18/12/2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Businesses and Employers Bulletin 18 December  2020  

Please see the most recent COVID-19 bulletin below.

CONTENTS

UK's furlough scheme to be extended
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced yesterday (17 December) that the UK's furlough scheme will be extended for an extra month until the end of April 2021. Under the furlough scheme, employees placed on leave receive 80% of their pay, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

Businesses will also be given until the end of March 2021 to access the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme. These had been due to close at the end of January. This announcement comes ahead of the Budget, which the Chancellor has confirmed will take place on 3 March 2021.  Further information can be found here.

Review of coronavirus tiering restrictions in England .
The following areas will move into Tier 3 from 00.01hrs, Saturday 19 December 2020:

  • Bedfordshire
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Berkshire
  • Peterborough
  • the whole of Hertfordshire
  • Surrey – with the exception of Waverley
  • Hastings and Rother, on the Kent border of East Sussex and
  • Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire

These areas are in addition to London, Essex and parts of Hertfordshire, that moved into Tier 3 on Wednesday 16 December.

Areas moving down Tiers as from Saturday are:  

  • Bristol and North Somerset will come out of Tier 3, into Tier 2, and
  • Herefordshire will come out of Tier 2 and into Tier 1

A copy of the Heath Secretary’s statement of 17 December can be found here. The full list of local restriction tiers by area can be found here. Further information on local restriction Tiers can be found here.

Financial support is available for businesses in Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3:

New Guidance
Christmas Support Payment for wet-led pubs: New Guidance has been issued that sets out support for wet-led pubs that have been severely impacted over the Christmas period due to temporary local restrictions. Eligible businesses may be entitled to a one-off cash grant of £1,000 from their local council in areas under Tier 2 or Tier 3 local restrictions. Your pub may be eligible if you:

  • are based in England
  • derive less than 50% of your sales from food
  • are in an area subject to Tier 2 or Tier 3 local restrictions since 2 December 2020
  • were established in the pub before 1 December 2020

Check if you are eligible for the Christmas Support Payment for wet-led pubs.
Income Tax and National Insurance contributions exemption for employer-reimbursed coronavirus antigen tests: This measure aims to ensure that there is no National Insurance contributions liability where an employer reimburses an employee for the cost of a relevant coronavirus antigen test. This measure will have effect from 25 January 2021 until 5 April 2021. For more on the detailed proposal click here.

HMG suspends import tariffs on Covid-19 products to fight virus: The new measures, which ensure no tariffs will be due on imports of goods including face masks, gloves, and other protective equipment, will come into effect from 1 January 2021. For more information, click here.

Updated Guidance
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme 

  • If you have missed the claim deadline: Check the updated section on “If you have missed the claim deadline”. Employers must contact HMRC to ask about submitting a late claim.
  • Calculate how much you have to pay your furloughed employees for hours on furlough and how much you can claim back: Guidance has been updated with examples of when the calculator cannot be used, click here. You will need to work out what you can claim manually using the calculation guidance or by seeking professional advice from an accountant or tax adviser.

Information about holiday pay and unpaid sabbatical or unpaid leave has been updated. Click here.

Tier posters: Medium, High and Very High: Tier posters have been updated to reflect the latest information. To access the posters click here.

Travel
Test to Release for international travel goes live: Passengers arriving into England from 15 December 2020, will be able to choose to pay for a private test and potentially shorten their self-isolation as the government’s testing strategy for international arrivals goes live. The earliest you can take the test is 5 full days after you left a place not on the travel corridor list. Check for more information on the scheme’s strategy and how it works.

Updates to the travel corridor list  
The Canary Islands were removed from the exempt list at 4am Saturday 12 December:

Countries, territories, or regions added to the travel corridor list:
Botswana and Saudi Arabia were added to the exempt list at 4am Saturday 12 December.

If you arrived in England from Botswana or Saudi Arabia before 4am Saturday 12 December, you would need to self-isolate.

National Cyber Security Centre Announcement - SolarWinds and FireEye
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has released an advisory relating to compromise of SolarWinds and FireEye. It can be accessed here.

SolarWinds, specifically their Orion IT system management platform, has been compromised and may be used for onward attacks against systems connected to the product. An attacker has been able to add a malicious, unauthorised modification to SolarWinds Orion products which allows them to send administrator-level commands to any affected installation. Please take time to review the advice provided above and see if you or key elements of your organisation (such as any managed service providers you are connected to) are affected. The NCSC guidance has detailed information that will help you find out if you have an affected system and the immediate steps you should take.

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

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