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Government support for businesses and employees

On Friday 20th March the Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP announced a range of new economic measures to support businesses and their employees to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have pulled together some of the key information for you:


Three month extension for filing accounts (added 26.03.2020)

If your accounts will be late because your company is affected by COVID-19, you can apply for an automatic and immediate 3 month extension to file your accounts.

For more information and guidance about how to apply, visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-more-time-to-file-your-companys-accounts


Job Retention Scheme

What is it: the Government is incentivising businesses to retain their employees by committing to pay up to 80% of salary costs of staff who are unable to work. Wages of up to £2500 per month will be covered. Payments will be backdated to 1st March and will last for an initial period of three months with the possibility of an extension.

Eligibility: all UK businesses are eligible to apply for the scheme by contacting HMRC, who are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement to employers.

How to access it: in order to access the support, you will need to:

- designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change. Changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation.

-  Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required).

Pact has put together a Q&A about the Job Retention Scheme which can be viewed here.


Deferred VAT payments

What is it: VAT payments are being deferred for three months, from 20th March 2020 until 30th June 2020.

Eligibility: all UK businesses are eligible.

How to access it: this will be implemented automatically with no applications required. You simply do not need to make a VAT payment during this period.
NB. Liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period will need to be paid at the end of the 2020/21 tax year.


Support for reclaiming Statutory Sick Pay

What is it: legislation to allow SMEs to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19.
Eligibility: all SMEs are eligible to apply for this support - in this instance defined as businesses employing fewer than 250 employees as of 28th February 2020. The eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force.
How to access it: The government is working on a rebate scheme to enable repayments to employers. More details will be announced as soon as possible. In the mean time, employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP. Employees will not need to provide a GP fit note.


Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates

What is it: a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.
Eligibility: You must be…
- a business based in England
- already receiving small business rate relief (SBBR) or rural rate relief (RRR)
- a business that occupies a property
How to access it: You do not need to do anything. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant. Government guidance for the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) can be found here.


Business Interruption Loan Scheme for SMEs

What is it: support primarily for SMEs through access to bank lending and overdrafts. These loans will be interest free for 12 months (previously it was announced they would be interest free for six months).
Eligibility: You are eligible for the scheme if
- you are a UK-based business
- your turnover is no more than £45m per year
- you meet the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria
How to access it: the scheme will be open from this week (commencing 23rd March 2020). You should talk to your bank or finance provider (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible and discuss your business plan with them.


Corporate Financing Facility for larger businesses

What is it: the Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies affected by a short-term funding squeeze, allowing them to finance short-term liabilities.
Eligibility: All UK businesses are eligible to apply.
How to access it: the scheme will be open from this week (commencing 23rd March 2020) and more information on how to access it will be available shortly.
Find out more about the scheme on the Bank of England website.


Tax: Time to Pay Services

What is it: support with tax affairs if you may be unable to pay an upcoming tax liability.
Eligibility: all businesses and individuals are eligible to apply for support.
How to access it: If you have missed a tax payment or are concerned you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, you can call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559.
Arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.



Many of you will work regularly with freelancers and will be concerned about their situation too.

Currently, the Government has made clear that income tax payments for the self-employed due in July 2020 will be deferred until January 2021.

The Government has also suspended the minimum income floor in Universal Credit for those affected by the impact of COVID-19. This allows freelancers to access a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for employees of around £95 per week.

Discussions about what more can be done to support the self-employed are on-going and Pact is one of a number of organisations in the screen sector calling on the Government to do more to assist the many freelancers that are essential to the on-going success of our industry. It is hoped that new measures will be forthcoming soon.


Keep up to date

We will continue to keep Pact members updated as the situation develops.

Rest assured, we are in dialogue with broadcasters, industry bodies and government to ensure that you have the support you need.

The information above has largely been sourced from the gov.uk website, where you can find the most up to date information from the UK Government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please note: Government guidance is changing rapidly and whilst we are doing everything we can to keep our information up to date we advise you to look carefully at the date that it was posted/last updated. Please also keep checking your e-mails from Pact for the most up to date announcements and information.