Covid-19 Hub
We are your Chamber, here to support you

We are your Chamber, here to support you

The Chamber remains open for business but with the team working remotely as per Government guidance. You will find details below.

This hub is designed to provide practical advice, from government and activity updates from across the Chamber network, to help you through these challenging times.

We are constantly monitoring the situation, talking with members, partners and liaising with the British Chambers of Commerce and others to ensure we are best placed to continue to support your business in the way you need us to.

As your Chamber, we are here to represent you and we need to understand the specific challenges you face so we can react and communicate directly with government.

Supported by our national teams at the Scottish and British Chambers of Commerce, we continue to engage with Government Ministers regularly as the situation evolves, and the Chamber is in contact with our local representatives to illustrate the challenges business continue to face during this difficult time.

If you can’t find what you need here or have specific concerns please send a short email with the details to policy@agcc.co.uk and the team will endeavour to get back to you.

We are also engaging on a North-east business resilience programme with partners including local authorities, other business organisations and sector representatives to ensure that our regional response reflects the needs of our members.

International trade documentation

Although our office is now closed until further notice, for members trading internationally, be assured that our export documentation services are continuing. We have been working with our customers to increase self-service capability and other alternative measures have been put in place. If you have queries or need support to continue exporting goods please contact us at documentation@agcc.co.uk

Training

Training courses scheduled to take place up to the end of April have been postponed and will be rescheduled to alternative dates later in the year.
Our team is in the process of contacting every customer impacted by this. The programme from May remains open to book via our website but we are keeping this under review.
If you have any queries please contact training@agcc.co.uk

Events

Our events programme has also been adjusted. We are currently looking at converting the April 29 Business Breakfast to a webinar format and to introducing a series of short ‘virtual’ events enabling learning, best practice exchange, advice and support reflecting the unprecedented current situation. Look out for more details.

The Chamber’s AGM is still planned to take place on June 17 at our Bridge of Don office; with The Ultimate Business Show now expected to take place on September 2  however this may be subject to change depending on how the situation unfolds in the next few weeks. Look out for updates and if you have any queries about these or any other Chamber events, get in touch at events@agcc.co.uk

Communication

Keeping your profile high, sharing news, exchanging best practice and ideas; and connecting with potential new customers is more important than ever at the moment. Make sure you continue to share your updates and press releases to bulletin@agcc.co.uk for sharing through the Chamber channels. We will also be posting regular updates through this hub as well as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn so follow us and we'll make sure you stay informed about the latest developments.

We will continue publishing Business Bulletin in print and digital format. The magazines will be mailed out to usual addresses unless you responded to our request to temporarily amend this. If you’d like a print copy, we’ll do our best to get one to you. Email info@agcc.co.uk with your name, company and current mailing address. 

Associated initiatives

The Developing the Young Workforce team are working remotely but ready to provide support where needed. For the latest information visit www.dyw.org.uk or email info@dyw.org.uk to speak to a team member.

Circular North-east is also operating as normal and project manager Terri Vogt can be reached on terri.vogt@agcc.co.uk

We remain fully accessible to discuss any support you need or concerns you may have and the team can be contacted with email being the preferred option. Contact details are here: www.agcc.co.uk/meet-the-team. If you would like a call, please say this in the email providing contact number(s).

Also remember that Chamber members have access to a range of money-saving and added value services including a free 24-hour legal helpline www.agcc.co.uk/offers/free-legal-helpline

The Chamber is not a government organisation and our core operations are entirely privately funded. We too are a small business facing the same pressures as you. It is only the support of you, our members that enables us to do the work we do on your behalf. Thank you for this.

Government guidance

Here you will find the latest announcements from the UK and Scottish Governments, as well as information on the support packages which are currently available.

Monday, March 30

Rules on carrying over annual leave to be relaxed to support key industries.

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

You can read the full announcement here: www.gov.uk/government/news/rules-on-carrying-over-annual-leave-to-be-relaxed-to-support-key-industries-during-covid-19

Friday, March 27

Further guidance on the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme (CJRS): 

Guidance was published by the UK Government on eligibility and criteria related to the CJRS on March 26. You can see guidance for employers on eligibility and aspects of the scheme here: 

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme 

Guidance for individual employees is available here: 

http://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme  

Update on rates relief

Regulations for the 100% rates relief for heavily impacted sectors have now been published. The final regulations highlight that alongside hospitality, retail, tourism, and leisure, rates relief will also be provided for the aviation industries, particularly airports and handling services. The release for this announcement is available here: 

https://www.gov.scot/news/100-percent-rates-relief-for-heavily-impacted-sectors-1/ 

Applications are also now open for the £10,000 and £25,000 grants for eligible businesses, and can be found here: https://www.mygov.scot/non-domestic-rates-coronavirus/

Self-employment Income Support Scheme

Review the latest guidance on the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) including, eligibility details and how to access the scheme, along with some useful FAQs.

No personal guarantees for CBILS loans under £250K: 

The British Business Bank has announced that the Big Four’ banks will not request personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 obtained via the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. You can see this announcement and details of how to apply via the scheme here: 

https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils-2/ 

Thursday, March 26

Guidance for UK business on VAT deferral

The latest guidance from the UK Government is that VAT returns should be filed as usual; and that in order to ensure payments are not taken automatically, direct debits should be cancelled.

More information is available here: UK government guidance regarding VAT deferral.

Wednesday, March 25

Business and social distancing advice update:

Please find the latest guidance from the Scottish Government here, on business and social distancing. Please note, the first half of the document is advisory while the second lists the closures which will be enforced.

Closure of businesses update:

This document provides guidance on the closure of all retailers that sell non-essential goods and other non-essential premises, as part of further social distancing measures:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close

Tuesday, March 24

The government is looking for businesses to support in the production and supply of ventilators and ventilator components. For more information visit: www.gov.uk/government/news/production-and-supply-of-ventilators-and-ventilator-components

The off-payroll working rules reforms have been postponed until 2021. For more information visit: www.gov.uk/government/news/off-payroll-working-rules-reforms-postponed-until-2021 

Monday, March 23

UK Government support: 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses 

https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/

Scottish Government support: 

https://www.gov.scot/news/gbp-2-2-billion-for-business/ 

Scottish Government COVID-19 Hub: 

https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/coronavirus-advice/ 

Third Sector: 

https://www.gov.scot/news/helping-communities-affected-by-covid-19/ 

Documentation update:

Foreign and Commonwealth Office closure.

The Arab-British Chamber of Commerce has been informed that, with immediate effect, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office is no longer accepting documents for legalisation until further notice. Documents received as of Monday 23 will not be sent.

Contact our documentation team on 01224 343908 or email if you have any questions.

During this time, the Arab-British Chamber is operating a limited service to continue to support the exporting community.

It will continue to receive documents at the ABCC by:

· Parcelforce

· Post (please provide a stamped and addressed envelope for return)

· Electronically through A-cert and E-cert

Embassies are currently operating on a sporadic timetable, hence legalisation of documents will take slightly longer than usual to process.

In the case of a wide-span embassy closure, we will operate a certification only service. On this occasion, the importer and exporter must ensure that certified-only documents will suffice.

We will continue to update you on any new developments as and when they arise.

 

Chamber guidance

Our policy team is focused on getting the information businesses need around access to financing, self-isolating and government support to them. We've collated a list of frequently asked questions to help provide clarity on some of the queries many business leaders are asking. See below.

If you have a specific query which isn't addressed here however, please do contact us directly on policy@agcc.co.uk

You can also learn more about the steps that Chambers and members can implement to minimise impact on local communities and support the UK government's strategy via the British Chambers of Commerce update which is available here: https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/coronavirus

For a summary of the key advice, watch this Q&A webinar with Adam Marshall, director general of British Chambers of Commerce, in which he answers questions direct from members: https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/events/events-for-chambers

Frequently asked questions

Q. Coronavirus Jobs Retention Fund:

Under the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

This applies to employees who have been asked to stop working, but who are being kept on the payroll, otherwise described as ‘furloughed workers’.

HMRC will reimburse 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 per month. This is to safeguard workers from being made redundant.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to March 1st and is initially open for 3 months, but will be extended if necessary.

All UK-wide employers with a PAYE scheme will be eligible – this includes the public sector, local authorities, and charities.

HMRC is working urgently to set up an online portal for reimbursement. The first grants are expected to be paid within weeks, and we’re aiming to get it done before the end of April.

Further information and guidance is available at the following links: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme/ https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

Q. Where can I get guidance on workforce matters such as self-isolation?

ACAS have a dedicated section on COVID-19, including guidance on how employers can support social distancing measures, dependents, and what to do if a member of your workforce displays symptoms consistent with COVID-19:

https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

Q. What support is available in terms of business rates and grants?

The Scottish Government has announced a range of business rates reliefs and grant support schemes linked to COVID-19. All will take effect from April 1:

  • 100% non-domestic rates relief for a full year for hospitality, retail and leisure firms.
  • 6% relief for all properties, which acts in effect to freeze the poundage rate next year. This relief will be automatically applied.
  • £10,000 grants for businesses in receipt of the Small Business Business Scheme, Rural Relief. You can also apply for this grant if you’ve applied for Nursery Relief or Disabled relief.
  • £25,000 grants for businesses in the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors, for those with a rateable value between £18,000 to £51,000.

Full details on eligibility, applications and distribution will be confirmed imminently. For more information: https://www.mygov.scot/non-domestic-rates-coronavirus/

It will be possible to apply for the grants from April 2020 and they will be available to March 31 2021.

Application forms are available here for Aberdeen City Council: 

https://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2020-03/CORONAVIRUS%20Business%20Support%20Fund%2024%20March.docx

And here for Aberdeenshire Council: 

https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/business/business-covid-19/#grants

Q. What is the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme?

The scheme will enable businesses to apply for a loan of up to £5m with the government covering the first twelve months of interest payments for you. The loans will be distributed by lenders and administered through the British Business Bank.

Full details were published on the March 23, and are available at the following link: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/for-businesses-and-advisors/

Businesses should contact participating lenders to discuss the scheme, a list of accredited lenders is available here: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/accredited-lenders/

Q. What is the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme and how can it benefit me?

HMRC has set up a specific COVID-19 Helpline to support businesses and self-employed individuals who may need more time to pay their tax due to disruption caused by COVID-19. Support offered could include an agreement to pay tax in installments, the suspension of debt collection proceedings or the cancellation of penalties/interest owed in certain circumstances.

The helpline number is 0800 0159 559

For more information: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19

Q. What financing support is available for larger businesses?

To support the economy during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Bank of England has taken a range of steps, including the creation of a COVID-19 corporate credit facility to purchase short-term debt from larger companies, cutting the Bank Rate to 0.1%, and purchasing an additional £200bn in bonds.

In addition a new Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) has been created. Under the new CCFF, the Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies.

This will support your company if it has been affected by a short-term funding squeeze, and allow you to finance your short-term liabilities. Further detail is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-larger-firms-through-the-covid-19-corporate-financing-facility

Additional info on eligibility can be found here: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/covid-19-corporate-financing-facility/

Q. What does the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Relief Package include and how do I access it?

It allows SMEs and employers to reclaim SSP paid for sickness absence due to the coronavirus. It will cover up to two weeks SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19. Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible. Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP as a result of COVID-19. The government will work with employees to set up the repayment mechanism.

For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19

Q What support is there for the self-employed?

Self-employed workers will be able to apply for a grant of up to £2,500 a month to help them cope with the financial impact of coronavirus. The money will be paid in a single lump sum but will not begin to arrive until the start of June at the earliest.

Self-employed people will be able to apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month for an initial three months, longer if necessary. The scheme does not cover people who only became self-employed very recently - they will have to look to the benefits system for support.

More information is available here: www.businesssupport.gov.uk/self-employment-income-support-scheme/

Q. What should I be aware of in terms of insurance?

Payouts will be based on your level of cover. Broadly speaking businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered. UK Government has confirmed with the insurance industry their advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc on March 17 is sufficient to make a claim. 

However, this will only support businesses with a policy which offers appropriate cover.  Please contact your insurance provider to clarify if you are covered under this scheme.  You can see a statement from the Association of British Insurers on this matter here:

https://www.abi.org.uk/news/news-articles/2020/03/statement-on-business-insurance-and-coronavirus/

Q. Is there specific support for the third-sector?
Yes, third sector organisations can apply for the Third Sector Resilience Fund which is now open for applications. Further guidance on applications and eligibility is available here:

https://scvo.org/support/coronavirus/funding/for-organisations/third-sector-resilience-fund

Q. Where can I go for legal advice?

As a member of the Chamber, you can access free 24-hour confidential legal advice.  The advice line covers topics such as employment, HR, tenancy, property, tax, VAT, PAYE and National Insurance. Just phone 0871 423 5239, give them your membership number and ask your question – or questions. You can call them as often as you need; it’s always free of charge to you.

Q. How has the European Union responded with regards to State Aid?

In order to facilitate support to businesses during the COVID-19 Outbreak, the European Commission has adopted a new state aid framework, details of which are available here: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_496

The UK will observe this framework during the transition period. In summary, the temporary framework allows for the following:

(i)  Direct grants, selective tax advantages and advance payments: Member States will be able to set up schemes to grant up to €800,000 to a company to address its urgent liquidity needs.

(ii)  State guarantees for loans taken by companies from banks: Member States will be able to provide State guarantees to ensure banks keep providing loans to the customers who need them.

(iii) Subsidised public loans to companies: Member States will be able to grant loans with favourable interest rates to companies. These loans can help businesses cover immediate working capital and investment needs.

(iv) Safeguards for banks that channel State aid to the real economy: Some Member States plan to build on banks' existing lending capacities, and use them as a channel for support to businesses – in particular to small and medium-sized companies. The Framework makes clear that such aid is considered as direct aid to the banks' customers, not to the banks themselves, and gives guidance on how to ensure minimal distortion of competition between banks.

(v) Short-term export credit insurance: The Framework introduces additional flexibility on how to demonstrate that certain countries are not-marketable risks, thereby enabling short-term export credit insurance to be provided by the State where needed.

Q. What else are Chambers doing to support business?

We have continued to press the case that firms should be prioritising the payment of employees and suppliers in this challenging period. With that in mind, Chambers across the UK are at the forefront of a concerted effort to secure:

A three-month suspension of VAT, NI and business rates for all sectors/businesses, to support cashflow during this challenging period

A three-month waiver of all payroll taxes and VAT bills coupled with a direct employment subsidy of at least £10,000 per job for all SMEs regardless of sector and for larger companies in key sectors

Our asks to government will continue to evolve as support measures are announced, but we need your input. Please continue to feed in your concerns and challenges to policy@agcc.co.uk so we can raise these with politicians and our national teams at the British and Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

Q. What is the childcare provision for key workers?
The Scottish Government has issued guidance setting out what childcare provision is expected to be made available to key workers during closures of school and early learning and childcare (ELC) settings to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
For more information visit: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus---school-and-elc-closures-guidance-on-critical-childcare-provision-for-key-workers/
Q. What about the off-payroll working rules?
Reforms to off-payroll working rules have been delayed by 12 months as part of the government’s Covid-19 economic response package.
The rules, which ensure two people sitting side by side doing the same work for the same employer are taxed in the same way, will now come into effect on April 6, 2021 instead of April 6 this year.
For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/off-payroll-working-rules-reforms-postponed-until-2021

Q. VAT Deferment – What’s next

Government will defer VAT payments for three months. All VAT-registered businesses are eligible.

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. UK Registered businesses will not need to make VAT payments normally due with VAT returns during this period. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020-21 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal. The deferral will apply from March 20, 2020 until June 30, 2020.

More detail is available here: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/vat-deferral/

Q. Key Workers:

National guidance on the definitions of key workers for Scotland have been produced here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus---school-and-elc-closures-guidance-on-critical-childcare-provision-for-key-workers/

Guidance on for relevant local authorities is available here:

Aberdeen City Council: https://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/services/people-and-communities/coronavirus-covid-19

Aberdeenshire Council: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/schools/schools-covid-19/

Q. Support for Water Bills

Scottish Water has agreed to suspend pre-payment charges for licensed providers for two months, beginning with the April payment. This means providers - who supply water services to businesses - can be flexible with their own customers at this difficult time.

Other measures to assist the market will be introduced by the CMA, including the suspension of all performance standard charges. This will further assist licensed providers to focus their efforts on supporting customers.

https://www.gov.scot/news/support-for-business-water-bills/

Latest news
The situation is fast-moving, unpredictable and unprecedented so we are constantly monitoring the actions being taken by government, talking with members and partners; and liaising with the British Chambers of Commerce and others to ensure we are best placed to continue to support your business in the way you need us to.
 
Access all the latest news announcements from across the Chamber network can be viewed here: www.agcc.co.uk/chamber-news.
Keep up to date with the latest Chamber news

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Help Hub

Now more than ever we need to #supportlocal. That's why we've created a dedicated portal, the Chamber Help Hub, on LinkedIn to help connect you.

Are you a North-east business looking for support? Or can your products and services help others out?

We've all seen great examples of how a community can come together to get through a crisis, from PR companies offering their services for free to firms offering up their drivers to help get food out to people in need.

This group provides the forum for you to let others know where you need help, or to shout about the assistance your business can provide - and get connected.

If your company or organisation is looking for peer support, please publish your ‘asks’ on the forum. Or if you have something to offer or would like to respond to one of the calls for help you’ve seen here or elsewhere, this is the place to connect.

We’d also really like to hear about any new partnerships that emerge so don’t forget to tell us by posting on the page or emailing bulletin@agcc.co.uk and we’ll share your news across the Chamber network.