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Update - 23rd October




Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme

Economy Minister Diane Dodds has announced support for those businesses who have been impacted by the recent restrictions but who were not eligible for support under the Localised Restriction Support Scheme ("LRSS"). This has followed criticism that LRSS excluded many businesses who were suppliers of businesses that were closed and businesses that did not operate out of commercial premises.

Eligibility

The business is restricted within the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 but is not eligible for the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS)

or

the business meets all of the following:

  • is within the supply chain of businesses restricted by the Regulations and as a result has been significantly impacted
  • is operating in Northern Ireland and was trading immediately prior to 16 October 2020
  • is not included in the scope of funding already allocated to Executive Departments to respond to COVID restrictions

Level of support available

  • Businesses that are required to close but were not eligible for LRSS are eligible for a grant of £600 per week
  • Businesses that are not required to close but are within the supply chain of businesses restricted by the Regulations are eligible for a grant but it will depend on their NAV:
    • £400 per week for businesses with a NAV that does not exceed £15,000
    • £600 per week for businesses where the NAV exceeds £15,000 but doesn't exceed £51,000
    • £800 per week for businesses where the NAV exceeds £51,000
  • Businesses must demonstrate that they are in the direct supply chain of one or more businesses restricted by the Regulations and have been significantly impacted.
  • Businesses that do not occupy commercial premises and which are experiencing a significant decline in turnover can apply for a grant of £300 per week

When can you apply

The scheme is due to open shortly and we will provide further information as it is released.

Job Support Scheme

JSS Open

This scheme is for businesses that remain open but face reduced demand. The JSS Open will allow employees to work shorter hours and still receive at least 73% of their normal wages where they earn £3,125 per month or less.

  • Employees need to work a minimum of 20% of their usual hours and the employer will pay for the hours worked
  • Employees will receive 66.67% of their normal pay for hours not worked
  • The employer will pay 5% of the reference salary for the hours not worked up to max of £125 per month
  • The Government will pay the remainder of 61.67% of the reference salary for the hours not worked up to a max of £1,541.75
  • JSS Open does not cover NICs or pension contributions

JSS Closed

This scheme is for businesses who have been legally required to close their premises and ceased work as a minimum of 7 consecutive (or calendar) days as a direct result of coronavirus restrictions.

  • Employees who cannot work due to restrictions will receive 66.67% of their normal pay to a max of £2,083.33 per month
  • JSS Closed does not cover NICs or pension contributions

Businesses required to close as a result of specific workplace outbreaks by local public health authorities are not eligible for this scheme.

Eligibility

Both JSS Open and JSS Closed

  • Employees were on PAYE payroll between 6 April 2019 and 23 September 2020
  • If employees ceased employment after 23 September 2020 and were subsequently rehired, employers can claim for them
  • Employees can be on any type of contract including zero hours or temporary contracts
  • Employees do not need to have been furloughed under the JRS to be eligible for JSS.

JSS Open specific criteria

In addition to the criteria above:

  • an employer with 250 or more employees on 23 September 2020 has undertaken a Financial Impact Test showing that their turnover has remained equal of decreased. More details on the Financial Impact Test are on the following link
  • an employer with less than 250 employees on 23 September 2020 is not required to satisfy the test
  • some, or all, of their employees are working reduced hours - employees must still be working for at least 20% of their usual hours

JSS Closed specific criteria

In addition to the criteria above:

  • primary work place is at the premises that have been legally required to close as a direct result of coronavirus restrictions
  • employees that are eligible must have been instructed by the employer to cease work for a minimum period of at least 7 consecutive calendar days
  • To be eligible for the grant, employers must have reached written agreement with their employee that they have been instructed to and agree to stop working for a minimum of 7 consecutive calendar days

Other points to consider

  • Employers cannot claim for employees who have been made redundant or are serving their notice period. However, the guidance does allow employees who ceased employment after 23 September to be rehired – we expect there to be further clarification on the rules around this.
  • Large employers are expected not to make capital distributions whilst claiming JSS (dividends, charge etc)
  • Employers claiming JSS may still claim the Job Retention Bonus in respect of these employees.

How to claim

The claim portal will be open from 8 December 2020 for pay periods ending in November. More detail will be published on this shortly.

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme

The level of grant available under the SEISS has doubled from the initial level announced. There are two grants available covering the periods November 2020 to January 2021 and February 2021 to April 2021.

Eligibility

The underlying eligibility criteria remains the same as per the previous grants but applicants will have to declare that either:

  • are currently actively trading but are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus
  • were previously trading but are temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus

This differs to previous declarations as applicants had to say that they had been ‘impacted’ and this could have covered situations such as self-isolation. This grant requires applicants to declare that they have had a reduction in demand due to covid-19.

What of the level of support?

  • Grant 1: 40% of average monthly trading profits which will be paid out in a single payment covering 3 months of profit and this is capped at £3,750.
  • Grant 2: The Government has not confirmed the level of the grant and have said that they will set this is due course



Update - 19th October




Following the announcement of additional restrictions on businesses last week, we have set out some detail on the new government support scheme which has opened for applications today.

Two other things to be aware of this week are:

  • SEISS: Today (Monday 19 Oct) is the last day to make a claim for the second grant
  • COVID Social Enterprise Fund: The fund closes for applications on Friday this week

Localised Restrictions Support Scheme

How to apply

The scheme is now open for all council areas and the application is via an online form.

You will need the following information:

  • Address of business premises
  • Occupancy ID and Ratepayer ID from rates bill
  • Contact details
  • Description of business, company number (if applicable), business website or social media link if available
  • Bank account details
  • Confirmation of whether you received the £10K or £25K grants previously – note this is just to help validate applications and is not part of eligibility criteria

Eligibility

  • The business must operate from a property within Northern Ireland
  • The business must have been open to the public and trading at the start of the restriction period
  • Businesses registered with their local council environmental health department as a cafe, restaurant, hotel, guesthouse or pub
  • Businesses that operate as a cinema, a museum, a trampoline park, an inflatable park, an escape room, a bowling alley, an ice rink or close contact services operating in commercial premises (such as hairdressers and barbers, beauty salons, day spas, nail bars and tattoo parlours).

What businesses are excluded?

  • Public sector bodies
  • Business which have failed to comply with a Covid-19 prohibition notice served by the PSNI
  • Off-licences and supermarkets selling alcohol solely restricted by closure times
  • Premises solely restricted by latest ordering time of 11pm on takeaway orders

What support is available?

Businesses are entitled to the following level of support:

  • Lower rate: Businesses with a Net Annual Value (“NAV”) of less than £15K will receive £1,600 for the initial two week period and £800 for each subsequent week that the restrictions apply for. Businesses that are the joint occupant of a property with any NAV also fall into this category.
  • Standard rate: Businesses that are the sole occupant of a property with a NAV between £15,001 and £51,000 will receive £2,400 for the initial two week period and £1,200 for each subsequent week that the restrictions apply for.
  • Higher rate: Businesses that are the sole occupant of a property with an NAV of £51,001 or more will receive £3,200 for the initial two week period and £1,600 for each subsequent week that restrictions apply for.

Timescales

It will take up to 3 weeks to process the application.




Should you have any questions or need further assistance on the above, please contact your client manager.




Update - 7th October




As we prepare for potential increased restrictions on Thursday, we have set out some key areas you may have queries on and we also provide some detail on the new support grants launched on Tuesday.

Support for staff wages

Staff pay when self-isolating

Staff are entitled to Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”) if they:

  • Have tested positive for coronavirus
  • Have symptoms or live with someone with symptoms
  • Have been notified by the NHS or public health authority that they have been in contact with someone
  • Are shielding
  • Self isolating because they have been advised by a doctor before going into hospital for surgery

Coronavirus SSP can be paid for up to 2 weeks starting from the first qualifying day of sickness. It is important to note that Coronavirus SSP is only payable if the employee has self-isolated for at least 4 days. The current SSP rate is £95.85 per week.

Employers can claim the Coronavirus SSP back from HMRC via the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Rebate Scheme on the employer's online portal with HMRC.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness and short term illness/self-isolation should not be a consideration in deciding whether to furlough an employee. However, if employers want to furlough employees for business reasons and they are currently off sick, they are eligible to do so, as with other employees.

Please note that employers need to consider each case individually - this is unknown territory and the guidance changes regularly.

Jobs Support Scheme

The furlough scheme which ends on 31 October 2020 will be replaced with a new Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) under which the government will partially fund salaries for employees working a minimum of 1/3 of their normal hours.

The employer will pay for the hours actually worked, and the government and the employer will each pay 1/3 of the remaining unworked hours. The government contribution is capped at £697.92 per month. Employees on the scheme will receive at least 77% of their wage.

The scheme will run from 1 November 2020 to 30 April 2021 and will apply to small and medium-sized businesses and some larger businesses whose turnover has seen a significant drop. It is open to employers which have not previously used the furlough scheme. Employees on redundancy notice will not be eligible for this scheme.

It is also important to note that if, following the announcement of a circuit breaker lockdown, companies have to close again temporarily before the end of October, they can place staff back on furlough provided those staff were furloughed previously for a three week period prior to the end of June 2020.

Job Retention Bonus

The Job Retention Bonus is a £1,000 one-off taxable payment to you employers, for each eligible employee that was furloughed and kept continuously employed until 31 January 2021. Note that you can still claim the bonus if you make a claim for that employee through the Job Support Scheme however certain eligibility criteria will apply.

To be eligible for the bonus you must make sure that your employees have been paid at least the minimum income threshold which means that  you must pay your employee a total of at least £1,560 (gross) throughout the tax months:

  • 6 November to 5 December 2020
  • 6 December 2020 to 5 January 2021
  • 6 January to 5 February 2021

Claims cannot be made until 15 February 2021 and more detail will be made available at the end of January.

Update on current grant schemes

COVID-19 Business and Financial Planning Grant

This grant is operated by Invest NI and it provides eligible businesses with financial support to work with a consultant to assess the impact of COVID-19 and develop a strategic recovery plan with financial forecasts. CavanaghKelly is on the approved list of consultants from Friday 9th October. The grant will close to applications on 30th November 2020 or when the available £2m budget has been allocated if this is earlier.

The grant offers up to a maximum grant of £8,000 to support 80% of eligible costs to engage a consultant to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by:

  • reviewing the current business model
  • carrying out a comprehensive business health check
  • determining how to minimise costs and maximise liquidity
  • identify funding shortfalls and potential sources of funding
  • develop a strategic recovery plan with financial forecasts

Key eligibility criteria:

  • Business has had a turnover of at least £500,000 in one of the three most recent financial years, prior to 31 December 2019.
  • Your business experienced a reduction in turnover in excess of 40% as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic (during the period April to June 2020, compared to April to June 2019).
  • You are an existing Invest NI customer or a business operating in one of the following sectors.
  • manufacturing
  • construction
  • information and communication
  • professional, scientific and technical activities

You can check whether you are eligible for the grant here.

Business and Financial Planning Support Programme

The programme aims to help tourism businesses assess the impacts of COVID-19 and develop a strategic recovery plan. The grant offers up to a maximum grant of £8,000 towards consultancy services.

The programme will support the development of recovery plans including:

  • A Health Check and Financial Plan
  • Review of Business Model
  • Identify Funding Shortfalls and/or Debt Restructuring

Key eligibility criteria:

  • Applicants must be an existing tourism business operating in Northern Ireland.
  • Application must have an active listing on our consumer website www.discovernorthernireland.com as at 01 April 2020
  • Operational before September 2018 (limited exceptions)
  • Minimum turnover levels of £100,000 in one of the last three years up to 31 March 2020

Application process

  • Complete an expression of interest form by 2 November 2020
  • Application form to be submitted by 30 November 2020

Further information is available here.

Covid Social Enterprise Fund

The COVID Social Enterprise Fund supports social enterprises that already deliver services and products but find themselves in financial difficulties directly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Social enterprises can apply if they have received any other COVID-19 non-repayable government grants, as long as they can demonstrate that they still have COVID-related lost earnings.

Applications must be submitted by 23rd October 2020.

Eligibility criteria:

  • You are a social enterprise with a base in Northern Ireland and/or primarily delivering services/activities to Northern Ireland communities.
  • You have a legal format and governing documents/profit re-distribution policy that meets Social Enterprise NI guidelines (see definition of a social enterprise).
  • You have been trading in excess of one year and have demonstrated sustainability.
  • Your funding need is directly as a result of the impact of COVID-19.
  • You have a clear understanding of the negative financial impacts of COVID-19 on your organisation over the six-month period March 2020 - August 2020.
  • You are applying for funding to stabilise your short-term future cashflow need and to ensure resilience of our business model.

Sports Hardship Fund

This fund has opened for the third  time. It aims to support sport and physical recreation organisations meet their obligations, in particular fixed costs, which are no longer supported with revenue as a result of coronavirus. This next phase will prioritise new applications for £2,000 and now includes club and organisations who ‘block book’ (hire) their facilities as well as owning or leasing facilities.  Returning applicants may also apply for a £1,000 top up to their award if they have fully expended the initial £2,000 however priority will be given to those applicants not previously in receipt of a Sports Hardship Fund award.

The fund will close to applications on 5th November but as previous calls have been oversubscribed it is recommended that applications are submitted as soon as possible.

SEISS

Applications for the second grant are now open and applications must be made by the 19th October 2020. Details on how to make the grants are in the link here.

The existing SEISS grant scheme for self-employed people is also being extended, with two further payments planned. The first grant covers November 2020 to January 2021 and will be 20% of average monthly trading profits, capped at £1,875. The rate of the second payment for February to April 2021 is still under review. The scheme is only open to those who are eligible for the current SEISS grant and are actively continuing to trade. Further information is available here.

Apprenticeship Return, Retain and Result Scheme

Businesses that have had to furlough an apprentice under the terms of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be able to access incentive payments under this scheme. To be eligible employers must be participating in the Department for the Economy funded ApprenticeshipsNI or Higher Level Apprenticeship programmes.

A total payment of £3,700 will be made in the following stages:

  • Return - £500 per returned furloughed apprentice payable for the first full month of paid apprenticeship from 1 November 2020.
  • Retain – maximum of £2,000 available: £500 per month for up to 4 months of paid apprenticeship between 1 December 2020 and 31 March 2021.
  • Result - £1,200 for successful full framework achievement of a returned furloughed apprentice

If you have already taken an apprentice back from furlough you can still avail of the scheme and November 2020 will be treated as the return month.

We are waiting on more detailed guidance on the application process.

Recruitment of New Apprenticeships

Employers will be eligible for up to £3,000 for each new apprenticeship opportunity created from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. The bonus will apply to all new apprenticeship opportunities and includes apprentices who have been made redundant. As with the previous scheme, employers must be participating in the Department for the Economy funded ApprenticeshipsNI or Higher Level Apprenticeship programmes.

Two payments will be made:

  • Payment 1 - £2,000 after 90 days retention
  • Payment 2 - £1,000 after 200 days retention from first employment

Employers may not qualify for incentives for new apprentices if they have made an apprentice on a similar pathway redundant since 1st April 2020.

We are waiting on more detailed guidance on the application process.




Should you have any questions or need further assistance on the above, please contact us.