Guidance for businesses
Latest UK Government information and advice
The Government’s COVID-19 Response Hub includes FAQs, travel advice and guidance for health professionals. This remains the key resource for the latest information and advice.
Guidance for employers and businesses
The Government has published Guidance for employers and businesses to support handling of COVID-19.
The government has published guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has written a letter to UK companies, including the pharmaceuticals sector, to clarify that there is no restriction on manufacturing continuing under the current rules.
Government support for businesses
The government has published details of the support available for businesses to ensure the impact of COVID-19 is minimised. This includes:
- The Future Fund is a convertible loan scheme led by the British Business Bank. It is designed for innovative UK companies with good potential, that typically rely on equity investment and are currently affected by Covid-19
- The Innovate UK business innovation support package includes £90 million in continuity grants for existing Innovate UK award holders and £210 million for continuity loans to organisations that have a challenge in continuing a live project for which they are have an award from Innovate UK
- Bounce Back Loans scheme for small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.
- A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable businesses to apply for a loan of up to £5 million, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees. Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments. The Big Four banks have agreed that they will not take personal guarantees as security for lending below £250,000.
- For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of Statutory Sick Pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full.
- A £10,000 cash grant, delivered by local authorities. Small businesses that pay little or no business rates and are eligible for small business rate relief (SBBR) or rural rate relief will be contacted by their local authority - they do not need to apply.
- Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers are able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. This will be replaced with a new Job Support Scheme from 1 November 2020.
The BIA is very keen to hear about our members’ experiences of the different support schemes available. Please email your feedback to Martin Turner.
With the exception of the organisations defined by the government social distancing guidance as non-essential shops and public spaces, the government does not require any other businesses to close.
Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working. Staff who cannot work from home can still travel to work, provided they are well and neither they nor any of their household are self-isolating.
Employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able to follow Public Health England guidelines including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).
The Government has also identified a number of critical workers whose children can still go to school or their childcare provider. This critical worker definition does not affect whether or not you can travel to work - if you are not a critical worker, you may still travel to work provided you cannot work from home.
Employees taking leave, being furloughed or working reduced hours because of coronavirus disease will remain eligible for Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) tax relief on their company share options. This will take effect through an amendment to the Finance Bill.
Movement and access for life science employees
Government guidance is that everyone who possibly can, should work from home at the current time. There is recognition, however, that some people will legitimately need to go out to perform their duties, and this will include many employees in your company in functions such as manufacturing and clinical support. These employees have been classified as “critical workers” by the Government.
The definition of critical workers includes, but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.
Despite this, the BIA recognises that many of you have concerns about what advice to give employees as they attempt to conduct business as usual in these difficult circumstances. Based on observed best practice, our suggestion to you is that you adopt the following principles.
- Employees travelling to carry out essential activities should carry with them a letter bearing the logo of their employing organisation.
- The letter should state that they qualify as a critical worker under the Government’s classification and have the necessary qualifications and endorsements to carry out their duties.
- Employees should carry with them photographic identification.
A suggested template is attached below:
Guidance for employers on maintaining social distancing in the workplace
The Government has published tailored advice for employers covering different scenarios as an example of how social distancing and other measures might be implemented by employers in England to help protect their workforce and customers from coronavirus while still continuing to trade. The key points of the guidance are:
- Staff should work side by side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face if possible
- Increase the frequency of cleaning procedures, pausing production in the day if necessary for cleaning staff to wipe down workstations with disinfectant
- Assign staff to the same shift teams to limit social interaction
- Not allow staff to congregate in break times; you should consider arrangements such as staggered break times
- Communicate to all staff that they should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more at the beginning and end of every break, when they arrive at work and before they leave
- When entering and leaving, you should ensure your workforce stays 2 metres apart as much as possible
- Remind colleagues daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating
Guidance on self-isolating after travelling
A person’s employment rights will depend on their employment status and specific circumstances. Please check the guidance on returning to the UK and guidance for workers and employers.
Specifically, workers with 'specialist technical skills' for 'essential' goods will be exempt from the need to self-isolate if they travel for work, but not if they travel on holiday. Senior leadership or CEOs are unlikely to be considered to have 'specialist technical skills'.
Guidance for the general public
The government has issued Guidance for the general public which includes a list of those ‘affected areas’ where it recommends that returning travellers stay indoors and ‘self-isolate’.