On Saturday 31 October, the Prime Minister announced that England would enter a four week lockdown from Thursday 5 November, subject to the regulations being approved by Parliament this coming Wednesday 4 November.
This announcement is in response to increasing COVID-19 cases across England, with an increase in the number of deaths and this placing pressure on NHS services.
Guidance on the restrictions from 5 November has been published. The key points are:
- People must stay at home, except for specific purposes.
- Different households cannot mix, except for specific purposes or being part of a support bubble.
- Certain businesses and venues will have to close.
- Early years, schools, colleges, universities will stay open.
- There is more advice for those people who are clinically vulnerable;
- Travel is restricted.
Financial support for businesses and employees
The furlough scheme (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) will remain open until December with 80% support:
- Businesses will have flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part time basis or furlough them full-time, and will only be asked to cover National Insurance and employer pension contributions which, for the average claim, accounts for just 5% of total employment costs. They should continue to pay the employee for hours worked in the normal way.
- The government will confirm shortly when claims can first be made in respect of employee wage costs during November, but there will be no gap in eligibility for support between the previously announced end-date of CJRS and this extension.
- The government expects that publicly funded organisation will not use the scheme, as has already been the case for CJRS, but partially publicly funded organisation may be eligible where their private revenues have been disrupted.
The Job Support Scheme, which was scheduled to come in on Sunday 1 November, has been postponed until the furlough scheme ends. It will be reintroduced at that point. Business premises forced to close in England are to receive grants worth up to £3,000 per month under the Local Restrictions Support Grant. Businesses will be eligible for the following:
- for properties with a rateable value of £15k or under, grants to be £1,334 per month, or £667 per two weeks;
- for properties with a rateable value of between £15k-£51k grants to be £2,000 per month, or £1,000 per two weeks;
- for properties with a rateable value of £51k or over grants to be £3,000 per month, or £1,500 per two weeks.