COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Guidance

You need to know from me that the NMTF is making the strongest case to the Government for allowing markets to stay open, for large events to be postponed and not cancelled, and for market traders to have access to all the financial help contained in yesterday’s statement by the Chancellor in regard to small businesses

In particular we are asking the Chancellor to expand upon the financial support available to self-employed people, going further than Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance.

We have contacted all known UK market operators to urge them to give their traders a rent-free period so that they can keep their businesses open and thus help retail markets as a whole — as well as vulnerable groups who rely on markets to survive.

We have also put strong measures in place to ensure the continuity of our services to members if our head office has to close as a result of COVID-19.

Rest assured that we will give our members all the help we can in these unprecedented times. Keep safe.

I feel it is my duty to contact you on behalf of our members — indeed all UK retail market traders — to urge you to do all you can to support their businesses in these extreme times.

Already I have seen that many market operators have declared a rent-free period for their traders.

If you are not among those operators I would encourage you to do the same.

Providing traders with that rent-free assurance will help them keep their businesses open, keep your market open and support retail markets as a whole — as well as caring for vulnerable groups who rely on our markets to survive.

I would also ask that you adopt a similar policy in relation to any trader who has to self-isolate, whether it be because they have COVID-19 symptoms or because they are classed as vulnerable or are over the age of 70.

I appreciate these are extremely difficult times for you and your market operation, as indeed they are for all of us, but, if you have not already done so, I hope you take our suggestions on board.

CHANCELLOR’S STATEMENT ON HELP FOR SELF-EMPLOYED

MAIN POINTS:

• Self-employed people facing financial difficulties will be able to have 80 per cent of their monthly wages covered by Government

• Calculated using average monthly profit over the last three financial years

• Support to be capped at £2,500 per month, initially to last three months

• Claimants must have filed at least a 2019 tax return. Deadline to lodge this has been extended to April 23rd

• Will cover 95 per cent of self-employed

• Up and running by June

• Scheme open to those with trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19, or average trading profit of less than £50,000 from previous three years

• Recently self-employed who do not have a full year of accounts will not receive any help under the scheme

• HMRC will contact you directly if you are eligible and invite you to apply online

• Official Government statement — click here

The NMTF has welcomed the Government’s financial support package for the self-employed.

The plan effectively mirrors the suggestion made to the Government by the NMTF that the grant should be based on the individual’s HMRC tax returns.

NMTF CEO Joe Harrison said he was pleased that the Government had listened to the pleas made on behalf of members.

“It’s unfortunate but perhaps understandable that the grants will probably not be available until June,” he said.

“Nevertheless the package will go some considerable way towards helping our thousands of members who otherwise would have been financially stricken and their businesses put in severe jeopardy.”

He said the support was particularly important for around 50 per cent of the NMTF’s 20,000 membership who did not qualify for other financial grants during the COVID-19 crisis because they were not liable to pay business rates.

“It would have been a great anomaly if those who qualify for business rates could get thousands of pounds in grants — even though they do not actually pay those rates because their rateable value gives them rate relief — when those who do not could only get Universal Credit,” he said.

“We have to thank the Chancellor and the Government for finding a way through the complexities of this scheme.”

 

The NMTF has welcomed the Government’s financial support package for the self-employed.

But we recognise that those with less than 12 months of trading exerience may have some challenges with accessing elements of this support.

Find below a summary of what has been announced by the Government, plus links to the official sources.

Self-employment income support scheme

  • If you started trading between 2016-19, HMRC will only use those years for which you filed a Self-Assessment tax return.
  • If you have not submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, you must do this by 23 April 2020.
  • HMRC will use data on 2018-19 returns already submitted to identify those eligible and will risk assess any late returns filed before the 23 April 2020 deadline in the usual way.
  • More than half of your income must come from self-employment.
  • Unlike the employee scheme, the self-employed can continue to work as they receive support.
  • The money, backdated to March, will arrive directly into people’s banks accounts from HMRC, but not until June.
  • The grants will be taxable, and will need to be declared on tax returns by January 2022.
  • https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/self-employment-income-support-scheme/

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

  • If you have less than 12 months of trading history and were in full or part-time employment on 28 February 2020, contact your previous employer and ask to be re-recruited and furloughed on the same terms as when you left employment (backdated to 1 March 2020).
  • HMRC will pay employers a grant worth 80% of an employee’s usual wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that subsidised wage.
  • https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme/

Increased amounts of Universal Credit

Business Interruption Loan Scheme

  • The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the government-owned British Business Bank.
  • The government will make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.
  • The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to pre-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs.
  • https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme/

Mortgage payment holiday

  • A ‘payment holiday’ means you agree with your lender that you will not have to make mortgage payments for a set amount of time.
  • You should contact your lender if you are experiencing or reasonably expect to experience payment difficulties because of circumstances related to coronavirus.
  • You will still be charged interest during the payment holiday, unless your lender has told you otherwise.
  • Taking a payment holiday will not have a negative impact on your credit file.
  • https://www.fca.org.uk/consumers/mortgages-coronavirus-consumers

Support for renters

  • From 26 March, landlords will have to give all renters 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession (i.e. serve notice that they want to end the tenancy) – this means the landlord can’t apply to start the court process until after this period. This extended buffer period will apply in law until 30 September 2020 and both the end point, and the three-month notice period can be extended if needed.
  • From 27 March, the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action – this means that neither cases currently in the or any about to go in the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted. This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days.
  • Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. If they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support is available. In the first instance they should speak to their landlord if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment, and in this unique context we would encourage tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme.
  • https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-support-available-for-landlords-and-renters-reflecting-the-current-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

Council tax relief through the Local Authority Hardship Fund

Trade on events? – Guidance from the NMTF

  • Some of you may have paid for events that have been postponed. Contracts usually state that deposits are non-refundable. Usually, this is because the organiser intends to use deposits from market traders and mobile caterers to pay their suppliers. But this is not always the case.
  • If you are in this position, contact the event organiser and request a full or partial refund. Be honest – explain your situation. There is no point in an organiser keeping your deposit if you are in doubt that you will be in the position to trade in 12 months. They have time to book someone else.
  • Members, contact the support team for advice on your own personal situation. Note that this is general advice. Officers are not legally trained. Members have legal and financial helplines – click here.

Advice from the UK Government

UK government response

Self-employment income support scheme

Businesses and premises to close (click here) – Markets can remain open but stalls selling non-essential goods must close. Street food and cafes must be takeaway or delivery only. Essential goods include:

  • Food and grocery
  • Household goods
  • Hardware supplies
  • Bicycles
  • Pet supplies
  • Newsagents

Support for businesses (sick pay, business rates holiday, small business grant funding, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme)

Guidance for employers (stay at home guidance, travel, absence from work, cleaning and waste, handling packages)

Guidance on social distancing (self-isolation, vulnerable groups, hygiene advice, mental wellbeing, informal carers)

Guidance for households (symptoms, stay at home for 7-14 days, living with children and vulnerable people)

Guidance from the NHS

HMRC helpline – 0800 0159 559

Am I a key worker? – “Food and other necessary goods” – anyone who is involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery (click here).

Guidance from the Devolved Governments

Know your rights: Review your licence, lease, or contract, for any clauses about market closure or event cancellation. This should include a notice period, which may range from one day to a few weeks.

– We think if the market is closed then you should not have to pay any rent. If an event is cancelled, deposits should be returned.

Vulnerable groups: If you are aged over 70, or have an underlying health condition listed here, or you are pregnant – the government advises that you follow social distancing measures. Speak with the market manager.

– We think if you are in any of these categories and you are self-isolating, you should not have to pay any rent.

Non-essential goods: Traders who sell food and neccesary goods are defined as key workers. If you sell non-essential items you will be asked not to attend the market (click here). Speak with the market manager.

– We think if you are asked not to attend the market and you are self-isolating, you should not have to pay any rent.

Keep your distance: The public must stay at least two metres away from each other and you/your staff. Anything less than this is close contact. The risk of infection increases the longer someone is in close contact.

– We encourage members to be considerate of other people on the market or event. We all assess risks to our health differently.

Keep your stall clean: Wash your hands with soap and water often. Have hand sanitiser gel on your stall. Consider wearing disposable gloves. Ask the public not to touch any of your products unless they intend to buy them.

– We are encouraging members to follow general cold and flu precautions as outlined by the government here.

Keep promoting your business: Get online and let your customers know that you are open for business. Use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Work together and share news from other traders.

– You can find guidance on using social media in the Members Area here (call us if you have forgot your login details).

Think outside the box: Consider taking orders online, organising a ‘click and collect’ or a delivery service, or selling vouchers that can be redeemed in the future. Work together to deliver a coordinated offer.

– Share ideas with members in the community forum in the Members Area here (call us if you have forgot your login details).

Insurance matters: You have public, product, and employer’s liability insurance with your membership of the NMTF. This does not include any property, business interruption, or event cancellation insurance.

– The NMTF is not an insurance company. A full statement from the NMTF’s broker can be found below. 

To obtain more information tailored to enquiries from members we asked our insurance broker about the situation and received this statement:

One of the major benefits of NMTF membership is the automatic insurance protection provided.

The NMTF arranges Employers, Public and Products Liability Insurance for all members subject to some cover restrictions depending on trading activities.

This insurance protects you if your business is negligent, you cause injury or damage and you are legally liable — for example an employee is injured at work, a customer trips over an obstacle or you supply a defective product which causes injury or damage.

To answer the question “Does my NMTF insurance cover me if my business suffers because of coronavirus (COVID-19)?”

The simple answer is “no”. The NMTF insurance does not provide any property, business interruption or event cancellation insurance.

Members who have bought these types of policies independently should check with their broker or insurance company to see if they have any cover, typically under the Business Interruption section of the policy.

At this stage, and even though the UK Government has declared it to be a Notifiable Disease, the NMTF understands it is highly unlikely Business Interruption policies will cover coronavirus claims because those policies which include Notifiable Disease cover usually list which illnesses and diseases are insured.

Coronavirus and  COVID-19 will not be included on the list.

However, some policies do not list the diseases which are insured and in those circumstances there should be cover.

In a worst case scenario, it is probable that geographical areas could be quarantined with travel being either severely restricted or cut off completely.

This would have a significant impact on most businesses. Many policies contain a Denial of Access extension to the Business Interruption section. The majority typically require the denial of access to be as a result of “insured damage in the vicinity of the insured premises which prevents or hinders access to the insured premises”.

As there would be no physical damage, there would be no cover under such an extension.

This statement does not constitute advice and the NMTF recommends you contact your broker or insurance company to discuss your insurance policy cover although it will probably not be good news.

Benevolent Fund: The NMTF’s Benevolent Fund assists members in times of severe hardship. This is a charity separate from NMTF Ltd. To find out more, please email enquiries@nmtf.co.uk.

– The Benevolent Fund is run by market traders for market traders. The application includes a financial assessment.

 Keep up to date: The government is the best source of guidance. The main website is gov.uk/coronavirus. Information about the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme can be found here.

– For general advice, members are welcome to contact the NMTF’s support team on 01226 749 021 or support@nmtf.co.uk.

Finally, the NMTF’s AGM and Conference scheduled for Monday, 27 April 2020, has been postponed until 2021. Direct any queries on this subject to events@nmtf.co.uk.

We realise these are unprecedented times and it must be very difficult for you all. Please let the NMTF know if you require any further information or support.

NMTF Members can contact the support team on 01226 749 021 or support@nmtf.co.uk. Office hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.