Coronavirus Update

16-Mar-2020 in Business & the Economy
    This is a time of unprecedented uncertainty for Northern Ireland makers and retailers, in light of the corona virus pandemic. We’ve summarised here some of the main sources of authoritative information on current developments and where you can access latest guidance and we’ll keep these updated.

    Staying Well
    For the most up to date advice on staying well during the Covid-19 pandemic, please check and follow the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency website and social media feeds.

    Their advice remains:
    cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze. See Catch it, Bin it, Kill it
    put used tissues in the bin straight away
    wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available. See hand washing guidance
    try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
    clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
    do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

    If you are self-employed
    If you’re self-employed and find yourself unable to work due to illness or having to self-isolate, there are a few options to consider.
    Benefits: If you are self-employed and are facing financial difficulties, the threshold for accessing Universal Credit has been temporarily lowered which gives some potential compensation for any loss of income.
    Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating according to government advice for from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day and without having to attend Jobs & Benefits offices.
    If you are find yourself in a crisis situation there is the option of financial help from the Department for Communities Finance Support service and you can call them on:
    0800 587 2750 (Freephone) or 0800 587 2751 (textphone for customers with hearing difficulties).
    For independent advice on benefits, rights and financial concerns, you can also follow and contact:

    @Advice NI
    Benefits Helpline – 0808 802 0020
    Money/Debt Helpline 0800 028 1881

  • More information is available here on the website of the Department for Communities:

    If you are concerned about finances
    For self-employed makers, or small businesses this will be an anxious time.
    Tax: HMRC have expanded their helpline with 2000 call handlers to help self-employed people and small businesses to manage the impact of Covid-19 on their businesses. You can talk to them about penalties, reviewing payment schedules and agreeing smaller instalments.

    If you are an employer is the Invest NI-backed source of up to date business support information and their summary of supports is available here:
For a general overview, please click here.
  • Sick pay: Staff who are on leave due to ill health or who have to self-isolate, can begin to receive Statutory Sick Pay from day one of their absence. Small businesses will be able to re-claim SSP for staff for up to two weeks per staff member. More information on the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate for SMEs can be found on NI Business Info and they’ll publish more details of how to claim shortly.
    Finances: Details are also beginning to emerge on a government-backed SME focusedCoronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. The Federation of Small Businesses also advises checking with your own insurance company if you have Business Interruption cover.
    Rates: Last week the Chancellor announced a business rates holiday for SMEs in England and Wales for this coming year to mitigate the impact of Covid-19. There has not been a similar announcement for Northern Ireland but Land and Property Services have a Hardship Rate Relief fund designed to help business through a temporary period of financial hardship.

    Looking after your physical and mental wellbeing
    Managing anxiety in this hugely uncertain environment will be a challenge for everyone. There is the possibility that business as usual could be disrupted for some time, so giving some attention to your own mental wellbeing will be important.
    Mental Health Charity Mind has some excellent advice and resources to help manage all the emotions around at such an uncertain time.

    Looking After Your Business
    While there are a lot of pressing issues to deal with, especially if you also have caring responsibilities, if you can, don’t forget to keep nurturing your own business and developing your own story.
    Design Trust fantastic online resources which could be useful if we have some enforced social-distancing. Can we use the time to research online accounting packages, update social media, add some new web content?
    Here are a few great starters:

    Social Media & Marketing:
    Business Planning:
    Time Management:
    Stay in Touch
    Please keep in touch throughinfo@craftni.orgor on 028 9032 9342 if we can find anything out for you or share anything you’ve found useful. We’ll continue to update these.

    Craft NI
    16 March 2020

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