ActSmart takes the health and safety of its members and their employees very seriously and continues to monitor the threat of COVID-19 globally with advice from official and trusted sources, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and local Governments.

Our key focus is to retain support for our members and to ensure access to all of our services remain accessible during this challenging period to safeguard business continuity.

If you have any urgent queries please contact ActSmart. In the meantime the following FAQs may answer your questions. Check back often as this is a fast-moving situation and we will be updating these FAQs as things change.

Also see our regular news updates on the latest information and advice tailored for retail businesses available on the ActSmart website here.


What is the coronavirus? 

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 that can affect your lungs and airways. It had not been previously identified in humans.


What are the symptoms?  

According to the NHS, the initial symptoms can show in either:

  • A high temperature - this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • A new, continuous cough - this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
If you have any of these symptoms it is advised that you stay at home and use the 111 Coronavirus service.

Has the government told bike shops to close?

The government is now advising people to avoid social interaction and it is likely that clients will stay away from non-essential shops in the current circumstances. But you don't have to close. You can be open for business as usual.


What should I be doing in my shop?

Ensure all your staff contact numbers and emergency contact numbers are up to date.

Make sure all your managers and employees know what to look out for and what to do if a colleague becomes unwell. Instruct your employees to let you know straightaway if they have coronavirus symptoms. If anyone starts to develop symptoms, they should go home immediately and self-isolate for seven days. (Anyone who lives them will need to self-isolate for 14 days.)

Provide plenty of tissues, hand sanitisers and soap and water for frequent handwashing.

For the latest advice on how to avoid catching or spreading germs, go to the NHS coronavirus ‘overview' page.

Get government advice for cleaning the workplace if someone with symptoms has been in your shop.


Can I lay off staff or ask them to work fewer hours?

During the current crisis you may need to close your business temporarily or reduce your employees' contracted hours. Talk to your staff as soon as possible so they understand what is going on.

ActSmart bronze and upwards members have access to a free helpline with legal experts DAS that provides professional qualified advice accessible 24 hours a day.


Can I require my employees to stay away from work as a precautionary measure even if they are not sick or showing any symptoms?

This means that you as the employer have made the decision not to allow the employee to work so they are entitled to full pay UNLESS:

  • You have the contractual right to lay your employee off without pay in these circumstances (see above).
  • The employee is instructed to work from home if feasible (not usually relevant for bike shops).
  • The employee agrees to take annual leave. You can tell your employees when to take annual leave but you must give twice as much notice as the amount of annual leave you want them to take.

Always take legal advice if you are unsure about this.



My employee has rung in with coronavirus symptoms, what should they do?

If they are unwell or displaying symptoms such as a high temperature or continuous cough, they should self-isolate for seven days. Everyone else in their household should self-isolate for 14 days. See the government's guidance.

Your employee will be entitled to any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to them if they need to self-isolate because they:

  • have coronavirus;
  • have the symptoms;
  • live with someone who has coronavirus symptoms;
  • have been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111; or
  • are acting in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland or Public Health Wales.


Will my business insurance cover me for losses caused by the coronavirus?

Check with your insurance provider to see if you are covered for business interruption. Unfortunately, many policies exclude pandemics. Even those that include pandemics will only cover damage to buildings. Specific ‘supply chain' or ‘denial of access' cover may enable you to claim for other losses.


I can't afford to pay my tax bill. What should I do?

If you are having difficulty paying your tax at this time, you may be able to get support via HMRC's Time To Pay service. Call the dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.


How is the Government helping businesses?

On March 17th, the Chancellor announced a package of measures for businesses affected by Covid-19, building on previous commitments made in the Spring Budget.

To ensure the impact on businesses is minimised, the following measures were announced:

  • The Government is providing Government backed and guaranteed loans totalling up to £330bn, equivalent to 15% of GDP. Any business that needs access to funding can get Government backed loans or credit at attractive terms.
  • For SMEs, there will be an extension of the Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Instead of loans of £1.2m, loans will be offered for up to £5m with no interest due for the first six months. This scheme is due to be in place by the end of next week. These are to be available through your bank as loans, overdrafts or other forms of financing.
  • There will be a cash grant of up to £25,000 for all local shops who have a rateable value of less than £51,000 but are not eligible for Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief.
  • The Government is extending the business rates holiday to all businesses in the retail and hospitality sector, irrespective of their rateable value, for 12 months.
  • The £3,000 cash grant for businesses that are currently eligible for Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief will be increased to £10,000.
  • Mortgage lenders will offer a three month mortgage holiday for those individuals affected by coronavirus.

The Chancellor will go much further in the coming days to develop new forms of employment support to help protect people's jobs and their incomes.

The Chancellor confirmed that he has agreed with insurance companies that all businesses with an insurance policy relating to the current situation will be able to claim against their policies.

Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick, also announced that he was relaxing planning rules to allow all pubs, restaurants and cafes the ability to offer takeaway and delivery services if they wish.

The Chancellor announced that he intends to take further legal action to allow the Government to outline further support where needed.

You can read the Chancellor's full speech here.

The Bank of England has once again cut interest rates. This is the second cut in just over a week, which sees them brought down to 0.1% from 0.25%.


What else is ActSmart doing to help?

ActSmart, along with fellow members of the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC), are currently lobbying the Government to aid independent retail as a whole - one of the most heavily affected sectors of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
Key areas the IRC are lobbying the Government:

  1. A Government fund to be provided to compensate businesses impacted by Coronavirus. Many business insurance policies will not pay out on business interruption and other claims because these policies list notifiable diseases at the time the policy was taken out.
  2. An automatic deferral of payment of VAT, employers NICs, business rates, PAYE and corporation tax for at least six months. During this time the Government should explore the fairest ways to reduce businesses' liabilities for the period before, during and immediately after the outbreak.
  3. Wages to be subsidised by the Government for people laid off as a direct result of the outbreak. This will allow businesses that can no longer trade viably to cut their costs without unduly exposing colleagues who will lose their jobs as a result.

ActSmart are providing regular news updates on the latest information and advice tailored for retail businesses. To read the full list of updates visit the ActSmart website here.