The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) ended on 30 September after supporting millions of workers during the pandemic.
The government said the wages of more than 11 million people were subsidised for at least some of the scheme’s duration at a cost of around £70 billion.
Economists say there is likely to be a rise in unemployment due to new redundancies, despite the fact that some may be able to find work in recovering sectors such as travel and hospitality.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the end of the furlough scheme, the scrapping of the small employer sick pay rebate and the closure of the government’s apprenticeship incentive scheme will only add pressure on companies.
Mike Cherry, the FSB’s National Chair, said:
‘It’s potentially a dangerous moment. As the weather turns colder, so too will the operating environment for many firms. With recent economic growth numbers having fallen below expectations, the upcoming festive season may not provide as much of a boost as hoped to many small businesses’ bottom lines.’
Internet link: GOV.UK FSB website
The government’s scheme that enables small businesses to recoup statutory sick pay costs caused by COVID-19 closed at the end of September.
Legislation ending the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS) was laid before parliament on 9 September.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, employers were obliged to pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to eligible employees unable to work because of sickness. It is paid at a flat rate of £96.35 (at the current rate) for up to 28 weeks. The full cost of SSP is met by the employer.
To support employers during the pandemic, the government legislated to allow certain small and medium size employers to reclaim some, or all, of their SSP costs from HMRC via the SSPRS.
Under the new regulations, employers will not be able to reclaim SSP from 30 September 2021 and any claims relating to periods prior to that date must have been filed by 31 December 2021.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) said:
‘It would appear that the suspension of the requirement to wait for three days before SSP is paid has not yet been repealed. The three-day rule was suspended temporarily during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis to encourage people to stay at home as soon as they felt ill.’
Internet link: ICAEW website GOV.UK
The government has opened a £800 million Reinsurance Scheme to cover live events against cancellations stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The live events sector is worth more than £70 billion annually to the UK economy and supports more than 700,000 jobs, including small businesses and the self-employed.
The UK Live Events Reinsurance Scheme will support live events across the country – such as concerts and festivals, conferences and business events – that are at risk of being cancelled or delayed due to an inability to obtain COVID-19 cancellation insurance.
The government has partnered with Lloyd’s Market Association to deliver the scheme as part of its Plan for Jobs.
The scheme will see the government act as a ‘reinsurer’, stepping in with a guarantee to make sure insurers can offer the products events companies need. The scheme is available from 22 September 2021 and will run until the end of September 2022.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said:
‘The events sector supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country and as the economy re-opens, we’re helping events providers and businesses plan with confidence right through to next year.’
Internet links: GOV.UK
UK workers could get more choice over when and where they work under new proposals to make the right to request flexible working a day one entitlement.
The government will also introduce a day one right to one week’s unpaid leave for carers balancing a job with caring responsibilities. The government says the plans will make for more productive businesses, whilst accommodating both employee and employer needs.
The proposals consider whether limiting an employee’s application for flexible working to one per year continues to represent the best balance between individual and business needs.
The consultation also looks at cutting the current three-month period an employer has to consider any request.
If an employer cannot accommodate a request, as can be the case, they would need to think about what alternatives they could offer.
Matthew Fell, Chief Policy Director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said:
‘Businesses have learnt a huge amount about the pros and cons of flexible working during the pandemic, with many firms expecting to receive more formal and informal requests in the future. Employers support giving employees the right to request flexible working from day one in the job.
‘Companies want to work with the government to ensure that they can say ‘no’ when they have properly considered requests but for good reason can’t accept them.‘
Internet link: GOV.UK CBI website
COVID-19 emergency finance schemes offered £80.5 billion of finance to almost 1.7 million businesses through the British Business Bank (BBB) during the last financial year.
This support, which is not included under the Bank’s core programmes, was evenly distributed across the nations and regions of the UK.
In addition, the BBB supported £8.5 billion through its normal core finance programmes, although this was below its target of £9.085 billion due to displacement of existing programmes by COVID-19 emergency finance schemes.
The Bank was independently assessed as having deployed its expertise to the government effectively, ranging from advice on COVID-19 scheme development and delivery to fulfilling priorities on research and market engagement.
Catherine Lewis La Torre, CEO of the BBB, said:
‘Throughout 2020/21, in response to the pandemic, the BBB performed a role vital to the UK government, finance markets and the economy as a whole.
‘Our financial support to smaller businesses has increased by more than £80 billion during the last financial year, and now stands at nearly £89 billion.
‘We look forward to using our unique position in the market to support businesses further as they recover and return to growth once more, thereby rebuilding the foundations of the UK’s future prosperity.’
Internet link: British Business Bank website