COVID-19 Business FAQs

Since March 2020, UK businesses have faced a number of pressures due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

These FAQs aim to provide answers to some of the most pressing questions being asked by business owners, as well as directing you to useful sources of further information and support.

Topics covered include: what financial support is available and how businesses can help support their employees and keep them safe.

This information was last updated on 08 August 2022. Please keep checking for further updates.

Government and financial support

1. What government support am I entitled to and how do I access it?

Many of the support schemes introduced at the height of the pandemic have closed, as the economy reopens. However, there are still a number of options for businesses looking for extra help to navigate the coming months, including new support measures announced in December 2021 as part of a £1 billion fund aimed at helping businesses affected by the rise in Covid cases due to the Omicron variant.

December and January Business Support Top Up – In Scotland, hospitality businesses will be given a one-off payment to help mitigate the effects of public health advice issued in December.

The grant is a one-off payment of:

  • £4,500 for premises that have a rateable value of up to and including £51,000
  • £6,800 for premises that have a rateable value of £51,001 or above.

Local authorities will contact businesses they have previously made payments to through the Strategic Framework Business Fund. New businesses can apply via their local authorities.

See full details of the Business Support Top Up, including eligibility criteria.

England and Wales have announced their own support grants for the hospitality industry.

Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) - The new iteration of the Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) launched in August 2022 and is designed to support access to finance for UK small businesses as they look to invest and grow.

The Recovery Loan Scheme aims to improve the terms on offer to borrowers. If we can offer a commercial loan on better terms, we will do so.

Businesses that took out a CBILS, CLBILS, BBLS or RLS facility before 30 June 2022 are not prevented from accessing RLS from August 2022, although in some cases it may reduce the amount a business can borrow.

Recovery Loan Scheme-backed facilities are provided at the discretion of the lender. Lenders are required to undertake their standard credit and fraud checks for all applicants.

  • Borrow between £25,001 and £2 million per Group (or up to £1m per Group for Northern Ireland Protocol borrowers)
  • Choose a repayment term between 1-6 years
  • The scheme is available to businesses with a turnover of up to £45 million
  • A Personal Guarantee may be required
  • Subject to full Credit assessment
  • The borrower always remains 100% liable for the debt.

Find out more about the RLS

Bounce Back Loan Pay As You Grow – Applications for the Bounce Back Loan Scheme have now closed.

However, if you have previously taken out a Bounce Back Loan, before your first repayment is due, your lender will contact you about the option to:

  • repay back some or all of your loan
  • stick with your current payment arrangement
  • provide additional support, including Pay As You Grow options or help to deal with financial difficulties.

Pay As You Grow options include:

  • extending your loan term to 10 years
  • moving to interest-only repayments for six months (you can do this up to 3 times)
  • deferring repayments for six months (you can do this once).

Find out more about Pay As You Grow.

VAT cuts for hospitality sector - VAT for the hospitality and tourism sectors has been discounted to 12.5% until 31 March 2022. The standard 20% rate will be reinstated on 1 April 2022. The VAT cut and discount applies to:

  • food and non-alcoholic beverages sold for on-premises consumption
  • hot takeaway food and hot takeaway non-alcoholic beverages
  • sleeping accommodation in hotels, holiday accommodation, pitch fees for caravans and tents, and associated facilities
  • admission to various attractions, including theatres, circuses, fairs, amusement parks, museums, zoos, cinemas, concerts and exhibitions.

See further government guidance on the temporary VAT cut.

Rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses – Eligible businesses in Scotland will get 100% rates relief between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2022. This will be followed by a 50% discount in the first three months of the 2022-23 financial year, capped at a maximum of £27,500 per ratepayer. 

See more about rates relief in Scotland.

Throughout the pandemic the Scottish government has announced a number of grants aimed at supporting specific sectors. See details of all open grants and how to apply.

See information about the latest business support in Scotland.
See information about the latest business support in England.
See information about the latest business support in Wales. 
See information about the latest business support in Northern Ireland.

2. What financial help and support is available for the self-employed?

The Scottish government has committed £8m through Creative Scotland for creative freelancers who have lost income due to work being cancelled as a result of Covid-19 between 27 November 2021 - 31 March 2022. Individuals can request between £500 and £2,000 to help offset the financial impact of any cancellations.

Applications will open at 2pm on Thursday 6 January 2022.

See more about the COVID-19 Cancellation Fund for Creative Freelancers.

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) provided five possible grants to help support self-employed individuals struggling due to coronavirus.

Applications for all the grants are now closed.

If you claimed a SEISS grant payment, you must report it on your tax return. 
See guidance for reporting SEISS grants.

3. What support is available for commercial renters?

Support measures mean that commercial tenants who are struggling to pay their rent due to COVID-19 will be protected from eviction.

The measures, which prevent tenants who have had to remain closed during the pandemic from being evicted due to missing a payment, currently last until at least 25 March 2022.

However, the government has emphasised that businesses who are able to pay rent, must do so. Tenants should start paying their rent as soon as they are legally able to open.

Under the legislation, tenants and landlords are expected to work together to come to an agreement regarding any money owed – this could involve waiving some of the total amount or agreeing a longer-term repayment plan.

4. Due to COVID-19 many of my customers are late paying their invoices and it’s causing me cash flow issues. What can I do?

If you’re a small business, with under 50 staff, the office of the Small Business Commissioner can offer help and advice on late payments.

Take a look at the Small Business Commissioner website  for more information or give them a call on 0121 695 7770.

Larger businesses will need to pursue any debt recovery through the courts.
If late payments are impacting your cash flow, we offer a number of solutions which could help, including Invoice Finance.

Speak to one of our specialists on 0800 169 4356 or get in touch with your Relationship Manager or Relationship Management Team to see how we can help support you.

5. What help and support is there for businesses trading internationally?

If your business exports or delivers goods and services abroad and has been impacted by COVID-19, or is struggling with supply chain issues, the Department for International Trade is able to support you in a number of ways, including:

  • providing assistance with customs authorities to ensure smooth clearance of goods
  • offering advice on intellectual property and business continuity
  • finding alternative suppliers.  

See how we can help support your business with international trade at this time.

In addition, our Invoice Finance solutions can be offered on both domestic and export debt with a wide range of currencies available. For more information please call one of our specialists on 0800 169 4356.
Find out more about Invoice Finance solutions.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

1. Can I still make a claim under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) closed on 30 September 2021 and the deadline for final claims was 14 October 2021.

However, HMRC may accept late claims or amendments in certain circumstances.
See government guidance on making late CJRS claims.

2. Can I pay back grants claimed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

You can pay back some or all of your grant if you have overclaimed, you no longer need the grant, or you’d like to make a voluntary repayment.
See guidance on repaying CJRS grants.

Sick pay and time off

1. When should my employees self-isolate?

Self-isolation guidance varies between the UK nations.

See self-isolation guidance for Scotland. 
See self-isolation guidance for England. 
See self-isolation guidance for Wales. 
See self-isolation guidance for Northern Ireland.

2. Can employees work if they are self-isolating?

If employees are able to work from home and aren’t feeling ill themselves, they should be able to work while self-isolating.

If they aren’t feeling able to work, they can call in sick following your usual procedures.

3. Are employees entitled to sick pay while self-isolating?

Employees who follow advice to stay at home will be paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are unable to work, even if they are not ill themselves.  For example, if they aren’t double vaccinated and have to self-isolate due to a family member testing positive.

There is no need to pay SSP if employees are self-isolating due to travelling to another country for recreational travel.

Under the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, employers with fewer than 250 employees may be able to claim back the current rate of SSP for employees who have coronavirus or cannot work as they are self-isolating. The scheme will be reintroduced in January 2022.

See more about how to claim under the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme.

At work and working from home

1. What steps can I take to help keep my employees safe?

The Scottish government has issued guidance to help businesses reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading. 
See the safer businesses and workplaces guidance.

The English, Welsh and Northern Irish governments have issued their own guidance.

See guidance for England. 
See guidance for Wales. 
See guidance for Northern Ireland.

See the Health and Safety Executive’s guide to social distancing at work
Get advice from the HSE on conducting a risk assessment for your business.

2. If employees are working from home, do I have to provide them with appropriate equipment and pay for their utilities?

If staff have agreed to work from home voluntarily, or chosen to work from home, there is no need to make a contribution towards their utility bills.

If they are working from home involuntarily, employees could claim up to £6 a week tax relief to cover any additional costs they are incurring. They can’t claim for things that are for both private and business use, for example broadband, but can claim for things related to work, for example business telephone calls or extra gas and electricity costs.

This amount can be covered by employers as a tax-free allowance, or claimed as tax relief via HMRC.

All lending is subject to status.

Calls may be monitored or recorded in case we need to check we have carried out your instructions correctly and to help improve our quality of service.

While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information provided is correct, no liability is accepted by Bank of Scotland for any loss or damage caused to any person relying on any statement or omission. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances. Specific advice should always be sought in each instance. 

Coronavirus support

Find information and support for your business from accessing your account and managing cash flow to government-backed lending schemes.

Business mentoring

Find out how mentoring could help you lead your business through COVID-19 with confidence.

Government-backed lending schemes

Find out about the Recovery Loan Scheme and BBL Pay As You Grow options.