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FCA emphasises need to support customers
The Financial Conduct Authority has published findings from its review of how consumer credit firms' have implemented the Tailored Support Guidance and introduced processes to support customers in financial difficulty due to the Covid pandemic.
As the deadline to apply for a payment deferral ends today (31 March 2021), the FCA is reassuring consumers that support will continue under the Tailored Support Guidance. The FCA is advising regulated firms to review its guidance and ensure that processes are in place to treat vulnerable customers fairly.
Free Covid tests for businesses with over ten employees
The Government’s Workplace Testing programme, which uses lateral flow tests to detect the virus in 30 minutes, has expanded to offer free home testing to all businesses with over 10 employees.
These self-test kits will be picked up by staff from their employer with clear instructions about how to take the test. Staff will then complete the home test in the normal way, before reporting their results to the NHS via the GOV.UK website.
Businesses must register interest by 11.59pm on 12 April to access the free tests.
Applying for the Additional Restrictions Grant
The BVRLA has received confirmation that whilst vehicle rental is not specifically cited in the guidance listing those eligible for the additional restrictions grant, rental companies should still apply if business has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
When applying, the council will want to know:
- How your trading figures/usage compare now to pre-Covid levels?
- Can you make an explicit connection between that change and the Covid pandemic?
- Is there a direct impact caused by national restrictions on movement and travel?
Council officials are not experts in the rental sector, so the more detail you can provide in any local grant application, the better. It is also worth remembering that there is a right of appeal should you not be happy with the outcome.
Council teams are currently under huge pressure managing end-of-year budgets and annual council tax notices as well as processing grant applications, all whilst working with reduced staffing levels.
Easing of lockdown enters its first phase in England
The Government has updated its guidance detailing what you can and cannot do following the changes to the Covid restrictions effective from 29 March in England. Businesses can download and display posters to help communicate the new rules to employees and customers.
The main points to note about the recent changes are:
- you can meet outdoors either in a group of 6 (from any number of households), or in a group of any size from up to 2 households (a household can include a support bubble)
- you can take part in formally organised outdoor sports with any number of people (outdoor sports venues and facilities will be able to reopen)
- childcare and supervised activities are allowed outdoors for all children.
- formally organised parent and child groups can take place outdoors for up to 15 attendees. Children under 5 will not be counted in this number.
The Covid Response - Spring 2021, referred to as ‘The Roadmap’, outlines all the planned stages for the easing of lockdown in England. Guidance for the devolved nations can be found on the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish websites.
Working safely during Coronavirus
Guidance on working safely has been updated to include additional information on ventilation, tests and the roadmap setting out how Covid-19 restrictions will be eased.
Rules on travelling abroad updated
The Government has updated its guidance to reflect that although the requirement to stay at home has ended, anybody travelling abroad from England still needs to complete the travel declaration form to confirm that you have a reasonable excuse to travel abroad.
Impact of Covid restrictions on single-site businesses
The Office for National Statistics has published a new fortnightly report focussing on the impact of national restrictions on single-site businesses, assessing trading status, financial performance, workforce and business resilience.
Overall, single-site businesses represent 98% of all businesses, and approximately half of total UK turnover and employment. Around a third of single-site businesses report having cash reserves of three months or less.
Mental health recovery action plan
The Government has published a Covid-19 mental health and wellbeing recovery action plan, setting out what the Government will do in the coming year to promote positive mental health and supporting people living with mental illness to recover and live well.
Driving tests to start in Scotland
The DVSA has updated its guidance on driving tests to include that Lorry, bus and coach driving tests in Scotland will restart on 26 April 2021 at the earliest, and car driving tests, motorcycle tests and approved driving instructor tests will restart on 6 May 2021 at the earliest.
Information for England and Wales is also published in this guidance.
Imports and exports of cars, vans and fuel impacted by Covid
A new report from the Office for National Statistics shows how 2020 saw a fall in exports and imports of machinery and transport equipment, which includes cars, vans and office equipment.
Exports were down by 29.4% and imports down by 27.9% in the three months ending July 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.
With fewer people driving and refuelling vehicles, demand on fuel fell and fuel imports reduced by 58.5% in the three months ending July 2020. Although levels increased towards the end of 2020, imports were still down by 26.5% year-on-year in the three months ending January 2021.
Covid impact on the UK tourism industry
The Office for National Statistics’ report on how the pandemic has impacted the UK travel and tourism industry revealed that monthly air passenger arrivals to the UK fell from 6,804,900 in February 2020 to 112,300 in April 2020, a fall of 98.3%.
Restrictions on travel introduced in response to the pandemic significantly affected global tourism, with an 81% drop in international arrivals in July 2020, and showing no or little signs of recovery in the subsequent months of last year.
CMA publishes report on protecting consumers
The Competition and Markets Authority has published a report summarising the key issues that have come to the attention of the CMA during the Covid pandemic to date.
This follows the CMA’s programme of work, launched in March 2020, to identify, monitor and respond to competition and consumer problems arising from coronavirus.
The most significant Covid-19-related consumer problem is reported to be unfair practices in relation to cancellations and refunds. Complaints related to tourism, including holiday accommodation, hotels, travel agents, booking sites and package holidays account for well over half of all cancellation complaints.
GDP fell by almost a fifth across rental and leasing
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics report that GDP fell by 2.9% in January 2021, 9.0% below its February 2020, pre-pandemic level.
The air and rail transport sectors are two of the top three hardest hit industries, with air transport output down 93.6% in January 2021, compared to February 2020, and rail transport down 79.6%. The category of ‘Rental & leasing activities’ reports a 18.4% fall in output during the same period.
Transport equipment output fell by 11.1% in January 2021, following eight consecutive months of growth since April 2020. Output was 20.7% weaker than February 2020. Output for motor vehicles was 19.9% below the most recent peak in June 2019 because of export-led weakness during January 2021.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported that during January 2021, the total number of cars manufactured was 27.3% weaker than January 2020, mainly because of a 29.1% fall in exports.
Share views on Covid-status certification
The consultation, open until Monday 29 March, asks three questions. The review will be concluded ahead of Step Four of the four-stage lockdown easing plan, which will happen no earlier than 21 June.
Share your views with the BVRLA via email@example.com
Workplace testing kits
Over 48,000 businesses have registered their interest in the government’s free workplace testing programme, using rapid lateral flow tests that can give a result in 30 minutes.
Businesses in England with employees who cannot work from home can register on or before 31 March 2021 to take advantage of the free testing programme.
The Government has also updated its list of approved suppliers of private coronavirus testing kits.
Working from home statistics
The Office for National Statistics’ weekly report on the social impacts of coronavirus shows that in the period ending 7 March, 48% of working adults had left home for work in the past seven days.
The proportion of working adults reporting travelling to work exclusively decreased slightly to 38% this week compared with 39% last week. Those working from home exclusively increased slightly to 36% this week compared with 32% last week.
1-in-10 (10%) working adults reported both working from home and travelling to work this week.
Transport usage figures
Latest weekly transport usage figures show that in the past week motor vehicle usage peaked at 77% of pre-pandemic levels, whilst national rail usage peaked at 19% and London Underground usage peaked at 22%.
Latest UK infection rates
Latest weekly figures show that the UK R-rate is between 0.6 and 0.8 meaning that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 6 and 8 other people. The growth rate is between -7% and -4% meaning that the number of new infections is shrinking by between 4% and 7% every day.
The latest Office for National Statistics’ infection survey shows that in the week ending 6 March infection rates had declined in England and Wales, with 1-in-270 and 1-in-365 testing positive. Infections have levelled off in Scotland and Northern Ireland, with 1-in-320, and 1-in-310 testing positive.
Budget focused on Covid recovery
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced how it will play a key role in delivering the Spring Budget, which was designed to focus on protecting jobs and livelihoods of the British people throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
The BVRLA has published a short video alongside an explanatory overview of what Covid and other fiscal measures were announced in this week’s Budget that will be of particular interest to members.
Roadmap out of lockdown stimulates optimism
Latest social indicators monitoring the impact of coronavirus on society on a weekly basis, show that following the Prime Minister’s roadmap announcement, adults in Great Britain reported feeling more optimistic about the speed with which life will return to normal.
The data, published by the Office for National Statistics shows that around a third (32%) felt that life will return to normal in six months or less, up from 22% the week before. 20% of adults felt that it will take more than a year for life to return to normal, down from 27% the previous week.
Ventilation required to make workplace Covid-secure
The Government has published guidance on ventilation for the workplace, advising that this should be considered as part of making your workplace or indoor public space Covid-secure.
It is important to identify and deal with areas that are not well ventilated. The more people occupying an area that is poorly ventilated, and the longer they remain in it, the greater the risk of spread of Covid-19.
ONS publishes data on job vulnerability
The Office for National Statistics has published information on what jobs are being most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and which socio-economic groups are identified as most vulnerable.
Findings from the ONS’ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings shows that men, those aged 16–19-year-olds, and those in lower paid jobs are the workers being most impacted by the pandemic.
The data, which looks at 25,763,000 employees working across 365 different occupations, reports on average hourly pay, annual percentage change, gender representation, whether they have been furloughed, and whether they fall under the high, medium or low vulnerability score.
Low paid workers represent 88% of those with a high vulnerability score, and 66% are men.
An overview document has also been published to accompany the data.
FCA guidance on consumer payment deferrals
The Financial Conduct Authority is reminding consumers that the deadline for applications for new payment deferrals under the Payment Deferral Guidance (PDG) is 31 March 2021. Only consumers still in a payment deferral under the PDG on 31 March will be able to extend their payment deferral beyond that date. All deferrals under that guidance will end by 31 July 2021 at the latest.
From 1 April 2021, consumers who are newly impacted by coronavirus, or find themselves impacted again, whether or not they have previously had a payment deferral, should receive support from their lender under the Tailored Support Guidance (TSG) which reflects their individual needs and circumstances. This could include short-term support such as a payment deferral.
In January the regulator updated its Information for firms on consumer credit as well as its Tailored Support Guidance enabling firms to repossess goods and vehicles from 31 January 2021, but only as a last resort.
Kickstart Scheme guidance updated
The Government has updated its guidance for employers using the Kickstart Scheme, adding the funding schedule to ‘How you will get the funding’ and also adding more detail to the steps in ‘Getting the young people into the job placements.’
Contactless payment limit increased to £100
The Financial Conduct Authority announced on 3 March that it had changed its rules to allow for an increase in the single transaction contactless payment threshold from £45 to £100. The contactless threshold for multiple transactions will also increase from £130 to £300.
The changes have been brought about to support consumers and merchants during the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and is a response to changing behaviours. The first change was introduced in April 2020, when the FCA increased the contactless limit from £30 to £45.
Furlough scheme update
The BVRLA has written to the Chancellor ahead of next week’s Budget, urging the Government to extend the furlough scheme until the end of national restrictions. The Scheme is currently due to end on 30 April 2021.
The association has also asked for business rates relief to be extended by another year, and for an extension to the deadlines for repaying deferred VAT. These are the three support measures that members have stated are most useful to their business.
According to the latest Office for National Statistics latest indicators for the UK economy, 20% of businesses’ workforce were on furlough leave in early February, up from 18% in mid-January 2021.
Official statistics published on 25 February show that the number of jobs furloughed on 31 December was 4 million. Provisional estimates show a further increase in January to 4.7 million and cumulatively, 11.2 million jobs have been supported by the CJRS since the start of the scheme.
The Government has updated its guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to include that claims for furlough days in February 2021 must be made by 15 March 2021.
VAT deferment payment scheme now open
The VAT deferral new payment scheme opened on 23 February 2021 and is due to be available up to and including 21 June 2021.
If you’re on the VAT Annual Accounting Scheme or the VAT Payment on Account Scheme, you’ll be invited to join the new payment scheme later in March 2021. The new scheme lets you:
- pay your deferred VAT in equal instalments, interest free
- choose the number of instalments, from 2 to 11 (depending on when you join)
Those who join the scheme can still have a Time to Pay arrangement for other HMRC debts and outstanding tax.
Levelling Up Fund boosted to £4.8 billion
The UK Government has added a further £800 million to make the Levelling Up Fund, announced at the Spending Review, available to all parts of the UK.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will now all benefit from the fund for town centre and high street regeneration, local transport, cultural and heritage projects. The Fund aims to support every region of the UK as it ‘Builds Back Better’ from Covid.
Latest data on local authority funding for businesses
The Government has published its latest round of business grants data showing the government funding delivered to each council in England to support their local businesses.
Since August last year, the Government has provided councils with £7.8 billion for businesses who have needed support the most, through Local Restrictions Support Grants, Christmas Support Payments and Additional Restrictions Grants.
Guidance for Local Authorities has been updated to include details of the next payment cycle covering the period 16 February to 31 March.
Research assesses confidence in using public transport
The Department for Transport has published a report produced by Ipsos MORI on the Government’s behalf, which shares findings from research carried out to look at confidence in using transport during the pandemic.
The research includes an assessment of peoples' attitudes to returning to flying, which will be of particular interest to members with operations and branches at airports.
The DfT has also published a study into the travel behaviour of people during and following the coronavirus pandemic.
Vehicle rental firms amongst other essential workers to be prioritised for testing
The Government has published guidance listing the essential workers that will be prioritised for Covid-19 testing. Vehicle rental operators are classed as essential by the Government as this vital sector supports the operation of critical transport through which supply chains pass.
Businesses invited to order free workplace testing kits
The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has written a letter to all businesses registered in England about free Covid-19 tests for staff who cannot work from home.
The letter from the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng encourages businesses to test their staff for Covid-19 by registering for free testing kits provided by the government. The test kits are entirely free of charge until 30 June 2021 for firms that have registered by 31 March.
Roadmap out of lockdown
On 22 February the Prime Minister announced a four-step process to ease restrictions across England, outlining the roadmap out of lockdown. Guidance has been published detailing the steps to reopening businesses and venues in England.
With infection rates falling, the UK Covid-19 Alert Level has been downgraded from level 5 to level 4, however people are being asked to remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines.
The Department for Health & Social Care has launched a campaign to remind people of the importance of staying at home, encouraging people to ‘keep going’ to stop the spread of the virus.
Phase 2 of vaccine rollout to cover all adults by July
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has published advise recommending that the phase 2 of the vaccination programme be age-based starting with the oldest adults first and proceeding in the following order:
- all those aged 40 to 49 years
- all those aged 30 to 39 years
- all those aged 18 to 29 years
The Government has confirmed that all four devolved nations will follow the recommended approach and aims to complete phase 2 of the vaccination programme by the end of July 2021.
JCVI concluded that delivery of a programme targeting occupational groups would be operationally complex and a simple, age-based programme starting with those aged 40 to 49 years is the optimal way to protect individuals.
Phase 1, which began rollout in the UK from 8 December 2020, saw the vaccination of nine key priority groups covering all adults aged 50 years and over, and younger adults with underlying health conditions that put them at specific risk from Covid-19.
Those who are vaccinated will still need to follow government advice on social distancing.
Infection rates across England
Weekly data of Covid-19 cases per local authority shows that in the past week 35 areas reported an increase in the number of cases per 100,000 population, whilst three areas remain unchanged, and 276 areas saw a decrease in case rates.
Report on Business Rates delayed until Autumn
The Government has confirmed that it will now publish its final report on business rates in Autumn 2021 when there is more economic certainty. This follows a commitment from the Chancellor in the last Budget to carry out a fundamental review of business rates.
The Government has delayed the report due to the ongoing and wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic and economic uncertainty. They will now publish an interim report on 23 March, along with a number of tax documents, consultations and calls for evidence on a wide-range of tax-related issues.
Motor vehicle usage at around two-thirds of normal levels
The Department for Transport has published its latest weekly transport usage figures showing that motor vehicle usage is currently running at around two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels, whilst national rail and London Underground usage peaked in the last week at 14% and 18% respectively.
Additional financial support for Wales
The UK Government has announced that it is providing the devolved administration in Wales with an additional £650 million to support people, businesses and public services affected by coronavirus.
The money is in addition to the £5.2 billion already provided for this year through the upfront Barnett guarantee, bringing the total to £5.85 billion.
820,000 more adults under 70 to be prioritised for vaccine
The Government has announced the use of a new model to identify adults in England with multiple risk factors that make them more vulnerable to Covid-19 and will be sending a letter to them in the coming days advising them to shield.
This will mean they are advised against attending work and should work from home until the next review point on 31 March.
To allow for vaccinations to be provided more quickly to people in this group, they will be included within the clinically extremely vulnerable list and will be entitled to the same support as people already on the Shielded Patient List.
February sees significant drop in infection rates
Initial findings from Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI show infections fell by more than two-thirds from the last report (6-22 January), with 1 in 196 people infected. Over 85,400 volunteers were tested in England between 4 and 13 February to examine the levels of infection in the general population.
The latest R-rate for the UK is between 0.6 and 0.9 meaning that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 6 and 9 other people. The growth rate is between -6% and -3% meaning that the number of new infections is shrinking by between 3% and 6% every day.
Latest Local Authority figures show that of the 314 Local Authorities in England, twelve reported an increase in Covid rates per 100,000 population during the past week, five remained unchanged and the remaining 297 areas all reported a fall in rates.
New repayment options for Bounce Back Loans
The Chancellor has announced a ‘Pay as you Grow’ initiative to provide businesses with more flexibility for the repayment of Bounce Back Loans. Businesses can now:
- Extend the length of the loan from six years to ten
- Make interest-only payments for six months, with the option to use this up to three times throughout the loan
- Pause repayments entirely for up to six months
The Bounce Back Loan Scheme is currently open to applications until 31 March 2021. Those who have already had a Bounce Back Loan but borrowed less than you were entitled to, can top up an existing loan to your maximum amount before 31 March deadline.
VAT deferment payment scheme
The Government has updated its guidance on VAT deferred due to coronavirus to include information about how to join the VAT deferral payment scheme – the online service, which is open between 23 February and 21 June 2021.
Drive to increase mass workplace testing
The Government is asking firms with more that 50 employees to take part in workplace testing to help identify people who are Covid-19 positive but are not showing symptoms.
The Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy is inviting businesses to take part in a short 10-minute survey to help them gather evidence around the blockers which are preventing some businesses from engaging with mass testing and whether there are any incentives which could encourage more employers to participate. The survey will remain open until Friday 12 February.
The BVRLA would like to hear feedback on this programme. If members are making use of mass workplace testing please email firstname.lastname@example.org with their experiences.
Requirements for hauliers driving abroad
Guidance for international hauliers has been updated to include the requirement that hauliers now need a negative Covid-19 test result before travelling to Germany, as well as France, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Almost a fifth of UK workforce on furlough
The Office for National Statistics has published its latest indicators for the UK economy showing that 12% of UK businesses who are currently trading say that turnover has decreased by more than 50% compared with what is normally expected for this time of year.
18% of the workforce of all UK businesses are currently furloughed and over a third (36%) of working adults in Great Britain worked exclusively from home in the week ending 24 January. UK online job adverts increased by 4 percentage points from the previous week to 78% of the level seen in the same week last year.
Guidance for renewing expired driving licenses
The Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency has updated guidance to provide information for those whose driving licence expires on or after 1 January 2021. The DVLA is reminding customers that online services have not been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and are running as normal.
Transport usage figures published
The Department for Transport’s latest weekly transport usage figures shows that during the past week motor vehicle usage has peaked at around two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels.
Public transport usage remains extremely low with national rail usage peaking at 16% and London Underground usage peaking at 13%.
Normality may take up to a year or more
According to the latest social impacts of Covid-19 figures by the Office for National Statistics, people are reportedly feeling more pessimistic about the speed with which life will return to normal with two-thirds of adults thinking it will take up to a year or more for normality to resume.
A third of adults (33%) felt that it would take between seven months and a year for life to return to normal and 29% think it will take more than a year, up from 28% in the previous week. Meanwhile 17% believe it will return to normal in six months or less, down from 20%.
New report details characteristics of those with Covid-19
The Office for National Statistics has for the first time, published data about the characteristics of people testing positive for Covid-19.
In England, 47% of people who tested positive reported having symptoms. The figures were 55% in Wales, 38% in Northern Ireland and 47% in Scotland.
Cough, fatigue and headache were the most common symptoms. Muscle ache, fever, sore throat and loss of taste and smell were also regularly cited and least common was shortness of breath, nausea vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
The latest R-rate for the UK is between 0.7 and 1.0 meaning that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 7 and 10 other people. The growth rate is between -5% and -2% meaning that the number of new infections is shrinking by between 2% and 5% every day.
In England, London is reported to have the lowest R-rate (0.6-0.8) whilst North East and Yorkshire (0.8-1.0) and the North West (0.7-1.0) have the highest. Local Authority data is also available.
Latest weekly ONS figures show that during the last week of January, the number of people testing positive in England (1-in-65), Northern Ireland (1-in-65) and Scotland (1-in-115) was gradually declining, whilst figures in Wales (1-in-70) remained the same as the previous week.
Those travelling to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland from abroad, including UK nationals returning home, you must provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test result taken up to 3 days before departure.
Mental health and wellbeing resources
The Government has published guidance complete with tips, advice and a list of useful resources that can be used to help individuals as well as employers who may be considering developing employee wellbeing tools.
Revised Kickstart Scheme accessible to small firms
The Government has removed the threshold requiring firms to provide a minimum of 30 placements to access the Kickstart Scheme.
From 3 February 2021 employers of all sizes can offer any number of placements.
The scheme, which previously received criticism for not being accessible to small businesses, provides funds to firms employing 16 to 24-year olds who are on Universal Credit or at risk of long-term unemployment. Funding covers:
- 100% of the National Minimum Wage (or the National Living Wage depending on the age of the participant) for 25 hours per week for a total of 6 months
- associated employer National Insurance contributions
- employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions
Resources for job seekers
HM Treasury has published guidance for jobs seekers as part of the UK Government’s Plan for Jobs, providing information, resources and advice to help people develop skills, get advice and search for opportunities.
Testing for those who can’t work from home
The Government is working to provide asymptomatic Lateral Flow Testing to organisations with over 50 employees or more, who have staff unable to work from home. The employees do not need to be based at the same location.
Employers who are interested in the scheme are being invited to attend one of a series of webinars hosted by the Department for Health & Social Care.
The sessions are running daily 2-3pm next week Monday 1 February to Friday 5 February.
Click on this link to join the meeting, where you can hear a 45-minute overview of the testing and get answers to initial questions you may have.
Airports in England to receive support
The Government has introduced an Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme, enabling eligible commercial airports and ground handlers in England to apply for up to £8m each.
The financial support is being provided to cover losses on fixed costs such as airfield and runway maintenance, and business rate bills whilst travel restrictions remain in place.
ONS reports downturn in confidence
According to the latest Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey published by the Office for National Statistics, 17% of the workforce of UK businesses were furloughed in the period 28 December 2020 to 10 January 2021, up from 14% in the previous period.
15% of UK businesses, including those currently trading and those who are temporarily closed, say they have ‘no or low confidence of surviving the next three months’.
Their latest Social Impact Survey shows that during the past week, people are feeling less optimistic that life will return to normal any time soon with 1-in-3 adults (28%) thinking it will take more than a year for life to return to normal, up from 25% last week.
1-in-5 adults (20%) think it will be back to normal in 6-months or less, down from 22%.
UK reports reducing R-rate
The latest UK R-rate is between 0.7 and 1.1 meaning that on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 7 and 11 other people. The growth rate is currently between -5% and 0% meaning that the number of new infections is broadly flat or shrinking by up to 5% every day.
England’s R-rate is 0.7-1.0 and weekly data from each local authority is also published.
NHS Test and Trace has reported that 93.8% of in-person test results were returned the next day after the test was taken, compared with 84.8% the week before.
The NHS Test and Trace test network continues to expand, with more than 800 test sites in operation, including 448 local sites. A fleet of 500 mobile testing units was also deployed earlier this month.
Novavax published positive data on 28 January from the UK phase 3 study of its Covid-19 vaccine, showing it to be 89.3% effective in preventing coronavirus in participants. The UK has secured 60 million doses, with manufacturing set to take place on Teesside.
Janssen followed suit on 29 January, publishing positive data from the Phase 3 studies of its single-dose Covid-19 vaccine, showing it to be 66% effective overall in preventing coronavirus in participants. The UK has secured 30 million doses with deliveries expected to arrive this year if approved by regulators
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
HMRC has published a 15-minute video providing information on how to claim the third Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant. Information relating to the fourth grant, covering the period February to April 2021 will be published in due course.
Additional support for closed businesses
The Government has introduced a Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment (CBLP) to supports businesses that have been required to close due to the national restrictions that began on 5 January 2021. Eligible businesses in England may be entitled to a one-off cash grant of up to £9,000 from their local council.
The Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) is also available from local councils to support closed businesses that do not directly pay business rates as well as businesses that do not have to close but which are impacted. Local councils have the freedom to determine the eligibility criteria for these grants.
Employers asked to support workplace testing
The Government has confirmed that rapid, regular testing for people without symptoms of coronavirus will be made available across the country from this week.
Eligibility of the community testing programme is being expanded to all 314 local authorities across England, who are being encouraged to target people unable to work from home.
The Government is also asking employers to introduce asymptomatic workforce testing to help protect employees who can’t work from home to curb the spread of the virus. Employers can find out more by emailing email@example.com.
1-in-3 with Covid have no symptoms and Lateral flow tests can return results within 30 minutes, without needing to be sent to a lab.
Almost half of British workforce is working from home
The Office for National Statistics’ latest survey looking at the social impacts of coronavirus shows that during the week to 17 January, the proportion of working adults in Britain that worked from home was at its highest since June 2020, at 45%, compared with 43% the previous week.
The proportion of working adults that travelled to work either exclusively or in combination with working from home remained the same as the previous week at 48%.
Latest case rates by local authority
The Government has published its weekly Covid cases by local authority showing that just over half (53%) of all local authorities have reported an increase in the number of case rates per 100,000 population during the past seven days.
Knowsley, Barking & Dagenham, Newham and Slough have seen the highest figures, all with case rates exceeding 1,000. In contrast, three areas in the South West reported the lowest figures with the Isles of Scilly, Torridge and North Devon reporting case rates of 45, 76 and 104 respectively.
More test sites for hauliers
Cullompton, Sandbach northbound and Ferrybridge services have been added to the list of haulier advice sites where drivers and crew of HGVs, LGVs, coaches and vans can get free Covid-19 tests and border readiness checks before transporting goods to the EU.
Haulage drivers and crew are advised to get a negative test before they travel to Kent or other Channel crossing points.
Further restrictions for entering the UK
Two more locations have been added to the list of countries where travel bans into the UK have been applied. People who have been in or transited through those countries in the last 10 days will not be granted access to the UK.
This does not include British and Irish Nationals, or third country nationals with residence rights in the UK, who will be able to enter the UK but are required to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival along with their household.
Rapid testing for employees starts with key workers
The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy has written to the BVRLA confirming that those working in England who cannot work from home will soon be able to access rapid testing to ensure vital public and economic services can continue.
Those working for businesses that provide critical services, including vehicle rental firms, are first to be eligible and can now register interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
BEIS will be hosting a series of introductory webinars every day this week, so members are encouraged to register interest as soon as possible.
The Government has also updated its Guidance on the different types of tests available, including asymptomatic testing.
Testing requirements for HGV drivers going overseas
Several countries have introduced Covid-19 testing requirements for hauliers. The guidelines are different in each country and operators and drivers are advised to check the rules and list of available test sites before travelling.
HGV drivers must now have a negative test before driving to France, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Latest transport usage figures
The Department for Transport has published its latest weekly transport usage figures showing that motor vehicle usage has dropped by around 50% over the weekend, with midweek usage peaked at 63% of pre-pandemic levels.
Public transport usage remains low with national rail and London Underground usage both peaking at 16% over the past week, and Underground usage falling as low as 12% at the weekend.
Tax rules on employers paying for tests for staff
Guidance on how to treat taxable expenses and benefits when they are paid to employees because of coronavirus has been updated. It also explains how to report them to HMRC.
Coronavirus tests provided by the Government, as part of its national testing scheme, are not treated as a benefit-in-kind for tax purposes.
If you’re providing testing kits to employees outside of the Government’s national testing scheme, either directly or by purchasing tests that are carried out by a third party, no Income Tax or Class 1A National Insurance contributions will be due.
Similarly, employers and their employees will not be liable to any Income Tax or National Insurance contributions, where an employee receives money from their employer for obtaining a test.
Those isolating have 28 days to claim £500 support
Guidance has been updated to include that those who are eligible to make a claim for the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme or a discretionary payment, can do so up to 28 days after the first day of their period of self-isolation. The scheme is currently due to end on 31 January 2021.
Those eligible for either the Test and Trace Support Payment or a discretionary payment, will receive the £500 payment on top of any benefits and Statutory Sick Pay received.
The Government has reported that NHS has vaccinated over 4m people between 8 December and 17 January, including more than half of those aged 80 and over more than half in elderly care homes.
Letters have been sent to those aged 70 and over and the clinically extremely vulnerable in England inviting them to get their vaccinations as the NHS begins roll out to the next 2 priority groups.
The British Army is establishing 80 new Covid-19 vaccine centres for NHS Scotland from 18 January as part of the largest peacetime resilience operation ever undertaken by the UK Armed Forces.
Business impacts of the pandemic
According to the Office for National Statistics' latest Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey, 71% of UK businesses were trading between the 14 and 27 December 2020, down from 84% in the previous period (30 November to 13 December 2020).
Of all UK trading businesses, 14% of their workforce were on furlough, an increase from 11% from the previous fortnight.
Findings also showed that in Q4-2020, around 22,000 more firms reported increasing turnover than decreasing turnover, compared with the Q3 period.
In the week ending 10 January 2021, a third (34%) of working adults in Great Britain worked exclusively from home, whilst 48% did a combination of working from home and travelling.
Economic impacts of the pandemic
GDP fell by 2.6% in November, the first fall since April 2020. This takes GDP 8.5% below February 2020 levels. The three largest falls in monthly GDP since records began in January 1997 have all occurred in 2020: 7.3% in March, 18.8% in April and 2.6% in November.
According to the latest Office for National Statistics data, the fall in output was widespread but driven by accommodation and food and beverage services, wholesale, retail and motor trades, other service activities, and arts, entertainment and recreation.
Motor trades fell by 17.2% in November 2020, with output 20.8% below February 2020 levels. During the first lockdown, motor trades fell by 90.9% in April 2020.
Manufacturing, construction and repair and maintenance work saw an increase in output.
Social impacts of the pandemic
The Office for National Statistics has published its latest data on the social impacts of coronavirus, showing that during the first week of the new national lockdown, 42% of adults in Great Britain were experiencing high levels of anxiety. Levels last seen in April 2020.
78% of adults reported that they were worried about the effect of the coronavirus on their life right now, and 56% of adults reported that their well-being was being affected, largely due to boredom, loneliness, anxiety and stress.
Videos and webinars to support businesses
The Government has added a video about the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Grant Extension to its suite of video and webinar resources to help businesses learn more about the support available to help deal with the economic impacts of coronavirus.
Advice for hauliers requiring Covid tests
Guidance has been updated to help drivers and crew of HGVs, LGVs and vans to find sites where they can access free Covid-19 tests and border readiness checks before transporting goods to the EU.
Two further locations have been added to the list of test sites.
Latest case data by local authority
The Government has published new weekly epidemiological data for each local authority in England, listing number of people tested, case rate per 100,000 population, local COVID alert level and the weekly trend as at 14 January 2021.
The latest R-rate is between 1.2 and 1.3 meaning that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 12 and 13 other people. The growth rate is between +2% and +5% meaning that the number of new infections is growing by between 2% and 5% every day.
A Covid and influenza surveillance report has also been published showing that case rates in England have decreased across all age groups except in those 80 and above, with the highest rate seen in those aged between 20 to 29 years old.
Case rates per 100,000 continue to be the highest in London, with a rate of 864.9 per 100,000 population and case rates have decreased in all regions except for the North West, South West and West Midlands.
Public Health England has published guidance on what to expect after your Covid-19 vaccination, and has confirmed that by 10 January more than one third of people aged 80 and over in England had received at least one dose of the vaccine as well as a further 960,699 under-80's.
The UK Government’s Vaccine Delivery Plan outlines how it is planning to deploy the vaccine.
The Government has updated its guidance on getting tested to include information on asymptomatic testing and other recently introduced testing. The list of information about approved suppliers of private testing kits for Covid-19 has also been updated, along with guidance on antibody testing.
National restrictions: What you need to know
The Government has updated its guidance on what you can and cannot do during this current national lockdown and is emphasising that the single most important action we can all take is to stay at home and stay local when leaving the house for permitted reasons.
Travel advice has also been updated to reflect that from 15 January, those who intend to travel to England or Scotland, including UK nationals returning home from abroad, must now provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test result taken up to 3 days before departure.
Business support packages during latest lockdown
The Government has published updated guidance for local authorities on paying grants to support businesses during the new lockdown period which started on 5 January and became effective in law on 6 January 2021.
A new 19-page document outlining details of a Business Support Package for the January 2021 Lockdown has also been published.
Latest transport usage figures
The Department for Transport has published its latest transport usage figures showing that motor transport usage has reduced to figures last seen in May, at around 60% of pre-pandemic levels.
The recent ‘stay at home’ order has seen public transport usage levels plummet with national rail and London Underground running at around 15% of normal passenger levels.
Summary of all Covid-related financial support
HM Treasury has published a comprehensive summary of all the financial support schemes on offer to businesses, employees, individuals, local authorities and devolved administrations. To date, the collective fiscal support provided has cost the UK Government £280 billion.
Guidance on vehicle cleanliness and ventilation
The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency is reminding all vehicle operators about the importance of vehicle cleanliness and ventilation when presenting vehicles for annual MOT tests and has issued guidance about how to keep transport clean. The DVSA also emphasises the importance of making sure vehicles are properly ventilated.
FCA to issue next mandatory Covid survey
The Financial Conduct Authority is providing advanced notice to inform regulated firms that they are issuing a third Covid Survey over the coming weeks, and completion is mandatory.
There will be ten questions looking at four areas:
- Liquidity/ cash availability and needs
- Recent financial performance
- Scale of business activity
- Access to government schemes
The surveys will be issued in four batches between 13 and 19 January and firms will have 3 weeks to respond.
Latest data provides overview of current situation
The Office for National Statistics has published its latest Covid-19 data, estimating that 1,122,000 people in England had Covid-19 between 27 December 2020 and 2 January 2021, equal to about 1 in 50 people or 2.06% of the population.
The Government has also published the latest R-rate number for the UK, which shows that at between 1.0 and 1.4 on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 10 and 14 other people. The growth rate of between 0% and +6% means that the number of new infections is either broadly flat or growing by up to 6% every day across the UK.
Third vaccine approved in the UK
Today (8 January) the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulations Agency, known as the MHRA, has confirmed approval of the Covid-19 Moderna Vaccine, the third to be approved by the regulator.
Suitable for those aged 18 and over, the vaccine is a two-dose regime, and it is recommended to administer the second dose 28 days after the first. In a press announcement, MHRA Chief Executive Dr June Raine said “Today’s approval brings more encouraging news to the public and the healthcare sector.”
Vaccines bring optimism for return to normality
Indicators from the Office for National Statistics’ Opinions and Lifestyle Survey covering the period 23 December 2020 to 3 January 2021, show that a quarter (25%) of adults felt that life will return to normal in six months or less, compared with 22% the week before. Whilst one in five (20%) adults felt that it will take more than a year for life to return to normal.
New rules for international arrivals into England
The Government has confirmed that international arrivals are now required to prove a negative Covid-19 test result before departure for England. The test must have been taken up to 72-hours prior to departure. All travellers will also be required to complete a passenger locator form before arrival into England.
There will be a limited number of exemptions, including for hauliers, children under 11, crews and for those who travelling from countries without the infrastructure available to deliver the tests.
Details of new national lockdown restrictions
Leading with the messages ‘Stay at home. The new strain of coronavirus is spreading fast. We all need to play our part to stop the spread’, the posters are designed to promote a widespread understanding of the new restrictions and encourage compliance.
The new lockdown guidance requires that you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home, including but not limited to people who work within critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing that require in-person attendance.
‘Click and collect’ and vehicle deliveries can continue. Vehicle rental firms as well as MOT and repair shops are also allowed to stay open. The BVRLA has updated its Guide to Operating during the Covid-19 Pandemic following the new lockdown.
Guidance has also been updated providing information for individuals and businesses in Scotland.
Children of vehicle rental sector workers can attend school
The Government has updated guidance providing a list of critical workers and vulnerable children and young people who can access full-time education provision during the national lockdown.
This includes those who will keep the road passenger and freight transport modes operating during the coronavirus response. As the rental sector continues to play a role in providing essential goods and services during the pandemic, vehicle hire companies remain exempt from closure and have key worker status.
Furlough guidance updated following new lockdown
Furlough guidance for employers has been updated to include information about claiming through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for employees that are unable to work following the new restrictions. Guidance for employees has also been updated.
The guidance states that your employee is eligible for the grant and can be furloughed if they are unable to work, including from home or working reduced hours because they:
- are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance.
- have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus, such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing, or caring for a vulnerable individual in their household.
Further financial support announced for businesses
Eligible businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors are to receive a one-off grant worth up to £9,000 per property to help them through to the Spring. The cash boost, which is expected to benefit over 600,000 business properties will be granted to closed businesses as follows:
- £4,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under
- £6,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
- £9,000 for businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000
A further £594 million is also being made available for local authorities and the devolved administrations to support other businesses that are not eligible for the grants but are affected by the restrictions. Businesses should apply to their local authority.
Latest travel restrictions
The Government is advising that those who need to travel should walk or cycle where possible, and plan ahead to avoid busy times. Those using public transport should follow the safer travel guidance.
International travel is increasingly restricted and different rules apply in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For example, in England you must not leave home including to travel abroad, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so, such as for essential work purposes.
Those who are legally permitted to travel should check the Government’s advice for the country they are visiting.
Driving tests suspended
The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency has updated guidance confirming that driving tests and theory tests are suspended across England, Scotland and Wales during this lockdown period.
Testing sites for hauliers crossing the Channel
HGVs leaving England for France can only cross the Channel with evidence of an authorised negative Covid test, that has been conducted within the 72-hour period before their departure. This is mandated by the UK and French governments.
On 2 January, the Transport Secretary announced the creation of new testing locations across the country to help HGV and LGV drivers get a COVID test before travelling to Kent. Since the initial ten testing sites went live, further testing sites have been added across the country.
The Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine started to roll out on 4 January 2021 as the NHS looks to rapidly expand the Covid-19 vaccination programmes across the UK.
The Government has secured access to 100 million doses of the vaccine. More than half a million doses are available today, with tens of millions more to be delivered in the coming weeks and months once batches have been quality checked by the MHRA.
Private sector Covid tests
The Department of Health and Social Care has published a list of private sector providers of Covid tests. The government does not endorse or recommend any particular private test provider and individuals should conduct their own research about available providers, the tests they supply and their locations.
Government announces new Tier 4 'Stay at Home'
As a response to a rapid rise in infections attributed to the spread of a new variant of Covid-19, tougher restrictions have been introduced for London, large parts of the South East and East of England, with a new Tier 4: ‘Stay at Home’ alert level. Tier 4 restrictions will remain in place until the next formal Government review on 30 December.
As a result, the following areas have moved from Tier 3 to Tier 4:
- Kent, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey (excluding Waverley), Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings;
- London (all 32 boroughs and the City of London); and
- the East of England (Bedford, Central Bedford, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Essex excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).
Restrictions for all the English tiers have been updated in light of this new tier. Vehicle rental locations, repair services and MOT centres can remain open.
Tier 4-Stay at Home: what you can and cannot do in a Tier 4 area.
Tier 3: Very High alert: what you can and cannot do in an area in Tier 3 of local restrictions.
Tier 2: High alert: what you can and cannot do in an area in Tier 2 of local restrictions.
Tier 1: Medium alert: what you can and cannot do in an area in Tier 1 of local restrictions.
Updated Covid-19 travel restrictions
Governments across the UK have updated their travel advice.
In England, people should stay at home and not leave their Tier 4 area. If you need to travel you should stay local - meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live - and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall. The list of reasons you can leave your home and area include, but are not limited to:
- travel to work where you cannot work from home
- travel to education and for caring responsibilities
- matters related to a house sale or residential rental
- returning home
- visit those in your support bubble - or your childcare bubble for childcare
- attend hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health
- buying goods or services from premises that are open in Tier 4 areas, including vehicle rental, but these should be within your local area wherever possible
- outdoor recreation or exercise. This should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your Tier 4 area to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)
People should use the same exceptions when considering whether they can travel into a Tier 4 area from another part of the UK.
Those in Tier 4 areas will not be permitted to travel abroad, apart from limited exceptions, including work. People in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 should ‘stay local’.
Vehicle testing in English Tier 4 areas
The Prime Minister has announced new Tier 4 restrictions in England to control the spread of coronavirus.
Heavy vehicle testing can continue under all Tiers with Covid-19 secure measures in place. The DVSA will continue to provide the vehicle standards assessors needed to test heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and public service vehicles (PSVs) safely. Vehicles and trailers which legally need a test should continue to be the priority for bookings.
Operators should continue to manage the regular maintenance and inspection schedule for their vehicles and trailers. This is a legal requirement under their operator’s licence.
A test centre service is available to help vehicle operators get test slots at ATFs.
If you have any queries about exemptions, contact: email@example.com.
UK's furlough scheme to be extended
The Chancellor has announced 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.
Business closures eased across England
The Government has updated its guidance on business closures to reflect the introduction of local restriction tiers that came into effect on 2 December 2020. The new restrictions enable most businesses and venues to open following Covid-19 Secure guidelines.
Guidance has also been updated on Test and Trace in the workplace to reflect the end of the national restrictions and start of the new regional tier system.
Transport usage figures
The Department for Transport has published its latest transport usage figures showing that road transport usage is at around three quarters of the normal levels for this time of year, whilst national rail usage is as low as a fifth of pre-pandemic levels and the London Underground around a quarter.
Christmas travel measures
Transport Secretary Grant Schapps has outlined a series of measures focused on minimising disruption and helping people to travel safely over the Christmas period, urging passengers to plan their journeys carefully, consider quieter routes, and where possible, book ahead.
People thinking about going abroad over the festive period should read the advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
The Government has published its full guidance for the Christmas period covering a range of areas.
Guidance updated for employers using furlough scheme
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme guidance has been updated to include a Step-by-step guide to reflect recent changes to the scheme, and a new key dates guide has also been published.
Changes to Local Restrictions Support Grant
Guidance on claiming the Local Restrictions Support Grant has been updated, changing the 28-day claim period to 14 days for businesses that have not had to close but which have been severely impacted due to local Tier 2 or Tier 3 restrictions.
Eligible businesses may be entitled to a cash grant from their local council for each 14-day period under local restrictions.
Businesses with a property with a rateable value of £15,000 or less, may be eligible for a cash grant of up to £467 for each 14-day period. Those with a rateable value over £15,000 and less than £51,000 may be eligible for up to £700 for each 14-day period and on a rateable value of £51,000 or above, the cash grant rises of up to £1,050 for each 14-day period.
Half of UK firms have enough cash reserves to get through Q1
Latest indicators for the UK economy and society published by the Office for National Statistics show that of UK businesses currently trading, 31% had between zero- and three- months cash reserves, 16% had between four and six months and 35% had more than six months. 18% were not sure.
During the period 2 to 15 November, 43% experienced a decrease in profits compared with what is normally expected for this time of year, 35% experienced no change and 6% experienced an increase.
Vehicle testing and driving tests resume
The DVSA has confirmed that MOT garages can remain open and vehicle testing can continue across all tiers with Covid-19 secure measures in place. The Agency is encouraging members to only book vehicles or trailers in for its test close to its MOT due date.
Detailed data shows regional Covid picture
The Government has published a new set of detailed data to ensure transparency in the data that is assessed when determining tier allocation for local restrictions across England.
The Prime Minister announced on 2 December that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for distribution across the UK, and a vaccination programme will start as early as next week.
The Government has published an independent report from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advising that the first priorities for any Covid-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of Covid 19 mortality and the protection of health and social care staff and systems.
Secondary priorities could include those at increased risk of hospitalisation and at increased risk of exposure, and to maintain resilience in essential public services.
2020 will see record fall in UK output
In his Spending Review announcement this week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered some sobering figures stating that the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that the UK economy will contract this year by 11.3%, the largest fall in output for more than 300 years.
As the restrictions are eased, they expect the economy to start recovering growing by 5.5% next year, 6.6% in 2022, then 2.3%, 1.7% and 1.8% in the following years. Even with growth returning, our economic output is not expected to return to pre-crisis levels until the fourth quarter of 2022.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that output fell around 25% between February and April, reversing 18 years of economic growth in just two months, before starting to pick back up from May as the economy reopened. While GDP grew by 15.5% in Q3 2020 as restrictions on movement eased, GDP in September remained 8.2% below the levels seen in February 2020.
The UK’s Covid-19 Winter Plan
The Prime Minister has published a 64-page Covid-19 Winter Plan setting out the Government’s programme for suppressing the virus, protecting the NHS and the vulnerable, keeping education and the economy going and providing a route back to normality.
New regional tiered system introduced in England
The Government has published guidance explaining what you need to know about the new tiered Covid restrictions taking effect from 2 December across England and has produced a suite of posters for display in business premises.
A regionally targeted approach with three different tiers of restrictions applying in different parts of the country will replace the current national restrictions with: Tier 1: Medium alert, Tier 2: High alert and Tier 3: Very High alert.
The Prime Minister confirmed in his announcement yesterday that in all tiers:
- shops, gyms and the leisure sector, hairdressers, other forms of personal care, places of worship will reopen.
- You should continue to work from home if you can.
- The rule of 6 will once again apply in public outdoor spaces and organised outdoor sport can resume.
Covid restrictions across each devolved nation
The Scottish Government has published a list of Covid protection levels by area along with information on what you can and cannot do in each area. Information for those in Wales and Northern Ireland is also on the respective devolved nations’ websites.
New scheme to reduce self-isolation period
A Test to Release for International Travel scheme starts on 15 December, enabling people who need to self-isolate on arrival in England to have the option of paying for a private Covid-19 test.
The earliest you can take the test is at least five days after you left a destination not on the travel corridor list and if the result is negative, you can stop self-isolating. The scheme is voluntary and applies to those self-isolating in England only.
Support for the self-employed
HMRC is hosting a series of free one-hour webinars to provide an overview of the Self-Employment Income Support Grant Extension being launched on the 30 November 2020 along with details of what support is available for the self-employed.
Members can register now to attend one of the webinars, which are taking place between 1 and 8 December.
Test and Trace Support Payment
Those who have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to self-isolate on or after 28 September 2020 are under a legal obligation to do so and could be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment. Guidance which sets out who can claim support and explains how to apply has been updated.
Latest indicators on the UK economy and society
The Office for National Statistics’ latest Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey for the period 2 to 15 November shows that the percentage of UK businesses that temporarily closed or paused trading has risen to levels last seen in Wave 8 (15 June to 28 June 2020).
Of all UK businesses that have not permanently ceased trading:
- 15% of their workforce were on partial or full furlough leave, up from 9% in Wave 17.
- 30% were working remotely, up from 28%.
- 51% were working at their normal place of work, down from 60%.
UK restrictions during the festive period
The UK Government and the Devolved Administrations have agreed on joint arrangements for an easing of social restrictions over the Christmas period, allowing up to three households to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ from 23 to 27 December. The rules are:
- you can only be in one Christmas bubble
- you cannot change your Christmas bubble
- your Christmas bubble should not include people from more than three households
Individuals will be able to travel between tiers and across the whole of the UK without restriction within the five-day period to meet with their Christmas bubble and can meet in private homes or in your garden, places of worship, or public outdoor spaces.
You can also continue to meet people who are not in your Christmas bubble outside of your home in accordance with the rules in the tier where you are staying.
The government has formally requested that the UK’s independent medicines regulator assesses the suitability of Oxford/AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for temporary supply, as soon as the company submits the necessary safety, quality and efficacy data.
The UK will be one of the first countries in the world to receive the vaccine, IF authorised, with AstraZeneca expecting to have up to 4 million doses ready for the UK by the end of the year and 40 million by the end of March 2021. The UK has signed an agreement securing access to 100 million doses of the vaccine.
FCA finalises new guidance on payment deferrals
The Financial Conduct Authority has published finalised guidance on motor finance payment deferrals which comes into force on 25 November.
There are now two pieces of concurrent guidance that firms offering motor finance must follow: Tailored Support Guidance and Payment Deferral Guidance. These new measures place an additional burden on members and we encourage you to share your views with the policy team via firstname.lastname@example.org, who engages regularly with the regulator.
To support members with understanding and complying with the new guidance, the BVRLA will be hosting a free 30-minute webinar at 2.00pm on Wednesday 25 November. All regulated members providing motor finance are encouraged to login to the BVRLA website and register to attend.
Updated guidance for claiming wages for furloughed employees
Guidance on claiming wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been updated to include more detail about what HMRC may deem to be a reasonable excuse for missing a claim deadline and it also makes clear that if a claim deadline falls on the weekend or a bank holiday then claims should be submitted on the next working day.
Guidance has also been updated for calculating how much you can claim, clarify how to work out 80% of your employee’s average earnings between the date their employment started and the day before they are furloughed.
Guidance for furloughed staff who become sick
Guidance relating to if your employee becomes sick while furloughed has been amended to remove outdated information.
New VAT deferment scheme for 2021
Guidance on the deferment of VAT payments due to coronavirus has been updated to include details of a new payment scheme that will enable participants to make up to 11 smaller monthly instalments, interest free by the end of March 2022, rather than having to make payments by the end of March 2021.
The online service enabling you to opt into the scheme will be available in early 2021.
ONS publishes latest business insights
The Office for National Statistics has published its latest business insights, showing that Covid has hit small businesses the hardest with 81% of micro businesses currently trading, compared with 93% of businesses with 250 or more employees.
50% of businesses reported a decrease in turnover compared with what is normally expected for this time of year whilst 9% reported an increase. The wholesale and retail industry had the highest percentage of businesses reporting an increase in turnover, at 15%.
Latest indicators for the UK economy report that 14% of businesses said they had low or no confidence that their business would survive the next three months, whereas 79% remained confident and half of those were ‘highly confident’ that their business would survive.
Suspension of driving theory tests
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency has updated its guidance to reflect that driving theory tests have been suspended in Scotland in Covid level 4 areas. They are already suspended in England until after the national lockdown ends on 2 December. They are currently taking place in Wales.
Health bodies’ recommendations for workplaces
A consensus statement emphasising the importance of Covid-19 secure workplaces has been published by Public Health England, the Health and Safety Executive and Faculty of Occupational Medicine.
The statement recommends that individual discussions, where appropriate, should take place as part of a wider workplace risk management strategy as some staff may be at greater risk of infection or more severe illness from COVID-19 due to factors such as age, sex, deprivation, obesity or diabetes.
Latest R rate for the UK
The R number in the UK is today reported to be between 1.0 and 1.1, meaning that on average every 10 people infected will infect between 10 and 11 other people. The growth rate is between 0% and +2% meaning that the number of new infections is growing by 0% to 2% every day.
The lowest R rate in England s reported in the North West (0.8-1.0) whilst the highest is in the South East (1.1-1.3). Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales publish figures on their respective websites.
Reducing the risk of viral spread
The Government has published a 2-minute video promoting the importance of ventilation, as research shows that being in a room with fresh air can reduce your risk of infection from particles by over 70%, as fresh air dilutes the particles.
As we spend more time indoors, experts are recommending that people either open windows for short, sharp bursts of 10 to 15 minutes regularly throughout the day or leave windows open a small amount continuously.
Testing and vaccine update
Guidance on coronavirus testing, outlining who is eligible for a test and how to get tested has been updated.
More rapid Covid-19 tests continue to be rolled out across England and a full list of local authorities receiving these lateral flow tests is published Gov.UK.
The Government has announced that the UK has secured 5 million doses of the new Moderna vaccine which could be rolled out in Spring 2021. The Health Secretary made a statement earlier this week providing further details relating to the different vaccines on order.
Applying for the extended furlough scheme
Following the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to 31 March 2021, the Government has updated its guidance to provide employers with details of how to claim for periods after 1 November 2020.
HMRC has also published guidance on individuals you can claim for who are not employees, including company directors, agency workers and contractors.
Local Restriction Support and Additional Restrictions Grants
Guidance has been published for local authorities on paying grants to support businesses during the November to December 2020 national lockdown and periods of local restrictions.
Bounce Back Loan guidance updated
Bounce Back Loan guidance has been updated to include new options available to small and medium-sized businesses enabling them to top up existing loans, extend the loan period, make interest-only repayments, or pause repayments. The scheme is open to applications until 31 January 2021.
Sick pay for those deemed clinically extremely vulnerable
Guidance for employers on how to claim back employees' coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) via the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme has been updated to include what can be claimed for employees who have been advised by letter to shield because they're clinically extremely vulnerable.
Covid-19 secure guidelines updated to reflect new restrictions
Guidance on Working safely during Covid-19 has been updated to make clear that anyone who can work from home, should (section 1.1) and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals should not attend work if they can't work from home whilst the new national restrictions are in place.
Figures indicate that passengers are avoiding public transport
The latest transport usage figures published by the Department for Transport show a significant drop in the use of public transport in England during the last week, with national rail usage falling to as low as 27% of normal levels, whilst the London Underground saw passenger levels fall to less than a third of normal levels.
Motor vehicle usage also fell following the introduction of the new national restrictions, down to 60% of normal levels last weekend.
Mass testing rolls out
Guidance has been published to enable people working and living in Liverpool to find out how to get a coronavirus test as part of the NHS Test and Trace mass testing scheme.
Over half a million rapid-turnaround lateral flow tests will be sent out by NHS Test and Trace to local public health leaders this week, signalling the next phase of the government’s plan to expand asymptomatic testing for Covid-19.
Information for businesses in Scotland
Guidance for businesses and individuals in Scotland has been updated to reflect the new business support available from 5 November. The Scottish Government has a 5-level system of Covid-19 protection measures that can be applied nationally or locally depending on prevalence of the virus across Scotland. This new system came into effect on 2 November.
Guidance for apprentices, employers and training providers
The Government has updated its guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations in response to the impact of Covid-19, outlining the changes that the Education and Skills Funding Agency is making to the apprenticeship programme during the coronavirus outbreak.
R rates reducing in the north whilst increasing in the south
As at 6 November, the R number across the UK is reported to be between 1.1 and 1.3, meaning that on average every 10 people infected will infect between 11 and 13 other people. The growth rate is between +2% and +4%, meaning the number of new infections is growing by 2% to 4% every day.
The North West has the lowest R rate in England, at between 1.0-1.1, indicating that local lockdown measures previously imposed have had a positive effect on driving down the infection rate. The South East and the South West currently have the highest infection rate, with both regions reporting an R rate of between 1.2-1.4.
Covid impact on turnover varies considerably across industries
The latest indicators for the UK economy and society study, published by the Office for National Statistics shows that across all UK industries, 45% of businesses currently trading experienced a decrease in turnover compared with what is normally expected for this time of year. 37% experienced no impact on turnover whilst 10% experienced an increase.
The survey was completed between 19 October and 1 November before the new national lockdown.
The two UK industries reported to have the largest decrease in turnover were the accommodation and food service activities industry, at 72% and the arts, entertainment and recreation industry, at 69%, whilst the least affected industries were information and communication, down 31%, and human health and social work, down 35%.
The study also shows that during the period 5 to 8 October, 62% of the workforce were working at their normal place of work and 27% were working remotely, whilst 8% of the workforce were on partial or full furlough leave.
Between 23 and 30 October 2020, total online job adverts remained unchanged from the previous week, at 70% of their 2019 average.
Poster to display information about new national restrictions
The Government has produced a graphical poster for employers to display information about the national restrictions that apply in England between 5 November and 2 December.
Guidance on Working safely during coronavirus has been updated to reflect the new restrictions.
Personal health and wellbeing during the Covid pandemic
The Government has published updated guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus, providing advice and links to useful resources to help you look after yourself and others.
Travel guidance during national lockdown
Guidance has been updated to reflect that from 5 November to 2 December 2020, travelling away from home, including internationally, is restricted from England except in limited circumstances such as for work or for education. Different rules apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Privacy notice updated for NHS Covid-19 app
The Government has published its updated Privacy information on the NHS Covid-19 App confirming:
- the personal data that the app collects and how the data is used
- measures taken to ensure the use of the app respects your privacy, is secure and in line with data protection law
- that the data protection impact assessment formally documents how the app works and how it protects the privacy of its users.
Furlough scheme extended until March 2021
For claim periods running to January 2021, employees will receive 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. The government will review the policy in January to decide whether economic circumstances are improving enough to ask employers to contribute more.
The announcement comes after evidence from the first lockdown showed that the economic effects are much longer lasting for businesses than the duration of restrictions.
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme extended
The Government has updated its guidance on the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant extension following today’s announcement by the Chancellor.
NHS Test and Trace for employers
Guidance on NHS Test and Trace for employers, businesses and workers has been updated to reflect that From Thursday 5 November employees will be legally required to work from home unless it is not reasonably possible to do so.
It is a legal requirement for employers to not knowingly allow an employee who has been told to self-isolate to come into work or work anywhere other than their own home for the duration of their self-isolation period. Failure to do so could result in a fine starting from £1,000.
Vehicle rental to remain open during the new national lockdown
The Government has issued guidance on the new national restrictions, including what they mean for working from home and business closures, why they are being introduced and the financial support available.
The new restrictions, which take effect on 5 November and will be reviewed on 2 December, require certain businesses and venues to close. However, vehicle rental, as was the case in the full national lockdown earlier this year, will remain open for business. Car repair and MOT services can also remain open.
Government advises that those who operate vehicle rental in a showroom environment should hire out vehicles from a separate building or a separate part of the building as vehicle showrooms must close.
Local grants to support businesses and local communities
The Government has published guidance for local authorities setting out eligibility criteria and operation and delivery details on paying grants to support businesses during the November to December 2020 national lockdown and periods of local restrictions.
The two schemes, which are to support local businesses during the national lockdown between 5 November to 2 December 2020 and during periods of local restrictions are:
- Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG)
- Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG)
Members who sublet premises for their rental operations and have been severely impacted by the restrictions are encouraged to speak to their local authority to access grants using the above guidance as back up. Please let us know of any successes or failures in this area by contacting our policy team, email@example.com.
Regulated members are invited to share views on FCA proposals
The Financial Conduct Authority is inviting comment on its proposals to extend payment deferrals and other support for motor finance customers who are experiencing payment difficulties because of coronavirus.
The BVRLA will be submitting a consultation response by the deadline of this Friday and members wanting to input should email Director of Fleet Services Amanda Brandon, firstname.lastname@example.org by 12 noon tomorrow (Thursday 5 November).
The regulator’s proposals will mean that:
- those who have not yet had a payment deferral will be eligible for 2 payment deferrals of up to 6 months in total
- those who currently have an initial payment deferral, will be eligible for a further payment deferral of up to 3 months
- Under the FCA’s proposals, borrowers would have until 31 January 2021 to request an initial payment deferral.
- A payment deferral under the FCA’s proposals would not be reported as missed payments on a borrower’s credit file.
The BVRLA is pleased that the FCA has listened to the association’s calls for separate guidance for motor finance from other forms of consumer credit, which will assist with interpretation of the guidance.
£134 million fund awarded to UK’s greenest, most innovative businesses
The Government has announced that over 1,000 projects will today receive up to £175,000 from a £134 million fund, enabling ground-breaking clean growth projects to develop new technologies and secure new jobs.
The funding comes from Innovate UK’s Sustainable innovation Fund, which was launched as part of the £550 million package of measures to support innovative SMEs respond to Covid-19.
Findings from the BVRLA’s latest Covid-19 Survey
The BVRLA has been regularly canvassing the views of members to assess the impact of the Covid pandemic on members' businesses. A summary of main findings from the latest survey, carried out between 26 and 30 October 2020, has now been published on the BVRLA website.
This latest survey was conducted before the Government’s recent announcement, imposing new national restrictions across England. It follows Wave 2, which took place in August, and Wave 1, which was carried out in June.
MOTs to continue when new national restrictions take effect
The Government has confirmed that MOT garages can remain open when the new national restrictions take effect on 5 November. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency is reminding motorists that a vehicle needs to have a valid MOT if it is being used, except for the journey to a pre-booked MOT.
DVSA confirms that HGV vehicle testing to continue
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency has confirmed that they can continue to provide the vehicle standards assessors needed to test heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and public service vehicles (PSVs) safely whilst the new national Covid restrictions are in place.
They are advising that:
- you should only book your vehicle or trailer in for its test close to its MOT due date. This will make sure vehicles and trailers which legally need a test can get one.
- you should continue to manage the regular maintenance and inspection schedule for your vehicles and trailers. This is a legal requirement under your operator’s licence.
FCA to announce further proposals for those in financial difficulty
The Financial Conduct Authority has issued a statement confirming that it will soon announce further proposals to support consumer credit borrowers impacted by the Covid pandemic.
The regulator is set to propose that consumer credit customers who have not yet had a payment deferral under their July guidance can request one. This could last for up to 6 months unless it is obviously not in the customer’s interests.
The FCA says it will work with trade bodies and lenders on how to implement these proposals as quickly as possible and will make another announcement shortly. In the meantime, consumer credit customers should not contact their lender just yet and those who have already benefitted from payment deferrals and are still experiencing payment difficulties should speak to their lender to agree tailored support.
Government is yet to update furlough guidance
The Government has issued an information notice to flag that guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on the Gov.uk website will be updated in the coming week to reflect the recently announced extension of the furlough scheme. The guidance currently published reflects the rules for the period until 31 October 2020.
Guidance updated on support for self-employed
The Government has updated its guidance to reflect the 6-month extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Grant and the increase in the amount payable during November.
Guidance has also been updated on what to do if you are self-employed and are getting no work or less work because of the Covid pandemic.
Deadline for government loans extended
The Government has extended its application deadline for the following coronavirus loan schemes to 31 January 2021:
- Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan
- Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme
- Coronavirus Future Fund
Liverpool to pilot mass testing for everybody in the city
The Government has announced a new pilot to see how mass testing can be achieved and how fast and reliable Covid-19 testing can be delivered at scale.
The pilot will see everyone living or working in Liverpool being offered Covid-19 testing, whether they have symptoms or not in the first pilot of whole city testing in England.
New guidance for those who have lost their job
The Government has updated its guidance on what to do if you were employed and have lost your job to clarify eligibility conditions for Universal Credit and New Style Jobseeker's Allowance and to add Pension Credit as a benefit that can be claimed if you've lost your job.
National rules to replace local restrictions across England
The Prime Minister made a statement on Saturday 31 October to announce that new national restrictions will apply across England from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December, replacing any local restrictions currently in place.
Senior Cabinet ministers took the decision to impose tighter restrictions after reviewing scenario modelling presented by the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor.
The new measures will:
- Require people to stay at home, except for specific purposes.
- Prevent gathering with people you do not live with, except for specific purposes.
- Close certain businesses and venues.
BVRLA Chief Executive Gerry Keaney has today written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, urging the Government to reconfirm that vehicle rental outlets will be able to stay open due to their status as providers of essential transport services.
Support for self-employed doubled in November
The Prime Minister has this afternoon announced that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Grant, which has recently been extended to cover the period from 1 November 2020 until 30 April 2021 will cover 80% of trading profits during November, double the normal amount.
As SEISS grants are calculated over three months, the uplift for November to 80%, along with the 40% level of trading profits for December and January, increases the total level of the third grant to 55% of trading profits. The maximum grant will increase to £5,160.
The online claim system, which was due to open on 14 December, has been brought forward to 30 November. In September, the Chancellor announced an extension of the SEISS to provide support via two grants covering the period until April.
Furlough extended and payment increased to 80%
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, known as the Furlough scheme, is being extended until December and the level of the grant will mirror levels available under the scheme in August, with the government paying 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500.
Employers will pay employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and pension contributions only for the hours the employee does not work, and businesses will have flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part time basis or furlough them full-time.
To be eligible to be claimed for under this extension, employees must be on an employer’s PAYE payroll by 23:59 30 October 2020. This means a Real Time Information (RTI) submission notifying payment for that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before 30 October 2020.
Further details, including how to claim this extended support through an updated claims service, will be provided shortly. There will be a short period when the HMRC need to change the legal terms of the scheme and update the system and businesses will be paid in arrears for that period.
Job Support Scheme suspended
The Job Support Scheme, which was due to start on 1 November 2020, has been postponed and will be introduced following the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Further support for businesses forced to close
Businesses required to close their premises in England due to local or national restrictions will be eligible for the following:
- For properties with a rateable value of £15k or under, grants to be £1,334 per month, or £667 per two weeks;
- For properties with a rateable value of between £15k-£51k grants to be £2,000 per month, or £1,000 per two weeks;
- For properties with a rateable value of £51k or over grants to be £3,000 per month, or £1,500 per two weeks.
Guidance for these Local Restriction Support Grants will be published in the coming week.
Going to work: New national restrictions
As of 5 November, everyone who can work effectively from home must do so. Where people cannot do so, for instance people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing, they should continue to travel to work and attend their workplace, which must adhere to Covid secure guidelines.
Public sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should continue to go into work. Extra consideration should be given to those who are clinically vulnerable, or over the age of 60. These groups should be especially careful and minimise contacts with others.
Travelling: New national restrictions
The Government is advising that you should avoid travelling in or out of your local area, and you should look to reduce the number of journeys you make only travelling for the following reasons:
- travelling to work where this cannot be done from home
- travelling to education and for caring responsibilities
- hospital GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health
- visiting venues that are open, including essential retail
- exercise, if you need to make a short journey to do so
There is no exemption for staying away from home on holiday. This means people cannot travel internationally or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted exemptions. Overnight stays away from primary residences will not be allowed, except for specific exceptions including for work.
BVRLA Chief writes to NFDA and NAMA
Chief Executive Gerry Keaney has written to his counterparts in the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) and the National Association of Motor Auctions (NAMA) to offer the BVRLA's full support for their efforts in keeping the wider automotive supply chain functioning as normally as possible.
Acknowledging that vehicle dealerships, auction houses and their logistics functions provide a vital service to BVRLA members, Keaney says in the letter:
“The UK economy is in a precarious position as businesses approach the busy pre-Christmas period while trying to prepare for a variety of EU-Exit scenarios. It is vital that our members and their customers can continue to rely on the services your members provide in delivering, collecting, maintaining and servicing their vehicles.
“Building on the successful collaboration that we have already achieved, the BVRLA is ready to work with the NFDA, NAMA and their members in maintaining this very successful working relationship.”
Clean growth at the heart of recovery
‘Building back greener’ was a theme running through Business Secretary Alok Sharma’s keynote address earlier today at the Confederation of British Industry's (CBI) 2020 Annual Conference.
Mr Sharma addressed business leaders saying: “Many of you already see Net Zero as an opportunity to grow... I hope you take advantage of the immediate opportunities this green agenda brings, as we recover from the Covid pandemic.”
Driving tests across the UK
The DVLA has confirmed that driving tests will be suspended in England from Thursday 5 November until Tuesday 2 December 2020. Driving tests are also suspended in Wales and are due to resume on 9 November 2020.
Driving tests are taking place in Scotland and there is separate guidance for Northern Ireland.
Operating in Wales during the ‘firebreak’ lockdown
The BVRLA has obtained clarification that the firebreak lockdown in Wales will operate like the lockdown experienced across the UK earlier this year. Of interest to members will be that:
- Vehicle rental businesses will be able to remain open.
- Logistics firms can deliver and collect leased vehicles from homes and offices.
- Auction sites who deliver and collect vehicles will still be able to carry out this aspect of their work.
- Auction sites and car dealerships in Wales will need to close to members of the public for sales, however, this does not impact on the service element of the dealership if this is necessary and cannot reasonably be deferred until after the lockdown period.
- Routine services should be deferred.
It is important to note that whilst operating, social distancing must be observed, further information on how to do this compliantly is available in the BVRLA Guide to Operating during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Department for Transport has provided a letter to the logistics sector to clarify how they should be working, as well as a letter confirming that the industry should carry on working to ‘the greatest extent possible’. These can be useful should you need to provide proof to the police if asked.
Overview of how the UK has been impacted by Covid-19
The Office for National Statistics has published a thematic overview of how society and the economy has been impacted and responded to the Covid-19 pandemic to date, for the period March to October 2020. The overview contains several reports of interest to members including:
The 23-page Business Impact Review, which shows that smaller businesses have been hit hardest with 85% of micro businesses trading as at the end of September, compared with 97% of businesses with 250 or more employees.
The 33-page Labour Market Review, which shows that the unemployment rate for all people was 4.5% up by 0.6 percentage points from a year earlier and redundancies increased in June to August 2020 to 227,000. The number of redundancies reached its highest level since May to July 2009.
HMRC estimates indicate that there were 28.3 million payroll employees in September 2020; a cumulative decline of 673,000 payroll employees since March 2020.
The 22-page Mobility and Trade Review shows that the volume of all motor vehicle traffic on 19 October was 11% below the levels seen on the first Monday of February, with car traffic down 15%.
Companies House to keep offices closed to the public
Companies House has confirmed that their London, Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh offices will remain closed to the public until March 2021 and they have published guidance on how they have adapted the way they work to maintain their services whilst protecting the welfare of their employees.
Customers are encouraged to use their online services to make sure that information is processed on time as paper documents, forms and letters sent by post are taking much longer to process.
Guidance updated on claiming back SSP
Government guidance on claiming back Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees due to coronavirus has been updated to include that employers can ask employees for a ‘shielding note’ or a letter from their doctor or health authority advising them to shield because they’re at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus.
Latest transport figures show slowdown in vehicle usage
The Department for Transport’s weekly transport usage figures show a slowdown in motor vehicle usage during October as more areas across the UK become subject to tougher restrictions.
FCA to issue its second mandatory Covid-19 Impact Survey
The Financial Conduct Authority is advising all regulated firms of the dates for completion of the second tranche of Covid surveys, being sent out in the first two weeks of November:
- Batch 1: to be sent on 3 Nov - response due by 27 Nov
- Batch 2: to be sent on 5 Nov - response due by 1 Dec
- Batch 3: to be sent on 6 Nov - response due by 2 Dec
- Batch 4: to be sent on 10 Nov - response due by 4 Dec
This follows the regulator’s first Covid-19 Impact Survey, which canvassed feedback from around 13,000 firms in June, and a further 9,500 firms at the beginning of August.
The FCA will contact firms to provide at least a day’s prior notice to them receiving the survey, which this time includes an extra two questions to cover the potential impact of Brexit. The new survey will include 12 questions in total, covering:
- Liquidity/ cash availability and needs
- Recent financial performance
- Scale of business activity
- Access to government schemes
- Impact of Brexit
FCA support for consumers struggling with payments
The Financial Conduct Authority has put in place a package of support for people in difficulty to ensure help is available after 31 October and is advising consumers struggling to make repayments due to the impact of Covid-19, to speak to their lenders about options available to them.
The guidance is designed to ensure that people can access tailored support which meets their individual needs, including taking account of local Covid restrictions.
Support will be available both to those who have previously taken a payment deferral and those who are newly in financial difficulty, considering the specific needs of vulnerable consumers.
Guidance for firms is available on the FCA website. Firms are being asked to be flexible and offer a full range of shorter and longer-term options which are tailored to reflect their customers individual circumstances, including:
- suspending, reducing, waiving or cancelling any further interest or charges
- permitting the customer to make no or reduced payments or
- agreeing a repayment plan.
More areas across England subject to tougher restrictions
The Prime Minister yesterday confirmed that Greater Manchester will move into the ‘Very High’ alert level from Friday 23 October and South Yorkshire has today also been confirmed as being the next area to move into this category from Saturday.
Discussions are also underway with West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and the North East about a potential move to ‘Very High’. A full list of areas in England and their alert level classification is published on the Gov.uk website.
Guidance outlines what restrictions are in place in areas with a ‘Very High’ alert level.
The Government strongly advises against travel into and out of these areas, and office workers who can work effectively from home are being advised to do so over the winter. Those who cannot work from home should go to their place of work.
Health Secretary warns of long-term effects of Covid
The Government has today unveiled some new data and released a promotional video to help increase awareness of the impact of what is being termed ‘long Covid’.
A new study from King’s College London shows one in 20 people with Covid-19 are likely to have symptoms for 8 weeks or more. The symptoms of ‘long Covid’, including fatigue, protracted loss of taste or smell, respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms and mental health problems.
Public Health England have found that around 10% of Covid-19 cases who were not admitted to hospital have reported symptoms lasting more than four weeks and a number of hospitalised cases reported continuing symptoms for eight or more weeks after discharge.
The NHS recently announced £10 million to run designated long Covid clinics in every area across England where health experts will all help assess, diagnose and treat people who have reported symptoms ranging from breathlessness, chronic fatigue, “brain fog” to anxiety and stress.
DVLA remains open during Welsh lockdown
The Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency is reminding people to use their online services for the following requests, claiming that this is the quickest, easiest and often cheapest way of accessing the services:
- Apply for a driving licence
- Renew a driving licence
- Replace a driving licence
- Tell us you’ve sold a vehicle
- Change your address
- Tax a vehicle
- Keep or assign a private (personalised) registration online
- Apply for a duplicate V5C log book
The Swansea based DVLA remains open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm and Saturday 8am to 4pm, for all other requests.
Encouraging colleagues to sign-up for the BVRLA Covid Bulletins
During the past seven months the BVRLA has been issuing these Covid Bulletins to provide updates on the most relevant information to support members during the pandemic.
As the virus continues to impact the way we go about our business and live our lives, the association will continue to issue these bulletins and would like to ask those who find them useful to encourage colleagues to also sign up to receive BVRLA updates.
Wales enters national lockdown this Friday
A period of lockdown, being referred to as a ‘firebreak’, is being introduced across Wales from 6pm Friday 23 October until the start of Monday 9 November 2020 to help regain control of coronavirus.
The firebreak contains five main restrictions:
- people must stay at home, except for very limited purposes.
- people must not visit other households or meet other people they do not live with.
- certain businesses and venues, including bars, restaurants and most shops must close.
- secondary schools will provide learning online only for the week after half-term, other than for children in years seven and eight. Primary schools and childcare settings will remain open.
- face coverings continue to be mandatory in the indoor public spaces that remain open (subject to certain exemptions and exceptions), including on public transport and in taxis.
DVLA Swansea will remain open during the lockdown period, but members are encouraged to use their online services where possible.
The Welsh Government has published guidance for businesses and employers. It has not yet provided specific guidance on all the businesses that can or cannot remain open during the lockdown, but government sources have indicated that vehicle rental branches will be allowed to operate.
The BVRLA is still seeking clarification from the Welsh Government on whether the collection and delivery of vehicles will be permitted as it was during this Summer’s national lockdown.
Further information for individuals and businesses in Wales is available on the Gov.UK website.
The Chancellor announced on 9 October that the UK Government’s Job Support Scheme is being expanded to support businesses required to close their doors as a result of any new coronavirus restrictions applied in Wales. Businesses in Wales have received more than £1.3 billion of UK government support with over 50,000 loans being issued to support businesses across all sectors.
Latest R rates for all UK nations
As of 16 October 2020, the R number range for the UK is 1.3-1.5 meaning that on average every 10 people infected will infect between 13 and 15 other people. The growth rate range is +4% to +7% per day meaning that the number of new infections is growing by 4% to 7% every day.
The latest ranges for values in the devolved administrations are published on their respective websites in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Gov.UK website shows a breakdown for England and all English regions.
More English towns and cities move to ‘High’ or ‘Very High’ alert level
On the 17 October, Lancashire joined the Liverpool City Region on the list of areas in the ‘Very High’ alert category across England, whilst more areas including London will face tougher restrictions as they moved from the ‘Medium’ to ‘High’ alert level.
The Prime Minister made a statement on Friday confirming that the Job Support Scheme, combined with Universal Credit, will mean that those on low incomes who are affected by business closures in Very High alert areas will receive at least 80% of their wages. Up to £465 million is also being provided to help Very High alert level areas to implement and enforce the restrictions.
This was followed by a statement from Health Secretary, Matt Hancock on the 16 October.
9.1% still on furlough just weeks before the scheme ends
The latest indicators for the UK economy and society, published by the Office for National Statistics on 15 October show that:
- The proportion of the workforce on furlough on 4 October was 9.1%, down from 29.5% on 14 June.
- 48% of currently trading businesses reported that their turnover had decreased below what is normally expected for this time of year.
- The proportion of adults who travelled to work was 65%.
- Total online job adverts increased from 61% to 63% of their 2019 average.
- Overall footfall increased to around 70% of its level in the same period of the previous year.
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is now closed
Yesterday was the last day that those eligible can claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. You can no longer make a claim for the second grant.
Those who have already applied can check the online checker to get an update on the status of the application. You can also find out more about how the HMRC calculates trading profits and non-trading income.
Travel corridor list updated
List of countries, territories and regions from where you can travel to England and may not have to self-isolate has been updated. Crete was added to list 4am, Sunday 18 October whilst Italy, San Merino and Vatican City State were removed.
New three-tier system of restrictions introduced across England
The Government has published information on the new local Covid alert levels introduced this week across England, outlining what they mean, why they are being introduced and what the different levels are.
- Tier 1: Local COVID alert level: medium - This is for areas where national restrictions continue to be in place.
- Tier 2: Local COVID alert level: high - This is for areas with a higher level of infections where some additional restrictions are in place.
- Tier 3 - Local COVID alert level: very high - This is for areas with a very high level of infections and where tighter restrictions are in place. The restrictions placed on areas with a very high level of infections can vary and are based on discussions between central and local government.
On the first day of the new three-tier system being in place, the only area to be classed as Tier 3 is the Liverpool City Region, which includes Liverpool, Knowsley, Wirral, St Helens, Sefton and Halton.
A full list of areas and where they are classified has been published online.
Online resources to communicate the restrictions that apply in your area
The Government has published a suite of graphical posters for businesses to display to help communicate the rules in your area following the introduction of the new three-tier Covid alert system.
The Government has also published a postcode checker enabling people across England to easily check what the local restrictions are in the areas they live, work or visit.
Deferring your self-assessment tax payment
Guidance has been updated advising those who are self-employed to check what needs to be done after 31 July 2020 if you chose to defer your second payment on account for the 2019 to 2020 tax year.
Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme
Those who have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to self-isolate on or after 28 September 2020, are under a legal obligation to do so, and could be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment. Guidance is available setting out who can claim support and explains how to apply.
New hotline launched to combat Covid-related fraud
Fraudsters are reported to have been targeting Covid stimulus schemes so in response, the Government has collaborated with the independent charity Crimestoppers to launch a hotline to help combat the threat.
Anybody can now call a new Covid Fraud Hotline (0800 587 5030) anonymously and free of charge to report suspected fraudulent activity.
Guidance updated on safer travel for passengers and operators
The Government has updated its guidance for passengers, encouraging people to walk or cycle, and where this is not possible, to use public transport or drive to help control the spread of coronavirus.
Those travelling are being asked to:
- Work from home where possible
- check your local COVID alert level before traveling
- observe social contact rules as applicable to your local COVID alert level
- keep your distance when you travel, where possible
- wash or sanitise your hands regularly
- avoid the busiest routes, as well as busy times like the rush hour
- download the NHS COVID-19 app before you travel, if possible, and checking in where you see official NHS COVID-19 QR code posters
New guidance for the most vulnerable is tailored to level of risk
The Government has announced that those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable in England will receive new guidance to help them reduce their risk from coronavirus, tailored to where they live. The group includes those with specific health conditions, certain cancers and organ transplant recipients.
These additional precautions are intended to ensure an extra layer of protection for those most vulnerable, specifically adapted to people’s locations and level of risk. Employers may have employees within this category and if so are encouraged to read the guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable.
Chancellor announces extension of business support
The Government has confirmed that its Job Support Scheme will be expanded to protect jobs and support businesses required to close their doors as a result of restrictions.
Today’s announcement confirms that the Government will support eligible businesses by:
- paying two thirds of each employees’ salary (or 67%), up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.
- increasing the cash grants to up to £3,000 per month payable every two weeks, compared to the up to £1,500 every three weeks which was available previously.
Under the scheme, employers will not be required to contribute towards wages and only asked to cover NICS and pension contributions. Businesses will only be eligible to claim the grant while they are subject to restrictions and employees must be off work for a minimum of seven consecutive days.
The scheme begins on 1 November and will be available for six months, with a review point in January. It is UK wide and the Government will work with the devolved administrations to ensure the scheme operates across all four nations.
Cyber guide to help small businesses work securely online
The National Cyber Security Centre has re-launched its Small Business Guide setting s out five key areas for businesses to help improve their cyber security. The new-look guidance arrives at a time when many organisations have moved their operations online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Guidance for employers on self-isolating and support for staff
It is now a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid-19 or if you are identified as a contact and told to self-isolate by Test and Trace. Failure to self-isolate for the full time-period can result in a fine, starting from £1,000.
Employers should support workers who are told to self-isolate and must not ask them to attend work. See the guidance on the NHS Test and Trace service for employers, businesses and workers.
Guidance on the NHS Trest and Trace explains how the system works.
File your Companies House accounts online to avoid delays
As Companies House is approaching a ‘peak filing’ period, it is encouraging businesses to file online to ensure that accounts are filed by the deadline, warning that paper-based processes are taking far longer than usual due to reduced office-based staffing levels.
Filing online can take as little as 15 minutes from start to finish and you’ll know your accounts have been delivered on time. The online filing service also has inbuilt checks to help you avoid mistakes.
GDP rose by 2.1% during August
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics on the impact of Covid on the output of the UK economy show that although August saw the fourth consecutive month of growth, it was the slowest rate of expansion since April 2020 and was 9.2% below February 2020 levels.
This compares with rises of 2.7% in May 2020, 9.1% in June 2020 and 6.4% in July 2020.
Covid study shows socialising down and anxiety levels up
The Office for National Statistics has published its latest Indicators from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey covering 30 September to 4 October 2020, showing lower levels of socialising.
Levels of socialising varied by whether someone was in a “local lockdown” area; of those in lockdown 34% had not socialised with anyone outside their household, compared with 25% for those not in local lockdown areas.
Average anxiety scores for all adults have increased this week to 4.3, the highest figure since 3 to 13 April. Around 7 in 10 (72%) adults were very or somewhat worried about the effect of the coronavirus on their life right now.
Latest findings on England’s largest Covid study
The Government has published its fifth report of the country’s largest study on rates of Covid-19 infections in the general population in England.
This latest study covers the period 18 September to 5 October and shows that the virus was growing by 45,000 new infections every day, doubling every 29 days. Out of 174,949 people tested, 824 were positive with 1-in-170 having the virus. Those aged 18 to 24 year were found to be suffering from high rates of infection, with 1-in-80 testing positive. The North West reported the highest regional infection rates, with 1-in-100 people testing positive.
The R-rate for the UK, as of 9 October, is 1.2-1.5 and the growth rate range is +4% to +9% per day.
Supporting members with business recovery
The BVRLA will tomorrow (Tuesday 6 October) be hosting its first ever free-to-attend digital conference, Fleets in Charge. Over 500 delegates have signed up to attend the event, which focuses on road transport decarbonisation in the morning and business recovery in a post-Covid, post-EU Exit environment in the afternoon.
The packed agenda will include an address from Secretary of State, Grant Shapps MP and Business Minister, Nadhim Zahawi MP. The event starts at 10.00am so this is the last chance to register to attend.
In another last call to take part, members are being invited to share feedback on how well the BVRLA has done in providing support during the Covid pandemic via the Annual Member Survey.
The online survey closes at midday on Tuesday 6 October.
Support for those who have lost jobs due to Covid
The Department for Work and Pensions has today launched a new Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS) programme, investing £238 million into supporting those left jobless due to Covid-19.
The new programme will see several providers offer a range of help to people who have been out of work for more than three months, including specialist advice on how people can move into growing sectors, as well as CV and interview coaching. Job hunters will also be able to access an action plan agreed with their personal work coach, peer support and opportunities to build their skills.
The new programme, which is part of the Government’s Plan for Jobs, is starting to roll across the UK from today, with more areas following later this month and Scotland early next year.
Help to members wanting to access the Kickstart Scheme
The BVRLA would like to gauge the appetite from members wanting to access the scheme if they could be part of a ‘BVRLA application’ submitted on behalf of a group of members.
The Kickstart scheme provides funding to firms creating new 6-month job placements for young people who are currently on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.
The scheme provides funding for:
- 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week
- associated employer National Insurance contributions
- employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions
- There is also £1500 per job placement available for setup costs, support and training.
Each application must be able to offer a minimum of 30 job placements so the BVRLA is giving members the opportunity to apply by being part of a ‘BVRLA application’. Interested members should email BVRLA Director of Human Resources, Nora Leggett at email@example.com.
Furlough scheme guidance updated
30 November 2020 is the last day employers can submit or change claims for periods ending on or before 30 October 2020. After this date you will not be able to submit any further claims or add to existing claims for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
From October 1, the Government grant reduced to 60% and the employer is asked to contribute towards the cost of their furloughed employees’ wages to ensure they continue to receive at least 80% of their wages for the time they’re on furlough.
According to the latest Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey published by the Office for National Statistics, 11% of the workforce were on furlough and 85% of businesses were trading during the period 7 to 20 September, which is broadly comparable with the previous two week period (12% and 84%, respectively).
Checking eligibility for claiming the Job Retention Bonus
Employers can now check their eligibility for claiming the Job Retention Bonus and find out what you need to do to claim it.
The Job Retention Bonus is a £1,000 one-off taxable payment to you (the employer), for each eligible employee that you furloughed and kept continuously employed until 31 January 2021. You’ll be able to claim the bonus between 15 February 2021 and 31 March 2021.
Support Grants for businesses affected by local restrictions
Businesses that have been open as usual, providing services in person to customers from their business premises, but which were then required to close for at least 3 weeks due to local lockdown restrictions imposed by government are being invited to check their eligibility to apply for the Local Restrictions Support Grant.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has extended measures introduced in the North East, to cover the Liverpool City region, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, and confirmed that the Government will provide £7 million of funding to local authorities in these areas.
Claiming the new Self-Employment Support grant
The grant extension, which is for self-employed individuals who are currently eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and are actively continuing to trade but are facing reduced demand due to coronavirus, will provide two grants and will last for six months, from November 2020 to April 2021.
Deferral of VAT payments due to coronavirus
Businesses who deferred VAT due from 20 March to 30 June 2020 will now have the option to pay in smaller payments over a longer period. Instead of paying the full amount by the end of March 2021, you can make smaller payments up to the end of March 2022, interest free. More information on the scheme will be available in the coming months.
Guidance updated on working safely during coronavirus
The Government has updated its guidance on working safely in a range of settings. Members will be particularly interested in the following updates:
- Shops and branches. By law, staff and customers of retail settings are now required to wear a face covering, unless they have an exemption.
- Face coverings at work: Face coverings must be worn by retail staff working in areas where they’re likely to come into contact with a member of the public.
National survey shows changing attitudes towards work location
The proportion of working adults who travelled to work at some point during the week of 16 to 20 September fell to 59%, from 64% the previous week according to the latest Opinions and Lifestyle Survey published by the Office for National Statistics.
The survey also found that almost 3 in 10 (29%) working adults said they had changed their work location during the pandemic and were planning on continuing to work from home at least some of the time. Among those planning to work from home all or part of the time, 12% said they have considered moving to a different location in the UK, most commonly to rural or coastal areas.
Study shows 50% testing positive had no symptoms
Interim results from the fourth report of England’s largest study on coronavirus rates of infection have been published, following the testing of over 80,000 volunteers between 18 and 26 September.
It is estimated that 1 in 200 people in England were infected with the virus, reinforcing the need to remain vigilant. 50% of test positive volunteers did not have symptoms at the time of testing or the week before, but this does not mean they did not later develop symptoms.
The report shows prevalence of infection increased across all age groups and regions. Infection was highest in those aged 18 to 24 with 1 in 100 people infected, and cases increased seven-fold in those aged over 65. The North West had the highest levels of infection and the number of infections in London increased five-fold.
Infection rate across the UK continues to increase
As of today (2 October), the R number range for the UK is 1.3-1.6 which means that on average every 10 people infected will infect between 13 and 16 other people. The growth rate range is +5% to +9% per day meaning that the number of new infections is growing by 5% to 9% every day.
Testing capability continues to ramp up as demand rises
Figures published today show that there are almost 500 testing sites now operational across the UK and 1-in-8 people in England have been tested to date. Work continues to expand testing capacity across the UK, to reach a target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.
People with coronavirus symptoms are now travelling shorter distances to get tested, with the average distance travelled being 4.3 miles, down from 5.2 miles the previous week. The time taken to receive a result from taking a test in person is now 25 to 29 hours, with 70.6% of results received the day after they were taken, this is compared to 52.9% in the previous week.
Support for firms and self-employed extended beyond October
The plan extends the financial support on offer to businesses and the self-employed, and includes:
- A new Job Support Scheme will begin on 1 November, following the end of the furlough scheme, which will involve the government subsidising the wages of employees working reduced hours. The scheme will last for six months and apply to any employees working a minimum of 33% of their hours. For the remaining hours not worked, the government and the employer will each pay one-third of the employee's wages. This would mean employees working 33% of their hours will receive 77% of their pay. The grant from government will be capped at £697.92 per month.
- Workers on the Job Support Scheme will not be able to be made redundant and there will be restrictions on capital distributions to shareholders for larger firms that use the scheme. The Chancellor also announced that only large businesses that can prove they have been adversely affected by Covid-19 would be eligible for the Job Support Scheme. The Scheme will sit alongside the Jobs Retention Bonus for workers kept on until the start of February 2021.
- The Self-employment Income Support Scheme extension will support viable traders facing reduced demand over the winter months and will cover 20% of average monthly trading profits via a government grant.
- CBILS, CLBILS, BBLS and the Future Fund are being extended to 30 November, with new loan applications being accepted up to this date. Loan offers will be able to be processed up until 31 December.
- A 'pay as you grow' scheme will allow businesses that took Bounce Back loans to extend the term of their loan to ten years, as well as allowing businesses to make interest-only payments or suspend payments for six months. No business making use of the pay as you grow scheme will have its credit rating affected. CBILS loans will also be able to have their terms extended up to ten years, with a new loan scheme to be announced in January.
- Businesses who deferred their VAT payment will not need to pay a lump sum in March 2021 and will be allowed to split their VAT bill into smaller, interest-free payments over 11 months during the 2021/22 financial year.
- To support the tourism and hospitality sectors, the Chancellor has stated that the temporary reduction of VAT rates from 20% to 5% will remain in place until 31 March 2021, rather than 13 January.
BVRLA updates its Frequently Asked Questions for members
The BVRLA has updated its FAQs on the BVRLA Covid Business Advice page in response to an influx of enquiries following the Government’s recent tightening of restrictions.
Questions have mainly related to:
- Face coverings
- Rental branches and Test and Trace
- Delivery and collection of vehicles in Scotland
NHS Covid-19 mobile app launches to support track and trace
People across England and Wales are being urged to download the NHS COVID-19 app to help control the spread of coronavirus. The app launches today after positive trials and rigorous testing.
It will be available to those aged 16 and over in multiple languages and forms a central part of the NHS Test and Trace service in England and the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme.
Information for how business can prepare for the NHS Covid-19 app is available as well as the Privacy notice and data protection impact assessment for the app.
The Department of Health & Social Care has published data on the daily number of coronavirus tests processed and testing capacity in the UK, split by swab and antibody tests between the period of 20 March and 22 September.
ONS published new data on impact of Covid-19 on the UK
The Office for National Statistics has published data on the wide-ranging impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the UK so far.
Presented in ten charts, the data highlights the profound impacts of the pandemic on the UK economy and society, including:
- The economy is 11.7% smaller than it was pre-lockdown.
- Public sector debt has exceeded gross domestic product (GDP) for the first time since the early 1960s.
- Almost one-third of jobs have been furloughed at some point.
The ONS fortnightly Business Survey findings have also been published for the period 24 August to 6 September, showing that during that period 12% of the workforce were on partial or full furlough leave.
BVRLA Guidance updated to reflect new measures
The industry Guide to Operating during the Covid-19 Pandemic has been updated to reflect the changes announced by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson yesterday, six months on from the start of the initial lockdown and introduction of restrictions across the UK.
Covid alert level increased to level 4
The Chief Medical Officers for all four nations have reviewed the evidence and recommend that all 4 nations of the UK should move to level 4, which denotes that the Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation, transmission is high or rising exponentially.
Working from home advice is reinstated where possible
Only weeks after the Government encouraged workers to return to the office where possible, office workers are now being told to work from home if they can do so effectively, throughout winter.
Where an employer, in consultation with their employee, judges an employee can carry out their normal duties from home they should do so. Anyone who cannot work from home should go to their place of work, where Covid secure guidelines must be followed.
Guidance updated on requirements to wear face coverings
The Government has updated guidance on face coverings which makes clear when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own. The guidance includes a full list of the indoor settings where you must wear a face covering in England.
Along with other places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire, staff in vehicle rental branches will be required to wear face coverings from 24 September.
More detailed advice on the application of these requirements in different settings can be found in the government’s guidance for working safely.
Guidance on what you can and can’t do
The Government has updated its guidance on what you can and can’t do following the introduction of new measures to try and curb the spread of the virus. This is national guidance that applies to England only and some of these new restrictions will be set out in the law enabling the police and other enforcement officers to issue penalties to those that don’t comply.
In addition, local restrictions must be adhered to for those in areas with localised measures in place to help manage the outbreak.
New rules for rental operators as PM ramps up restrictions
In an announcement to the House of Commons earlier today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has introduced new measures to help curb the spread of Covid-19 and reduce the reproduction rate to 1, stating that “we have reached a perilous turning point”.
A month ago, the UK was seeing on average around a thousand people testing positive for Coronavirus every day. The latest figure has almost quadrupled to 3,929 and in the last fortnight, daily hospital admissions in England have more than doubled.
Those operating in the vehicle rental sector, which is categorised as ‘retail’ by the Government, now need to be aware of the fact that staff in branches must wear face coverings and the Government’s Covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations.
The full list of new measures outlined by Mr Johnson today includes:
- Office workers who can work from home are being asked to do so. Where homeworking is not possible, such as construction or retail, people should continue to attend their workplaces.
- From Thursday all pubs, bars and restaurants must operate table-service only, except for takeaways. All hospitality venues must close at 10pm.
- The requirement to wear face coverings is to include staff in retail, all users of taxis and private hire vehicles as well as staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
- In retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors, the Government’s Covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations.
- From Monday, a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions. Though, up to 30 can still attend a funeral as now.
- Plans to reopen business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events from 1 October have been dropped.
Tougher penalties introduced for businesses breaking rules
The Government has already introduced a fine of up to £10,000 for those who fail to self-isolate and such fines will now be applied to businesses who fail to comply with the Covid rules.
The penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will now double to £200 for a first offence.
New guidance on what businesses need to do to protect staff and customers
Government guidance on Working Safely during Coronavirus has been updated to include a new section on ‘Priority actions to take – what businesses need to do to protect staff and customers’.
This includes seven actions to take as well as a list of things to be aware of when working in specific environments, including:
New rules on social contact have also been introduced this week to help combat the spread of coronavirus.
Government steps in to stop business evictions
The Government has announced that commercial tenants will be protected from the risk of eviction until the end of 2020. This extension will protect businesses that are struggling to pay their rent due to the impact of Covid-19 from being evicted and help the thousands of people working in these sectors feel more secure about their jobs.
Businesses urged to prepare for NHS Covid-19 app
Pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, cinemas and other venues across England and Wales are being urged to download QR codes to prepare for public rollout of new app. The move comes ahead of a national launch of the NHS COVID-19 app across England and Wales on Thursday 24 September.
Local restrictions imposed to limit Covid transmission
The Government is publishing regularly updates on areas with additional local restrictions and is providing guidance for local authorities, residents and workers on what to do and how to manage the outbreak as cases continue to rise.
Latest figures from Government show that as of 11 September 2020 the ‘R’ rate for the UK is 1.0-1.2 and the growth rate range is -1% to +3% per day.
ONS figures show gradually improving picture for business
The Office for National Statistics has published results from its latest Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey reporting on how turnover, workforce and trading status have been affected in two-week reference periods, from Wave 7 (1 to 14 June 2020) to Wave 12 (10 to 23 August 2020).
- The proportion of businesses that were currently trading gradually rose from 86% in Wave 7 to 96% by Wave 12.
- Proportions of the workforce furloughed within responding businesses that had not permanently stopped trading fell from 23% in Wave 7 to 11% in Wave 12.
- The proportion working at their normal place of work or working remotely rose from 72% in Wave 7 to 85% in Wave 12.
- The proportion of businesses reporting a decrease in turnover in the previous two weeks gradually fell from 64% in Wave 7 to 47% by Wave 12.
Wave 12 sampled 23,904 businesses of all sizes. Wave 13 data will be published on 24 September.
GDP rises for third consecutive month
The Office for National Statistics has published figures on the impact on output in the UK economy: July 2020 which shows that monthly gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 6.6% during July 2020 but was 11.7% below February 2020 levels.
Following a third consecutive month of growth during July 2020, monthly GDP has recovered just over half of the decline in output from February 2020, measured from its lowest point during April 2020.
BVRLA Covid-19 survey shows green shoots of optimism
The views of members were canvassed in a recent BVRLA Covid-19 Survey to gain an understanding of the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on members’ businesses. Wave 1 of the survey was conducted in June 2020.
Despite most (94%) of the respondents saying that revenue will be down this year, the overall outlook is more positive than three months ago with just 16% expecting revenue to be less than 50% of target, compared with 43% in the last wave.
An increasing number of respondents also report a more optimistic view when it comes to the number of people at risk of redundancy and the length of time members expect recovery to take.
- 26% indicate that more than 10% of their staff will be in danger of redundancy in November, compared with 35% in Wave 1.
- 61% expect the recovery to take less than a year compared with 50% in Wave 1.
Both Covid-19 Surveys plus other industry reports can be found in the Industry Insight section of the BVRLA website.
Funding open to entrepreneurs and innovators looking to create a better transport system
Innovative transport start-ups with a focus on decarbonisation or Covid-19 recovery can bid for a share of over £1 million in Department for Transport funding which became available this week.
The Transport-Technology Research and Innovation Grant (T-TRIG) is now in its 11th round of funding. Over 60% of grants so far have been awarded to SMEs and 30% to universities.
Guidance updated on claiming back SSP
The Government has updated guidance on claiming back Statutory Sick Pay to reflect that from 26 August 2020 employers can claim for employees who have been notified by the NHS to self-isolate before surgery.
Self-isolation requirements when entering the UK
New guidance has been published setting out how to self-isolate when arriving in the UK. It states you will not be allowed to leave the place you’re staying for the first 14 days if you are entering the UK from one of the countries not on the travel corridors list.
List of countries, territories and regions from where you can travel to England and may not have to self-isolate is regularly updated to reflect changes which that can be made at short notice.
Recent changes include French Polynesia, Hungary, Portugal and Réunion were removed from the travel corridors list at 4am Saturday 12 September 2020, whilst Sweden was added.
Preferred mode of transport continues to be motor vehicles
The Department for Transport’s latest transport usage figures show that National Rail usage peaked at 42% of pre-pandemic levels during this past week, similar to the London Underground which saw usage levels peaking at 40% of pre-pandemic levels.
In contrast, motor vehicle weekday usage levels peaked at 96% of pre-pandemic levels with weekend usage exceeding last year’s figures, reaching 107% of pre-pandemic levels.
ONS figures show a fifth of workers are exclusively working from home
The latest Office for National Statistics figures showing the impacts of the Covid pandemic on society suggest that more people are returning to the workplace with 57% of working adults reporting that they had travelled to work, either exclusively or in combination with working from home.
Of all working adults, 77% said they had either worked at home or travelled to work this week whilst 20% had worked exclusively at home.
Guidance updated on coronavirus testing
The Government has updated its guidance on testing to include a section on registering a home test kit. The guidance includes information about who is eligible for a test and how to get tested.
With the latest coronavirus data showing that the number of cases is increasing and demand for testing expected to rise, the Government is encouraging only those with symptoms to get tested.
The ‘R’ rate across the UK is between 0.9 and 1.1 and the growth rate between -1% and +2% meaning that the number of new infections is between shrinking by 1% and growing by 2% every day.
England introduces more targeted approach to travel corridors
England has introduced a new more targeted approach to placing countries and territories on the travel corridor, now enabling islands belonging to a country to be added or removed from the list.
As of 4am today, those returning from Crete, Lesvos, Mykonos, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos and Zakynthos will have to isolate for 14 days. Anybody planning to travel should check the guidance on the Gov.UK website and be mindful that the status of a territory or country can change at short notice.
Kickstart Scheme attracts criticism from small businesses
The Government’s new Kickstart Scheme, launched last week to provide funds to firms giving jobs to young unemployed people, has attracted criticism from the Federation of Small Businesses by only making it available to companies offering a minimum of 30 job placements, rendering it inaccessible.
The Department for Work and Pensions has published a list of local and national contacts for those interested in the taking up the new scheme and has also published new information for public sector organisations and charities.
Government places e-commerce at heart of retail ‘Bounce-back plan’
A ‘bounce-back’ plan of trade measures for the consumer and retail industry has been announced by the Department for International Trade to help support businesses impacted by Coronavirus.
The new measures will offer immediate support to businesses by ensuring specialists provide advice on online retail and international market-places. Additionally, the launch of a new Consumer and Retail Export Academy will provide businesses with the critical knowledge, skills and networks needed to increase exports.
New report shows the impact of Covid on the nation’s mental health
Public Health England has published its Mental health and wellbeing surveillance report sharing insights into the population’s wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report compiles routinely updated indicators from multiple sources and summarises important findings from ongoing surveys.
£2bn fund for firms to employ 16 to 24-year olds
The Government has introduced a new Kickstart Scheme to create hundreds of thousands of high-quality, 6-month work placements aimed at those aged 16 to 24 who are on Universal Credit and are deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment.
The £2 billion fund, available to firms in Great Britain, will cover 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus the associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions.
- If you are an employer looking to create job placements for young people, check if you can apply for funding as part of the Kickstart Scheme.
- If you are considering becoming a representative for a group of employers, check what information you need to provide to apply for a grant through the Kickstart Scheme.
Employers’ contribution to furloughed staff’s wages increases
The Government has updated Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Guidance to reflect changes as the scheme edges gradually towards a phase out on 31 October 2020.
From 1 September the Government will pay 70% and employers will pay 10% of employees’ wages for the time they are being furloughed. Employers will also continue to pay their National Insurance and pension contributions.
From 1 October the Government will pay 60% and employers will pay 20% of employees’ wages for the time they are being furloughed. Employers will also continue to pay their National Insurance and pension contributions.
Employers will continue to pay employees wages at the contracted rate for the hours worked.
CMA provides more detail on cancellations and refunds
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) remains of the view that a consumer will generally be entitled to a refund when they have paid money in advance for services or goods that cannot be provided because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Given the evolving situation, the CMA has provided more detail on issues such as the difference between lockdown laws and government guidance, and their impact on cancellations and refunds.
Transport usage figures see Tube passengers return
The Department for Transport’s weekly transport usage figures show that London Underground passengers are slowly starting to return, with usage levels on the Tube reaching 40% for the first time since 17 March.
The increase coincides with the Government’s call to get employees back into the office to help boost business for those relying on trade from city office workers. Since the outbreak of Covid-19 both national rail and London Underground figures have remained low with motor vehicles being the preferred mode of transport.
The Government’s Safer transport campaign
The campaign, which provides safety advice to those travelling to and from school and work, includes information on car sharing.
The advice is that people should try not to share a vehicle with those outside their household or support bubble. Where people do need to car share, they should try to: keep the windows open; share the car with the same people each time; and wear a face-covering.
The Department for Transport has published a suite of printed and digital communication resources to help communicate safety messages. There is also specific information for employers.
Covid cases on the rise as restrictions ease
The UK Government’s coronavirus data shows that in the first 25 days of August, there were thirteen days when the number of reported cases exceeded 1,000. In July, figures remained below 1,000 every day with between 352 and 880 daily cases being reported.
As of 21 August, the R number range for the UK was 0.9-1.1 and the growth rate range is -3% to +1%, meaning that the number of new infections is somewhere between shrinking by 3% and growing by 1% every day.
Resources for businesses to help reduce Covid transmission
Public Health England has published a useful two-page visual guide that can be printed as a leaflet or poster to promote what people can do to help reduce the spread of the virus in the workplace and at home. There is also more detailed guidance on reducing transmission.
List of areas with local restrictions in place
The Government has updated its list of local areas with additional local restrictions to include Blackburn with Darwen, Oldham and Pendle. It includes information for local authorities, residents and workers about what to do and how to manage the outbreak.
The Government’s Contain Framework provides guidance for local authorities and local decision-makers on containing and managing Covid-19 outbreaks at a local level.
Motor vehicles continue to be preferred mode of transport
The Government’s weekly Transport Usage figures show that National Rail and London Underground usage are both continuing to hover at around a third of pre-pandemic levels, whilst motor vehicle usage is at around 90% midweek and back to normal levels during weekends.
Covid-19 restrictions continue to impact tourism
Government guidance on travel corridors has been updated, reinstating Portugal to the list of countries and territories exempt from quarantine measures, whilst Austria, Croatia and Trinidad and Tobago were removed from the list. The new rules applied from 4am on Saturday 22 August.
Latest Office for National Statistics survey on social impacts of Coronavirus shows that less than 1 in 10 (8%) adults said they were likely or very likely to travel abroad on holiday if they had to self-isolate at home for two weeks upon their return to the UK.
According to the Tourism Alliance, staycations in the UK have also fallen short of anticipated demand as this summer (between 1 June to 13 August) there have been less people on holiday in the UK than during the winter period of January to March 2020.
The BVA-BDRC Covid-19 Impact Report states that UK Holiday participation is tracking at 14% while there is only 2% participation in overseas holidays.
Furlough trends show small firms, men and West Midlands have been hardest hit
Latest Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme statistics show that the accommodation and food services sector has had the highest furlough rate of 77%, whilst the wholesale and retail sector furloughed the highest number of jobs, at over 1.9 million.
The West Midlands region of England reports the highest take-up rate of 34% against the UK average of 32% and men have been furloughed at a higher rate than women: 34% and 29% respectively.
Figures also show that small businesses have been hardest hit with 81% of firms with 10 to 19 employees furloughing at least one member of staff. 57% of jobs at firms with 5 to 9 employees had been furloughed against just 21% at companies with 250 or more employees.
Government supports over ½ million jobs in Wales
New statistics published by HM Treasury show that the number of people in Wales receiving support through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme rose last month.
In Wales, 22,400 more jobs were furloughed in July, taking the total number to 400,800, and 2,000 more people accessed the Self-Employment Grant, making a total of 110,000 claims.
Government supports almost one million jobs in Scotland
Latest figures show that as at the end of July, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme had supported 779,500 furloughed Scottish workers, up by 43,000 since the end of June.
157,000 people in Scotland also accessed the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
Self-employed to benefit from second stage of support scheme
Millions of self-employed people whose livelihoods have been affected by coronavirus will be able to claim a second payment of up to £6,570 as the Government opened applications for a second stage of the Self Employment Income Support Scheme on 17 August 2020.
Over 2.7 million people have benefitted from the scheme so far, receiving £7.8 billion.
Members can register to attend one of a series of free webinars being hosted by HMRC between 21 and 28 August. Further guidance is also available online:
- Decide if your business has been adversely affected for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
- Check if you can claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
- How different circumstances affect the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
- How HMRC works out trading profits and non-trading income for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
ONS measures correlation between air quality and Covid deaths
The Office for National Statistics has examined the impact of long-term exposure to air pollution on Covid-19 deaths in England, and has published detailed analysis showing that deaths involving Covid-19 were more common in highly polluted areas, particularly early in the pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a big drop in pollution levels with global carbon emissions per day reaching up to 17% lower than normal at one stage in early April, returning to levels last seen in 2006.
ONS publishes latest Covid-19 economic impact survey
According to the Office for National Statistics’ latest survey on the coronavirus and the economic impacts on the UK, 29% of businesses currently trading said that their operating costs exceeded or were equal to their turnover.
On a more positive note, overall retail footfall has risen to two-thirds of its 2019 level when compared with the same day a year ago and the total volume of online job adverts increased from 53% to 62% of its 2019 average, the largest weekly increase in 2020.
Those taking vehicles abroad may face quarantine restrictions
France, the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks and Caicos Islands and Aruba were all removed from the quarantine exempt list at 4am on Saturday 15 August. This followed Andorra, The Bahamas and Belgium, which were removed at 4am on Saturday 8 August.
The Foreign Office continues to advise against non-essential international travel, except to the countries and territories on the exemption list. This list can be changed at any time, so members are advised to Sign up to get an email alert as and when the government imposes changes.
New guidance on self-isolation when returning from overseas
The Government has published new guidance for employees and employers on self-isolating after returning to the UK.
New quarantine rules have been introduced affecting many vacationers already at their holiday destination and having to face unplanned self-isolation upon their return. The guidance has been produced to provide advice for those employers and employees affected.
ONS to expand Covid surveillance survey
The Office for National Statistics is to expand its Covid-19 Infection Survey, which tracks the virus in the general population, to regularly test 150,000 people per fortnight in England by October, up from 28,000 per fortnight.
The survey aims to increase to 400,000 people across the entire project in England. The ONS has also partnered with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to extend the survey across the four nations.
Those breaching Covid restrictions to face tougher fines
The Government has announced a series of tough new enforcement measures targeting the most serious breaches of social distancing restrictions.
Questions relating to local lockdowns
A new email address has been created by the Department of Health and Social Care for any queries that businesses and business representative bodies may have on local lockdown in their area: TTDHSCexternalaffairs@dhsc.gov.uk
The latest reproduction number (R) and growth rate of coronavirus in the UK is 0.8-1.0. The growth rate is between -4% to -1% which means the number of new infections is shrinking by between 1% and 4% every day. More information about Covid-19 cases in your local area can be found on the Government’s Coronavirus dashboard.
Number of businesses accessing loan schemes continue to rise
As at close of business on 16 August, 1,174,854 Bounce Back Loans had been approved as well as 590 Future Fund Loans, 516 Large Business Interruption Loans and 60,409 Business Interruption Loans. The Government’s reporting of figures relating to the number of businesses accessing the schemes will now start to be published monthly instead of weekly.
Temporary changes for tax free childcare extended
The Government has confirmed that working parents or carers who are eligible for Tax-Free Childcare or 30 Hours Free Childcare but have temporarily fallen below the minimum income requirement because of coronavirus will continue to receive financial support until 31 October 2020.
UK economy officially entered recession today
The Office for National Statistics has published data confirming that the economy is in a technical recession after Quarter 2 (Apr to June) 2020 saw a coronavirus pandemic-induced record fall in GDP of 20.4%.
This follows a fall of 2.2% during Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2020. Monthly gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 8.7% during June as the easing of lockdown measures had a positive impact on services, manufacturing and construction.
Although we saw growth in the past month, June is 17.2% below February 2020 levels.
Latest HMRC figures show 9.6m jobs remain furloughed
Weekly figures show that during the past two weeks the number of employers furloughing jobs has remained unchanged with 1.2m employers furloughing 9.6 million jobs.
Companies House to resume the compulsory strike off process
From 10 October 2020, Companies House will resume the process to strike-off companies they believe are no longer carrying on business or in operation. From this date, they will resume the process to remove a company from the register if there is reasonable cause to believe it is no longer carrying on business or in operation.
DVLA online services unaffected by Covid-19
The Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency is reminding members that their online services can be accessed via the Gov.UK website. Paper applications sent to the Swansea office are taking longer to process due to a reduced number of people being on site because of social distancing requirements.
HMRC hosts new webinar on the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
A webinar about the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has been added to the Government’s guidance for businesses affected by coronavirus. You can register now to attend the webinar, which is being hosted every day between 18 and 21 August.
Transport usage figures show rail and tube usage slowly rising
Weekly transport usage figures published by the Department for Transport show that National Rail and London Underground usage are both edging higher to around a third of pre-pandemic levels, up from around a quarter. Motor vehicle usage is at around 90% midweek and continues to be back at pre-pandemic levels during weekends.
Government updates its Covid-secure guidance for vehicles
Guidance on working safely during coronavirus has been updated for those who work in or from vehicles. Updates relate to consulting the workforce before returning to work (section 2) and protecting people who are at higher risk (section 2.1).
Updated guidance on getting tested for Covid-19
The Government has updated its guidance on coronavirus testing, including who is eligible for a test and how to get tested, adding two documents to the ‘home testing’ section: ‘coronavirus home test: step-by-step guide’ and ‘coronavirus test guide: how to test on a child’.
Vehicles are the mode of choice for holidaymakers
The BVRLA has reported that vehicle rental is a popular choice for UK holidaymakers as more people are turning to the rental sector.
Demand from leisure and tourism customers fell off a cliff following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the association is now seeing green shoots as UK holidaymakers are hiring vehicles for staycations. An increasing number of holidaymakers are also taking their vehicles abroad.
Earlier this week, RAC Europe also reported that more people than usual are driving abroad this year. Its research suggested five million motorists were set to drive on the Continent this summer, with an estimated 1.5m of those driving abroad for the first time.
Latest transport usage figures from the Department of Transport also indicate that motor vehicles are the mode of choice for those needing to travel, with the numbers of cars on the road returning to pre-pandemic levels at weekends with midweek levels sitting at 80-92%.
In contrast, National rail usage continues to be low, peaking at 27% in the past week and London Underground usage also remains at around a quarter, reaching 31% last weekend.
Changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Guidance has been updated for the furlough scheme to reflect the new rules. It now also includes a new section on the maximum number of employees you can claim for.
From 1 August 2020, employers are being asked to contribute towards the cost of their furloughed employees’ wages. Find out more about how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has changed.
Government funds Small Business Leadership Programme
Those running SME’s in England, who have between five and 249 employees can apply to attend a 10-week Small Business Leadership Programme, fully funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
The Programme has been launched to support senior leaders to enhance their business’s resilience and recovery from the impact of Covid-19, helping to develop their potential for future growth and productivity. It will be delivered online by small business and enterprise experts from world-leading business schools.
Government launches Peer Network to support SMEs
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has launched Peer Networks, a peer-to-peer networking programme for SMEs that is delivered locally by the network of Growth Hubs across England.
From finance and HR to sales and marketing, a team of expert facilitators will help to create a trusted support network that works for all, helping SMEs to build and strengthen the business and improve its overall performance.
The programme is available to any SME business in England that has operated for at least one year, has five employees or more and an annual turnover in excess of £100,000.
Dashboard provides Covid-19 data for your area
The Government has published a coronavirus dashboard, which is updated daily and shows the number of cases and deaths in the UK, broken down by region and local authority area.
The ‘more on cases’ link takes you to more detailed information about cases in a geography of your choosing. Simply select the ‘United Kingdom’ dropdown at the top and select your area of interest.
DVSA confirms further MOT extension for HGVs
The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency has updated its guidance on MOTs for HGVs, buses and trailers to provide further exemptions from annual testing for the newest HGVs and those operated by the safest operators (green OCRS score or Earned Recognition operators).
The additional 12-month exemptions, that are being applied from 24 August 2020, were confirmed following discussions between the DVSA and industry bodies, including the BVRLA.
Less than half of trading businesses are running profitably
The Office for National Statistics has published its weekly data on the impacts of coronavirus on the UK economy and society.
It reports that 94% of businesses are currently trading, whilst 6% remain temporarily closed. Of those currently trading, 45% reported that their turnover is exceeding their operating costs, compared with 16% who reported their operating costs to be higher than their turnover.
Overall retail footfall continued to gradually increase this week, driven by an increase in visits to retail parks. The wearing of face coverings also continues to increase with the proportion of adults wearing a face covering when leaving the home rising to 96% from 84% the previous week.
Free Covid recovery advice for small firms
The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy is reminding small businesses to make use of the Recovery Advice for Business scheme that gives small firms access to free, one-to-one advice with an expert adviser.
The scheme, which is designed to help businesses through the coronavirus pandemic and to prepare for long-term recovery, is supported by the government and hosted on the Enterprise Nation website.
Updated guide to operating during Covid-19
The BVRLA Guide to Operating during the Covid-19 Pandemic has been updated to include new Government guidance for businesses on reporting coronavirus cases.
Updated FAQs for rental and leasing customers
The BVRLA’s FAQs for rental and leasing customers has been updated to include the latest information on how the sector is getting back to business. It provides advice on what to expect when renting or leasing a vehicle and what changes to anticipate. Members may want to share these with customers.
New grants to boost small business recovery
The Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government has today announced a £20 million new fund to help businesses get back on track. Small and medium sized businesses in England can access grants between £1,000 - £5,000 for new equipment, technology and specialist advice.
Government campaign launched to encourage testing
NHS Test and Trace has today launched it’s ‘Let’s Get Back’ campaign to encourage everyone with symptoms to get a free test. The campaign forms part of a new business plan to expand testing capacity and prepare the nation for winter.
7-day self-isolation period extended to 10 days
The Government has today extended the self-isolation period from 7 days to 10 for those in the community who have Covid-19 symptoms or a positive test result.
This follows the emergence of evidence that shows that people with Covid-19 who are mildly ill and are recovering have a low but real possibility of infectiousness between 7 and 9 days after illness onset.
Government Skills Toolkit aims to boost digital and numeracy skills
The Department for Education’s Skills Toolkit provides a range of free training resources to help upskill people in the areas of digital and numeracy as an increasing number of people are entering the job market or changing roles due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are introductory, intermediary and advanced courses ranging from an introduction to getting confident online to more advanced digital skills for use in the workplace. These are all short courses that can be completed at home.
Latest transport usage figures
The Government’s weekly transport usage figures show that whilst the number of commercial vehicles on the road are back to normal pre-pandemic levels, car usage is only back to normal levels at weekends, with midweek figures sitting at around 80-88% of pre-Covid levels.
In contrast, National rail and London underground usage is returning slowly, with passenger levels at around a quarter of pre-pandemic levels midweek and under a third at weekends.
Latest ONS figures on economic impact of coronavirus
The Office for National Statistics has published its latest data from the Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey; a 2-weekly survey designed to estimate the impact over the previous 2 weeks and the expectations for the following 2 weeks.
Reduced VAT rate now includes motorhomes and campervans
The HMRC updated its VAT guidance for hotels and holiday accommodation to cover a broader range of eligible accommodation types, including motorhomes.
This means that the temporary reduced VAT rate will now be available for those BVRLA members who provide holiday accommodation in the form of a motorhome or campervan.
The BVRLA policy team had been lobbying government to make the case for the inclusion of motorhomes, as the original VAT exemption, announced on 8 July, covered static caravans but did not explicitly include motorhomes and campervans.
BVRLA Senior Policy Adviser, Thomas McLennan said: “This will benefit dozens of BVRLA members who provide motorhomes and campervans, so we are delighted that HMRC listened to our calls and made the right decision to support this vital part of the tourism sector.”
Local lockdown regulations published
Draft regulations outlining new powers that central government could deploy in areas under local lockdown have been published.
These draft regulations have not come into force yet, but provide a toolkit of ‘off the shelf’ measures that could be used in the future, as local outbreaks are identified.
If used, they could provide Ministers with the flexibility to intervene if more wide-ranging action is needed to help control the spread of the virus beyond a local or regional level.
Latest national R rate figures
As at 24 July 2020, the R number range was reported by NHS England to be between 0.7-0.9 and the growth rate range is -4% to -1%.
Government lists those exempt from face covering mandate
Since Friday 24 July it has been mandatory for the wearing of face coverings in enclosed spaces such as shops and supermarkets.
The Government updated its guidance to include a list of those who are exempt, including anyone under the age of 11, or those with disabilities, or hidden health conditions such as breathing difficulties, mental health conditions or autism
Advice for businesses on reporting Covid cases
The Government has published guidance for businesses and organisations in England on how to recognise, contain and report incidents of coronavirus.
If a confirmed case of COVID-19 has occurred in your business or organisation, go to the reporting an outbreak resource site to find the relevant type of organisation and follow the instructions on the action card. Some organisations will need to report an outbreak with just one confirmed case of the virus.
Companies House phone line has reopened
Coronavirus guidance for Companies House customers, employees and suppliers has been updated to reflect the reopening of its phone line.
Companies House can now be contacted by telephone on 0303 123 4500 and enquiries can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Working in vehicles guidance has been updated
The Government has updated its vehicles guidance on working safely during coronavirus to include:
- changes to the rules on working from home (sections 1 & 2)
- when to wear face coverings (section 6.1)
- guidance on disposing of face coverings and PPE (section 5.1), and
- work-related travel (section 7.2).
Face coverings mandatory from today in rental branches
As of today the Government has mandated the wearing of face coverings in enclosed public spaces, including shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and transport hubs. This includes vehicle rental outlets.
Under the new regulations, members of the public will need to wear face coverings that cover the nose and mouth as well as adhering to frequent hand washing and social distancing.
Face coverings will not be mandatory for:
- anyone under the age of 11
- those with disabilities or certain health conditions, such as respiratory or cognitive impairments that make it difficult for them to wear a face covering
FCA provides notice of mandatory Covid-19 Impact Survey
Next week the Financial Conduct Authority will be writing to solo-regulated firms, including motor finance providers, making them aware of a mandatory survey being issued in August.
The survey will contain ten questions designed to assess each firm’s liquidity position and resilience and is designed to enable the FCA to assess what action, if any, is required from the regulator to support markets and businesses post-pandemic.
The questions will relate to liquidity position and resilience, profit and loss, and access to government schemes.
Those named as the principle user on the FCA Gabriel system will receive the survey and businesses will be given a set deadline for its completion.
The survey will be issued over four days in August and timings are as follows:
- Surveys sent on 5 August have deadline of 26 August
- Surveys sent on 6 August have deadline of 27 August
- Surveys sent on 7 August have deadline of 28 August
- Surveys sent on 10 August have deadline of 31 August
ONS figures indicate over a third of firms trading have less than six months cash reserves
The Office for National Statistics has published its latest figures on indicators for the UK economy and society, showing that more businesses are resuming trade and footfall is up.
92% of responding businesses said they were trading between 29 June and 12 July, compared with 86% between 1 and 14 June.
24,493 businesses were sampled and 21% had responded as of 21 July 2020.
Of those businesses continuing to trade, 38% are providing pay top-ups to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and they report 16% of their workforce on furlough leave. 41% claim to have less than six months in cash reserves and 36% have more than six months.
Of those businesses that have temporarily paused trading, 41% are providing pay top-ups to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and they report 84% of their workforce on furlough leave. 62% claim to have less than six months cash reserves and 15% have more than six months.
Competition & Markets Authority paper on post-crisis recovery
The Institute for Public Policy Research has published a paper by CMA Chairman Andrew Tyrie, discussing how competition policy can contribute to a robust and sustainable post-crisis recovery.
The 38-page report, entitled How should competition policy react to coronavirus? explores the short- and long-term consequences of the coronavirus pandemic for markets and competition.
New regulation gives Covid-response powers to local authorities
The Government has published guidance on Local authority powers to impose restrictions under coronavirus regulations, outlining:
- what the new regulations allow local authorities to do and how they should exercise those powers
- how those powers should be enforced
- guidance for those affected by local authority directions
New regulations, which came into effect on 18 July, include powers for local authorities to:
- restrict access to, or close, individual premises
- prohibit certain events (or types of event) from taking place
- restrict access to, or close, public outdoor places (or types of outdoor public places)
The Government hopes that the new powers and framework will help to contain Covid-19 locally.
Motor vehicle usage edges towards pre-pandemic levels
The Department for Transport’s weekly transport usage statistics show that motor vehicles continue to be the mode of choice for travellers.
Motor vehicle usage during the past week is reported to be at 88% of pre-pandemic levels, climbing up to 98% at weekends, as more people take to the roads following the easing of restrictions.
In contrast, National rail figures continue to remain low at around 18% of pre-pandemic usage levels, peaking at 22% at weekends.
Employers must adhere to Covid secure guidance
For now, people who can work from home should continue to do so. From 1 August, it will be at the discretion of employers as to how staff can continue working safely.
Employers should decide, in consultation with their employees, whether it is viable for them to continue working from home. Where it is decided that workers should come into their place of work then this will need to be reflected in the risk assessment and actions taken to manage the risks of transmission in line with COVID-19 Secure guidelines.
Collecting customer and visitor data for NHS Test and Trace
The Government has updated its guidance on NHS Test and Trace service in the workplace to include a new section on collecting customer and visitor data.
Businesses are being asked to keep a temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business to assist the NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed.
In addition, the following information has been added to the section headed ‘If a worker develops symptoms and orders a test’:
- Where an interaction between 2 people has taken place through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen, this would not be considered sufficient contact.
- Contact tracers will not consider the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) as a mitigation when assessing whether a recent contact is likely to have risked transmitting the virus.
Business events can resume in October
The Government has announced that business events and conferences will be permitted to resume from 1 October provided that social distancing can be adhered to and the rates of infection remain at current levels.
The BVRLA does not anticipate a return to face-to-face conferences and events for the remainder of 2020 and will continue to host member engagement opportunities online.
More jobs furloughed across the UK in the past week
The latest weekly statistics from the HMRC show that although the number of firms using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme remains the same at 1.2 million, the number of jobs being furloughed has increased in the past week from 9.4m to 9.5m.
The number of claimants of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has remained unchanged for the past three weeks, remaining at 2.7m claims.
Applications for Government loans continue to rise
HM Treasury statistics show that a further 37,361 companies have applied for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, Bounce Back Loan Scheme or the Future Fund Scheme during the past week.
The Bounce Back Loan Scheme continues to be the most popular scheme for businesses, with 34,331 firms submitting applications in the last seven days.
Of the 1,316,970 applicants to date, 1,084,153 Bounce Back Loan facilities have been approved, costing £32.79bn.
Further clarity on face coverings in shops
Following the announcement from government earlier this week that face coverings are to be worn in shops from 24 July, the BVRLA is providing clarity to its members on the following areas:
- Enforcement – the government has stated that they are expecting shops to encourage compliance with the law (as they would do more generally) and they can refuse entry.
- Staff and face coverings – if staff cannot be 2 metres apart whilst they are at work then they should maintain a 1m+ distance from other members of staff with mitigation measures, such as face coverings and hand sanitiser.
- Delivering/collecting vehicles and face coverings – if staff cannot be 2 metres apart whilst they are at work in a vehicle then they should maintain a 1m+ distance from other members of staff with mitigation measures, such as face coverings and hand sanitiser.
Detailed guidance is available in the BVRLA Guide to Operating during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Changes to working from home advice
In today’s briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced new guidance for employers to help their staff return to work, part of more lockdown easing from 1 August. He also said he hopes the UK will return to 'significant normality' by the middle of November, with remaining restrictions easing 'possibly for Christmas'.
Many more employees in England could be back in the office when the working from home advice changes on 1 August. The government advises that employers should talk to their workers about what steps to take and only bring them back to their place of work if it is safe to do so.
Employers in England will have more freedom to decide whether staff should return to their place of work. For those who do return to work in England, government guidance on working safely across a range of sectors is available. There is separate advice for Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland.
The prime minister said that anybody will be able to use public transport - including to get to work.
Employers must follow a strict code of measures, including:
- Observing the 1m+ rule of social distancing
- Introducing one-way systems to minimise contact
- Frequent cleaning of objects and communal areas
Employees can contact their local authority or the Health and Safety Executive if they feel their employer has not addressed any concerns.
FCA consults on delaying the SM&CR Regime
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has today published a consultation paper on making changes to its rules following the extension to the deadline by which FCA solo-regulated firms need to have implemented the Senior Managers & Certification Regime (SM&CR).
In June Treasury announced that the deadline by which firms must have first assessed the fitness and propriety of their Certified Staff will be delayed until 31 March 2021. This delay will give firms which have been significantly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic time to make the changes they need.
To ensure other SM&CR deadlines remain consistent and to provide extra time for firms that need it, the FCA is consulting on extending the deadline for the following requirements from 9 December 2020 to 31 March 2021:
- the date the Conduct Rules come into force
- the deadline for submission of information about Directory Persons to the Financial Services Register
- changing references in the rules to the deadline for assessing Certified Persons as fit and proper (which has been announced by the Treasury)
The FCA is asking for comments on the consultation by 14 August 2020.
FCA announces further support for motor finance customers
The FCA has confirmed that it expects further support to be given to motor finance customers that are facing payment difficulties due to coronavirus.
The updated guidance, which comes into force on 17 July, says that:
- If customers can afford to return to regular payment, or make partial repayments, it is in their best interests to do so.
- Firms should contact customers coming to the end of a first payment freeze to find out if they can resume payments – and if so, agree a plan on how the missed payments can be repaid.
Where customers are still facing temporary payment difficulties as a result of coronavirus, the FCA expects firms to continue to provide support for an additional three months, by freezing or reducing payments. Customers that haven’t yet had a freeze or requested an extension to a payment freeze can request this up until 31 October 2020.
The ban on repossessions for customers experiencing temporary payment difficulties as a result of coronavirus has been extended until 31 October.
Christopher Woolard, Interim Chief Executive at the FCA, had this to say about the updated guidance:
“Our measures will ensure that people who are still facing temporary payment difficulties because of this pandemic continue to have access to the help they need. However, if you can afford to start making payments, you should.”
The BVRLA welcomes the FCA’s emphasis that it is in customers’ best interests to resume making payments if they are able and its decision to take a pragmatic approach in allowing motor finance providers to provide an automated or individual response to customer requests. However, the association is disappointed to see the regulator’s approach to vehicle repossessions. The BVRLA has made the case that taking a blanket approach in allowing customers to continue to possess vehicles could result in increased indebtedness for many as the underlying asset depreciates in value.
Any feedback or queries on the FCA’s announcement should be addressed to BVRLA Director of Fleet Services, Amanda Brandon.
Face coverings to be worn by customers in rental branches from 24 July
Customer-facing vehicle rental sites are in scope of new Government rules stating that face coverings will be compulsory from 24 July in shops. The BVRLA has received confirmation that the definition of a shop is “a place that sells goods or services".
As a rental branch falls into this definition, members will need to make sure customers are wearing face coverings when they enter a branch. The Government is due to publish more details on exemptions shortly.
The association’s operational guidance has been updated to reflect the new rules.
Members may wish to consider providing face coverings at the entrance to branches, but there is no legal requirement to do this. It is acceptable to ask someone to remove a face covering to verify their identity, but this should be done from a 2m distance.
In terms of enforcement, it is expected that staff will ask someone to wear a face covering before entering a shop or rental branch and fixed penalties can be issued by the Police for non-compliance by members of the public.
9 July 2020
Thousands of business advisers offer free service to small firms
The Government has today unveiled the Recovery Advice for Business scheme, that will give small firms access to free, one-to-one advice with an expert adviser to help them through the coronavirus pandemic and to prepare for long-term recovery.
Thousands of expert professional and business services advisers have signed up to offer free online advice to help small businesses bounce back from coronavirus. The scheme, which is now live, is supported by the government and hosted on the Enterprise Nation website.
Latest ONS data indicators on UK economy and society
The Office for National Statistics has today published data on the latest indicators for the UK economy and society following the Covid-19 pandemic.
It includes online price changes of selected high demand products and job advert indices covering the UK job market.
Support for businesses from outside Government
The Department for Business has updated its guidance on Coronavirus support for business from public bodies, organisations and charities that have produced additional resources that may be useful to employers and employees.
Local authority grant funding to small and medium sized businesses
Local authorities had received and distributed £10.65 billion to over 867,600 business properties as close of business on 5 July. The funding is designed to support small and medium businesses in England during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A breakdown of each local authority’s funding amount has been published this week.
Drivers urged to carry out safety checks
Highways England is encouraging drivers getting back behind the wheel to carry out safety checks on their vehicles before setting off on their journeys this summer.
Some cars have been rarely used during lockdown, so it’s essential to make sure they’re fit for purpose. Drivers may also feel out of practice if they haven’t been in a car for a while.
Travellers exempt from border rules in the UK
The Government has updated guidance on which travellers are exempt from border rules in the UK.
Chancellor delivers Summer Economic Update
In a statement earlier today, Chancellor Rish Sunak set out the next steps in the UK Government’s strategy to secure economic recovery from coronavirus.
Announcing a number of support measures, the Chancellor announced that the government will:
- support jobs with the Job Retention Bonus to help businesses keep furloughed workers. UK Employers will receive a one-off bonus of £1,000 for each furloughed employee who is still employed as of 31 January 2021
- expand Worksearch Support including a Flexible Support Fund and a £2 billion Kickstart scheme to subsidise jobs for young people
- protect jobs with VAT cuts for hospitality and tourism, as well as an Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme
- Provide an additional £500 million of Covid-19 funding for the Welsh Government.
You can read The Plan for Jobs 2020 document or watch a film of the speech on the Gov.uk website.
The BVRLA has published a handy Plan for Jobs Summary for members, summarising the association’s views on today’s measures.
Latest transport usage statistics
The Department for Transport has today published its latest transport usage statistics showing that motor vehicle usage is now at 83% of pre-pandemic levels, whilst national rail use remains low at 13%.
ONS publishes statistics and insights on homeworking
The Office for National Statistics has today published findings from an online Labour Market Survey carried out in April, revealing homeworking patterns in the UK.
Deferring self-assessment payment
HMRC has updated guidance on Deferring your Self-Assessment payment on account due to Covid-19.
You have the option to defer your second payment on account if you’re:
- registered in the UK for Self-Assessment and
- finding it difficult to make your second payment on account by 31 July 2020 due to the impact of coronavirus
BVRLA updates guide to operating during Covid
The BVRLA Guide to Operating during the Covid-19 Pandemic has been updated to reflect the recent changes to social distancing requirements.
Motor vehicles appear to be preferred mode of transport
Latest transport usage data published today by the Department for Transport shows that motor vehicle usage has been between 77% and 80% of pre-pandemic levels during the past week.
National rail and London Underground figures have peaked at 14% and 16% respectively, indicating that people are following government advice and are avoiding public transport where possible.
Green light given for 12-month e-scooter rental trial
The Department for Transport has announced that new regulations allowing trials of rental e-scooters will come into force on Saturday 4 July 2020.
The fast-tracked trials will test devices’ safety, green credentials and ability to reduce traffic as lockdown is eased.
Local authorities and devolved administrations hosting the trials can allow or run the rental schemes in their areas, as outlined in accompanying guidance for areas and rental operators published yesterday (30 June).
Health measures set to be eased at UK borders
The Transport Minister, Grant Shapps, has indicated in a statement earlier this week that the Government will shortly begin to ease the health measures at the UK border, allowing passengers to be exempted from self-isolation requirements, in certain circumstances, on arrival in the UK.
Demand for Government Loan Schemes continues to rise
Latest HM Treasury figures show that 62,323 more businesses have applied for the Bounce Back Loan Scheme in the past week, taking the total number of applications to 1,186,006 as at the close of business on 28 June. 81% of applications have been approved costing the Treasury £29.5bn.
Approval rates for the two Business Interruption Loan Schemes remain comparatively low with around half of applications being approved. Of the 105,314 applications, 52,634 were approved.
The Future Fund changes eligibility criteria
The Government has yesterday confirmed that more start-ups and innovative firms will be able to apply for investment from the government’s Future Fund as of 30 June.
As at close of business on 28 June, only 674 businesses had applied for the Fund.
Flexible furloughing of employees starts today
From today, (1 July), employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant for the hours not worked.
From 1 August 2020, the level of grant will be reduced each month, until 31 October, when the scheme is set to close. The full timetable for changes is set out in the HMRC guidance.
Latest HMRC figures show that although the number of employers furloughing staff has not increased in the past week, the number of staff being furloughed has increased from 9.2m to 9.3m.
Online tool to check if you should go back to work
The Government has developed a tool to help employees in England easily assess if they can return to work. The tool guides employees through questions that may influence their ability to go back to work safely. Employers can share this tool with employees to aid discussion on how employees can return to work safely.
Leicestershire is the first local lockdown
The Government has confirmed the areas of Leicestershire that are included in the localised Covid-19 lockdown and what this means. The lockdown restrictions were imposed following a local surge in coronavirus figures.
The Health Secretary announced plans for managing the outbreak in Leicester in a speech to Parliament on 29 June. The Government recommends against all but essential travel to, from and within Leicester and the lockdown restrictions will be reviewed on 18 July.
Temporary changes to Companies House filing requirements
The Government has today published guidance explaining how the measures introduced by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act on 27 June, will affect your filings at Companies House. Affected filings include:
- confirmation statement
- event-driven filings (changes to your company)
- mortgage charges
Specialist vehicle approval tests resume
The DVSA has updated its specialist vehicle approval guidance, to include that from 4 July 2020, all vehicle approval tests will restart, and individual vehicle approval (IVA) tests will continue to be booked under a priority system. You need a vehicle approval test if you have:
- imported a vehicle
- built a vehicle
- rebuilt a vehicle
- radically altered a vehicle
MOT testing to be reintroduced from August
The Government has today announced that mandatory MOT testing is to be reintroduced from 1 August 2020 as Covid-19 restrictions are slowly lifted.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, drivers were granted a six-month exemption from MOT testing in March to help slow the spread of the virus. However, as restrictions are eased, all drivers whose car, motorcycle or van is due for an MOT test from 1 August will be required to get a test certificate to continue driving their vehicle.
Drivers with an MOT due date before 1 August will still receive a six-month exemption from testing.
According to the Department for Transport, over 90% of garages are open across the country and testing capacity has reached 70% of normal levels and is steadily increasing.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency has also issued guidance to all MOT testers about safely conducting tests in line with the latest government advice.
Government suspends HGV Levy for 12 months, from 1 August.
The Department for Transport has confirmed that it will be suspending the HGV Levy for twelve months, from 1 August to help support and provide some relief to hauliers.
Writing to the BVRLA and other key industry bodies last week, the DfT acknowledged the importance of the haulage industry in keeping the country moving and playing a key role in supporting our economic recovery and growth post pandemic.
There is no need for registered keepers to do anything to benefit from the twelve-month suspension. A levy rate of zero will automatically apply at a vehicle’s normal VED/Levy renewal date from August onwards so that each vehicle will benefit from twelve months of zero Levy.
Safer travel guidance updated
The guidance for passengers also includes advice for those car sharing.
Major changes to insolvency law
The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act has received Royal Assent and came into force on 26 June 2020.
The Act is the largest change to the UK’s corporate insolvency regime in more than 20 years. It introduces new corporate restructuring tools and temporary easements to give distressed businesses the breathing space they need to get advice and seek a rescue.
The Act also provides temporary relief until 30 September 2020 from being subject to a winding up petition and from wrongful trading provisions where a business can demonstrate its difficulties arise from trading conditions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. These easements are explained in more detail in a series of factsheets.
Guidance for Companies House customers has also been updated to reflect the changes.
Government unveils £200 million to help innovative businesses
The Sustainable Innovation Fund, unveiled this weekend, is designed to help companies recovering from the impact of coronavirus to keep their cutting-edge projects and ideas alive.
The £200 million fund is for businesses developing new technologies focused on sustainability, such as making homes and offices more energy efficient, creating ground-breaking medical technologies or reducing the carbon footprint of public transport in our towns and cities.
‘One metre plus’ is introduced as new social distancing minimum requirement
The Prime Minister has today announced that, where it is not possible to maintain a 2m distance, people should keep a gap of ‘one metre plus’ to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.
Other measures to ease lockdown restrictions in England were also announced today, including the opening of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers from 4 July.
The Government will be publishing guidance on how businesses can reduce the risk by taking certain steps to protect workers and customers. These include:
- avoiding face-to-face seating by changing office layouts
- reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces
- improving ventilation
- using protective screens and face coverings
- closing non-essential social spaces
- providing hand sanitiser
- changing shift patterns so that staff work in set teams
Have your say on preferred timings for MOT testing for cars and vans
The Department for Transport is consulting on removing the six-month exemption currently in place for MOT testing of cars and vans and would welcome members’ views on timings.
All cars and vans which would usually require an MOT test after 30 March 2020 are currently exempt for six months from the date the test is due.
The Government is proposing to return to mandatory MOT testing with one of the following options:
- Within two to four weeks from the date of announcement (i.e. an announcement is made that extensions would not apply to any tests due two to four weeks after the announcement is made)
- Within four to six weeks from the date of announcement
- Within six to eight weeks from the date of announcement
None of these options affect exemptions that have already been issued. Those revised expiry dates will remain in place. These options affect the issue of new exemptions for MOTs that are coming up to their due dates. Please email email@example.com with your preference by Thursday morning at the latest.
MOT for dangerous goods vehicles starts in July
The Government has updated guidance to state that you can book a dangerous goods vehicle (ADR) MOT inspection from 4 July 2020 - but you can still apply for a waiver if you have a 3-month MOT exemption.
From 4 July 2020, lorry, bus or trailer annual tests (MOT) and ADR annual inspections will restart. If you’ve been issued a 3-month MOT exemption and you do not get your vehicle tested you must apply for a waiver to continue transporting dangerous goods.
ONS publishes estimates on economic impact of Covid-19
The Office for National Statistics has published an article explaining how Covid-19 will affect the production of the UK National Accounts, including estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) and the UK Institutional Sector Accounts.
The ONS has also published material on how Covid-19 might affect estimates of inflation, the labour market and productivity. Taken together, these provide a holistic picture of the potential effect of the pandemic on the UK economy and the practical effects of how it will be measured.
Restrictions eased for the 2.2m people who have been shielding
Government guidance on shielding and protecting the vulnerable during Covid-19 has been updated today to reflect easing of lockdown changes that will allow those who are shielding to leave their home, as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing.
This follows yesterday’s announcement from the Health and Social Care Secretary, who confirmed that those shielding can spend more time outside their homes from Monday 6 July.
Updated guidance on Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The Government has updated guidance to provide more information about flexible furlough and overpayments.
New figures show Covid-19 growth rate across regions
The government has published UK wide and regional growth rates for England for the first time, alongside R values. The growth rate reflects how quickly the number of infections are changing day-by-day.
It is an approximation of the change of number infections each day. If the growth rate is greater than zero (+ positive), then the disease will grow. If the growth rate is less than zero the disease will shrink.
DVSA confirms HGV testing restart on 4 July
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has confirmed that HGV testing will restart on 4 July.
Today’s announcement from the DVSA backs-up what was disclosed in yesterday’s BVRLA Covid-19 bulletin. It confirms the three-month exemption for vehicles with July dates (whether originally due in July or moved from April.
From August, it will only give a three-month exemption to vehicles that are due for a test that month and which haven’t already had an exemption (so those that were originally due in May will not get another exemption). This approach will continue for the rest of the year to ensure that test centres are not hit with two-months' worth of tests needing to be done in one month.
DVSA recognises that October will present a problem because of the vehicles that were previously given a three-month exemption in April and then also in July. As well as threatening to overload test centres, this is also peak logistics season in the run up to Christmas. DVSA is seeking a change in legislation which will allow it to exempt certain vehicles from testing based on their age and Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS) score.
Members should email BVRLA Director of Fleet Services, Amanda Brandon with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
Government provides workplace risk assessment tool for English employers
The Government has developed an online tool that can help businesses in England to reopen safely during Coronavirus. It encourages businesses to carry out a risk assessment and helps to identify the workplace adjustments that they should make. Employers have a legal responsibility to protect employees and visitors on site. Employees can also use this tool to check what their workplace needs to do to keep people safe. It can be downloaded here.
Scotland moves to Phase 2 of Covid-19 recovery
Today Scotland has moved to phase two of its routemap for easing Coronavirus lockdown restrictions. A useful summary of what has changed and is due to change in the coming days can be found on this BBC webpage.
Welsh Government announces changes to lockdown laws
MPs identify gaps in Coronavirus support
This week the Treasury Select Committee published its report on gaps in Coronavirus support for employees and the self-employed. You can find a summary of the key findings and recommendations here.
Latest updates on UK travel and tourism
The VisitBritain website continues to provide a range of advice and information for businesses involved in the UK travel and tourism sector. It includes statistics, best practice guidance and the latest Government updates.
BVRLA launches its Covid-19 Recovery Plan
Today the BVRLA has launched its Covid-19 Recovery Plan, making clear to policymakers that the vehicle rental, leasing and fleet sectors can deliver a swift rebound in the economy and a faster trajectory towards transport decarbonisation.
The association has also written a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak providing a more detailed proposal on the tax and stimulus measures that should be deployed to ensure a net zero recovery and healthy automotive sector.
DVSA provides vehicle testing update
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is recommending that fleet operators should get cars and vans tested now that garages are open, even if they have been granted an exemption during the Covid pandemic.
This will help to mitigate the risk of a backlog and too much demand at one time, once the six-month exemption period expires. Any vehicle that has been granted a six-month exemption will not have it removed.
For HGVs the plan is to start testing in July, although an exact date has not yet been confirmed. The DVSA anticipates giving a three-month exemption for vehicles whose test is due in July, including vehicles that have already been given a previous exemption.
From August, they will only give a three-month exemption to vehicles that are due for a test that month and which haven’t already had an exemption. This approach will continue for the rest of the year to ensure that test centres are not hit with two-months' worth of tests needing to be done in one month.
DVSA recognises that October will present a problem because of the vehicles that were previously given a three-month exemption in April and then also in July. As well as threatening to overload test centres, this is also peak logistics season in the run up to Christmas. DVSA is seeking a change in legislation which will allow it to exempt certain vehicles from testing based on their age and Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS) score.
Members should email BVRLA Director of Fleet Services, Amanda Brandon with any questions at email@example.com
Road transport usage continues to rise
According to the Government’s transport usage figures, car usage is back to 70% of average pre-pandemic levels. For all motor vehicles, the figure is slightly higher at 74%.
Average national rail usage figures remain low at 8%, whilst London Underground usage figures are at 14%.
Jobs market starting to pick up
According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, total online job adverts increased from 45.6% to 50.1% of their 2019 average, the largest increase since lockdown began.
The increase is spread relatively evenly across many categories of job adverts, with every sector seeing a positive change. While levels of online job adverts are still far below pre-lockdown levels, this may offer early evidence of some recovery in demand for labour.
Advice about the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
The Government’s YouTube video about how to make a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme claim has been updated today. Members may also be interested in registering for the next live webinar about the scheme.
Deferral of VAT payments ends on 30 June
Guidance for the Deferral of VAT payments has been updated to include an end date of 30 June 2020. This means you’ll need to:
- set-up cancelled direct debits in enough time for HMRC to take payment
- submit VAT returns as normal, and on time
- pay the VAT in full on payments due after 30 June
200,000 more jobs furloughed in the past week
Latest HMRC data about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme shows that there are now 9.1 million jobs being furloughed across the UK, up 200,000 on last week.
Data also includes figures on the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, which appears to have plateaued remaining at 2.6 million claims made, and the VAT payments deferral scheme which shows over 100,000 more businesses taking up the deferral scheme during the past month.
Almost 96,000 more businesses apply for Government loan schemes
Latest figures from HM Treasury published yesterday show that 95,993 more businesses have applied for one of the Government’s coronavirus loan schemes during the past week. New figures are published every Tuesday.
92,716 applied for the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, which has been the most sought-after scheme with over 1 million businesses applying for the Scheme to date. As at the close of business on 15 June, 863,584 applications had been granted costing the Treasury £26.34 billion.
In addition, this past week saw 3,187 more businesses apply for the Business Interruption Loan Scheme, 46 apply for the Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme and 44 apply for the Future Fund Scheme.
Local Authority grant payments exceed £10 billion
The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy has published latest figures showing the number of grants made and the amount paid by each local authority in England.
£10.36 billion has been paid out to over 844,000 businesses as at 14 June.
Government consults with industry to discuss economic recovery
Business Secretary Alok Sharma has chaired a series of economic recovery roundtables bringing together businesses, business representative organisations, regulators and leading academics.
Discussions focused on the measures necessary to support economic recovery and ensure we have the right opportunities in place for growth across the country over the next 18 months and beyond.
As well as the roundtables, the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy is also taking in written submissions from other key industry influencers, including the BVRLA, who will be publishing its submitted recommendations later this week.
Guidance updated on business closures to reflect easing of restrictions
Government guidance on the closure of certain businesses and venues has been updated to reflect regulatory changes that took effect on 15 June, including the opening of many non-essential retail outlets.
HMRC hosts webinar on new flexible furlough scheme
Members can register to attend an hour-long HMRC webinar on ‘The Extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and flexible furloughing’. There are four time slots to choose from. Two on Thursday 18 and two on Friday 19 June.
Guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been updated to reflect how the scheme is changing.
Government video on running your business during Covid-19 is updated
The YouTube video for ‘Running your business through the coronavirus pandemic’ has been updated. The video gives an overview of the support available to help businesses deal with the economic impact of coronavirus including:
- deferral of VAT and Income Tax payments
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- HMRC Time to Pay Scheme
Latest ONS figures indicate working from home still prevalent
Latest Office for National Statistics figures show that just under 4 in 10 adults in employment (37%) said they had left their home to travel to and from work in the past seven days, decreasing from 40% the previous week.
The largest increase in reasons for leaving the home this week is for meeting up with people in a personal place, such as visiting friends or family at home, up to 19% compared with 8% last week.
Expenses for employees travelling to a temporary workplace
HMRC advice on How to treat certain expenses and benefits provided to employees during Covid-19 has been updated to include guidance on paying travel and subsistence expenses to an employee travelling to a temporary workplace.
Further restriction lifted and social bubbles introduced
Social distancing guidance and FAQs on what you can and cannot do have been updated to include new rules on support bubbles. Other restrictions that have been lifted today include the ability to visit more shops, outdoor attractions and places of worship.
“Bubbling” describes a policy where people living in small, non-overlapping, groups of households are permitted to mix with one another, effectively creating one large household out of two or more smaller households. No person can be a member of more than one bubble.
Minutes taken from the SAGE meeting on 14 May show that the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) advised the Government against introducing social bubbles at a time when other distancing measures have only just been lifted, or in conjunction with the release of other measures. SAGE also published a paper on the behavioural considerations of bubbles on 14 May.
Reproduction ‘R’ rate figures explained
According to the latest data on 12 June, the average R rate in the UK was 0.7-0.9. All but one English county shows an average reported R rate with a range that reaches or exceeds 1.0.
The lowest reported average was in the East of England with an R rate of 0.7-0.9. The South West had the highest reported figure at 0.8-1.1.
When a region has an R-rate range exceeding 1, it does not necessarily mean the epidemic is increasing in that region, just that the uncertainty in the data means it cannot be ruled out. It is also possible that an outbreak in one place could result in an R above 1 for the whole region.
NHS test and trace alerts
The Government has updated its guidance on NHS test and trace: How it works to include the new details of where the text alert will come from. Previously it came from ‘NHS’ but now it will come from ‘NHStracing’.
Automotive sector has received £3.3bn in furlough support
The latest HMRC data shows that the automotive wholesale, retail and repair sector has been the biggest user of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
Figures for claims made up to 31 May 2020 show that the sector has furloughed more than 1.6 million staff at a cost to the government of £3.3bn. This means that the sector is responsible for 18% of total furloughed staff and 19% of the total cash paid out to furloughed workers.
From 1 July 2020, businesses will be given the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part time. This is a month earlier than previously announced to help support people back to work. Individual firms will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return, so that they can decide on the best approach for them - and will be responsible for paying their wages while in work.
From August 2020, the level of government grant provided through the job retention scheme will be slowly tapered to reflect that people will be returning to work. More details of how this will work can be found on the government’s CJRS advice page.
Over 100,000 automotive sector workers get self-employed support
HMRC has also published data on uptake for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), showing that there have been around 120,000 claims from the automotive wholesale, retail and repair sector at an average of just under £3,000.
The scheme allows an eligible individual to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total.
This first SEISS grant has been announced to close for claims on 13th July 2020.
On 29th May 2020 SEISS was extended to allow a second and final grant when the scheme reopens for applications in August. This will be a taxable grant worth 70 per cent of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.
Weekly transport statistics show motor vehicle usage is up
The Department for Transport has published its weekly statistics on transport usage across Great Britain during the coronavirus.
In terms of motor vehicles, figures show that as a percentage of the equivalent day pre-pandemic, motor vehicle usage was at 68% of normal levels on 8 June, having reached an all-time low of 23% on 13 April.
By contrast, national rail usage has only increased marginally, reported at 9% of normal usage levels on 8 June, up from its lowest level of 4% on 10 April.
Data lists daily figures from 1 March 2020 and is updated every Wednesday at 14.00.
New parents returning to work are eligible for furlough scheme
HM Treasury has announced that people on paternity and maternity leave who return to work in the coming months will be eligible for the government’s furlough scheme.
ONS figures show household spending down by one-fifth
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that more than one-fifth of usual household spending has not been possible during the lockdown, with activities like travel, holidays and meals out being prevented.
New measures to help the most isolated and lonely
Social distancing guidance and FAQs on what you can and cannot do have been updated to reflect new rules on ‘support bubbles’ for England. From 13 June, single adults who lives alone or with dependent children can form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household. All those in a support bubble will be able to spend time together inside each others’ homes, including overnight, without needing to stay two metres apart.
You can see people you do not live with if you meet outdoors in a group of up to six people, whilst observing social distancing guidelines and keeping at least two metres apart.
Over 11 million helped by furlough and self-employment schemes
Latest figures from HMRC show that as at 7 June, 1.1 million businesses had 8.9 million employees on furlough, taking the cost of claims under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to £19.6 billion since it launched on 20 April.
In addition, 2.6 million individuals have claimed the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme since it started on 13 May, at a total cost of £7.5 billion.
More than 750,000 businesses receive Bounce Back Loans
Latest figures from HM Treasury show that as at 7 June, more than 780,000 businesses have received almost £24 billion via the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme has granted 47,650 loans of the 93,305 applications to date, lending £9.56 billion. Meanwhile, the Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme has granted 244 loans of the 615 applied for, lending £1.57 billion.
A full list of approved lenders can be found on the British Business Bank website.
Companies House launches new system for submitting paperwork online
Companies House has today launched a temporary service enabling businesses to digitally upload forms that are usually submitted in paper format. The service has been developed as part of the Covid-19 emergency response and should be used during the coronavirus outbreak.
A list of documents that can be loaded via this service has also been published.
HMRC urges businesses to be vigilant against fraud
HMRC has issued guidance explaining how to recognise genuine contact from HMRC, and how to tell when an email or text message is phishing or bogus.
Government seeks business input on Covid-19 recovery
Business Secretary Alok Sharma has launched five new business-focused working groups to help unleash Britain's growth potential as it looks for a speedy recovery post Covid.
Focused on five key themes, each group will explore how business can work with government to deliver economic growth and jobs:
- The future of industry: How to accelerate business innovation and leverage private sector investment in research and development
- Green recovery: How to capture economic growth opportunities from the shift to net zero carbon emissions
- Backing new businesses: How to make the UK the best place in the world to start and scale a business
- Increasing opportunity: How to level up economic performance across the UK, including through skills and apprenticeships
- The UK open for business: How to win and retain more high value investment for the UK
The membership of the five working groups will be published in due course.
Face coverings mandatory on public transport
Government guidance on staying safe outside your home and FAQs on what you can and can’t do during the Covid-19 outbreak have been updated to reflect the fact that, from Monday 15 June, everybody will be required to wear face coverings when using public transport.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “People should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible. So, while respecting social distancing and maintaining good hand hygiene remain the most important steps we can all take to stay safe, wearing a face covering can play a role in helping us to protect each other.”
The latest Office for National Statistics figures on Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain: 5 June 2020 show that almost 3 in 10 adults (28%) reported that they had used face coverings outside of their home in the past week, a similar proportion to last week (29%). The most common use was when people were shopping.
Public Health England has published guidance on how to wear and make a face covering.
BVRLA urges Government action on new quarantine rules
The BVRLA has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to highlight the potentially devastating impact on inbound tourism that will be caused by the new quarantine rules that take effect from 8 June.
In the letter BVRLA Chief Executive Gerry Keaney urges the Government to introduce some immediate measures to mitigate the impact that the new rules will have on tourism and the car rental sector. He asks the Government to:
- As soon as possible, designate countries as ‘safe’ where COVID-19 infection levels are low enough, so that arrivals from these countries are exempt from the quarantine. Priority should be given to key trading partners and the countries that generate the greatest number of inbound travellers.
- For countries where the quarantine is being applied, explore ways in which inbound travellers can pre-qualify for a quarantine exemption (for example, by producing a recognised antibody test result).
- The Government has committed to reviewing the scheme every three weeks. This should be reviewed more frequently given the peak Summer tourist season is fast approaching and the number and scale of Covid-19 cases is constantly evolving.
“Our members operate at every major UK airport and car rental plays a pivotal role in helping people travel to, from and within their destination,” said Keaney.
“The Transport Secretary’s advice is that people have a ‘civic duty’ not to use public transport - this means that car rental will be an absolutely essential partner for the UK tourism industry as it recovers.”
Update on Driver CPC and Tachograph rules
The Department for Transport (DfT) has updated some of the Covid-19 related rules and exemptions surrounding Driver CPC testing and tachographs.
- Driver Qualification Card (DQC) validity - The validity of DQCs that expire between 1 February 2020 and 31 August 2020 has been extended for seven months. Full details are on the DfT website.
- Tachograph Calibration and inspections due before 31 August 2020 - All tachograph calibration and inspection certificates which are listed as expiring between 1 March 2020 to 31 August 2020, are extended by six months from the date the calibration was originally due. All tachograph calibration certificates expiring from 1 September 2020 must be renewed as usual.
- Tachograph card renewal - From 1 March 2020 to 31 August 2020, drivers who apply to renew their tachograph card no later than 15 days before their card is due to expire, can continue to drive until they receive a new card. Full details are on the DfT website.
Final date for the current furlough scheme
The final date by which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time is 10 June 2020. This will enable the current three-week furlough period to be completed by 30 June 2020.
Employers will have until 31 July to make any claims in respect of the period to 30 June under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Government guarantees Trade Credit Insurance
The Government has announced that it will provide guarantees of up to £10 billion to Trade Credit Insurance schemes for business-to-business transactions helping businesses to trade with confidence, safe in the knowledge that they will be protected if a customer defaults or delays on payment.
Trade Credit Insurance underwrites an estimated £350 billion of economic activity for more than 630,000 businesses in the UK each year.
Exemptions from border quarantine rules
The Government has published a list of who will be exempt from new border quarantine rules taking effect on Monday 8 June. Those driving goods vehicles are included in the exemptions.
Quarantine measures at the border start on Monday
Rules covering new measures to be imposed at the UK border from Monday have being published today, according to a government announcement.
Home Secretary Priti Patel made an Oral Ministerial Statement to Parliament this afternoon.
Passengers arriving in the UK will be required to self-isolate for 14 days and anybody failing to comply with the mandatory conditions may face enforcement action. A breach of self-isolation would be punishable with a £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England or potential prosecution and unlimited fine.
The BVRLA is writing to Ministers to make them aware of the adverse impact that this measure will have on the vehicle rental sector, where a number of operators are heavily reliant on inbound airport travellers.
The association shares widespread concerns that the policy is poorly timed and almost impossible to implement effectively. The move may cause more harm than good to UK citizens, having a drastic effect on the aviation, travel and broader tourism-related industries.
How to treat expenses during Covid-19
Government guidance has been updated which explains how to treat certain expenses and benefits provided to employees during Covid-19.
Find out about taxable expenses and benefits when they are paid to employees because of coronavirus and how to report them to HMRC.
Late payment support from the Small Business Commissioner
The Small Business Commissioner is an independent public body set up by Government under the Enterprise Act 2016 to tackle late payment and unfavourable payment practices in the private sector.
Many small businesses are having disputes over delayed payments or in some cases, non-payment because of the financial hardship being experienced by all sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic. To date the SBC has helped small businesses recover over £500,000 during the coronavirus crisis.
If you’d like some advice you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Weekly statistics available showing transport usage
The Department for Transport is monitoring the use of the transport system during the Covid-19 pandemic and is publishing statistics every Wednesday showing transport use by mode.
Government webinars to support businesses
The Government has published a selection of webinars and videos on YouTube to support businesses wanting advice on the different financial support packages available for businesses.
The YouTube video about the Statutory Sick Pay rebate scheme has been updated today.
Government acknowledges BVRLA support for businesses during Covid
The BVRLA is one of only two UK trade associations listed on the Government website as providing Coronavirus support to businesses in the transport industry.
The Government website promotes a link to the BVRLA Covid-19 Business Advice page where there is a wealth of information to support the vehicle rental, leasing and fleet sectors.
The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy also recently cited the BVRLA as a good example of an industry body supporting its sectors well through regular communication, guidance, advice, webinars and learning resources.
FCA survey to assess impact of Covid-19
The Financial Conduct Authority is writing to all solo regulated firms to collate information to help them understand the impact of Covid 19 and inform future priorities.
In a meeting earlier today with the BVRLA, the FCA confirmed that it will be contacting around 13,000 solo regulated firms within the next week, asking them to complete a mandatory 10-question survey that will cover:
- Liquidity/cash availability and needs
- Recent financial performance
- Scale of business activity
- Access to government schemes
The survey will take around an hour to complete and firms will have a week to respond so regulated members are encouraged to look out for the survey.
The FCA is keen to identify emerging risks of potential harm to consumers, the market and to competition within such markets and the survey will help to inform key areas of focus and priority.
Members are also advised to read today’s news story in the Weekly Update: Beware of fraudsters posing as the FCA.
Business can offer to help the UK’s Covid response
The Government has opened an online portal to enable businesses to submit offers of help to support the UK’s Covid-19 response.
Transport and logistics, for moving goods or people, is one of the categories of support that they are looking for.
You’ll be asked some questions about the type of support you can give. You’ll then be contacted as soon as possible if your support is needed. You’ll need your company number if you have one.
Guidance for delivery and collection of vehicles
The BVRLA has today published Guidance for vehicle collection, delivery, distribution, storage and technical services.
The 9-page document was written by the Finance and Leasing Association with contributions from the BVRLA, National Association of Motor Auctions and the Vehicle Remarketing Association.
The short guide, which reflects Government guidance as at 1 June 2020, is intended to clarify the requirements that apply on vehicle and parts collections, delivery and distribution, storage and technical services.
Government webinar on working safely in offices
The BVRLA is reminding members of the free webinars being hosted by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy on working safely.
Tomorrow, Tuesday 2 June, there is an hour-long webinar providing advice on how to work safely in offices or similar indoor environments. The webinar starts at 11am and members can register to attend here.
Chancellor extends support for businesses
During his announcement on Friday, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed an extension to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and announced three changes to the job retention scheme:
- From 1 July 2020, the scheme will be more flexible enabling employers to bring previously furloughed staff back part time and still receive a grant for the time they are not working.
- From 1 August 2020, employers will have to start contributing to the wage costs of furloughed staff and the contribution will gradually increase in September and October.
- The scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June. The final date by which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time will be 10 June.
The BVRLA had been calling for flexible furloughing during discussions with BEIS and HM Treasury and although this flexibility is not coming as early as the association would have liked, we are pleased to see the Chancellor bringing the date forward to July, from the originally planned date of August. This will help many members across all sectors.
Part-time furloughing explained
From 1 July 2020, the government will continue to pay 80% of wages for furloughed staff covering any of their normal hours they do not work up until the end of August. This flexibility in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme comes a month earlier than previously announced to help people get back to work.
Employers will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return and will be responsible for paying their wages in full while working. This means that employees can work as much or as little as the business needs, with no minimum time that they can furlough staff for.
Any working hours arrangement agreed between a business and their employee must cover at least one week and be confirmed to the employee in writing. When claiming the CJRS grant for furloughed hours, they will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week. They can choose to make claims for longer periods such as on monthly or two weekly cycles if preferred. Employers will be required to submit data on the usual hours an employee would be expected to work in a claim period and actual hours worked.
If employees are unable to return to work, or employers do not have work for them to do, they can remain on furlough and the employer can continue to claim the grant for their full hours under the existing rules.
Employer contributions explained
From August, the government grant provided through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be slowly tapered with employers being asked to contribute more over time.
- In June and July, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 as well as employer National Insurance (ER NICs) and pension contributions for the hours the employee doesn’t work – employers will have to pay employees for the hours they work
- in August, the government will continue to pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 but employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions – for the average claim, this represents 5% of the gross employment costs that they would have incurred if the employee had not been furloughed
- in September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee does not work – employers will pay ER NICs, pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% of the total up to a cap of £2,500
- in October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee does not work – employers will pay ER NICs, pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% of the total up to a cap of £2,500
- the cap on the furlough grant will be proportional to the hours not worked.
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
Eligible self-employed people will be able to claim a second and final grant in August; this will be a taxable grant worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits for three months, paid out in a single instalment and capped at £6,570 in total.
The eligibility criteria for the second grant will be the same as for the first grant. People do not need to have claimed the first grant to claim the second grant. Claims for the first SEISS grant, which opened on 13 May, must be made no later than 13 July.
Eligible self-employed people must make a claim before that date to receive the first SEISS grant (a taxable grant of 80% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months' worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total.
Guidance on what you can and cannot do
The Government has updated its guidance on what you can and cannot do to include the changes that came into effect today. This includes the fact that you can meet in a group of up to six people, including you and any carers, as long as you practise strict social distancing.
Updated BVRLA Guidance on Operating during Covid-19
The Guide has been updated to include:
- An Employee Covid-19 Charter template
- Updated references to testing and the new Test and Trace service
- Example usage of plexiglass in vehicles for delivery and collection
Minister wants to hear about members’ experiences with banks
As part of the BVRLA’s regular catch-up with BEIS Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP, we have been keeping him informed of how the various government loan schemes have been working for members.
The Minister is in regular contact with the banking sector and individual lenders and is very keen to hear of specific examples where companies feel that they are not getting sufficient support from their bank.
Members who are happy to share their experiences, particularly if they have experience of being refused a loan or finding that the process takes a long time, should email details to BVRLA Director of Corporate Affairs, Toby Poston at email@example.com, who will ensure that the minister is made aware of the issues.
Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund
Guidance has been published today for the Local Authority Discretionary Grant Fund which is open to small and micro businesses that are not eligible for other grant schemes.
Eligible businesses could get a grant of £25,000, £10,000 or any amount under £10,000. To be eligible your business must:
- Be based in England
- have fewer than 50 employees
- have fixed building costs such as rent
- have been trading on 11 March 2020
- have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus
Applications can be made through your local authority website.
Updated: Guidance on Working Safely during Covid-19
The Government’s workplace safety guidance documents have been updated today to include details on the new Test and Trace service.
Members will be particularly interested in the guidance for working safely in office, vehicle and branch settings.
ONS publishes data on the impact of Covid-19 on society
The Office for National Statistics has today published findings from a recent survey assessing the social impacts of coronavirus on people, households and communities in Great Britain
Over 4 in 10 adults (43%) said the coronavirus was having an impact on their work, and of these the most common impacts were similar to previous weeks: being furloughed, needing to work from home and a change in hours worked.
The largest change amongst those who said their work was affected was seen with increasing levels of concern about health and safety at work. This increased to 20% this week from 11% last week.
The most common concerns people had around health and safety at their workplace were: difficulties in following social distancing advice, difficulty in following hygiene advice, and limited or no protective equipment in place.
How to conduct a Covid-19 risk assessment in the workplace
The Health and Safety Executive has published guidance to help you conduct a risk assessment.
Carrying out a risk assessment in one of the 5 practical steps that the Government is asking businesses to follow to help keep employees and customers safe in the workplace:
- Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
- Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
- Help people to work from home
- Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible
- Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk
Employers have a duty to consult their workers, and unions where applicable, as part of their risk assessment. Involving workers in this will help build trust and confidence that all reasonably practicable steps are being taken to reduce risks of COVID-19, so that people can return to work safely. Employers should share the risk assessment with employees and consider publishing it on their website.
NHS Test and Trace service goes live
The new NHS Test and Trace service has launched across England today.
The Government has today published guidance for people who have been notified by NHS Test and Trace that they are a contact of a person who has had a positive test result for Covid-19.
New guidance means those who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive must isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms.
The Government has also published guidance for employers and businesses to explain how they can play their part in the NHS test and trace programme to slow the spread of the virus.
It is vital that employers:
- make their workplaces as safe as possible
- encourage workers to heed any notifications to self-isolate and support them when in isolation
Full details of how the Test and Trace service works has also been published.
New criteria added for eligibility of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
The Government has today updated the guidance for the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme to reflect that employers can now claim for employees who are self-isolating because they’ve been notified by the NHS or public health bodies that they’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus.
Covid-19 risk level and case volumes by local area and region
The Government is publishing a daily dashboard showing data on the latest number of Covid-19 cases and risk levels across the UK.
You can look by local authority and region to see relevant information local to you. The ‘rate’ shows the number of cases per 100,000 population, so is more indicative of the level of risk as a comparison to other areas of the UK.
Practical tips for businesses planning a safe return to work
The Government is advising that businesses take the following 5 practical steps to help keep employees and customers safe in the workplace:
- Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
- Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
- Help people to work from home
- Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible
- Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk
Businesses are continuing to access support packages
HMRC is publishing weekly data to show the number of businesses and individuals claiming from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.
During the past week a further 14,000 businesses have furloughed 400,000 more employees, taking the total numbers on furlough to 8.4 million, with one million businesses now using the scheme.
Later this week, the Chancellor is expected to announce how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will work when it expires in its current format at the end of July, providing some much-needed certainty to businesses facing tough decisions.
Those claiming from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme rose by 300,000 during the past week, taking the total number to 2.3 million.
UK Government sets out a timeline for retail to reopen
The UK Government has announced a roadmap for reopening a broader range of retail outlets starting from next month, including car showrooms.
Updated guidance for the retail sector has been published alongside this announcement.
From 1 June 2020, it intends to allow outdoor markets to reopen, subject to all premises being made COVID-secure, as well as car showrooms, which often have significant outdoor space.
From 15 June 2020, UK Government wants to allow other retailers to open, ranging from shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets - if the Government’s five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines.
System now open for claiming back Statutory Sick Pay
The online service you’ll use to claim back Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid to employees due to coronavirus is now open.
You can check service availability and issues online.
Those entering the UK must travel by private car
The Government has announced new measures at the UK border, which includes 14 days’ self-isolation for anyone entering the UK, bar a short list of exemptions.
In an announcement delivered by the Home Secretary, Priti Patel on Friday, the Government states that people should use personal transport, such as a car, to travel to their accommodation. They should not use public transport or taxis.
Once they have arrived at their accommodation, they should remain there for 14 days. The measures have been introduced to guard against a second wave of coronavirus infections.
Consumer sentiment research on travel and tourism
Consumer insights consultancy BVA-BDRC is publishing weekly research briefings that track consumer sentiment in relation to tourism and leisure.
BVRLA webinar on working with Covid-19
Over 100 members tuned in to the BVRLA’s Working with Covid webinar yesterday to receive a thorough update on the wider automotive market and how it is responding to the Coronavirus.
The free webinar has now been uploaded and can be viewed on the BVRLA website.
Expert speakers from Autotrader, cap hpi, the Finance & Leasing Association and Jardine Motors Group joined the BVRLA on the webinar to discuss current Covid-19 priorities, motor finance trends, consumer confidence research and trends, the used vehicle market and outlook and vehicle logistics from a dealership perspective.
Government hosts webinars on working safely during Coronavirus
The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is hosting a series of free webinars to support businesses preparing their organisations and employees for a safe return to work.
Last week the Government issued guidance on working safely during Coronavirus to support organisations that are currently permitted to open.
The webinars reflect the guidance and cover different types of workplace settings.
BVRLA members will be particularly interested in registering for one or more of the following:
- Shops and Branches - Thursday 28 May, 11am. For those who run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.
- Vehicles - Thursday 28 May, 3pm. For those who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar.
- Offices and contact centres - Tuesday 2 June, 11am. For those who run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.
Transport for London briefs businesses
Transport for London has published a Briefing for Business outlining the city’s plan to help London re-open carefully, safely and sustainably following lockdown.
The plan explains that the public transport system will need to operate very differently because of the huge reduction in capacity as a result of the national requirement to maintain two metres distance between passengers.
Larger businesses to benefit from loans of up to £200 million
The Government yesterday announced that it is extending the maximum loan size available through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £50 million to £200 million.
Loans under the expanded scheme will be made available to large businesses affected by coronavirus from next week.
Companies receiving help through CLBILS and the Bank of England’s Coronavirus Corporate Financing Fund will be asked to agree to not pay dividends and to exercise restraint on senior pay.
Dedicated Business Support Helplines for all regions of the UK
Businesses can access free, impartial business support and signposting services, including business advice on Covid-19 by calling a dedicated helpline:
The Business Support Helpline number for businesses in England has changed to 0800 998 1098.
For businesses in Scotland the helpline number is 0300 303 0660, in Wales it is 0330 060 300 and in Northern Ireland it is 0800 181 4422.
Outlook for the automotive sector post pandemic
Recent weeks have seen a surge in commentary reporting on what the future may hold for the automotive sector and its different business models and technologies. Here are a few:
ING Bank highlights research from consultants CapGemini that shows that 40% of people under 35 in the UK are considering buying a car in 2020. It also points to a potential delay in the uptake of mobility services, particularly car sharing, and assesses the impact of low fuel prices and an economic downturn on demand for electric vehicles.
FT article picks up from the ING report and assesses the potential for any short- or long-term pick-up in demand for cars, particularly from a younger demographic worried about using public transport. It also quotes high-profile figures within the automotive sector on the likelihood for any government incentives or scrappage schemes and whether these will be solely based on electric vehicles.
Bloomberg NEF Electric Vehicle Outlook 2020 The Bloomberg New Economic Forum team have just published their annual EV Outlook, which provides industry-acknowledged forecasts on EV model availability, demand, share of new vehicle sales and growth in demand for new mobility services.
Cyber Security Guidance for businesses during Covid-19
The National Cyber Security Centre has today published guidance to support businesses moving from physical to digital delivery as part of the ongoing Covid-19 response.
The guidance includes advice on home working, video teleconferencing and spotting email scams related to Covid-19.
Department for International Trade hosts series of webinars
The DIT is running a series of hour-long webinars to help businesses during the Covid-19 whose operations rely on international trade. You can register to attend via the following links:
Risk management when considering new markets takes place at 10am tomorrow (Thursday 21 May)
Managing disruption of supply chains during COVID-19 takes place at 2.30pm on Friday 22 May
Apprentice programme guidance is updated
Guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations has been updated to include the Government’s new safer working guidelines and information on calculating wages for furloughed apprentices, off-the-job training, and redundant apprentices.
Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme opens in one week
This scheme will allow small and medium-sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to apply to HMRC to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related SSP.
Latest figures show uptake of financial support for businesses
New figures on the UK-wide government support schemes for individuals and businesses have been published today showing that over 10 million are benefiting from the schemes in place.
Eight million jobs have been furloughed, two million have claimed Self-employment Income Support and just under 500,000 businesses have taken up the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme or the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
Anybody with Covid-19 symptoms can now be tested
The Government confirmed yesterday that anyone experiencing a new, continuous cough; high temperature; and now also a loss of or change in their normal sense of smell or taste can book a test by visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus.
Those unable to access the internet can call 119 in England and Wales or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland and Northern Ireland to book a test.
Staying safe outside your home
Guidance outlining the principles you should follow to ensure that time spent outside your home is as safe as possible has been updated. It now includes the loss or change in your normal sense of small or taste as a new official coronavirus symptom.
An affected sense of smell is confirmed as a coronavirus symptom
The UK Chief Medical Officer has announced that from today, all individuals should self-isolate if they develop anosmia – which is the loss of or a change in your normal sense of smell.
It can also affect your sense of taste as the two are closely linked. A new continuous cough or fever are also symptoms that also require self-isolation.
All members of a symptomatic household must self-isolate according to current guidelines, unless the symptomatic individual receives a negative test result.
Freight industry exempt from international travel restrictions
Freight industry guidance on international travel during the Covid-19 pandemic states that international and domestic freight transport, including by air, ship, road and rail, is classified by UK government as an essential activity in the context of its travel advice.
The advice against non-essential travel is not intended to apply to international and domestic freight transport.
Coronavirus Business Support Blog
The Government’s Coronavirus Business Support Blog from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is where you can find out how other businesses have used government support schemes and working safely guidance.
Current case studies include Aston Martin and KFC, which detail how they have been making their workplaces COVID-secure.
Automotive aftermarket launches COVID-19 guidance
The UK automotive aftermarket sector has signalled its readiness to cope with increased demand for MOT tests, service, maintenance and repair with the publication of a new sector-specific guide to help restart the aftermarket.
The 7-page document has been produced as a collaboration between the Garage Equipment Association (GEA), Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF), Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA) and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Sector-specific guide for manufacturers during Covid
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has published a set of new sector-specific guidance for UK automotive manufacturing industry as manufacturers across England begin to introduce staff back into the workplace.
The new 12-page guidance provides best-practice advice to help to ensure that all automotive production sites are safe spaces for workers.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The coronavirus crisis has taken a heavy toll on the automotive industry but, as lockdown measures begin to ease, at last there is some light at the end of the tunnel. […] However, to accelerate this crucial sector’s recovery we need all parts of the jigsaw to be in place, starting with the reopening of automotive showrooms to drive essential market demand.”
Holiday entitlement and pay during Covid-19
The Government has published guidance outlining how holiday entitlement and pay operate during the coronavirus pandemic. It is designed to help employers understand their legal obligations in terms of workers who continue to work and those who have been furloughed.
Government borrowing at highest levels since WWII
The Office for Budget Responsibility currently estimates that the cost of the coronavirus response to the UK Government is at £123.2bn. It expects government borrowing to equal 15.2% of the UK economy, the highest level since the end of World War Two. As the country moves beyond the pandemic, reducing the deficit will be a key challenge for the government.
Transport for London receives grant to keep services going
The Government has allocated £1.6 billion to TfL to support the continuation of services in the Capital. £505 million of the grant is a loan.
The agreement includes increasing service levels as soon as possible to ensure people can follow social distancing guidelines while on the network, making sure those who have no alternative to public transport can travel safely.
How Covid-19 testing works
The Government has published guidance on testing for the public, patients and professional users of testing kits to explain how they work. Information has also been published on where tests can be accessed.
The BVRLA Guide to Operating during the Covid-19 pandemic
The association has published a 20-page guide for members, tailored specifically for those operating in the vehicle rental and leasing sectors.
It will be updated as new advice and guidance emerges from Government. If you have any questions about this guidance or would like to provide feedback, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
SMMT and NFDA publish joint safety guidance as they urge dealers to re-open
The SMMT and NFDA have published joint guidance advising vehicle retailers on how they can safely restart their businesses.
The best-practice guidance covers the entire customer experience, from booking appointments to showroom interactions, test drives, click & collect, part exchanges and aftersales, and includes advice on staff training, signage, sanitation and protective personal equipment (PPE). Developed together with dealers and manufacturers, it is designed to complement government guidance for the overall UK retail sector, to help dealers of all shapes and sizes implement legal requirements as part of individual risk assessments in line with their unique business and customer needs.
Car showrooms are scheduled to re-open from June 1 as part of a planned phased opening of non-essential retail outlets outlined in the Government’s COVID-19 recovery roadmap.
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme now open
From 8am today, Wednesday 13 May 2020, self-employed individuals or members of partnerships whose business has been adversely affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
The grant is worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500, and will be paid in a single instalment. You can check eligibility for the scheme and make a claim if you are eligible.
Self-employed people can register to attend a HMRC webinar which provides further information on the scheme.
New taskforces set up to plan for opening of closed businesses
The Government has set up five new ministerial-led taskforces to develop plans for how and when closed sectors can reopen safely:
- international aviation led by the Department for Transport
- pubs and restaurants led by Department for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy)
- non-essential retail, including salons led by Department for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy
- recreation and leisure, including tourism, culture and heritage, libraries, entertainment and sport led by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport
- places of worship, including faith, community and public buildings led by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government
Government to guarantee Trade Credit insurance
The Government has today announced that it will temporarily guarantee business-to-business transactions currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance, ensuring that the majority of insurance coverage will be maintained across the market.
Job Retention Scheme extended and will become more flexible
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the lifeline for millions of UK workers, announcing that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), due to finish at the end of June, is being extended to the end of October.
In an announcement earlier today the Chancellor confirmed that the scheme will be maintained in its current format until the end of July.
From August the scheme will become more flexible, with employers able to bring furloughed staff back to work on a part-time basis. The Chancellor also indicated that he would be expecting employers to contribute towards the cost of furloughing from August onwards.
The scheme has so far helped over a million businesses to furlough 7.5 million people. The CIPD claims that the CJRS has already safeguarded 4.2 million jobs in the UK.
“The extension of the CJRS is great news for all employers that are trying to plan their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said BVRLA Chief Executive, Gerry Keaney.
“We would like to thank all of the members that provided their feedback on this topic and helped us send a clear message to Government.”
Full details of how the Job Retention Scheme will work beyond July will be announced later this month.
Government publishes new COVID-19 safety guidelines for the workplace
The government has published guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed to understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
It covers eight workplace settings and with many businesses operating in more than one type of workplace, such as an office, a branch and a fleet of vehicles, you may need to use more than one of these guides as you consider what you need to do to keep everybody safe.
The guidance sets out practical steps for businesses focused on five key points, which should be implemented as soon as it is practical:
- Work from home, if you can
- Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions
- Maintain two metres social distancing, wherever possible
- Where people cannot be two metres apart, manage transmission risk
- Reinforce cleaning processes
The eight workplace settings with published ‘Covid-19 secure guidelines’ are as follows:
Vehicles – for those who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar.
Shops and branches – for those who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.
Offices and contact centres – for those who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments
Construction and other outdoor work – for those who work in or run outdoor work environments.
Factories, plants and warehouses - for those who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses
Homes – for those who work in, visit or deliver to home environments as well as their employers
Labs and research facilities – for those who work in or run indoor labs and research facilities and similar environments
Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery – for those who work in or run restaurants offering takeaway or delivery services.
The BVRLA is currently working on more detailed and specific safety guidance for the vehicle rental and leasing sector. This will be cross-referenced with the new government guidelines and published shortly.
Guidance for transport operators
The government has published guidance to help organisations, agencies and self-employed transport providers understand how to provide safer workplaces and services for themselves, their workers and passengers across all modes of private and public transport.
Updated social distancing guidance
COVID-19 lockdown FAQs updated
Following the Prime Minister’s recent announcements unveiling his roadmap to releasing the lockdown, commentators and the public have voiced concerns that they are confused about what they now can and cannot do.
To provide some clarity, the government has updated its set of FAQs which outlines what people can and cannot do as of tomorrow (Wednesday 13 May). This only applies to people in England. Those in other parts of the UK should follow the rules of their respective devolved nation.
Active transport strategy to ease pressure on public transport
Pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors will be created in England within weeks, as part of a £250 million emergency active travel fund to relieve the pressure on public transport.
Government publishes COVID-19 recovery strategy
The Government has today published a 60-page document outlining the UK Government’s plan for rebuilding and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The document, which the Government hopes will provide a roadmap for exiting the lockdown and living with the virus, included three specific areas of interest for members:
- Workplace safety guidelines - Later this week, the Government will publish new guidelines that will set out how each type of physical space can be adapted to operate safely. The BVRLA is developing some sector-specific operational guidance for the vehicle rental and leasing sectors and this will be published once the association has been able to cross-check it against the new Government material.
- Reduced public transport use – People that must travel to work are being advised to avoid public transport. The BVRLA is working with officials at the DfT to ascertain what role the vehicle rental and car club sector could play in helping staff with any commuting or business travel needs.
- Winding down of support measures – The Government describes these as ‘extraordinarily costly’ and says they ‘cannot be sustained for a prolonged period’. The BVRLA continues to engage with policymakers on ways in which the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme can be wound down as it supports a gradual return to work for many furloughed workers.
PM’s announcement splits Covid messaging across the UK
Yesterday the Prime Minister addressed the nation, announcing a new change in emphasis replacing the ‘Stay home’ message with ‘Stay alert’, stating that those who cannot work from home should now be encouraged to return to work.
Although the Prime Minister suggested that there is consensus across the devolved nations, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have made clear that they will be sticking with the ‘Stay home’ message as they believe it is too early to ask people to leave their homes and go back to work.
The PM’s announcement sets out a ‘conditional’ roadmap for the slow easing of restrictions based on whether people follow the rules and achieve satisfactory levels for the five tests, which require that we must:
- protect our NHS
- see sustained falls in the death rate
- see sustained and considerable falls in the rate of infection
- sort out our challenges in getting enough PPE to the people who need it
- make sure that any measures we take do not force the reproduction rate of the disease - the R - back up over one
If these are at a satisfactory level, then the easing of restrictions can progress. If not, then restrictions will remain, be re-introduced or be further strengthened.
Public advised to cover faces in enclosed spaces
The public is advised to consider wearing face coverings in enclosed public spaces to help reduce the spread of coronavirus although face coverings are not a replacement for social distancing and regular handwashing, which remain the most important actions.
New BVRLA webinar: Working with COVID-19
As the Government begins lifting the COVID-19 lockdown, a new BVRLA webinar will give a status report on the recovery of the automotive market.
On Wednesday May 20th, the BVRLA will join forces with expert speakers from Autotrader, cap hpi, the FLA and Jardine Motor Group to give members a steer on:
- Current COVID-19 priorities for the BVRLA
- Motor finance
- Consumer confidence
- Used vehicle market and outlook
- Vehicle movements
“Businesses and consumers are starting to think about how they recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and the lockdown,” said BVRLA Director of Corporate Affairs, Toby Poston.
“Within the automotive industry, people are assessing the state of their own sector and making plans for how they can operate safely while the virus remains a threat.
“By bringing experts together from across the industry, we can provide BVRLA members with a holistic view of what is happening within their wider supply chain - giving them greater confidence in building their own recovery plans.”
The webinar will be hosted by Lee Hamlett, Chairman of the BVRLA’s RVR (Residual Values and Remarketing) Committee.
BVRLA members can register for this free event here.
Staying safe outside your home
The Government has published guidance to set out the principles you should follow to ensure that time spent with others outside your home is as safe as possible.
If you are clinically vulnerable or extremely vulnerable, you should follow the guidance on social distancing and for vulnerable people.
New road signs for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to help social distancing
The Department for Transport has issued statutory guidance for local authorities to help reallocate road space to ensure adherence to social distancing rules.
The Government hopes that people will avoid public transport and will instead travel by car or if possible, walk or cycle.
On Friday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also announced a £2 billion package to put cycling and walking at the heart of Government’s transport policy.
CMA expectations around customer refunds
Government guidance published by the Competition & Markets Authority states that consumer protection law will generally allow consumers to obtain a refund.
For most consumer contracts the CMA would expect a consumer to be offered a full refund where:
- a business has cancelled a contract without providing any of the promised goods or services;
- no service is provided by a business, for example because this is prevented by Government public health measures;
- a consumer cancels, or is prevented from receiving any services, because Government public health measures mean they are not allowed to use the services.
Company car guidance during Covid
HMRC has published new guidance on the treatment of Benefit-in-Kind and company cars during the Covid crisis.
Where restrictions on movement apply because of coronavirus and prevent the car from being handed back or collected, HMRC will accept that a company car is unavailable in the following circumstances:
- where the contract has terminated - from the date that the car keys (including tabs or fobs) are returned to the employer or to a third party as instructed by the employer
- where the contract has not been terminated – after 30 consecutive days from the date that the car keys (including tabs or fobs) are returned to the employer or to a third party as instructed by the employer
It also recognises that following relaxation of coronavirus restrictions it may take some time to return cars where contracts have been terminated. If your employee continues to have no access to the keys until the car is collected from them, HMRC will still regard the car as being unavailable.
Cyber security awareness
National cyber security authorities have issued guidance to help businesses to protect themselves against cyber criminals who are targeting individuals, small and medium enterprises, and large organizations worldwide with COVID-19-related scams and phishing campaigns.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the National Cyber Security Centre, which is part of GCHQ, have seen an increase in malicious activity with themes related to COVID-19 and are warning people to be extra vigilant.
New car and van registrations plummet during Covid crisis
Latest Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures published yesterday show a record fall in new car registrations with April figures down -97.3% as coronavirus shuts showrooms.
April saw 4,321 new car registrations as deliveries continue to frontline workers and organisations. In stark contrast, there were 161,064 new cars registered in April last year.
The SMMT are predicting that the year will end with around 1.68 million new car registrations during 2020. The lowest since 1992.
The picture was equally as bleak in the new van market with new light commercial vehicle registrations down -86.2% in April compared to the same period last year.
Year-to-date performance for both car and van registrations is almost half that of 2019.
Business rates revaluation postponed
A revaluation of business rates will no longer take place in 2021 to help reduce uncertainty for firms. This comes after the business rates retail discount was increased to 100% from 50% for 2020 to 2021 to help businesses affected by the impacts of coronavirus.
The government is continuing work on the fundamental review of business rates, with the key aims of reducing the overall burden on businesses, improving the current business rates system, and considering more fundamental changes in the medium-to-long term.
Government explores options to wind down furlough scheme
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak is preparing to wind down the furlough scheme from July and is exploring options to avoid a ‘cliff edge’ for businesses and employees currently relying on this support.
HM Treasury is still considering several options for tapering the furlough scheme, including cutting the 80% wage subsidy paid by the state to 60% and lowering the £2,500 cap on monthly payments.
Plans are expected to be announced before the middle of May.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that the scheme could cost £42bn over three months if as many as 8.3 million people are furloughed at an 80% subsidy.
Self-employed invited to get ready to make their claims for support
Those who are eligible will be able to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average trading profits up to a maximum of £7,500 (equivalent to three months’ profits), paid in a single instalment.
You can check your eligibility using the new online checker tool. Once the online check is complete, those who are eligible will be given a date when they can submit their claim.
The claims service will open on 13 May and is being delivered ahead of the original timetable. The claims process will be very simple, and those eligible will have the money paid into their bank account by 25 May, or within six working days of completing a claim.
There is also further guidance available on ‘How HMRC works out trading profits and non-trading income for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme’ and ‘How different circumstances affect the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme’.
Furlough scheme not sustainable long-term
In a recent interview Chancellor Rishi Sunak acknowledged that, with over half of all adults currently being paid by the state, the furlough scheme is not a long-term sustainable solution.
Nonetheless, he indicated that the scheme will not be stopped abruptly, saying: “to anyone that is anxious about this [the end of the scheme] I want to give them reassurance today that there will be no cliff edge to the furlough scheme. I’m working, as we speak, to figure out the most effective way to wind down the scheme and to ease people back into work in a measured way.”
The BVRLA continues to call upon Government to ask for a more flexible approach that enables businesses to have the option of furloughing staff on a part-time basis as part of phasing in a safe return to work.
Local authority payments to small and medium sized businesses
As at 3 May, over £8.6 billion had been paid out to over 697,000 organisations, according to Government figures showing local authority grant payments.
The figures include payments of the Small Business Grants Fund scheme and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund.
To date, around three-quarters of eligible businesses have applied for the grants, funded by a £12.3 billion allocation from central government to local authorities across England.
Government launches test, track and trace plan
Isle of Wight residents will be the first to get access to a new contact tracing app as part of government action to minimise the spread of COVID-19.
The Isle of Wight was chosen to trial the project because it has a single NHS trust that covers all NHS services on the island. Everyone on the island will receive access to the official NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app from this Thursday, with NHS and council staff able to download from 4pm today, Tuesday 5 May.
The app is part of the government’s next phase of the coronavirus strategy and will improve understanding of how a new integrated approach to test, track and trace will work for the rest of the population.
Applications open today for new loan scheme
On Friday, the Chancellor sent a letter to all accredited lenders under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) setting out the interest rate that Bounce Back Loans will be offered at and outlining legislative and regulatory changes being made to support the delivery of the scheme.
Top-up to local business grant funds scheme
A discretionary fund has been set up to accommodate certain small businesses in England previously outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme. This additional fund is aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs.
Businesses must be small, under 50 employees, and they must also be able to demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop of income due to Coronavirus restriction measures. Local authorities may choose to make payments to other businesses based on local economic need.
PM to outline plan for phased easing of lockdown
Boris Johnson is expected to make an announcement on Sunday 10 May outlining the Government’s roadmap to unlock various parts of the UK economy.
The lifting of lockdown measures is not expected to happen all at once and will instead be phased in gradually, allowing the government to monitor the impact of changes at a national and local level.
The Government will closely monitor the impact of any easing of restrictions and will reintroduce any measures that might be required to deal with a localised coronavirus outbreak.
BVRLA works with BEIS on ‘back-to-business' guidance
BEIS is working with management consultancy EY to produce guidance aimed at helping British industry to resume its business activity in a safe way.
It is looking to structure this by workplace environment - retail, hospitality, distribution & logistics, offices, etc - rather than by sector or industry type.
EY is co-ordinating the input from industry, trade unions and others and the BVRLA has been providing specific input and feedback on behalf of the vehicle rental, leasing and fleet sector.
Proposals being considered for how workplaces might operate following the easing of lockdown restrictions include:
- Firms will be expected to implement staggered shifts and keep employees two meters apart where possible. If it is not possible for workers to stay two meters apart, additional measures should be implemented, such as the use of PPE and additional hygiene procedures. Workers may also be allowed to be closer than two meters apart, although only for a very limited time period.
- In offices, hot desking will be stopped, canteens closed, lifts kept half-empty and employees told to try to avoid face-to-face meetings. Workers that deal with customers will have to be protected by plastic screens and appropriate safety equipment.
- Workers who can work from home will be encouraged to do so, potentially for months, to ease the burden on a severely restricted public transport system.
- Workers considered vulnerable (for instance those over 70, pregnant, or with underlying organ or respiratory problems) but who cannot work from home should be put in the ‘safest possible roles’ in the workplace.
- Businesses will be asked to provide more parking spaces to allow colleagues to travel into work separately, alongside additional bike parking.
- Every firm with more than five staff will have to produce a document setting out how the firm will maintain safe working during the current pandemic.
Supplies of PPE
The government would like to get an industry perspective on the availability and use of personal protective equipment (PPE). It is particularly interested in understanding:
- What type of PPE is required for your business to enable safer working? Can the amount be qualified or quantified?
- What other measures (other than or alongside PPE) need to be in place for business in your sector to operate safely?
- Are you experiencing shortages of traditional PPE (e.g. dust masks)?
- How critical is the need for your sector to access PPE in order to operate safely (bearing in mind the need for critical workers to receive these resources first)?
It has asked the BVRLA to collate some input on behalf of the vehicle rental, leasing and fleet sectors. To share your views, please get in touch with BVRLA Fleet Services Director, Amanda Brandon at email@example.com.
BVRLA collaborates on operational guidance
The BVRLA is working with other trade bodies in the automotive industry to develop some COVID-19 safety guidance on key operational issues, including vehicle collections, deliveries and cleaning.
If there are any other operational issues that you would like to see covered by this kind of industry-wide guidance, please get in touch with BVRLA Fleet Services Director, Amanda Brandon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Government invites key workers to get tested
Government is encouraging key workers who cannot work from home to apply for a coronavirus test. Tests are completely voluntary, and you do not have to take it, but are encouraged to do so.
The test will confirm whether you currently have coronavirus, enabling you to take the right steps to look after yourself, protect others, know if you are fit and well to return to your critical role and potentially reduce the amount of time you have to self-isolate for.
There are three ways testing can be done. Either at home, at a mobile unit or at a regional test site. The Government has published full details on how the data being collated will be used.
The BVRLA website is updated daily with Covid-19 Business advice and information
As well as receiving these Covid-19 Bulletin emails, members are also reminded that the BVRLA website contains a dedicated Covid-19 Business Advice section hosting all the latest information as well as the previous Covid-19 Bulletins that have been issued since they launched on 17 March.
If you have a colleague who would also like to receive the BVRLA Covid-19 Bulletin, they should email BVRLA Communications Manager Andrea Davies at email@example.com
Coronavirus: what you can and can’t do
The Government has today published a set of frequently asked questions, helping people to understand what they can and cannot do during the coronavirus outbreak.
Guidance for firms handling complaints during the Covid crisis
The Financial Conduct Authority has today published information clarifying how firms should handle complaints during the coronavirus crisis.
The FCA understands that firms’ capacity to handle complaints could be reduced as a result of coronavirus, but they expect firms to prioritise the following three things:
- paying promptly complainants who have been offered redress and accepted that offer
- the prompt and fair resolution of complaints from:
- consumers who are likely to be vulnerable to harm if their complaint is not resolved promptly and fairly, and
- micro-enterprises and small businesses who are likely to face serious financial difficulties if their complaint is not resolved promptly and fairly
- sending timely holding responses to those complainants in 2. where their complaints cannot be resolved promptly
If firms cannot deliver these priorities effectively through home working, then there should be a minimal physical onsite presence needed to do so, provided that the site is configured for social distancing in line with Government guidelines.
The regulator reiterates that firms should take all reasonable steps to ensure as much complaint handling as possible continues through staff working from home, where this can be done fairly and effectively.
Businesses warned of increase in Mandate Fraud
The UK’s Counter Fraud function is warning businesses of an emerging trend in ‘Mandate Fraud’ as criminals look to exploit the fact that the public sector is rapidly changing ways of working, spending money quickly to deal with COVID-19.
Mandate Fraud is a fraudulent request to change a direct debit, standing order or bank transfer mandate in order to divert payments or to create new payments.
It can affect customer, supplier or employee bank accounts and is also known as creditor fraud, payment diversion fraud or supplier account takeover fraud.
The BVRLA website is updated daily with Covid-19 Business advice and information
As well as receiving these Covid-19 Bulletin emails, members are also reminded that the BVRLA website contains a dedicated Covid-19 Business Advice section hosting all the latest information as well as the previous Covid-19 Bulletins that have been issued since they launched on 17 March.
Five tests that will determine UK Covid response
The Government has outlined five tests that remain key when determining the strategy to manage the UK’s Covid response and any exit from the current ‘lockdown’. They state that we must:
- continue to boost NHS capacity, preventing it from being overwhelmed.
- see a sustained and consistent fall in the number of deaths.
- see further reductions in the rate of infection to manageable levels, across all the relevant areas and settings.
- be confident that the NHS will be able to cope with future demands, including as a result of any changes to existing measures or new measures we need to take.
- be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that could overwhelm the NHS.
Delivering yesterday’s daily coronavirus press conference, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “A second spike would be harmful to public health, resulting in many more deaths from Covid-19. That itself would lead to a second lockdown, inflicting further prolonged economic pain on the country.”
Government ramps up on Covid-19 testing
The Government has announced a major new programme of home testing for coronavirus to track the progress of the infection across England.
In the first part of the Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT-1) programme, 100,000 randomly selected people from 315 local authorities across England will be invited to provide nose and throat swabs, which will be tested for antigens indicating the presence of the virus. This kind of test looks for evidence that someone is currently infected with the coronavirus.
In the second part of the programme (REACT-2), a number of different antibody tests will be assessed for their accuracy and ease of use at home.
The programme forms part of the government’s COVID-19 testing strategy
CBI Survey highlights car dealers as having a tough time
April’s monthly health check of high street and online sales from the CBI reported that two-thirds of businesses had been adversely affected by the pandemic and almost all said they were experiencing cashflow problems.
Wholesalers and car dealers – also covered by the survey – had an even tougher start to the lockdown than retailers.
The CBI said 79% of retailers were suffering from an annual fall in business against 11% reporting an increase, but every one of the 24 motor traders surveyed said activity was down.
According to the survey, which was carried out between 27 March and 15 April:
67% of retailers said the Covid-19 outbreak was having a significant negative impact on their sales.
39% of retailers reported a total shutdown of UK activity due to the outbreak.
44% of retailers reported furloughing staff, while 8% reported permanent staff layoffs.
96% of retailers reported cashflow difficulties, with 40% facing difficulties meeting tax liabilities. A further 31% of retailers also faced constraints on the availability of external finance.
Private sector will carry deep scars following lockdown
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) says that Britain’s economy is likely to lose out on £800bn of income over the next 10 years as the lockdown and a spike in unemployment leave deep scars on the private sector.
The thinktank expects the economy to bounce back next year, but not to its previous level and with the unemployment rate still above 5% after hitting 10.5% this year.
A second peak in the coronavirus outbreak or a prolonged shutdown into the summer would add between a third and a half more to the loss of income this year, NIESR added.
NIESR estimates that the global economy will shrink by 3.5% compared with just 0.5% following the financial crash in 2008, before bouncing back by 7% next year.
The BVRLA website is updated daily with Covid-19 Business advice and information
As well as receiving these Covid-19 Bulletin emails, members are also reminded that the BVRLA website contains a dedicated Covid-19 Business Advice section hosting all the latest information as well as the previous Covid-19 Bulletins that have been issued since they launched on 17 March.
Lenders relax evidence requirements for coronavirus loan scheme applications
To speed up the provision of finance to small and medium-sized businesses under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the largest seven SME lenders (Barclays Bank UK, Danske Bank, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, NatWest, Santander and Virgin Money) have stated that rather than relying on businesses providing forecasts and business plans in applications, lenders will use their own information.
While the exact details of the changes are still to be released, the moves should make the loan scheme easier to access and make the application process quicker.
Coronavirus testing expanded to include all essential workers with symptoms
Coronavirus testing in England has now been expanded to include any worker who needs to leave home to travel to work and cannot work from home.
The guidance has now been updated and the full list for testing now includes:
- all those working on the frontline in health and social care (with or without symptoms)
- patients in the NHS and residents in care homes (with or without symptoms)
- all other essential workers with symptoms
- people who live with essential workers and have symptoms
- people over 65 with symptoms
- anyone who goes into work because they cannot work from home (for example, construction workers) and has symptoms
VED consultation extended along with nine other tax policy consultations
HM Treasury and HMRC have set out new timelines for tax policy consultations extending the deadlines for responses to ten tax policy consultations and calls for evidence by three months.
The Call for evidence on Vehicle Excise Duty is amongst the delayed consultations, which has now been extended to 3 September 2020.
The government’s position on publication of tax policy documents will be kept updated through the public consultations tracker.
Guidance for cleaning of non-healthcare settings
The Government has issued revised guidance for businesses on how to safety clean areas in non-healthcare settings such as:
- waiting rooms
- hotel rooms
- student accommodation
The guidance describes the cleaning required, the appropriate disposal of materials, the cleaning of equipment and hard surfaces, and the personal protective equipment (PPE) that should be worn.
Wages for furloughed staff are now being paid through the Job Retention Scheme
Those who have already made a claim should receive payment within six working days from when a claim was submitted, and it will automatically be sent to the bank account you nominated.
Those who have not yet made a claim can still claim online for a grant for 80% of your furloughed employees’ salaries, up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee, per month. You will receive the funds six working days after you claim, provided your claim matches records that HMRC holds for your PAYE scheme.
Please continue to keep furloughed staff informed and ask them not to contact HMRC directly.
BEIS hosts webinar on financial support for small businesses
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is inviting businesses to register to join a free webinar hosted at 11am on Tuesday 5 May to find out how small business can access the coronavirus business support measures that have been made available to UK businesses.
HMRC hosts webinar on Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
HMRC is inviting businesses to register to join a free webinar providing an overview of the SSP rebate scheme, including:
- who can claim
- when to start paying SSP
- employees you can claim for
- making a claim
- keeping records
The webinar is being ran several times between 29 April and 1 May, enabling you to choose the time that best suits you.
New loan scheme for small businesses to boost cashflow within days
The Chancellor has introduced a new Bounce Back Loans scheme which will allow businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 and access the cash within days.
From Monday 4 May, businesses can apply online through a short and simple form.
The Government will provide lenders with a 100% guarantee for the loan and pay any fees and interest for the first 12 months, providing businesses with a one-year interest free loan. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months.
Firms will be able to access these loans through a network of accredited lenders. The government will work with lenders to ensure loans delivered through this scheme are advanced as quickly as possible and agree a low standardised level of interest for the remaining period of the loan.
BVRLA explores options for getting the sector back up and running safely
The BVRLA is working with members and talking to industry colleagues and government to explore ways in which the sector can get back to work in a sustainable way.
One of the things being discussed is a more flexible type of furloughing that would allow firms to bring staff back to work on a part-time basis. This call was recently echoed by the New Shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds MP, who cited Switzerland as an example for the UK to follow.
The BVRLA is currently working on a policy paper on this topic. If any members would like to provide some input, they can contact BVRLA Senior Policy Advisor, Catherine Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public invited to ask questions at daily coronavirus press conference
The Government has changed the format of the daily coronavirus conference to now also include questions from the public.
Anybody over 18 years old can submit a question and questions are reviewed at midday on the day of the press conference, with one selected each day. So far 15,000 questions have been submitted. You can submit questions at www.gov.uk/ask.
Update on VAT deferment
The Government has published updated guidance on Deferral of VAT payments due to coronavirus, to help businesses manage their cashflow.
You can only defer:
- quarterly and monthly VAT returns’ payments for the periods ending in February, March and April
- payments on account due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020
- annual accounting advance payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020
Guidance to protect your business against scams and fraud
With people spending more time at home and online, criminals are using every opportunity they can to scam innocent people and their businesses.
This guidance explains the simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your business against fraud and cybercrime and where to get help.
New guidance on COVID-19 and salary sacrifice arrangements
The HMRC’s recent Employer Bulletin included some updated guidance for employers on salary sacrifice arrangements which make allowances for the impact of COVID-19.
Its rules allow for employees to opt out of a salary sacrifice arrangement if their financial circumstances have been significantly impacted by a change in their lifestyle - for example a marriage, divorce or partner becoming pregnant or being made redundant.
The new guidance means that employees whose circumstances have now changed because of the coronavirus can now approach their employer to have their salary sacrifice agreement terminated early, with a resulting uplift in their salary as the sum previously sacrificed is returned. Similarly, employers can use the same criteria to suspend or terminate an employee’s salary sacrifice arrangement – with their agreement.
Transport Routes Support Package
The Government is introducing a range of measures to keep trade routes open, including:
- pledges to protect flow of goods between the UK, mainland Europe and Northern Ireland.
- UK, Ireland and France agreeing joint commitment to protecting freight during pandemic
- light rail systems in Sheffield, Manchester, West Midlands, Nottingham and Tyne and Wear also set to receive support
- thousands of volunteers from transport sector are put on standby to support frontline services as new ‘Transport Support Unit’ established, alongside hundreds of government vehicles from the transport network
Grant Funds Subject to Tax
The Government has updated the Guidance on the grant fund schemes to clarify that all grants made under the scheme are subject to tax should the business make a profit during the current financial year.
FCA confirms its stance on motor finance during the coronavirus crisis
The FCA has finalised its position on the support it expects motor finance providers to give to consumer credit customers that are experiencing coronavirus-related payment difficulties.
The authority has also published guidance to accompany the measures, which come into force from Monday 27th April and are expected to last for three months. The key points are:
- Payment deferrals: the FCA will require firms to provide a three-month payment deferral, unless they can make a case that this is obviously not in the customer’s interests to do so. In such cases, firms should provide other ways to help these customers, for example by offering shorter payment deferral periods, reduced payments or a rescheduled term. The guidance does not prevent firms from considering individual customer circumstances, including looking at a customer’s income and expenditure.
- Pre-existing factors & repossessions: where a customer was already experiencing payment difficulties unrelated to coronavirus, the FCA’s existing forbearance rules and guidance in CONC will continue to apply. The FCA moratorium on repossessions is limited to those consumers who are experiencing temporary payment difficulties as a result of circumstances relating to coronavirus and need use of a vehicle.
- Financial impact on firms: FCA is engaging with firms to understand their financial position. Where firms are concerned about the impact of providing payment deferrals or other forbearance according to the new guidance, they should contact the authority as soon as possible.
- Consumer Credit Act: The FCA does not consider that the measures set out in the guidance should result in firms being unable to comply with statutory requirements. It is happy with additional communication being sent with notices of sums in arrears to explain why the notice has been sent.
The BVRLA welcomes the flexibility and pragmatism provided in the guidance, but continues to engage with the FCA and HM Treasury on some vital related issues:
- The need for government to underwrite the full economic loss of providing coronavirus forbearance
- The government should temporarily relax the constraints of meeting the Consumer Credit Act’s administrative requirements
- The government should act to ensure that bank covenants don’t prevent leasing companies from offering coronavirus forbearance
- The FCA should provide a clear message that a three-month payment deferral will not be the automatic response to every forbearance request
The BVRLA will be hosting a free webinar on coronavirus forbearance on 28 April. You can find more details and register on our website.
Government provides more protection against aggressive rent recovery
The government has introduced new measures to protect tenants from landlords using hardline debt recovery tactics.
The plans outlined by Business Secretary Alok Sharma are intended to support businesses that are struggling to pay their bills due to the coronavirus. The measures include:
- A temporary ban on the use of statutory demands and winding-up orders
- Preventing landlords from using Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) unless they are owed 90 days of unpaid rent
The new legislation to protect tenants will be in force until 30 June, and can be extended in line with the previously announced moratorium on commercial lease forfeiture.
The Business Secretary said: “In this exceptional time for the UK, it is vital that we ensure businesses are kept afloat so that they can continue to provide the jobs our economy needs beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our unprecedented package of support can help commercial landlords, including through the recent expansion of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme.
“I know that, like all businesses, they are under pressure, but I would urge them to show forbearance to their tenants. I am also taking steps to ensure the minority of landlords using aggressive tactics to collect their rents can no longer do so while the COVID-19 emergency continues.”
The BVRLA wrote to Alok Sharma on 14th April asking him to help protect its members from hardline landlords during the current crisis.
Operational guidance during Covid-19
The BVRLA is developing a set of guidelines and best practice to help members operate during the coronavirus pandemic.
This will include advice on producing branch or office checklists; vehicle collections and deliveries; customer interactions; vehicle cleaning and other key business processes that are impacted by the need for social distancing and sanitisation.
If you would like to contribute to this guidance or can share examples and pictures of how you are already addressing these issues, please get in touch with Amanda Brandon, Director of Fleet Services on email@example.com.
The association is also looking to work with colleagues across the automotive and financial supply chain to ensure that attempts to return to ‘business as usual’ are as co-ordinated as possible. If you have any suggestions or feedback on this topic, please get in touch with Toby Poston, Director of Corporate Affairs on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Covid-19 testing available for transport workers
The government has now extended its testing programme to include essential and other priority workers that are self-isolating. The updated website includes details of how to apply for tests and what the process involves.
The criteria for workers that can be tested in England includes people working on transport systems and with essential supply chains. Links to the criteria being used in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can be found on the same page.
Early feedback from government is that certain vehicle rental staff are likely to be covered by these criteria if they can show that they are working with essential services and supply chains.
The BVRLA will provide further clarification on this topic when it arrives.
HMRC updates employers on COVID-19 measures and Company Car Tax
HMRC has published its latest Employer Bulletin, which includes a host of information on COVID-19 support measures as well as updates on Company Car Tax and Advisory Fuel Rates.
FCA introduces temporary measures
The Financial Conduct Authority has introduced some temporary measures for firms submitting regulatory returns. The extension applies for submissions that are due up to and including 30 June 2020.
For small or medium-size businesses (paying less than £10,000 in fees and levies in 2020/2021) the administrative fee for late returns has also been waived until 30 June 2020.
Short video on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The HMRC has published a 25-minute video on their YouTube channel talking about the Job Retention Scheme. Members are encouraged to take a look.
Economic Impact Analysis
The Centre for Cities has produced an analysis of which cities they believe will suffer the greatest economic impact as a result of Covid-19.
The analysis is based on a model whereby various industries are categorised on the basis of the expected impact of the disease classifying them as either “Unaffected or Higher Demand”, “Affected”, “Vulnerable” or “Very Vulnerable” based on the percentage of businesses they have in each impacted category.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has launched a new marketing campaign, #TogetherInTravel, aimed at galvanizing the global travel and tourism community and showing how the sector is a vital part of life.
Recognising that need to get people travelling again once this pandemic is over, the WTTC has launched the campaign encouraging travellers from around the world to share the hashtag #TogetherInTravel along with a video uniting everyone. Here’s a link for businesses that explains how they can get involved in the campaign.
Online tool to help businesses see what financial support is available for them
The Government has launched a new Business Support Finder to help employers easily identify what support is available to them and their business.
The finder tool on GOV.UK will ask business owners to fill out a simple online questionnaire, which can take minutes to complete. They will then be directed to a list of all the financial support they may be eligible for.
The Government hopes that the financial business support on offer will save millions of jobs that would otherwise be lost. At 8am yesterday, HMRC opened the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme and by 4pm, over 140,000 firms had applied.
Grant funding provided to businesses by local authorities in England
The Government has published data on the amount of money distributed to SMEs by every local authority in England as part of the two grant schemes launched to help businesses deal with Covid-19.
The UK government has distributed £12.3 billion to local authorities in England, and as of 20 April 2020, £6.11 billion has been paid out to 491,725 businesses properties, approximately half of the grant funding allocated (49.58%).
Simon Clarke, Minister of State for Regional Growth and Local Government, wrote to local authorities yesterday. He thanked councils for their efforts responding to the coronavirus pandemic and provided further details of the support on offer, including the additional £1.6 billion of new funding to help councils across the country through the coronavirus pandemic, which takes the total funding provided to £3.2 billion.
Government has taken further action to support bus and lorry drivers
Temporary changes have been applied to help keep 30,000 drivers on the road each month – essential to keeping key supply chains flowing.
The changes - which apply to drivers whose licences are due to expire or have expired since 1 January 2020 - include:
- temporary removal of the routine D4 medical
- as long as they are fit to drive, applicants will be able to apply for a one-year licence without the need to provide further medical evidence
The DVLA has assured the BVRLA that these licence renewal applications are being given the highest priority.
Members are advised that there is a specific address that these applications must be sent to: DVLA, Swansea SA99 1BR.
DVLA extends deregistration period
The DVLA has extended the period after registration in which a vehicle can be deregistered from seven working days to 14 working days.
Members may wish to liaise with dealers, where possible, to see if vehicles which were due to be delivered on the cusp of the lockdown and are no longer required can be deregistered.
DVLA warns of fraudulent websites
The DVLA is warning drivers about misleading third-party websites passing themselves off as DVLA.
These sites might, for example, offer to help you apply for a driving licence, tax your car or connect you to a DVLA contact centre. These sites will often charge additional fees for services that you can get for free or at a lower cost on GOV.UK.
To try and pass themselves off as genuine, these sites might include ‘DVLA’ in their web address (URL). They might also design their site to appear as if it’s DVLA - for example, using DVLA’s old ‘green triangle’ logo, which is no longer in use.
Don’t be fooled by these sites - even if they appear at the top of search engine results. Always double check you’re using GOV.UK.
Job Retention Scheme extended by one month to the end of June
On Friday, the Chancellor announced a one-month extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. In his announcement, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:
“With the extension of the coronavirus lockdown measures yesterday, it is the right decision to extend the furlough scheme for a month to the end of June to provide clarity.
“It is vital for people’s livelihoods that the UK economy gets up and running again when it is safe to do so, and I will continue to review the scheme so it is supporting our recovery.”
The online system, enabling employers to claim towards furloughed staff’s wages, opened today and is said to be able to process up to 450,000 applications per hour.
To receive payment by 30 April, you will need to complete an application by 22 April. Employers should receive the money within 6 working days of making an application. Members are advised to keep a note or print-out of their claim reference number as they won’t receive a confirmation SMS or email.
Traffic to the site is very busy and the Government has provided a tracker that monitors it and updates you on availability.
BVRLA responds to FCA’s coronavirus forbearance guidance
The BVRLA has urged the FCA to work with government in developing a co-ordinated strategy on motor finance forbearance during the COVID-19 crisis.
The association has today responded to FCA’s draft guidance on motor finance, which said that leasing companies must offer a three-month payment freeze or another alternative which is in the best interests of the customer.
While welcoming the flexibility within the guidance, the BVRLA uses its response to make the case for a comprehensive approach from government and regulators that:
Underwrites the full economic loss resulting from coronavirus forbearance
Relaxes the constraints of meeting Consumer Credit Act administrative requirements
Ensures that bank covenants don’t stop lease companies providing forbearance
Delivers a clear message to consumers that a three-month payment deferral is not the automatic response to every forbearance request
The BVRLA’s full response can be downloaded from our website. The FCA is expected to publish its final guidance shortly.
£1.25 billion support package announced for innovative firms
Today, the Chancellor has announced a £500 million Future Fund designed to ensure high-growth companies across the UK receive the investment they need to continue during the crisis. In addition, £750 million of grants and loans will be available to SMEs focusing on research and development.
Delivered in partnership with the British Business Bank and launching in May, the Future Fund will provide UK-based companies with between £125,000 and £5 million from the government, with private investors at least matching the government commitment. These loans will automatically convert into equity on the company’s next qualifying funding round, or at the end of the loan if they are not repaid.
To be eligible, a business must be an unlisted UK registered company that has previously raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from third-party investors in the last five years.
The scheme, which will initially be open until the end of September, will be kept under review.
Concerns around forfeiting commercial leases if rent is not paid.
The BVRLA has sent an urgent letter to the Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, raising concerns on loopholes in the Coronavirus Act 2020 legislation in relation to the forfeiting of commercial leases if rent is not paid.
The association is concerned that, although the legislation restricts landlords from terminating the lease if rent is not paid, landlords are not prohibited from:
Issuing a statutory demand that requires payment within 21 days, or the possibility of a court instructing that a business be wound-up;
Issuing debt recovery proceedings where a landlord is likely to obtain a default judgement within one month of serving the proceedings. This would be immediately enforceable by enforcement agents/bailiffs; and
Initiating Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) which enables a bailiff to attend the premises and seize assets upon expiry of a seven-day notice. The CRAR is a major risk for vehicle rental operators who have many valuable assets on site (i.e. vehicles).
In its letter, the BVRLA has urged the Government to close these loopholes to protect businesses and apply restrictions on forfeiture to the other legal remedies that landlords can still use.
RIDDOR advice updated to include Covid-19
RIDDOR, (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013), has been updated to include new advice of the reporting of COVID-19.
This follows a joint statement from the HSE, CBI and TUC saying that businesses staying open during the coronavirus must guarantee safe working conditions including social distancing.
You must only make a report under RIDDOR when:
an unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.
a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus.
Read more on RIDDOR reporting of Covid-19 on the Health & Safety Executive website.
Government pledges extra £1.6 billion for councils
Councils across England will receive another £1.6 billion in additional funding as they continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. This takes the total funding to support councils to respond to the pandemic to over £3.2 billion.
This will mean an extra £300 million for the devolved administrations, £155 million for Scotland, £95 million for Wales and £50 million for Northern Ireland.
FCA proposes measures to help motor finance customers facing financial difficulties
The Financial Conduct Authority has announced a proposed package of coronavirus support measures for consumers having difficulties paying their motor finance, including personal contract hire products.
More details can be found in the regulator’s draft temporary guidance for firms offering Motor finance.
If customers are experiencing temporary financial difficulties due to coronavirus, the FCA is expecting firms to:
offer a 3-month payment freeze or another alternative which is in the best interests of the customer
not take steps to end the agreement or repossess the vehicle
The measures outlined today do not prevent firms from providing more favourable forms of assistance to any customer, including a longer payment freeze, if appropriate.
There is no expectation under this guidance that the firm makes enquiries with each customer to determine the circumstances surrounding a request for a payment deferral, or whether this is not in the customer’s interests. Where a term is being extended, firms should bring to the attention of the customer the need to consider wider implications of the extension – such as potential knock-on effects on insurance, warranties, breakdown cover or MOT.
The BVRLA, together with the Finance & Leasing Association, continues to share its industry views with the FCA and will be submitting a response to today’s proposals by Monday’s deadline. Members wanting to share their views should contact BVRLA Director of Fleet Services, Amanda Brandon Amanda@bvrla.co.uk by 4pm today (Friday 17 April).
The FCA expects to finalise proposals by Friday 24 April 2020, with them coming into force shortly afterwards.
Get ready to claim via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The online service for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme launches on Monday and members are being encouraged to get prepared with everything they need to go through the claims process.
To make a claim you will need:
a Government Gateway (GG) ID and password – if you don’t already have a GG account, you can apply for one online, or by going to GOV.UK and searching for 'HMRC services: sign in or register'
be enrolled for PAYE online – if you aren’t registered yet, you can do so now, or by going to GOV.UK and searching for 'PAYE Online for employers'
the following information for each furloughed employee you will be claiming for: name, National Insurance Number, claim period and claim amount, PAYE/employee number (optional).
if you have fewer than 100 furloughed staff – you will need to input information directly into the system for each employee. If you have 100 or more furloughed staff – you will need to upload a file with information for each employee; HMRC will accept the following file types: .xls .xlsx .csv .ods.
You should retain all records and calculations in respect of your claims.
Chancellor expands funding to include large businesses
A government-backed loan scheme for large businesses affected by coronavirus has been expanded to cover all viable firms.
Launching on Monday, the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme will be available to all viable large businesses and will enable:
businesses with turnover of more than £45m to apply for up to £25 million of finance
Businesses with turnover of more than £250 million to apply for up to £50 million
The scheme will be available through a series of accredited lenders, which will be listed on the British Business Bank website.
The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance.
This complements existing support available for businesses large and small, including the Covid Corporate Financing Facility and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, tax deferrals, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, cash grants for small businesses, and covering the cost of statutory sick pay.
Companies House supports businesses impacted by Covid-19
Companies House has today announced that it will temporarily pause the strike-off process to prevent companies being dissolved.
This will give businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak the time they need to update their records and help them avoid being struck-off the register.
In addition, companies issued with a late filing penalty due to Covid-19 will have appeals treated sympathetically.
Today’s announcement builds on measures already implemented by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which give businesses the ability to apply for a 3-month extension to file accounts with Companies House.
Relaxation of driver’ hours extended by a further month
The drivers’ hours relaxations that began on Monday 23 March 2020 and were due to end on 21 April 2020, will now run until 31 May 2020.
A specific review of the continuation of the relaxations past 21 April has been conducted and, on the basis of the current evidence, a decision has been made to continue with the relaxations, (apart from the relaxation on break requirements) until 23:59 on Sunday 31 May 2020.
Anyone driving under the EU drivers’ hours rules or the GB drivers’ hours rules and undertaking carriage of goods by road can use the relaxations where necessary. The relaxations are not limited to specific sectors or journeys.
Covid-19 fraud and scams on the rise
Led by UK Finance, and backed by the Government, the Take Five campaign has launched a web page to promote awareness of Covid-19 related fraud and scams.
Unscrupulous criminals are using the publicity around coronavirus as a chance to target businesses and individuals with fraudulent emails, phone calls, texts messages and social media posts.
Fraud poses a major threat to the UK and although it is a crime that the finance industry is committed to tackling, it requires the combined efforts of every sector, both public and private, to overcome.
Members are advised to visit the campaign page to ensure vigilance and help protect your business against scams.
Important change to eligibility of Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The Chancellor has made a Treasury Direction under Sections 71 and 76 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 which sets out the legal framework for the Scheme, including an important change to the scheme’s employee eligibility criteria.
The Direction states that:
The employer must have a pay as you earn (“PAYE”) scheme registered on HMRC’s real time information system for PAYE on 19 March 2020 (“a qualifying PAYE scheme”).
Previously the cut-off date was 28 February 2020. The updated criteria includes:
- you can claim for employees that were employed as of 19 March 2020 and were on your PAYE payroll on or before that date; this means that you will have made an RTI submission notifying HMRC of payment of that employee on or before 19 March 2020
- employees that were employed as of 28 February 2020 and on payroll (i.e. notified to HMRC in an RTI submission on or before 28 February) and were made redundant or stopped working for you after that, and prior to 19 March 2020, can also qualify for the scheme if you re-employ them and put them on furlough.
The BVRLA has raised concerns to ministers that those companies who make their RTI submissions on or after the 20th of each month, and will have to use their February RTI submission, could be disadvantaged as new employees could be left out of scope of the scheme.
The association is suggesting that it would be sensible to base employee eligibility criteria on an employee’s start date.
Government data on transport use
The Government has started to publish the transport data that is sent by the Department for Transport to the Cabinet Office each day for use in the government’s daily media briefings.
It shows changes in:
- road traffic in Great Britain
- rail passenger journeys in the UK
- rail station concourse footfall at a set of monitored stations
- Transport for London’s (TfL) tube and bus routes
- bus travel in Great Britain (excluding London)
The data is compiled in as near to real time as possible and also includes a document setting out information on the data sources and methodology used to generate each of the headline measures.
All the slides and datasets that have been used to accompany coronavirus press conferences can be found on this new web page.
Economic scenario by the OBR predicts tough times ahead
The Office for Budget Responsibility has published an economic scenario based on an assumption that there will be a three-month lockdown followed by another three-month period where measures are partially lifted.
The OBR, created in 2010 to provide independent and authoritative analysis of the UK’s public finances, does not attempt to predict how long the economic lockdown will last – that is a matter for the Government, informed by medical advice. It does, however, aim to illustrate some of the potential fiscal effects of the coronavirus crisis on the UK economy.
For now, the assumption is that there will be an economic shock with real GDP falling 35 per cent in the second quarter, but bouncing back quickly. The scenario also sees unemployment rising by more than 2 million to 10 per cent in the second quarter.
If the scenario proves to be correct, then lockdown would end around mid-June and restrictions would end mid-September. Actual timescales will depend on how successful the public health measures are in containing the outbreak.
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
Updated guidance has been released for the government’s Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), providing further clarity on the claiming of grants and how HMRC will work out total income and trading profits.
Updates to the guidance cover:
- Detail of the treatment of losses, averaging and multiple trades
- Clarifications on the calculation of self-employed profits and what is meant by total income
- Confirmation that individuals can continue working, including taking on employment
- Confirmation that owner-managers of Ltd companies can access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for their salary
- Confirmation that individuals can access Universal Credit and the Self-employment Income Support Scheme
- Clarification on overlaps between the Self-employment Income Support Scheme and Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (e.g. you can claim the SEISS and continue working).
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Updates to the guidance cover:
- Confirmation of what should form the basis for furlough pay for employees furloughed on return from (maternity/paternity/shared parental/adoption/sick/parental bereavement) leave;
- Confirming employees subject to TUPE transfer/ business reorganisation/ payroll consolidation can be furloughed
- Confirming position for contractors in scope of IR35 in the public sector
- More information on what information employers need to claim the grant
- Clarifying circumstances where an employee shouldn’t be furloughed by multiple employers
BVRLA calls for support to help members offer forbearance
The BVRLA has stepped up engagement with policymakers and regulators to ensure that all members have access to government funding support and are able to offer forbearance to their customers facing financial difficulties.
This comes in a week when Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is expected to publish a consultation on motor finance forbearance required due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the Treasury Select Committee is assessing the government’s COVID-19 financial support packages.
Toby Poston, BVRLA Director of Corporate Affairs said: “We have had briefings with the Treasury Consumer Credit Team, the FCA Motor Finance team and Treasury Select Committee. We have also written a letter to the HM Treasury Financial Secretary, Jesse Norman MP.
“In conjunction with our colleagues at the Finance & Leasing Association, we have been suggesting ways in which the Government’s financial support packages can get through to the non-bank owned parts of the vehicle leasing sector. The policymakers and regulators we have spoken to are really keen to help and we have been providing feedback from BVRLA members on what kind of assistance their customers need.”
Claiming for employees’ wages under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The online service you will use to claim is expected to be available on 20 April to allow HMRC to begin making payments from 30 April, for companies where this is their payday.
HMRC will pay money into the employers' bank accounts within four to six working days of receiving a claim.
There are things that you can do now to be ready when the system is up and running later this month.
You’ll need to provide the following to make a claim:
The bank account number and sort code you’d like HMRC to use when they pay your claim.
The name and phone number of the person in your business for HMRC to call with any questions.
Your Self-Assessment UTR (Unique Tax Reference), Company UTR or CRN (Company Registration Number).
The name, employee number and National Insurance number for each of your furloughed employees.
The total amount being claimed for all employees and the total furlough period.
If you use an agent who is authorised to act for you for PAYE purposes, they will be able to make a claim on your behalf, so you should talk to them now.
However, if you use a file-only agent return but doesn’t act for you in other matters), they won’t be able to make a claim for you and you’ll need the information listed above from them to make the claim yourself.
HMRC chief urges caution to those tempted to abuse the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Any fraudulent claims made under the scheme – for example, where employees have continued to work while furloughed – are likely to result in criminal convictions.
Jim Harra, Chief Executive HM Revenue and Customs said:
“We are aware that some employees have already been reporting that some employers have asked them to work during the furlough period. We expect the vast majority of employers to do the right thing and in fact in many cases they have no choice because people are genuinely furloughed and cannot work.
“But we will be asking anyone who’s got information about the scheme being abused to let us know and there is an online hotline service for any employee who feels they are being asked to be complicit in something they don’t want to be complicit in.”
Important message to the transport industry from the Secretary of State
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps has written a letter of thanks to the transport industry, emphasising the importance of keeping staff safe by adhering to social distancing rules and the appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
“During this period of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty, the transport industry has risen magnificently to the challenges posed by the Coronavirus outbreak. You have played a critical role in keeping Britain moving and serving a nation in lockdown and I wanted to thank you for your tireless work, behind the scenes and on the front line.
This week, the Government published Public Health England’s guidance regarding social distancing measures in the workplace. This provides greater detail on how social distancing should be maintained where employees cannot work from home. This guidance, which can be found here, should be followed and I hope that you are already in the process of implementing these measures.
I am aware that concerns have been raised on requirements for PPE. I don’t want anyone working daily on the front line to feel unclear on whether they have the necessary equipment to stay safe. Therefore yesterday, the Government set out its clear, evidence based, strategy providing guidance on the sectors which have a clinical need for PPE. The strategy is available here.”
The BVRLA is asking members to ensure that they read and adhere to the social distancing and PPE guidance.
BVRLA calls for Government to support funders
The BVRLA is working with the Finance & Leasing Association in urging the Government to increase its support for non-bank owned funders.
Currently, non-bank funders are excluded from both the Term Funding Scheme for SMEs, which is open to banks only, and the Covid Corporate Finance Facility.
To meet a huge surge in customer requests for financial support, non-bank funders need access to additional funding on the same terms as their bank-owned counterparts. Some of our suggestions include:
Providing alternative methods for non-bank owned leasing companies to access low-cost term funding or liquidity that can be used to support existing customers, such as a Forbearance Liquidity Funding Scheme.
Expanding the Covid Corporate Finance Facility to provide funding to non-bank owned finance providers.
Opening up the Term Funding Scheme for SMEs to non-bank owned leasing companies.
We will continue to work on this to enable non-bank funders to give appropriate assistance to all individuals and businesses that need support with their vehicle finance costs.
DVLA prioritises services to support critical workers
The Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency has confirmed that it is prioritising applications relating to HGV and PCV drivers and critical workers to make sure they get any documentation they need as quickly as possible.
The agency has also produced a set of FAQs for fleets.
Due to staff shortages, the DVLA fleet helpdesk has also reduced its opening hours to 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.
All its online services are still available. For more information or to access the services please visit GOV.UK
Social distancing in the workplace
The Government has updated its guidance regarding social distancing measures in the workplace, to provide greater detail on how it can be maintained when employees cannot work from home.
Sector specific guidance is also available and rental operators should read the advice for retail which suggests that you should:
- Manage entry into the store, only allowing a limited number of people into your store at any given time.
- Put up signage to ask customers with symptoms not to enter the store
- Remind both staff and customers to always keep 2 metres from other people, wherever possible.
- Regularly encourage staff to wash their hands with soap and water as often as possible and for 20 seconds every time.
- If feasible, you should also put up plexiglass barriers at all points of regular interaction to further reduce the risk of infection for all parties involved, cleaning the barriers regularly. You should still advise staff to keep 2 metres apart as much as possible.
- Remind colleagues daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.
Financial support for businesses
The Government has made it easier for businesses to see all the financial support available by brigading all the information in a clearly defined category list published online.
Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
HMRC has new online guidance which includes information about who can use the scheme and the records employers must keep. HMRC is working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement.
BVRLA Webinar: Covid-19 Catch up
Over 100 BVRLA members tuned in earlier today to take part in the association’s free Covid-19 Catch up Webinar providing a recap on some of the operational and financial support that is being provided to the vehicle rental and leasing sectors.
The webinar also highlighted some of the key issues that the BVRLA is focusing on during the crisis. Members were able to pose questions, and the BVRLA team is already following up on requests for further guidance on DVLA support and the extension on the MOT/PSV certificates from the NI Government.
Slides from the webinar are available to download.
HMRC Webinars to support employers and the self-employed
HMRC are delivering a programme of webinars on the measures to support employers, people and self-employed individuals through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.
You can watch a video of the recorded webinar on the HMRC YouTube channel and you can also register to attend a free webinar to learn more about the support available to help you deal with the economic impacts of coronavirus by registering here.
Guidance for those using or working in the transport sector
The Government has published transport and travel guidance specifically for people using transport or working in the transport sector during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Private parking companies need to be flexible during crisis
BVRLA has worked with the British Parking Association to ask for a more flexible approach to enforcement from private parking companies during the Covid-19 crisis.
- encouraging electronic communication with rental and leasing companies, and
- more time to pay and make representations in recognition of head offices being limited in terms of access for staff
Any specific queries on this from members should be directed to Hayleigh@bvrla.co.uk
State Aid limit on COVID-19 grants
The Government has updated its guidance for businesses setting out details of the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) to include further information about State Aid restrictions.
For the SBGF, which provides grants of up to £10,000 per site, the cumulative state aid limit on what can be claimed is 200,000 euros per organisation. For the RHLGF, which provides grants of up to £25,000, the cumulative state aid limit on what can be claimed is 800,000 euros.
Can furloughed employees undertake other employment?
HM Treasury has published further information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, providing clarity on whether employees are able to undertake other employment while on furlough.
In case it is helpful to your organisation or those in your networks, full guidance can be found here, but key points for affected individuals include:
- If your contract allows, you may undertake other employment while your current employer has placed you on furlough, and this will not affect the grant that they can claim under the scheme
- You will need to be able to return to work for the employer that has placed you on furlough if they decide to stop furloughing you, and you must be able to undertake any training they require while on furlough
- If you take on new employment, you should make sure you complete the starter checklist form with your new employer correctly
FCA sets out expectations for SM&CR during crisis
The Financial Conduct Authority has outlined its expectations for solo-regulated firms adhering to SM&CR during the Covid-19 crisis.
The regulator has confirmed that is does not require firms to have a single Senior Manager responsible for their coronavirus response and that firms should allocate these responsibilities in the way which best enables them to manage the risks they face.
They also clarify the procedure under the SM&CR for where staff in a Senior Manager position are furloughed.
Key points to note include:
- Firms do not need to submit updated Statements of Responsibilities (SoRs) where a change in Senior Manager is made to cover multiple sicknesses, or other temporary changes in responsibilities as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as long as the change is temporary.
- Firms must clearly document everything internally, to ensure that everybody understands who is responsible for what.
- The FCA intends to issue a Modification by Consent to the 12-week rule to support firms using temporary arrangements during the crisis. The 12-week rule allows an individual to cover for a Senior Manager without being approved.
- The FCA states that individuals performing required functions such as Compliance Oversight, the money laundering reporting officer and the Limited Scope Function, should only be furloughed as a last resort.
The FCA does not expect firms to loosen their compliance procedures during this time.
Support for apprentices and employers
The Government has published guidance to support apprentices, employers and training providers to ensure that the UK continues to build the skills and capabilities that the country needs now and in the future.
The Education and Skills Funding Agency is taking steps to ensure that, wherever possible, apprentices can continue and complete their apprenticeship, despite any break they need to take as a result of COVID-19, and to support providers during this challenging time.
The use of face masks in the workplace
The guidance for employees, employers and businesses has been updated with guidance on the use of face masks in the community.
The UK does not currently advise use of face masks outside of care settings, in line with PPE guidance, however, Public Health England recommends that employers should ensure that:
- Spaces in the workplace are optimised to allow social distancing to occur, wherever possible
- Signs are visible in the workplace reminding employees not to attend work if they have a fever or cough and to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Employees are provided with hand sanitiser for frequent use and regular breaks to allow them to wash their hands for 20 seconds.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme update: Good news for sales staff earning regular commission
The government has published an update on its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, clarifying the fact that workers who earn regular commissions or bonuses can have this income included in their furloughed pay calculations.
This means that employers will be able to claim for any regular, non-discretionary payments that they are obliged to pay to their staff – including overtime, commissions and bonuses. Under the scheme, firms can furlough employees and apply for a grant that covers 80% of their usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage.
The key test for including any bonuses and commissions is that the payments are intrinsically linked to the job the person is employed to perform, and that they are paid regularly. Sales staff that are paid bonuses or commissions in each pay period meet this test.
Discretionary bonuses and bonuses are not included.
The updated guidance also tells employers how to claim for employees whose pay varies.
If the employee has been employed for 12 months or more, you can claim the highest of either the:
- same month’s earning from the previous year
- average monthly earnings for the 2019-2020 tax year
If the employee has been employed for less than 12 months, you can claim for 80% of their average monthly earnings since they started work.
If the employee only started in February 2020, you should work out a pro-rata figure for their earnings so far and claim for 80%.
The updated guidance on the Job Retention Scheme can be found here.
Vehicle collection and distribution IS permitted during the COVID-19 lockdown
The collection and distribution of vehicles can continue during the current lockdown, if it is done in accordance with current Coronavirus/COVID-19 precautions.
The Department for Transport has now produced two separate letters confirming that vehicles can be collected and distributed, whether it is done in providing vehicle rental services or as part of the wider logistics supply chain.
To support this activity, the BVRLA has collaborated with the SMMT and FLA in producing guidance and best practice advice on how these movements should happen. It includes:
- Social distancing and staff protection measures
- Communication with customers
- Risk assessments
The guidance will be updated as the situation changes and can be found on the BVRLA COVID-19 advice pages.
The BVRLA will be hosting a COVID-19 Catch-up webinar on Wednesday 8 April at 10am.
On this 45-minute webinar the BVRLA team will provide a recap on some of the operational and financial support that has already been provided to the vehicle rental and leasing sector and highlight the issues that we are still focusing on.
If you have any questions that you would like to put to the team, please let us know in advance so that we can be sure of answering them. You can do this by emailing email@example.com
Update on Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
The government has provided more details of its Coronavirus (COVID-19) Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, which allows small and medium sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to apply to HMRC to recover the costs of paying Statutory Sick Pay to their employees.
The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme is not available yet. When launched, it will run online and will repay employers the current rate of SSP that they pay to current or former employees for periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.
The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks starting from the first day of sickness, if an employee is unable to work because they either:
- have Coronavirus
- cannot work because they are self-isolating at home
Employees do not have to give you a doctor’s fit note for you to make a claim.
Government letter supports essential status of vehicle rental
The Department for Transport (DfT) has thanked the vehicle rental sector for supporting essential services and provided a letter confirming that the industry should carry on working to ‘the greatest extent possible’.
In a letter to the BVRLA, DfT Co-Director Ben Rimmington says:
Vehicle rental services were expressly excluded from the list of retail premises ordered to close on 23 March since they supply vehicles that are essential to the continuation of many essential services and basic economic activity. All travel related to the continuation of business of vehicle rental services such as delivery of vehicles or spare parts, and all necessary travel by vehicle rental services staff to their place of work should therefore be considered ‘essential travel’ in the context of current restrictions. That is of course with the important proviso that all staff should work at home if this is at all possible, and that Public Health England guidelines on social distancing should be observed.
We will communicate this to the National Police Chiefs Council to ensure it is shared with all police forces in the context of their important work to enforce the new restrictions on movement. I would be very happy for you to share this letter with your members, and for them to use it as evidence of the government position on this point in the event of any misunderstandings.
The BVRLA is also speaking to the DfT to try and obtain greater clarity about the vehicle leasing sector’s ability to continue with vehicle movements. For the latest information, see the FAQs on the COVID-19 advice pages.
Update on support for vehicle rental companies
With the support of The Tourism Alliance, the BVRLA has asked the LGA to include ‘Vehicle Rental Services’ within this list, which should encourage local authorities to incorporate these businesses into their schemes.
When applied by local authorities, this scheme excludes vehicle rental branches from paying business rates during the 2020-21 tax year.
The BVRLA has received reports that some local authorities have pushed back against claims from vehicle rental operators. If this occurs, please refer them to the LGA website.
Vehicle rental companies can also claim a cash grant of up to £25,000 for each branch through the government’s cash grant for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.
FCA announcement expected on fee deferral
The BVRLA has been speaking to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) about the annual fees for regulated businesses. The FCA recognises that cashflow is tight for many smaller regulated firms and has indicated that it will be making an announcement soon. This could potentially see fee payments staggered or deferred over the next few months. The BVRLA will update members as soon as any announcement is made.
Chancellor revamps emergency loan scheme
The government has made changes to its emergency loan scheme to make it easier for firms to access loans during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The revamp came after the Treasury reported that it had received more than 130,000 loan enquiries from firms and approved more than £90m in loans to nearly 1,000 firms.
The key changes to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which provides loans of up to £5m for businesses with an annual turnover of up to £45m, are:
- The loans will no longer be restricted to companies that have been refused a loan on commercial terms
- Banks will be banned from asking company owners to guarantee loans with their own savings or property when borrowing up to £250,000
The Government has also introduced a new Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), which will offer government-backed loans of up to £25m to firms with revenues of between £45m and £500m.
The British Business Bank operates the two schemes through its accredited lenders, which includes a range of asset finance providers.
The government has not capped the interest rates that can be charged on the loans, which cannot be used to assist with existing obligations.
More information on these and other support packages is available on the government’s Coronavirus Financial Support website.
Dart Charge – Electronic Solution
Members who are struggling to access their post can sign up to receive electronic penalty charge notices for the Dart Charge. If you would like to receive a spreadsheet of penalties that you have been issued, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your registered keeper details.
COVID-19 guidance on vehicle rental and leasing operations
The BVRLA has produced new FAQ guidance for members and their customers, setting out some of the key requirements and recommended best practice that should be adhered to during the COVID-19 outbreak. It includes advice on:
- Business closures and exemptions
- Essential workers and services
- Rental and lease agreements
- Customer forbearance
- Vehicle movements
- Working in the office or remotely
- Penalty Charge Notices
- BVRLA inspections
This advice is being added to all the time, and the BVRLA is currently working with the FLA, SMMT and key government departments with the aim of developing some ‘accredited’, industry-wide guidance.
If you have a question that needs answering or have some additional best practice that could be shared, please contact Amanda Brandon on Amanda@bvrla.co.uk
HMRC offers webinar advice on supporting employees
HMRC has launched a series of webinars providing employers with more details and guidance on how they can support employees during the COVID-19 outbreak. They include advice on:
- the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- refunding eligible Statutory Sick Pay costs
- furloughed employees and more
Employers can access a recording of the webinar or register for the next one via this GOV.UK page.
HMRC is planning to expand on the range of webinars on offer in the near future.
BVRLA seeks temporary Consumer Credit Act relief for motor finance providers
The BVRLA has written to HM Treasury asking for a temporary relief from Consumer Credit Act (CCA) forbearance provisions. At present, lenders are desperate to ‘do the right thing’ and assist their customers, but they are constrained by some of the procedural rigidities within the CCA. Some of the CCA provisions that are, in normal circumstances, intended to protect consumers are now hamstringing those who want to assist them in their time of need.
Under CCA rules the process for offering forbearance requires a modifying agreement to be signed and agreed. In the current circumstances, this adds unnecessary administrative pressure and customer complexity. Firms are already administratively stretched to breaking point by the Coronavirus pandemic and customers need rapid solutions to their financial challenges.
Firms wanting to take swift action to support their customers are instead being forced to use informal agreements. These agreements leave them open to later challenges and the potential situation where their lease contracts are unenforceable. By acting in their customer’s best interest firms can be opening themselves up to later litigation and ruinous costs. These risks are currently preventing some lenders from providing more support to customers.
There are also potential impacts for the customer in an informal agreement. Such agreements can technically leave them in breach of their contract, which can have an impact on their credit score. Lenders are also obligated to send Arrears Notices which can be deeply unsettling for the consumer at what is already a worrying time.
The BVRLA is working with the FLA as it proposes some emergency secondary legislation aimed at providing temporary relief from CCA forbearance provisions. These measures recognise the extraordinary circumstances of the current crisis and the need to give lenders the tools they need to treat their customers with compassion.
Independent lenders can now access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
The British Business Bank (BBB) has now confirmed that FCA regulated credit brokers, finance houses and leasing providers could be eligible to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). CBILS provides financial support to smaller businesses across the UK that are losing revenue or seeing their cashflow disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The scheme provides lenders with up to £5m which can then be provided to SMEs in the form of asset finance. CBILS gives lenders a government-backed guarantee for the loan repayments to encourage more lending. More details can be found on the BBB website. The BBB has said it is doing everything it can to try and speed up the accreditation process.
The scheme is a part of a wider package of government support for UK businesses and employees. Read more at the Government’s Business Support website.
Company Car Benefit in Kind Tax during the COVID-19 outbreak
HMRC has provided the following update on the issue of whether company car tax should be paid while vehicles are unavailable or unused by workers:
“You have asked if the car is ‘unavailable’ to the employee for a period of time could HMRC confirm that the car benefit charge would no longer apply. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as not using cars for a particular period of time, whether that be for 30 days (the period of minimum ‘unavailability’ stated in legislation), or any shorter period that the government might consider.
The benefit charge applies where a car is made available for private use, whether or not it is so used. For example, a car kept on an employee’s driveway during a period of furlough would still be considered to be made available. Neither would HMRC accept a SORN declaration as proof of unavailability. Guidance explains when HMRC would not accept that a car is unavailable and includes when there is no road tax, MOT or insurance.
In most cases, HMRC would expect that the car is handed back to the employer so that it cannot be used. However, we recognise that under the current circumstances it may not be possible to hand the car itself back, so exceptionally, we would accept that where all the keys (or tabs) are in possession of the employer, and the employee does not have the authority to request the keys are returned to them, the car would be ‘unavailable.’"
Food supply chain needs refrigerated vehicles
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) is working with the Department for Transport to better understand the spare capacity of temperature-controlled trucks and vans within the vehicle rental and leasing sector.
The COVID-19 outbreak has put more pressure on the food supply chain, with increasing demands for deliveries in and out of retail distribution centres and to individual homes.
Members that have refrigerated vehicles available should get in touch with Chris Seaton at the RHA (email@example.com), who is co-ordinating the logistics sector’s response on this issue.
New website for businesses wanting to offer Coronavirus support
The Government has launched a new website for businesses that feel they might be able to help in the response to Coronavirus.
Some of the help being sought includes:
- transport and logistics, for moving goods or people
- warehouse or office space, for medical use or storage
- expertise or support on IT, manufacturing, construction, project management, procurement, engineering or communications
Business that feel that they can help, can register on the new COVID-19 support website.
HGV licensing and inspection update
The Office of the Traffic Commissioner has confirmed a more flexible approach to adding and removing vehicles from operator licences and the ability for operators to maintain their regular inspection programmes. The latest advice is on their website.
Update on DVLA operations during the Coronavirus pandemic
The DVLA has confirmed that its telephone-based driving licence check service will not be available for the foreseeable future. Members are advised to get customers to generate a check code via the Government’s Driving Licence Check website.
DVLA systems have now been updated to enable fleets to electronically tax vehicles that have been temporarily exempted from requiring an MOT. This service can only be used on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis.
Extra support for critical vehicle movements
Cox Automotive has launched a new service to facilitate the movement of vehicles for critical service fleets.
The service is accessed via the company’s Movex platform, an online marketplace that gives trade customers access to a large number of transport providers.
Some of these transport businesses are still operating and providing essential movement services (strictly within the UK Government guidelines) to support a wide variety of critical services.
Any companies needing a transport provider for essential business should visit https://movex.co.uk/
How is Coronavirus impacting the public EV charging network?
BVRLA members and customers are being asked to provide details of EV charge point availability for key workers and essential services.
ZapMap is working with the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) to run a survey to understand:
- the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on EV charging in the UK
- how EVs are being used for essential travel
- to identify key workers who are using EVs and require access to EV charging facilities to continue their work
The results of the survey will be made available to the UK Government, charge point operators and other organisations who are working hard to ensure that EV charging infrastructure is available for all key workers during the coronavirus outbreak.
The survey will be open for the next few days and can be found here.
Temporary changes to Driver CPC regime
The Department of Transport has put in place temporary changes in professional driver qualifications requirements. This means that truck drivers whose Driver CPC card expires between 1 March 2020 and 30 September 2020 can continue driving.
Most professional lorry and bus drivers must complete 35 hours periodic training every 5 years to maintain a Driver CPC card (sometimes called a ‘driver qualification card’ or ‘DQC’).
The changes have been introduced due to the difficulty drivers will have in completing the required training during the COVID-19 outbreak. More details are available here.