Coronavirus updates for business owners


An update on the extension to the scheme. This extends eligibility for the £10,000 Small Business Grant to:

  • ratepayers with multiple properties with individual rateable values under £18,000 but whose cumulative rateable value is between £35,000 and £51,000.
  • Allow small sports clubs that are eligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme but in receipt of discretionary sports relief to be eligible for the £10,000 Grant Scheme
  • Allow small properties in Enterprise Areas that are eligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme but in receipt of Enterprise Areas relief to be eligible for the £10,000 Grant Scheme
  • Confirm that Arms’ Length External Organisations will also be made eligible for the Grant Funding Scheme and clarify that public bodies are excluded.

In addition, a second phase of the Small Business Grant Scheme will be open to applications from Tuesday May 5th. This is specifically aimed at businesses with more than one property and which were eligible for a single grant under the present scheme will then be able to apply for grants for all of their properties. This will make available Small Business Grants of £7,500 and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants of £18,750 (ie, 75% of the current grants) on any additional qualifying properties that a ratepayer may have, subject to compliance with EU State Aid Rules.

Further detail is awaited on the new funding announced yesterday by the Scottish Government, particularly the £100m for self-employed people and viable micro and SME businesses who are ineligible for other Scottish Government or UK Government schemes. Discussions are ongoing as to what can be covered and how local authorities and enterprise agencies will administer. Customer facing teams within the Council are already fielding enquiries about this support. The Council website will be updated to reflect the announcement of new support and highlight that details are not yet available

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme eligibility change – All UK wide employers with a PAYE payroll scheme created and started on or before 19 March 2020 can access the scheme. Previously the cut off date was 28 Feb 2020. The Council website will be updated to reflect this. Employer guidance has been updated. Full details here.

Summary of the current support available for businessesincluding the downloadable interactive infographic here.

Loan scheme for large businesses expanded

All viable businesses with turnover of more than £45m will be able to apply for government-backed support. Firms with turnover of more than £250 million can borrow up to £50 million from lenders. This complements existing support including the COVID Corporate Financing Facility and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Full story

National Lottery Heritage Emergency Fund

All viable businesses with turnover of more than £45m will be able to apply for government-backed support. Firms with turnover of more than £250 million can borrow up to £50 million from lenders. This complements existing he National Lottery Heritage Emergency Fund is now open for applications for funding from £3,000 to £50,000. Applicants must be; a not-for-profit organisation and a current or previous recipient of a grant and an owner, manager or representative of heritage, or have delivered participatory heritage activity. Local authorities cannot apply. support including the COVID Corporate Financing Facility and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Full story

The Third Sector Resilience Fund

A £20million fund to support organisations across the third sector who are at risk of closure due to the disruption caused by Coronavirus will distribute £20m of emergency funds over the coming months and payments have already been made.

The Third Sector Resilience Fund is delivered by Firstport, Social Investment Scotland and the Corra Foundation and is part of a £350million support package announced by the Scottish Government for the sector. The Fund will support charities, voluntary organisations, social enterprises and other third sector organisations that already deliver vital services in communities but that find themselves in financial difficulties directly because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The primary intention of the fund is to help these organisations to stabilise and manage cashflows over this difficult period.

What you need to know:
The fund is open to charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises from today, 25th March 2020.
Grants available between £5,000-£100,000. In addition, there is up to a further £5million available in fully flexible, 0% interest loans starting at £50,000.
For more information and to apply, visit SCVO’s Coronavirus Third Sector Information Hub.
For full details and to apply visit: SCVO Information Hub

Support for coastal businesses

Coastal businesses and third sector organisations affected by COVID-19 can now benefit from a £7.2 million Scottish Crown Estate fund which is devolved to councils.

The 26 councils in Scotland who have coastlines can use their remaining share of the fund which they have not yet allocated to offer direct support to struggling coastal enterprises and organisations, after agreement by the Scottish Government and COSLA.The fund, from Scottish Crown Estate net revenues, is normally used for projects delivering coastal community benefit.

This is on top of the £2.2 billion package of business support already announced by the Scottish Government.

Environment and Cli mate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Given the unprecedented pressures which businesses are currently facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are doing everything we can to support them.

“By widening the remit for the use of Scottish Crown Estate revenues we are enabling local authorities to directly support local coastal businesses, including third sector organisations, facing the full force of this economic shock.

“Following discussions with COSLA we have written to local authorities to encourage them to look at ways they can use these funds, where required, to help hard-pressed businesses and organisations to get through this challenging period.”

Councillor Steven Heddle, COSLA’S Environment and Economy spokesperson, said: “This letter is a timely reminder that councils play a key role in supporting local businesses and their coastal communities, especially in these exceptionally challenging times, and that there is scope for funding from Crown Estate net revenues to contribute to this. I also welcome the Scottish Government's intention to ensure that the next tranche of funding is distributed as swiftly as possible to local authorities this year as joint work progresses on the longer-term review to develop an appropriate approach for the future distribution methodology.”

Changes to the licensing process – COVID 19

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Government has introduced some changes to the licensing process which mainly relate to the extension of timescales. Updated information is available below.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact the licensing section either by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone on 01546 604128.
As well as changes to the processes for alcohol licensing, this will also affect those who currently hold licences as detailed below or those making applications in relation to:

  • Boat hire
  • Booking office
  • Metal dealer
  • Knife dealer
  • Late hours catering
  • Market operator
  • Private hire operator
  • Private hire driver
  • Taxi operator
  • Taxi driver
  • Public entertainment
  • Second hand goods dealers
  • Street trader
  • Tattooing and skin piercing
  • Window cleaner

These are known as Civic Government licenses.


Click link for more information: CHANGES TO CIVIC GOVERNMENT LICENSING

New mental health support

Additional support to help people look after their mental health and wellbeing during and after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The support includes an investment of more than £1 million towards the expansion of the Distress Brief Intervention (DBI) programme to help people in distress, and the launch of a new mental health marketing campaign across television, radio, print and online.

The DBI programme, which was previously operating in four pilot areas, will roll-out across Scotland, giving people over the age of 16 who are in emotional distress due to COVID-19 the opportunity to speak to specially trained staff. People who are in distress but do not need clinical intervention will be referred to the DBI programme by frontline staff, including NHS 24.

The first phase of the new mental health campaign will launch this month and provide people with practical advice on coping with the current restrictions. Signposting to existing advice will be included and those who need extra support will be directed to NHS Inform as a key information resource and helplines operated by NHS 24, Breathing Space, SAMH and Samaritans.

The First Minister said: “COVID-19 restrictions have affected all of our lives. People who may never have been affected by mental health issues in the past, are now facing emotional distress due to financial loss, bereavement and social distancing.

“NHS 24 has experienced an increase in calls, including to Breathing Space, in recent weeks and we anticipate this will continue to grow. It is vital that during this period of uncertainty anyone who requires support for their mental health can receive it.

“Since 2017 more than 6,600 people have accessed the DBI programme and I am pleased that people across the country will now be able to access this support. Early intervention like this is such an important part of how we treat mental and emotional health and the DBI is all about equipping people with the skills and support to manage their own health and to prevent future crisis.

“This £1 million investment is in addition to the £3.8 million we invested last month to increase capacity of our telephone and digital mental health services. This national marketing campaign will equip us all with some practical things we can do to feel better and help us cope until things return to normal.”

Changes to Business Interruption Loan Scheme

In a letter to MSPs, shared with us by our own MSP Jackie Baillie, Matthew Conway, Director, Public Affairs at UK Finance has announced major changes to the Busiess Interruption Loan Scheme to make it easier for small and larger businesses to access the promised money.
He wrote:

"As you will no doubt be aware, the UK government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBIL) scheme allows businesses experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the covid-19 outbreak to access loans, overdrafts, and invoice and asset finance of up to £5 million over a six-year period from accredited lenders. Since its launch on Monday 23 March, accredited banks and other lenders have worked tirelessly to deliver the scheme as set out by HM Treasury and the British Business Bank, approving facilities worth nearly £300 million in its first six days in support of small and medium-sized enterprises across the country.

Following feedback from businesses and lenders, it became clear that some aspects of the CBIL scheme were not working as well as had been intended. Successful delivery requires a spirit of collaboration between the private and public sectors, not least to work through issues that inevitably arise when mobilising such an extensive initiative through bank and government systems that are being reengineered in real time given they were not designed for this purpose. Accordingly, the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, outlined the following changes to the scheme on Friday 3 April, to come into effect the following Monday.

  • Any viable SME with a turnover of under £45 million per year is now be able to access a CBIL straightaway, even when it would otherwise qualify for finance on normal commercial terms. This marks a change from the previous rules, which obliged lenders to assess each application on commercial terms first and offer finance on this basis if possible.
  • For loans under £25,000, assessing the viability of applicants has been made easier to allow monies to be released more quickly.
  • Personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 cannot be sought, following the approach of lenders that had already voluntarily removed this requirement of normal lending practice. For loans over this amount, personal guarantees are limited to no more than 20 per cent of the outstanding debt after other security has been realised.
  • Businesses applying for facilities of over £250,000 under the CBIL scheme previously had to be assessed by lenders to establish that they lacked sufficient collateral to qualify for credit on normal commercial terms. This has now been removed as a requirement, though lenders may still ask for this in line with their own credit policy when lending large sums of money.

As was previously the case, the revised CBIL scheme does not allow a primary residency to be taken as a personal guarantee for loans over £250,000, and there are still no fees or interest for the first 12 months on loans of any size. The UK government will continue to guarantee 80 per cent of the losses that lenders may incur, which means that where there is a loss to the UK government, there is always a loss to the lender. Firms have been asked to ensure interest rates offered to businesses under the scheme are reasonable.

Those wishing to access a CBIL should speak to an accredited lender while understanding that, even under the new rules, borrowers remain 100 per cent liable for the full loan amount. The scheme is expected to run for an initial six-month period.
The chancellor also announced a new Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan (CLBIL) scheme, which will ensure that more firms are able to benefit from UK government-backed support during this difficult time. It will provide a UK government guarantee of 80 per cent to enable banks to make loans of up to £25 million to firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million, giving them the confidence to lend to more businesses impacted by covid-19. CLBILs will be offered at commercial rates of interest, and the UK government will announce further details of the scheme later this month.

You will no doubt understand that call centres, which are often the first point of contact for customers when accessing new financial products, are under particular pressure at the moment, with both increases in call volumes and shortages of staff.

While customers having financial problems should get in touch with their lender as soon as possible, we urge them in the first instance to do so online, where in many cases they can apply for finance or request a call back. Doing this will enable firms to prioritise vulnerable customers, who may need more assistance. We have created a dedicated webpage ( that outlines all the support available to customers and businesses at this time.
The banking and finance sector hopes that the revised CBIL scheme—and in due course the CLBIL scheme—will help even more businesses across the UK faced with the difficult consequences of the covid-19 outbreak. Firms are committed to helping your constituents— their customers—during this time of crisis and have offered an unprecedented set of support measures across mortgages, overdrafts and loans."

revised the eligibility criteria for the Business Support Grants

  • The Scottish Government has revised the eligibility criteria for the Business Support GrantsSelf-catering accommodation and caravans are now eligible for both the one-off £10,000 grant for small businesses and the one-off £25,000 grant for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors where this is the primary source of earned income and the property is let for 140 days or more.
    • The Council website will be updated when the new guidance and updated application form are issued – expected today. An FAQ will be added to help address common enquiries 
  • COVID Job Retention scheme update- the government will now cover the employer national insurance and minimum auto-enrolment pension scheme contributions employers pay on the wages they must pay their furloughed staff – on top of the wages covered under the scheme.  further-details-of-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-announced
  • The Coronavirus Caring for People Helpline Service is live.  Businesses can access support via Option 2. 

The Council’s website includes a summary of the current support available for businesses .

supporting tourism through coronavirus

Rural Economy and Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing has pledged financial support following the closure of businesses including cafes, pubs, restaurants, cinemas and leisure centres.

A £2.2 billion package of measures to help business from 1 April has already been announced by the Economy Secretary.

Key actions for hospitality and tourism include a full year’s non-domestic rates relief for the sector, £10,000 grants for small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief and £25,000 grants for hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000, including self-catering accommodation and caravans. 

Mr Ewing said: “This will almost certainly be the worst period for Scottish tourism in living memory. Events outwith our control mean that the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of people are at risk, and that serious and prolonged harm will be done to a sector which has been a genuine success story for our economy. 

“The Scottish Government is treating this as an economic emergency with a scale and duration that is difficult to predict. We feel the pain of the tourism sector and those who work within it, and we are doing all we can to minimise impact of COVID-19 and ensure that everyone eligible for support is able to access it quickly.

“Last week businesses received further information about the Job Retention Scheme for furloughed employees. However, we know many of those working in the tourism sector are self-employed and whilst we welcome the Chancellor’s recent announcement of support for this group, we are concerned about the time it will take before people will receive payments.  

“Rates relief and small business grants will help but we must work together to preserve the businesses, families and livelihoods which depend on tourism, and keep Scotland as a key tourist destination for years to come. 

“We are working closely with our partners, including the Scottish Tourism Alliance, as well as colleagues in the UK Government and other devolved nations to achieve the best possible outcome.”


For more information please visit the advice page and the Scottish Government’s business support pages.

Help with non-domestic rates in Scotland during coronavirus (COVID-19).

Self-catering accommodation and caravans will be eligible for both the one-off £10,000 grant for small businesses and the one-off £25,000 grant for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors where this is the primary source of earned income and the property is let for 140 days or more.


Buiness gateway webinars open to all nationwide

Access 460 Business Gateway online webinars which are open to all nat ionide on a frist come first served basis here:

Updates from Business Gateway

In addition to earlier information sent to members, Business Gateway Argyll & Bute will now deliver a virtual advisory and workshop service. In addition we will be using part of the workshop budget from April 2020 to offer 121 one-hour virtual appointments with HR and Accountancy specialists to help businesses address urgent planning.

Local BG representative Jen Smith said: "Our advisers will continue to offer free support with a wide range of business matters.

"Once further information is available we will publish it on the Covid-19 information page on the Business Gateway website:

  • You can also find further information and watch a short webinar on the practical steps you can take just now to help you plan for any disruption here:
  • As part of these steps we would also encourage you to check your business insurance, consider how the disruption will affect your staff and working patterns, and the messages you are giving to your customers and suppliers.

"We already have a range of guidance and information online about business continuity planning, and are working additional articles, webinars on our website."


Government’s Business Support Grant application form

The Government’s Business Support Grant went live yesterday, the link to this is below. 

Argyll and Bute Council is in the process of setting up a specific call handling response team to deal with influx of enquiries; it may not be possible to get through straight away, but updated information will be here:

This will be updated as and when along with:

And also:

Martin Lewis putting it all simply:

Keep an eye on free webinars offered by Business Gateway updated daily:

Business Gateway webinars

For the duration Business Gateway have gone online. Here is a list of forthcomng workshops.
Build your own Business Website webinar - Argyll and Bute
24th March 2020 10:00 - 12:00
Every business needs a website, it’s the digital equivalent of your business card. If the budget is tight, then you might prefer to build one yourself.

Writing Engaging Online Content - on demand video workshop - Argyll and Bute
26th March 2020 10:00 - 16:00
This workshop aims to transform your attitude towards writing and help you create engaging, useful material for your website, social media channels and other platforms that get results for your busine

An Introduction to Canva webinar - Argyll and Bute
27th March 2020 10:00 - 12:00
Join us for an “Introduction to Canva” online workshop. After this live and interactive, online webinar, you’ll be able to create your own eye-catching images.

An Introduction to Amazon, eBay and Etsy webinar - Argyll and Bute
30th March 2020 10:00 - 12:00
A webinar looking at online marketplaces like Ebay, Etsy and Amazon.

Online Photography - on demand video workshop - Argyll and Bute
30th March 2020 10:00 - 16:00
This workshop will help you get the most out of your smart phone to take quality shots for your company website, social media pages or newsletters. There is a waiting list for places for this workshop
Click here for further details and booking


Chancellor unveiles further measures to support people, jobs and businesses

For the first time in our history, the government is going to step in and help to pay people’s wages.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Any employer in the country – small or large, charitable or non-profit - will be eligible for the scheme.

Employers will be able to contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll, rather than being laid off.

Government grants will cover 80% of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month – that’s above the median income.Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will not be interest free, as previously planned, for 6 months – it will now be interest free for twelve months.

There will be further measures next week to ensure that larger and medium sized companies can also access the credit they need.

  • To help businesses pay people and keep them in work the next quarter of VAT payments will be deferred. That means no business will pay any from now until the end of June; and you will have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills.
  • We’re paying people’s wages up to 80% so someone can be furloughed rather than laid off to protect their jobs.
  • We’re deferring £30bn of taxes until the end of the financial year.
  • We’re lending unlimited sums of money interest free for 12 months.
  • We’re abolishing business rates altogether this year if you are in hospitality, retail and leisure.
  • We’re providing cash grants of £25,000 for small business properties.
  • And to support the self-employed through the tax system, I’m announcing today that the next self-assessment payments will be deferred until January F2021.

Read the full speech here


At Budget 2020 on Wednesday 11 March, the Chancellor announced a ‘Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme’, and that it would become available ‘over the coming weeks’.
This has been brought forward, and we now expect the new scheme to become available in week commencing 23 March 2020.
As well as loans, there are many other types of finance supported by the programme, depending on the provider. You can find out what type of finance they provide on our partner page.
It will be provided by the British Business Bank through participating providers, and will offer more attractive terms for both businesses applying for new facilities and lenders, with the aim of supporting the continued provision of finance to UK businesses during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The scheme provides the lender with a government-backed guarantee against the outstanding facility balance, potentially enabling a ‘no’ credit decision from a lender to become a ‘yes’. NB – the borrower always remains 100% liable for the debt.
The Government will also cover the first 6 months of interest payments, so businesses will benefit from lower initial repayments. The business remains liable for repayments of the capital. The maximum value of a facility provided under the scheme will be £5 million pounds (the original announcement suggested a maximum value of £1.2 million.)

* Term facilities
* Overdrafts
* Invoice finance facilities
*Asset finance facilities

* Be UK based, with turnover of no more than £41 million per annum
* Operate within an eligible industrial sector (a small number of industrial sectors are not eligible for support or subject to limitations – see below)
* Be able to confirm that they have not received de minimis State aid beyond €200,000 equivalent over the current and previous two fiscal years
* Have a sound borrowing proposal, but insufficient security to meet the lender’s requirements

Full eligibility criteria will be published shortly
Finance terms are from three months up to ten years for term loans and asset finance and up to three years for revolving facilities and invoice finance.

To apply for an CBILS-backed facility, businesses may wish to consider approaching one or more participating lenders to discuss their borrowing needs.

Eligibility restrictions

Please note that a limited number of further eligibility restrictions and/or limitations do apply. Full details can be found here.
Almost all business sectors are eligible, however there are a small number of excluded/restricted sectors arising primarily from EU de minimis-State aid rules.

Help with non-domestic rates in Scotland during coronavirus (COVID-19)

To help owners of non-domestic properties, including businesses, deal with the impact of COVID-19, the Scottish Government has made changes to non-domestic rates (business rates) for 2020-21.
The Scottish Government has introduced extra rates reliefs (discounts). It has also introduced a one-off grant for some businesses.
These reliefs will be available to non-domestic properties from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.
It will be possible to apply for the grants from April 2020 and they will be available to 31 March 2021.
The non-domestic rates reliefs and grant funding measures announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in March 2020 apply only in England. They do not apply in Scotland.

Extra reliefs to help with COVID-19
All non-domestic properties in Scotland will get a 1.6% rates relief. This relief effectively reverses the change in poundage for 2020-21.
You do not need to apply for this relief and it will be applied to your bill by your local council.

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will get 100% rates relief. To get this relief, a property has to be occupied.
The Scottish Government are working with Scotland's 32 Councils to make sure this relief is administered in the most effective way. You can check this page for updates, including information on any application process.
You can get these rates reliefs even if you already get another relief for your property.

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value between £18,000 and up to and including £51,000 will be able to apply for a one-off grant of £25,000.
A one-off grant of £10,000 will also be available to small businesses who get:

Small Business Bonus Scheme relief - Rural Relief
You can also get this grant if you applied for Nursery Relief or Disabled Relief but are eligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme.
You can only apply for one grant – even if you own multiple properties.

Applying for a grant and getting paid
The Scottish Government are working with Scotland's 32 Councils and other stakeholders to agree a common approach to the application process.
This should help make sure there's an effective and timely processing of grants as soon as possible.

Deferring payment of non-domestic rates
If you're struggling to pay your non-domestic rates bill you should contact your local council and ask them about your payment options.

Types of retail, hospitality and leisure businesses who qualify
This list is not exhaustive. If you think you may be eligible for this relief, contact your local council.
* Retail businesses
* Hospitality businesses
* Leisure businesses

State Aid
State aid rules still apply in the UK until the end of 2020.

* The European Commission are consulting with Member States on a number of temporary State aid measures. These measures aim to help with the financial pressures businesses face as a result of Covid-19.

* The Scottish Government will work with the UK Government to make sure these measures can be adopted to help Scottish Businesses where possible.

Scottish Chambers step up call for immediate support for business

Scottish Chambers of Commerce has represented the Network’s priorities to Scottish and UK Government, based on real-time feedback received to date.

Local Letters for Parliamentarians: SCC has supplied every Chamber in Scotland with a localised letter with a summary of the Network’s Asks for sending on to the respective local MSP and MP. This will strengthen and amplify SCC’s efforts with Ministers. Helensburgh and Lomond Chamber will be joinng this campaign.

In addition, SCC has written directly to the First Minister, Secretary of State for Scotland and the UK Chancellor.

The Four Key Asks are as follows:

* Employment Support Grants: providing businesses with immediate cash to support salary costs;
* Business Costs: immediate suspension of upfront costs such as Business Rates, VAT & PAYE for the next three months;
* Business Grants: quicker and immediate access to business grants for all businesses;
* State Aid: temporary suspension of State Aid rules.

Business Support Must Touch Every Part of Scotland

Statement by Dr Liz Cameron OBE, CEO of Scottish Chambers as first published in Herald Scotland:
"As the Covid-19 pandemic escalates across the world we have seen governments and other organisations launch measures not seen in peacetime. While these actions are necessary to protect from the catastrophic spread of disease, it is clear that businesses in Scotland are in need of urgent support as people in the UK face weeks and months of lockdown.
"Chancellor Rishi Sunak has come to the table with a very welcome £350 billion package of support for businesses. It is also welcome that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has committed “every penny” of consequential funding to business support in Scotland.
"The measures announced by Mr Sunak are essential if businesses are to survive and are a good start to filling the cashflow gap. We have urged both the Scottish and UK Government to provide access to these funds quickly and as easily as possible – any delays could lead to job losses and we must avoid this at all costs."
Read full Herald article here

Virtual Help from Business Gateway

Business Gateway Argyll & Bute will now deliver a virtual advisory and workshop service.
In addition they will be using part of the workshop budget from April 2020 to offer 121 one-hour virtual appointments with HR and Accountancy specialists to help businesses address urgent planning.
Their advisers will continue to offer free support with a wide range of business matters.
Once further information is available they will publish it on the Covid-19 information page on the Business Gateway website: Click here
A spokesman said: "You can also find further information and watch a short webinar on the practical steps you can take just now to help you plan for any disruption here
"As part of these steps we would also encourage you to check your business insurance, consider how the disruption will affect your staff and working patterns, and the messages you are giving to your customers and suppliers.
"We already have a range of guidance and information online about business continuity planning, and are working additional articles, webinars on our website.".

ACAS guidance for Employers and Employees

Employee using hand gel and face mask
  1. It's good practice for employers to:  keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
  2. make sure everyone's contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
  3. consider extra precautions for staff who might be more vulnerable, for example if someone is pregnant, aged 70 or over, or has a long-term health condition
  4. make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace shows symptoms of the virus
  5. make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
  6. provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them
  7. consider if any travel or meetings are necessary and if meetings can be held remotely instead
    keep up to date with the latest government coronavirus advice on GOV.UK
  8. Employers must not single anyone out unfairly. For example, they must not treat an employee differently because of their race or ethnicity.

Social distancing, flexible working and working from home

Current government advice is for everyone to try and stop unnecessary contact with other people – 'social distancing'. This includes:
1: working at home when possible
2: avoiding busy commuting times on public transport
3: avoiding gatherings of people, whether in public, at work or at home
Employers should support their workforce to take these steps. This might include:
1: agreeing to more flexible ways of working, for example changing start and finish times to avoid busier commuting times
2: allowing staff to work from home wherever possible
3: cancelling face-to-face events and meetings and rearranging to 4: remote calling where possible, for example using video or conference calling technology

Vulnerable people

Employers need to be especially careful and take extra steps for anyone in their workforce who is at increased risk from coronavirus.
They include, but are not limited to, those who:
1: have a long-term health condition, for example asthma, diabetes or heart disease, or a weakened immune system as the result of medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
2: are pregnant
3: are aged 70 or over
4: care for someone with a health condition that might put them at a greater risk
Find out more about social distancing and vulnerable people on GOV.UK.

Working from home

Where work can be done at home, the employer could:
1: ask staff who have work laptops or mobile phones to take them home so they can carry on working
2: arrange paperwork tasks that can be done at home for staff who do not work on computers
If an employer and employee agree to working from home, the employer should:
1: pay the employee as usual
2: keep in regular contact
3: check on the employee’s health and wellbeing
Find out more about Homeworking and health and safety for homeworking on the HSE website
If an employee does not want to go to work
Some people might feel they do not want to go to work if they're afraid of catching coronavirus. This could particularly be the case for those who are at higher risk.
An employer should listen to any concerns staff may have and should take steps to protect everyone.
For example, they could offer extra car parking where possible so that people can avoid using public transport.
If an employee still does not want to go in, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. The employer does not have to agree to this.
If an employee refuses to attend work without a valid reason, it could result in disciplinary action

If the employer needs to close the workplace

Lay-offs and short-time working
In some situations, an employer might need to close down their business for a short time, or ask staff to reduce their contracted hours.
If the employer thinks they'll need to do this, it's important to talk with staff as early as possible and throughout the closure.
Unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, they still need to pay their employees for this time.
Employees who are laid off and are not entitled to their usual pay might be entitled to a 'statutory guarantee payment' of up to £29 a day from their employer.
This is limited to a maximum of 5 days in any period of 3 months. On days when a guarantee payment is not payable, employees might be able to claim Jobseekers Allowance from Jobcentre Plus.
Using holiday
Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to. For example, they can decide to shut for a week and everyone has to use their holiday entitlement.
If the employer does decide to do this, they must tell staff at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need people to take.
For example, if they want to close for five days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.
This could affect holiday staff have already booked or planned. So employers should:
1: explain clearly why they need to close
2: try and resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans
If an employee needs time off work to look after someone
Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a 'dependant') in an unexpected event or emergency. This could apply to situations to do with coronavirus.
A dependant does not necessarily live with the person, for example they could be an elderly neighbour or relative who relies on the person for help.
There's no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.
The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation. For example, they might take 2 days off to start with, and if more time is needed, they can book holiday.
If a dependant such as a partner, child or relative in the same household gets coronavirus symptoms, everyone in the household must self-isolate for 14 days and they should receive statutory sick pay as a minimum for this time.

If someone has coronavirus symptoms at work

If someone becomes unwell in the workplace with coronavirus symptoms, they should:
1: tell their employer immediately and go home
2: avoid touching anything
3: cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
4: use a separate bathroom from others, if possible
The unwell person must self-isolate at home for 14 days if they live with others, or 7 days if they live alone.
You can get more advice or help by either:
1: using the NHS 111 coronavirus service website
2: calling 111, if you cannot access the NHS website
3: calling 999, if someone is seriously ill or life is at risk
It’s best for the unwell person to use their own mobile phone or computer to access these services.

If someone with coronavirus comes to work, the workplace does not necessarily have to close, but they should follow cleaning advice.

£320 million package of support for businesses

Immediate action in response to COVID-19.

New measures to limit the impact of COVID-19 on the business community in Scotland have been announced by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes.

The following steps will be put in place to support businesses during the 2020-21 financial year:

  • a 75% rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value of less than £69,000 from 1 April 2020
  • an £80 million fund to provide grants of at least £3,000 to small businesses in sectors facing the worst economic impact of COVID-19
  • 1.6% rates relief for all properties across Scotland, effectively reversing the planned below inflation uplift in the poundage from 1 April 2020
  • a fixed rates relief of up to £5,000 for all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 from 1 April 2020

The Finance Secretary will also write to all local authorities urging them to respond positively to requests from rate payers for payment deferrals for a fixed period. Ms Forbes said: “COVID-19 will have challenging implications for businesses and the economy over the coming weeks and months.

“As well as following the latest health and travel advice, it’s also crucial we consider the latest economic analysis and listen carefully to what the business community is telling us. We know that the tourism and hospitality sectors are facing immediate pressure, which is why we have directed support to them in particular. All rate-payers will benefit from a relief that effectively reverses the planned inflationary uplift in the poundage that was due to come into effect in April.

 “The measures I’m announcing today will provide a £320 million of assistance to Scottish business and ensures that all Non Domestic Rate consequentials we expect to receive from the UK Government associated with the COVID-19 outbreak will be used to provide Scottish business with support through what is likely to be a difficult time. We will also be making the case to the UK Government that, because of the larger number of small businesses in Scotland, we need additional resources to be able to provide further support.

“Businesses receiving support are being encouraged to operate with fair work principles including supporting staff to self-isolate when they need to and if they have caring responsibilities and to consider keeping staff in employment where at all possible.

“We continue to work closely with our partners to identify what further support is needed and I’d encourage any businesses with questions relating to the impact of COVID-19 to contact the helpline we launched this week.”

The business helpline number is 0300 303 0660. The helpline will be open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm. Callers should select option one to speak to the COVID-19 team.

Further additional guidance and information, including links to guidance for travellers and the general public, can also be found on HPS’ COVID-19 page. The latest numbers of test results are published at 2pm each day on the Scottish Government website.