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Yesterday the Westminster Government unveiled a package of financial measures to shore up the economy against the coronavirus impact. 

It includes £330bn in loans, £20bn in other aid, a business rates holiday (in England and Wales), and grants for retailers and pubs.

The Chancellor stated that he wanted to:

 “reassure every British citizen this government will give you all the tools you need to get through this. That means any business who needs access to cash to pay their rent, their salaries, suppliers or purchase stock will be able to access a government-backed loan or credit on attractive terms.   And if demand is greater than the initial £330bn I’m making available today, I will go further and provide as much capacity as required” 

The chancellor also stated that he was extending the business rates holiday to all firms in the hospitality sector and funding grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 for small businesses.   However, the business rates holiday does not cover Scotland and the Scottish Government will announce further assistance measures today.  We expect this will be replicated for Scottish businesses.

Companies and trade bodies welcomed the announcement, but as always the devil is in the detail and time is not on the side of many businesses facing a fight for survival and access to these emergency packages must be available as soon as possible. 

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:

  • a statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs
  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

 The Government will bring forward legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:-

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees 

The Government will bring forward legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:-

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force
  • the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

 Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch next week to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs.

The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments.

Business Interuption/Closure Insurance

The Association of British Insurers issued a statement on the 4th of March stating:

“Commercial insurance policies provide cover against a wide range of risks, that can be tailored to the needs of individual businesses, including extensions to cover businesses who are concerned about the impacts of Covid-19 businesses should check the scope of their cover, and speak to their insurance adviser or broker.A small number of businesses may have cover in place that will specifically provide for business interruption arising from notifiable diseases.  However, this type of extension is not commonly included as standard.  Standard business insurance policies are designed and priced to cover standard risks and are therefore unlikely to provide cover for the effects of global pandemics like Covid-19.

Yesterday, the Association of British Insurers issued a further statement on the closure of businesses and the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) following the Prime Minister and Chancellor’s comments on insurance during the Government press conference early yesterday evening. The ABI issued this further comment:-

The ABI issued this further comment:- 

“The Chancellor’s statement today is consistent with our statement this morning where we said in the event businesses have the right cover, this type of notification could help make a claim. But, as the Chancellor acknowledged, the vast majority won’t have purchased extended cover and this remains unchanged.”

Support for businesses paying tax

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are currently agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559. For full details and further information go to


  • Guinness to pledge £1m to support bartenders in Britain
  • Complimentary training and online learning available for all bartenders
  • Diageo to support smaller retailers, pubs and bars through flexibility on order sizes

Diageo has today announced a suite of measures to help support the British drinks trade as it faces unprecedented challenges from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Guinness is pledging £1,000,000 to support bartenders in the free trade across Great Britain. Thousands of bartenders will be able to benefit from the £1,000,000 fund intended for pubs and bars to put towards bartenders’ wages. A similar community fund is being set up in Ireland. The key points of this support are:-

  • The measures will be introduced from Monday 23rd March onwards. 
  • Pubs and bars wanting to access the new fund should apply via from Monday 23rd March. The maximum available funding per free trade outlet is £600
  • Diageo customers should contact their account manager for more information on the revised Minimum Order Quantities

Anyone working in the drinks trade will be given the opportunity to attend a complimentary Diageo Bar Academy Training Course, via, consisting of virtual training and online learning.  Training includes modules such as the ‘business of bar tending,’ which can provide practical advice and may help to manage quieter trading periods.  

Diageo is helping to support smaller retailers, pubs and bars up and down the country by providing flexibility on order size and allowing smaller customers to manage their inventory in this fast-moving situation. This will be applied across Diageo’s total trade customer base in a bid to help customers access product more easily and manage their cash flow in these challenging circumstances. 

Dayalan Nayager – Managing Director Great Britain, Ireland and France at Diageo said:-

“The British drinks trade is facing one of its most challenging times ever and we want to help our communities when they need us most. We all need to come together to support the trade and I would urge all my fellow drinks producers to do what they can to help our British pubs, bars and retailers and restaurants over the next few months.”


In a letter to customers, Tennent’s stated:-

“Given the complexity and rapidly developing situation around the coronavirus outbreak and the Government measures being put in place to curb the spread, there is increasing recognition of the severe impact that this is having and will have on our industry. At Tennent’s we have always been committed to supporting the trade and we have therefore taken the decision not to implement the Free Trade Wholesale Price increase on our own/agency beer and cider brands that was planned to take effect from the 1st of April this year. The situation is clearly changing daily and we will continue to review our options on how we can support Scotland’s pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants. We will communicate any further support as it is agreed. We value your custom, now more than ever in these difficult times. If you have any questions on how we might support you, please raise with your Account Manager.”

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