Guidance to employers and businesses about COVID 19

Please visit our COVID-19 recovery page for the latest news as the process in moving from lockdown continues.

Please make sure you’re following our social media accounts for advice and information on support as it becomes available:

Click here for Twitter

Click here for Facebook

Click to sign up for daily news email updates

Cllr Carl Marshall has written to all businesses to assure them of our commitment to do everything possible, as quickly as possible, to support businesses and workers who are impacted.

We have recently completed processing all the business rate reliefs and revised bills have been issued to help provide support to our local businesses. We have also agreed to postpone debt recovery action for anyone in council tax or business rates arrears, pay suppliers immediately and, through Digital Drive County Durham, fast track 40% funding for businesses to purchase technology supporting home working.

We are now processing and making payments through the Small Business Grant Fund and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund. Qualifying businesses will receive grants of £10,000 or £25,000 from us, depending on their circumstances. Go to our Covid 19 – apply for a Small Business Grant Fund and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund page to check your eligibility and complete the online form so that payment can be made into your account as quickly as possible. Our staff are processing applications to ensure payments are checked, processed and paid quickly. You will receive a confirmation once payment has been processed and made direct to your bank account.

Information on Supplier Relief Assistance for our contracted suppliers and supplier invoicing arrangements.

We will continue to act on guidance and disseminate information as soon as we receive it through all our communications channels including social media and the daily email newsletter from Business Durham.

The links below provide a range of information on national measures, guidance for businesses and employers, local business support organisations, and finance.

Update 27th July 2020

Reporting outbreaks of coronavirus (COVID-19)

Guidance has been published on how to recognise, contain and report incidents of coronavirus (COVID-19).  This early outbreak management information has been created to make sure that businesses or organisations know how to recognise and report an incident of coronavirus (COVID-19) and are aware of measures local health protection teams may advise in order to contain it.

Click here for full details

Update 23rd July 2020

Guidance for food businesses

Advice for food businesses in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the UK.

This guidance is intended for all workplaces involved in the manufacturing, processing, warehousing, picking, packaging, retailing and service of food.

This also includes important information about the risk of community dissemination of coronavirus (COVID-19) from circumstances or activities related to the workplace such as transportation and accommodation arrangements.

Click here

The Business and Planning Act

The Business and Planning Act received Royal Assent on 22 July. Guidance has been published on the temporary alcohol licensing provisions in the Business and Planning Act. The guidance includes information on the purpose of the temporary off-sales extension, the difference between pavement licences and alcohol licence, the new summary off-sales review process and general advice on conducting off-sales.

Temporary alcohol licensing provisions guidance:

NHS Test and Trace service in the workplace

The guidance on the NHS Test and Trace service for employers, businesses and workers has been updated. The update includes a section on collecting customer and visitor data for NHS Test and Trace, and additional information on if a worker develops symptoms and orders a test.


Eat Out to Help Out Scheme webinars

HMRC are running free webinars over the next two weeks on the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme. The webinar provides an overview of the scheme, including how the scheme works, eligible establishments, registering and making a claim and what happens after a claim has been made.

To register:

Reduced VAT rate for hospitality, holiday accommodation and attractions

The HMRC guidance for businesses to check if they can temporarily reduce the rate of VAT on supplies relating to hospitality, accommodation, or admission to certain attractions has been updated to include a new section on Retail Schemes. Catering businesses using retail schemes may have to alter their accounting systems for the period 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021.


Business events and meetings

The guidance on working safely for hotels and other guest accommodation, and for those working in the visitor economy, has been updated to include guidance on business events and meetings. Guidance:

Update 22nd June 2020

Reopening businesses safely

The government has published guidance for businesses reopening in England.  The guidance helps businesses carry out a risk assessment and make sensible adjustments.  Employers reopening their business have a legal responsibility to protect their employees and other people on site.  If businesses do not carry out a risk assessment, an enforcement notice can be issued.

Click here


High streets

The government has announced the extension of measures to prevent high street businesses facing eviction from 30 July to 30 September.  This means no business will be forced from their premises if a payment is missed in the next three months. A new code of practice has been developed to encourage commercial tenants and landlords to work together.


Code of practice

Dairy response fund – applications

The dairy response fund is open for applications from dairy farmers in England.  Qualifying farmers are entitled to up to £10,000 to cover 70% of their losses across April and May resulting from a drop in price due to the reduced demand for milk from restaurants, bars, and cafes.

The deadline for applications is 14 August.

Click here

Update 15th June 2020

Update to furlough scheme 

The Government has provided an update to the furlough scheme describing how it will change from 1 July

Click here

Update 11th June 2020

Job Retention Scheme (furlough) – parents returning to work after extended leave

Parents on statutory maternity and paternity leave who return to work in the coming months after a long period of absence will be permitted to be furloughed even after the 10 June cut-off date. This will only apply where they work for an employer who has previously furloughed employees.

More details of changes to the scheme will be included in updated guidance, due to be published on 12 June.

Click here for more

Reopening Shops 

This week the Business Secretary confirmed that shops in England selling non-essential goods will be able to reopen from Monday 15 June, provided they follow government guidelines to keep staff and customers as safe as possible. Retailers will need to take certain steps to protect customers and staff, including limiting the number of customers allowed inside at one time, placing protective coverings on large items, and frequently checking and cleaning objects and surfaces.

Businesses should only reopen once they have completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks. Employers should also display a notice visibly in their shop windows or outside their store to show their employees, customers and other visitors that they have followed this guidance.  We have also provided information to offer guidance on how to reopen businesses safely.

Hairdressers, nail bars and beauty salons, and the hospitality sector remain closed.

Update 2nd June 2020

£5 million support for small businesses 

The government has allocated additional funding to develop a local grant scheme to help specific businesses who have not be able to access previous schemes.  Your business may be eligible – click here to find out more

Update 29 May 2020

The government provided two updates on schemes designed to support businesses.

  • Staff furloughed can be brought back part-time form 1 July and the level of grant provided to businesses will be tapered from August.
  • Those eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be able to claim a second and final grant in August. The grant will be worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

More information can be found here

Update 28 May 2020

NHS Test and Trace – launch

The NHS Test and Trace service begins from 28th May, an overview of the service has been provided with workplace guidance for employers and businesses.

Find out more

Working safely during coronavirus

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are hosting webinars about making workplaces coronavirus secure.

Guidance for businesses to make them as safe as possible during the coronavirus pandemic is also available here

Future webinars:

  • Vehicles – Thursday 28 May 3pm
  • Construction and other outdoor work – Monday 01 June 11am
  • Labs and research facilities – Monday 01 June 3pm
  • Offices and contact centres – Tuesday 02 June 11am
  • Homes – Tuesday 02 June 11am

Register for free 

Recordings of previous webinars are available here

Update 26 May 2020

Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

Employers can find out if they can use the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme to claim back employees’ coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

Find out more

Webinar – Working safely during coronavirus: Shops and branches

There is a free webinar, hosted by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy on Thursday 28 May, 11am: Shops and branches – Guidance for people who run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.  Full details of upcoming webinars click here

Reopening High Streets Safely Fund

The government has announced a new £50 million fund for councils to prepare for the safe reopening of high streets and other retail spaces.

Find out more

Update 22 May 2020

Government launches £40 million Clean Growth Fund to support green start-ups

The Clean Growth Fund is a venture capital vehicle to accelerate early-stage green businesses. It will be accessible to UK-based companies driving green technology across the power, transport, waste, and building energy efficiency sectors.

Find out more

Update 21 May 2020

Working safely webinars

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are hosting a series of free webinars to help businesses make their workplace COVID-secure.

The webinars cover a range of types of workplace settings that are allowed to be open. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles therefore businesses may need to use more than one of the webinars as they prepare. Webinars start from Wednesday 27th May and will run until Tuesday 2nd June – more details and sign up


Legislation to relieve burden on businesses and support recovery

The government has introduced the Corporate Governance and Insolvency Bill in Parliament.  This will put in place a series of measures to amend insolvency and company law to support business to address the challenges resulting from the impact of coronavirus.  The Bill consists of six insolvency measures and two corporate governance measures.
Click here


Pick for Britain

The Environment Secretary has launched a new ‘Pick for Britain’ website to help address the fact that we are likely to only have about a third of our normal labour force for this year’s harvest. Opportunities are available across the UK for those seeking a second job, particularly those that are furloughed.
Click here


Free Skills Toolkit

The Skills Toolkit is made up of free online courses, tools and resources to help improve digital and numeracy skills. Delivered by the Department for Education and National Careers Service, individuals can select from a range of digital topics and skill levels from introductory to advanced.

Click here

Update 20th May 2020

Future Fund

The Future Fund is now open for loan applications by UK-based companies.  This scheme will issue convertible loans between £125,000 to £5 million to innovative companies facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak.  The Future Fund was developed by the government and is being delivered by the British Business Bank.

Click here

Innovative businesses and start-ups  

The government has announced it is investing an additional £20 million in the Fast Start Competition. The competition aims to fast-track the development of innovations borne out of the coronavirus crisis.  The Fast Start Competition was launched in April in response to the outbreak and is being managed by Innovate UK.

Click here

Update 19th May 2020

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Rebate Scheme 

Employers will be able to make claims through the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme.    This scheme allows small and medium-sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to apply to HMRC to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related SSP.  Employers will be able to make their claims through a new online service from 26 May. They will receive repayments at the relevant rate of SSP they have paid to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.

Click here for more

Larger businesses – loans of up to £200 million

The government has announced an extension to the maximum loan size available through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) from £50 million to £200 million.  Loans under the expanded scheme will be made available to large businesses affected by coronavirus from 26 May.

Click here for more  

Update 18th May 2020

Business Grant Fund Scheme

On 1 May 2020, the government informed local authorities in England that additional funding was to be provided to extend the Business Rates Grant scheme. We have now received guidance on eligibility and who will benefit from this scheme.

The allocation to County Durham is only around £5m and the Government have stated that these grants should be primarily and predominantly aimed at:

  • Small and micro businesses (as defined in Section 33 Part 2 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 and the Companies Act 2006).
  • Businesses that were not eligible for the current schemes (Small Business Grants Fund and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants Scheme)
  • Businesses with relatively high ongoing fixed property-related costs
  • Businesses which can demonstrate that they have suffered a significant fall in income due to the COVID-19 crisis
  • Businesses who occupy property, or part of a property, with a rateable value or annual rent or annual mortgage payments below £51,000.

Local authorities have been asked to prioritise the following types of businesses for grants from within this funding pot:

  • Small businesses in shared offices or other flexible workspaces. Examples could include units in industrial parks, science parks and incubators which do not have their own business rates assessment
  • Regular market traders with fixed building costs, such as rent, who do not have their own business rates assessment
  • Bed & Breakfast businesses which pay Council Tax instead of business rates
  • Charity properties in receipt of charitable business rates relief which would otherwise have been eligible for Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief

This grant funding is for businesses that have not been supported through the current schemes and who are not eligible for other Government support schemes. It does not cover businesses operating from a home address and businesses that are eligible for cash grants from any central government COVID-related scheme are ineligible for funding from the Discretionary Grants Fund. Such grant schemes include, but are not limited to:

  • Self Employment Income Support Scheme
  • Small Business Grant Fund
  • Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant
  • The Fisheries Response Fund
  • Domestic Seafood Supply Scheme (DSSS)
  • The Zoos Support Fund
  • The Dairy Hardship Fund

Businesses who have accessed support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) are eligible.

If you are self-employed or a business, the business support finder  will help find the schemes available to offer financial support.

Update 15th May 2020

Holiday entitlement and pay

Government guidance has been published outlining how holiday entitlement and pay operate during the coronavirus pandemic. It is designed to help employers understand their legal obligations towards:

  • workers who continue to work
  • workers who have been placed on furlough as part of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Click here

Update 13th May 2020

Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) – now open

Applications for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme have opened today.  Those eligible will receive a government grant worth up to £7,500 and money is expected to be in bank accounts by 25 May.  Self-employed individuals or members of partnerships whose business has been adversely affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits.

Click here

Roadmap Taskforces

The government has announced that taskforces have been set up to lead the development of new COVID-19 secure guidelines for the reopening of public places and businesses, where and when it is safe to do so.

Click for more

Update 12th May 2020

Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Government has published guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.  Eight guides cover a range of different types of work.

Click here

Job Retention Scheme (furlough) – guide for employers

The Government has updated their guidance on the ‘Job Retention Scheme’ (furlough) and provided a step by step guide for employers, explaining the information that employers need to provide to claim for their employees’ wages.

Click here

The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy

The Government published a document, ‘Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy’.  This is the Government’s roadmap for how and when the UK will adjust its response to the COVID-19 crisis.  The document highlights that COVID-19 Secure guidelines are due to be published this week.

Click here

Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do

The Government has published staying safe outside your home guidance on what the new rules will mean with FAQs to inform the public and help prepare for the changes.  These changes will take effect on Wednesday 13 May.

Click here

Update 7th May 2020

A new fund has been announced enabling eligible dairy farmers in England to access up to £10,000 each to help them overcome the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.  Eligible dairy farmers who have lost more than 25% of their income over April and May due to coronavirus disruptions will be eligible to access this funding for those qualifying months, with no cap set on the number of farmers who can receive this support or on the total funding available.  We will provide further updates when details become available.

Click here for more

Update 6th May 2020

On 1 May, the government announced that a further £617 million will be made available nationally to Local Authorities to help small businesses impacted by coronavirus.  This is an additional 5% uplift to the £12.33 billion funding previously announced for the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants Fund (RHLGF).

Click here for more

This additional fund is aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs. Local authorities have been asked to prioritise:

  • businesses in shared spaces
  • regular market traders
  • small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief
  • bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates

Alongside other local authorities, we have lobbied for this approach and welcome the announcement.  We don’t have details on how this scheme will work and if there will be any exclusions.  Therefore we are currently unable to offer advice or make payments. However, our teams are working to identify businesses that could be eligible and will update this website once government guidance becomes available.

Update Monday 4th May 2020

Bounce Back Loans

From Monday 4 May, small businesses can apply to accredited lenders for a Bounce Back Loan of £2,000 to £50,000.  The government has set up the loan scheme through a simple, online form with seven questions and cash is expected to be paid in days.  Features of the loans include: 100% backed for lenders, 2.5% flat interest rate and the government covers the cost of any fees and interest for the borrower in the first 12 months.
Click here for more

Update Friday 1st May 2020

You may be eligible for a £10,000 or £25,000 grant

Over £88 million in grants has now been paid out to small businesses in County Durham to help them deal with coronavirus. Almost 8,000 businesses have already received grants of £10,000 or £25,000 to help deal with the impact of coronavirus. These grants do not need to be paid back.

If you think you’re eligible and haven’t heard from us, check what support is available to you or contact our finance team on 03000 268 997 or email

Applying is easy – complete the online form  

Update Tuesday 28 April 2020

Small Business Loan Scheme

The Chancellor has announced a new micro loan scheme providing a solution for those in need of smaller loans. Businesses will be able to apply for these new bounce back loans for 25% of their turnover up to a max of £50,000 with the govt paying the interest for the first twelve months. These loans will be available from 9am next Monday. There will be no forward looking tests of business viability or complex eligibility criteria, but a form for businesses to fill in. For most firms loans should arrive within 24hrs of approval, and the govt will guarantee to the lender 100% of the loan.
Click here for more

Update Monday 27 April 2020

COVID-19 Testing

Updated guidance on testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) is available at and there is a self-referral portal for essential workers

Mobile testing for COVID-19 is being conducted at Bishop Auckland College from the 26th-28th of April.  Further sites will be running around the region, which will be publicised as they are confirmed.  The Bishop Auckland College Site is available to all essential workers.  Booking your test can be done through employer referral or as a self-referral, both options will allow Bishop Auckland to be selected as the preferred test location.

The mobile testing unit can still accept key workers who have been unable to book online, priority will be given to the care sector.

Update Tuesday 21st April

Business Support Finder Tool

You may be eligible for loans, tax relief and cash grants.  A new ‘support finder’ tool has been launched to help businesses and self-employed people quickly and easily determine what financial support is available during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fishing and aquaculture fund

A £10 million fund for England’s fishing and aquaculture sectors has been announced by the government. Direct cash grants will be available through a fisheries support scheme. Financial support for England’s fishing businesses

Monday 20th April

Job Retention Scheme (furlough)

A step by step guide for employers has been published and the scheme is now live with businesses able to claim up to £2,500 a month towards staff wages.

Click here for more

Innovative Companies support package

The government has announced £1.25 billion investment funds for innovative companies.

The support package includes:

  • £500 million investment fund for high-growth companies impacted by the crisis
  • £750 million of grants and loans for SMEs focusing on research and development

Click here for more

Government backed loan scheme for large businesses

The government-backed loan scheme for large businesses affected by coronavirus has been expanded to cover all viable firms with turnover of more than £45m. This complements existing support including the Covid Corporate Financing Facility and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Click here for more


Support and government funding for organisations in education, childcare and children’s social care are available.

Click here for more

The full range of support available to businesses of all sizes through this period are available at:

Update Friday 17th April

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)

The new CLBILS launching on Monday will ensure that more firms can benefit from government-backed support. Firms with a turnover of more than £45 million will now be able to apply for up to £25 million of finance, and up to £50 million for firms with a turnover of more than £250 million.

Click here to read more

Chancellor extends furlough scheme to end of June

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extended by one month to reflect continuing social distancing measures.

Click here to read more

Update Thursday 16th April

Job Retention Scheme (furlough) – the government has announced the eligibility cut-off date is extended to 19 March 2020, this means thousands more workers can be furloughed.  The scheme is expected to be fully operational next week.

Click here for more

Update Tuesday 14th April

The government has a new business support website with important links to further information including

  • Funding and support
  • Self-employed and sole traders
  • Your responsibilities as an employer
  • Managing your business during coronavirus

The government has provided clarification on the Job Retention Scheme (furlough) to employees and employers including:

  • the basis for furlough pay for employees furloughed on return from (maternity/paternity/shared parental/adoption/sick/parental bereavement) leave;
  • employees subject to TUPE transfer/ business reorganisation/ payroll consolidation can be furloughed
  • the position for contractors in scope of IR35 in the public sector
  • information employers need to claim the grant
  • circumstances where an employee shouldn’t be furloughed by multiple employers

Guidance on the scheme is available

Employees: Check if your employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme  

Employers: Claim for your employees’ wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Update Thursday 9th April

Job Retention Scheme (furlough) – an online portal will be open to receive applications from 20 April 2020.  First payments are expected to be made by the end of this month. Reports suggest that the demand for the scheme from the private sector was likely to be three times that expected when the scheme was originally announced – click here

Government webinar on this scheme – click here to access the webinar.

Social distancing in the workplace – the government published a set of sector specific guidance notes for social distancing in the workplace. This includes general social distancing guidance that can be accessed here, as well as specific pages on construction, international freight and transport sectors.  This also includes guidance for the waste sector where it is not possible to practice social distancing in the workplace, including in vehicle cabs and includes a direct link to the recently published Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Guidance. For more information visit and WISH.

Charities – the government  has announced £750 million in new funding for the charity sector. This will comprise of £370 million for small, local charities supporting vulnerable people. In England this will be provided by organisations like the National Lotteries Communities Fund. £360 million will also be provided directly to specific charities providing essential services and supporting vulnerable people. For more information click here.

Wednesday 8th April

Today the Secretary of State for business, energy and industrial strategy, Alok Sharma sent a letter to those working in manufacturing – click here to read.

Update 7th April 2020

Job Retention Scheme – furloughed workers

Check if your employer can use the scheme, if you’re eligible and how much your employer can claim – click here.

Apprenticeships – The government has published a document with guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations in response to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) – find out more here.

Update 6th April 2020

Relaxation of rules to support business – The Government has relaxed rules and regulations to help businesses handle any disruption they are experiencing due to coronavirus (COVID-19) – more info here.

Pay it forward campaign – The Business Support campaign is working with Crowdfunder to build awareness about the support provided to small businesses through the Pay it Forward campaign. Small businesses can set-up a Pay it Forward campaign to pre-sell their services and diversify trading – more info here.

£20 million funding for ambitious technologies – Businesses that can help boost the UK’s resilience to the long-term impact of coronavirus and similar future situations, can access grants of up to £50,000 from  £20 million government funding. More info here.

UK RI (UK Research & Innovation) Funding – Keep up to date with the work of UKRI in response to the crisis, including grants, awards and call to fund ideas. More info here.

Update 3rd April 2020

Council Tax 

There are a range of options available, including spreading payments evenly over 12 months or starting payments from June instead of April. To apply, see Postpone your council tax payments

We have postponed debt recovery across several areas, including Council Tax and Business Rates. If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax because you are affected by the coronavirus, please contact us on 03000 26 4000 or email

Estate agents and letting agents will now be exempt from Council Tax.

The Government has taken further action to support firms affected by the coronavirus crisis by bolstering business interruption loans for small businesses and announcing a new scheme for larger companies.

Extended Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

The Government has extended the CBILS so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible should they need finance to keep operating during this difficult time.

The government is also stopping lenders from requesting personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 and making operational changes to speed up lending approvals. The government will continue to cover the first twelve months of interest and fees.

Please find further details here:

New Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)

The new CLBILS will ensure that more firms are able to benefit from government-backed support during this difficult time. It will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £25 million to firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million.

Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest and further details of the scheme will be announced later this month.

Update 2 April 2020

HMRC are delivering webinars on the measures available to support employers, employees and the self-employed.  Watch the first webinar & register for future webinars.

Update 1 April

You can currently postpone your business rate payments – to apply see Postpone your business rate payments if you have been impacted by coronavirus.

Update 30 March 2020

Update 29 March 2020

A service has been launched to help businesses support the response to coronavirus – if your business can help complete the form. Support needed includes:

  • medical testing equipment
  • medical equipment design
  • protective equipment for healthcare workers, such as masks, gowns and sanitiser
  • hotel rooms
  • transport and logistics, for moving goods or people
  • manufacturing equipment
  • warehouse or office space, for medical use or storage
  • expertise or support on IT, manufacturing, construction, project management, procurement, engineering or communications
  • social care or childcare

Update 27th March 2020

Further details of Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme announced

Click here

New advice to support mental health during coronavirus outbreak

People struggling with their mental health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak will be offered additional online support and practical guidance to help them cope.
Click here

COVID-19: guidance for staff in the transport sector

Guidance on COVID-19, including general precautions for staff and guidance on the assessment and management of arrivals into the UK.

Click here

Update 26 March 2020

Measures to support the self-employed

The Government has today announced measures to support the self-employed. Introduction of the ‘Self-employed income support scheme’ which will:

  • Pay the self-employed adversely affected a taxable grant of 80% of average profits over the past three years
  • Up to £2,500 per month for a period 3 over months
  • Available to anyone with trading profits of up to £50,000

Key information

  •  The self-employed can claim grants and continue to work
  •  The majority of income must be through self-employment
  •  Must have a tax return for 2019 to apply
  •  HMRC expect the scheme to be operating from June
  • HMRC will contact eligible directly requesting completion of an online form
  •  Grants will be paid directly into bank accounts
  • Those who missed the tax return deadline have four weeks from the 26th of March to file return
  •  Self-assessment tax payments can be deferred until January next year

Other information

  • Self-employed people can apply for the Business Interruption Loans
  •  Self-employed people can access Universal Credit

Click here for more information

Update 25 March 2020

Grant Fund Payments

We received government guidance on these schemes late on 23 March and are now processing payments under the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Grant Fund.  Qualifying businesses will receive grants of £10,000 or £25,000 from Durham County Council depending on their circumstances. Businesses that do not have a business premises or do not meet the criteria laid down are not eligible to receive a grant under these schemes.

If you/your business has received a letter or email from us to confirm that you are eligible, we now need to collect information to process the payments in line with Government guidelines – including your bank details in order to make the payment by bank transfer.  Please complete the electronic form as soon as possible.  Once your eligibility is confirmed, we will process your payments as soon as we receive these details and you will receive payment in a matter of days.

Please click here to access the Grant Fund payment form.

To check your eligibility for these grants, please:

Click here to check eligibility for small business grant funding.

Click here to check eligibility for retail and hospitality cash grants.

The business support finder tool will help you determine your eligibility for cash grants, tax relief and loans. or

If you require assistance in completing the form please contact Revenues and Benefits on 03000 268 997 or email

Under these schemes, the Council expects to pay grants totalling around £77 million under the Small Business Grant Fund, where qualifying businesses will receive a grant of £10,000, and around £12 million under the Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Grant Fund, where qualifying businesses will receive a grant of £25,000.

We are working hard to make these payments to businesses as quickly as possible.  To do this, we need the information we have been asked to collect as part of this process and guidelines – please help us to help you, by looking out for your letter or email confirming that you qualify and completing the form above.

Update Tuesday 24 March 2020

A new Corona Virus website has been launched offering detailed guidance to businesses and the self employed.

Click here to access

Key measures include:

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.
Click here 

Deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months.

Click here

HMRC Time to Pay

HMRC have also scaled up their Time to Pay offer to all firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of Covid-19 and have outstanding tax liabilities.
Click here

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

A new temporary scheme, with details of accredited banks on the British Business Bank website, has been launched to support primarily small and medium-sized businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.

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Business Rates Holiday for Retail, Hospitality and Leisure sectors

Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year.
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Cash grant for retail, hospitality and leisure

If your business is in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector, you will receive a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property.
Businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of under £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000.
Businesses with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000.
The Government published the guidance on how these schemes will work on 23 March and expects Councils to make payments at or around 1 April. Durham County Council is working hard to adopt this guidance and start to process payments as soon as it can and in advance of 1 April if possible.

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COVID 19 Corporate Financing Facility

The new Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) means that the Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger companies.

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Income tax deferral for the self-employed

If you are self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

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Statutory Sick Pay rebate

The Government will bring forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for staff sickness absence due to coronavirus. This refund will cover up to 2 weeksí SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of coronavirus.

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Business Rates holiday for nurseries

Nurseries in England do not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year.

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Other FAQs

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Notices to exporters

The Department for International Tradeís Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) has issued two Notices to Exporters concerning the impact on training and licensing activities. For general export control queries please contact ECJUís Helpline on 020 7215 4594 or

Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for the charity sector

The Charity Commission have produced guidance to help running your charity during the outbreak.

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Support and Advice for Business

As a council, we fully appreciate the concerns of businesses across the county at this very difficult time.  While the Chancellor’s announcement about how the government will support business is very welcome and much needed, we do not yet have the detail.  As a council we are using all our available channels to press for answers from the government and are committed to making this information available as soon as we receive it; in a practical and useable way.

We are here to give advice and support to all County Durham businesses, large and small.  As a council, we have recently agreed to pay suppliers immediately and, through Digital Drive County Durham, fast track 40% funding for businesses to purchase technology supporting home working.

We will continue to disseminate information as we receive it through all our communications channels including social media and the daily email newsletter from Business Durham.

National Business Support Helpline

Phone: 0300 4563565


FSB Advice

FSB information for small businesses and the self employed

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Local Support

Supporting businesses to adopt the digital tech to support home working Digital Drive

Up to 40% funding available to help businesses purchase digital equipment and consultancy to enable them to work remotely.

Never before has it been more important for businesses to have the ability to work remotely than it is right now.  Businesses across the globe are currently seeking to ensure they have the tools and infrastructure in place to be resilient during some potentially testing times.

If you are considering purchasing equipment and expertise to help you with remote working then Digital Drive County Durham may be able to help with up to 40% of your costs.  This can cover:

  • Laptops
  • Mobile devices
  • Cloud based software
  • Consultancy

Our new Fast Track application process can help to have your project approved and completed as quickly as we possibly can to enable you to start remote working right away.

Please give us a call on 07443 247648 or visit our website to find out more and to check your eligibility.

North East Growth Hub Covid19 Toolkit

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Employment rights and advocacy (ACAS)

Employers should consider some simple steps to help protect the health and safety of staff.

Read: Coronavirus: advice for employers and employees 

Banks and finance

Barclays, Santander, Virgin Money, and TSB have announced they will be offering payment holidays for loans and mortgages to help businesses and individuals affected by coronavirus.


Barclays has launched a free telephone helpline offering support and information to its business banking customers. It is also providing repayment holidays.

Read: Coronavirus: frequently asked questions  


Lloyds has launched a £2 billion package to help minimise disruption to business operations. Support includes repayment holidays, and no arrangement fees for new or increased overdrafts, invoice discounting and finance facilities.

Read: Lloyds Banking Group ready to support UK small businesses impacted by COVID-19 


NatWest has announced a £5 billion fund to support small and medium-sized firms to deal with the impact of coronavirus. Support includes the provision of working capital, loan repayment holidays and temporary emergency loans with no fees.

Read: NatWest pledges £5bn Working Capital Support for SMEs during Coronavirus outbreak


Santander has outlined the support it is offering to customers impacted by coronavirus. Support includes a helpline and advice on managing finances.

Read: Santander business

Business support organisations

Department of International Trade  

Federation of Small Businesses 

Engineering Manufacturing Network 

Make UK (manufacturing)

North East England Chamber of Commerce 

Other Business News

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County Durham firm secures £600k of new business thanks to Business Durham

Work gathers pace on landmark industrial development

County Durham start-ups eye growth through accelerator programme