April 16 coronavirus update for businesses

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Community Foundation raises more than half of £1m goal

Within just a couple of weeks of launching its coronavirus fundraiser, then Community Foundation has secured £512,000 of its £1m goal. The Lancashire COVID-19 Community Support Fund has received a £292,000 donation from NET, with the other £220,000 coming from Local Authorities who form the Lancashire Resilience Forum with partners including police, fire and health.

So far £93,000 has been distributed to 28 community groups and organisations on the frontline. The Fund will award grants to support community organisations providing vital services like foodbanks, delivery of food and care packages to vulnerable people, telephone and online services offering friendship and support to help reduce isolation, emotional and mental health support and financial inclusion, support to access benefits and debt advice.

Arthur Roberts, chairman of the Community Foundation for Lancashire, said: "I’m sure many who have the capacity to support financially will want to do so in this exceptional time of need. If anywhere is equipped to meet that challenge head-on, I’m confident, as someone who is incredibly proud of Lancashire, that we’ll do it!"

Companies join forces to make donations

A collection of East Lancashire businesses has teamed up to purchase 24 pallets of food, including eggs, milk and bread, and distribute them to the local community (pictured above.)

Tyreoo FleetCare and its sister Company Colne Tyre Centre, JD Engineering organised the project with the logistic support of the Cardboard Box Company. The donations were delivered to Barrowford School, local Hospices, Salvation Army and other foodbanks in Colne and Pendle, Accrington, Blackburn and Clitheroe.

Azhar Iqbal, managing director of Tyreoo, said: "In this time of need, we were delighted to work together with local companies to help buy and distribute these desperately required food parcels. It is just one of many examples of where local businesses are forsaking their own problems and helping their local community as a whole. We look forward to distributing more food parcels over the coming weeks."

Chamber publishes coronavirus impact study

The third BCC Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker reveal that the 66 per cent of businesses responding to the survey have now furloughed a proportion of their workforce. More than half of firms (59 per cent) have three months cash in reserve or less
2 per cent of firms surveyed had successfully accessed CBILS while 15 per cent of those surveyed are now receiving grants.

Edge Hill University loans equipment to NHS

Edge Hill has loaned vital equipment to the government to maximise Covid-19 testing capacity. Seven polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines, which are normally used by the university’s biology researchers to carry out DNA analysis on a wide range of organisms, were collected by the British military this week.

While the University’s labs are closed for research, a number of -20c freezers were also loaned to officials to help during the global health crisis.

Dr Clare Strode said: "A key factor in dealing with this Covid-19 pandemic is screening samples for the presence of viral RNA which can be done before a person shows symptoms and prior to an antibody being present. This can act as an early warning system showing who is infected. For this PCR machines are needed and can also help understand how the virus is spreading in a population.

"There is a shortage of PCR machines so we’re delighted that we could loan out vital equipment to help our country during this health crisis and we are willing to loan out more equipment should the need arise."

Womble Bond Dickinson offers employment law updates

Karen-Plumbley Jones, practice development lawyer at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, has offered insight into the latest developments regarding employment law:

  • UK Visas and Immigration has now published advice for Tier 2, 4 and 5 sponsors, which states that if an employer cannot pay the salaries of sponsored employees because it has temporarily reduced or ceased trading, it can temporarily reduce the pay of sponsored employees to 80% of their salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is less. Read more.
  • HMRC has published guidance for employers on claiming back payments of statutory sick pay made in connection with COVID-19. The rebate scheme applies to employers with fewer than 250 employees as at 28 February, who can claim back up to two weeks' SSP paid to an employee who is unable to work due to COVID-19 or who is self-isolating at home. Read more.
  • The HMRC job retention scheme portal will be launched on 20 April so employers will be able to start making claims then. The first reimbursements are expected to be made on 30 April.
  • The government has produced updated guidance on coronavirus and apprenticeships. It confirms that apprentices on furlough can continue their training as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for their employer. Read more.

Blackburn dealership secures funding assistance

AutoLab UK, based in Blackburn, has secured the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and an extension of existing banking facilities in order to help keep the business running and protect many jobs.

Menaz Sulaman, AutoLab director, said: "I have invested heavily in my team’s culture and training so I am glad to be able to keep them together using the furlough scheme. The help from Barclays, and especially our relationship director, has safeguarded jobs and given us the confidence we will be able to adapt the business for the world after corona, and we’ll be ready to meet that renewed demand."

Paul Nicholls, Barclays relationship director, said: “Menaz and the team have put in a huge amount of work to build AutoLab into a strong business, so when coronavirus impacted them, we moved quickly to discuss how Barclays could help. As a bank, we provided the necessary information so the company could make the right decisions in a difficult situation. The CBILS loan will give the company enough fuel to get through in this uncertain time and be ready to bounce back when demand returns.”

Harrison Drury solicitor steps up kindness campaign

Jenna​ Atkinson, a solicitor at Harrison Drury, has stepped up the "Be A Little Kinder" campaign which she launched in early 2020. The original idea was to choose a LinkedIn connection each week - whether that be a business connection, a friend or a stranger - and send a message, card or small gift to surprise them with an act of kindness.

Jenna said: "I have sent pamper hampers, messages of encouragement and even before all this I was trying to promote the message actively that we should all take that time in our week to be a little kinder, as kindness is one of the things that really does matter."

"I have done this every week but am now trying to do this every other day in light of the pandemic to make people’s days a bit brighter."

Government launches new expenses guidance

Find out what equipment, services or supplies are taxable if your employees are working from home due to coronavirus (COVID-19).