The government has unveiled an unprecedented support package to help businesses through the COVID-19 crisis.  

We have summarised the help that is available to recruitment agencies below.  Information on assistance available to contractors and those operating through their own personal service company is available here. Where details have been made available, we also outline how you can access this help.

We will keep this page updated as the government announces further information. 

Support At a Glance

The government have announced a £330billion financial package to help support and protect businesses affected by COVID-19.

A helpline, ‘Time to Pay’, has been set up to help those unable to pay their tax bills.

Financial Coronavirus Support Available to Recruitment Businesses

Refund of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

In circumstances where an employee is absent from work due to coronavirus or has to self-isolate in line with government guidance Statutory Sick Pay will be payable from day one of absence rather than day four. SSP remains at £95.85 per week. Parasol as an employer has always paid statutory sick pay and will continue to apply the updated legislation.

SSP is ordinarily a cost to the employer, however the government has confirmed that for small or medium sized businesses it will repay up to two weeks SSP for each employee that takes time off due to coronavirus.

Will my business qualify for this?

You will be able to reclaim the costs of up to two weeks sick pay per employee provided you are a small or medium sized business with no more than 250 employees at 28th February 2020 and your business is based in the UK.

How do I claim this?

The online portal to facilitate these claims opened on 26th May 2020.

What if I engage workers that do not qualify for SSP?

If you engage contractors via an umbrella company, they should be employees and will therefore qualify for SSP, speak to the umbrella companies you work with and confirm they will be applying this emergency legislation. If you engage workers that do not qualify for statutory sick pay, for example employees paid less than £118 per week, they will be able to claim Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit. This is claimed directly from the government and further information is available here.

Deferral of VAT Payments

VAT payments due between 20th March 2020 and 30th June 2020 can be deferred to a later date to help businesses manage their cash flow. You must still submit your VAT return to HMRC on time as normal. This means that VAT payments for VAT quarters ending 29/02/2020, 31/03/2020 and 30/04/2020 can be deferred. Whilst this is welcome news from an immediate cashflow perspective, you should be mindful that you still need to make this payments in full on or before the 31st March 2021. If you can afford to pay your VAT payments on time as normal, you should consider doing so to avoid cash flow issues later.

Can I claim this?

All VAT registered UK businesses can take advantage of this scheme. So, if you are VAT registered then you are eligible.

How can I claim this?

You do not need to apply for this. You simply don’t need to make your VAT payment as normal for the qualifying period until on or before 31st March 2021. You must still file your VAT return as usual and any VAT refunds will be processed as normal. If you have arranged a direct debit you will need to cancel this to ensure payment will not be taken.

The Government has issued guidance relating to the deferral of VAT payments. You can view this guidance here.

The Coronavirus Job retention Scheme (CJRS)

The government announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to help businesses to continue paying employees that otherwise may have been laid off. Under this scheme, businesses can access grants of 80% of their employees’ wages up to a total of £2,500 per month per furloughed employee plus any employers’ national insurance costs and minimum autoenrollment pension contributions.

In order to access this scheme, businesses need to designate their workers as ‘furloughed employees’. A furloughed employee is an employee that remains on the payroll but is not working due to the coronavirus outbreak.

This scheme has been extended to 31st October 2020, with important changes announced by the chancellor on 29th May. The changes see the introduction of ‘flexible furloughing’. This could see your employees return to work a few days a week and continue to be furloughed for the remainder of the week, this could be useful for contractors who may be offered a tapered return to the office.

June – The CJRS will continue as it is, however, the scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June. From this point onwards, employers will only be able to furlough employees that they have furloughed for a full 3-week period prior to 30 June. This means you must furlough yourself or any eligible employees by 10th June 2020 to make a claim under the CJRS. Employers will have until 31 July to make any claims in respect of the period to 30 June.

July – The introduction of ‘flexible furloughing’ from 1st July means employers can bring back to work employees that have previously been furloughed for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim CJRS grant for their normal hours not worked. The scheme is now closed to new entrants. The grant available remains at 80% of the furloughed workers wages up to £2,500 per month plus any employer’s national insurance costs and minimum autoenrollment pension contribution, for the time not worked.

August – The grant available will remain at 80% of the wage costs of the furloughed employee up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, however, the employer will no longer be able to reclaim the cost of any Employers NI and auto-enrolment pension costs.

September – The grant available will fall to 70% of the wage costs of the furloughed employee up to a cap of £2,190 the employer must contribute 10% up to a cap of £2,500 and cover the cost of Employers NI and auto-enrolment pension costs.

October – the grant available will fall to 60% of the wage costs of the furloughed employee up to a cap of £1,875, the employer must contribute 20% of wages up to a cap of £2,500, and cover the cost of Employers NI and auto-enrolment pension costs.

Can I claim this?

In order to access this scheme, businesses need to designate their workers as ‘furloughed employees’. If you have employees that are unable to work due to the coronavirus, you may be eligible to make a claim as outlined above. When employers are making decisions in relation to the process, including who to offer furlough to, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way. Employees hired or only on the payroll after 28th February 2020 will not be eligible for this temporary scheme.

How do I claim this?

HMRC are developing a new online portal to facilitate this and working on a way to reimburse these costs to business. There is no system in place at present, however the government have advised that the systems will be in place before the end of April to facilitate payment of grants.  We will keep this page up to date with the latest developments.

The government has issued guidance for employers relating to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, you can read this here.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is being implemented to encourage finance providers to continue lending to small and medium sized businesses amidst the crisis. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan and will support loans of up to £5 million.

Can my business claim this?

  • All UK business’ with turnover of less than £45 million per year
  • Further eligibility criteria can be found here

If you are a larger business you may qualify for support from the Covid-19 Corporate Finance Facility (CCFF) below.

How can we claim this?

All the major banks are covered by this scheme, however it is up to individual businesses to enter into discussions and arrangements with their preferred lenders based on their individual circumstances. Further details of the scheme and a list of lenders is available here.

Bounce Back Loan Scheme

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme was announced on 27th April to help small and medium sized businesses to access finance.

An accredited lender can provide a loan from £2,000 up to 25% of a business’ turnover over a maximum term of 6 years. The maximum loan amount is £50,000.

The government will pay the first year’s interest payments and there are no repayments due from the customer for the first year of the loan. The interest rate is fixed at 2.5% for the term of the loan and there will be no early repayment penalties charged.

The scheme gives the lender a 100% government-backed guarantee and lenders are not allowed to request personal guarantees. This support from the government should mean lenders are more willing to offer help after growing pressure from small businesses about the difficulty in accessing finance.

The chancellor has announced that the application process will be a simple 7 question form and the borrower is required to self-declare they meet the eligibility criteria for the scheme. This will mean that those small businesses that were turned down for the CBILS, may be able to access finance here.

The scheme is open for applications from 4th May and you can find more information about how to access the scheme and a list of accredited lenders here.

Can my business claim this?

To be eligible to apply for this loan you must:

  • be a UK business
  • have been negatively affected by coronavirus
  • not have been an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31st December 2019

You cannot apply if you are already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), however you can transfer your balance from the CBILS to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme if you wish.

The BBLS will initially be open for applications until 4 November 2020.

How can we claim this?

This scheme is provided through a network of accredited lenders and you will need to approach them directly online to apply for the loan. You can find the full list of accredited lenders here.

Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF)

The CCFF is a measure introduced to help larger businesses. The Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger companies, supporting companies which are fundamentally strong, but have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze.

Can my business claim this?

Your business must make a ‘material contribution to the UK economy’. Further details on eligibility and how to claim can be found here. If you are a large company you should contact your bank to discuss this.

Small business grant funding

The government has committed to a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

In order to be eligible for this assistance you will need to have a business premises and already qualify for small business rate relief (SBRR) or rural rate relief (RRR).

Your local authority will contact you if you are eligible for this grant. You can find the governments guidance on this scheme here.

Extension to Companies House filing deadline

Businesses impacted by coronavirus can apply for an extension to their accounts filing deadline of up to three months. You will need to apply for this. However, Companies House have confirmed that those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take just 15 minutes to complete. Further information on applying for an extension can be found here.

Time to pay

A helpline has also been set up to help those who are unable to pay their tax bills to discuss Time to Pay support. If you believe you will be unable to pay a tax liability due to COVID-19 you can contact HMRC on 0800 024 1222.

Deferral of self-assessment payments

The government announced that any self-assessment payments on account previously due to be paid on 31st July 2020 will be deferred until 31st January 2021.

Who can claim this?

If you submit a self-assessment tax return and were due to make a payment on account on 31st July 2020 you will qualify for this scheme.

How can I claim this?

There is no need to apply for this. You simply do not need to make your payment on account on 31st July 2020. There will be no interest charged or penalties. However, you must be mindful that this is not a grant, you will still need to make the payment with your payment for the 2019/20 tax year on 31st January 2021. Therefore, if you can afford to make the payment, you should consider doing so.

Relaxation of rules to allow workers to carry over annual leave

Workers who have not taken their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 will now be able to carry it over into the next 2 leave years.

Ordinarily workers that do not use their annual leave will lose it and there are financial penalties for employers that do not allow employees the opportunity to take their annual leave. In order to give much needed flexibility to business, the new regulations will allow up to 4 weeks of annual leave to be carried over to into the next two leave years.

Will this apply to my business? 

This will be an amendment to The Working Time Regulations 2020 and so will apply to almost all workers including agency workers. It is to be used where it is not reasonably practicable for a worker to take some, or all, of the holiday to which they are entitled due to the coronavirus.

How can I apply for this?

You do not need to apply for this. If your worker is unable to take annual leave due to the coronavirus outbreak you can roll this over to the following two leave years. This amendment is contained in The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020.

Planning a Return to The Office?

In preparation for our own phased return to our head office, we brought in health and safety experts to ensure we meet the latest COVID-19 Secure government guidance. We’ve worked closely with them to develop our own Return to Work Plan, which you can see by clicking the link below. As part of the on-going support we’ve provided throughout the Coronavirus pandemic to the recruitment industry, we wanted to make this document public for your perusal and whilst this has been written for Parasol employees, it can also serve as a guideline for your agency team or any contractors you place at client sites.

Where possible, we would advise that you also have a health and safety expert assess your plans before returning to the office.

Download our COVID-19 Secure Return to Work Document

For more information, get in touch with our expert team

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