The content on this page is correct as of 04/09/2020 for the latest government advice regarding Coronavirus visit in England, in Wales, In Scotland and in Northern Ireland. For the latest news from Bira visit


Advice and information on the support available to employees including Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), workplace absence, remote working and redundancies. 


Employment allowance

There is support for small businesses available during the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Small employers with a National Insurance bill of £100,000 or less qualify for the Employment Allowance. 

This will be expanded from April to £4,000 per small business, enough, for example, to fund the National Insurance employer contributions in total for four employees on the National Living Wage. 

In your payroll software, to claim this, make sure you put ‘Yes’ in the ‘Employment Allowance indicator’ field next time you send an Employment Payment Summary (EPS) to HMRC. For those without software that use HMRC’s Basic PAYE Tools, on the home page make sure you amend your employer details to include ‘Yes’ in the ‘Employment Allowance indicator’ field. You can claim at any time in the tax year. 

You can claim Employment Allowance for a previous tax year, dating back to the 2015 to 2016 tax year. Employment allowance was £2,000 before April 2016. 

If you want to know more about employment allowance, click here. 


Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

UK based businesses (who employ less than 250 people as of 28 February 2020) are able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.

HMRC’s new online portal will launch on Tuesday, May 26, as part of the Government’s package of support measures for small and medium-sized businesses affected by the pandemic.

This scheme will allow retailers, with fewer than 250 employees, to apply to HMRC to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related SSP.

This means they will receive repayments at the relevant rate of SSP that they have paid to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after March 13, 2020.

Those who follow advice and stay at home to self-isolate and therefore cannot work as a result, are eligible for SSP, even if they are not sick themselves, which is £94.25 a week for up to 28 weeks. 

You can offer more if you have a company sick pay scheme (you cannot offer less). Company schemes are also called ‘contractual’ or ‘occupational’ sick pay and must be included in an employment contract. 

Statutory annual leave is accrued while the employee is off work sick (no matter how long they’re off) and can be taken during sick leave. 

Government have stated that employers should ‘use their discretion and respect the medical need to self-isolate in making decisions about sick pay.’ Anyone who is not eligible to receive sick pay, is able to claim Universal Credit and or contributory Employment and Support Allowance. More information about sick pay can be found on the Gov website, here. 

Tax agents will also be able to make claims on behalf of employers.

For more details on how to prepare your claim click here


Certifying absence from work

Medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, an employer must use their discretion around the need for medical evidence if an employee is staying at home.  

The Government suggests that employers should use their discretion around the need for evidence (doctors note) for a period of absence where an employee is advised to stay at home due to health advice issued by the government.  

If evidence is required to cover after the first 7 days of absence, the government has advised employees to get a note from NHS 111 online or from the NHS website.  

If an employee needs time off work to look after someone who is considered a ‘dependent’ in an unexpected event or emergency, they are entitled to time off work. This applies to situations related to COVID-19.  

This could be for reasons such as needed to look after children or arrange childcare because of the ongoing situation, help their child or dependant if they’re sick or need to go into isolation or hospital.  

There is no statutory right to pay for this time off, but employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy. 


Remote working

In line with Government’s advice, employees should work from home wherever possible. This will help decrease the spread of the virus and is vital to our fight against COVID-19. There are a few things employers need to consider before sending their employees home such as:  

  • Reviewing health and safety arrangements for any obstacles to remote working and remove these 
  • Invest in technology to facilitate remote working (tools for video conferencing etc) 
  • Trial remote working before it’s necessary 
  • Where remote working isn’t possible, think about pay/continuity etc 

Unfortunately, as independent retailers, it is more difficult for Bira members’ staff to work from home. However, there could be work that your employees could do from home and therefore could work various periods over the course of the week at home rather than full time. Due to announcements from the Government to help support the payment of staff wages, this should help retailers retain their staff. 


Staff retention, redundancies and laying off staff – updated 16.04.2020

Claim for your employees’ wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – Download the a step by step guide for employers.

It is a difficult time for everyone, but businesses will likely be affected the most. Unfortunately, this could mean that staff are at risk due to the need to close businesses and the lack of footfall. 

The Chancellor announced on 20 March 2020 a new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme that will allow all UK employers to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. 

Essentially, HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. 

On 15 April 2020, the government issued a Statutory Direction setting out requirements for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, also known as furlough leave. We believe this takes precedence over the government guidance, which was also updated on 15 April. Bira Legal have outlined these below:

The first is the requirement for there to be a written agreement from both employer and employee to be furloughed. This contrasts with the current online guidance, which simply says “To be eligible for the grant employers must confirm in writing to their employee confirming that they have been furloughed. A record of this communication must be kept for five years.”

Therefore, just to be sure, if you haven’t already got written agreement to be furloughed from your employees, you should seek this now. We have put together a template email that you could use – please ensure that all relevant information is inserted into this before sending it to affected employees. Download template email

The second point is likely to be even more problematic. A lot of employers have placed employees on furlough and not continued to pay them until such time as HMRC paid the grant under the scheme, which would then be passed on to employees. There are obvious reasons why an employer may do this in the current circumstances and there was, and is, nothing in the online guidance to suggest this is not allowed. However, the new Direction seems to suggest that you can only recover monies from HMRC that have already been paid – effectively the grant amounts to a reimbursement of monies paid. The requirements appear to be as follows:

  • If between 1 March and 18 April there has been a period in which an employee has been furloughed and you have not paid the employee what they would get under the scheme, you will have to make up the pay they would be due under the scheme for that period BEFORE you make a claim.
  • For any period after 18 April, if you have not paid an employee what they would get under the scheme while they are furloughed, you will not be able to make that pay up later and, therefore, you cannot be reimbursed by HMRC for that period. Effectively, we think this means that if you continue to not pay employees 80% of their salary (subject to the £2,500 p/m cap), you will not get money from HMRC.

It’s important to also note that this Direction can be changed at any time by the government.

If you would like more information on how to claim through the scheme, please click here

If you want more information about lay-offs, short-term working and guarantee payments, click here. 


Advice for tenants – updated 25.03.2020

Tenants can feel vulnerable in the current climate and may worry that they will be unable to pay their rent for their property. Fortunately, the government has announced a package of measure to protect both renters and landlords affected by COVID-19.  

Emergency legislation has been put in place to suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation. Landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a 3-month period. This ‘will alleviate the pressure on landlords, who will be concerned about meeting mortgage payments themselves, and will mean no unnecessary pressure is put on their tenants as a result. 

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said: 

The government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts. 

For more information on the ban on evictions and additional protection for renters, click here. 

COVID-19 advice for accommodation providers – updated 25.03.2020

Guidance and advice for those providing hotel and other accommodation in the UK has been published for the first time here.

Protection from eviction for commercial tenants – updated 23.04.2020

On April 23, 2020, extra measures to protect commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 from aggressive debt recovery were announced. Further details are now available.



With the forecast increase in demand for financial support, retailTRUST are planning to work in partnership with key retailers to create a Capital Appeal for Retail to support the most needy suffering hardship as a result of COVID19.  Retailers seeking their help to create hardship funds for their staff should approach them directly. The staff in retail are working very hard to support the whole society in which we operate and it is only fitting that we seek the support of the general public to support the most needy amongst those serving them selflessly.  

With the country now in period of lockdown and great disruption and uncertainty they would like to assure everyone that having weathered the last 188 years they are confident that the TRUST will weather the once in a lifetime challenges of the coming year.  It does feel a bit like a battle zone at the moment but the resilience for which our nation is renowned around the world will serve us well. 

Find more information at 


The Rainy Day Trust 

The Rainy Day Trust is a charity supporting those working in the Home Enhancement industry, this covers businesses including DIY and hardware shops, cookshops, builders merchants, garden centres and home soft furnishing shops. The charity also supports the suppliers and distributors that supply them. 

To qualify for help you must have worked in the home improvement industry for at least one year and be on a low wage or a struggling business owner. 

All help is confidential and the Rainy Day Trust treat each case on an individual basis, you can apply for help or find out more by visiting 

If you’re a retailer that’s managing to weather the storm and would like to support the Rainy Day Trust you can make a monetary donation or donate stock by visiting 


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