The Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE) will endeavor to provide up-to-date information and guidance to support our members at this extraordinary time. We are working with our colleagues in other agricultural engineering related organisations, manufacturers, dealerships and government departments to ensure that the importance of agricultural engineering is recognized and that the vital landbased industries can continue to function.
On the 12 October the Prime Minister announced how the government will further simplify and standardise local rules by introducing a three tiered system of local COVID Alert Levels in England. There are different restrictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. See the list of local COVID alert levels by area. A postcode checker is also available.
More information on local COVID alert levels in England is available, alongside guidance on the restrictions in place which includes information for businesses and venues, and going to work:
Job support scheme update
- A new Job Support Scheme will be introduced from 1 November to protect viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months due to coronavirus. Under the scheme, which will run for six months, the government will contribute towards the wages of employees who are working fewer than normal hours due to decreased demand.A
- Employers will continue to pay the wages of staff for the hours they work - but for the hours not worked, the government and the employer will each pay one third of their equivalent salary. In order to support only viable jobs, employees must be working at least 33% of their usual hours. The level of grant will be calculated based on employee’s usual salary, capped at £697.92 per month. The Job Support Scheme will be open to businesses across the UK even if they have not previously used the furlough scheme, with further guidance being published in due course.
Self-employment income support scheme
- The Government is continuing its support for millions of self-employed individuals by extending the Self Employment Income Support SchemeGrant (SEISS). An initial taxable grant will be provided to those who are currently eligible for SEISS and are continuing to actively trade but face reduced demand due to coronavirus. The initial lump sum will cover three months’ worth of profits for the period from November to the end of January next year. This is worth 20% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £1,875. An additional second grant, which may be adjusted to respond to changing circumstances, will be available for self-employed individuals to cover the period from February 2021 to the end of April.
Tax cuts and deferrals
- The temporary 15% VAT cut for the tourism and hospitality sectors will be extended to the end of March next year. In addition, business who deferred their VAT bills will be given more breathing space through the New Payment Scheme, which gives them the option to pay back in smaller instalments. Self-assessment taxpayers will be able to benefit from a separate additional 12-month extension from HMRC on the “Time to Pay” self-service facility, meaning payments deferred from July 2020, and those due in January 2021, will now not need to be paid until January 2022.
Giving businesses flexibility to pay back loans
- Businesses who took out a Bounce Back Loan will be given the option to repay their loan over a period of up to ten years through a new Pay as You Grow flexible repayment system. Interest-only periods of up to six months and payment holidays will also be available to businesses.
The government is extending four temporary loan schemes to 30 November 2020 for new applications: As a result, more businesses will now be able to benefit from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the Future Fund.
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme lenders will be given the ability to extend the length of loans from a maximum of six years to ten years if it will help businesses to repay the loan.
- Changes to Job Retention Scheme from 1 September - further changes include CJRS will pay 70% of usual wages capped at £2,187.50 per month for the hours furloughed employees do not work. You still need to pay at least 80% and need to fund the difference between this and the grant yourself. The caps are proportional to the hours not worked. You will continue to pat NI and pension contributions from your own funds. Find all the details here.
- What to do if your business has an outbreak of COVID-19 - Central Bedfordshire Council has produced a very useful guidance flowchart which outlines the steps you should take as an employer if your suffer an outbreak of coronavirus.
- Free expert advice for small businesses - The Recovery Advice for Business scheme, supported by the government and hosted on the Enterprise Nation website, will give small firms access to free, one-to-one advice with an expert adviser to help them through the coronavirus pandemic and to prepare for long-term recovery. The platform is now live.
- A Job Retention Bonus that will be introduced to help firms keep furloughed workers. UK Employers will receive a one-off bonus of £1,000 for each furloughed employee who is still employed as of 31 January 2021 - read more in the Chancellor's "Plan for Jobs"
- A total of £1.6 billion will be invested in scaling up employment support schemes, training and apprenticeships to help people looking for a job. Young people, who are amongst the worst hit by the crisis, will benefit from this. The plan will also create tens of thousands of jobs through bringing forward work on £8.8 billion of new infrastructure, decarbonisation and maintenance projects - - read more in the Chancellor's "Plan for Jobs"
- A new £2 billion Kickstart Scheme will be launched to create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country. Those aged 16-24, claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, will be eligible. Funding available for each six-month job placement will cover 100% of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week – and employers will be able to top this wage up - read more in the Chancellor's "Plan for Jobs"
- Reopen your Business Safely Government Guidance Tool - Employers in England that want to reopen their business have a legal responsibility to protect their employees and other people on site. Use this guidance to help you carry out a risk assessment and make sensible adjustments to the site and workforce. If you do not carry out a risk assessment, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or your local council can issue an enforcement notice. Employees can use this guidance to check what their workplace needs to do to keep people safe. This guidance is only for businesses that are allowed to reopen in England. There is also an Employee Return to Work Tool that allows workers to know what their employer should be doing to keep them safe.
- Changes to the Furlough Scheme from 1st July 2020 - you will only be able to claim for those who have previously been furoughed for at least 3 consecutive weeks: flexible furloughing will be introduced, allowing you to bring back employees to work for any amount of time in any pattern; you will still be able to clain for the grant for the hours you flexibly furloughed workers during the week compared with their normal hours. Grants will slowly reduce from 1 August with no grant available for Class 1 NICs or pension contributions, which will remain payable by the employer. From 1 September a contribution towards furloughed workers wages, at least 10%, will be payable and from 1 October at least 20% - these measures will ensure that workers receive at least 80% of their wages for the time spent on furlough. Read more about the changes here.
- Help and Support for if your Business is affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19) - watch videos and register for the free webinars to learn more about the support available to help you deal with the economic impacts of coronavirus on this government webpage
- Change to 2 metre rule - From 4 July 2020, newly updated guidance recommends that you keep two metres away from people as a precaution or one metre when you can mitigate the risk by taking other precautions. Find the updated guidance and further details on mitigating risks here.
- The Department of Work and Pensions have created webpages which will be helpful if you have questions about Universal Credit, housing, furlough etc during this pandemic - find the information here.
- Trade Credit Insurance, which provides essential cover to hundreds of thousands of business-to-business transactions, will receive up to £10 billion of government guarantees. The scheme is available on a temporary basis for 9 months backdated to 1 April 2020. Read the full information here.
- Entering and Returning to the UK - From 8 June, there will be new rules in place for entering the UK because of coronavirus (COVID-19). The rules are for residents and visitors. Exemptions to the new rules may be found here.
- The Environment Agency have issued an update to businesses and communities on its services, supporting those it regulates during the pandemic - read the update here
- Furlough extended to October and more help for the Self Employed - the Chancellor today announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would remain open until October with a phased return to part-time work beginning in August. The Self-employed will be entitled to a second and final grant of 70% of profits for 3 months. Full details of both the updates is available here.
- The Test & Trace Service is launched (28 May 2020) in England. Find Guidance for employers, business, workers and the self-employed here.
- The UK Government have set a roadmap to reopen retail outlets by 15 June, the full statement is available here and the guidance for the retail sector detailing the measures retailers should take are available here. There is a free webinar for Shops and branches on Thursday 28 May at 11am - register here. Other free webinars are available here.
- Applications for the Future Fund opened on Wednesday 20 May 2020. The fund will provide UK Government loans to UK-based companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors. These convertible loans may be a suitable option for businesses that typically rely on equity investment and are unable to access other government business support programmes because they are either pre-revenue or pre-profit. The Future Fund was developed by the UK Government and is being delivered by the British Business Bank.
- Working safely during Coronavirus - the Government, in consultation with industry, has produced "COVID-19 Secure" - a series of 8 guidance papers to assist businesses allowed to open including outdoor environments,construction and factories. The Guidance may be found here. The 5 key steps should be observed by all businesses: 1. Work from home if you can. 2. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment in consultation with the workforce/union. Maintain 2 m social distancing if possible, Where 2m is not possible, manage transmission risk. 5. Reinforce cleaning processes. A series of webinars is planned to guide employers - see the list of webinars here - you may need to access more than one as various business settings are covered.
- Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy has been published, outlining the UK Government’s plan for rebuilding and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. The roadmap to lift restrictions step-by-step will be of particular interest to businesses and employers. In step 1, which will apply from Wednesday 13 May in England:
- Workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible.
- All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open, for example this includes food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories. The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and non-essential retail which during this first step, the Government is requiring to remain closed.
- As soon as practicable, workplaces should follow the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines.
- It remains the case that anyone who has symptoms, however mild, or is in a household where someone has symptoms, should not leave their house to go to work. Those people should self-isolate, as should those in their households.
- Safer Travel and Transport Guidance - A Guide for Passengers on how to travel safely has been released with details of preferred travel and recommendations for htose using public transport
- The Bounce Back Loans scheme, announced by the Chancellor on Monday 27 April, will allow SMEs to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 and access the cash within days. Loans will be interest free for the first 12 months, and from Monday 4 May, businesses can apply online through a short and simple form. The scheme launches on Monday 4 May.
- A series of HMRC webinars is available to assist businesses - you can see them on the HMRC YouTube Channel.
- The DIT have launched a series of webinars, they are hosted by International Trade Advisers and feature expert speakers from the Federation of Small Businesses and Freight Transport Association (FTA). Find out more and register to attend here.
IAgrE Members - How we are carrying on during the lockdown
- IAgrE have gathered some case studies to show how some of our members have continued with their businesses during the pandemic - read their experiences here - if you would like to contribute or if you have ideas on how the "new normal" will look please get in touch.
Did you know?
- If your place of work has not been closed and you cannot work from home you are still allowed to travel to and from work within the UK. Obviously you must adhere to the ‘social distancing’, hand washing and other advice whilst at work.
- If you have been furloughed from work or are an agricultural engineering student unable to attend college you are still allowed to volunteer for unpaid work. Many farmers are unable to operate at full capacity at this time due to lack of a suitable workforce. If you have agricultural skills or enthusiasm you can volunteer to help farmers trying to keep the country fed.
- In these restricted times fewer CPD opportunities may be available due to ‘social distancing’ requirements. Perfectly acceptable CPD can still be maintained, however, via webinars, online courses, magazines, website content, podcasts and videos etc. We have put together a page of CPD opportunities for you to explore and hope to add to this resource in the coming months. Read more about IAgrE’s CPD requirements here and if you need help please contact Sarah, who will be pleased to chat to you.
Volunteering while furloughed - your questions answered
- If you have been furloughed and would like to volunteer to help others during this period the NCVO have created webpages with advice and information to get you started - I want to volunteer and How can I help? - both pages give guidance on how to get involved.
- This time of uncertainty can have a negative impact on your mental health and the NFU and the Yellow Wellies scheme have put together a little book of practical advice and ways to care for your mental well being, including small adjustments to your daily routine that may help. For more information and to download the book visit this webpage.
- Health and Safety Guidelines have changed during this outbreak, with social distancing rules meaning that working practices have had to be redesigned. Newmac Safety have produced a very comprehensive set of COVID-19 Guidelines, which they have kindly shared with us.
- If you have concerns about your finances then a really good source of information is Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert website – you can sign up for his weekly emails that will keep you up to date.
- The CIPD, the HR professional body, have published a webpage page of very helpful guides, factsheets, webinars and Q & As to help employers through these exceptional circumstances - access their page here. They have recently released a Guide on Returning to the Workplace, which addresses many areas of concern to employers.