Monday 23 March 2020 - OPINION
The announcement this evening that more categories of retail must close means more businesses looking for how to survive this hiatus. The Government 80% salary cover in the Job Retention Scheme is almost certainly the best option, as announced last week. It is there to help you pause your staffing bills until we start to come out of the Covid-19 crisis and provide your staff with heightened certainty of having a job to come back to.
The Job Retention Scheme is for employees who would otherwise have been laid off due to financial pressures. The pledge is to cover 80% of their wages, capped to a total of £2,500 per month per employee.
How this will happen is still uncertain, at the time of writing, outside of us knowing businesses will need to identify and notify the individuals concerned. During the Furlough period they will not attend work nor work for others for the duration you employed them. Once the HMRC online portal is live (which at the time of writing it is not) you must register your Furloughed employees. There are no official timescales as to when the online portal will be available, but it is speculated to be early to mid-April 2020. When staff are paid weekly, this will leave a gap between when you paid them for their last working days and when they will be first paid through the scheme. We believe employers are likely to pay during the gap, and then reclaim. Please follow news outlets for advice on this.
With the government covering 80% of the salary, will you have to cover the remaining 20%? There does not, as far as we can see, seem to be a stipulation to do so. After all, your business is on hold and likely income is too. Some, who can, may choose to top it up; others may be unable to do so. It seems likely that the 80% payment will be made to the employees through your usual Payroll, with the Employeer receiving funds from HMRC. The current PAYE system is not designed to make payments, just to take them.
However, if you are self-employed, you cannot Furlough yourself. There is currently a gap in the large amount of compensation being offered by the Government when it comes to self-employed, with the only option available (at the time of writing) is to apply for Universal Credit online. This will likely be less than the 80% of your salary and comes with a wait that can be five weeks or more. However, loans can sometimes be available. Whilst there is no hard evidence to support it, it seems likely the Government will plug this hole for the self-employed in the coming days.
Always check the Government website for full and clear guidance before making any decisions, such as advice here.
Saturday 21 March 2020 - OPINION
Many of us are now faced with closing our businesses for a multitude of reasons. The Government 80% salary cover in the Job Retention Scheme has certainly made the decision easier - knowing our staff can be retained and paid without need for redundancies or battling on into an uncertain future. For others, the fact footfall has dropped off a cliff is forcing the decision. Others will continue staying open until they are ordered to close. Food outlets are likely the ones who will be able to stay open the longest, and perhaps needed most.
For those who choose to stay open, please find a button above to download a handy poster to display in your business. It covers the most important bases of keeping your distance, avoiding crowding, looking with your eyes not your hands, and keep looking out for updates on your social media feeds.
Anyway, back to the main topic - what could you do whilst closed? We have been collating a number of ideas from around the globe, from multiple business sectors, and are listing some below. Not all may be appropriate for everyone, but there may be one or two gems in there. We welcome your ideas and feedback on whether this has been useful. Please email email@example.com.
Friday 20 March 2020 - LINK
Business West provide a hub that give guidance and support on Coronavirus (COVID-19) for businesses, employers and employees in the South West of England.
You can access this valuable source of information at www.businesswest.co.uk/trading-through-coronavirus
Friday 20 March 2020 - OPINION
The announcement today that pubs, cafes, restaurants and bars must close by the end of the night is (despite suspicions it would come) devastating news for many such businesses. For some, this has to be a temporary closure. Some announced their closure earlier in the day and over the past few days. Some, we must accept, may never re-open as the economic climate for them was already bad before Covid-19 hit. Obviously, we hope they all come back and just as amazing as before.Does this have to mean closure, though? Is there a practical way to adapt? There are many factors that govern this - staff costs, overall running costs, supply chain reliability and (most importantly) kitchen capacity. For some, this could be an opportunity to adapt.
Friday 20 March 2020 - ADVICE
We have received a high number of enquiries about this topic and its a very valid concern. Government guidance is not entirely clear on this in relation to general shopping, other than people should self-isolate if elderly, vulnerable or in an at-risk group. Advice has been given about not gathering in pubs, clubs, restaurants, etc [at the time of writing the ban had not been introduced] but no ban (though it seems likely one is coming, in line with other countries in Europe.If you remain open, it's essential to follow any government guidance and applicable laws. This should include (but is not limited to)
Thursday 19 March 2020 - LINK
We are receiving a high level of messages about the small business rate relief grants. Having just answered the last one in the queue, we thought it will help to share here too.
The following link will take you to the page with the most trustworthy information:
If your premises was eligible for small business rate relief before the crisis, it appears you will likely be eligible for the small business grant funding. We understand this is not a loan (so won’t need to be paid back as a loan would) and that it will be administered in Stroud and the surrounding district by Stroud District Council, just as small business rate relief was. There will also be a temporary suspension of small business rates for twelve months, as we understand it. Many will have received a business rates statement a week or so ago, and then a separate letter following the changes announced in the budget.
We do not yet know exactly how this will be administered (including whether or not it is a lump sum) but it’s likely many will need it soon.
Please follow reputable news outlets, the link provided above and the Stroud District Council website for the latest information. If you are a business in the district of Stroud, please follow our Facebook page for more updates from us
Thursday 19 March 2020 - LINK
Stroud Town Council have curated a number of links that will help inform employers and employees alike, during the Covid-19 crisis.
Access their page at
Wednesday 18 March 2020 - LINK
Businesses who need to communicate effectively face-to-face with their customers, but can’t visit them at the moment, please consider signing up to whereby.com
It has a free, basic plan, works off many browsers with no need to install software and is really easy to use. Use it on a laptop, smartphone or tablet with just a simple web address.
In times like this we need to adapt. Stroud Chamber of Trade is working hard to help and advise you.
Easy video meetings with no login or downloads. Video conferencing with screen sharing, recording and much more.
Wednesday 18 March 2020 - SERVICE
In the grip of the COVID-19 threat, Stroud businesses are adapting to serve the changing needs of their customers. Restaurants are offering take-away, businesses introducing new, local delivery services and call-and-collect and click-and-collect to save you time and minimise queuing. These businesses are going the extra mile, many offering to deliver efficiently to those who need to remain isolated and assist social distancing during this crisis.
Tuesday 17 March 2020 - CALL TO ACTION
Please help Stroud District Council understand a temporary suspension of Car Park charges will help our town and make a difference. They have quickly dismissed our request on the grounds it will make no difference (though omitted to provide the evidence upon which they made this ruling).
Please sign our petition: http://chng.it/mt6PP5Sj5j
Tuesday 17 March 2020 - ADVICE
"Is Stroud open" is something we regularly see on Social Media right now.
There seems to be an obsession to believe everything is closed down - it's the new "there's nothing to see in Stroud" that's easily combated by starting to list the names of over 100 amazing independent businesses :)
However, it does raise the fact that it is more important than ever to use Social Media to tell your followers you are there, you are open and you are ready for business.
Every day, even if that seems ridiculous, post that you're open
Wednesday 11 March 2020 - CAMPAIGN
Tonight the Chamber has written a letter to Kathy O'Leary, Chief Executive of Stroud District Council, to request the urgent suspension of parking charges in Stroud District Council owned and run car parks in the town.
Stroud is experiencing a significant downturn in footfall due to the fears of Covid-19, a downturn that exceeds usual seasonal predictions and trends. This is posing a real and current threat to our local economy. To ensure business impact is minimised, the Chamber has been considering barrier that could be removed that prevent or discourage visitors from the town. One such barrier is car parking charges - which are unique to Stroud, being absent everywhere else within the reach of Stroud District Council in their car parks.