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COVID-19 business support 

Latest updates

November 26, 2020

The regional tiers post-national lockdown have been announced – with Somerset (Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset and Somerset West and Taunton) placed in Tier 2 and North Somerset in Tier 3.

Businesses can check which tier they are in by postcode here or see a full list of tiers per area here.

Full details of the rules and restrictions which apply to each tier can be found here.

November 23, 2020

The Prime Minister confirmed the national lockdown would end on December 2 as planned and be replaced with “tougher” regional tiers, which will be announced on Thursday. Gyms, shops and personal care providers can also re-open, while the 10pm pub curfew has been replaced with last orders at 10pm and doors closed by 11pm. The Government’s full COVID-19 winter plan is available to read online here.

November 5, 2020

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed he will extend the furlough scheme until the end of March. The Government will review the policy in January. However, the Job Rentention Bonus will not now be paid in February. This is the £1,000 payment firms would have received for keeping employees on once furlough ended.

The announcement comes as the Bank of England said it was pumping an extra £150bn into the economy. The Bank warned the resurgence of COVID-19 would lead to a slower, bumpier recovery. Interest rates were also kept on hold at a record low of 0.1%.

October 31, 2020

The Prime Minister announced plans for a new four-week lockdown across England – MPs will vote on the proposals on Wednesday (November 4). If approved, the measures will be introduced at 00:01 GMT on Thursday, November 5, and remain in place until Wednesday, December 2.

After December 2, different regions will return to the tiers one to three, depending on the rates of infection.

Under the lockdown rules, people must work from home if they can, although workplaces will be asked to stay open if people cannot work from home – including construction and manufacturing.

Households will not be allowed to mix with others indoors, or in private gardens, although individuals can meet one person from outside their household in an outside public space.

Business which can remain open include:

  • Food shops, supermarkets, garden centres and certain other retailers providing essential goods and services

Business which will have to close during the lockdown include:

  • All pubs and restaurants
  • All non-essential retail, including, but not limited to clothing and electronics stores, vehicle showrooms, travel agents, betting shops, auction houses, tailors, car washes, tobacco and vape shops
  • Indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, leisure centres and gyms, sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, dance studios, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls and climbing centres, archery and shooting ranges, water and theme parks
  • Entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, adult gaming centres and arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, concert halls, zoos and other animal attractions, botanical gardens
  • Personal care facilities such as hair, beauty and nail salons, tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services, non-medical acupuncture, and tanning salons

Financial support

Furlough payments under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended at 80% for the duration of England’s second lockdown. Workers will be paid at least 80% of their salary up to £2,500 a month, with employers being asked to pay National Insurance and pensions contributions for their staff during November.

The proposed new Job Support Scheme will now not be introduced until after the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends.

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will be extended to cover the new lockdown period. Two grants will be available, each for three-month periods, covering November 2020 to January 2021 and February 2021 to April 2021. Funding will also increase from 40% to 80% of average trading profits in November. People will be able to apply from the end of November rather than the middle of December, with support provided faster. The max grant increases to £5,160.

In addition, business premises forced to close in England will receive grants worth up to £3,000 per month under the Local Restrictions Support Grant. An additional £1.1bn is being given to local authorities for one-off payments to enable them to support businesses locally.

Businesses required to close in England due to local or national restrictions will be eligible for the following:

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15k or under, grants to be £1,334 per month, or £667 per two weeks
  • For properties with a rateable value of between £15k-£51k grants to be £2,000 per month, or £1,000 per two weeks
  • For properties with a rateable value of £51k or over grants to be £3,000 per month, or £1,500 per two weeks

Quick links to Government help and advice

October 22, 2020

The Chancellor has unveiled increased support for jobs and workers hit by COVID-19 restrictions for all businesses and the self-employed who can show their revenue has been adversely affected.

Under the revised scheme, employers will pay less and staff can work fewer hours before they qualify.

  • Open businesses which are experiencing considerable difficulty will be given extra help to keep staff on as government significantly increases contribution to wage costs under the Job Support Scheme, and business contributions drop to 5%
  • Business grants are expanded to cover businesses in particularly affected sectors in high-alert level areas, helping them stay afloat and protecting jobs
  • Grants for the self-employed doubled to 40% of previous earnings

More information about the changes to the grants and schemes is available online here

A Government factsheet about the updated Job Support Scheme can be found here.

October 12, 2020

New three tier system of local lockdowns announced by Prime Minister: 

  • Tier One – medium risk: current social distancing measures, the rule of six and pub curfew at 10pm
  • Tier Two – high risk: same restrictions as Tier One, plus a ban on households mixing indoors and overnight stays. Two households can socialise within six-person limit, but only outdoors
  • Tier Three – very high risk: pubs and bars to close, with furlough-style compensation for staff, but restaurants and gastropubs allowed to open until 10.30pm and will be allowed to serve alcohol with ‘substantial’ meals. Ban on households mixing indoors and outdoors. No non-essential travel outside affected area and no overnight stays. Tougher restrictions in some areas, such as gym closures, if agreed with local politicians. Retail, schools and universities remain open

Currently, Liverpool faces a Tier Three lockdown, while places such as Manchester, Birmingham and Leicester face Tier Two restrictions. Somerset remains in Tier One.

October 9, 2020

The Government will expand the Job Support Scheme to support firms whose premises are legally required to close under local or national Coronavirus lockdowns. The Government will pay two thirds of each employees’ salary (or 67%), up to a maximum of £2,100 a month from November 1. In addition, the Government is increasing the cash grants to businesses to support fixed costs. These grants will be linked to rateable values, with up to £3,000 per month payable every two weeks, compared to the up to £1,500 every three weeks which was available previously. Full story here.

September 24, 2020 

A new Jobs Support Scheme will be launched to replace the furlough scheme when it ends on October 31. The Chancellor said the Government and firms would top up workers’ wages (up to a cap) covering up to two-thirds of their hours for the next six months. Employees will need to work for at least a third of their normal hours to qualify. So for someone on £2,000 a month working half their hours, they would receive £1,000 normal pay plus £333 extra from their employer and £333 from the Government.

The similar self-employed support scheme will also be extended by six months from November 1.

In addition, the Chancellor announced:

  • A new ‘Pay as you Grow’ Scheme enabling firms which took Government-guaranteed loans to extend them from six to 10 years to lower monthly repayments. Six months payment breaks also introduced
  • VAT cut for hospitality and tourism companies will be extended until March. The cut from 20% to 5% VAT – which came into force on July 15 – had been due to expire on January 12 next year
  • Companies that deferred their VAT bill will no longer have to pay a lump sum in March. They will have the option to repay it in smaller amounts over 11 months

Full official Government guidance can be found online here.

September 22, 2020

A raft of new measures have been announced by the Government including:

  • Pubs, bars and restaurants to close at 10pm
  • They will also be restricted to table service only and legally required to take contact details
  • People should work from home wherever possible
  • Face masks compulsory for bar staff and non-seated customers, shop workers and waiters
  • Limit on guests at weddings reduced from 30 to 15; funerals can still be attended by 30 mourners
  • Plans to allow fans to return to sporting events in October paused
  • “Rule of six” applies to indoor team sports
  • Fines for not wearing masks or following rules increased to £200 for first offence

The British Chambers of Commerce called for more support for businesses in the wake of the new restrictions. Read Director General Adam Marshall’s comments here.


Somerset Chamber of Commerce is supporting local business throughout the Coronavirus crisis.   

On this page you will find links to key Government Coronavirus grants and loans, as well as the latest advice for businesses and employers.

We are working closely with the British Chambers of Commerce and other leading business organisations to ensure our members’ views and concerns are heard at the very highest levels.

We are also working with our members to run remote, online workshops to provide professional and expert advice for businesses on topics such as HR, furlough and financial support. Please see our Chamber events page for more information and our webinar section for the latest expert advice.

Our Chief Executive, Stephen Henagulph, is also holding a fortnightly webinar at 10am every other Wednesday to discuss the latest developments and support packages available to businesses across Somerset. To join the call, please email Alistair Tudor at for dial-in details.

A downloadable COVID-19 Secure 2020 notice is now available for businesses to display once they have carried out the necessary risk assessments and their workplace is COVID-19 Secure. Download a copy here.

Your guide to Government-led business and employee support, advice and grants

The Government has set out a package of temporary and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses. Full details can be found on the dedicated Government COVID-19 Business Support website by clicking here.

The package of measures to support businesses includes:

If you are not sure what financial support your business may qualify for, use the Government’s online business support finder by clicking here.

  • Additional Government Coronavirus help pages can be found here. The site includes guidance for both employers and businesses, including symptoms, travel advice, sick pay, how to certify absence from work, employees having to take time off to care for relatives, limiting the spread in the workplace and handling post.
  • The Government has set up a dedicated Business Support Helpline – 0300 456 3565 – to enable businesses to find the right help and support across a wide range of topics, from business rates relief, grants and employee advice.
  • HMRC COVID-19 Helpline 0800 0159 559 is available to support businesses and self-employed people who are worried about paying their tax bills due to Coronavirus.
  • Official Government online tool to help companies find the relevant guidance needed to enable them to re-open safely is available online here.
  • Guidance to help employers calculate workplace pension and National Insurance contributions in-line with phased changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which will allow workers to return on a part-time basis is available online here. 
  • Government workplace safety guidance for the retail sector can be found online here.
  • Somerset County Council and partners have published a detailed Coronavirus local outbreak management plan. The plan is available online and more information can be found in our news section here.
  • The Government list of ‘key workers’ – those who can keep their children at school or college – can be found online here.
  • Apprenticeships guidance for apprentices, employers and assessment organisations is available here.
  • The Government’s full ‘COVID-19 Recovery Strategy‘ can be read here or a three page executive summary has been produced by the British Chambers of Commerce and can be found on our specialist COVID-19 advice page by clicking here.

British Chambers of Commerce Coronavirus Hub

The BCC has a dedicated site with the latest COVID-19 advice for business. It can be found here.

Additional information

Our members specialise in a wide range of  industries and disciplines and many are offering free support and advice on a range of Coronavirus-related topics. More information can be found on our members’ Coronavirus news page by clicking here.

Chamber Contact

For more info please contact:

Alistair Tudor

Operations Manager

Tel: 01823 444924

Email Alistair >


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