COVID-19 Updates

ActSmart will be providing regular updates and resources on the Coronavirus.

Watch this space for the latest information and advice tailored for retail businesses.

ActSmart have been working with partner members of the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC) to bring you the most up to date retail focussed advice, particular credit is due to the Association of Convenience Stores, our leading IRC political advocacy partner, for their input.

 

COVID-19 Resources

 
 

Pilot to Test Asymptomatic Retail Workers

Published 9th July

The Department of Health and Social Care has announced a new pilot to evaluate the effectiveness of testing for people without Covid-19 symptoms in high-contact professions such as retail workers, cleaners and taxi drivers. As part of the pilot, testing will be extended to a select group of workers, to determine whether there is sufficient demand for testing and how these workers are affected by Covid-19.
 

Mandatory Face Coverings in Scotland

Published 9th July

Face coverings are set to become mandatory for customers and colleagues within Scottish retailers, including convenience, stores from tomorrow. The Scottish Government guidance states: Staff are required to wear face coverings if they cannot physically uphold 2 meters distance or there is no physical partition in place between customers and staff. Customers are also required to wear face coverings at all times, however there are exemptions which can be located in the guidance including; Children under 5 and those with certain health conditions. Due to this being legislation, it is a criminal offence with a fixed penalty notice if the law is broken. Both shop workers and retailers are not required to enforce this law but are asked to engage with customers if they are not complying to explain the law. If customers refuse to comply, retailers are not to stop customers from entering the store or refuse to serve them; the responsibility is with the customer. The Scottish Government has also updated its Covid-19 Route Map to reflect new rules and exemptions in preparation for Phase 3 of easing lockdown restrictions, more detail is available here.

Scottish Government: Coronavirus (Covid-19) Phase 2: Staying Safe and Protecting Others
Scottish Government: Final Phase 2 measures confirmed
 

Latest Guidance on Tracking Customers

Published 9th July

The Department of Health and Social Care has published guidance on record-keeping to support the NHS Test and Trace service. The guidance applies to ‘close contact services' but does not require all shops to keep records. Records that should be kept include names, contact details and time of visit details for both colleagues and customers. To support NHS Test and Trace, retailers should hold records for 21 days to reflect the incubation period of Covid-19 plus allowing time for testing and tracing. Guidance is them provided on how to dispose of data in line with GDPR requirements.

DHSC: Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace

 


Local Lockdowns

Published 9th July

Following the announcement of the local lockdown in Leicester, the Government has released new guidance on business closures and social distancing in the affected areas. Essential businesses like convenience stores can remain open but on-site consumption of food and use of seating areas is prohibited. Restrictions in Leicester will be in place until at least 18 July, when a review of their impact will take place. The 1m+ social distancing rule remains in place with no plans to return to 2m.

DHSC: Local Lockdown guidance for social distancing
MHCLG: Closing certain businesses and venues in Leicester



Eat Out to Help Out scheme

Published 8th July
 
The new scheme offers a 50% discount of up to £10 per head on any meal eaten in a participating establishment.

To help customers return to cafés, restaurants and pubs, the Government will introduce the ‘Eat out to Help Out' scheme. The scheme will entitle every customer, including children, to a 50% discount of up to £10 per head on any meal eaten in a participating establishment. The discount can be used unlimited times from Monday to Wednesday for the month of August and businesses will be fully reimbursed by the Government for the 50% discount within five working days. Participating establishments will be able to register online to participate in the scheme through a website which will open on Monday 13th July. The Treasury documents do not provide a full definition of "eligible food service establishment" but have committed to provide more clarity in the coming days. We will provide members with more information as soon as possible.

 


Temporary Cut to VAT for Hospitality Industry

Published 8th July


The Chancellor announced that there will be a temporary cut to VAT for food and non-alcoholic drinks, from 20% to 5%. The VAT cut will apply from 15th July 2020 to 12th January 2021 to eat-in and hot takeaway food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and "similar premises" across the UK. HMRC will be publishing further guidance on the scope of the VAT cut in the coming days. There will also be a VAT cut for accommodation and attractions such as cinemas, theme parks and zoos for the same temporary period. The Treasury documents do not provide a full definition of "eligible food service establishment" but have committed to provide more clarity in the coming days. We will provide members with more information as soon as possible.

 


Job Retention Scheme: £1,000 for Bringing Back Furloughed Colleagues

Published 8th July

"If you're an employer and you bring someone back who was furloughed - and you continuously employ them through to January - we will pay you a £1,000 bonus per employee"

The Chancellor announced a Job Retention Bonus Scheme to incentivise employers to bring back colleagues placed on furlough under the Job Retention Scheme. The Bonus Scheme means that retailers taking members of staff off furlough and retaining them in employment until at least 31 January 2021 will be given a £1,000 government grant per employee. To receive the grant, employees must be paid at least £520 per month on average between 31 October and 31 January, equivalent to the lower earnings limit for National Insurance Contributions. All furloughed employees are eligible for the bonus payments. Payments will be made from February 2021 and further details about the scheme will be announced by the end of July. There are no changes to the timetable for closing the Job Retention Scheme on 31 October.

 


Kickstart Scheme to Boost Youth Employment

Published 8th July

"The Kickstart Scheme will directly pay employers to create new jobs for any 16 to 24-year-old at risk of long-term unemployment"

The Government will introduce a new £2 billion Kickstart Scheme to create high quality six-month work placements aimed at workers aged under 25 who are on Universal Credit and deemed at risk of long-term unemployment. The funding available for each job will cover 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours per week, plus associated employer National Insurance Contributions and minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions. Retailers will be able to apply to be part of the scheme from next week with the scheme planned to begin in the Autumn. There is no cap on the number of jobs through the scheme and retailers will be permitted to top up wages.

 


Apprenticeships and Traineeships

Published 8th July

The Government has announced a total of £1.6bn investment into scaling up employment support schemes, traineeships and apprenticeships to help people seeking jobs.This is particularly aimed at young people worst hit by the crisis.

Businesses will now be given £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25. In addition to this, the Government is encouraging employers to hire apprentices aged over 25 with a new £1,500 bonus that will be given to the employer per employee; this is running from 1st August 2020 to 31st January 2021. For the first time ever, the Government will also pay employers £1000 to take part in new traineeships with triple the number of places available, equalling a £111 million investment scale up traineeships in 2020-21 ensuring more young people aged 16-24 have access to high quality training. The incentives also include a £17 million of funding to triple the number of sector-based work academy placements in 2020-21.

 


Key Announcements from today's press release

Published 8th July

Temporary VAT cut for accommodation and attractions - From 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021, to support businesses and jobs, the reduced (5%) rate of VAT.

Temporary Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) cut - The Government will temporarily increase the Nil Rate Band of Residential SDLT, in England and Northern Ireland, from £125,000 to £500,000.

Green Homes Grant - The Government will introduce a £2 billion Green Homes Grant, providing at least £2 for every £1 homeowners and landlords spend to make their homes more energy efficient, up to £5,000 per household.



Protection of Workers Bill Progresses

Published 6th July
 
The Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill has received unanimous support from the Scottish Parliament Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee via its newly published Stage One report. The Bill seeks to combat rising retail crime, particularly around trigger points such as upholding laws on age-restricted goods. The Bill, introduced by Daniel Johnson MSP, seeks to create a new statutory offence for assaulting, threatening or hindering working retail colleagues with a maximum sentence of 12 months imprisonment or a £10,000 fine. The Bill will now proceed to Stage Two debate.
 

Scotland: Physical Distancing & Face Coverings

Published 6th July
 
Scottish Government First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP has confirmed face coverings will become mandatory in shops for customers and colleagues from 10 July. The Scottish Government will retain its 2-metre physical distancing rule for Phase 3 of its Covid-19 Route Map but allow 1 metre distancing for retail if practical mitigating measures can be agreed and implemented. A non-exhaustive list of mitigations for retail is available within the Covid-19 Route Map (p.6). There will be no 1 metre distancing permitted prior to the move to Phase 3 on 10 July. It is also now confirmed that outdoor hospitality will be able to trade from today (6 July).
 

More High Street Openings with Social Distancing Changes

Published 6th July
 
The hospitality sector fully reopened in England on 4 July and must comply with the amended 1m+ social distancing rule. IRC member ACS have been gathering feedback from across the sector on the change to social distancing rules from 2m to 1m+. The majority of feedback has indicated retailers plan to continue operating the 2m rule for the coming weeks to avoid changing store signage and assess the reaction of consumers to 1m+ in other sectors.
 

Local Lockdown Update: Leicester and FSA Guidance

Published 3rd July
 
The first localised lockdown is taking place in Leicester after 10% of national positive cases of Covid-19 were reported in the city. Non-essential shops and the hospitality business will be required to close and the relaxation of shielding measures on 6 July no longer applies to Leicester. The 1m+ social distancing rule remains in place with no plans to return to 2m and retailers who have furloughed colleagues previously can re-furlough colleagues.
 

Pubs and restaurants in Wales can open outdoors from 13 July 

Published 2nd July
 
Some pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in Wales will be able to reopen outdoors from 13 July, under new Welsh Government plans.

Venues will be able to open in spaces they own and have licences for - as long as coronavirus cases continue to fall.

But indoor services will remain closed for now, despite industry pressure.



Coronavirus: Councils offered £500m to help with costs

Published 2nd July
 
The government has announced a further £500m to help councils in England facing extra cost pressures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The money - which can be spent as authorities see fit - comes on top of £3.2bn already received. Councils have warned of a funding black hole of up to £7.4bn due to increased costs, including social care, coupled with lost income from fees and charges.

Some councils will also be reimbursed for 75% of lost income.

This will apply where more than 5% of planned takings from sales, fees and charges have not been collected.

 

 

Scottish government briefing: Key points

Published 1st July
 
  • The first minister confirms the total number of people who are dying in Scotland has returned to normal levels
  • According to the weekly NRS figures there have been 35 deaths relating to Covid-19 between 22 and 28 June, a decrease of 14 from the previous week.
  • This is the ninth week in a row in which Covid deaths have fallen
  • The Warmer Homes Scotland programme resumes and there should be "good news" from the first minister for young people and children tomorrow
  • Scottish border
  • Getty Images
  • A cross-border "cluster" of cornavirus cases between Dumfries and Galloway and England is being investigated, confirmed Prof Jason Leitch
  • A disagreement has emerged between Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson and the Scottish secretary
  • The prime minister and Alistair Jack had earlier strongly criticised the idea of quarantining people coming from England to Scotland
  • Nicola Sturgeon described the comments from Boris Johnson and the Scottish secretary as "shameful" and "absurd and ridiculous" 
 

Coronavirus: Northern Ireland contact tracing app due by end of July 

Published 1st July
 
A contact tracing app is expected to be released in Northern Ireland before the end of July, a Department of Health spokesperson has said. It follows the failure of the NHS app in England, which was trialled on the Isle of Wight.

The main focus still is the contact tracing programme, which has been operational since mid-May. This involves people with a positive test result being contacted by phone. The people they have been within 2m of for 15 minutes or more will be called and advised about isolating or being tested if they have symptoms.

The UK government is working on developing an app for use in the rest of the country.
 

COVID-19 Updates - June

COVID-19 Updates - May

COVID-19 Updates - April Part 1

COVID-19 Updates - April Part 2

COVID-19 Updates - March