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SME message for SMEs

Last updated: 07 July 2020

The emergence of COVID-19 in China last year has proved to be a seminal moment in world history.

As the effects of the coronavirus continue to play out on the global stage, we will be keeping tabs on the most important developments for British business, and updating this page as events evolve and relevant actions are announced.

Easing of lockdown - vital dates

Government help for SMEs
  1. From the 4 May a new Government backed, “bounce-back” loans scheme will be available, for small-to-medium (SMEs) enterprises struggling during the coronavirus crisis. Businesses will be able to borrow between £2,000–£50,000 and access the scheme interest free for the first 12 months.
  2. £330bn of government-backed loans, will be available to small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). Equivalent to 15 per cent of the UK’s GDP and provided by the British Business Bank, you can find out how to access the scheme here.
  3. The ceiling for CBILS loans will be increased by more than 300 per cent, from £1.2m to £5m. These loans will be interest free for 12 months
  4. In a truly unprecedented intervention by the Exchequer, The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be launched to pay the wages of workers who would have been sacked as a result of the crisis. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs will issue grants to cover 80 per cent of employees’ salaries up to £2,500 per month, back dated to 1 March. At the present time, this facility will be available for three months, with the first grants paid before end of April. The scheme will be subject to review and renewal.
  5.  SMEs currently receiving small business or rural rate relief will be eligible for additional grant funding up to £10,000. Rather than having to apply for this facility, local authorities will contact business owners directly.
  6. Business owners in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with rateable property values between £15,000 - and £51,000 will be able to access a cash grants of £25,000 in relief. Local authorities will contact eligible business owners directly about this funding.
  7. VAT will be deferred for all companies from March 2020 until June 2020.
  8. The Universal Credit minimum income floor has been suspended for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis and will be available in full for all self-employed people.
  9. The next round of self-assessment payments for the self-employed have been postponed until Jan 2021.

Where do I start?

If you're having trouble understanding how or where to apply for a government loan and if your business is eligible, simply go through the easy-to-follow questions on the official government website, to get started.

Find out if you're eligible  


Friday 29 May
Furlough scheme modified to include employer contributions and wrap up by November

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced amendments to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) with a view to lessening direct government contributions and winding up by Hallowe’en 2020.

The chancellor announced that the scheme would carry on unchanged during June and July, but the following adjustments would take place:

  • From August – employers will have to pay National Insurance and pension contributions for all furloughed staff
  • From September – employers must additionally pay 10 per cent of the wages of all furloughed staff
  • From October – employers will have to pay 20 per cent of the salary of all furloughed staff

The CJRS will then be suspended from 31 October

Friday 29 May
Second grant available to the self-employed with applications opening in August

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) would be extended, with a final grant available to eligible applicants before the scheme is closed.

The grant will pay out a reduced amount of 70 per cent of verifiable monthly trading profits – down from 80 per cent previously – and with a payment ceiling of £6,570.

Further guidance on the second grant will be published on Friday 12 June.

Wednesday 27 May
Amendments to lockdown regulations
Within the UK, provisions for health and social services are devolved to the UK’s regional parliaments. As such, measures to lift the lockdown are not uniform across the constituent parts of the UK. Consequently, restart dates for different businesses will differ from region to region. These will be listed below as they come into force:

England - 13 May
Garden centres, outdoor sports centres and waste and recycling centres are permitted to open in England.

Northern Ireland - 18 May
Garden centres and recycling centres permitted to reopen.
20 May
Drive-in cinemas, plays and performances allowed to open as look as people remain in vehicles.

Wales - 11 May
Garden centres and waste and recycling centres permitted to open.

Friday 15 May
UK Government to underwrite transactions covered by Trade Credit Insurance
The Government has announced that it will guarantee business-to-business transactions that are currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance (TCI) schemes. TCI protects businesses from the potentially losses incurred if their trading partners enter into default or are declared insolvent or bankrupt.

Business Minister, Paul Scully, said: “Giving businesses the confidence to continue trading is vital to seeing us through this crisis. This guarantee will be essential as we seek to reopen new sectors of the economy and get the UK back to work in a way that is safe for everyone.

Tuesday 12 May
Furlough scheme to continue until end of October 2020, with changes in August
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in the House of Commons that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will remain in place for another four months. The terms of the scheme will remain unchanged until the end of July, at which time employers will be expected to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff. More details on what exactly this will entail will be announced by the end of May.

Chancellor Sunak said: "This extension and the changes we are making to the scheme will give flexibility to businesses while protecting the livelihoods of the British people and our future economic prospects.

Monday 27 April
“Bounce-back” loans scheme to support SMEs

Chancellor Rishi Sunak addressed Parliament to announce a new fast-track finance scheme for small-to-medium (SMEs) enterprises struggling in the coronavirus crisis. In addition to measures already set up by the exchequer, the so-called “bounce-back” loans will be available from 4 May, and are 100 per cent backed by the UK Government.

The new package will enable businesses to:

  • Borrow between £2,000–£50,000
  • Access the scheme interest free for the first 12 months
  • Apply via a short form with money available within days

During the announcement, Chancellor Sunak said: “Our smallest businesses are the backbone of our economy and play a vital role in their communities. This new rapid loan scheme will help ensure they get the finance they need quickly to help survive this crisis.”

  • Amazon share presentation from second webinar on changes that will effect sellers during the coronavirus

Monday 20 April
Furlough scheme goes live

The Corona Virus Job Retention Scheme (CVJS) – also known as the furlough scheme – begins today, enabling employers to claim a cash grant covering 80 per cent of employees’ salaries, capped at £2,500 per month and backdated to 1 March 2020.

  • GoDaddy create resource area to support small businesses during the pandemic, including a community and answers to popular questions
  • UK businesses driving innovation and development will be helped through the coronavirus outbreak with a £1.25 billion government support package

Wednesday 17 April
Lockdown and salary grant timeframe extended
With the UK’s lockdown extended until at least 7 May, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces that The Corona Virus Job Retention Scheme (CVJS) will be available to business owners until the end of June 2020.

Wednesday 8 April
Chancellor pledges £750m to aid charities

In a move welcomed by the voluntary sector, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £750m support package for the UK’s 170,000 charities.

Half of the sum will be dedicated to “small, local charities working with vulnerable people”, with the remainder awarded directly to charities “providing essential services” on the frontlines of the pandemic, including St John Ambulance’, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, and organisations that support children, victims of domestic abuse and the disabled.

The chancellor also promised to match the total raised by BBC’s The Big Night In, a three-hour fundraising event to be broadcast on 23 April that will merge Comic Relief and Children In Need.

Thursday 2 April
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) orders banks to lighten the load on customers

The independent financial regulator has ordered UK financial bodies to enact a raft of measure to help those hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. From 9 April, banks will be expected to:

  • Offer the first £500 of customers’ overdrafts interest free from three months
  • Ensure that overdraft customers are not paying more than they did previously after recent rate changes
  • Freeze payments for a period of three months on:
    • Credit and store cards
    • Loans
    • Catalogue debt
    • Provide assurances that customers’ credit scores will not be jeopardised by applying for payment holidays

For the FCA’s full statement, see here.

Wednesday 1 April
Banks warned over COVID-19 relief funds

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said that it was “completely unacceptable” for banks to refuse funds to “good businesses in financial difficulty”, and urged financial institutions that were bailed out by the taxpayer in the 2008 financial crash, to “repay that favour”.

He stated that the chancellor, Bank of England and the Financial Services authority have written to the CEOs of British banks to ensure that that benefits of the UK Government’s loan schemes (CBILS and CJRS) are passed on to business owners and consumers alike. Chancellor Rishi Sunak will make further announcements on the Government’s efforts to make sure that businesses are getting the support they need in the coming days.

  • NHS Nightingale hospital has officially opened at the Excel centre in East London. The 4,000-bed hospital, was built with the assistance of the Army, will help to reduce pressure on existing health services
  • Boots UK is to donate over 200,000 toiletries to vulnerable people and NHS workers to use between busy shifts. The donations will include hand cream, shower gel and toothpaste
  • Streaming service, Netflix donates £1 million to the BFI (British Film Institute) and their Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund to provide short term relief to crew that have now found themselves out of work

Thursday 26 March
Government announces Self-employed Income Support Scheme

Chancellor Sunak announces Self-employed Income Support Scheme to benefit 95 per cent of self-employed workers from June 2020.

A taxable grant, equal to 80 per cent of median monthly wages over the last three years will be available to every self-employed person with trading profits over £50,000. This will cover salaries up to £2,500 per month backdated to March. The scheme will be available for three months and then reviewed.

Self-employed workers will be able to claim the grant and do business, and the support is targeted at those who make a majority of earnings from self-employed income.

This will only be able to those with a tax return for 2019, and the deadline has been extended for one month for those who missed filing in January.

  • Fuelmywebsite are offering a free 30 minute call to GS1 UK members selling or interesting in selling on Amazon
  • #ClapForTheNHS commemoration launched at 8pm across the UK to show appreciation for healthcare staff working hard during the current climate
  • Amazon to make available millions of 15-minute coronavirus testing kits
  • Enterprise Nation, our community partner are hosting daily lunch and learns to offer expert advice and give people a boost
  • Supermarkets put measures in place to protect staff and customers

Monday 23 March
Closure of non-essential businesses

Prime Minister Johnson ordered the closing of all non-essential businesses and premises for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. For a detailed list of those affected, click here.

  • Brewdog to deliver hand sanitiser to Aberdeen Hospital
  • Water companies halt payments for customers who have lost their jobs or had income cut during Coronavirus
  • British companies to produce ventilators for the NHS
  • YouTube reduces streaming quality worldwide to ease increased pressure on the internet
  • UK mobile firms prompted to send messages to customers to spread lockdown message

Friday 20 March
Government to pay up to 80 per cent of wages
Following on from the unparalleled steps outlined to bolster British business in the 2020 Budget, Chancellor Sunak announced a further raft of measures in an extraordinary week for UK plc, including the state payment of salaries for those threatened with unemployment.

Prime Minister Johnson orders the closure of all pubs, restaurants, gyms and any other social venues across the country for the foreseeable future.

  • GS1 UK chairman, Chris Tyas appointed by the Government to help ensure the nation’s supply chain integrity
  • UK supermarkets announce thousands of new jobs
  • BT gives all customers unlimited broadband to deal with working from home
  • Uber Eats waives fees for ordering takeaways

Tuesday 17 March
Emergency state support for business

Chancellor Sunak announces a package of emergency state support for business with £330bn-worth of government-backed loans and more than £20bn in tax cuts and grants for companies threatened with collapse. 

What are GS1 UK doing to help members?

Even during the current climate, we are continuing to provide support for our members, as well as direct help from our partners and offer some light relief.

See how we're helping