Covid update Archives - Palmers Solicitors
Palmers Solicitors

Covid update

Plan B – What does it mean for you and your business?

Plan B – What does it mean for you and your business?

As infection rates of the Omicron COVID-19 variant rise across the UK, the Government has decided to implement its Plan B measures to restrict the spread of the virus.

Although this announcement was expected, and details of it widely publicised beforehand, here is what you need to know:

  • The return of work from home guidance – From Monday (13 December), office workers should work from home, where possible, to reduce the number of people they come into contact with. Anyone who cannot work from home, due to the requirements of their employment, should continue to go into work.
  • Mandatory Covid-status certificates in certain settings – From next Wednesday (15 December) ‘Covid passports’, demonstrating that a person has been vaccinated and taken a negative lateral flow test, will be required to enter some indoor and larger outdoor venues, including:
  • nightclubs
  • unseated indoor events with more than 500 attendees
  • unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 guests
  • large outdoor events with crowds of more than 10,000 people.

A full list of conditions for this requirement can be found here.

  • Mandatory face coverings in more locations – From 9 December, the rules on face coverings will be extended to hospitality venues, such as cinemas, theatres and places of worship. However, they won’t be needed in places “where it is not practical to wear one”, like when eating, drinking or exercising.

At present, the Government hasn’t given any indication of additional financial support to help businesses with these rules.

However, these new measures for England are much less stringent than those announced last winter and many similar rules are already in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

While certain industries may experience a greater impact due to these changes, early indications are that the wider economy should be less affected due to the preparedness of many businesses.

Here for you

It is understandable, given the events of the last few years, that you may have concerns about the latest restrictions.

We just want to reassure you that whatever happens we are here and ready to offer our support, so let us know if you have any concerns.

Only a few days are left to submit applications for the third SEISS grant

Only a few days are left to submit applications for the third SEISS grant

Any applications for the latest round of the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) must be submitted by the deadline on 29 January 2021.

This grant offers a taxable support payment equal to 80 per cent of the average of three months’ trading profits (up to a maximum of £7,500) to eligible individuals.

If you believe that you are eligible for this grant, you should apply immediately.

Many of those who have previously used the scheme may still be eligible, as long as they are a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership, have trading profits of no more than £50,000 per year and meet the following criteria:

You must have traded in both tax years:

  • 2018/2019 and submitted your Self-Assessment tax return on or before 23 April 2020 for that year
  • 2019/2020.

You must also either:

  • Be currently trading but are impacted by reduced demand due to Coronavirus; or
  • Have been trading but are temporarily unable to do so due to Coronavirus.

You must also declare that:

  • You intend to continue trading; and
  • You reasonably believe there will be a significant reduction in your trading profits.

Further clarification on what constitutes reduced demand or a significant reduction in trading profits can be found on the GOV.UK website here.

You cannot claim the grant if you trade through a limited company as a director or you operate through a trust.

To confirm your eligibility and to make an application, please use the link below:

Click here to apply for the SEISS grant

Those who have used the scheme previously or intend to apply for the latest grant should be aware that all SEISS grants are taxable in the 2020/21 tax year.

This means that no element of the SEISS grants should be reported on a 2019/20 Self-Assessment tax return, which should be filed by 31 January 2021.

Funding via a fourth grant should be available soon, which will cover the period from February to April 2021. The details of this fourth grant, including its launch date and the amount of financial support available through it, are yet to be confirmed.

Claims for the SEISS have to made by the taxpayer themselves and cannot be made by agents, such as accountants.

However, if you need support preparing a claim for the SEISS, we can assist you.

Requests for exemption from publication of furlough claims must be submitted by Monday 25 January

Requests for exemption from publication of furlough claims must be submitted by Monday 25 January

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has confirmed that the final deadline for employers to request an exemption from the publication of furlough claims will be this coming Monday 25 January 2021.

Shortly after it was announced in the autumn that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) would be extended and reset to resemble the original scheme launched in March 2020, HMRC said it would begin publishing claims from December 2020 onwards.

The information to be published on a monthly basis includes:

  • Employer names
  • A banded indication of the value of the claim
  • Company numbers (companies and Limited Liability Partnerships only)

The bands used to indicate the value of claims will be:

  • £1 to £10,000
  • £10,001 to £25,000
  • £25,001 to £50,000
  • £50,001 to £100,000
  • £100,001 to £250,000
  • £250,001 to £500,000
  • £500,001 to £1,000,000
  • £1,000,001 to £2,500,000
  • £2,500,001 to £5,000,000
  • £5,000,001 to £10,000,000
  • £10,000,001 to £25,000,000
  • £25,000,001 to £50,000,000
  • £50,000,001 to £100,000,000
  • £100,000,001 and above

HMRC has confirmed that this applies to all employers claiming from the scheme, including individuals, ordinary partnerships and trusts, unless they can demonstrate that doing so would lead to a “serious risk of violence or intimidation”.

HMRC requires evidence of such threats, which could include:

  • A police incident number;
  • Documentary evidence of a threat or attack; or
  • Evidence of possible disruption or targeting.

To submit a request to HMRC not to publish your claim details, please follow the instructions on GOV.UK here by Monday 25 January. Details of claims will be published by HMRC on Tuesday 26 January.

Insurance industry to pay out on COVID-19 business interruption claims

Insurance industry to pay out on COVID-19 business interruption claims

More than 370,000 small businesses in England and Wales could be due a payout on their business interruption insurance after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of payments being made on previously refused claims and policies.

A number of insurers have lost an appeal against an earlier ruling, brought in a test case by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which required them to payout on existing business interruption insurance policies as a result of the pandemic.

In the first lockdown of spring 2020, many small businesses made claims through their business interruption insurance schemes for loss of earnings when they had to close as a result of the Government’s restrictions.

However, they were soon told by their insurers that they were not eligible for a payout because only specialist policies had cover for such unprecedented events.

Following an outcry from the small business community, many of whom had paid thousands of pounds for insurance coverage, the FCA launched a test case which looked at a selection of policy wordings to establish the parameters for what would be considered a valid claim.

Last year an initial case at the High Court found that some insurers should have paid out for losses caused by the lockdown. Judges ruled that disease clauses found in many business interruption insurance policies should have meant they were covered and been compensated for the loss of income due to the Coronavirus restrictions.

An appeal was then brought and the test case was fast-tracked to the Supreme Court – the highest court in England and Wales – who conducted a four-day hearing last year, before delivering a final ruling.

This latest ruling provides authoritative guidance for these policies, and similar ones that were not part of the case, which will be used by the FCA, the insurance sector, and the Financial Ombudsman to assess claims and make judgements.

This impacts on all eligible policies held at the time of the first lockdown, whether an initial claim was made and rejected or not.

The ruling covers a wide range of matters including disease clauses, whether businesses were denied access to the properties they owned by restrictions and the timing of lost earnings.

Giving the court’s ruling Lord Hamblen said the court accepted the arguments from representatives of policyholders and dismissed the appeals from insurers finding in policyholders’ favour.

Although the initial case only tested a small number of policies from eight different insurers, the FCA has said that the findings could affect up to 700 different policies held by various insurers and lead to payments for more than 370,000 small businesses that hold policies.

Insurers, such as Hiscox, Arch, Argenta, MS Amlin, QBE and RSA, that were involved in the case will now process claims. However, as many as 60 insurers who sold similar products may now also pay out on eligible policies.

Huw Evans, Director General of the Association of British Insurers, has said that all valid claims will be settled and that the process of settling some claims was already underway.

Most eligible policyholders should be contacted by their insurer following the ruling, but businesses are being encouraged to check whether they can make a claim.

As for new claims relating to the latest lockdowns, the insurance industry has said that most policies for new and renewing customers have already been amended and that losses from the latest lockdown measures would be clearly stated as part of the cover.

If you require assistance with any issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact us.

Are you making full use of the Government’s COVID-19 financial support package?

Are you making full use of the Government’s COVID-19 financial support package?

Download our latest guide to make sure you are taking advantage of the support on offer

As we enter yet another national lockdown, businesses may be concerned about their ability to survive and succeed in the weeks and months ahead.

The level of support on offer from the Government and local authorities is unprecedented via the various grants, loans and payment holidays now available.

To help you make sense of these schemes, our experienced team have put together a helpful table covering the eligibility for each scheme and how you can apply, which we encourage you to download and read.

Businesses should assess their current financial position now and seek the support they require as soon as they can.

Our team are standing by to help businesses with their applications for grants and loans and the ongoing requirements of the furlough and self-employment schemes.

To find out how we can assist you, please contact us today.

Coronavirus furlough and loan schemes further extended

Coronavirus furlough and loan schemes further extended

As businesses prepare to enter a new year, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed a further extension to the Government-backed loans and Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

In a move that the Chancellor said would provide “certainty for millions of jobs and businesses”, the Government has extended the furlough scheme until the end of April 2021.

Under the latest extension, workers will continue to receive payments equal to 80 per cent of their wage, while employers will only be required to pay wages, National Insurance Contributions (NICS) and pensions for hours worked, and NICS and pensions for hours not worked.

The eligibility criteria for the UK-wide scheme will remain unchanged, meaning that those currently benefitting from the scheme can continue to do so.

The Government has said that by extending the scheme “businesses across the country will have certainty about what support will be available to them”.

The Chancellor had intended to review the furlough scheme in January but is said to have brought this date forward to help businesses plan for the year ahead.

During his announcement, Rishi Sunak also confirmed that he would be extending all of the Government-guaranteed COVID-19 business loan schemes, including the Bounce Back Loan and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, until the end of March 2021.

Applications for these loan schemes, which has seen more than £68 billion in guaranteed loans delivered to businesses, had been due to close at the end of January 2021.

As well as announcing extensions to the current financial support measures, the Chancellor said that he would hold his next Budget on 3 March 2021.   This budget will deliver the next phase of the plan to tackle the virus and protect jobs.

If you require support with these business support loans or help administering the furlough scheme, please speak to our experienced team.