In the Budget address on 11 March, Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced £7 billion of extraordinary measures to support the economy through the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
What Measures Have Been Announced?
The following key measures were announced:
- The cost of statutory sick pay (SSP) for coronavirus-related absence of up to 14 days will be refunded by the government. This applies to businesses with fewer than 250 employees.
- SSP will be available “to all those advised to self-isolate even if they haven’t yet presented with symptoms”. This will apply from day one of sickness.
- Employees will be able to obtain a sick note (fit note) from the NHS non-emergency service (111), which they can use as evidence for absence from work. This initiative is intended to take pressure off local GPs.
Will There be Support for Self-Employed and Gig Economy Workers?
The self-employed and those working in the gig economy are not eligible for SSP and so the government has made it quicker and easier to access benefits.
Additional financial support is being made available under a new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme with banks offering loans of up to £1.2m to support SMEs.
A special HMRC helpline has also been set up to assist businesses and self-employed individuals in financial difficulties with and outstanding tax liabilities. Those concerned about their ability to pay tax due to the coronavirus can contact HMRC’s helpline on 0800 0159 559.