Posted: Mon 21st Feb 2022
The latest details on coronavirus restrictions and small business support. We're keeping this post updated.
You can also find details of grants and support programmes here.
Plan A is now in place.
People are not required to wear a face covering, including in communal areas of schools, but the government suggests wearing one in crowded and indoor spaces where you may come into contact with people you do not normally meet. Businesses may also chose to encourage people to wear a face covering.
A NHS COVID Pass is no longer required by law for entry to venues and events but businesses may chose to require them.
Employees are no longer required to work from home if they can. The government says employers should agree with their employees arrangements to return to the workplace.
There's a guide with downloadable posters showing the need for face coverings here.
To download posters and social media assets to show that proof of COVID status is required, click here.
'Living with COVID' plan
On 21 February, Boris Johnson announced the government's 'living with COVID' plan for England with the removal of all remaining coronavirus restrictions and regulations. The changes are as follows:
Guidance removed for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice weekly asymptomatic testing.
From 24 February, the government will:
Remove the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test. Adults and children who test positive will continue to be advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least five full days and then continue to follow the guidance until they have received two negative test results on consecutive days.
No longer ask fully vaccinated close contacts and those aged under 18 to test daily for seven days, and remove the legal requirement for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate.
End self-isolation support payments, national funding for practical support and the medicine delivery service will no longer be available.
End routine contact tracing. Contacts will no longer be required to self-isolate or advised to take daily tests.
End the legal obligation for individuals to tell their employers when they are required to self-isolate.
From 24 March, the government will:
Remove the COVID-19 provisions within the Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance regulations. This means statutory sick pay will no longer be available from day one of sickness or self-isolation due to COVID-19. It will return to pre-pandemic rules with sick pay available from day four.
From 1 April, the government will:
Remove the current guidance on voluntary COVID-status certification in domestic settings and no longer recommend that certain venues use the NHS COVID Pass.
Update guidance setting out the ongoing steps that people with COVID-19 should take to minimise contact with other people. This will align with the changes to testing
No longer provide free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public in England.
Consolidate guidance to the public and businesses, in line with public health advice.
Remove the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments. The plan says "the intention is to empower businesses to take responsibility for implementing mitigations that are appropriate for their circumstances".
Replace the existing set of workplace guidance with new public health guidance. The plan says "employers should continue to consider the needs of employees at greater risk from COVID-19, including those whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19". It adds that the government will "consult with employers and businesses to ensure guidance continues to support them to manage the risk of COVID-19 in workplaces". In addition, the plan government says the government "will continue to promote and support good ventilation". Businesses "should continue identifying poorly ventilated spaces and take steps to improve fresh air flow".
Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant for businesses in England
To help businesses in England impacted by the spread of the Omicron variant, the government has announced one-off grants for hospitality, leisure and accommodation businesses such as restaurants, pubs, bars, cinemas, amusement parks, hotels and guesthouses.
Businesses with a rateable value of up to £15,000 receive £2,667, those with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000 get £4,000 and large firms rated over £51,000 can access £6,000.
The scheme closes for applications on 28 February 2022 and all payments must be made by 31 March 2022.
The grants are distributed by local councils. Find the website for your local council here.
The full guidance sent to local authorities is here.
Additional Restrictions Grant in England
Businesses in England can still access funding through the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) that was set up in October 2020 to support businesses not eligible for other coronavirus funding.
Councils must spend all their allocation of ARG funding by 31 March 2022 or the government will take it back. Councils are using a wide variety of eligibility to support businesses. We have outlined some examples here.
On 21 December, the government announced £102m in extra discretionary funding for the Additional Restrictions Grant scheme to help businesses impacted by the spread of the Omicron variant.
The new funding must be used to support businesses severely impacted by the rise of the Omicron variant. Unlike previous top-up payments, it cannot be used to fund business support schemes.
Grants for arts and cultural businesses in England
The government has announced an extra £60m in funding for the Culture Recovery Fund to support museums, cinemas, theatres and heritage organisations.
In Scotland, rules in place include:
Mandatory wearing of face coverings (unless exempt) in indoor settings such as public transport, shops, hospitality venues and schools.
Indoor hospitality businesses are required to collect customer contact details.
Two metre social distancing rule in hospitals, GP surgeries and dentists.
Businesses are legally obliged to take measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Actions could include reducing crowding in shops and hospitality environments, physical distancing and the use of protective screens. Guidance for businesses is here.
Guidance recommends a "hybrid" system of office and remote working.
The latest guidance for businesses is here.
There's a guide with links to downloadable posters showing the need for face coverings here.
COVID passports for nightclubs and events in Scotland
In Scotland, COVID passports, that show people over 18 are fully vaccinated or otherwise exempt, are mandatory for entry to:
Nightclubs and adult entertainment venues.
Unseated indoor events with more than 500 people (even if some are seated).
Unseated outdoor live events with over 4,000 attendees.
All events hosting more than 10,000 people.
People can also use a negative lateral flow test to enter the above premises.
Local council officers are responsible for enforcing the scheme which applies to the person in charge of the premises. The government says: "officers will adopt an approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging the responsible person before enforcement options are considered."
Guidance for affected businesses and event organisers in Scotland is here.
Ending of legal restrictions in Scotland
On 22 February, first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the timetable for the lifting of remaining legal coronavirus restrictions in Scotland. The measures will move to guidance.
The mandatory COVID passport scheme for hospitality and events will end on 28 February.
Ending on 21 March:
mandatory wearing of face coverings in indoor public places and public transport.
legal requirement for hospitality businesses to retain customer contact details.
all other legal requirements on businesses, places of worship and service providers.
How the Scottish government will respond to future threat levels:
Funding for businesses in Scotland affected by Omicron
Scottish government funding for businesses is still available as follows:
Close contact services
Funding is available for close contact businesses, including hairdressers and beauticians:
£1,000 for self-employed businesses
£1,500 for NDR registered premised business owner
Applications are open until 4 March 2022. Full guidance here.
Creative freelancers working in the arts, screen and creative sectors who are experiencing immediate financial hardship because of cancellations and deferrals can apply for between £500 and £2,000 through the COVID-19 Cancellation Fund for Creative Freelancers. Application details are here.
Breweries who previously received funding from the Brewers Support Fund Phase 1 (part of the Contingency Fund Plus), plus any new brewery businesses which meet the eligibility criteria are entitled to the one off grant payment.
Eligible businesses will receive:
£5,625 for businesses with a rateable value up to and including £18,000
£8,700 for businesses with a rateable value between £18,001 and £51,000
£29,500 for businesses with a rateable value above £51,000 or whose annual beer production exceeds 5,000HL
Businesses do not need to apply. They will be contacted by their local authority. Grantees are required to complete and return the self declaration forms confirming eligibility by 28 February 2022.
The Nightclub Closure Fund provides funding to eligible nightclubs that are required to close to members of the public. Nightclubs which have previously received support were contacted and asked to complete an application by 14 January 2022.
The grant is a one-off payment at the rate of:
£25,000 for premises which have a rateable value of up to and including £40,000
£35,000 for premises which have a rateable value between £40,001 and £75,000
£55,000 for premises which have a rateable value of £75,001 or above
Taxis and private hire
The Taxi and Private Hire Driver and Operator Support Fund 2022 provides a one-off payment to eligible drivers and operators. Local authorities will make a further payment to all drivers and operators who previously received a grant through the Taxi and Private Hire Driver and Operator Support Fund in 2021.
The grant payable is based on the number of vehicle licences each company, partnership, sole trader or trust (operator) holds, and which are currently active, as follows:
owner/operators with one vehicle - a single award of £750
operators with two to nine vehicles - a single award of £3,000
operators with 10 - 49 vehicles - a single award of £7,000
operators with 50 or more vehicles – a single award of £15,000
You do not need to apply for these payments. Local authorities have contacted eligible businesses. The closing date for the return of self-declaration forms is 2 March 2022.
Parts of the tourism sector previously supported by VisitScotland are eligible for funding including coach operators, day tour operators, hostels, inbound tour operators (outdoor/marine) and visitor attractions.
COVID-19 Ventilation Fund for Scottish businesses
The COVID-19 Ventilation Fund is a £25m Scottish government grant scheme to help business premises improve ventilation and reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission. It targets high-risk settings where people come into close proximity such as restaurants, bars and gyms. Companies can access grants for carrying out work such as installing carbon dioxide monitors and altering windows and vents.
Applications will be accepted until Thursday 31 March 2022 or until the fund runs out, whichever comes first. Full details here.
The Welsh government's current rules are:
Businesses, employers and other organisations must undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise exposure to, and the spread of, coronavirus.
Everyone must follow self-isolation rules and guidance.
Adults and children aged 11 and over must wear face-coverings in indoor public places, with the exception of hospitality settings such as restaurants, pubs, cafes or nightclubs.
There's a guide with links to downloadable posters showing the need for face coverings here.
The Northern Ireland Executive has revoked the remaining coronavirus rules so restrictions that were previously legally binding are now guidance:
People are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces such as shops, visitor attractions and public transport.
Hospitalility and entertainment venues are strongly encouraged to use COVID passports for condition of entry.
People are still advised to work from home where possible.
People are very strongly advised to follow isolation guidance if they test positive for COVID-19.
Business support in Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland Executive is providing funding to hospitality businesses through the Omicron Hospitality Payment. The amounts are as follows:
£10,000 for businesses with a rateable value up to £15,000.
£15,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,001 and £51,000.
£20,000 for businesses with a rateable value over £51,000.
The COVID-19 Childcare Temporary Closure Support Fund provides support for childcare providers who have had to close temporarily due to a COVID-19 related incident within their provision.
Those eligible to apply include registered childminders, daycare providers, school age childcare providers, crèches and playgroups who are registered and have been operational during the period 1 January to 31 March 2022
Applications must be submitted by 4pm on Friday 15 April 2022.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Laws to resolve unpaid rent debts by commercial tenants
The government has announced the introduction of new laws meaning businesses forced to close during the pandemic and unable to pay commercial rent will be protected from being taken to the court by their landlords.
When the current ban on evictions ends on 25 March 2022, companies will be protected from debt claims, such as County Court Judgements, issued against them for rent arrears accrued due to lockdown closures.
Ministers are establishing a new legally-binding arbitration process that landlords and tenants must adhere to after 25 March if they cannot negotiate an agreement. Read more details here.
Waiver of Self Assessment late payment penalties
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has announced that it will not charge:
Late filing penalties for those who file online Self Assessment tax returns by 28 February 2022.
Late payment penalties for those who pay the tax due in full or set up a payment plan by 1 April 2022.
The deadline for filing tax returns and paying tax is still 31 January and business owners and the self-employed are encouraged to meet the deadline. Interest will still be charged from 1 February on any amounts outstanding. However, HMRC is waiving the 5% late payment penalty (as outlined above) that is usually charged on any unpaid tax that is still outstanding on 3 March.
For returns filed after 28 February, the other late filing penalties (daily penalties from three months, six and 12 month penalties) will operate as usual.
A 5% late payment penalty will be charged if tax remains outstanding, and a payment plan has not been set up, by midnight on 1 April 2022. Further late payment penalties will be charged at the usual six and 12 month points (August 2022 and February 2023 respectively) on tax outstanding where a payment plan has not been set up.
If you have any questions, call HMRC on 0300 200 3822 as soon as possible.
Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
Due to the spread of the new Omicron variant, the government has announced it reopening its scheme for employers to get rebates on coronavirus-related statutory sick pay.
The scheme will be reintroduced so that employers with fewer than 250 employees can claim for COVID-related sickness absences occurring from 21 December 2021 onwards.
The scheme will close on 17 March 2022. Employers have until 24 March 2022 to submit any new claims for absence periods up to 17 March 2022, or to amend claims that have already been submitted.
VAT increases for retail and hospitality
The VAT rate for businesses in the hospitality, hotel and holiday accommodation sectors plus certain attractions has increased from 5% to 12.5%. It applies until 31 March 2022. Read more details here.