This week the second national lockdown came into effect in England. Also, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has extended the furlough scheme to March 2021 and has pledged additional financial support for the self-employed. Here is an at a glance look at the news you need to know:
A second national lockdown came into force in England on Thursday after being voted into law by Parliament. Under the new lockdown, which runs until December 2, only essential services are allowed to remain open. Businesses deemed non-essential may be either forced to close or operate with restrictions.
Businesses that are permitted to remain open must follow the latest Covid-19 guidelines.
The furlough scheme has been extended for the whole of the UK until the end of March 2021, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has confirmed. The scheme will continue to pay up to 80% of a worker’s wages for hours not worked, up to £2,500 a month.
The scheme, intended to protect millions of jobs, was initially due to end on October 31 but it was extended to cover the new four-week lockdown during November. To date, around £40 billion has been spent on the furlough scheme, with about 9.6 million people benefitting, since it was introduced in March.
The Chancellor told the House of Commons on Thursday that he would review the policy in January. He also announced an increase in upfront guarantee of funding for the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from £14bn up to £16bn.
Self-employed workers are set to receive additional financial support to help them recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has announced. They will also ensure that they get paid grants faster and opened up more loans to struggling businesses.
To reflect recent changes to the furlough scheme, the third instalment of the UK-wide Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) entitles self-employed workers to receive 80% of their average trading profits for November (up from 55%), up to £7,500. Grants will also be paid faster than previously planned, with the claims window opening on November 30, brought forward from December 14, meaning that £4.5bn of support will be given to the self-employed between November and January.
More businesses will also be able to benefit from government loan schemes, which have been extended to the end of January, while firms can ‘top up’ existing bounce back loans should they need additional finance.
The changes will ensure that self-employed individuals who temporarily cannot carry out their business or have suffered reduced demand because of the outbreak will be supported over winter. In addition, more businesses will be able to access additional support as deadlines for applications for government-backed loan schemes and the future fund have been further extended until January 31, 2021.
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.
So far, the government has provided £13.7bn of support to self-employed people through the crisis. In September, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced an extension of the SEISS to provide support throughout winter, with two grants to cover the period until April 2021.
As well as SEISS, self-employed workers can access bounce back loans, tax deferrals, rental support, mortgage holidays and other business support grants. These government backed loan schemes have already supported more than one million businesses to access over £60bn.
In addition, hundreds of thousands of self-employed workers who claim Universal Credit will continue to receive financial support for the next six months, the government has announced. The Minimum Income Floor (MIF) for self-employed Universal Credit claimants will remain suspended until the end of April 2021.
The financial aid they receive will be based on their current actual earnings, providing additional protection for those who suffer a drop in earnings due to the effect of Covid-19, Thérèse Coffey, the secretary of state for work and pensions announced. The temporary suspension was initially introduced in March as part of the government’s coronavirus support measures.
The existing regulations suspending the MIF expire on November 12.
Green and innovative businesses have been handed more than £134 million by the government to help them bounce back from the pandemic. The funds, announced by business secretary Alok Sharma, have been awarded to 1,069 ground-breaking growth projects to help companies secure and create new jobs, as well as drive productivity and tackle climate change.
Projects to benefit include servicing offshore wind turbines autonomously, using artificial intelligence to reduce beer waste in the brewing process and converting seaweed into compostable packaging to tackle plastic waste. The investment is part of the government’s pledge to help rebuild businesses and the economy.
Micro-businesses and the self-employed across Leeds will be able to receive expert help to improve their cybersecurity under a scheme. The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership has commissioned a non-profit organisation to deliver a £100,000 support programme.
The North East Business Resilience Centre provides a range of cybersecurity services, using a team including police officers and university-based experts.
Eligible businesses have to have fewer than 10 employees and be based in the Leeds City Region. Cyber fraud has rocketed by 400% during the pandemic and sole traders and small businesses have been at greatest risk.
For more information visit https://www.the-lep.com/business-support/cyber-security-support/ email firstname.lastname@example.org
A new programme aimed at tackling workplace inequality and helping women return to work has been announced by the Scottish government. The new Women Returners Programme – backed by £500,000 and following the 2018-19 pilot scheme – will fund projects that help to address gender inequality in the workplace and build on the Scottish Government’s commitment to reduce the gender pay gap, work minister Jamie Hepburn has announced.
A further £850,000 will be made available through the Workplace Equality Fund to help organisations to develop more inclusive and diverse workplaces.
Small businesses have been called on by the Welsh government to put forward innovative ideas to help with the recovery from Covid-19 and support the public sector after the EU transition period. In exchange, they can receive funding of up to £50,000 per project under the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).
Each project has to start in January 2021 and complete by the end of March. The focus will be on delivering against three key objectives that support the Welsh Government’s Economic Action Plan:
Solutions could include ways to use emerging digital and smart technology to support the mental wellbeing of people within communities; reduce the impact of emissions on health; tackle the impacts of food poverty; or reduce unemployment and the need to commute. The SBRI has a total of £250,000 available for successful projects.
The deadline for submissions is 12pm on November 27. For more information e-mail SBRI.COE@wales.nhs.uk and to make a submissions visit https://sbri.simplydo.co.uk/challenges/5f969f3c85ab77a35e18d689