As the coronavirus pandemic has picked up for the second wave, the people of the UK seem more confused than ever before. From initially unclear guidance to the new tier system that has left some areas divided in restrictions simply because they’re under different local councils, for businesses, things can still seem a little uncertain. While Tier 1 and Tier 2 don’t appear to demand much change to the way businesses are working, Tier 3 is where things really start to get murky and for businesses already in, or edging towards Tier 3 areas, clarity is everything. We’ve dug a little deeper to find out just what Tier 3 means for small and medium businesses here in the UK.
On 12th October 2020, the UK government announced the new local COVID alert system based on a three-tier layout. This announcement came as a result of confusion around what local lockdowns should look like following the rise in Covid-19 cases. The tiers are as follows:
- Tier 1 – Medium Alert – This is the current level of most of the UK, and includes the measures already in place nationally, such as 10 pm curfew for pubs and restaurants, and the ‘Rule of Six’ both indoors and outdoors.
- Tier 2 – High Alert – This tier includes all of the same restrictions as Tier 1, however, household mixing indoors is prevented, though the Rule of Six is still applicable outdoors.
- Tier 3 – Very High Alert – This is the highest alert level currently available, and is implemented in areas where transmission rates are of great concern. Social mixing indoors and in private gardens will be prohibited, however, the Rule of Six is still allowed in open public spaces. Pubs and bars must close, but restaurants or pubs and bars that operate as restaurants during this time can remain open. From here, the government will work with local authorities to determine whether any additional businesses or services will need to close.
What Tier 3 Says For Businesses
In Tier 3, it appears to be down to local authorities as to which businesses will need to close, dependant on the situation in each locality. Pubs and bars that cannot or do not operate as restaurants, offering substantial meals at lunch or dinner to patrons, will need to close completely regardless. However other businesses and services such as gyms, casinos, hairdressers, beauty salons and leisure facilities will only need to close if necessary and agreed by the government and their local council.
Non-essential retail shops aren’t being asked to close at this time and currently, the government are not offering shop closures as a characteristic of tier 3 restrictions. This is also the case for schools and Universities.
Tier 3 does, however, also recommend avoiding travel in or out of the area, including overnight stays which could have a drastic effect on the hotel and tourism industries. ‘Staycations’ were on the rise following the green light on travel following the first lockdown, with one staycation reported to be booked every 11 seconds after restrictions were lifted but with the new local lockdowns making things uncertain, this could see a decline as we head into the holiday season.
Is There Any Support Available?
Whether your business has been hit by a local lockdown already, or you’re looking to get prepared in light of a potential tier change, it’s important to understand what support is available to you at this time. On an internal level, knowing exactly what you are covered for with your business insurance policies will give you peace of mind knowing that you are covered. While not all insurance policies will provide you with cover in the case of business interruption due to lockdown, having the cover there for other instances including public liability will ensure that you aren’t having to tackle any additional fees or costs while staying afloat.
If your business is instructed to close, however, the government have implemented financial support options, including money provided directly to local councils for business support. The schemes, loans and help you can apply for include:
- Job Support Scheme – This scheme was introduced to support jobs in businesses who see decreased footfall or demand due to the winter months, but has since been expanded to protect jobs and businesses that are forced to close due to coronavirus measures.
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – This loan scheme is designed to offer access to loans of up to £5 million to provide financial support in the case of business interruption.
- Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan Scheme – This scheme helps businesses access financial support and loans quicker during the outbreak of amounts between £2,000 and up to 25% of business turnover.
- Local Restrictions Support Grant – This is designed to offer support for smaller businesses that were required to close due to local lockdowns, but only if they were operating fully and open as usual to provide in-person services to customers.
While guidance and restrictions could change day by day, having a base understanding of the current situation can give you peace of mind in today’s local lockdown world. For more information about insurance for your business during this time and which policies will support you best, feel free to get in touch, today.