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Here are the headline Government announcements in a package of measures to assist SME’s struggling to cope with coronavirus disruption:

  • Sick pay will be available to any employee who is infected or advised to self-isolate, from day 1.
  • Companies employing fewer than 250 staff will be eligible for a full refund of the first 14 days of statutory sick pay paid to workers who are off sick with COVID-19 or who are told to self-isolate (the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as at 28 February 2020).
  • Employers should maintain records of staff absences in order to claim the refund, but employees will not need to provide a fit note from their General Practitioner. Instead, employees will be able to obtain a sick note by calling the NHS 111 advice line.
  • Work will need to be undertaken to produce the infrastructure necessary to enable this refund system to operate smoothly, and this work will take place over the coming weeks.
  • A Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme will launch in the next few weeks whereby the Government guarantee 80% of each bank loan provided to SME’s, providing access to business loans of up to £1.2m in value, to assist with cash flow interruptions.
  • Businesses and self-employed people in financial distress may be eligible to delay their tax payments (eligibility to be assessed on a case by case basis on a dedicated helpline which launches on budget day and is manned by 2,000 dedicated call handlers).
  • There will be a package of business rates rebates applied in the next tax year, with some businesses paying no business rates at all, and there will be a one-off grant of £3,000 to around 700,000 businesses currently eligible for small business rate relief or rural rate relief.

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