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Coronavirus: What support is there for my business?

By Luke Sproule

image copyrightPacemaker

Since lockdown was first announced in March, a range of financial measures has been introduced to help individuals and businesses.

Some, such as the furlough scheme, are coming to an end, while others have been announced following new restrictions.

These are some of the support schemes currently on offer, or coming into operation very soon.

New business support

After the announcement that pubs, restaurants, hotels, cinemas, cafes and a range of other businesses would have to close for four weeks from 18:00 BST on 16 October, Finance Minister Conor Murphy revealed new assistance.

The scheme, which had already been operating in the Derry City and Strabane council area, will cost £35m and will open to applications from Monday. The scheme is only open to businesses where the use of premises is restricted, or must stop because of the restrictions.

It will see small businesses receive £1,600 every fortnight they are in lockdown, medium businesses £2,400 and large firms £3,200.

The thresholds are:

  • Small businesses with a Net Annual Value (NAV) up to £15,000
  • Medium businesses with a NAV of £15,001 to £51,000
  • Large businesses with NAV of £51,001 or more

How about the self-employed?

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme allows people to claim a taxable grant, with applications for the second grant now open.

You can apply even if you did not make a claim for the first grant earlier in the year.

The second taxable grant is worth 70% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months' worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

What other jobs help is on offer?

The UK government will also give firms:

  • £1,000 for every furloughed employee kept on until at least the end of January
  • £1,500 for every out-of-work 16-24 year-old given a ''high quality'' six-month work placement
  • £2,000 for every under-25 apprentice taken on until the end of January, or £1,500 for over-25s

Job Support Scheme

Workers at firms told to shut because of coronavirus rules over the winter will receive at least 67% of their pay from the government.

This will be part of the Job Support Scheme, which replaces furlough at the start of November.

Until then, workers are in line for up to 80% of their pay - 20% from their employer and 60% from the government - if their premises must close, or if there isn't enough for them to do.

However, payments will not be available to firms that lose work as a result of places closing - for example, a pub's suppliers.

The Job Support Scheme will also help firms which are allowed to open and where employees can return part-time.

Staff will have to be paid to work at least a third of their hours to qualify for support.

For the hours not worked, the government and employer will each pay one-third of the remaining wages. This means the employee would get at least 77% of their pay, subject to the cap.

For part-time workers, the Job Support Scheme payment will be based on an employee's normal salary, with the government contribution capped at £697.92 per month.

What about apprentices?

image copyrightGetty Images

Businesses which have furloughed an apprentice are able to access incentive payments to bring that apprentice back and retain them until 31 March 2021.

The scheme pays £500 for every returned furloughed apprentice, payable for the first full month of paid apprenticeship from 1 November.

There is then another maximum of £2,000 available - £500 a month for up to four months of paid apprenticeship between 1 December and 31 March.

Another £1,200 is payable for successful full framework achievement of a returned furloughed apprentice.

The scheme is open to employers participating in the Department for the Economy funded ApprenticeshipsNI or Higher Level Apprenticeship programmes

What has the reaction to support measures been?

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionRishi Sunak's schemes have been criticised by the Labour Party

The new measures introduced specifically in Northern Ireland by the executive have been welcomed, but business groups have said they do not go far enough.

Belfast Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said the scheme "didn't cut it" and was "paltry in comparison to the costs that many businesses are going to face".

Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive Colin Neill echoed Mr Hamilton's views, saying the support was vital but was "nowhere near enough".

He said: "We now need the prime minister, the chancellor and the treasury to listen up, level up and stop sitting on their hands."

Mr Neill called for more emergency funding to be given to Stormont to help hospitality businesses "in dire need".

Think tank the Resolution Foundation said the Job Support Scheme would slow but not stop, "major" job losses.

It has also been criticised by the Labour Party, which said many workers would fall through gaps in it.

But the Treasury defended the scheme and said Labour was inaccurate in its criticism.

More on this story

  • Covid-19: UK workers to get 67% of pay if firms told to shut