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16th February 2021

Coronavirus: Advice for Businesses

Advice for Northern Ireland businesses who may be affected by COVID-19 (coronavirus). 

The information on this page was last updated on 16 February 2021.

Grants and Government Support

On 17 April, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that the government-backed loan scheme for large businesses affected by coronavirus has been expanded to cover all viable firms. Now, all viable businesses with turnover of more than £45m will be able to apply for government-backed support. More details of this can be found here.

This complements existing support including the Covid Corporate Financing Facility and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Use the drop-down menu below to see other schemes and support available to businesses in Northern Ireland.

There is additional financial advice for the self-employed on our COVID-19: Personal Finances web page

Coronavirus Financial Support Tool

Your business may be eligible for loans, tax relief and cash grants. Use the government's support finder to see what support is available for you and your business. Visit www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder for more information.

 

COVID Restrictions Business Support Scheme

The COVID Restrictions Business Support Scheme (CRBSS) – which will open shortly – will support businesses which meet the following criteria:

  • The business is restricted within the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 but is not eligible for the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS); or
  • The business is within the supply chain of businesses restricted by the Regulations and as a result has been significantly impacted; and
  • The business is operating in Northern Ireland and was trading immediately prior to 16 October 2020; and
  • The business is not included in the scope of funding already allocated to Executive Departments to respond to COVIDrestrictions. 

Businesses which have failed to comply with a prohibition notice under Regulation 7 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020(b)) would not be eligible for support under the scheme.

Businesses impacted by the localised restrictions in place in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area from the 5 October 2020 will also be eligible for backdated assistance.

Businesses that are required to close but are not eligible for LRSS are eligible for a grant of £600 per week.

Businesses that are not required to close but are within the supply chain of businesses restricted by the Regulations and significantly impacted will be eligible for a grant of up to £800 per week.  They must demonstrate that they are in the direct supply chain of one or more businesses restricted by the Regulations and have been significantly impacted. This element will open at a later date.

Eligible businesses are subdivided between those paying business rates and those not paying business rates.

Businesses paying business rates and experiencing a significant decline in turnover will receive a grant based on the Net Annual Value (NAV) of the premises they operate from:

  • £400 per week for businesses with a NAV that does not exceed £15,000;
  • £600 per week for businesses where the NAV exceeds £15,000 but doesn’t exceed £51,000; and
  • £800 per week for businesses where the NAV exceeds £51,000

The grants paid to businesses not forced to close but adversely impacted are equivalent to 50% of the grant payable under the LRSS.

Businesses not occupying commercial premises and experiencing a significant decline in turnover can apply for a grant of £300 per week. This is equivalent to 37.5% of the LRSS grant paid to businesses in restricted premises with a NAV that does not exceed £15,000. These grants will be made in a second tranche of payments at a later date.

The Minister also signalled her intent to bring forward two additional schemes to support schemes for the hospitality sector and the recently self-employed.

Localised Restrictions Support Scheme extended to businesses now under restrictions:
Financial assistance is now available for non-essential retail and businesses across Northern Ireland that have been required to close or severely limit operations at their premises under the latest Health and Protection Regulations. For further information or how to apply, see the nibusinessinfo.co.uk website.

27 January Update:

The COVID Restrictions Business Support Scheme (CRBSS) will operate in two parts.

Part A - A business that is required to close or cease trading under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 but is not eligible for the Local Restrictions Support Scheme.

Part B - A business which has not been forced to close, but is part of the direct supply chain to a business that is forced to close/cease trading under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020, and as a result it has been severely impacted.

For full details please click here to go to the NI Business Info webpage: COVID Restrictions Business Support Scheme: Part A (nibusinessinfo.co.uk)

For full details on Part A of the CRBSS please click here to go to the NI Business Info webpage.
For full details on Part B of the CRBSS please click here to go to the NI Business Info webpage.

 

 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Employers can go online to claim cash grants worth up to 80% of wages capped at £2,500 a month per worker. Details can be found on the www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wages-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme website.

Update: The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended, including improved flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part time in July, and a new taper requiring employers to contribute modestly to furloughed salaries from August. For further details see www.gov.uk.

The final date by which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time is 10 June.

Rates Support

To find out about additional rates support available for Northern Ireland businesses impacted by COVID-19 visit www.nidirect.gov.uk

Self-employment Income Support Scheme 

The financial support scheme is designed to ease some of the financial pressures the self-employed face because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Farmers have been encouraged to avail of this. 

Those eligible will receive a taxable grant worth up to 80% of their average trading profit in previous years which HMRC will pay, capped at £2,500 a month, for a period of three months in one instalment.

For more information on claiming a self employment income grant visit www.gov.uk.

You can claim this if you’re a self-employed individual, or a member of a business partnership where your business has been adversely impacted by coronavirus. You can check eligibility using the self-employed checker tool here.

Update:

To make a claim for the third grant your business must have had a new or continuing impact from coronavirus between 1 November 2020 and 29 January 2021, which you reasonably believe will have a significant reduction in your profits.

The third taxable grant is worth 80% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total.

The online service to claim the third grant is open. Make your claim from the date we give you either by email, letter or within the service. If you’re eligible, you must make your claim for the third grant on or before 29 January 2021.

The grant does not need to be repaid if you’re eligible, but will be subject to Income Tax and self-employed National Insurance and must be reported on your 2020 to 2021 Self-Assessment tax return.

Check if you can claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Bounce Back Loan Scheme

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) enables smaller businesses to access finance more quickly during the coronavirus outbreak.

The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000.

The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.

You can apply for a loan if your business:

  • is based in the UK
  • was established before 1 March 2020
  • has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus. 

If your business was classed as a business in difficulty on 31 December 2019 you’ll need to confirm that you’re complying with additional state aid restrictions.

To apply, vistit www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-schemes/bounce-back-loans

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Government has extended maximum loan size available through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £50 million to £200 million.

For further information visit www.gov.uk/government/news/larger-businesses-to-benefit-from-loans-of-up-to-200-million

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

The recently announced Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will go live from 26th May, when a new online service will be launched for small and medium-sized employers - with fewer than 250 employees - to recover Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments they have made to their employees.

Employers will receive repayments at the relevant rate of SSP that they have paid to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.

Full guidance on the Statuatory Sick Pay can be found here.

£300-10,000 National Lottery Awards

£40 million Hardship fund by Department for the Economy

£15 million for Charities from Department for Communities

Trade Credit Insurance

Trade Credit Insurance, which provides essential cover to hundreds of thousands of business-to-business transactions, will receive up to £10 billion of government guarantees.

The Trade Credit Reinsurance scheme, which has been agreed following extensive discussions with the insurance sector, will see the vast majority of Trade Credit Insurance coverage maintained across the UK.

The guarantees will support supply chains and help businesses during the coronavirus pandemic to trade with confidence, safe in the knowledge that they will be protected if a customer defaults or delays on payment.

The scheme is available on a temporary basis for nine months, backdated to 1 April 2020, and available to insurers operating in the UK market.

Learn more by visiting https://bit.ly/TradeCreditIns

COVID-19 Charities Fund

A COVID-19 Charities Fund to help local charities facing financial difficulties as a result of the current public health emergency will open on Monday 15 June.

Organisations wishing to avail of the fund must meet a number of eligibility points including:

  • Charities that can demonstrate that their fundraising or trading income has reduced due to the impact of COVID-19 and they have unavoidable costs to cover up to 30/9/2020.
  • Charities with unavoidable costs that cannot be covered by existing grants or public funding and are therefore at risk of imminent collapse
  • Charities that have not received other COVID-19 financial support from NI Executive departments such as the Department for the Economy Small Business Support; Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant; Microbusiness Hardship Fund or the £6.5m funding provided by the Department of Finance for hospices and charities.

Further information is available at www.communities-ni.gov.uk/covid-19-charities-fund

Protection for Business Tenants

Emergency provision for business tenants having difficulty paying rent on commercial leases as a result of the pandemic has been extended until 31 March 2021. 

For further information see www.finance-ni.gov.uk

Business Improvement Districts (BIDS)

£300,000 has been allocated to Business Improvement Districts (BIDS). The funding will ensure that the eight BIDs operating here (three across Belfast City Centre, with one each in Ballymena, Enniskillen, Strabane, Coleraine and Newry) can continue to play a key role in bringing local businesses and other stakeholders together to help regenerate their areas and to improve their local trading environment. BIDs are developed, managed and paid for by the business sector by means of a compulsory BID levy. For further information visit www.communities-ni.gov.uk

Arts, cultural and heritage organisations

Northern Ireland is to receive £33m as a part of a government support package for arts venues. 

The money will provide a lifeline to vital cultural and heritage organisations across the country hit hard by the pandemic. It will help them stay afloat while their doors are closed. Funding to restart paused projects will also help support employment, including freelancers working in these sectors.

Further details of the announcement can be found  at bit.ly/CultureSupportPackage

Trader Support Service

The Northern Ireland Protocol comes into force on 1 January 2021.

There will be changes to the way goods move between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. You should act now to get your business ready for these changes. If you are not ready, you may not be able to move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021.

An easy way to get ready is to sign up for the free Trader Support Service which:

  • will help if you move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or bring goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK
  • is free to use and will guide you through any changes to the way goods move between Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • can complete declarations on your behalf

It can help if you:

  • are moving the goods yourself
  • act on behalf of someone
  • send parcels between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or bring parcels into Northern Ireland from outside the UK

For further information visit www.gov.uk/guidance/trader-support-service

 

 

Invest NI’s £2m COVID-19 Business and Financial Planning Grant

Invest NI’s £2m COVID-19 Business and Financial Planning Grant will support businesses by contributing toward the cost of an adviser to carry out an analysis and strategic review of the business. The consultant will then work with the business to develop a strategic recovery plan with financial forecasts.

It is targeted at businesses operating in the areas of manufacturing, construction, professional services and those involved in the information and communication sector, and in the science and technology sectors, as well as businesses which are already working with Invest NI.

Eligible businesses for the Invest NI COVID-19 Business and Financial Planning Grant must be a micro or SME with an annual turnover of at least £500,000 that have experienced a 40% reduction in turnover during the period April-June 2020 as a result of COVID-19.

The scheme is open from 9am on 7 October 2020 and will close at 5pm on 30 November 2020.

Click here to find out more about Invest NI's Grant.

Tourism NI’s Business and Financial Planning Support Programme

Tourism NI’s Business and Financial Planning Support Programme is designed to help tourism businesses recover post-COVID. The tourism market has now changed. Businesses now need to adapt to attract closer-to-home markets and to cope with changing consumer demand.

Therefore businesses need support to inform critical decisions and to ensure longer-term sustainability. But many do not have the cash flow to invest in the recovery planning. Tourism businesses, which remain critical to supporting recovery, now need this support to face an increasingly competitive marketplace. This programme will provide advisory support to tourism businesses to develop their recovery plans.

Applicants to the Tourism NI Businesses and Financial Planning Support Programme must be an existing tourism business operating in Northern Ireland. The scheme is open from 9am on 7 October 2020 and will close at 5pm on 30 November 2020.

Click here to find out more about Tourism NI's Programme

Grant scheme for hospitality businesses in the North West

A grant scheme for hospitality businesses in the North West is now live.

The scheme will see eligible businesses get up to £600 per week for the duration of the restrictions.

Small businesses will receive £800 for every two weeks they are closed. Larger businesses will receive £1,200 for two weeks. 

The grant scheme is in addition to the 12 months rates holiday which continues until the end of March 2021.

A business will be eligible for support from the scheme if:

  • It operates from an address in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area;
  • It has been identified by the Derry City and Strabane District Council Environmental Health department in one of the following categories:
    i.      Cafes/Restaurants
    ii.      Hotels/Guest Houses              
    iii.      Pubs
  • It had re-opened after lockdown and had been trading on 1 October when the new restrictions were announced; and
  • The business premises must not have failed to comply with a COVID-19 prohibition notice by the PSNI. 

Business in properties with an NAV of £15,000 or less will be given £800 for each two week period. Business in properties with an NAV of £15,001 or more will receive a payment of £1,200 for each two week period.

Businesses which operate from premises where they are not the rate payer and social enterprises providing services impacted by the regulations will also be eligible for the financial support.

Businesses seeking support will be required to register for the scheme and make a declaration that they meet the eligibility conditions.

They will be eligible for one grant for each property that they operate from within Derry City and Strabane District Council area.

The support will initially provide eligible businesses with support for two weeks.  However, if restrictions are extended, support payments will automatically be repeated for each period that the regulations apply.

Support Fund for Taxi Drivers and Private Coach and Bus Operators

The proposed scheme for taxis is intended to open in the week beginning 9 November and, subject to securing the necessary approvals, will provide a set amount of £1,500 for each eligible taxi driver who has been available for work since the pandemic started.  It will be a one off payment in recognition of the financial pressures sustained by taxi drivers due to COVID-19 and the additional costs incurred on PPE. 

The proposed scheme for private bus and coach operators is intended to open in mid-November and is based on the reserves that licensed bus and coach operators are required to hold in satisfying the requirement of ‘financial standing’. Subject to securing the necessary approvals, this will provide an amount to each operator of £8,000 for the first vehicle and £4,450 for each additional vehicle. This funding will provide a contribution to their overhead costs, subject to operators being able to prove their loss of income and the need for the financial support. Payments to eligible operators will be capped at £100,000.

£15 Million COVID Relief Funding for the sports sector

Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín today (29 October 2020) announced a fund of £15 Million to help the sports sector deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The restrictions imposed on the sector so far have impacted widely on the ability of sports organisations and clubs to generate income through the normal means such as club membership, running competitions, having spectators at their events and through sponsorship arrangements.

The Minister said: I am delighted to be able to announce that £15 Million has been secured to help sustain the sports sector.  The funding will go some way to make up for the income the sector has lost over the past six months and will also help to secure the future for Governing Bodies and clubs who have been hit hard by the COVID restrictions since March and will continue to feel the impact in the coming months. 

“It is clear that we will all have to play our part in protecting the vulnerable, the health service and each other as we learn to live with the virus.  This support is therefore vital for the time ahead and I am determined to get the funding issued at the earliest opportunity.”

The Minister continued:  “The sports sector has been at the forefront of the COVID relief effort since March and continues to provide support in terms of both the physical and mental wellbeing of our communities.  Research has shown how important society here views sport, whether that be from participating in it or spectating.  It is right that the Executive has recognised this and that we provide much needed financial support to the Governing Bodies and the clubs to ensure that they can come through this difficult period and be there for their communities, volunteers, participants and spectators.”

Officials from the Department for Communities and Sport NI will continue to engage with the Governing Bodies as work moves forward on the development of the funding scheme and the application process.  Further details will be announced in the time ahead.

Wet Pubs Business Support Scheme (WPBSS)

A new COVID- 19 Support scheme to help wet pubs who have been forced to close by regulations was announced on 18 December.

The Wet Pubs Business Support Scheme (WPBSS) will provide £10.6 million to drink-only public houses which were forced to close between 4 July and 23 September 2020.

Businesses who meet the following criteria will be eligible for the WPBSS:

  • The business is named within the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020

and

The business is eligible for the Department of Finance’s Localised Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS);

  • Businesses which have failed to comply with a prohibition notice under regulation 7 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020(b) would not be eligible for support under the scheme.
  • The business was closed during the period 4 July to 23 September 2020. The applicant will be eligible to apply for the number of full weeks it was closed during this period.
  • Only businesses that were fully closed during the 4 July to 23 September period are eligible, those businesses that operated at a reduced capacity are not eligible (for example those who offered a takeaway service only).
  • Wet pubs which have an attached off licence service are eligible for support if the wet pub element of their business was closed.  
  • Businesses must have been actively trading before they were forced to close due to COVID-19 lockdown/ restrictions.
  • Businesses that were subject to the conditions below are not eligible:
    • dissolved or about to be dissolved, insolvent or for whom insolvency action had been instigated; or
    • dormant, i.e. not trading but not insolvent.

The schemes will use datasets held by Land & Property Services, as well as an additional verification checks completed by DfE (including self-declarations relating to the qualifying period of time the business was closed and the submission of bank statements to evidence the relevant trading position). Payments will issue to eligible wet pubs without an additional application process.

Payments will be based on the Net Annual Value (NAV) rating of the business. The payment structure, which is consistent with that of the Local Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS), is set out below:

  1. Total NAV £15,000 and less:  £800 per week x 12 weeks
  2. Total NAV £15,001 to £51,000:  £1,200 per week x 12 weeks       
  3. Total NAV over £51,000:  £1,600 per week x 12 weeks        

Trade Credit Insurance

The government will temporarily guarantee business-to-business transactions currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance, ensuring the majority of insurance coverage will be maintained across the market. This will support supply chains and help businesses to trade with confidence as they can trust that they will be protected if a customer defaults on payment.

Learn more by visiting the www.gov.uk website.

Energy

Energy Advice (electricity and natural gas) for small businesses

The Consumer Council represents and safeguards the interests of small businesses as well as general consumers in the area of energy.

In this guide we provide information and advice for small businesses who have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak and need help with their electricity and natural gas. We will update this page with new information as it becomes available.

Electricity and natural gas services and communications during COVID-19

The Consumer Council has been in touch with all the electricity and natural gas companies in Northern Ireland. They have confirmed that the electricity and gas supply remains strong and that they will continue to provide all essential services, respond to emergencies and undertake critical maintenance and essential works.

Please note that electricity and gas companies are receiving a much higher than normal volume of calls. Only contact your supplier if you need to, and please allow for more time and be patient if you are contacting your energy supplier.

I have had to close my business or reduce my opening hours

Contact your electricity and natural gas supplier if you know you are closing your business or reducing your opening hours, even on a temporary basis. Otherwise you may continue to receive bills based on your previous consumption. You may want to share your personal contact details with them. This could be important if suppliers need to get in touch with you.

If you are leaving the premises, we recommend that you switch off any appliances no longer in use, in particular heating or cooking equipment, and change timers to help keep energy consumption down.

If you plan to claim from your insurance company, you should take a photo of a meter reading before you leave your premises. Insurers could ask for this evidence when assessing claims.

My business is experiencing financial difficulties

If you are struggling with your electricity or natural gas payments, we advise that you contact your supplier as soon as possible.  Your supplier may be able to offer a different tariff or contract options and will try to find a solution. It is advisable to have a recent meter reading when you contact your supplier to make sure that your bills reflect your actual consumption.

If you want more information on Coronavirus financial support and advice for small businesses, visit www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk, the Federation of Small Businesses at www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.html, or covid-19smallbusinessgrants.economy-ni.gov.uk. Farmers can obtain advice also from Rural Support at www.ruralsupport.org.uk.

Meter Readings

Electricity

NIE Networks has resumed meter reading services for both domestic and commercial premises. Initially, NIE Networks will only read meters located outdoors to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff and energy consumers. If the meter is located indoors, NIE Networks may ask the householder to provide a meter reading if it is safe an practical to do so. Those consumers who are shielding should inform their supplier or NIE Networks.

The Consumer Council advises consumers to continue to read their meter regularly to ensure bills are accurate and not estimated. NIE Networks’ website provides a guide on how to read your meter, visit www.nienetworks.co.uk/meterguide

Consumers can submit meter reads on NIE Networks' website or by phone on 03456 093 030. Consumers can also contact their supplier.

Gas

Both Firmus Energy and SSE Airtricity Gas meter reading activities have resumed for all external/accessible gas meters. More information can be found on their relevant websites.

The Consumer Council continues to advise consumers to continue to read their meter regularly to ensure bills are accurate and not estimated.

Make sure you are getting the best price for your electricity or natural gas

The Consumer Council has an online energy price comparison tool for small businesses. This enables small businesses, charities or organisations to compare electricity and natural gas prices from all of the suppliers in Northern Ireland.

For more information visit www.consumercouncil.org.uk

Do you have a complaint?

The Consumer Council provides free advice and can investigate complaints about buses, trains, planes, ferries, natural gas, electricity, coal, water and postal services. 

If you have contacted the company concerned and they have not solved the problem or you are not satisfied with their response, we may be able to help. We have the legal power to act on your behalf and investigate your complaint.

You can provide details of your complaint to our Consumer Protection team by email at contact@consumercouncil.org.uk or by phone on 0800 121 6022. You can also submit your complaint via our website at www.consumercouncil.org.uk

'Switch On' Energy Information Guide

If you want to know more about energy for your business, you can download The Consumer council ‘Switch On’ guide for small businesses. The guide covers everything from bills and tariffs, contracts, energy efficiency to making a complaint.

You can download a copy on The Consumer Council website here.

Energy Useful Contacts

Electricity

  • NIE Networks - 03457 643 643
  • Budget Energy - 0800 012 1177
  • Click Energy - 0800 107 0732
  • Electric Ireland - 0345 600 5335
  • Go Power - 028 8676 0600
  • Naturgy - 0113 3605 191
  • Power NI - 03457 455 455
  • 3T Power - 0333 600 8800

Natural Gas

  • Electric Ireland - 0345 600 5335
  • Firmus Energy - 0800 032 4567
  • Flogas - 028 9073 0277
  • Go Power - 028 8676 0600
  • SSE Airtricity Gas - 0345 850 8940

Online Sellers

Post Office, Royal Mail and eBay teamed up to offer ten top tips for sellers operating during lockdown.

Register on an online marketplace to sell your goods

eBay recently wavered fees to list or sell for all new businesses registering on its platform until 31 May 2020. Register as a business account and the new seller offer is automatically applied. Then, you’re ready to start listing your items.

Check for restrictions on goods you want to send by post

Check whether there any restrictions which may mean that items you want to sell can’t be sent by post, e.g. because they contain prohibited goods or are too large

Choose how you are going to ship the items to your customers

You can buy postage at your local Post Office, online via the Royal mail App or website and on the eBay website.

We are continually updating information on couriers and parcel deliveries here.

Calculate the postage price based on the weight and size of your items

You can do this on the Post Office website, and via the Royal Mail App – and decide whether you include this in the price you charge to customers.

Decide whether you’re going to allow your buyer to return items

Also, be sure to check out eBay’s returns policy before you start selling.

Package your items safely and securely

Do this before you take them to the Post Office to ensure you minimise your time in-branch and protect the safety of yourself and branch staff.

Ensure you post items in a timely fashion

To ensure that your customer is satisfied, post your items within the timeframe stated in your listings.

We are continually updating information on couriers and parcel deliveries here.

Drop off your shipments at a branch that is convenient for you

Check on the Post Office or Royal Mail websites for further information on opening hours.

 

Consolidate your visits into a Post Office to make as few trips as possible

Consider incorporating your trip into your exercise time, as per social distancing guidelines.

If frequently posting lots of items, customers should consider using Post Office’s free Drop and Go service

Customers can drop off their items, the Post Office will do the weighing and printing of postage, and the customer minimises their time in the branch.

Information is available here.

Food Businesses

Food Standards Agency Advice

The Food Standards Agency's (FSA) 'Here to Help' campaign provides practical guidance to help new and existing food businesses operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whether you are reopening and adapting your food business, changing your business model, or starting a new food business from home, the ‘Here to Help’ guide can support your business to stay compliant with food hygiene and safety requirements as you continue, adapt or restart operations during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

FSA Guidance on reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19 is available to food businesses across the sector, including restaurants and takeaways, food manufacturers and farming and agricultural businesses. This covers a range of areas, including risk assessment, personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning and staff training.

Further guidance to assist all workplaces involved in the manufacturing, processing, warehousing, picking, packaging, retailing and service of food, developed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, covers a range of areas including good hygiene practice, management of employee sickness, and social distancing for specific food business settings. This complements the wider business guidance published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. You can also find more information on workplace safety guidelines and social distancing on NI Business Info.

Non-food businesses

For a full, up-to-date list of business re-opening dates, click here

Safer shopping during COVID-19 poster (with translations)

HSCNI has created a poster for retailers to print off and display for their customers in order to help prevent the virus spreading while shopping. You can download it in 12 different languages here.

Water

Protect Your Business

With many properties closing their doors for a period of time and students leaving rented accommodation, NI Water is asking businesses and property owners to check their water supply is safely secured before they lock up. Leaking or burst pipes can have significant implications for your business. Securing your water supply is something you can do until your doors open again. 

Non-domestic customers should turn off all non-essential water in buildings which are not going to be in use for a period of time, including, for example, the automatic flushing of urinals. Large leaks that go undetected can have a major impact on water supplies that are essential for the health and well-being of all their customers.  

Water Bills

Water and sewerage bills for business and non-domestic customers will be held back until July so businesses do not face this additional burden during the current health emergency. Click here to find out more.

Water Bill Health Check

Although we can’t come out and visit your premises at the minute, The Consumer Council's Water Team are still available to provide any help or advice in relation to water efficiency or complaints. Your can email queries to waterchampions@consumercouncil.org.uk

Water Guide for Businesses and Not-For-Profit Organisations 

We have recently published a guide for businesses and not-for-profit organisations to help them with water billings, water efficiency, charges, complaints and more. You can download a copy here.

Turning your taps on safely after lockdown

NI Water has issued guidance for businesses, building owners, manager and landlords, and for those who operate water or refill fountains in their premises for when they re-open following lockdown. Click on the drop-down menu below to read NI Water's guidance.

NI Water's advice

  1. To ensure that the water in the plumbing systems is fresh, run all taps individually, starting with the tap nearest to where the water enters the building and moving systematically to the most distant outlet. It should be sufficient to run until the water is clear and feels cool to the touch. Building owners should also be mindful of the risks to all non-drinking water systems as well such as heating systems.
  2. Where water is supplied from storage, storage cisterns should be emptied and filled with water direct from the incoming supply, before the taps are flushed; flushing should be carried out in a manner which minimises aerosol generation. For example, removing shower heads prior to flushing, to reduce the risks of Legionella transmission. Safety considerations should be made for those flushing including appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); ensure that all appliances are also thoroughly flushed through before use, using manufacturer’s instruction manual.
  3. If the property has any internal filters or water softeners, these should be checked to ensure they are working correctly as outlined in the manufacturer’s instruction manual;
  4. If plumbers are required to make any changes or repairs to the plumbing system, a list of contacts can be accessed at WaterSafe
  5. For larger buildings, those with tanks, showers, water heaters and more complex pipework the expectation is likely to be for more extensive flushing followed by cleaning and disinfection. If you have a complex plumbing system you should ensure you have a competent person to oversee this work.

Voluntary and Community Organisations

NICVA has developed an online resource for voluntary and community organisations impacted by COVID-19, including advice on funding, advocacy, HR and governance. Click here to access it. 

BAME-led Organisations

Migrant Centre NI has been very concerned that many small BAME projects working with diverse communities across Northern Ireland are facing risk of closure due to financial pressures following the COVID-19 pandemic.

They have made grants available to support BAME-led community organisations to deliver services at this challenging time. 

All details including Guidance Notes and Application Form are available on their website: http://migrantcentreni.org/grants/ 

Coronavirus Community Fund

Community Foundation has information on its pages and a fund that community organisations can apply for. Click here for more information.

Community Support 

Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council are asking community groups, charities or organisation who are offering COVID-19 community support to submit details of the type of help you’re offering into their online form, and they will add it to the Local Support Directory

Small Capital Grants Programme 

The Department for Communities (DfC) has launched this years’ Small Capital Grants Programme. The Programme is aimed at assisting voluntary and community organisations purchase items of equipment to enhance and sustain the activities and services they provide to the community. It provides grants of between £1,500 and £5,000 towards the purchase of items such as IT equipment, sporting equipment, catering equipment and material to support arts and cultural activities within the voluntary and community sector. Applications are invited from constituted organisations that have an annual income of no more than £100,000. For more information click here

Council Responses for Community Groups

Antrim and Newtownabbey - Have given grants to 45 local community groups.

Ards and North Down - Have a weekly food distribution service.

Armagh City, Banbridge, Craigavon - £1,000 fund for voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. Click here.

Belfast City - Distributing 4000 food parcels and deliveries of prescriptions a week for the Department of Communities and have allocated £100k for emergency food aid grants.

Causeway Coast and Glens - £2,000 grant. Click here.

Derry City and Strabane - Created a community resilience programme of £280,000.

Fermanagh and Omagh Council - Grants for vulnerable groups. Click here.

Lisburn and Castlereagh - Grants of up to £3,000. Click here.

Mid and East Antrim - Grants of up to £1,000.

Mid Ulster District - Grants for organisations who are responding to COVID-19. Click here.

Newry, Mourne and Down - Running a community coordination hub for vulnerable groups.

Protection for business tenancies

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has extended an emergency provision for tenants by a further three months in order to protect businesses at this difficult time.

The move, which extends the special provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020, means business tenants here are now protected from the threat of eviction because of non-payment of rent until 31 December 2020.

Skills Toolkit

The Department for the Economy has launched a Skills Toolkit, a new online platform giving people easy access to free, high-quality digital and numeracy courses to help them build up their skills, progress in work and boost their job prospects. You can access the toolkit here

All courses on the Skills Toolkit are available to people right across the UK and links through to the NI Careers Service.

Trader Support Service - Moving goods into Northern Ireland

The new Trader Support Service is now live, providing education and guidance for traders moving goods under the Northern Ireland Protocol including between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 

Businesses should sign up today for help in navigating the upcoming changes to the way goods move from 1st January 2021.

  The service will:

  • Provide a free end-to-end support package to manage import and safety and security declarations on behalf of traders.
  • Educate businesses on what the Protocol means for them, and the steps they need to take to comply with it. This will include online training sessions and webinars with information being continually updated as we move closer to 1 January 2021. 
  • Help to complete relevant declaration forms for all businesses moving goods into Northern Ireland under new processes in the Northern Ireland Protocol that start from 1 January 2021.

 To sign up to the service, please go to: http://bit.ly/TSSPNI 

Useful Links

Advice NI

The Advice NI Business Debt Service offers FREE tailored, independent and impartial advice for Sole Traders, Partnerships and Limited Companies. They provide telephone debt advice and solutions for trading or former trading businesses experiencing financial difficulties. The free phone number is 0800 083 8018 and the website also has a list of useful template letters.

Belfast Chamber of Commerce

The Belfast Chamber of Commerce are updating their website on a regular basis and have a dedicated coronavirus webpage with plenty of advice for businesses in and around Belfast.

CBI

The CBI (Confederation of British Industry) have a Coronavirus Hub on their website.

Enterprise NI

Enterprise NI have listed support that’s available to businesses affected by coronavirus on its website.

Federation of Small Businesses

The Federation of Small Businesses has developed an information resource on its website.

Institute of Directors

The Institute of Directors has developed a Coronavirus Hub which includes a page specifically on the help available for Northern Ireland businesses. 

Invest NI and NI Business Info

Invest NI’s website has lots of information for businesses in Northern Ireland affected by coronavirus.

The NI Business Info page has a coronavirus section which provides advice to businesses on a range of issues such as how to access the support that has been made available to Northern Ireland businesses and employees.

Manufacturing NI

Manufacturing NI has also produced a COVID 19 Hub

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce

The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce has also developed a Coronavirus Hub.

The Consumer Council

If you are experiencing personal financial difficult and want more information on the help available, The Consumer Council website provides guidance on the different agencies that can provide support and how to contact them.

Ulster Farmers Union

The Ulster Farmers Union has produced a COVID 19 Factsheet for farmers.

Women In Business NI

Women In Business NI have a Coronavirus Support and Guidance page for members on its website