With so much information out there, and so many new initiatives, accessing COVID-19 business recovery support can be overwhelming. Here we are collating the key information businesses need to know, and resources we think you might find helpful.
We encourage all SME leaders whose businesses have been affected by the pandemic to get in touch with us for tailored one-to-one support. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0800 032 3488. Our accredited Business Advisers can help you navigate the government support packages, and identify what other business recovery programmes and funding you're eligible for.
Lockdown: what should businesses be doing?
If your business has had to temporarily close or change the way it operates because of lockdown, there are a number of steps we recommend you take.
Get financial advice and assistance.
See the section below on financial support from government, where you'll find a list of the schemes that are still in operation and a link to the support checker tool that lets you know what you can apply for. You may also want to use this time to explore other finance options, which our specialist business advisers can help you with. They can also advise you of any grant funding that you could benefit from. Click here to contact us.
Look after yourself and your staff.
Below you will find a section on supporting your employees, where you can find out what your responsibilities are to your workforce, how to keep them safe, and how to support their mental health and wellbeing. For anybody working from home, we've also compiled some useful resources on remote working to help you stay productive and keep up good communication and morale within your team.
Get inspiration from local businesses and experts.
See how businesses in the region have tackled the pandemic by reading our recent case studies. See the section below on recommended business recovery webinars and podcasts where you can get inspired and pick up useful advice. And most importantly contact us for a free consultation with a business adviser. Our team have helped hundreds of businesses to survive and adapt since the first lockdown, and their expertise can help get you through these new restrictions.
How we can help
Contact us for support
There are many initiatives being established to help businesses and employers who are affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and navigating through it all can be overwhelming. We encourage all business leaders and entrepreneurs to contact us for tailored one-to-one support.
Helpline: 0800 032 3488 - 9 to 5, Monday to Friday
How we've helped local SMEs so far
“This has been a really difficult time and during COVID-19, like all business owners, you are frantically working incredibly hard and are constantly worried about all aspects of the business. To have this taken off me and to be able to get funding at a difficult time, really has been massively helpful for us. It’s just been brilliant so thank you!” - Julia Bochenski, Managing Director, Ashes Memorial Jewellery
Neal Rooke, Countrywide Security Systems Director: “A massive thank you to the Growth Hub for helping businesses like ours, no problem is too big for these guys. If you require business support through these difficult times, do not hesitate to contact these guys, they are brilliant! A++++”.
Our Account Managers and accredited Business Advisers have helped many businesses during this crisis, and they can also support you, no matter the size of your business.
Julia Bochenski, Managing Director, Ashes Memorial Jewellery: “As a small business you cannot look for grants, you have no idea what you are eligible for. With their expertise and strong network, they made it so easy. The real benefit for me as a small business owner is knowing that there are people and organisations like yourselves that do genuinely support small businesses.”
Many businesses are unsure about what they are eligible for as there are many options that suit different businesses, at different stages of growth. Our team of expert advisers will listen and discuss with you the different business support programmes available from partners and the private sector, Government schemes and funding that are available. We ensure to be in consistent communication with business owners to identify the most suitable guidance and support for your business.
Georgia Hands, Sales Account Manager, Prestige Printing: “They listened to our business and gave us detailed advice on what help we would be eligible for. [They] followed me up with emails whenever new information was available and personally followed up all of our queries with Birmingham City Council.”
Julie Brough, Managing Director, ABA Consulting: “[They] keep me abreast of all developments in terms of what I can and can’t do and what help there is out there.”
We have actively helped business owners to apply for grants and funding that have helped with overheads and expenditures, business growth, rebranding, salaries for employees and much more.
Pat Bend, Co-Director, Britannia Interiors & Contract Curtains Ltd: “We’ve been successful in getting the Discretionary Business Grant. We failed on the first application and I was ready to give up, but Sandra [one of the Growth Hub’s SFEDI accredited Business Advisers] was there to encourage me to apply again. We were successful in the second attempt.”
Assama Mahroof, Administrator, PJB Accident Repairs: “We needed different advice on what we could do and how we could proceed, the Growth Hub gave us advice on a grant that we were able to access earlier thanks to them. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been aware of it and who knows if we even would have got it.”
Our Business Advisers and Account Managers have not only helped businesses to recover but also have supported businesses who are looking to scale up, branch out, move into new markets or create new jobs during the coronavirus pandemic. This proves that your business, with our assistance, can still achieve its business goals amid this difficult climate.
“The Growth Hub has enabled me to accelerate the business faster than I would’ve done on my own. Without the Growth Hub’s help, I don’t think I would be where I am today. I’m really impressed with how much people at the Growth Hub actually care and want to support businesses and they always deliver in a really friendly and approachable way”. – Surlender Pendress, Director, The Love Writing Company
Business Recovery Case Studies
Read our case studies to find out more on how we have helped businesses get involved in business recovery programmes, receive funding and government support packages, and apply for other free sources of assistance:
Your Step Forward - business recovery programmes from the GBSLEP
Your Step Forward
The Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership have put together a package of opportunities including grant funding, support for retail, and the digital skills training you need to operate under the new ways of working.
The programme includes:
- Retail Recovery Planning
- Click & Drop
- Digital Welcome
- Digital Skills Support
- Apprenticeship and Employment Triage Services
Click here for more information and to access this support.
There are a number of other Business Recovery programmes and initiatives across the region. We recommend contacting us and speaking to a Business Adviser to see which programmes would be most beneficial for you. Please click here to contact us or request a callback.
NEW: Workplace Testing Programme & Test and Trace - guidance for businesses
The National Workplace Testing programme will identify more positive cases of COVID-19 and ensure those infected, isolate, protecting those who cannot work from home and our vital services. This programme is crucial given that around 1 in 3 people have coronavirus without displaying any symptoms and will enable more people who have the virus to be identified sooner and break the chains of transmission.
The programme is aimed at those without symptoms and who cannot work from home during lockdown. Companies in England with over 50 employees, can register on gov.uk to order coronavirus tests for their workforces.
Organisations with less than 50 staff, sole traders, the self-employed, or members of the public, should visit their local authority’s website for further information about their testing services.
The NHS Test and Trace service:
- ensures that anyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) can quickly be tested to find out if they have the virus, and also includes targeted asymptomatic testing of NHS and social care staff and care home residents
- helps trace close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive for coronavirus and, if necessary, notifies them that they must self-isolate at home to help stop the spread of the virus
Please click here for the full information from Government on how Test and Trace works and when people should self-isolate.
Please click here for information on how to get a Coronavirus test if you think you or an employee needs one.
Test and Trace Guidance for Employers
It is critical that employers take steps to keep workers and visitors safe. By following the 5 steps for working safely, along with sector-specific guidance, employers can reduce the risk of co-workers having to self-isolate if a member of staff tests positive for COVID-19.
NHS Test and Trace does not change existing guidance that employees should work from home wherever possible.
It is vital that employers play their part by:
- making their workplaces as safe as possible (where working from home is not possible)
- requesting that workers self-isolate if they have been asked to do so
- supporting their workers when in isolation
Although this may seem disruptive for businesses, it is less disruptive than an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace, and far less disruptive than further social and economic restrictions.
NHS Test and Trace will support businesses and economic recovery by:
- providing free testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus
- asking those that test positive and their close contacts to self-isolate to stop the spread of the virus in the workplace
- enabling the government to go further in safely lifting lockdown measures
Employers (and the self-employed) must continue to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. They also have similar obligations in respect of other people, for example agency workers, contractors, volunteers, customers, suppliers and other visitors.
For the full up-to-date guidance please click here. (Includes information on risk assessments, what to do if an employee has symptoms or test positive, collecting customer data
For Test and Trace guidance for the self-employed please click here.
NHS COVID-19 app and QR code poster
Designated venues must display an official NHS QR code poster to enable customers and visitors to scan the NHS QR code when they arrive by using the NHS COVID-19 app. The information stays on the user’s phone. As you are likely to already have a record of your employees and staff, they do not need to scan the NHS QR code. However, staff can scan the QR code in, in addition, if they wish.
Find out more about these requirements.
Employers should facilitate and support employee use of the app within their workplaces wherever possible, while recognising the app is not mandatory outside designated venues.
Businesses and venues that are not currently expected to maintain staff, customer and visitor logs are encouraged to display official NHS QR code posters if they have indoor areas where individuals are likely to congregate or sit-down in close contact. By displaying an official NHS QR code poster and encouraging people to use the NHS COVID-19 app, businesses will be helping to protect their customers, staff and themselves from the impact of the virus.
Official NHS QR posters can be generated online. Organisations can find out more about NHS QR codes and how to generate them on the NHS COVID-19 app website.
Government funding support for businesses
Support for self-employed workers
Self Employment Income Support Scheme
The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant extension, that provides critical support to the self-employed in the form of grants, has been extended and made available for 3-month periods covering November 2020 to January 2021 and February 2021 to April 2021. The grants will increase from 55% to 80% of average profits - up to £7,500. For more information about the scheme click here.
Who can claim
You can make a claim even if you did not make a claim for the first grant if your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020.
You should not claim the grant if you’re a limited company or operating a trade through a trust.
What you will need
You will need your:
- Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) – if you do not have this find out how to get your lost UTR
- National Insurance number – if you do not have this find out how to get your lost National Insurance number
- Government Gateway user ID and password – if you do not have a user ID, or have lost it, you can create one or find out how to recover your login details when you make your claim
- UK bank details (only provide bank account details where a Bacs payment can be accepted) including:
- bank account number
- sort code
- name on the account
- your address linked to your bank account
How to claim
The online service is now available. Click here for the full guidance and online application.
Other government financial help
Guidance to clarify the eligibility conditions for Universal Credit and New Style Employment and Support Allowance, to add Pension Credit, New Style Jobseeker's Allowance and the Test and Trace Support Payment as other financial help that can be claimed, is available here.
Other resources for self employed people
Please click the links below for support with:
Government guidance for workplaces and venues
It is extremely important that you follow the most up to date rules for your sector and location. Please consult the government website here for the latest information: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support
If you're getting ready to reopen in the coming weeks or months as part of the Government's Roadmap, make sure you check the latest safety guidance for businesses (there may have been changes since you last reopened): https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
Please contact us at the Growth Hub so that we can give you the free one-to-one support that you need. There are support programmes and funds available in the region that can help you upskill your staff, move into new markets and boost your company's online presence.
Remote working - tips and resources for home workers and employers
In this section:
- Government guidance
- Useful tips and resources for home workers and employers
- To help contain the virus, office workers who can work effectively from home should do so over the winter. Where an employer, in consultation with their employee, judges an employee can carry out their normal duties from home they should do so. Public sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should continue to go into work where necessary. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. More here.
- Business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events in England will not be able to reopen from 1 October as previously planned.
- Guidance for early years and childcare providers has been updated with new content in a number of areas.
- Guidance covering personal trainers and coaching has been updated.
- Guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services has been updated with information on penalties for breaching the rules and guidance on Test and Trace data and display of NHS QR codes.
- Safer transport guidance for operators has been updated with changes to guidance on working from home; on wearing face coverings in retail and hospitality venues located within transport hubs; and on the requirement for passengers to wear face coverings in taxis and private hire vehicles.
Tips and resources for successful remote working
There are loads of great tips and resources available now to help people who are new to remote working. Some of the most often repeated tips on staying motivated are:
- Replicate your 'going to work' routine. The psychological boost of setting your alarm, having your morning coffee, putting on your office clothes, or whatever used to be meaningful to you in the lead up to starting the working day, has been shown to have a real impact on productivity.
- Structure your day like you would if you were in your workplace. Without the usual meetings, breaks, conversations with colleagues to give structure to your day, it can be really easy to lose focus or burn out.
- Maintain a dedicated workspace. Many people don't have the benefit of a home office or study, so do what you can to create a dedicated workspace wherever you can that feels separate from your leisure space. Your environment has a big impact on how well you can concentrate, so try to keep clutter to a minimum, get as much sunlight as possible and add things like plants or pictures that will make you feel happy and motivated.
- Keep in touch with your team. Hopefully you have access to tools such as Zoom for keeping in touch with your colleagues. Find ways to use these tools to replicate the social side of your workplace. Try setting up a social calendar with set times for people to have virtual lunches or coffees together, and places to share photos, jokes or anything not work related.
- Communicate with others in your household. If you have family or housemates sharing your space during the working day, communicate your plans with them so they can try to help by giving you the space you need to concentrate or privacy for virtual meetings.
Here a are a few Top Tips articles with more ideas that may inspire you or be helpful to your employees and colleagues:
Work life balance
It's really important for our mental health to maintain a good work life balance. When your home becomes your workplace the lines can get blurred. Here are some tips and resources from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development that you should read and share with your employees:
How to reduce stress and maintain a work-life balance while working from home (CIPD)
Virtual Team Building
Virtual Team Building activities can build trust within your team. Even though you aren’t physically present together you can still improve team trust and strengthen positive team dynamics. Based on a study by the Harvard Business Review people at high-trust companies report:
- 74% less stress
- 106% more energy at work
- 50% higher productivity
- 13% fewer sick days
- 76% more engagement
- 29% more satisfaction with their lives
- 40% less burnout
Check out 18 Easy Virtual Team Building Activities & Ideas To Improve Engagement (Venture Team Building).
Working from home: wellbeing action plan
Charlie Waller have adapted their workplace wellbeing action plan so that it can be used while working from home, and for managers supporting staff who are working remotely: https://charliewaller.org/resources/work-from-home-wellbeing-action-plan
Advice and resources for supporting your employees
For full information on financial support for your business and staff, please see the "Government funding support for businesses" section above.
In this section:
- Supporting your employees to work from home
- Social distancing and vulnerable employees
- Self-isolation and sick pay
- What to do if an employee needs time off to care for somebody
- Employee mental health resources and support
- Useful resources from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
- Guidance on safe travel, cleaning your workplace and carrying out risk assessments
Supporting your employees to work from home
Guidance from the government states that businesses and workplaces should allow their employees to work at home wherever possible. Employees will need your support to adhere to the recommendation to stay at home to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to others.
If an employer and employee agree to working from home, the employer should:
- pay the employee as usual
- keep in regular contact
- check on the employee’s health and wellbeing
Holiday entitlement and pay
An explanation of how holiday entitlement and pay operate during the coronavirus pandemic, where it differs from the standard holiday entitlement and pay guidance. This guidance applies to those that have continued to work as well as those that have been furloughed: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/holiday-entitlement-and-pay-during-coronavirus-covid-19
Social distancing and vulnerable employees
Employers must be especially careful and take extra steps for anyone in their workforce who is in a vulnerable group. They include, but are not limited to, those who:
- have a long-term health condition, for example asthma, diabetes or heart disease, or a weakened immune system as the result of medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- are pregnant
- are aged 70 or over
- care for someone with a health condition that might put them at a greater risk
Self-isolation and sick pay
- People unable to work for more than seven days because of coronavirus (COVID-19) can obtain an isolation note through a new online service
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is payable to qualifying employees and is now payable from day 1 for those who self-isolate or are unwell because of COVID-19 (the first 3 days are normally unpaid). The current rate of SSP is £94.25 per week.
- HM Treasury has announced that small and medium sized employers (those with fewer than 250 employees) may recover this cost where SSP has been paid as a result of COVID-19 from 13 March for a maximum of two weeks’ sickness per employee.
- There is currently no existing mechanism for the recovery of SSP by employers (unlike other statutory payments such as Statutory Maternity Pay) - The government has committed to working with employers in the coming months to work out a mechanism for this recovery
- Qualifying businesses will need to keep records of sickness and sick pay because of COVID-19 and days of sickness for future recovery.
- Employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note as above.
If an employee needs time off work to look after someone
- Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a 'dependant') in an unexpected event or emergency. This could apply to situations to do with coronavirus.
- A dependant does not necessarily live with the person, for example they could be an elderly neighbour or relative who relies on the person for help.
- There's no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.
- The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation. For example, they might take 2 days off to start with, and if more time is needed, they can book holiday.
- If a dependant such as a partner, child or relative in the same household gets coronavirus symptoms, they should receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) as a minimum for this time. They’ll also need to follow self-isolation guidance on GOV.UK.
Employee mental health and wellbeing
Employers should do everything they can to ensure their employees are supported emotionally as well as physically.
Working from home: your wellbeing action plan
Charlie Waller have adapted their workplace wellbeing action plan so that it can be used while working from home, and for managers supporting staff who are working remotely: https://charliewaller.org/resources/work-from-home-wellbeing-action-plan
Every Mind Matters
The NHS has produced resources to help people take care of their mental health. Visit for top tips on wellbeing, combating loneliness and working from home, as well as resources for parents and carers on children's mental health: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/#mids
Mental Health Toolkit
Mental Health at Work have produced a useful toolkit with resources from Mind, City Mental Health Alliance and Mental Health First Aid England, to give you everything you need to provide that support.
Click here to access the Mental Health Toolkit.
COVID-19 and domestic abuse
The government has published a toolkit for helping to recognise the signs of domestic abuse, and a list of all the help available. As an employer or colleague you may be in a position to help somebody who is in danger. Please see these resources here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-and-domestic-abuse/coronavirus-covid-19-support-for-victims-of-domestic-abuse
Birmingham Mind support helplines
Here are some Mental Health and counselling support services for people struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Call 0121 262 3555 (9am to 11pm) for a one-off chat or longer-term support with free counselling/talking therapies.
There is also a Keyworker Counselling service. The service is ready to work with keyworkers who need support with their Mental Health at this difficult time. Call 0121 633 1217 (9am to 5pm) to book in.
Both services are free and staffed by experienced/qualified counsellors.
Other advice for keeping your employees safe
Click here for the government guidance on safe travel for you and your employees.
Cleaning your workplace
Click here for the government's guidance on cleaning (non-healthcare) workplaces.
Offices and shops - risk assessment
Click here for guidance on how to carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment.
Useful resources from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
Business recovery webinars
Here is a list of some of the free webinars and podcasts that are available to help businesses recover from the challenges of COVID-19 that we think you will find useful. We also recommend you visit our events page to see what's coming up from us and our partners.
Aston Business School Podcast
The "Aston means business podcast" is where top academics provide essential advice to business owners and managers, entrepreneurs and students. In March 2020 the podcast’s attention turned to SMEs in our community and how they are responding to the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Guests are interviewed by Steve Dyson, a business journalist and former daily newspaper editor.
Listen now: https://www2.aston.ac.uk/aston-business-school/podcast
Birmingham City University - Business Recovery Webinar Series
A series of sector focused webinars to help keep regional businesses moving, delivered in partnership with the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Institute of Technology and the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.
Festival of Enterprise webinars
Just a few of the upcoming topics include:
- Earning money from home
- Regaining your confidence and ambition in the aftermath of COVID
- Leadership skills during a crisis
- Enabling secure payments in the new world
See them all here: https://365.festivalofenterprise.co.uk/
Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) webinars
The FSB cover a wide range of topics - here are just a few of the webinars you can currently access:
- Financial support for creative industries
- How to move into e-commerce
- Modernising your payments
- Keeping your workforce fit and healthy
Click here to see what's coming up and view past sessions on demand: https://firstvoice.fsb.org.uk/knowledge-centre/webinar.html
Department for International Trade webinars
There are over 100 online events currently listed here, including recordings of past events to view on demand. Topics include:
- Strategies for COVID recovery
- Growing your exports programme
- How to innovate and grow during the pandemic
- Consumer and retail opportunities
View and search them all here: https://www.events.great.gov.uk/ehome/trade-events-calendar/all-events
Enterprise Nation 'lunch and learn' webinar
Enterprise Nation hosts a daily 'lunch and learn' webinar to give you a boost, offer some advice, and hopefully become part of your daily business schedule during the coronavirus crisis. Enterprise Nation Founder, Emma Jones, interviews guests from the worlds of enterprise and policy and you can get your questions answered by the experts.
View the whole series: https://www.enterprisenation.com/learn-something/masterclasses/
CIPD Podcast - Managing the wellbeing of remote workers
Listen to the podcast or download the transcript here: https://www.cipd.co.uk/podcasts/well-being-remote-workers
HM Revenue & Customs webinars
Watch videos and register for the free webinars to learn more about the?financial support available to help you deal with the economic impacts of?coronavirus.
View them all here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/help-and-support-if-your-business-is-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19
Responding to COVID-19: Weekly webinars from Deloitte
Deloitte runs a series of webinars to inform businesses on how they can respond to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The weekly webinars feature a changing panel of experts on public health and the economy, in a range of sectors.
Register for upcoming webinars or listen to past sessions here: https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/about-deloitte-uk/articles/covid-19-webinars.html
Sage webinars for bookkeepers and accountants
The latest expert advice on how Accountants & Bookkeepers in practice can navigate the recent changes to help support their practice and clients, including payroll during COVID, advice for your practice and guiding your clients through the new normal.
Click here to view them all: https://my.sage.co.uk/public/help.aspx#/accountant/support/acc-hub/category/covid-training/webinars-accountants-uk
KPMG webinars - Preparing for the new reality
At the start of the pandemic KPMG started hosting weekly webinars to support businesses through difficult and uncertain times. A number of episodes on 'Preparing for the new reality' are still available to view on demand.
Watch them here: https://event.on24.com/eventRegistration/EventLobby
Please email email@example.com if you have found other business webinars useful for your business recovery.
Resources from Business Representative Organisations and Governing Bodies
Many Business Representative Organisations and governing bodies have put together supportive and practical guidance, utlising their expertise, on a range of specific topics. The below is not comprehensive, but you may find it a helpful starting point for further advice specific to your industry.