Published on: 14 October 2020
The Prime Minister has set out how the UK Government will further simplify and standardise local rules by introducing a three-tiered system of local COVID-19 alert levels in England.
The Prime Minister has announced the new three tier alert system in outline, but undoubtedly there will be more detail that will follow over the next few days. British Marine is now reviewing the back to business industry guidance in reference to the changes.
Three tier alert level system
The Government announced the new three tier system for COVID-19 control, which came into effect on Wednesday. Every part of England will be designated as of the following three alert zones:
Local COVID Alert Level - Medium
This is for areas where national restrictions continue to be in place. This means:
- All businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law, such as nightclubs
- Certain businesses selling food or drink on their premises are required to close between 10pm and 5am
- Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-thru
- Schools, universities and places of worship remain open
- Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
- Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place, provided the ‘Rule of Six’ is followed
- People must not meet in groups larger than 6, indoors or outdoors
Local COVID Alert Level - High
This is for areas with a higher level of infections. This means the following additional measures are in place:
- People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
- People must not meet in a group of more than 6 outside, including in a garden or other space
- People should aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. If they need to travel, they should walk or cycle where possible, or to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport
Local COVID Alert Level - Very High
This is for areas with a very high level of infections. The Government will set a baseline of measures for any area in this local alert level. Consultation with local authorities will determine additional measures.
The baseline means the below additional measures are in place:
- Pubs and bars must close, and can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant - which means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal. They may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal
- Wedding receptions are not allowed
- People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor or outdoor setting, whether at home or in a public space. The Rule of Six applies in open public spaces like parks and beaches
- People should try to avoid travelling outside the ‘Very High’ area they are in, or entering a ‘Very High’ area, other than for things like work, education, accessing youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if they are in transit
- People should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if they are resident in a ‘Very High’ area, or avoid staying overnight in a ‘Very High’ area if they are resident elsewhere
People will be able to check what alert level any particular area is in through an online postcode checker.
More information on local COVID-19 alert levels in England, alongside guidance on the restrictions in place which includes information for businesses and venues, and going to work, can be found here:
Job Support Scheme Guidance Updated
The Guidance for the Job Support Scheme has been amended to include businesses required to close as a result of the new Alert Scheme. It has also been updated to clarify the support for businesses with different rateable values.
- Properties with a rateable value of £15,000 or under will receive grants of £667 per two weeks of closure (£1,334 per month)
- Properties with a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 will receive grants of £1,000 per two weeks of closure (£2,000 per month)
- Properties with a rateable value of £51,000 or over will receive grants of £1500 per two weeks of closure (£3,000 per month)
Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme
The Government has published guidance on the Test and Trace Payment Support Scheme. People contacted through the Test and Trace system in England and told that they need to self-isolate are eligible for a £500 payment if they meet the following criteria:
- They’re employed or self-employed
- They’re unable to work from home and will lose income as a result of self-isolating
- They’re currently receiving at least one of the following:
- Universal Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- Pension Credit
People in England who do not fulfil the above criteria for the Test and Trace Support Payment, could be eligible for a £500 discretionary payment if they meet the following criteria:
- They have been told to stay at home and self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, either because you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive
- They are employed or self-employed
- They are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result of self-isolating
- They are not currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit
- They are on a low income and will face financial hardship as a result of not being able to work while you are self-isolating
Visa Guidance Update
The guidance on applying for visas has been updated to say that customers can now apply for a visit visa from any VAC. Read more.
New Guidance on the Job Retention Bonus
Further information has been published on how businesses can claim the Government’s Job Retention Bonus.
The Job Retention Bonus is a £1,000 one-off taxable payment to you (the employer), for each eligible employee that you furloughed and kept continuously employed until 31 January 2021.
You’ll be able to claim the bonus between 15 February 2021 and 31 March 2021. You do not have to pay this money to your employee.
Who Can Claim?
You can claim the bonus if you’re an employer who has furloughed employees and made an eligible claim for them through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Your employee must have been eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant for you to be eligible for the bonus.
You can still claim the bonus if you make a claim for that employee through the Job Support Scheme. Guidance on the Job Support Scheme will be published soon.
If you have repaid Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant amounts to HMRC you cannot claim the bonus for any employees that you have not paid using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant because you have repaid all the grant amounts you claimed for them. This applies regardless of the reason why you repaid the grant amounts.
Employees You Can Claim For
You can claim for employees that:
- You made an eligible claim for under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- You kept continuously employed from the end of the claim period of your last Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claim for them, until 31 January 2021
- Are not serving a contractual or statutory notice period for you on 31 January 2021 (this includes people serving notice of retirement)
- You paid enough an amount in each relevant tax month and enough to meet the Job Retention Bonus minimum income threshold
If HMRC are still checking your Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claims, you can still claim the Job Retention Bonus but your payment may be delayed until those checks are completed.
HMRC will not pay the bonus if you made an incorrect Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claim and your employee was not eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
The Minimum Income Threshold
To be eligible for the bonus you must make sure that your employees have been paid at least the minimum income threshold.
To meet the minimum income threshold you must pay your employee a total of at least £1,560 (gross) throughout the tax months:
- 6 November to 5 December 2020
- 6 December 2020 to 5 January 2021
- 6 January to 5 February 2021
You must pay your employee at least one payment of taxable earnings (of any amount) in each of the relevant tax months.
The minimum income threshold criteria apply regardless of:
- How often you pay your employees
- Any circumstances that may have reduced your employee’s pay in the relevant tax periods, such as being on statutory leave or unpaid leave
The HMRC will check that your employees have been paid at least the minimum income threshold and will check information you’ve submitted through Full Payment Submissions via Real Time Information (RTI).
If You Are Making Redundancies
If you make redundancies, you must comply with the normal rules for redundancy, which include using fair redundancy criteria. These rules apply even if this means that fewer of your employees are eligible for the Job Retention Bonus.
Further information can be found here.
Defer your Self Assessment Payment on Account Due to COVID-19:
You had the option to defer your second payment on account if you were registered in the UK for Self Assessment and finding it difficult to make that payment by 31 July 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19. Check what you need to do if, after 31 July 2020, you chose to defer your second payment on account for the 2019 to 2020 tax year.
Maintaining Records of Staff, Customers and Visitors to Support NHS Test and Trace:
Guidance has been updated to add further clarification on the venues in scope of the policy. Guidance has also been added for hospitality venues on how to verify whether an individual has checked in on the NHS COVID-19 app.
Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme: Claiming Financial Support:
If you have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to self-isolate on or after 28 September 2020, you’re under a legal obligation to do so, and could be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment. This guidance sets out who can claim support and explains how to apply.
New Hotline Launched to Report COVID-19 Fraudsters:
A new hotline has been launched to stop fraudsters illegally targeting COVID-19 stimulus schemes. In an initiative between the Government and the independent charity Crimestoppers, the public can now call a new COVID-19 Fraud Hotline (0800 587 5030) anonymously and free of charge to report suspected fraudulent activity.
Updates to the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF):
The CCFF provides temporary direct support to investment grade firms with short-term cash-flow problems and is designed to ensure that firms accessing Government backed CCFF financing are able to repay. To ensure the CCFF continues to meet its objectives, the Treasury has introduced a new access review process. More here.
British Marine is reviewing the Back to Business industry guidance in reference to the changes.