The daily press briefing yesterday was delivered by the Business Secretary Alok Sharma, who stated that a total of 29,474 have tested positive for coronavirus, with an increase in the number of deaths sadly to 2,352. It is becoming increasingly clear that the pandemic is the largest threat the UK has experienced in many decades, with the world battling the virus alongside us.
As businesses and people across the UK face significant disruption, the impact on peoples lives, jobs and the economy as a whole is beginning to gain pace. However, Mr Sharma was clear to point out that this crisis will pass and as a nation we will be able to bounce back. To help your business through these difficult times, we take a look at the latest business news.
Financial support for small businesses
The Business Secretary has confirmed that more than £12billion has been paid to local authorities, who can now provide grants to small businesses. It is hoped that these grants will be sent to businesses as soon as possible, with some already in receipt of the payment. This support is in addition to business rates relief, mortgage holidays and support through schemes such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
There were reports that some banks offering these interruption loans were asking for a personal guarantee, meaning many businesses were unable to access the cash they needed. However, the Chancellor, the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority have asked the banks to pass the benefits across to businesses. The banks have been urged to provide funds to businesses which need them, rather than unfairly refusing the loans.
Popularity of video apps surges during pandemic
With many businesses finding new ways to work from home, the popularity of video apps has surged as people look for new ways to stay connected. The most popular apps are Skype, Houseparty and Zoom, who have all experienced an increase in downloads during March. In particular the video conferencing app Zoom has experienced its largest increase in downloads, with almost 27 million downloads during March, compared to just 2.1 million in January.
However, the Zoom app has come under some scrutiny with concerns relating to its data security and privacy measures. In the past, hackers have taken advantage of vulnerabilities which allowed access to meetings, messages and shared screens. In addition, the app does not offer end-to-end encryption, which means Zoom can access meetings. Zoom have pushed back at these concerns, explaining that they are communicating closely with the UK Ministry of Defence and the National Cyber Security Centre.
Immigration implications for UK employers
The restrictions on global movement have created significant challenges for UK employers. However, the UK Home Office has relaxed some immigration laws to cover all nationalities, up until the 31 May. Those who are currently working in the UK with a visa which is due to expire, will not be regarded as an ‘overstayer’ if they are unable to leave due to the outbreak.
There are many sponsored workers which are now working from home, which would normally require the sponsoring business to report the change to the Home Office within 10 working days. The latest guidance confirms that there will be no enforcement action against businesses which continue to sponsor workers who are unable to work due to the virus. The absences do not need to be reported, however clear records should be kept as this may be audited further down the line.
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