The government have reacted to the growing numbers of Omicron infections which have caused cancellations in the hospitality industry at the busiest time of year and also to support businesses suffering with staff of sick.
The Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS) has been reintroduced for small and medium-sized employers (fewer than 250 employees) which reimburses businesses for the cost of SSP for COVID related absences. This is for Covid-related absences, for up to 2 weeks per employee. Businesses will be eligible for the scheme from today and can make claims retrospectively from mid-January.
Hospitality and leisure sectors in England will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises, plus more than £100 million to Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG.) Local Authorities will have discretion to allocate this funding to businesses most in need. Hospitality UK reporting that many businesses have lost 40-60% of their December trade, often their most profitable month. Around 200,000 businesses will be eligible for business grants which will be administered by local authorities and will be available in the coming weeks.
The Culture Recovery Fund will receive £30 million further funding to support organisations such as theatres, orchestras and museums through the winter to March 2022.
The government stated: “Many businesses have more cash in the bank than they did at the start of the pandemic and net cash deposits for all hospitality businesses have risen by £7 billion (40%), while small and medium-sized businesses in the hospitality sector have seen their cash deposits rise by £2 billion (79%).
Fewer businesses have become insolvent, with insolvencies running 25% lower than pre-pandemic in hospitality, and vacancies are 50% above pre-pandemic levels.”
These additional measures will reinforce the existing package of business support, including:
- business rates relief - the majority of businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors will see a 75% reduction in their business rates bill across the entire financial year and a new 50% capped business rates relief next financial year;
- a 12.5% reduced rate of VAT for hospitality and tourism to support the cash flow and viability of around 150,000 businesses and protect over 2.4 million jobs, until the end of March;
- the £1.5 billion Covid Additional Relief Fund for businesses that have not previously had business rates support;
- businesses will be protected from eviction if they are behind on rent on their premises, thanks to the moratorium in place until March 2022;
- access to finance for SMEs through the Recovery Loan Scheme to June; and
- Bounce Back Loan repayment flexibility, with borrowers having the option to take a 6 month repayment holiday, three 6 month interest only periods or extend their loan to 10 years, which almost halves the monthly payment.
- support for the aviation and travel sectors, including over £12 billion since the beginning of the pandemic, and the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme (AGOSS) until the end of March 2022.