With the government’s roadmap out of the COVID-19 pandemic underway, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has announced a series of measures that he hopes will “protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people.” This includes an extension of the Furlough Scheme for a further five months, from May until the end of September 2021. In addition, much has been detailed regarding support to businesses including a new UK-wide scheme launching this autumn to help 100,000 SMEs save time and money by adopting productivity-enhancing software, enabling them to transform the way they do business.
With the scheme being extended until the end of September, employees will continue to receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked. There will be no employer contributions beyond National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and pensions required in April, May and June. From July, the government will introduce an employer contribution towards the cost of unworked hours of 10% in July, 20% in August and 20% in September, as the economy reopens.
The government will also extend income tax exemption and NICs disregards for COVID-19 antigen tests provided by, or reimbursed by, employers and for employer reimbursed expenses covering the cost of home office equipment, to the 2021-22 tax year.
The new UK-wide scheme, being launched this autumn, is aimed at helping 100,000 SMEs save time and money. This will be achieved by adopting productivity-enhancing software, transforming the way they do business. These SMEs will receive a voucher covering up to half the costs of approved software (up to a maximum of £5,000), plus free impartial advice, which will be delivered through an online platform.
Other support for businesses includes SMEs being able to continue to reclaim up to two weeks of eligible Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) costs per employee. This is a temporary scheme, in light of COVID-19, and is intended to support employers while levels of sickness absence may be high. This scheme will close in due course, with the date yet to be confirmed by government.
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