Posted: Mon 16th Mar 2020
*** This post was published in March 2020 so some of the advice may be out-of-date. For the latest government coronavirus guidance, click here for England, here for Wales, here for Scotland and here for Northern Ireland ***
Enterprise Nation's coronavirus survival guide answered audience questions about how to react to coronavirus, with input from employment, finance and tax experts.
Over 630 business owners registered for the webinar, which included Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones, UK Small Business Commissioner Philip King, Oxwich Accountancy director Ceri Williams and Stephenson Law founder Alice Stephenson.
You can find answers to the key questions below, including how to manage your cashflow, which 64% of business owners said was their biggest concern. You can watch the webinar here.
Resources to help you:
Seedlegals has created a free Work From Home Policy template, which you can use online.
Enterprise Nation has a guide to government support that we'll update as the situation evolves.
Read our guide to tools you can use to run events and meetings remotely.
The Business Debtline supports businesses that are struggling with debt.
Crowdfunder are offering 100% free fundraising for your business along with support from Enterprise Nation.
Read on to find the answers to our audience's questions on responding to coronavirus.
"Unfortunately, there's not a lot of help," said legal expert Alice. "The best you can hope for is that you can get your registration fee back, but that's going to be up to the organiser's terms and conditions."
"Check your contract because they can't change the terms retroactively," said Philip. "Talk to them and explain the impact. If you talk to the right people they'll often recognise that they need to support you and the people in their supply chain. Don't talk to accounts payable, talk to your contact."
"The fines normally relate to submitting, rather than paying. If you're in the position to submit, even if you can't pay, it's better to do it. You're charged interest for late payment.
"HMRC is obliged to forgive penalties if there's a reasonable excuse for not being able to submit," said Ceri.
"As a small business, you're not alone, there's more people that can help. You're not alone, come and talk to us please," said Philip.
"The British Business Bank and Enterprise Nation have lots of advice in this space. We're here to remind businesses that very often the cashflow they need is in the bank of people that owe them money. Look at the other clients that haven't yet paid you, talk to them. That's often the easiest way to get access to finance," said Philip.
"You have to use them with caution. They can be useful, but make sure you read it and check it applies. There's only going to be one business that's like your business. You can get a template that will help, but you're going to have to spend a bit of time adjusting it," said Alice.
"I don't know if there's specific help for CICs. However, if your biggest outlay is a loan, the support the government is giving to lenders comes with heavy caveats that they have to pass the benefit on. Speak to the lender and see if they can give you support in terms of payment holidays," said Ceri.
"They're either an employee of yours or not. You need to decide whether you're going to cancel the contract or stop paying them for a while," said Alice.
"It depends on what the contract says. If it's been signed and is in force, you are going to have to terminate it based on the terms. If you want to delay it, you're not going to be able to do it without the agreement of the employees," said Alice.
"You need to do a risk assessment for your own business. As an employer, you have a duty of care that you need to take really seriously," said Alice.
"If the employee is not self-isolating, they need to be working or not working. If they're not working they can take holiday or non-paid leave. You need to have a conversation with the employee about what's best," said Alice.
"There's the potential it would be, but it depends on the contract. Every contract would need to be reviewed to find out if it would count and whether there are any obligations to notify them," said Alice.
"I'm not sure what business support you're looking for," said Ceri. "The government announced a loan but that's not ready yet. If you have business interruption insurance, which is unusual for a small business, it comes down to whether it counts as a force majeure event."
"If a business can't pay there are a number of avenues. Talk to the Small Business Commissioner's office. We have advice on the website and people you can talk to. If they have the cash and are using coronavirus as an excuse, there are things you can do.
"It depends, sometimes you have a unilateral right to update terms and conditions. However, it's often the case that you need approval from your client. I suggest you get legal advice," said Alice.
"We spoke to Royal Mail this morning and were told they're confident they will stay open.
"We're advising all business owners to launch new products and diversify," said Emma.
"There are no legal requirements. If it's something that's being asked of you and you're seeing a lot of questions come in, it might make commercial sense," said Alice.