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Coronavirus - advice for businesses

Covid-19 advice for businesses

Last updated - 05 January

National lockdown

Following the Government's announcement on Monday 4 January, we have entered another national lockdown. Please keep checking this webpage for further information and additional support that may be available for businesses during this time.

Financial help

Read our coronavirus grants and payments page for details of grants available to residents and businesses.

The UK Government has announced a range of support measures for businesses. Full and up to date advice can be found on the UK Government website. Some of the support measures include:

  • Option to pay VAT in smaller amounts up until March 2022
  • Loans and cash grants available, depending on your business size
  • Employers can apply for staff to get up to 80% pay if they can’t work through the Government's Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until 31 March 2021
  • Self-employed people can claim a Grant Extension between November 2020 and April 2021

You can find out what financial support schemes you may be eligible for by visiting the Gov.uk website.

The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government and Ministers are keen for this relief to be awarded as soon as possible and we are working to deliver the appropriate grants and reliefs as quickly as we can.   

  • There will be a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. You do not need to do anything. This will be applied to your next bill in April 2020
  • From 1 April 2020 pub relief is being increased to £5,000
  • If you are a retailer not claiming 100 percent small business rate relief, have a rateable value under £51,000 and you did not receive retail discount for 2019/20 please review the information on the following link and apply using the form on our website          

Business rates service

  • Council staff are working from home to help prevent the illness from spreading. We are attempting to run our service as normally as possible, but there may be some delays in communication
  • We will try to email you where possible and will work hard to make sure that documents you post to us are scanned on to our system as quickly as possible to minimise delays
  • We will still accept calls on 0118 974 6000, but there is likely to be some interruptions to the service. You can also email us at: brates@wokingham.gov.uk

For more information read the business rates frequently asked questions (PDF document)

Due to the high number of contacts we are getting from businesses about the Government grant schemes and rate relief, we are being supported by the Berkshire Growth Hub to help businesses and businesses owners access the other forms of help they might need that are not administered by the local authority.

This includes:

  • Access to loans
  • Business continuity
  • Other business support groups
  • Sector specific loans

For further information visit the Berkshire Growth Hub website.

Job Retention Scheme

The government’s Job Retention Scheme was due to end on 31 October 2020, but has been extended until 31 March 2021. The following changes apply:

  • The amount employers can claim has increased to 80% of wages, capped at £2,500 each month, until 31 January 2021
  • Employees and workers who have not been on furlough previously are now eligible

Find out more on the Gov.uk website.

Deferral of VAT payments

Businesses that deferred VAT due from 20 March to 30 June 2020 will now have the option to pay in smaller payments over a longer period. Instead of paying the full amount by the end of March 2021, you can make smaller payments up to the end of March 2022, interest free.

You will need to opt-in to the scheme, and for those who do, this means that your VAT liabilities due between 20 March and 30 June 2020 do not need to be paid in full until the end of March 2022. Those that can pay their deferred VAT can still do so by 31 March 2021.

Find out more on the Gov.uk website.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Grant Extension provides critical support to the self-employed in the form of two grants, each available for three month periods covering November 2020 to January 2021 and February 2021 to April 2021.

Find out more on the Gov.uk website.    

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

This scheme provides financial support to smaller businesses affected by Covid-19. It supports businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The Government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to small and medium-sized businesses.

The Government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. Businesses can access the first 12 months of that finance interest free. The borrower always remains 100% liable for the debt

Find out more on the Gov.uk website.

Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility

A major new scheme delivered through commercial lenders and launched by the Bank of England to support liquidity amongst larger firms. It will operate for at least 12 months, and for as long as steps are needed to relieve cash flow pressures on firms that make a material contribution to the UK economy.

Find out more on the Gov.uk website.

Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

The Government will support small and medium-sized businesses and employers to cope with the extra costs of paying Covid-19 related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

Through the emergency legislation, employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim 2 weeks of SSP paid for sickness absences relating to coronavirus during the period of the outbreak.

Find out more on the Gov.uk website.

Time to Pay (HMRC)

HMRC may be able to help those in need regarding their tax liabilities, by providing a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. HMRC will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulty contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to Covid-19.

If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to Covid-19, please call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559.


Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the Government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres and other establishments is sufficient to make a claim.

Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.

Private lenders

A number of private lenders are also making funds available to small businesses impacted by Covid-19. Lenders may also be launching schemes and businesses must satisfy themselves of the terms and conditions of this before agreeing to loan agreements. Please check with your lender or bank.

As mentioned in the section above, the Government has introduced a scheme to support self-employed people who have been affected by the pandemic. Full details can be found on the Gov.uk website.

If you have to take time off work and you do not get paid while you're off, you might be entitled to claim benefits.

Check if you are entitled to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit to top up your income. Visit the UK Government's self employment and universal credit webpage.

If you pay council tax you might also be able to claim Council Tax Support, you can do this via:

Income Tax payments

Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.


We are looking at different ways to help and support people who are self-employed. There are some things that you can do yourself like:

  • Get advice on money and debt from the Wokingham Citizens Advice Bureau 
  • Ask your lender for a mortgage payment holiday
  • Ask your landlord for a rent holiday
  • Get help to pay your tax from HMRC

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