The chancellor has so far announced a Government-backed support package and job retention scheme to assist businesses being affected during this period, with more support potentially being announced in the coming days. However, from what has been promised, HVAC businesses may find the following applicable (please note these are not applicable to self-employed business owners):
Job Retention Scheme:The Government claim this scheme may support you in paying your employee's wages to avoid redundancies. It has been stated that HMRC will reimburse 80% of wage costs if workers have taken coronavirus-related absence, up to a cap of £2,500 per worker. Subject to the conditions of this scheme, if you elect to participate you many wish to consider designating your absent employees as 'furloughed workers' and notify them of this change, before submitting information to HMRC about your furloughed employees and their earnings via the HMRC online portal - please note this portal is not yet available. It has been suggested that wages covered will be backdated to March 1st and will be open for three months initially.
Key points: Consider designating absent workers as 'furloughed' before the HMRC portal is available, subject to any additional HMRC conditions and guidance.
Deferred VAT payments: Government advice (at of 26.03.2020) suggests that VAT payments due between 20th March and 30th June will be deferred for 3 months. The Government advice explains that this is automatically applied to all VAT registered businesses, implying that no applications are required and businesses will then be given until the end of the financial year in 2021 to repay these bills (but please ensure that you check the Government guidance website carefully for any changes and/or updates). If you have any questions regarding VAT payments, there is a specific HMRC helpline you can call Monday to Friday between 8:00 am - 8:00 pm and Saturdays between 8:00 am - 4:00 pm. You can contact this helpline on 0800 0159 559. Otherwise, you can speak to advisers via webchat to discuss problems with paying your taxes due to COVID-19 here.
Key points: Government advice states that your VAT payments will automatically be deferred for 3 months and directs you discuss VAT concerns on 0800 0159 559.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) relief: In accordance with the Government's advice (as of 26.03.2020) the Government website suggests that it may be possible that if you're paying out SSP for absence due to COVID-19, you'll be able to reclaim this back from the first day of absence. The refund will cover up to 2 weeks SSP per employee - with eligibility beginning from 13th March and covering those who follow advice to stay at home even if they're not sick themselves, but who cannot work as a result. Although Govenment advice suggests that employees are not required to provide a GP fit note to be eligible for SSP, as an employer you should maintain records of staff absences and any SSP payments and continue to check the Government website for any changes or updates. It's also worth noting that should evidence be required to reclaim SSP, you can advise your employees to get an isolation note via NHS 111 online, or a note from the NHS website if they are living with someone who has coronavirus symptoms. Although the process is still being finalised, the Government will be working with employers over the coming months to begin repayments as soon as possible. Please note that your business must employ fewer than 250 employees to be eligible.
Key points: Record staff absences and payments of SSP, isolation notes can be obtained from NHS 111 online, only applicable for businesses with fewer than 250 employees.
Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS): For relevant, industry-specific updates from the government, the Department of BEIS have a bulletin where they're regularly publishing the latest updates. It would be particularly useful for our HVAC partners to sign up for the BEIS newsletter, so you're immediately updated with relevant developments from the government that can guide your strategy during this time.
Key points: Sign up to the BEIS newsletter for the latest, industry-specific updates concerning COVID-19.