Weekly Digest – 25 January 2022

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

Upcoming Changes to COVID-19 International Travel Restrictions

From 4am on 11 February, eligible fully vaccinated passengers arriving in the UK will no longer have to take a post-arrival, lateral flow test. All they have to do is to verify their status via a passenger locator form.

Those who are not fully vaccinated will no longer be required to do a day 8 test after arrival or to self-isolate. They will still need to fill out a passenger locator form to demonstrate proof of a negative COVID test taken 2 days before travel, and must also take a post-arrival PCR test.

Kids under 18 years old travelling to the UK will continue to be treated as eligible fully vaccinated passengers, which means they won’t face any tests at the UK border. It was also announced that from 3 February, 12 to 15 year olds in England will be able to prove their vaccination status via the digital NHS Pass for international outbound travel.

Government Backs UK Entrepreneurs with Tech Support

The government launched its Help to Grow: Digital scheme to support smaller businesses in adopting digital technologies so they can grow. Under the scheme, eligible businesses can now receive discounts of up to £5,000 off the retail price of approved Digital Accounting and CRM software from leading technology suppliers. This software will help them manage their finances and build customer relationships.

Businesses can also access practical, specialised support and advice on how to choose the right digital technologies to boost their growth and productivity through a new online platform.

Business Growth Slumps to 11-Month Low

The economy grew at its slowest pace in almost a year in January as hospitality, leisure, and travel businesses have taken a hit from the Omicron variant.

The IHS Markit/Cips measure of output fell from 53.6 to 53.4 in January – its lowest level in 11 months. The easing of supply-chain bottlenecks for manufacturing was offset by weakness in consumer-facing service companies. The service sector growth eased for the third consecutive month.

£8 Million Additional Support for Schools

A new £8 million funding from NHS England will be provided to support secondary schools with the in-school vaccination programme. The government is also committing to deliver up to 9,000 air cleaning units to early years, schools, and colleges across the country to improve ventilation.

Self-Isolation Cut to 5 Days in England

The minimum quarantine period has been reduced to 5 full days in order to help ease staff shortages. However, people need to present negative lateral flow tests on days five and six of their isolation.

Over £700 Million New Grant Fund for Businesses Impacted by Omicron

Businesses in England most impacted by the Omicron variant will be able to tap into a new £700 million support package in the coming weeks.

Firms in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors will be able to apply for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises depending on rateable value:

  • businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or above: £6,000
  • businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000: £4,000
  • businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or below: £2,667

In addition, more than £100 million worth of discretionary funding is also being made available for local authorities to support other businesses.

£1 Billion Support for UK Businesses Impacted by Omicron

The government is providing one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England. More than £100 million discretionary funding will be made available for local authorities to support other businesses.

The government will also cover the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for Covid-related absences for small and medium-sized employers across the UK. To enable more cultural organisations to apply for support during the winter, further funding amounting to £30 million will be made available through the Culture Recovery Fund.

Deadline Extension for Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Scheme

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed that it is proposing a 12-month extension to the non-domestic RHI’s application deadline, moving the date from 31 March 2022 to 31 March 2023.

Also set to be extended are the second and third allocations of the scheme’s tariff guarantee, which will allow organisations to secure a fixed tariff before their installation is commissioned and accredited.

New Laws and Code of Practice to Resolve Commercial Rent Debts

From 25 March 2022, new laws introduced in the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill, will establish a legally-binding arbitration process for commercial landlords and tenants who have not yet reached an agreement, following the principles in the Code of Practice.

The new laws will be implemented in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland will have the power to introduce similar legislation. The Commercial Rent Bill will apply to commercial rent debts related to the mandated closure of certain businesses such as pubs, gyms and restaurants during the pandemic.

Cold Weather Payment Scheme

From 1 November 2021, households have become eligible for the Cold Weather Payment scheme which involves a weekly reduction on their energy bills.

You can receive this payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below over seven consecutive days. Eligible individuals will get £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between 1 November 1 and 31 March 2022.

£500 Million Plan for Jobs Expansion

Workers leaving the furlough scheme and unemployed individuals over 50 years old will be supported back into work as part of more than £500m expansion of the government’s Plan for Jobs. People earning the lowest wages will also benefit and existing schemes targeting young people will be extended into next year as part of the new package.

Starting in April 2022, the Government is enhancing its programme of support for workers on Universal Credit.

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