Coronavirus resources for SMEs
We’ll be updating this page daily and sending out regular briefings with all the new information that’s been added.
We are living in unprecedented times. And because of this, the Government is introducing unprecedented measures to support businesses through this difficult period. The current and rapidly changing advice on Covid-19 can be overwhelming but we want to help you get the full picture.
We’ve compiled this resource hub to provide some more clarity for SMEs who are looking for more information on the provisions and support available to them. We’ll keep this page as up to date as possible, but for all the latest information and measures the Government is taking to support employees, employers and businesses, please visit the UK Government website.
- April 9th— The UK government is set to borrow billions of pounds from its emergency Bank of England overdraft. The “ways and means” facility will give the government a temporary cash buffer.
- April 6th—The Prince’s Trust and NatWest have launched £5 million Enterprise Relief Fund. They will offer grants to 18 to 30-year olds across the UK who are self-employed and/or running their own business.
- April 6th—Innovate UK has announced that it will invest up to £20 million in innovation projects to build UK resilience following coronavirus outbreak.
- April 6th—EU clears 50 billion pound UK “umbrella” scheme to support economy. The aid would take the form of grants, equity injections, tax advantages and loans.
- April 6th—In response to Coronavirus, UK Export Finance have announced their plans to offer export insurance in major markets representing £499bn in exports.
- April 3rd—Coronavirus Emergency business loan scheme revamped after criticism. The CBILS scheme, now includes all SMEs and directors no longer have to give guarantees for loans under £250k. Larger businesses with a turnover between £45m and £500m will be able to borrow up to £25m, guranteed by the state. The loans will not be interest-free but are aimed to provide a lifeline for the “squeezed middle” companies previously unable to access support.
- April 3rd—UK registered businesses can now apply for a share of up to £20 million to respond to new and urgent needs in UK and global communities during and following the Covid-19 pandemic. Applications close 17th April.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
- The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, who are an accredited lender, will enable businesses with a turnover less than £41 million to apply for a loan of up to £5m (increased from £1.2 million), with the UK government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees.
- Interest payments and any lender-levied fees for businesses will be covered by the government for an initial period of up to twelve months, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.
- The aim is to increase the supply of credit to small- and medium-sized enterprises and provide business advice services.
- CBILS went live on the 23rd March and you can access the scheme through participating lenders via the British Business Bank.
- There is further information for small businesses on the CBILS businesses and advisors page and there are 40+ accredited lenders currently participating in the scheme.
- Larger businesses will be able to access the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility, where the Bank of England will help them raise working capital by the purchase of short term debt. This scheme is now available, more information can be found from the British Business Bank.
- Also, as of 3rd of April larger firms with a turnover of up to £500m will also be eligible for more help – with state-backed loans of up to £25m available to firms with revenues of between £45m-500m. Updates to follow, watch this page.
- Following clarification from the British Business Bank that all EIS and SEIS funded companies will qualify for the scheme the EIS Association (EISA)—the official trade body for the Enterprise Investment Scheme—have issued a statement supporting the SEIS scheme . “EISA notes and welcomes the new CBILS scheme, given its innovative design the benefits received by SMEs do not limit SMEs ability to access EIS and SEIS Funding – so this is a powerful and complementary scheme”.
- The EISA have also clarified with the British Business Bank that if you have had de minimis aid in the past your business can still get the CBILS funding, as long as you meet the scheme’s eligibility criteria. More information can be found in this document.
- UPDATE 3rd of April
- Coronavirus Emergency business loan scheme revamped after criticism. The British Business Bank have released these following updates to the scheme:
- CBILS has now been significantly expanded meaning more smaller businesses across the UK impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic can access the funding they need.
- Access to CBILS has been opened up to those smaller businesses who would have previously met the requirements for a commercial facility but would not have been eligible for CBILS starting from Mon 6 April.
- Insufficient security is no longer a condition to access the CBILS.
- Personal guarantees cannot be taken for facilities under £250K by any lender under the scheme.
- Personal guarantees may be required for facilities above £250K but will be capped at 20% of the outstanding balance after business asset recoveries.
- Changes should be retrospectively applied by lenders for any CBILS facilities offered since 23 March 2020.
- However, the Treasury has not capped the interest rates banks can charge. For further information from the government click here.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Introduced on Friday 20th March, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will allow all UK businesses to continue to pay employees that would have otherwise been laid off due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- To access this scheme employees will need to be designated as ‘furloughed workers’ and notified.
- The definition of ‘furlough’ is to allow or to force someone to be temporarily absent from their employment.
- In this case, HMRC will cover 80% of the wages of furloughed employees, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
- The businesses will then 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 in due course).
- The scheme has been backdated to March 1st and will be open initially for 3 months.
- You can only submit one claim at least every 3 weeks, which is the minimum length an employee can be furloughed for.
- On the 26th March the government released further details regarding the scheme. They can be found here.
- HMRC have confirmed that PAYE salaried limited company directors can furlough themselves but only perform statutory duties.
- Guidance also confirms that employees who were working for a company on 28 February but left for whatever reason can be re-hired and furloughed.
- The system of reimbursement is being set up by HMRC, and is expected to launch on 20 April. First payments through the system will be made by 30 April.
- Keep your eye on the government’s official guidance page for updates. Acas also have some useful advice on furloughing employees.
- Enterprise Nation have written a helpful article about the scheme here.
Small Business Grant Scheme
- With the launch of the Budget 2020 it was announced that there would be a £3,000 cash grant for 700,000 of the UK’s smallest businesses to be delivered by local authorities. Following the chancellor’s announcement on the 17th March this grant was increased to £10,000.
- All businesses in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief and Rural Rates Relief are eligible for a £10,000 grant in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
- The local authorities will contact you if you are eligible.
- Further guidance on the scheme is still yet to be delivered and funds will not be available until early April, but keep an eye out on the government’s COVID-19 Support for Businesses page for more information.
Business Rates Relief and Grants for Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Businesses
- Rishi Sunak has announced that all retail and hospitality firms will be exempt from paying business rates for 12 months. This reduction applies in England for tax year 2020-21. It was initially introduced in the Budget for businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000; however this limit was scrapped on the 17th March, meaning that business rates relief now applies to all retail, leisure, and hospitality businesses.
- There will be additional grants of £25,000 offered to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000. More information from the government on eligibility here.
- The rateable values for the £25,000 cash grant differ as follows:
- A rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000 in England.
- A rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000 in Wales.
- A rateable value of between £18,000 and £15,000 in Scotland.
- A rateable value between £15,001 and £51,000 in Northern Ireland.
- According to the government the business rates relief will apply in your next council tax bill in April 2020; more information about this can be found here.
- The government has said you do not need to do anything. Your local authority will notify you by a letter if you are eligible for this grant. However, several councils are requiring businesses to fill in an online form as they don’t hold details for all companies.
- Guidance for local authorities on the scheme has yet to be provided. However, any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority, you can search for yours here.
- For now, you can estimate the business rate you will no longer have to pay using the government business rates calculator.
- The Prince’s Trust and NatWest have launched £5 million Enterprise Relief Fund. They will offer grants to 18 to 30-year olds across the UK who are self-employed and/or running their own business.
- Facebook has pledged $100 million (around £83 million) to small businesses that use its apps around the world to help them survive the coronavirus crisis. The money will be shared across 30,000 organisations in more than 30 countries where Facebook employees live and work. The fund will be delivered as cash grants and advertising credits to use on Facebook’s ad platform.
- UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £2.5 million to support development of 5G enabled transport innovations.
- UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £1 million for advanced materials R&D projects partnering with EUREKA country organisations, including South Korea.
Opportunity to apply for a share of up to £25 million to deliver ambitious or disruptive R&D innovations that can make a significant impact on the UK economy. Closes 22 April.
- UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £4 million for collaborative R&D projects addressing major cyber security challenges in the Internet of Things.
- On the Innovate UK competitions page you can see if there are any grants that could be applied for on behalf of your business. Do note that these grants are paid in arrears.
- Social networking app Bumble has decided to give 150 grants of up to £5,000 to small businesses as part of its global initiative ‘The Bumble Community Grant’. Grants will be awarded across the world, including the UK. The scheme will run until April 5, and users can nominate up to five small local businesses, yet Bumble says it will ‘prioritise businesses led by women and non-binary founders’.
- Google recently announced that they will be offering $340 million globally in Google Ads credits to small businesses that have an account with them. They will also be putting $200 million into an investment fund that will “support NGOs and financial institutions around the world to help provide small businesses with access to capital.” To read the full announcement click here.
COVID-19 research support and funding
- The launch of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard have committed up to $125 million in seed funding to speed-up the response to the COVID-19 epidemic by identifying, assessing, developing, and scaling-up treatments.
- UK registered businesses can now apply for a share of up to £20 million to respond to new and urgent needs in UK and global communities during and following the Covid-19 pandemic. Applications close 17th April.
- LifeArc is offering a £10m research fund to speed up finding treatments for COVID-19. Applications close on the 6th April, to apply click here.
- NHSX is calling on all innovators who can support the elderly, vulnerable and self-isolating during COVID-19 to apply for government funding of up to £25,000 to test their solution.
- Applications have now closed but the European Commission was calling for startups and SMEs with technologies and innovations that could help in treating, testing, monitoring or aiding with other aspects of the coronavirus outbreak to apply for the next round of funding from the European Innovation Council. It is worth keeping an eye out for similar funding opportunities that could be announced in the future, similar to the EIC Accelerator.
- Unprecedented is a hub for businesses directly engaged in the fight against Covid-19. It is a place to find mentors, partners and investment to help businesses get support.
- UK Research & Innovation is offering funding for ideas that address the COVID-19 crisis. Funding available for projects of up to 18 months in duration and their is no closing date.
- A new Accelerator run by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) is offering free support to help SMEs rapidly innovate during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Innovate UK has announced that it will invest up to £20 million in innovation projects to build UK resilience following coronavirus outbreak. Grants of up to £50,000 will be available to technology and research-focused businesses.Closes 17th April.
We’re actively tracking all the UK funds that have completed investments since government measures came into force in mid-March. We’ll update this list regularly.
Last updated: 6th April 2020
BGF Growth Capital
BGF (formerly Business Growth Fund)
Cass Entrepreneurship Fund
Cass Entrepreneurship Fund
Eight Roads Ventures
Eight Roads Ventures (FKA Fidelity Growth Partners)
Episode 1 Ventures
Kindred Capital VC
Kindred Capital VC
North East Venture Fund
Mercia Asset Management PLC
Notion Capital Partners LLP
NPIF Equity Finance
Mercia Asset Management PLC
Palatine Private Equity
Palatine Private Equity
HMRC’s ‘Time to Pay’ service expansion
- Those in financial distress due to coronavirus may be eligible for HMRC’S Time to Pay service which allows SMEs and those who are self-employed to defer tax payments.
- Decisions on how much extra time businesses get to pay are agreed on a case-by-case basis with HMRC.
- HMRC will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business has problems meeting its filing obligations or paying its taxes due to COVID-19.
- Businesses should contact HMRC’s new dedicated COVID-19 helpline on 0800 0159 559. HMRC have made an extra 2,000 call handlers available to cope with the increased demand.
Deferring VAT and Income Tax Payments
- Applying from 20th March to 30th June, the government has suspended VAT for three months.
- All UK businesses are eligible.
- For the self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.
- There is no need to apply, it is an automatic offer, refunds and reclaims to be paid as usual.
Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020/2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period.
- The Government has announced that UK businesses with less than 250 employees can reclaim the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for those eligible employees who take up to 14 days off sick as a result of coronavirus.
- The size of an employer will be determined by the number of employees they have had as of 28th February.
- Those who are self-employed or not eligible for sick pay can claim Employment and Support Allowance immediately, rather than having to wait until day eight as was previously the case.
- Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19.
- 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.
- It is important employers maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a note from their GP.
- In the case that evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 Online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS Website.
- The Government is yet to confirm how businesses can claim reimbursement. They have said that they “will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible”.
The importance of maintaining cash-flow for SMEs
- Both the Small Business Minister and Small Business Commissioner are calling on the UK’s big businesses to speed up payments to their small business suppliers wherever they can to ease COVID-19 related cash flow issues.
- This has been backed by the Entrepreneurs Network, British Chambers of Commerce, Enterprise Nation, Federation of Small Businesses, Institute of Directors, IPSE, and ICAEW.
- Morrisons have implemented such measures and announced that their suppliers who have between £100k and £1m turnover will receive immediate payment upon presentation of their invoice. For other suppliers with less than £100k in turnover they will need to wait 14 days.
- To battle the cash flow crisis, Tesco have pledged with “immediate effect” to pay small suppliers within five days, rather than the usual 14.
- On the 25th March, Sainsbury’s pledged to help smaller suppliers during the coronavirus emergency by paying them immediately and making finance available.
- Unilever have announced they are helping customers and suppliers during the pandemic with €500m cash flow relief. They will also facilitate early payment for their most vulnerable small and medium sized suppliers to help them with financial liquidity.
- Enterprise Nation has teamed up with Crowdfunder to offer support via live chat and launch ‘Pay it Forward’, a scheme designed to help small businesses pre-sell their services on the promise that their customers can redeem them later. Already over £1,000,000 has been raised!
- eBay UK has launched a 30-day payment holiday for all 300,000 UK businesses registered on the site. New businesses registering will not have to pay any fees to list or sell until 31 May 2020.
Twenty startup organisations including Tech London Advocates and The Entrepreneurs’ Network have launched a campaign called Save Our Startups (SOS) and have written an open letter to the PM calling for better support measures.
Technology to help support your business work from home
- The video communications provider Zoom has created some resources to help you work from home.
- SeedLegals is allowing businesses to create a free Work from Home policy.
- Google is providing free access to the enterprise version of Hangouts Meet to all G-Suite and G-Suite for Education users.
- Cisco is offering the free version of its Webex service with no time restrictions. In addition, it will allow up to 100 meeting participants and has added toll-free dial-in features with a 90-day license for businesses that are not already customers.
- Cafe X has made Challo – a collaboration service that helps you stay connected with your clients, teams and partners – available for free until July 1st.
- Facebook’s Business Hub is now available for all businesses to access. Previously a resource for Facebook employees and health experts, it will now be opened up to the wider world.
- VC Cafe has compiled a list of 100+ startups offering free products and services in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
- durhamlane, in partnership with TWM, are offering a free, comprehensive 10 week e-learning program focusing on sales development. This content is designed to reinvigorate sales best practice and help retain a winning mindset whilst based at home. Find more about the course here.
- Please note as a result of the increased numbers of people working from home, there is an increased risk of online fraudulent activity such as phishing scams and ransomware. As a starting point, the charity anti-fraud Take Five has published advice on steps you can take to protect your business from these scams during the outbreak.
Ensure you look after your mental wellbeing
- With all the emotional and financial pressures at the moment, you might be feeling anxious or worried about coronavirus. Mental health charity Mind has published some useful advice with simple things you can do to combat this and look after your mental wellbeing. Included in this are plans for staying at home if you need to self isolate, tips for managing anxiety and how to keep up with the latest news without it affecting your mental health.
- Business Support Information from the Government
- HMRC – COVID-19: guidance for employers
- HMRC’s business advice helpline
- ACAS – Coronavirus: advice for employers and employees
- NHS – Coronavirus latest updates
- Companies House advice on COVID-19
- HMRC Tax Helpline for businesses
- British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association: Coronavirus Updates
- Budget 2020 full document
- Budget 2020: Support for those affected by COVID-19
- Bank of England measures to respond to COVID-19
- Still have unanswered questions? On the 17th March Rishi Sunak responded to a number of questions from MPS, a full transcript is available here.
- Latest questions answered by Rishi Sunak in the House of Commons on the 24th March can be found here.
- The Federation of Small Businesses offers not for profit business advice and information in a business hub to help people.
- Enterprise Nation updates their website multiple times a day with great advice for SMEs.
- We highly recommend subscribing to former advisor to the Prime Minister on Business, Jimmy McLoughlin’s daily newsletter designed to give advice and information for Entrepreneurs and SMEs.
- Think your business can help fight COVID-19?
The government have set up an online form to help businesses notify if they can help with the response to coronavirus.