UKFT is preparing a series of guides to assist UK fashion and textile companies during the Coronavirus outbreak. This page will be updated as new guidance becomes available or the situation changes.
For UKFT members with specific enquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7843 9460.
A message from UKFT to the UK fashion and textile community
This is a very difficult time for our whole industry. As your trade association, UKFT is in close contact with the Government and other business organisations such as the CBI, and together we will to provide you with the most up to date, relevant help and advice.
We very much want to hear how the Covid-19 situation is affecting you, your team and your business. We will take all of your issues and concerns to Government.
The UKFT team are available to offer support and advice and to help you plan for the time when the current situation passes. We are also looking at how we continue to offer help and advice via webinars and other online channels.
Some members have already contacted us to see how they can switch production to help the national interest. If you are able to help please do let us know as we are co-ordinating these responses to the Government.
Below is an overview of the latest support available for businesses from both the Budget and from the Chancellor’s statement last night. We will update the details as and when the situation changes.
The fashion and textile industry has always proved to be extremely resilient and now is the time for us all to work closely together to support and sustain each other. The power of our individual and collective actions, and the support and compassion we show to each other, will offer our businesses a unique advantage as we deal with this unprecedented situation.
Stay well, stay in touch, and together we will face the uncertainties ahead,
The government has published information to help businesses in England decide whether they should stay open.
Unless your business is on the list of premises that must be closed your business can continue to operate.
A full list of business that must close covers can be found here but for the fashion and textile industry it is retail shops (i.e. physical stores) plus any cafes or tourism attractions that might be part of your premises.
Where businesses continue to open, employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home.
Certain jobs require people to travel to their place of work – for instance if they operate machinery, work in manufacturing, or are involved in logistics. If your employees cannot work from home then they can still travel to work, provided they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating. This is consistent with advice from the Chief Medical Officer.
If you are keeping your business open you should do everything you can to help your employees to follow Public Health England guidelines including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).Where that is not possible, and there are many types of job where that will be challenging, the PHE/Chief Medical Officer Advice is that it is okay to come to work.
What if I have a dispute with my employees about whether they should come to work or how to keep them safe?
In this unprecedented time, employers are urged to follow public health guidance, take socially responsible decisions and listen to the concerns of their workforce.
Employers and employees should come to a pragmatic agreement about these arrangements.
UKFT members can seek employment advice from our employment specialist email email@example.com
What if my staff can’t come in because the schools have closed?
If your employees need time off for childcare or to make new arrangements because their school has closed, they can use:
time off to care for someone else
holiday, if their employer agrees
There is no statutory right to pay for time off for dependents, but some employers might offer to pay their workers depending on the contract or workplace policy.
Financial Support for Businesses
Details of the support packages available for businesses is available here.
Business Closures – Advice from Scottish Government
Scottish Government has issued the following advice to Scottish businesses.
We would advise all business premises, sites and attractions to close now unless they are:
Essential to the health and welfare of the country during this crisis (as defined below); or
Supporting (or being repurposed to support) essential services; or
Capable of working in a way which is fully consistent with established social distancing advice; or
Wider public health, health and safety or other considerations apply
Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sectors define those facilities, systems, sites and networks necessary for the functioning of the country. Essential services are the fundamental services that underpin daily life and ensure the country continues to function.
There are 13 designated sectors (Energy; Communications – Telecommunications, Public Broadcast, Postal Services, Internet; Government; Transport; Finance; Civil Nuclear; Defence; Chemicals; Space; Government; Health; Food; Water and Waste; Emergency Services) but not everything and everybody within a national infrastructure sector is ‘critical’.
Even where businesses are in the CNI category and judge themselves to be exempt from closure of business premises, it is imperative that they keep open only those premises or parts of premises that are truly critical or essential to the national COVID effort.
All individuals and businesses that are not being specifically required to close should consider a key set of questions– and at all times work on the precautionary basis:
Is what you do essential or material to the effort against the virus or to the wellbeing of society?
If so, can your staff work from home?
If not can you practice safe social distancing and comply with ALL other standard health and safety requirements.
If the answer to none of the above questions is yes, our advice on a precautionary basis is to close.
Prime Minister issues strict new measures
The Prime Minister issued a statement on 23rd March introducing three new measures.
Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public
UKFT is in constant dialogue with the government and has stressed the need for further clarity and to make financial support available as soon as possible. For the latest information do sign up to the UKFT news, which you can do here.
We are very keen to hear from companies so please do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chancellor has announced a very significant package of financial support available to businesses to help limit the impact of the Covid-19 virus on employees.
Full details will follow shortly, but the headlines are as follows:
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
HMRC will provide grants to cover 80% of the costs of employees who are not working due to coronavirus shutdowns but who have not been laid off. The scheme will cover up to £2,500 per month for each eligible employee. The scheme will run for an initial 3 months, backdated to 1st March 2020.
Business support announced in the Budget and 17 March
The Chancellor has announced a package of measures to provide support for businesses to try to ensure the impact of COVID-19 is minimised.
For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of Statutory Sick Pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full. Details on how this scheme will work are due to be published shortly. We will send the information as soon as it becomes available.
A dedicated Government helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.
There will be a £10,000 cash grant to the smallest businesses, delivered by local authorities. Small businesses that pay little or no business rates and are eligible for small business rate relief (SBBR) or rural rate relief will be contacted by their local authority – they do not need to apply. The funding will be provided to local authorities in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.
A £25,000 grant will also be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.
Finally, the government is introducing a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. For 2020/21 only, certain businesses will receive a 100% discount on business rates. Each local authority will adopt and publish its own scheme and then central Government will reimburse local government. For the fashion and textile sector properties that will benefit from the relief will be occupied premises that are wholly or mainly being used as shops.
The Government consider shops to mean: Premises that are being used for the sale of goods to visiting members of the public: This includes the following examples: Shops, Charity shops, Furnishing shops and Dry cleaners. In addition, some members may also qualify for the relief if their premises operate as a tourist attraction and if it operates a café/coffee shop. To qualify for the relief, the premises should be wholly or mainly being used for the above qualifying purposes.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is now available
In the first instance, businesses should approach their own provider – ideally via the lender’s website. They may also consider approaching other lenders if they are unable to access the finance they need.
Decision-making on whether you are eligible for CBILS is fully delegated to the 40+ accredited CBILS lenders. These lenders range from high-street banks, to challenger banks, asset-based lenders and smaller specialist local lenders.
Note: if the accredited lender can offer finance on normal commercial terms without the need to make use of the scheme, they will do so.
WHAT TYPES OF FINANCE ARE AVAILABLE AND WHO OFFERS WHICH TYPE?
CBILS supports a wide range of business finance facilities, including:
Note: Not every lender can provide every type of finance listed.
AM I ELIGIBLE FOR FINANCE UNDER CBILS?
The scheme is designed to support smaller businesses (SMEs) who don’t meet a lender’s normal lending requirements for a fully commercial loan or other facility, but who are considered viable in the longer-term.
To be eligible for a facility under CBILS, your business must:
Be UK based in its business activity with annual turnover or no more than £45m
Have a borrowing proposal which, were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, would be considered viable by the lender, and for which the lender believes the provision of finance will enable your business to trade out of any short-to-medium term difficulty
Smaller businesses from the fashion and textile sector can apply for the full amount of the facility.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR SMEs
Please note: The CBILS guarantee is to the lender and not the business. As with any other commercial transaction, the borrower is always 100% liable for repayment of the facility supported by CBILS
CBILS decision making is fully delegated to the accredited lenders. Any queries from a business with an active or historic EFG facility, including guarantee fee collection or alterations to their repayment profile should raise them with their lender, and not with the British Business Bank.
From 25 March 2020 businesses can apply for a 3-month extension for filing their accounts to allow for the prioritisation of managing the impact of Coronavirus.
Companies will have to apply for the 3-month extension but those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take just 15 minutes to complete.
If you do not apply for an extension and your accounts are filed late, an automatic penalty will be imposed. The registrar has very limited discretion not to collect a penalty.
Companies that have already extended their filing deadline, or shortened their accounting reference period, may not be eligible for an extension.
New advice on VAT deferment
The government has automatically deferred the payment of VAT to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 until April 2021. All UK businesses are eligible, and no applications are required.
UKFT associate member TC Group has advised it expects HMRC will continue to expect businesses to submit VAT returns, although payment is not required. There is no mention so far about direct debit payments. The information available at the time of writing suggests that the payment runs are automatic and, therefore, may be problematic.
TC Group advises companies to cancel direct debits for VAT with their bank to make sure no payment is taken.
HM Treasury and the Bank of England have announced that they will be launching a Covid Corporate Financing Facility (“CCFF”) on 23 March 2020 to provide additional help to firms to bridge through Covid-19 related disruption to their cash flows. The CCFF will be separate to the initial £330bn package of government guarantees.
The new Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) will support companies which are fundamentally strong, but have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze. This will act as a vehicle to support corporates who would ordinarily seek market-based finance for their working capital, but find themselves unable to access financial markets in this uncertain operating environment. This facility will primarily provide bridging support to see through the temporary nature of Covid-19 related disruption. It will have the ability to offer unlimited financing to eligible companies over the coming year.
The Bank of England will operate this facility on behalf of HM Treasury, and the Bank will put in place the facility as soon as possible. The Government will indemnify the Bank’s operations under this facility. Full details are available here
Support from the private sector for companies managing the impact of Coronavirus
Some banks have begun to make dedicated funds available for firms experiencing Coronavirus-related hardship. For example, NatWest bank have announced £5bn of Working Capital Support for business that will see disruption. Lloyds Banking Group has announced £2bn of arrangement fee free finance available to support small businesses and Barclays have highlighted their 12-month capital repayment holidays and its £14bn SME lending fund.
Some insurers are not categorising Coronavirus as an illness that is covered under business continuity insurance or business interruption insurance. It is strongly recommended that firms check with their insurers what their policies will cover.
UKFT has already published guidance on the impact on tradeshows and advice on both employment law and general health and hygiene. We will provide further guidance and support for business managing Coronavirus in the weeks and months ahead if its impact continues to increase.
Support for Self-Employed
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The Covid-19 virus is having an impact on many different aspects of business including how employers cope with sick pay. The following advice has been prepared for UKFT by the UKFT Employment Adviser.
When an employee is sick or self-isolating because of Covid-19, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is likely to apply and for businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the Government in full.
However, there may be a problem when employees in a completely different area, e.g. warehouse or even a different factory are consequently laid off simply because with another area shut down there is no work for them to do. In this case they would not need to self-isolate and could not claim SSP.
The question of layoff then arises. Some companies will still follow National Agreements which may include the right to layoff, and payments made are either in accordance with the Employment Rights Act for the first five days in any 13 week period, or in accordance with the terms of the National Agreement, whichever is the higher. However, the overwhelming majority of employment contracts are likely to only have a right to layoff in certain circumstances, such as the failure of supplies or power cuts.
If there is no contractual right to layoff, then an employer doing so is liable to claims of constructive dismissal. Whilst it is expected that most employees would be sensible and understanding about layoff in such circumstances, some employees may be looking for a reason to resign with some form of compensatory payment which would be likely, in the best circumstances, to be at least as much as a redundancy payment. For example, they could have requested redundancy or be in the middle of disciplinary or competence actions. Employers should be well aware of these risks.
It should also be noted that employees who are laid off continuously for four weeks or whose earnings fall below 50% of average for 6 weeks out of 13 are entitled to claim an automatic redundancy payment.
There is more information available on the ACAS website here.
New Online Service for Isolation Notes Launches
People unable to work for more than seven days because of coronavirus (COVID-19) can obtain an isolation note through a new online service.
Isolation notes will provide employees with evidence for their employers that they have been advised to self-isolate due to coronavirus, either because they have symptoms or they live with someone who has symptoms, and so cannot work.
After answering a few questions, an isolation note will be emailed to the user. If they don’t have an email address, they can have the note sent to a trusted family member or friend, or directly to their employer. The service can also be used to generate an isolation note on behalf of someone else.
For the first seven days off work, employees can self-certify so they don’t need any evidence for their employer. After that, employers may ask for evidence of sickness absence. Where this is related to having symptoms of coronavirus or living with someone who has symptoms, the isolation note can be used to provide evidence of the advice to self-isolate.
Isolation notes can be obtained without contacting a doctor.
Government Stay at Home Guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection
It is very important that individuals with symptoms that may be due to coronavirus and their household members stay at home. Staying at home will help control the spread of the virus to friends, the wider community, and particularly the most vulnerable.
If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started. (The ending isolation section below has more information)
If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 7 days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill. See the explanatory diagram
For anyone else in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14 day isolation period. The ending isolation section below has more information, and see the explanatory diagram
It is likely that people living within a household will infect each other or be infected already. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community
If you can, move any vulnerable individuals (such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions) out of your home, to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period
If you cannot move vulnerable people out of your home, stay away from them as much as possible
If you have coronavirus symptoms:
Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home
Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home
Plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure that you can successfully stay at home and consider what can be done for vulnerable people in the household
Ask your employer, friends and family to help you to get the things you need to stay at home
Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water, or use hand sanitiser
If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999
UKFT members with specific employment queries relating to the impact of Covid-19 or any other query related to employment law please email email@example.com
Bookings at International Tradeshows
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UKFT continues to monitor all its TAP supported tradeshows (and many others) very carefully with regard to their intentions around the global COVID-19 outbreak. In the period from February-March 2020, most fashion and textile related tradeshows took place, albeit with fewer buyers than usual, especially from Asia and the US. Since then, some larger shows in Asia and Europe have been cancelled or postponed.
Looking ahead to the fashion and textile trade fairs from June onwards, most are recruiting (or have already done so) but all of them are keeping a close eye on the situation.
It is very important that business carries on with a business as usual attitude wherever possible. This means committing to the tradeshows and other activities you would normally have supported in 2020 and beyond. The shows are accepting space bookings. If space bookings are down, some may decide to reduce hall space so it would not be a sensible approach to wait and see nearer the time.
UKFT has already been in touch with Government to request an urgent confirmation of the TAP programme beyond June (which is late again this year) and to highlight the need for early decision-making and planning as well as flexibility if things have to change nearer the time. Outside the TAP programme, we are campaigning for greater flexibility and support for smaller companies which find their cashflow affected by the fallout from the outbreak.
If you are committing to a tradeshow in the next few months, it is worth asking the show organiser the following questions:
When will they make their final viability (go-ahead) decision for the fair?
What will be their cancellation/postponement policy?
Will they guarantee to refund all monies in the event of postponement or cancellation?
You may also wish to ask the same questions of your stand constructors and freight companies and check your insurance policies to see whether you would be covered in case of postponement or cancellation and what would need to happen. Clearly, no insurance policy can cover you if a show goes ahead but suffers from reduced turnout. You will also need to consider what would happen if key sales personnel were unable or unwilling to travel. Please plan ahead and speak to your insurance company or broker if you are in any doubt.
UKFT will keep a close eye on the situation but in the meantime we urge companies to make their grant applications (where appropriate) and confirm space at the shows without delay.
Guidance for apprenticeships
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The government has released the latest apprenticeship information that sets out guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations in response to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19). The latest information can be found here.
The Department for Education has also launched a Coronavirus helpline to support queries about coronavirus (COVID-19), relating to schools and other educational establishments in England on 0800 046 8687. Lines are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm and weekends 10am to 4pm.
UKFT has been involved in our EQAP role in helping shape External Quality Assurance Covid-19 guidance with the other EQAPs over the past week. It has now been finalised and can be found here.
The information outlines that EPAs with a specified time limit may now be extended by 12 weeks, and also sets guidance on remote assessment where applicable.
The Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust (FTCT) can support families within the UK fashion and textile industry, particularly in light of the Coronavirus. FTCT offers grants towards the cost of essential items for children aged between 0-18 years, whose parent/carer works in the UK fashion and textile industry.
At this time, FTCT are reaching out to both employees and employers at member companies whose income has been or is likely to be affected by closures, short-hours or lay-offs as a result of Coronavirus.
When FTCT can help
If there are dependents aged 0-18 within the family and parents are experiencing financial difficulty due to loss of income, an FTCT grant could cover the cost of essential items such as clothing, school uniform and household essentials.
While FTCT grants can’t help with the immediate issues such as replacing lost income or helping towards the cost of bills, they can be particularly helpful once the Coronavirus crisis begins to subside and the financial impact will really be felt.
Parents are encouraged to find out more about FTCT grants and apply in advance for seasonal items such as school uniform or essential clothing, which will become essential in the summer months.