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What support is available for Start-ups?

According to the guidelines laid down by the Treasury, many Start-up businesses will not be considered “viable” as they are at an early stage in the investment cycle (i.e. delivering negative returns but with strong growth prospects). This means they are unlikely to qualify for CBILS although for primarily UK based Start-ups it is still worth making enquiries as policies are rapidly evolving.

For early-stage businesses in their first two years of trading, the British Business Bank’s Start-Up Loans programme (loans £500 to £25,000 at 6% p.a. interest) may be more suitable. Visit www.startuploans.co.uk for more information.

For start-up businesses that are unable to access CBILS, the Government launched The Future Fund in May 2020 via the British Business Bank, which provides convertible loans to UK-based innovative companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors. This scheme is available until 30 September 2020 initially.

Your business is eligible if:

  • it is UK-incorporated – if your business is part of a corporate group, only the parent company is eligible
  • it has raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from third-party investors in the last five years
  • none of its shares are traded on a regulated market, multilateral trading facility or other listing venue
  • it was incorporated on or before 31 December 2019, and
  • at least one of the following is true: (i) half or more employees are UK-based; and/or (ii) half or more revenues are from UK sales.

Further information is available on the Government website, www.gov.uk/guidance/future-fund

The Government is also offering additional support for small and medium size firms that are primarily focused on research and development. This targeted support is available through a continuity grant and loan scheme. The grant scheme is only available until 29 May 2020 while the loan scheme is open for applications until all the money is allocated or 31 December 2020 (whichever is earlier). This scheme is administered by Innovate UK, the national innovation agency, and this support will mostly only be available to existing Innovate UK customers.
Further information is available on the on the Government website, www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-coronovirus-business-innovation-support-package

Related FAQs

What is the NHS coronavirus Test and Trace scheme and how does it work?

The NHS Test and Trace service is operated by the NHS in England to track and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Where an individual displays symptoms of coronavirus they can be tested to determine whether or not they have the disease. Those with the disease will then be contacted by NHS contact tracers and asked who they have come into close contract with.
Close contact is defined as:

  • Face to face (within 1 metre)
  • Spent more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of another person
  • Travelled in a car or on a plane with another person

The contact tracer will then contact those people with whom the individual has come into close contact and tell them to self-isolate for 14 days.

Can I be fined for failing to take steps to try to ensure that my staff comply with the requirements to self-isolate?

Yes.

An employer which is aware that a worker or agency worker is or ought to be self-isolating, should not knowingly allow that worker or agency worker to leave the place that they are self-isolating in (“the designated place”).  To do so without reasonable excuse would amount to an offence which could result in the employer being issued with a fixed penalty notice.

The value of the fixed penalty varies depending on if it is the first or subsequent fixed penalty notice to be issued:

First fixed penalty notice £1,000
Second fixed penalty notice £2,000
Third fixed penalty notice £4,000
Fourth, and any subsequent fixed penalty notice £10,000
Can furloughed workers still continue with union or non-union representation duties?

Yes, they can continue to undertake duties or activities for representative purposes. This includes individual or collective representation of their colleagues. They must not carry out any actual work or generate revenue for their employer or a linked or associated organisation.

What is available to stop creditors taking action against the company to recover debts during the current crisis?

The government has announced a number of measures to try to protect businesses during the current period of uncertainty. However there is no outright ban on creditors being able to take legal action to recover money they are owed, though there are temporary restrictions on some forms of legal action, like winding up petitions.

However, it is important to note that these measures only relate to winding up proceedings. Creditors will still be free to commence county court claims.

The new Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 brings in a new “moratorium” procedure. Businesses in financial difficulty that are viable and can be rescued will now be able to work with an insolvency practitioner to obtain at least 20 business days’ breathing space from creditors to allow the business to formulate a plan to deal with its financial problems.

For more information on the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act, click here

As part of the raft of measures put forward by the government over recent months, there are also restrictions on landlords taking action to evict commercial tenants who miss rent payments. Various payment holidays and forbearance have been put in place in respect of certain tax liabilities and some business rates.

If your business is going to go into an insolvency process like administration or a company voluntary arrangement, there is the ability to obtain a freeze on creditors taking action whilst those procedures are put in place. However, these sorts of moratoriums will not be available to everyone and in any event not unless an insolvency process is being instigated.

Regardless of whether a business has formal protection from creditors or not, engagement with creditors and trying to reach agreement with them to deal with the debt is therefore vital. Much of the protection measures that the Government has introduced like curbing the ability of landlords to evict a commercial tenant, do not wipe out the debt. They simply prevent action being taken or a payment becoming due for a short time. All businesses should use that time to consider how those debts can be dealt with and engage with the relevant stakeholders sooner rather than later.

How do I bring an employee with a visa off furlough?

Employees with visas should be treated consistently with the wider workforce. When their furlough leave ends, they should return to work and their pay should be reinstated. If you agree a pay cut or reduction in working hours, you need to ensure that sponsored workers are still earning above the minimum salary for their role and working in excess of the minimum number of hours (see above).

The flexible furlough scheme is now in place and can be used for employees who have previously been furloughed for a consecutive period of at least three weeks. The flexible furlough scheme remains in place until 31 October 2020.