How to manage your small business amongst coronavirus

For most businesses, both small and large, there’s a sense of uncertainty in the UK right now.

With increasing cases of required self-isolation and a growing apprehension to physical contact, you might have concerns about the implications this will have on your business.

Will customers stop purchasing from you? Do you and your employees have the resources to work from home? Can you take the financial loss?

In order to minimise the impact to your business we have collated some useful advice and recommendations for you and your small business during this time:

Employee welfare

As a small business owner, you and your employees are the heart of your business. So, it’s important to put their health first and ensure they feel comfortable and informed about what to do at work.

1. Communication is key

Advice is changing minute by minute, and whilst this can be hard to keep on top of, it’s important to ensure you are regularly communicating with your employees about what measures you’re taking to minimise the risk of exposure in their place of work. If you are making changes to your business processes, keep employees informed so they know the right steps to take.

2. Share hygiene advice

Whether you have an office, warehouse or shop, it’s good practice to display health advice posters as gentle reminders on hygiene. You can find resources on the Government website.

If you don’t have a physical workplace and you and your employees work remotely, then share this information via other means such as email – and remember, it’s just as important for employees to consider their hygiene practices at home.

By emailing general good hygiene practice and travel guidance to employees, you can provide tips on effective hand washing, using hand sanitiser and advice on physical contact with customers. We recommend you don’t just send one email – maintain a regular communication to keep this at the forefront of minds. For the correct instructions follow the guidance from the NHS and Government websites.

3. Spot the signs

As a small business owner, Acas recommends that managers should become educated on how to identify symptoms of coronavirus and are aware of the actions to take. This might be reporting on sickness, sick pay and carrying out the correct procedures if someone falls ill with the virus at work.

Acas is an independent public body that receives government funding to provide advice on workplace rights, rules and best practice, they have plenty of advice on managing coronavirus as an employer.

What about the concerns I have about keeping my business operating?

There’s never been a better time to re-evaluate your business continuity plan. Should you or any of your employees fall ill, you’ll need your plan to launch successfully with or without you.

Business continuity is about having plans in place and setting up your business with the idea that you maintain your critical services in the event of something bad happening.

There are two schools of thought; building resilience in what you do by taking steps to prevent an incident from occurring and disaster recovery planning, where you put plans and processes in place to speed your recovery from an incident. Think of it as trying to prevent things going wrong and then having a plan if something does happen.

It’s important to protect the interests of your stakeholders and your business. Insufficient planning could lead to significant losses, which could be irrecoverable. The impact from an incident could lead to reputational damage and financial loss.

If you don’t have a plan or want to review your current one, take a look at the advice from our business continuity experts.

Remote working

Going hand-in hand with a business continuity plan – if your workplace is compromised, is your small business equipped for remote working? Given that the UK Government has requested more homeworking where possible to minimise the risks, it is important for you to consider how this could work for your small business, if it’s not something you already do.

Here’s some advice for remote working if this is not currently part of how your business operates normally:

  1. Collaborating effectively

One of the ways that employees can stay in touch whilst remote working is the use of collaboration tools. Collaboration apps can help you streamline the way your team work together – managing projects, sharing files, and connecting people through group chats and video calls. Here are five free collaboration tools that you can implement.

  1. Equipment and access

If remote working is possible for your business, review the equipment employees will need to be able to carry out their jobs from home. This might be laptops and chargers, headsets or mobile phones.

If you have concerns about the cost of equipment, consider the cost implications if your small business was unable to operate for days or even weeks.

You will also want to test that employees can access networks, portals and any digital tools from home too. Before you deploy remote working, it’s important to ensure that contact numbers, emergency contacts and addresses are all up to date.

Find further advice on working from home.

Insurance cover suggests that small businesses should check the policy they hold with their insurance provider. Whilst it’s quite likely that the majority of businesses will not be covered for coronavirus (COVID-19), as business interruption policies usually refer to damage to property – some may have opted for cover to include diseases.

If you don’t have this cover, you could also look for ‘supply chain or denial of access’ cover which might provide assistance in this circumstance.

For more information on insurance take a look at this Q&A from the Association of British Insurers.

Financial support from the Government

But what about the immediate financial loss caused by the virus? To support small businesses through this period of disruption, the Government has already announced and issued temporary measures to aid relief including:

Business Support Package

The Welsh Government has set out a support package for businesses of £1.4 billion, elements of this package include:

  • Retail, leisure and hospitality businesses in Wales with a year-long business rate holiday.
  • £25,000 grant offered to businesses in the same sector with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000.
  • £10,000 grant to all businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.

Find out more about the package.

Backing from banks

The Development Bank of Wales advised that it will offer all of its business customers a three-month capital repayment holiday to help businesses deal with the financial impact of coronavirus.

Likewise, HSBC, Lloyds and Natwest have confirmed plans for emergency loans and overdrafts to minimise the financial pressure on the small business community.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme

For those of you who are self-employed, the UK Government has announced a scheme to help minimise the impact of coronavirus.

The scheme allows self-employed individuals or members of a partnership to claim a taxable grant. It’s worth 80% of trading profits, worked out through average profits for the last three tax years (where applicable), and will cover the next three months with a maximum of £2,500 per month.

There are some requirements for the scheme, including whether you’ve submitted your 2018-2019 income tax self-assessment, if your trading profits are less than £50,000 with over half your income coming from self-employment and if you aim to continue your business in the next tax year (2020-2021). You can find out more about all the eligibility criteria on the Government website.

If you are eligible for the scheme, you will be paid the appropriate grant directly into your bank account in one lump sum, with payments scheduled to start arriving at the beginning of June. Currently, you can’t apply to the scheme (so keep vigilant for scams) and HMRC are contacting all of those eligible directly to invite them to apply online for the grant. Find out more about the scheme.

There are other schemes provided by the Government to help self-employed individuals, including a delay of self-assessment income tax payments and VAT payments, loan schemes and increases in Universal Credit. You can find out more about these on the website.

The ultimate goal is to keep your small business operating as normally as possible and make sure you’re doing what you can to protect both you and your employees in the workplace. Consider the advice above and don’t be afraid to make bold decisions if you think you’re putting yourself or anyone else at risk.

Originally posted by Nyiesha Lakin on the UK Domain

The information in this article is for general guidance and is not legal advice. We have tried to ensure that this guidance is accurate and relevant as at March 2020. However, Nominet UK will not accept liability for any loss, damage or inconvenience arising as a consequence of any use of or the inability to use any information contained in this guidance.

Last updated: 6th April 2020

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