United Kingdom

General overview

On 23 March, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown and ordered all non-essential businesses to close.

The lockdown is to last for at least three weeks. However supermarkets, food shops, pharmacies and other essential businesses are allowed to remain open, and restaurants can continue to provide take-out services.

The UK government has issued regulations on what businesses must close here.

COVID-19 is negatively impacting the UK logistics sector, with the industry concerned over providing services, business planning and continuing to make revenue.

The New Zealand government is now urging all New Zealanders travelling overseas (including those in the UK) to consider returning home as soon as possible, as commercial routes combined with border restrictions are dramatically reducing the options to get home.

The below business information will apply to companies that are incorporated in the United Kingdom.


Economic situation

Government and business response

The UK Government has announced a number of measures in response to COVID-19 to ensure the impact on business is minimised. You can read further details about UK Govt support for businesses on their webpage here.

  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – All UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees' salary (80% up to £2,500 a month) for those employees that would have otherwise been let go during this time. This will cover the cost of wages backdated to 1 March, and will be open for three months initially. Her Majesty's Customs and Revenue (HMRC) is working urgently to set up this system.

  • Deferring VAT and income tax payments – Value Added Tax (VAT) payments will be deferred for 3 months until 30 June 2020, and income tax payments deferred until 31 January 2021. This is automatic for all UK businesses, and no applications are required.

  • 'Business Interruption' Loan scheme. Loans are available for SMEs (businesses with a turnover under £45 million up to £5 million and for up to 6 years. The government will make an initial Business Interruption Payment to cover fees and provide the first twelve months interest free. This became available in the week commencing 23 March 2020 and all major banks offer the scheme. Updates are available on the British Business Bank webpage.

  • Larger businesses with cashflow concerns. Under the new COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility, the Bank of England will buy short term debt from companies. This will support strong companies that have been affected by a short-term cashflow problem, allowing them to continue to financing their short term liabilities. More information is available on the Bank of England webpage.

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – For businesses with less than 250 employees, the UK government will refund up to 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee for absence due to COVID-19. Sick leave will be made available from day one, including for those self-isolating. This rebate scheme is currently being developed and further details will be provided soon. You can read the employer's guide to SSP here.

  • COVID helpline – to help businesses and self-employed individuals 'in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities' to receive support from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Businesses may be able to agree a customised Time to Pay arrangement to give businesses time to pay taxes if experiencing any temporary financial challenges. Dedicated helpline – 0800 0159 559.

  • One-year business rates holiday for small business in heavily hit sectors. This covers the year 2020-2021 for businesses in sectors such as hospitality, retail and entertainment. A £25,000 cash grant will also be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. These measures are automatic and will apply in businesses' next council tax bill.

  • Three-month extension period to file accounts – Businesses will be able to apply for a three-month extension in order to prioritise managing the impact of COVID-19. Applications take around 15 minutes to complete. Full guidance on how to apply is on the UK Government website here.

The Bank of England has also announced measures to provide additional credit to smaller businesses:

  • Reduction of Bank Rate (to 0.25%) and new Term Funding Scheme with additional incentives for SMEs.

  • The Financial Policy Committee has reduced the UK's countercyclical capital buffer rate to 0% of banks' exposures to UK borrowers, with immediate effect and for at least 12 months.

  • Interest rates have been cut to 0.1%.

A number of private lenders are also making funds available to small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including £2 billion from Lloyds Banking Group and £5 billion from NatWest.

Advice to exporters

While the effects of COVID-19 in the UK are beginning to be felt, we encourage any companies with concerns in market to contact NZTE.

In terms of immediate activity, make the safety and well-being of teams your priority, and invest as needed to ensure a safe and healthy working environment. Many businesses are allowing employees to work from home where this is possible. Check in with your business partners and stakeholders to see how they are doing and how you might be able to support them during this time.

Business operations

Government and business response

Find detail on government support for business and eligibility requirements at this link.

The UK government has published Guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19). This provides guidance on dealing with staff who may have the virus, supporting and managing staff, and limiting the spread of the virus in the workplace.

The UK government's Business Support Helpline can also provide advice: https://www.gov.uk/business-support-helpline

Insurance

The Association of British Insurers advises businesses to check their cover and to discuss concerns with brokers. COVID-19 has been declared a notifiable disease in the UK, which could assist businesses with insurance concerns.

As insurance policies differ significantly, businesses are encouraged to check their individual terms and conditions and contact their providers. The UK government has advised that most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will likely exclude pandemics.

Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March that advice to avoid pubs, theatres and other leisure activities is sufficient to make a claim.

Some insurance providers are not insuring any loss, damage or delay to some cargo going to Europe under the current circumstances, so stay in touch proactively with your insurance providers.

Cashflow

Cashflow is the primary issue for New Zealand companies in the UK, currently and is critical to businesses remaining viable. Supply and demand in the market is changing rapidly.

Additional information

The UK's Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) has produced a page of FAQs  to support companies to manage the impact of COVID-19. This covers topics including:

  • communicating to employees

  • meetings, travel and events

  • employment

  • cleaning and health in the workplace

  • supply chain

  • government and financial advice

  • emergency legislation and regulation.


Additional resources

Below you can find information and contact details for other New Zealand government and international agencies regarding their response to COVID-19.

New Zealand Government agencies

Business.govt.nz
Covid19.govt.nz
New Zealand Customs
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
MFAT Export helpline
MFAT Safetravel
Immigration
Ministry of Health

Global agencies

World health organisation (WHO)
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Contact NZTE

We're available to talk to you about any issues your export business is facing due to COVID-19.

For existing NZTE customers, please contact your New Zealand-based Customer Manager.

If you're unsure who to contact or haven't worked with us before, you can call NZTE on 0800 555 888 or email below and one of our Customer Advisors will help you.