Member Press Releases

Coronavirus advice from NAJ

12 Mar 2020

face masks

The COVID-19 coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. The National Association of Jewellers is closely monitoring the situation as it develops and is very mindful of the additional pressure this is putting on our membership. We will continue to follow official advice from the Government and health authorities. While some NAJ meetings have been postponed, and we are planning for the possibility of our physical office being closed, we will continue to support our members as before.

UK Government is entering the ‘delay phase’ to minimise suffering and stretch the peak to allow society to better cope, which at a future point may possibly include minimising travel, advice against public gatherings (possibly including visiting shopping centres), and further potential restrictions such as the closure of schools. At time of writing, these restrictions are not yet in place. However, those exhibiting viral infection symptoms, and their families, are asked to self-isolate for at least seven days to protect the elderly and vulnerable in our population.

 

The Budget

The Chancellor gave significant support to businesses in the budget this week. A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable businesses with a turnover of no more than £41m to apply for a loan of up to £1.2m, with the Government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees. This will unlock up to £1bn to protect and support small businesses.  As soon as further advice on how to access this funding is available, we will be updating members.

For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the Government in full. This will provide 2 million businesses with up to £2bn to cover the costs of large-scale sick leave. NB: Our understanding is that Government will be working with employers over the coming months to set up a repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible. The current advice is that employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP.

A dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities to receive support with their tax affairs (0800 0159 559). Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement.

The government also published news of a £3,000 cash grant for 700,000 of the UK’s smallest businesses, delivered by Local Authorities, and worth a total of £2bn. Also to note is the extension of the retail business rate relief to cover the hospitality sector, some may be eligible for the £3,000 cash grant available to companies who benefit from the small business rate relief. You can check the ‘rateable value’ of your property – this is set by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) and used by your local council to calculate your business rates bill. 

https://www.gov.uk/correct-your-business-rates.  

The Bank of England have also announced a comprehensive package of measures to help UK businesses and households bridge across the economic disruption that is likely to be associated with COVID-19. Interest rates have been reduced from 0.75% to 0.25% and additional funding will be available for banks to increase lending, especially to SMEs.

 

Insurance

In terms of cover for Business Interruption, for cover to exist members would have to have purchased an extension called “Notifiable Diseases Extension” as the government has declared COVID 19 a notifiable disease. This extension is usually only offered/bought in the leisure sector by Hotels, Restaurants, Sporting Venues etc, where profit is driven by foot fall. It is rare for this extension to have been purchased in our sector.

 NAJ Insurance partner TH March has provided general insurance guidance in the current circumstances.

Download TH March guidance

washing hands

Image: Government advice is still to make sure hands are washed regularly

Contractual Advice

Where there are force majeure provisions, the events are usually defined.  This is often a long list including acts of God, flood, drought, earthquake and so on.  Sometimes, it includes failure or interruption of utility services or non-performance of suppliers or sub-contractors.  In light of Covid-19, businesses need to know if the force majeure definition includes epidemic or pandemic or civil emergency or similar.  In the absence of such knowledge, then it may be the case that a business can rely on action taken by the government or a public authority (for example a government announcement on travel restrictions which may prevent a business from fulfilling its contractual obligations).  Members are advised to contact NAJ’s legal helpline or our preferred insurance partner TH March with specific questions.

 

NAJ Member Considerations

The health, safety and well-being of wider society is of paramount importance during this global health emergency. You should work via your business continuity plan to attempt to minimise exposure for your staff. NAJ advises members to consider the following seven steps:

  1. Ensure your business has appropriate plans in place, both in terms of risk management planning and business continuity. Ensure your insurance policy covers business interruption cover including notifiable diseases – see NAJ’s preferred insurance partner TH March [https://www.thmarch.co.uk/] for advice.

  2. Be ready for operational disruption. Consumer uncertainty is likely to lead to further avoidance of non-discretionary purchases in coming months. Import and export are already disrupted. If you have to self-isolate, can your team continue to run the business either from the main site or remotely? Ensure you have an emergency contact list and a plan of action. Staff may need to care for others (e.g. if schools close). Issue clear advice on travel internationally and domestically. What do your current employment contracts offer in terms of Statutory Sick Pay and extended periods where they cannot work? In a worst case scenario what is your lay-off policy and how quickly can you implement change?

  3. Stay Informed. Keep up to date and keep yourself and others safe. If possible, staff should be asked to work from home (ensure they have the kit and training to do this), stagger their commute, and think about how they socialise. If your business is reliant on staff being on site at specific times, follow the latest Government advice on minimising infection (see below). Ensure staff know what to do in the event they start to experience symptoms, or someone they live with has to self-isolate. How are you forecasting potential cash implications should work be delayed?

  4. Ensure supply chain continuity. What contractual obligations do I have and what would be the impact of any prolonged period of delay?  Is this covered by Force Majeure? Have you spoken to material suppliers about any stock issues? Consider alternative sourcing, such as UK manufacturers. NAJ’s advice on business continuity https://www.naj.co.uk/jewellery-news/business-planning-for-resilience may be of assistance.

  5. Support your team to stay healthy. Encourage sensible precautions (hand washing, hard surface cleaning, waste removal, provision of tissues, sanitiser use, clean any jewellery after a customer handles it) including asking staff to stay at home in the event they are infected.

  6. Consider how you engage with customers. Let them know if you are likely to be disrupted, and what precautions you are taking – reassure them. Note that your competitors are likely to be affected in exactly the same way. Consider what your business can do to support your customers at this difficult time. Can you deliver the same service remotely? Steer people to your website if possible. Retailers may wish to consider operating a remote jewellery consultation service rather than face-to-face meetings, using communication tools such as Skype, Teams, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp etc to videoconference with customers, and offer products and services that can support your customers e.g. jewellery cleaning. When things return to normal, be clear about this in communications – you may have set up waiting lists, so remind people of what you have done to support them.

  7. Think Local. Support other local businesses and consider where you source products. Continue to follow Government advice but carry on with daily life within that context. Remember, together, we will get through this.

 

UK Government advice on managing and containing Coronavirus continues to adapt as time goes by. Here are some useful links for your business to help you stay safe:

Dept of Health and Social Care twitter feed: https://twitter.com/DHSCgovuk

NHS Advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Government Advice: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-employees-employers-and-businesses

UK Government Response to COVID-19: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

Self-Isolation: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/02/20/what-is-self-isolation-and-why-is-it-important/

Public Health Matters general advice: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/23/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know/

ACAS advice: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

NAJ blog on business resilience: https://www.naj.co.uk/jewellery-news/business-planning-for-resilience

NAJ has a range of free helplines and documentation for members to use on legal, HR, tax and other topics – see https://www.naj.co.uk/benefits

 

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Request for business intelligence: How is COVID-19 impacting jewellery businesses?

 

The Government is closely monitoring developments in relation to potential economic impacts on the UK economy and individual businesses and supply chain and we are keen that businesses feed back any specific concerns. 

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy seeks business intelligence on how COVID-19 is impacting individual businesses and business sectors.  We welcome information from you on:

  • The impacts across supply, demand and labour markets

  • Actions being taken by firms to address these impacts

  • Any gaps in the Government response from your perspective

 

Please send this information to simon@naj.co.uk  who is monitoring on behalf of FIS both internally and externally.  We understand that individual company information may be commercially sensitive, and it will be treated accordingly.

If you receive any legal or practical advice that you would be prepared to share or have specific questions, again email simon@naj.co.uk

 

 

Source: The NAJ