Budget 2020: how the government aims to protect people and jobs in the face of COVID-19

After just four weeks as Chancellor, Rishi Sunak has used his inaugural Budget Speech to unveil £30bn worth of measures to boost the economy through the coronavirus outbreak.

He described his budget as a “temporary, timely and targeted response” to the current situation, but vowed that “we will get through this together.

More specifically, he outlined a three-point plan that is designed to protect people, but also businesses as they face the unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases in the UK.

NHS funding

Sunak pledged that the NHS will get whatever funding it needs to cope with COVID-19.

Support for individuals

If people fall ill or can’t work (through self-isolation) the government will help support their finances through a number of measures: 

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be available from day one rather than day four. It will be available for all those who are advised to self-isolate even if they have not presented with any symptoms. It’s also planned that soon you’ll be able to get a fit note from NHS 111, rather than having to visit a GP’s surgery in person (which is advised against if you suspect you are suffering from the virus).
  • For the self-employed or workers who do not qualify for SSP, the government will make it quicker and easier to access benefits.
  • Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit you can claim if you have a disability or health condition which affects how much you can work. It can be claimed by those who are employed, self-employed or unemployed. The government will allow this to be claimed from day one rather than day eight at present.
  • The government will also temporarily remove the Minimum Income Floor for Universal Credit and relax the requirement to physically attend a job centre by allowing claims to be submitted online or over the telephone.
  • They’re also making a £500million hardship fund available to local authorities to enable them to directly support vulnerable people in their area.

Support for businesses

The Chancellor said that protecting people means protecting their jobs. He announced a number of measures, particularly focused on small and medium-sized businesses, to cushion the financial impact of the virus on their businesses:

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing SSP for anyone off work for up to two weeks because of the virus, will be refunded in full by the government. He estimated that this could mean funding of up to £2billion for up to two million businesses.
  • HMRC – there will be an extension of the Time to Pay programme whereby businesses and the self-employed can agree a deferment of tax payments over a period of time. The HMRC helpline dealing with this will have 2000n staff to ensure it’s properly resourced.
  • The government is introducing a new temporary coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, where banks will be able to offer loans of up to £1.2million for small and medium-sized businesses. The government will provide an 80% guarantee of these loans with no fees.
  • Business rates – any qualifying business in the leisure, retail or hospitality sector with a rateable value of less that £51,000 will pay no business rates for the next year (a saving of approximately £25,000). For those small businesses in these sectors who are already exempt from business rates, they will receive a £3000 cash grant.

We do not yet have a date for implementation of the new entitlement to SSP from day one or the entitlement to SSP rebate, as the legislation allowing for this had not yet been introduced. We will update as soon as this date is known.

We’re keeping a close eye on how the impact of coronavirus COVID-19 will affect businesses from both an HR & Employment Law and Health & Safety point of view.

We’ll be updating our coronavirus advice, so remember to keep returning to our Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions for regularly updated advice.

 

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