When the furlough scheme ends, the Job Support Scheme is designed to protect viable jobs in businesses that are facing lower demand over the winter months due to Covid-19. You can read about the Job Support Scheme here.

Kickstart Scheme
A £2bn scheme has been launched to create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country. Those aged 16-24, claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment will be eligible. Funding available for each six-month job placement will cover 100 per cent of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week – and employers will be able to top this wage up. More information for Sandwell businesses.

VAT reduction for the hospitality and tourism industries
If you have a VAT-registered business, check if you can temporarily reduce the rate of VAT on supplies relating to hospitality or accommodation, or admission to certain attractions. We appreciate that this new national lockdown is extremely hard on the hospitality and tourism industry, among others.
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The government Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published guidelines on social distancing and in-work activities. This government guidance also gives sector-specific advice on social distancing in the workplace (such as in construction, retail, outdoor businesses and so on). You’ll find more on our workplace safety page.

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. You can also find the council’s general coronavirus advice page here

Legionella
During the first lockdown, Sandwell Council’s Environmental Health team wrote to businesses regarding the potential increased risk of Legionella infection in water systems while premises are closed. This is still relevant. You can download the letter or read our Legionella article here with details of further support.

The team also refers you to the coronavirus pages from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.

Cleaning
Here is government guidance on cleaning.

Legal obligations
Here’s a useful round-up from Be The Business on your company’s legal obligations at this time of rapid change.

Leadership
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations published these tips for communicating with employees at times of crisis.

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

Job brokerage
A job brokerage service from the Black Country LEP and the Black Country Growth Hub aims to match people at risk of redundancy with vacancies in sectors experiencing a surge in demand such as food retail, distribution and care. The service engages with employers needing to make redundancies to ensure a smooth transition for employees into new work. So if you are needing to make redundancies or looking to fill vacancies, this is the form you need to complete.

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill
The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill received royal assent on 25 June and is now an Act. The measures in this Act were drawn up to relieve the burden on businesses during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak and allow them to focus their efforts on continuing to operate.

The Act:
* Introduces temporary easements for Annual General Meetings and filing requirements for public limited companies
* Introduces new corporate restructuring tools to the insolvency regime to give companies the time they need to maximise their chance of survival
* Temporarily suspends parts of insolvency law to support directors during this difficult time.

Under the secondary legislation, companies will receive an automatic extension for:
* Confirmation statements
* Registrations of charges (mortgage)
* Event-driven filings, such as a change to your company’s directors or people with significant control.

Most companies will also be given more time to file their accounts.

You can find out more about the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill here.

Annual General Meetings
As you will see above, the regulations surrounding the requirement for companies to hold AGMs are being relaxed to comply with the current need for social distancing. Here are guidelines from the Chartered Governance Institute in ensuring meetings are quorate and so on.

Domestic abuse: supporting employees
Employers can be a lifeline for people living with domestic abuse – reassuring someone at risk that they are not alone, and signposting them towards help available. Read more.

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Industry-specific support

Retail

Here’s a handy document containing Covid-19 guidance for Sandwell corner shops, food retailers and supermarkets.

You can also find useful information and downloadable resources on the Association of Convenience Stores website.

The Environmental Health team at Sandwell Council has created printable signage for small Sandwell retailers reminding the public of distancing, hand sanitising, one-way aisles and so on. Download the social distancing posters.

Food

Food delivery and takeaway guidance
If you are still diversifying your food business to provide delivery or takeaway options, this downloadable guidance will help ensure you trade safely.

Manufacturing

Make UK has compiled a list of answers to FAQs from the manufacturing industry. You may also be interested in this briefing paper from the Manufacturing Growth Programme, showing analysis into research on the impact of the pandemic on the sector.

Make UK has updated its Flexible and Full Furlough Templates for employers to use when seeking employees’ agreement to go on ‘flexible furlough’.

Made Smarter has published this document: ‘Maintaining manufacturing continuity through COVID-19’ – on how digital tools can help your business.

For businesses in the transport industry, the Road Haulage Association has a raft of resources, including links to the Annual Test Exemption Application Form and details of temporary changes to CPC requirements.

Pet businesses
The Canine & Feline Sector Group (CFSG) has updated (on 24 September) its guidance for animal-related businesses. It has been signed off by Defra. All of CFSG’s COVID-19 animal welfare resources can be found here.

Resources: regional

Aston Business School is releasing a series of podcasts focusing on the stories of SMEs responding to the coronavirus crisis, looking at topics such as mental health, building resilience, and managing international operations.

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.

DIT Midlands (from the Department for International Trade) is holding a series of webinars to help businesses learn new e-commerce skills and thrive in international markets at this difficult time.

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

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

Resources: national

ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration) has extensive advice for employers and employees on safe working and reasonable expectations from both sides.

CBI has a Coronavirus Hub of information, insight and analysis, and is holding a daily webinar (with previous webinars also hosted online).

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.

See the latest Covid-19 funding support flowchart from Crowe UK.

The Federation of Small Businesses has an extensive COVID-19 support section, available to both members and non-members.
You can also sign up for FSB’s monthly newsletter.

The blog of online talent platform Hoxby has many resources on remote working.

The Institute of DirectorsIoD Coronavirus Support Hub offers plenty of advice for UK directors.

> Return to coronavirus support for Sandwell businesses.

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