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SME message for SMEs

Last updated: 03/04/2020

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.

Government help for SMEs
  1. £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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4.  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.
  5. 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.
  6. VAT will be deferred for all companies from March 2020 until June 2020.
  7. 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.
  8. The next round of self-assessment payments for the self-employed have been postponed until Jan 2021.


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