As coronavirus case numbers continue to rise, the UK government has announced a third national lockdown in England from 5 January.
Non-essential retail and businesses have been forced to close until at least mid-February in order to help control the spread of Covid-19.
The new restrictions also state that you may only leave your home for work if you cannot reasonably work from home — where people cannot work from home, including, but not limited to, people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing, they should continue to travel to their workplace.
As a result of these national restrictions, chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak has announced £4.6 billion in new grants to support businesses and protect jobs during the lockdown.
The chancellor announced one-off top up grants up to £9,000 per property to support retail, hospitality and leisure businesses across all nations of the UK through to the spring. There is also currently a 100% business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.
A further £594 million is also being made available for Local Authorities and the Devolved Administrations to support other businesses not eligible for the grants, that might be affected by the restrictions — for this, businesses should apply to their Local Authorities.
The new one-off grants come in addition to existing business support, including Local Restriction Support Grants worth up to £3,000 a month for closed businesses, and up to £2,100 per month for impacted businesses once they reopen.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme have both been extended until April, and applications for the 100% government-backed business loan schemes have also been extended until the end of March — this includes the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
Rishi commented: “The new strain of the virus presents us all with a huge challenge – and whilst the vaccine is being rolled out, we have needed to tighten restrictions further.
“Throughout the pandemic we’ve taken swift action to protect lives and livelihoods and today we’re announcing a further cash injection to support businesses and jobs until the spring. This will help businesses to get through the months ahead – and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen.”
The UK government advises employers and employees to discuss their working arrangements, and said employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, where possible.