It’s been just over a month since the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, meaning that only businesses classed as ‘essential’ could remain open to the public.
Businesses identified as essential – such as supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies, newsagents and MOT garages – have been allowed to continue to operate, however, these businesses must adhere to the government’s workplace guidelines and social distancing measures to ensure the safety and health of both staff and customers.
The rules have continued to be updated in the weeks since that first announcement on March 23, so we’ve put together a summary of the latest advice and support available to essential businesses. You can read the full article on the Capify website here.
If you are seeking the latest Government information on Covid-19 and the measures the Government, and Devolved Governments, are taking, please visit the UK Government website, the Scottish Government website, the Welsh Government website or the Northern Irish Government website.
COVID-19: Advice for essential businesses
To limit the spread of coronavirus, the government introduced a number of ‘social distancing’ measures designed to reduce the amount of contact individuals in the public have with one another. These measures included the forced closure of businesses that were deemed as ‘non-essential’ with businesses identified as ‘essential’ were allowed to remain open with the requirement to put in place health and social distancing measures. The full list of businesses which can remain open and those who should still be closed whilst we are in the lockdown period can be viewed here.
Keeping staff safe
During these challenging times, businesses have had to adapt quickly in order to prioritise health and safety above everything else. As a business owner, it is vital that you take the necessary precautions in order to keep your employees safe. Here are some of the measures you could implement to help keep your staff safe, as provided by GOV.UK
- Clearly display Health & Safety notices relating to COVID-19
- Ensure all staff are informed and trained on any new health and safety practices
- Ensure all employees contact details are emergency contact details are up to date
- Set up teams or amend shifts so fewer staff are interacting with each other
- Provide soap and hand sanitiser gels to reduce the spread of infection
- Educate staff on how to spot symptoms of COVID-19
- Frequently wipe down counters, handrails, door handles, drawer knobs, card terminals etc.
- Provide staff with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves or masks
- Have a clear sickness policy and encourage staff to stay home if feeling unwell
- Clean the premises regularly
- Take contactless payments and avoid cash payments if possible
Social distancing in the workplace
Every employer must complete a risk assessment to identify potential hazards and reduce the risk of accident. These risk assessments should now be reviewed to include measures that ensure your business can follow the government’s social distancing guidelines. Social distancing measures should be implemented for the safety of both staff and customers and this could include:
- Limiting the number of customers in your premises at one time
- Controlled queuing that ensure customers remain 2 metres apart at all times
- Redesigning store layout to allow for social distancing
- Introducing temporary barriers between customers and staff
- Providing hand sanitisers for customers and employees
Support available for small businesses
Although essential businesses have been allowed to remain open, many are facing a unique set of challenges. However, the UK government has introduced a number of key measures to support SME’s in keeping their business running during the coronavirus outbreak. These measures are being updated and amended regularly and therefore it’s vital to continue checking the government website to ensure that your business remains up to date with the latest legislation.
The measures currently available to essential businesses include –
- Statutory Sick Pay Rebate – The Government has announced legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for staff sickness absence due to coronavirus.
- VAT payment deferral – For VAT registered businesses that have a payment due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, this temporary change allows you to defer the payment until a later date in order to help manage cash flow.
- Small business rate relief – If your property’s rateable value is less than £15,000 you will be eligible for business rates relief during this time.
- HMRC Time to pay – Businesses in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax payments through the HMRC’s Time to pay service.
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – this allows companies to claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ usual monthly wage costs. This measure was put in place to help prevent businesses having to made employees redundant.
If you are seeking all the latest Government information on Covid-19 and the measures the Government, and Devolved Governments, are taking, please visit the UK Government website, the Scottish Government website, the Welsh Government website or the Northern Irish Government website.