Coronavirus and money: Advice for employers and employees

A finance expert from Hyde has moved to reassure people that a raft of government incentives are in place to help those hardest hit by the Coronavirus.

Helen Fleet, a Chartered Accountant at AJ Fleet & Co in Hyde, says that there are a variety of helping hands available to businesses and workers during this unprecedented time.

First things first, she says that businesses need to be rational about the situation they find themselves in. “Things have changed dramatically in a week” she said.

“Look at expenses and see if theres anything you can strip out.

“Work is changing, there’s less travel and less meetings so costs might come down.

“Conduct a very basic review of what your expenditure is going to be over the next few months.”

Next up is income, which will understandably be affected at this time. “Look at your income, lots have been trying to adapt their businesses to the new world. Is there anything you can do to generate income in the short period? 

“That will give you a net position of what you’ve got coming and and going out, then can look at your bank account and see where that leaves you.

“By doing that first it gives you an idea of what measures you will need help with. Try and work through what is available methodically.”

There are a number of grants available that don’t need repaying, including the job retention scheme. While details are still light, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced that the government will pay 80% of a furloughed employees wage up to £2,500 a month. The employer can ‘top-up’ the remaining 20%, but are not obliged to do so. The funding is only for those that would be out of work due to the Covid-19 outbreak, those that are working from home are not eligible.

Helen said: “For employers they need to think about people they may have been planning to lay off. You will need to designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change in writing - changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation.

“One advice to employees if they’re told they are at risk of redundancy ask their employers if they can be furloughed.”

A £10,000 grant to employers has also been made available under the Small Business Grant Scheme. It is a one off grant to any business that are currently eligible for Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief. The money would then be used to help meet their ongoing business costs.

The scheme is automatic - if your business is eligible you will be contacted by your local authority, you do not need to apply.

A further £25,000 has also been made available for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure industries which will be hardest hit by the virus. Any of those businesses with a rateable value between £15k and £51k can get the grant, with a detailed list on the website of those that it applies to.

Any of those that are eligible for grants, alongside nurseries, will also be getting a business rates holiday for the 2020/2021 financial year.

For any employees that have been off due to the virus, employers will pay the staff statutory sick pay. To help, the government have announced that they will refund 2 weeks sick pay for any employee that has been off due to the virus in companies with less than 250 employees. Employers must maintain a list of who has been off and when. The scheme is being developed but is not yet available.

In addition to the grants, some payments are being deferred or loans are being offered to help.

VAT due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 will not be collected yet. Businesses will be given until the end of March 2021 to pay it.

Anyone on self assessment income tax and has a payment due by 31 July 2020 is being deferred until 31 Jan 2021. There will be no penalties for late payments or interest charged.

To help struggling businesses a dedicated hotline has been set up for questions. Business owners can call 0800 0159 559 and explain the way their business has been affected by Covid-19. Enquiries will be handled on a case by case basis.

For those that have had their income interrupted by the pandemic, Helen says there are a number of things you can do to mitigate the impact.

“No matter your employment status I would encourage everyone to look at their own personal expenditure and what they can do to reduce this at this time.”

Many lenders are offering mortgage payment holidays for up to three months. Finance providers may also be more receptive to loan or credit care payment holidays.

She says cutting out personal expenditure will help over a tough few months including pausing subscriptions such as Sky Sports and gym memberships.

More details of financial packages are set to be unveiled by the chancellor in the coming days but in the meantime, Helen’s expertise are available by getting in touch with the team at AJ Fleet and Co at 0161 367 1251.

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