The latest updates and information on how to protect your business
We know there are huge concerns regarding the potential impact of Coronavirus and we’re doing all we can to support the business community through these challenging times. We’ve suspended our events programme until the end of May and will review this in due course.
Alternatively, please call the team on 01202 714800.
We are receiving high volumes of enquiries and we will respond to you as quickly as possible.
Please scroll down to access advice and support on coronavirus, including Government financial support.
Coronavirus Business Support Email
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This guidance will assist employers, businesses and their staff in addressing coronavirus (COVID-19). This guidance may be updated in line with the changing situation so please refer back to this page for updates.
This includes guidance on if you have symptoms, sick pay, furloughed (laid off) workers, benefits and rent payments. This guidance may be updated in line with the changing situation so please refer back to this page for updates.
The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19, full details are on the Government guidance, and on the Government Business Support website, which are both being continually updated.
This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:
- a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
- a Self-employment Income Support Scheme
- a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)
- *a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England
- small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
- grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
- the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
- a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
- the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme
*Business rate relief has been expanded as to which businesses qualify for relief and there will be no rateable value limit on the relief. Full details here.
Support for self-employed announced 26 March 2020
The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) who have lost income due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed.
Information on Receiving the Dorset Council Grants
Dorset Council requires you to complete a business information gathering form to help them ensure the right grants are paid to the right businesses and to validate the information needed to process the grants. Please visit their website to check your eligibility and complete the form.
Information on Receiving the BCP Council Grants
BCP Council has uploaded grant fund forms for the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Fund. Please visit their website to check your eligibility and download, complete and return the form to BCP Council.
Information for parents and carers about the closure of schools and other educational settings following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). This page will be updated as we have further information available.
1. Closures of schools, childcare and other educational settings
1.1 What age groups does this cover?
The changes cover children at registered childcare providers (including nurseries and childminders), primary and secondary schools and further education colleges. This is for both state-funded and independent schools.
1.2 Will it be mandatory for all schools, colleges and registered childcare providers to remain open in some form?
We are asking schools, colleges, nurseries, childminders and other registered childcare settings to remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children where they can.
We understand that some may be unable to do so especially if they are experiencing severe staff shortages. We will work with local areas to use neighbouring schools, colleges and childcare providers to continue to support vulnerable children and children of critical workers.
1.3 How long will schools and colleges be closed for?
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, schools, colleges and childcare providers will be closed to the majority of pupils until further notice.
1.4 Will this apply to independent schools and boarding schools?
Yes. We are asking independent schools and boarding schools to do the same as state schools and remain open for critical workers and vulnerable children.
1.5 Will registered childcare providers, schools and colleges be open over Easter holidays for holiday clubs and childcare?
Where possible, we would encourage childcare providers, schools and colleges to continue to look after critical workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays.
1.6 I am a critical worker or have a vulnerable child – can you guarantee that my child will attend their usual school or childcare provider?
We are expecting the majority of settings to stay open for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children so they can continue to attend their usual provider, but we acknowledge this will be impossible for some – such as small rural schools.
Where a setting is unable to stay open, we will work with the local educational authority, regional school commissioners and neighbouring providers to find an alternative setting for their pupils.
1.7 I am a critical worker or have a vulnerable child – how will my child get to school if the only school open is not nearby?
We are working closely with local authorities to ensure that children can attend the best setting for them, and will provide transport arrangements to support them.
1.8 I am a critical worker or have a vulnerable child but I don’t want to send my child in to school or childcare, do I have to?
Many parents working in these critical sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.
This is an offer to parents and carers and there is no requirement for parents and carers to send their children to school if they do not need or wish to do so.
For vulnerable children, your child’s social worker will work with you to assess the best option for your child.
1.9 Does this affect universities and other higher education institutions?
Universities and other higher education providers should make their own judgements based on latest Public Health England guidance. Vice chancellors are well placed to make decisions about their own institution, and many have already moved all their teaching online. The government is supporting them with these decisions.
Advice continues to be that all student accommodation should remain open unless advised otherwise by Public Health England. Many universities provide homes to international students, estranged students and care leavers who might not have anywhere else to go.
The Department is working with the Home Office to avoid individuals and institutions being penalised if online provision inadvertently leads to non-compliance with Tier 4 visa rules.
1.10 Does this apply to special schools?
We recognise that children and young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND) and their parents and carers are facing numerous challenges as a result of coronavirus. We are encouraging local authorities to keep open both residential special schools and residential specialist colleges wherever possible. In addition, we want to keep the majority of day special schools and colleges open, including moving staff into these settings to avoid closure.
Special schools, colleges and local authorities are advised to make case by case basis assessments of the health and safeguarding considerations of pupils and students on an education, health and care (EHC) plan. For some, they will be safer in an education provision. For others, they will be safer at home. We trust leaders and parents to make these decisions and will support them as required.
1.11 Why is my nursery telling me that they will continue to charge me during corona virus-related closures?
The government acknowledges that in many cases, the insurance that early years providers have will not cover them for income lost during COVID-19-related closures.
That is one of the reasons why it announced on 17 March that government would not claw back early years entitlements funding from local authorities during closures, or where children are withdrawn because of COVID-19. This protects a significant proportion of early years providers’ income.
In addition, the government has set out a range of support for businesses to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on them. This includes a business rate holiday for all private childcare providers for one year from 1 April. Local authorities will be fully compensated for the cost of this.
In light of these steps taken already, we are asking providers to be reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents. The government is urgently keeping what further support businesses may require under close review.
2.1 What will happen to exams?
Primary assessments, including SATs, and exams including GCSEs, AS levels and A levels will not go ahead this summer.
We are working with the sector and Ofqual to ensure young people get the qualifications they need. Further details will be provided shortly.
3. Vulnerable children
3.1 Is my child counted as vulnerable?
Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans.
Children who have a social worker include children in need, children who have a child protection plan and those who are looked after by the local authority. We will work with schools, early years, FE providers and local authorities to help identify the children who most need support at this time.
We know that schools will also want to look to support other children who are vulnerable where they are able to do so.
3.2 What will happen with free school meals for those not in school and colleges?
We know that free school meals are important for many families.
To make sure eligible children can continue to be supported, we will give schools and colleges the flexibility to provide meals or vouchers to children eligible for free school meals. They will be reimbursed by the Department. As soon as possible, we will put in place a national voucher system.
More information on support for pupils eligible for school meals is available.
4. Critical workers
4.1 Will I be counted as a critical worker?
Critical workers include NHS staff, police, farmers and food retail workers, who need to be able to go out to work.
In order to continue to offer critical services as part of the country’s ongoing response to the virus, children of workers who form a central part of effort – such as NHS workers, police and delivery drivers – will also continue to attend school, college or childcare provider.
A full list of critical workers and further information is available.
4.2 If only one parent or carer is a critical worker, can I send my children in to school?
Children with at least one parent or carer who are identified as critical workers by the government can send their children to school if required.
5. Resources and support
What support will be available to parents to help them educate their children at home?
More information will follow about what DfE is doing to support parents. We are working with the BBC and others to provide resources for children to access while at home. For parents with children under five years old see hungrylittleminds.campaign.gov.uk
5.1 There is too much pressure on broadband connections in my area – how can my child do online learning?
The government is having regular calls with the major fixed and mobile operators, and with Ofcom, to monitor the situation and ensure that any problems on the networks are rapidly addressed and rectified.
We fully understand the importance of having reliable internet connectivity at this time, so that people can work from home wherever possible and access critical public services online, including health information.
Guidance for British people travelling and living overseas during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Please refer to the guidance here.
Exceptional travel advisory notice
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) now advises British people against all non-essential travel worldwide. This advice took effect immediately on 17 March and applies initially for a period of 30 days.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. All countries may restrict travel without notice.
If you now need to change or cancel your travel plans, follow these steps:
- contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers
- get in touch with your insurance provider
- continue to follow the NHS coronavirus guidance
The FCO was already advising against all but essential travel or all travel to some areas or countries due to risks that do not relate to COVID-19. This advice remains in place. Check FCO travel advice pages for the latest information.
If you’re abroad
Our travel advice has changed
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises British people against all but essential travel worldwide due to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions.
We will continue to update our Travel Advice pages with relevant information if you are currently abroad. Check our travel advice for your location regularly and sign-up to email alerts.
You must follow the advice of local authorities. Your safety and security is the responsibility of the local authority where you are.
If you wish to leave the country you are in, contact your airline or travel company and your insurance provider as soon as you are able, and keep up to date with the latest developments. International travel has become significantly more difficult. We only organise assisted departure in exceptional circumstances.
Quarantine while you are abroad
If the local authority where you are proposes to quarantine you for your own protection, you should follow their advice. When you are abroad, your safety and security is their responsibility.
If there are suspected cases of coronavirus where you are, you may need to remain in your hotel room or accommodation for 14 days, move to quarantine facilities, take tests for coronavirus and, if positive in some cases, be hospitalised abroad.
You should also contact your airline or travel company, and your insurance provider as soon as you can. We only organise assisted departure in exceptional circumstances.
If your travel is essential
Prepare for your travel
If your travel is essential, follow our checklist before you travel:
- contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers to make sure you can still travel
- read the details of your travel insurance carefully, and check that you are covered, and contact your insurer if you are uncertain. You may need to consider a specialist policy
- make sure you can access money to cover emergencies and unexpected delays. Take more than one means of payment with you
- be prepared to follow the advice of local authorities abroad. Be ready to comply with local isolation or quarantine requirements, and to rely on the local health system
- make sure you have enough medication with you in case you are abroad longer than planned
- be prepared for logistical and financial disruption to your travel
- arrange extra support for family members, dependants or pets who may need care if you are abroad longer than planned
- check travel advice for your destination regularly and sign-up to email alerts
- visit this page regularly as it is constantly updated given the evolving situation overseas
If you are older, or if you have pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease), you are more likely to become severely ill if you catch the virus. Check the NHS guidance before you travel.
Get travel insurance
If your travel is essential, make sure you have appropriate insurance for overseas travel, and purchase it as soon as you book your travel. You should check the detail of your travel insurance to see what it covers, and contact your insurance provider if you have any questions.
You may need to consider a specialist policy. It’s your responsibility to make sure you’re covered. Read our guidance on purchasing insurance.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has published information on the travel insurance implications of coronavirus.
Many countries and territories have introduced screening measures (temperature checks, health/travel questions, quarantine) and entry restrictions at border crossings and transport hubs.
If you have recently been in a country affected by the virus you may need to be quarantined, or you may not be allowed to enter or travel through a third country. If you decide to travel, contact the local immigration authorities or the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country you’re travelling to.
International freight transport
International freight transport (by air, ship, road and rail, including roll-on/roll-off transports) is an essential activity in the context of travel advice. Our advice against non-essential travel does not apply to this industry. Read the Department for Transport guidance for the freight transport industry.
Travel advice and consular support
Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice
Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel advice is constantly under review, so that it reflects our latest assessment of risks to British people. Find out more about how our travel advice works.
Cruises have been significantly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you are aged 70 and over, or if you have underlying health conditions, we advise you against cruise ship travel at this time. Find out more in our cruise ship travel guidance.
The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) has adopted an enhanced member health policy which all CLIA ocean member cruise lines must follow. It includes guidance on who should be permitted to board cruise ships. If you are due to travel on an international cruise, contact your travel company for the latest information.
International education trips
The government advises against all overseas education trips for children under 18 until further notice. Read the Department for Education guidance.
Latest health advice
See the latest NHS guidance on coronavirus for the current situation in the UK and abroad.
The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) has also produced general advice on preparing for foreign travel and how everyone can reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.
Chambers of Commerce in Dorset urge Government to move quickly
Ian Girling, Dorset Chamber Chief Exec, has written to Boris Johnson regarding support for businesses during the COVID-19/Coronavirus outbreak.
Rules for Staying at Home and Away from Others
This guidance is for everyone. On 23 March 2020 the Government introduced three new rules:
1. Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public
Money Advice Service: Coronavirus and your Money
Advice on if you need to take time off work or face a drop in income, including a step by step checklist and other considerations relating to coronavirus.
Money Advice Service: Coronavirus – what it means for you and what you’re entitled to
This guide looks at your rights and what benefits you’re eligible for.
Guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19)
During this time, you may be bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also feel low, worried, anxious, or be concerned about your health or that of those close to you. Everyone reacts differently to events and changes in the way that we think, feel and behave vary between different people and over time. It’s important that you take care of your mind as well as your body and to get further support if you need it. This guide provides advice on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The British Chambers of Commerce outlines the need to prepare for the impacts of Coronavirus/COVID-19 transmission
The British Chambers of Commerce has outlined steps that Chambers and members can implement to minimise impact on local communities and support the UK government’s strategy. Their dedicated web page is based on official guidance and will be updated as and when updates are released.
Coronavirus, Contingency Planning, Processing Coronavirus Data And GDPR
As part of your business continuity management, you may be considering staff working from home. This may pose some challenges regarding GDPR implications, however, this can be overcome by taking advice from experts and careful preparation. Please refer to this article by Mark Gracey, from Digital Compliance Hub, for some free guidance, checklists of things you should consider to implement, an information sheet you can download and share around your business about working from home, and also considerations if you’re processing Coronavirus related data.
Mark is also offering some free advice for local businesses and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Business Resilience Service
In response to the developing economic crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, Dorset Business Mentors have launched a new service to help Dorset’s small businesses with immediate and ongoing support through an unprecedented period of uncertainty. Up to 3 months free of charge.
Our unique proposition offers business owners confidential mentoring and ongoing personal support provided by a team of over 120 highly experienced, volunteer business professionals with a strong reputation for working with small businesses.
The service will provide business assessment of critical priorities including: Financial, Staff, Suppliers and Turnover implications; and match a mentor who will calmly guide a strategic response, offering an invaluable and experienced sounding board for the main Director’s decision making, and who will support well-being during a time when many individuals may feel isolated and under pressure.