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COVID-19: Guidance and resources for churches, charities and Christian workers

 

A collection of guidance, commentary and links to further resources and information to help churches and charities through the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The following notes and commentary are designed to help church and charity leaders, along with Christian missionaries and other Christian workers to navigate their way through the many resources available during this pandemic. The laws and guidance covered apply in England but does not cover local lockdown rules. There may also be variations for those based in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

We have briefly summarised the relevant material and then signposted you to further Stewardship and third-party information.

Information is changing daily and you are therefore urged to check that you are viewing the most up-to-date details.

 

A. Help for Churches and Christian Charities

  1. Places of Worship (including for weddings and funerals)
  2. Job Support Scheme
  3. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (‘CJRS’ or ‘Furloughing’) 
  4. Coronavirus Job Retention Bonus Scheme
  5. DBS Checks: Use of expired passports for ID checking during COVID-19
  6. Holiday entitlement and pay during coronavirus (COVID-19)
  7. Government-backed Loan Schemes
  8. Statutory Sick Pay (‘SSP’)
  9. Tax: Expenses and benefits provided to employees during COVID-19
  10. Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Leave
  11. COVID-19 implications for charity accounting
  12. Protection from eviction by landlord for non payment of rent
  13. Gift Aid and the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme
  1. Deferring payments of tax due
  2. Guidance for employers and businesses during COVID-19
  3. Business Rates: Cash grants and extended rates relief for retail, leisure and hospitality sectors
  4. Coronavirus, contracts: cancellation and refunds (including for weddings)
  5. VAT on digital publications and on supplies of essential PPE
  6. Business Rates: Empty Property Relief
  7. COVID-19 Small Business Grant Fund (‘SBGF’)
  8. Risk of fraud and cybercrime against charities during COVID-19
  9. Support for Pastors and Church Leaders

 

B. Help for Self-Employed Christian Missionaries and other Christian Workers

  1. Self Employed Income Support Scheme and welfare benefits for the self employed
  2. Deferral of Self Assessment tax payments
  3. Protection from eviction from rented and mortgaged accommodation

 

C. Help for Individuals and Workers

  1. Legal duty to self isolate, financial support whilst isolating and fines for non-compliance
  2. Easing lockdown: General help
  3. Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare
  4. Help for low-income families with seriously ill or disabled children
  5. HMRC advice on giving up employment or investment income during COVID-19
  6. Scams: Scammers taking advantage of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

 

D. Other General Resources / Signposts

  1. Charity Tax Group
  2. Charity Excellence Framework
  3. NCVO
  4. London Funders
  5. HMRC

 

A. Help for Churches and Christian Charities

 

1. Places of worship (including for weddings and funerals)

The Government’s COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic, originally published on 4 July, has been revised on several occasions since, most notably to take account of the ‘Rule of Six’ and the Prime Minister’s Statement to the House of Commons on 22 September.

 

The guidance that follows is supplemented by announcements in the Prime Minister’s Statement to the House of Commons on 22 September.

 

  • Law vs guidance

Many of these new rules are now mandatory parts of law, rather than a mix of law and guidance. The guidance uses ‘must’ to indicate a legal requirement and ‘should’ to indicate that whilst not law, it is strongly advised that consideration is given to following the advice given to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

 

  • Local law and guidance in response to rises in infection rates

Readers are advised that what follows is national law and guidance and therefore it may be necessary, in addition, to consult local information and restrictions.

 

  • Rule of six

From 14 September 2020, when meeting friends and family you do not live with (or have formed a support bubble with), you must not meet in a group of more than six, indoors or outdoors. Social distancing rules should be followed, even in the group of six.

Failing to comply is against the law and the police have the powers to enforce these legal limits, including to issue fines of £200, increasing for further breaches up to £6,400. Note that this is a personal responsibility and fines will therefore be issued to individuals. Organisational breaches are subject to a fine of £10,000. Failure to pay the fine could lead to prosecution (and possible closure of the venue).

Although there is an exemption on the total number of persons gathering in a place of worship, social distancing must still be maintained from any persons that you do not live with or have formed a support bubble with. Further, the rule of six still applies: People should only arrive, worship and leave the venue in groups of six unless all members of the group are from the same household or support bubble. In this regard, reference should be made to the Government Coronavirus (COVID-19): Meeting with others safely (social distancing) guidance. The key message of HANDS, FACE and SPACE is reinforced. 

 

Indoor organised sport for over 18s is no longer to be exempt from the ‘rule of six’. There is an exemption for indoor organised team sports for disabled people.

 

  • Places of worship – gatherings of more than six

The new laws from 14 September 2020 continue to allow churches to meet for communal worship in a COVID-19 secure way, which includes gatherings of more than 30 people in, or in the grounds of, the place of worship. However, people must not ‘mingle’ in a group of more than six (unless they live with them or have formed a support bubble with them). See ‘rule of six’ above.

For these purposes, ‘place of worship’ includes public buildings such as a community centre which is used for a religious gathering. However, they should only be opened if those managing the venue consider it safe to do so within the Government guidelines. It does not include public parks, private homes or cultural sites and other open spaces that may be used for religious purposes.

 

  • Places of worship guidance – key points

Key points in the revised places of worship guidance (which are developed further below) are:

  • Proper risk assessment that accounts for COVID-19 is essential. Failure to complete this or to have insufficient measures set out in it could breach both health and safety legislation and coronavirus legislation. Churches are reminded that as a workplace, you have responsibilities as an employer under existing health and safety law as well as a duty of care to volunteers to ensure that as far as reasonably practicable, they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
  • The measures announced by the Prime Minister on 22 September included a statement that compliance with COVID secure guidance may become mandatory by law (see ‘Other recent changes potentially affecting churches’ above. Until the supporting legislation is published it is not clear if this will apply to churches. 
  • The ‘rule of six’ applies during church services. People should only arrive, worship and leave the venue in groups of six unless all members of the group are from the same household or support bubble
  • Whilst engaging in an activity in the church or surrounding grounds, all parties should maintain social distancing rules at all times, even within a group of six. That is two metres apart, or more than one metre apart as well as taking extra steps to stay safe (such as wearing face coverings) to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • Table 1 summarises the position for churches and includes the limits on the number of people gathering in each case. Note however that this has not been updated for the Prime Minister’s statement to the House of Commons, for which refer to the further guidance: What has Changed – 22 September:
  • Venue managers are strongly advised to minimise the potential for spreading of COVID-19 among worshippers, and those working or volunteering for the church
  • Venue managers should take all possible steps to secure the safety of the public, ensuring that gathering limits, whether national or set locally, are adhered to
  • Individual venues should consider the impact of many venues re-opening in a small area.
  • Detailed guidance is provided on matters such as the use of shared items, food and drink, singing (do’s and don’ts), weddings, outdoor worship, use of water, cash handling and young people and children
  • A separate section provides guidance on more general actions to reduce the spread of infection:  
    • Test and Trace
    • restrictions on capacity
    • social distancing
    • hygiene, toilets, cleaning
    • face coverings
    • vulnerable and elderly
  • An Annex provides a template consent form (for GDPR purposes) to collect contact details of attendees for Test and Trace purposes (for which, see more below)

Annex A of the guidance covers factors to consider as part of a risk assessment for protective security as a result of COVID-19 changes and includes links to CPNI (Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure) and NaCTSO (National Counter Terrorism Security Office) for advice in the context of COVID-19 and in particular, general and specific security advice, and terror threats in crowded places.

 

  • Church services

Key principles

It is up to individual churches to decide if they can safely open with reference to the guidance, specific circumstances, size and type of activities, organisation, operation, management and applicable regulations. Remaining closed is an option. The following should be taken into consideration:

Assessment of risk

A COVID-19 risk assessment should be undertaken. Failure to do so could breach both Health and Safety legislation and the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (no.2) Regulations 2020 as could having a risk assessment with insufficient measures set out.

The measures announced by the Prime Minister on 22 September included a statement that compliance with COVID secure guidance may become mandatory by law (see ‘Other recent changes potentially affecting churches’ above. Until the supporting legislation is published it is not clear if this will apply to churches.

When re-opening or repurposing a building for worship, additional risk assessments should be considered, such as a new fire risk assessment, safe travel to/from the venue and safe entry and exit.

Churches are encouraged in the guidance to make their risk assessments available online where possible.

Annex A of the guidance provides links to generic guidance on risk assessment from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Some church denominations have developed their own for use by their churches.

For example: 

Church of England

Baptist Union

FIEC

 

Number in attendance

There is not a specific limit on the number of people attending a service in a place of worship. The limit should be determined by the capacity of the building whilst complying with the COVID-19 secure guidelines, following risk assessment and strict adherence to social distancing.

Social distancing

All venue managers and visitors to a church must follow the law and should follow the guidance on social distancing including:

  • Adhering to social distancing (two metres apart, or more than one metre apart plus extra steps to stay safe, such as wearing face coverings) to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • For frequently used places, mark areas using floor tape or paint to help people maintain social distance.
  • Ensure that groups attending communal worship together do not exceed more than six people per group. This group of six can be made up of people from different households, but strict social distancing must be maintained between members of different households at all times. The ‘rule of six’ applies during church services. People should only arrive, worship and leave the venue in groups of six.
  • The only exception to this where a single household or support bubble is larger than six people. In this case, the single household or support bubble may attend communal worship together.

The church’s COVID-19 risk assessment should consider actions to limit risk of transmission. These could include, for instance, avoiding any face-to-face seating by changing layouts, reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improving ventilation, using protective screens and face coverings, and closing non-essential social spaces.

Queue management is important so the flow of groups in and out of the premises can be carefully controlled in a socially distanced way, reducing the risk of congestion or contact. Considerations should be made for how to manage those waiting outside a place of worship, including the introduction of socially distanced queuing systems.

All religious practices should be carried out to try ensure social distancing can be maintained between individuals from different households.

Other actions to take to reduce the risk of transmission to support social distancing could include:

  • Those leading the worship reminding congregants of the importance of social distancing and hygiene.
  • Introducing a one-way flow in and out of the premises with appropriate floor markings or signage, with restrictions on accessing non-essential areas. At the end of worship, this could include worshippers leaving one row at a time, in order to prevent crowding at entry or exit points.
  • Multiple entry points could be opened, and clear signposting or assistance could be offered to guide worshippers and to avoid congestion.
  • Use of a booking system for attendees which could stagger arrival times will help reduce the flow at exits and entrances. You may want to consider how prioritisation could be given to people who may have a specific need or requirement.
  • Using screens, barriers or alternative rooms and spaces to separate worshippers.
  • Any changes to entrances, exits and queues should take into account reasonable adjustments to accommodate those who need them, such as worshippers with physical disabilities.
  • Consider set days or times when the church is open solely for those particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, such as those over 70 or clinically vulnerable.
  • Where social distancing cannot be maintained, extra attention needs to be paid to cleaning and hygiene to reduce the risk of transmission. Consider how well-ventilated the venue is and improve this where possible, for example by fixing doors open where appropriate.
  • Decisions to reopen car parks may mean practical measures such as changing the car park layout to help people socially distance.

Outdoor worship

In the grounds of the church:

More than 30 people can gather in the grounds of the church provided that they do so as part of the activities of the church. Multiple groups of six people can participate provided that these groups do not ‘mingle’. A risk assessment should be conducted and COVID-19 Secure measures implemented. The number of people who are actually able to gather will be dependent on the size of the space available.

In public outdoor spaces:

More than 30 people can meet in a public outdoor space, provided that it is as part of an event organised by the church and:

  • The church has conducted a full risk assessment within Reg 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (whether the church is subject to these regulations or not)
  • Any relevant government guidance has been taken into account, and
  • All reasonable measures to limit the transmission of coronavirus have been taken in the light of the relevant regulations and guidance
  • If arranging an event for more than six people in a public outdoor space the church should liaise with those responsible for the open space in question to ensure that the event can be staged in a safe and legal way, which includes undertaking a risk assessment that considers security (see Annex A of the guidance)

In private outdoor spaces:

  • It is illegal for groups larger than six to meet in a private outdoor space (including private gardens) unless the group consists solely of a single household or two linked households
  • Religious activity is not exempt from this rule

Use of water (including baptisms and full immersion baptisms)

  • Where baptism or any other ceremony requires water to be applied to the body, others present should move out of the range of any potential splashing
  • Where an infant is involved, a parent/guardian or other member of the infant’s regular household should hold the infant
  • All individuals involved should thoroughly wash their hands before and after and ensure good hygiene.
  • Full immersion baptisms should be very carefully planned following these rules:
    • Those being immersed should be at least two metres away from the congregation and officiants at all times, except while they are being immersed
    • Only one person should be immersed at any time and they should only be attended by a single officiant/clergy member
    • During the immersion, the clergy/officiant can place their hands on the head of the person being immersed, but they should not ‘cradle’ the person or touch them in any other way
    • The clergy/officiant should wash their hands after each person is immersed, or if this isn’t possible they should use hand sanitiser

Streaming of services

Continuation of streaming worship services is encouraged to avoid the necessity for larger gatherings at church itself. In particular, this will benefit the aged and infirm, those who are clinically vulnerable and those that have or think that they may have symptoms.

Shared items

Reusable / communal items such as prayer mats, service sheets, bibles etc should be removed from use. Single-use alternatives, removed by, and disposed by, the worshipper can be used. If it is necessary to use (for example) pew bibles, these should be cleaned and quarantined 48 hours before and after use (cleaning advice is given in the guidance).

Food and drink

Detailed advice is given to avoid spread of infection from use of food and drink as part of the act of worship. This is probably limited to holy communion. Churches are advised to avoid use of communal vessels.

Cafes within a place of worship are permitted to open but are limited to table service and social distancing. The hospitality guidance should be observed.

Singing etc., and use of musical instruments

The guidance now distinguishes between ‘leaders/performers’ and ‘congregation’.

Leaders:

  • Small groups of no more than six singers can sing in front of worshippers both indoors and outdoors. This should not include audience participation. The Performing Arts guidance should be taken into account.
  • Recorded music in worship is suggested rather than live singing in order to mitigate risk.
  • Any instruments used during worship should be thoroughly cleaned before and after use. Music should be played at a volume that avoids people raising their voices or shouting, including before or after formal worship.

Congregation:

Singing, shouting or raising voices increases the risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets and should therefore be avoided.

Activities such as singing, chanting, and/or playing instruments that involve blowing into should be specifically avoided. This applies even if there is social distancing and face coverings are in use.

Spoken responses during worship should not be in a raised voice.

Cash offerings

Where possible, cash offerings should be discouraged in favour of bank to bank, online or contactless giving. Stewardship’s give.net service can assist here, including the ability to put a ‘donate now’ button onto your website.

Where cash offerings are necessary, cash should be collected in a receptacle that is set in one place and handled by one individual, as opposed to being passed around. Regular cleaning and hygiene should be maintained, and gloves worn to handle cash offerings where giving continues.

Cleaning and hygiene

Advice is given on cleaning and areas needing to be cleaned regularly such as door handles, rails etc.

On entering and leaving the church, everyone, including staff, should wash their hands thoroughly or use hand sanitiser if hand washing facilities are not available. Signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique and the need to increase handwashing frequency should be used, including reminders of the need to avoid touching one’s face and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into the crook of the sleeved arm if a tissue is not available.

Hand sanitiser should be provided in multiple locations in addition to those in toilet facilities.

Historic England has also produced guidance on cleaning historic surfaces, which might not be suitable for cleaning using standard cleaning products.

The Christian charity, CPO, has produced a range of social distancing resources, including ‘welcome to church’ posters, as well as PPE equipment.

A zip file of generic coronavirus posters can be downloaded from the Public Health England website.

The Health and Safety Executive has published guidance on Air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers has published guidance on Coronavirus, SARS-COV-2 and HVAC Systems.

Face coverings

Face coverings are now mandatory in places of worship consistent with the rules for other settings. Those leading services or assisting in the leading for example in reading, preaching or leading prayer are exempted from wearing a face covering all of the time. However, they should do if physical distancing cannot be maintained (i.e. distributing consumables). Separate government guidance is available on Face Coverings; when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own.

Toilets

Detailed guidance is given on how toilets can be opened whilst managing the risk of transmission of COVID-19, including signage and posters, maintaining social distancing, ventilation, hygiene, cleaning, sanitation and waste facilities / collection.

Young people and children

The guidance covers supervision, hand hygiene, shared facilities including toys being removed or put out of use, outdoor play areas and specific DFE guidance for out of school settings to be followed when providing tuition, training, instruction or activities outside normal school hours (such as evenings, weekends, school holidays).

Test and Trace

Places of Worship are exempt from both the legal requirement to collect information and from the requirement to display a Test and Trace app QR code. However, the Government strongly encourages churches to cooperate with the Test and Trace programme and its requirements.

With that in mind, churches should keep an accurate temporary record of attendees for 21 days, in a way that is manageable and to assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed for contact tracing and the investigation of local outbreaks.

There is a link to further DHSC guidance on Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.

When collecting contact details of people attending your church, consent should be sought. This is sensitive personal data which is protected by law. The Information Commissioner has provided guidance on collecting visitor details for Test and Trace, including issues around consent. You should make clear that giving contact details is optional and is not a condition of attending church. A template form for collecting consents is provided in Annex B of the main Guidance.

 

  • Weddings

The Government's COVID-19: Guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships was updated on 11 September 2020. The maximum number permitted to attend is reduced from 28 September. This picks up on much of the main guidance but in addition, also includes:

Number in attendance

This is limited to 15 people, excluding staff employed by the marriage venue and third-party catering staff but including other third-party suppliers such as photographers or security. Numbers attending will be subject to risk assessment and social distancing requirements and so could be lower than 15.

Duration

The guidance advises that ceremonies should be kept as short as reasonably possible and limited to the parts of the ceremonies that are required in order for the marriage or civil partnership to be legally binding.

Other

There is also guidance on singing, on (no) food and drink during the ceremony, public hygiene in the exchange of rings and holding of infants by parent / guardian, seating rearrangements, protective screens, removal of shared facilities for children (such as play areas, soft furnishings, toys etc.), and face coverings.

The couple getting married are permitted to remove their face coverings.

 

  • Wedding receptions

From 15 August 2020, small-scale wedding receptions (including a sit down dinner) can now take place.

The government has published separate Guidance for receptions taking place in a COVID-19 secure environment/venue. This excludes private homes (or adjoining outdoor spaces like gardens), as these will not have the same COVID-19 Secure measures in place.

Number in attendance

No more than 15 people (from 28 September 2020), safely accommodated with social distancing in a COVID-19 secure venue should attend. This includes the couple, guests and third-party suppliers, but not venue staff or third-party catering staff.

 

  • Funerals

The guidance on people attending funerals was updated on 4 September 2020.

The main points are:

  • A maximum of 30 people are able to attend, including persons from overseas, even if within the 14 day self isolation period (in which case, see guidance here and here). This is on compassionate grounds. Self isolation, if appropriate, should be completed after the funeral.
  • Mourners can be both family and friends
  • Social distancing should be maintained between different households / support bubbles
  • Face coverings must be worn
  • The venue must be COVID-19 safe
  • Live streaming the service should be considered as an alternative to people attending in person.
  • While pre-funeral or post-funeral ceremonies may be held in line with the guidance on Staying alert and safe (social distancing), families may consider deferring a celebration or memorial service attendance measures are relaxed and the service can take place safely
  • Mourners can stay overnight away from their home
  • If a life cycle event happens in a place of worship within the course of communal worship, then the number of attendees is not limited, subject to groups of six not co-mingling and whilst applying social distancing. However, if such an event is held privately (such as a wake arranged by a family), the rule of six applies and only six people (including children but excluding anyone working) can attend.

 

  • Cafés, restaurants and similar services and activities

Where churches run any of the following services, they have additional legal requirements:

 

Test and Trace

The following services undertaken by a church fall within The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Collection of Contact Details etc and Related Requirements) Regulations 2020:

  1. Services provided for the purposes of consuming food or drink on the premises, (including in seating made available adjacent to the premises) including by:

 

  • Restaurants, including restaurants and dining rooms in hotels or members' clubs;
  • Cafés, including workplace canteens;
  • Bars

 

  1. Services provided for social, cultural and recreational purposes in the following premises:

 

  • Community centres;
  • Youth and community centres;
  • Village halls.

 This means that those responsible for these services or activities are obliged by law to collect information for use by NHS Test and Trace if necessary and to provide a QR Code for the use of customers for this purpose. This data collection applies to staff, volunteers and customers. It does not, however, apply to services provided to the homeless.

Fines can be levied for non-compliance.

Further detail can be found in the relevant Government guidance.

 

Opening hours and table service

Churches with business activities selling food or drink (including cafes) and other indoor leisure centres or facilities must close those activities between 10pm and 5am. This includes those providing food and drink prepared on the premises for immediate consumption off the premises but does not include café businesses providing food and drink to the homeless.

In licensed premises, food and drink must be ordered from, and served at, a table. Customers must eat and drink at a table in any premises selling food and drink to consume indoors, on site.

 

Face coverings

Customers in these hospitality venues must wear face coverings, except when seated at a table to eat or drink and businesses must remind them of this fact. The relevant law actually states that it is a reasonable excuse to remove a face covering “if it is reasonably necessary … to eat or drink”. This implies that face coverings should not be removed until customers have food or drink in front of them.

Staff in these settings (and indeed in retail premises such as charity shops) are now also be required to wear face coverings.

Existing exemptions, such as because of an underlying health condition, continue to be exempt.

 

COVID Secure

Businesses and organisations face stricter rules to make their premises COVID Secure. A wider range of leisure and entertainment venues, services provided in community centres, and close contact services will be subject to the COVID-19 Secure requirements in law with fines of up to £10,000 for repeated breaches.

Employers must not knowingly require or encourage someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work. Businesses must remind people to wear face coverings where mandated.

Further guidance and wider requirements of hospitality venues

For more comprehensive and in depth guidance covering law and guidance for restaurants, cafés, etc. that can apply in church settings, please refer to the Government’s Guidance for people who work in or run restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes or takeaways.

 

  • Support groups

Support groups which provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support to its members or those who attend its meetings can take place in gatherings of up to 15 people in a church or other public venue where the meetings are organised by the church.

This sort of support provided could be, but is not limited to:

•  Victims of crime (including domestic abuse)
• Those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour
• New and expectant parents
• Those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness, disability or terminal condition or who are vulnerable
• Those who have suffered bereavement

This is an exemption to the legal gatherings limit of six people. More informal groups can still take place with multiple groups of six, as long as they do not have more than six people mingling socially at any time.

 

2. Job Support Scheme (‘JSC’)

A new Job Support Scheme was announced by the Chancellor on 24 September 2020 and is intended to provide a measure of follow on support once the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme comes to an end on 31 October 2020. Its aim is to protect viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months due to coronavirus. It will run for six months from 1 November and will contribute towards the wages of employees who are working fewer than normal hours due to decreased demand due to coronavirus.

Employers must:

  • Continue to pay the wages of staff for the hours they work. But, for hours not worked, the government and the employer will each pay one third of their equivalent salary. In other words, employees who can only go back to work on shorter time will still be paid two thirds of normal pay for those hours they can’t work.
  • Not top up an employee’s wages above the two thirds employer/government contribution for hours not worked.
  • Agree the new short-time working arrangements with their staff, make any changes to the employment contract by agreement, and notify the employee in writing. This agreement must be made available to HMRC on request.
  • Employers will need to fund National Insurance and pension contributions from their own funds.

Although it is not entirely clear what is meant, HMRC has stated that it is their intention that employees will be informed by HMRC directly of full details of a claim under the Scheme.

 

To be eligible, employees must:

  • Have been the subject of a Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC on or before 23 September 2020 notifying payment to that employee.
  • Work at least 33% of their usual hours during the first three months. This level of hours will be reviewed by the Government at a later date for the remaining months.
  • Not be on a redundancy notice.

Employees will be able to cycle on and off the scheme and do not have to be working the same pattern each month, but each short-time working arrangement must cover a minimum period of seven days. 

 

Employer eligibility:

The Scheme will be open to all employers with a UK bank account. This is so even if they have not previously used the furlough scheme (see Section 3, below). All small and medium sized enterprises (‘SME’s) will be eligible. Only larger businesses will be required to demonstrate that their turnover has been adversely affected by COVID-19. At present the thresholds for being an SME have not yet been published. The Scheme will work alongside the Jobs Retention Bonus (see Section 4 below) and claims will be able to be made under both Schemes at the same time.

 

Calculations, example and claims

The level of grant will be calculated based on employee’s usual pay, capped at £697.92 per month and will be reimbursed by the Government in arrears. ‘Usual pay’ calculations will follow a similar methodology to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme using employees’ usual pay/hours rather than amounts paid whilst on furlough.

Example:

Beth normally works five days a week and earns £350 a week. Her church is struggling to pay all of the staff their full pay owing to the effects of the coronavirus. Rather than making Beth redundant, the church puts Beth on the Job Support Scheme, working two days a week (40% of her usual hours). 

  • The church pays Beth 40% of her normal pay (£140) for the days she works.
  • It also pays two thirds of normal pay for the time she is not working:
  • Time not worked = (100%-40%) =60%
  • Normal pay = £350
  • Church therefore pays 60% x £350 x 2/3 = £140)
  • This brings Beth’s total earnings to £280, that is 80% of her normal wage.
  • The church will subsequently reclaim one third (out of the two thirds of hours not worked) from the Government:
  • Time not worked = (100%-40%) =60%
  • Normal pay = £350
  • Church therefore reclaims 60% x £350 x 1/3 = £70)

In summary, in this example:

Hours Employee Worked

 

40%

Hours Employee Not Working

 

60%

Employee earns (inc. JSC support) (% of normal pay)

£280

80%

Government JSC Grant (% of normal pay)

£70

20%

Employer Cost (% normal wages)

£210

60%

 

At various levels of hours worked / not worked, these calculations can be summarised as follows:

Hours Employee Worked

33%

40%

50%

60%

70%

Hours Employee Not Working

67%

60%

50%

40%

30%

Employee earns (inc. JSC support) (% of normal pay)

77.7%

80%

83.3%

86.6%

90%

Government JSC Grant (% of normal pay)

22.3%

20%

16.7%

13.3%

10%

Employer Cost (% normal wages)

55.4%

60%

66.6%

73.3%

80%

 

The above figures assume that the rate of pay is such that the JSC Grant is within the monthly cap of £697.92 per month. It is not yet clear whether or not the Scheme will require employers to pay more than one third of normal pay for hours not worked where the JSC Grant is capped and is therefore less than one third.

Hours Employee Worked

33%

40%

50%

60%

70%

JSC capped at or above a normal salary of (£/month)

£3,125

£3,490

£4,187

£5,234

£6,979

 

Our expectation is that this will not be the case, or may be determined by agreement between the employer and employee on a case by case basis.

Claims will open in December and grants will be paid on a monthly basis from this date. The Government will publish further guidance ‘shortly’.

  

3. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (‘CJRS’ or ‘Furloughing’)

The CJRS is available to churches and charities where staff are paid under PAYE. This includes office holders such as ministers of religion.

The Scheme is designed to protect jobs where falls in an employer’s income as a result of COVID-19 may put those jobs at risk.

The Scheme rules changed on 1 July 2020 as follows:

 

  1. The scheme became more flexible to enable employers to bring previously furloughed employees back part time and still receive a grant for the time when they are not working.
  2. From 1‌‌ August 2020, employers started contributing to the wage costs of paying their furloughed staff and this employer contribution in stages September and October. More details appear below.
  3. The scheme will end on 31 October. 

 

  • Employer contributions to CJRS payments to employees:

The following contributions are payable by employers under the Scheme from 1 July 2020 for hours not worked (i.e. furloughed hours) during the month. 

The employer is responsible for paying normal contractual pay for hours actually worked. 

 

 

Government max. contribution

Employer contribution

July 2020

80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 + employer National Insurance Contributions (ER NICS) + statutory pension contributions (Pens)

Nil

August 2020

80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500

ER NICS + Pens

September 2020

70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50

ER NICS + Pens + 10%

October 2020

60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875.00

ER NICS + Pens + 20%

 

From September, employers are responsible for employer’s NICs, statutory pension contributions and the stated percentage of wages to make up the 80% Scheme total, up to a cap of £2,500.

The caps in each month (which apply to both Government and employer furlough payments) are proportional to the hours not worked. Therefore, if an employee works 50% of the time and is furloughed for the remaining time, the above caps are reduced by half.

  • Example:

A furloughed employee normally earns £3,500 per month. From 1 August, the employer brings the employee back to work for 50% of working hours.

 

  • Up to 31 July 2020, the Government will fund £2,500 per month (80% of wages being more than the £2,500 cap). They will also fund ER NICS and the statutory pension contributions.
  • In August 2020, the Government will pay £1,250 (80% x £3,500 x 50%, but subject to a cap of £2,500 x 50%). The employer is only responsible for the cost of the ERS NICS and pension contributions.
  • In September 2020, the Government contribution will fall to £1,093.75 (70% x £3,500 x 50%, but subject to a cap of £2,187.50 x 50%). The balance of the furloughed pay of £156.25 (£2,500 x 50% - £1,093.75) and the cost of the ERS NICS and pension contributions will now be the responsibility of the employer.
  • In October 2020, the Government contribution will fall to £937.50 (60% x £3,500 x 50%, but subject to a cap of £1,875 x 50%). The balance of the furloughed pay £312.50 (£2,500 x 50% - £937.50) and the cost of the ERS NICS and pension contributions will now be the responsibility of the employer.
  • Penalties for errors in CRJS claims 

HMRC will have powers to investigate any business where it believes the strict rules for claiming the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) grant have been broken.

This includes employees undertaking any form of work for their employer’s business, or where amounts claimed by an employer have not been passed on in full to their furloughed employees.

HMRC will be able to:

  • Check that a CJRS or SEISS claim has not been overpaid, that a grant under the furlough scheme has been used to pay employee wages etc. and pension contribution costs, within a reasonable period.
  • Impose an income tax charge on persons who receive a grant to which they are not fully entitled and/or improperly use a CJRS grant. This charge will be 100% of the amount of the grant that has been incorrectly claimed or used, less any amount already repaid.
  • Charge a penalty, in addition, in cases of deliberate non-compliance.

It is therefore advisable to review and consider if CJRS calculations are in fact correct and the scheme rules have been fully complied with.

 

  • Guidance

Our partner solicitors have written separate briefings on the CJRS from 1 July which can be found here.

Updated HMRC guidance for employers can be found here and here. HMRC has added guidance on how to calculate your employee’s wages, NI and pension if you’re claiming through the CJRS.

Guidance on how much you can claim, including an online calculator, which has been updated to calculate furlough payments from 1 July, can be found here.

HMRC guidance for employees

 

4. Coronavirus Job Retention Bonus Scheme

This scheme, which was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 8 July, will provide a one-off payment to employers of £1,000 for each employee they claimed a grant for under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme that has been retained on staff from June 2020 to 31 January 2021. To be eligible, employees will also need to:

  • Earn at least £520 per month (above the Lower Earnings Limit) on average for November, December and January
  • Have been furloughed by you at any point and legitimately claimed for under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Employers will be able to claim the bonus from February 2021 once accurate RTI data to 31 January has been received. More information about this scheme will be available by 31 July and full guidance will be published in the Autumn.

The purpose of the scheme is to incentivise employers to keep employees on during a period of continued uncertainty, especially those that are lower paid and at a higher risk of unemployment. 

 

5. DBS Checks: Use of expired passports for ID checking during COVID-19

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has previously announced some relaxations to identity (ID) checking procedures during COVID-19 which enable:

  • ID documents to be viewed over video link
  • Scanned images to be used in advance of the DBS check being submitted

They have now announced an additional temporary relaxation to allow expired UK passports to be used for ID checking purposes, if within six months of their expiry date.

 

6. Holiday entitlement and pay during coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Support has published an explanation of how holiday entitlement and pay operate during the coronavirus pandemic, where it differs from the standard holiday entitlement and pay guidance. It covers employers’ legal obligations towards both those that have continued to work, as well as those that have been furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The Guidance covers:

 

 

7. Government-backed Loan Schemes

The Government launched several loan schemes designed to finance entities through the difficulties caused by COVID-19. These schemes are overseen by the Government-owned British Business Bank. On 24 September 2020, the Chancellor announced several changes to these schemes, designed to further help both those with existing loans under the schemes and those who are yet to apply:

  • Bounce Back Loans will now benefit form a flexible repayment system to be known as ‘Pay as you Grow’ (for further details, see below).
  • Bounce Back Loans will be able to be extended to a ten-year loan term rather than the previous six, reducing monthly repayments by almost half.
  • In a similar way the Government will allow lenders under the other coronavirus loans schemes (such as CBILS (below)) to extend their loan terms to ten years (from six).
  • Applicants for new Bounce Back loans, CBILS etc will now have until the end of November in which to apply.

All charities “are in principle eligible if they satisfy the other eligibility criteria of the Scheme”. Registered charities are exempt from the requirement that 50% of the applicant’s income must be derived from trading activity.

There are two separate but related schemes that are most likely to be of interest to Christian charities, both of which have ‘turnover’ tests. It is not entirely clear what would constitute ‘turnover’ in the charity context but we understand that the banks are using the charity’s gross income.

To be eligible for both schemes, the charity must be based in the UK and have been negatively affected by coronavirus:

  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (‘CBILS’)

CBILS provides loans from £50,001 up to £5m via third party accredited lenders on repayment terms of up to ten years, to entities with a turnover of less than £45m. The first 12 months of interest and lender-levied fees are covered by the Government which will guarantee 80% of the borrowing.

More information can be found using the links from here and here.

  • Micro Loan Scheme (‘Business Bounce Back’ loans)

This scheme provides for loans between £2,000 and £50,000 (up to a maximum of 25% of turnover). The loan can be for up to ten years. There are no set-up fees and first 12 months’ of interest payments will be covered by the Government. No repayments need to be made during the first 12 months. The Government will guarantee 100% of the borrowing.

More information can be found using the links from here and here.

  • Business Bounce Back Loans – ‘Pay as you Grow’

In addition to the option to repay loans over a longer term (ten years rather than six), borrowers will also have the option to move temporarily to interest-only payments for periods of up to six months (an option which they can use up to three times), or to pause their repayments entirely for up to six months (an option they can use once and only after having made six payments).

 

8. Statutory Sick Pay (‘SSP’)

HMRC has published guidance on claiming back SSP paid to employees due to COVID-19. SSP for sickness related to coronavirus is payable from the first day of sickness (rather than after the normal four waiting days). The Government will reimburse coronavirus-related SSP to the employer for the first two weeks and has now announced that claims can be made from 26 May 2020.


9. Tax: Expenses and benefits provided to employees during COVID-19

HMRC has published Guidance on tax reliefs and exemptions (and benefits that remain subject to income tax) arising from employees working from home because their workplace has closed or they have been advised to self isolate. Please note that this Guidance does not apply to furloughed workers.

The Guidance, which can be found here, covers issues such as provision of mobile devices and other employer-provided equipment, broadband installation costs, laptops, computers etc, office supplies, employer-provided loans, additional costs of electricity, heating and broadband and hotel and subsistence costs away from home where self isolating.

The above Guidance incorporates the principle set out on 13 May 2020 by Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury in a Written Statement in the House of Commons. That is, that where an employer reimburses expenses for office equipment bought by an employee for use at home during the coronavirus emergency, there will be a temporary tax exemption and National Insurance disregard to ensure that the expense will not attract tax and NICs liabilities provided that two conditions (set out in the Statement apply). This will be backdated to 16 March and will apply for the remainder of the 2020/21 tax year.

HMRC has also published guidance for employers on ‘How to Treat certain expenses and benefits provided to employees during coronavirus (COVID-19)’ including: Living Accommodation; Volunteer fuel and Mileage Costs; Paying or Refunding Transport Costs; Company Car ‘availability’; and how to report these expenses and benefits to HMRC.

On 9 July, HMRC amended this guidance to confirm that provision of test kits to employees outside of the government’s national testing scheme will not be subject to income tax or Class 1A National Insurance contributions. They will legislate for this through regulations and update their guidance shortly. Likewise, free provision of PPE to employees in high risk environments is not taxable.


10. Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Leave

Working parents who lose a child under the age of 18 will receive two weeks’ statutory leave and
Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay, where the death occurred on or after 6 April 2020.

More details can be found here.

Employers can reclaim up to 103% of the cost. More details can be found here.

 

11. COVID-19 implications for charity accounting

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) has produced a guide that highlights a number of key issues arising from COVID-19 that may require consideration in connection with trustees’ annual reports and accounts for charities.

It is aimed particularly at preparers of a charity’s reports and accounts, and the trustees (who are ultimately responsible for them and therefore need to understand the potential impact of COVID-19 in this context). It is therefore highly recommended reading!


12. Protection from eviction by landlord for non payment of rent

The Coronavirus Act 2020, s82, provides that forfeiture of business tenancies for non-payment of rent cannot be enforced within the period 26 March 2020 to 31 December 2020 inclusive, or a later date if the Secretary of State extends it. The Secretary of State exercised his power to extend this twice, to 30 June and now 31 December.

The Act defines “rent” as being any sum a tenant is liable to pay under the lease, which includes service charges and insurance rent contributions.

For charities, this can be a relief or a burden! Those of whom are renting property and unable to pay their rent, landlords will not be able to evict them. Of course, the opposite is true: if your charity has tenants that rent property from you, you will also not be able to take enforcement action. In all cases, the rent still falls due and will need to be paid at a later date.

One note of caution: the Act does not prevent landlords from taking other actions such as Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR), making a debt claim, issuing a statutory demand, or commencing winding-up proceedings. So far in this regard, The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has urged landlords to act in a socially responsible way and to exercise judgement and discretion with tenants. It remains to be seen if the government will take more proactive steps to prevent landlords from effectively side-stepping the Act during the lockdown period.

On the other hand, empty properties at this particular point in time will be an unattractive proposition for landlords!

Law firm Pinsent Mason has produced a useful summary of the current position during the pandemic.


13. Gift Aid and the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme

 

  • Gift Aid Claims
    HMRC assures us that COVID-19 will not delay Gift Aid claim repayments. Virtually all HMRC staff
    are now working remotely and IT issues around that have been resolved. Payments should, HMRC say, be quicker.
  • Gift Aid on cancelled events

    The Government has agreed to temporarily enable attendees of events that have been cancelled as a result of COVID-19 to be allowed to donate their event ticket price to the hosting charity, under Gift Aid, without the need for the price paid to be refunded to the ticket holder first. There are conditions that have to be met, which are set out in HMRC’s Guidance here.

    Note that the relaxation only applies to cancelled and not postponed events.

  • Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme (‘GASDS’)
    Whilst churches have been unable to meet because of Government restrictions on public gatherings,
    they risk losing the benefit of payments under the GASDS. We, along with Charity Tax Group asked HMRC if they would consider temporarily relaxing the GASDS rules to allow donors who would have given small donations within the Scheme each week to give a lump sum at the end of the lockdown period. Their response was as follows:
  • “In respect of GASDS, guidance on the eligibility for donations for inclusion in this scheme is clear in stating that claims can only be made on cash donations of £30 or less; and contactless card donations of £30 or less collected on or after 6 April 2019.
  • “The decision over what constitutes an eligible donation is one for the church/charity to make for themselves, rather than for HMRC, but the conditions for something to be considered a ‘small donation’ are clearly set out in legislation. Where it is the case, for example, of separate donations being given in a single envelope, then if the church/charity official is happy these are clearly separate ‘small donations’ (and clearly stated as such) then they will be eligible for GASDS, as is the case where separate envelopes are used.”

This leaves some ambiguity as to what will or will not be permitted. Churches are therefore advised to encourage taxpaying donors to set up standing orders or other forms of digital giving and sign a Gift Aid declaration in the normal way.

  • Flexibility over deadlines and submissions
    Charity Tax Group asked HMRC to consider introducing flexibility of tax reporting requirements and deadlines with specific mention of corporate and trust tax returns, and the making of corporate Gift Aid payments by trading subsidiaries to its parent charity. Their response was as follows:

     

    “HMRC does not have any statutory discretion to extend filing deadlines and in any case, we think it is likely that most tax-payers will be able to file their returns and/or claims on time. However, if a charity is unable to file a tax return on time or submit a claim, and this is because of the impact of COVID-19, HMRC will consider this in line with the normal ‘reasonable excuse’ process.”

    The message therefore, is if you are likely to have problems, contact HMRC as early as possible and keep copies of any correspondence (including email) and make a written record of any telephone conversations noting the date of the call and the name of the HMRC officer concerned.

  • Campaign for Gift Aid Emergency Relief
    Stewardship, Charity Tax Group and a consortium of other bodies has been lobbying Government for the introduction of a Gift Aid Emergency Relief Scheme, whereby for a temporary period, the amount of Gift Aid available to charities is increased from 20% to 25%.

    You can read more about it here and signify your support for the campaign here.

 

14. Deferring payments of tax due

There are several schemes available to charities who will have difficulty meeting their tax payment
obligations:

  • PAYE/NI, and corporation tax
    Charities in financial distress because of COVID-19, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.

    These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. Contact should be made via web chat or by telephone. Details can be found here.

  • VAT
    Charities that are registered for VAT have been able to defer any VAT payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, until 31 March 2021. This relaxation came to an end on 30 June and there will be no extension. 


    VAT originally due for the period 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 which has been deferred is due for payment before 31 March 2021. However, the Chancellor announced a ‘New Payment Scheme’ on 24 September 2020. Those who deferred this VAT payment and who ‘opt-in’, will now be able to spread payment of the deferred VAT over a period to the end of March 2022. This is to avoid businesses facing large bills for their deferred VAT just as the economy is recovering. To facilitate this, businesses will be able to make 11 interest-free smaller repayments in the 12 months to 31 March 2022. HMRC will put an ‘opt in’ process in place in early 2021.

    It is very important to note that there is no deferral available for VAT payments falling due from 1 July 2020 onwards. VAT-registered charities should therefore reinstate any cancelled direct debits in enough time for HMRC to take payment, submit VAT returns as normal, and on time, and pay the VAT in full on payments due after 30 June 2020. If there is any difficulty in meeting these VAT payments, a ‘time to pay’ arrangement should be agreed with HMRC. 

     

15. Guidance for employers and businesses during COVID-19

Government guidance for staying open safely during the pandemic - summary advice to follow to protect employees and customers, whilst continuing to operate. This includes social distancing, hygiene, cleanliness, staff sickness advice and staying at home.

As part of the easing of lockdown, the Government has published a series of Guidance Notes on creating a COVID Secure workplace. These cover (amongst others) outdoor work, offices and contact centres, people working in, visiting or delivering to other people’s homes, restaurants offering takeaway or delivery services and shops.

Employers are reminded of their legal duty to protect the health and safety of their employees and workers. On this theme, the Government has also published a series of Coronavirus Outbreak FAQs. These further explain the ‘rule of six’, face coverings, places of worship, youth clubs, support groups, weddings and wedding receptions, funerals, visiting people indoors, transport and more.

General guidance on making a work place COVID-19 secure, published by the HSE can be found here and in links from that page.

 

16. Business Rates: Cash grants and extended rates relief for retail, leisure and hospitality sectors
(England; see separate guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)

These reliefs can, potentially, apply to charity shops, coffee shops and certain trading subsidiaries of churches and charities that are subject to business rates, even if they qualify for charity relief from those rates.

It applies to properties wholly or mainly used for (amongst other things) shops, restaurants, cafés, drinking establishments, cinemas, live music venues, assembly and leisure, hotels, guest and boarding premises.

There are two forms of relief:

  • Business rates relief at 100% for the rating year 2020/21. There is no upper limit on rateable value. Where a charity receives 80% mandatory relief and no discretionary relief, this relief can cover the remaining 20%.
  • Cash grants:
    o For rateable value of up to £15,000 – a grant of £10,000
    o For rateable value of up to £50,999 – a grant of £25,000

Charities that qualify for mandatory 80% rates relief still qualify for these grants even if they
also receive 20% discretionary rates relief.

Summary guidance from the Charity Tax Group can be found here.

Both reliefs are being administered by local authorities and should be paid automatically. There is only need to contact the LA if a church or charity considers that they should qualify and don’t receive the relief.

 

17. Coronavirus, contracts: cancellation and refunds (including for weddings)

The Competition and Markets Authority (‘CMA’) has published useful guidance on the subject of consumer facing businesses responsibilities where contracts are cancelled because of the pandemic. Churches and other venues should be aware of expectations in this area in respect of weddings, conferences, children’s nursery places and the like.

The guidance explains how the law operates in this area and is designed to help consumers understand their rights and to help businesses treat their customers fairly.

More recently, the CMA published its guidance on cancellations and refunds due to COVID-19 by wedding companies together with an open letter to wedding providers and its agreement with Bijou Weddings Group.

For completeness, on 7 May 2020, the Cabinet Office published “Guidance on responsible contractual behaviour in the performance and enforcement of contracts impacted by the Covid-19 emergency”. The Guidance is non-statutory and covers issues in very broad terms. Somewhat repetitively it asks contracting parties to act “responsibly and fairly”. Nevertheless, it is worth being aware where negotiation is needed on a contract impacted by COVID-19. Whilst being non-statutory, parties that choose to ignore it risk reputational damage going forwards.

 

18. VAT on digital publications and on supplies of essential PPE

From 1 May 2020, supplies of certain digital publications (such as charity members’ magazines) are permanently zero rated for VAT purposes. Supplies prior to this date were standard rated (20%) in contrast to paper equivalents of the same publications which have always been zero rated.

From the same date, supplies of essential personal protective equipment (‘PPE’) are also zero rated for a temporary period that has now been extended until 31 October 2020.

 

19. Business Rates: Empty Property Relief

Charities liable to business rates but who are unable to benefit from the Extended Relief for retail etc premises, above, should give consideration to a claim for Empty Property Relief where this results from Government instructions to close the premises. 

 

20. COVID-19 Small Business Grant Fund (‘SBGF’)

The SBGF is available to businesses in England in receipt of either Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rates Relief giving rise to a payment of £10,000. However, as charities benefit from 80% mandatory rates relief (and in come cases and additional 20% discretionary relief), they do not qualify for SBGF.

However, the Government announced (2 May 2020) a Top Up to Local Business Grant Funds Scheme. This is a discretionary fund to accommodate certain small businesses otherwise outside the scope of the SBGF. Funds will be provided to local authorities for them to use locally on a discretionary basis to assist small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs. The Government is asking local authorities to prioritise, amongst others, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief.

More details can be found here and here (with particular reference to Paragraph 24).

 

21. Risk of fraud and cybercrime against charities during COVID-19

The Government has once again warned that fraudsters are exploiting the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to carry out fraud and cybercrime. Police have reported an increase in COVID-19-related scams. They state that all charities, but especially those providing services and supporting local communities during the COVID-19 crisis, could be targeted by fraudsters.

The Alert gives examples of the types of fraud circulating, protection measures that can be taken and how to report fraud and cybercrime to the relevant authorities.

 

22. Support for Pastors and Church Leaders

FIEC has been presenting a series of webinars entitled Leadership in Lockdown. Amongst up and coming subjects, they are intending on covering the huge increase in mental health issues, including amongst church leaders, that has resulted from lockdown and coronavirus restrictions.

To browse these webinars, visit the Leadership In Lockdown web page.


 

B. Help for self-employed Christian Missionaries and other Christian
Workers

 

Christian workers who are self employed and rely on raising their own support will ordinarily be
liable to income tax on funds raised because of their Christian work.


1. Self Employed Income Support Scheme and welfare benefits for the self employed

For the self-employed that have lost income as a result of COVID-19, the scheme provides a series of taxable grants. The first was worth 80% of profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, covering a three month period. The second was for the equivalent of 70% per cent of average monthly trading profits over the following period. 

The Chancellor announced on 24 September 2020 that the Scheme is to be further extended. The extended Scheme is targeted at those who are currently eligible for the SEISS and are actively continuing to trade but are facing reduced demand due to COVID-19. It will provide two grants covering the period to April 2021 to be paid in two lump sum instalments, each covering a three-month period. These are subject to income tax and national insurance.

The first grant will cover the three months from 1 November 2020 to 31 January 2021. This will be the equivalent of 20 per cent of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment and capped at £1,875 in total.

The second grant will cover the three months from 1 February to 30 April. The Government will review the level of the second grant and set this in due course.

To be eligible self-employed individuals, including partnerships, must meet the following criteria:

  • Currently be eligible for the SEISS (although they do not have to have claimed the previous grants)
  • Declare that they are currently actively trading and intend to continue to trade
  • Declare that they are impacted by reduced demand due to COVID-19 in the qualifying period. The qualifying period for the first grant is between 1 November and the date of claim.

HMRC will provide full details about claiming and applications in guidance on gov.uk in due course.

  • Tax credits

The Government has confirmed that people who cannot work their normal hours because of coronavirus (COVID-19) will still receive their usual tax credits payments. Note: this applies to both the self employed and employed workers who have been furloughed.

More information can be found here.

  • Universal Credit

DWP has published a guide on how to report your earnings from self employment for Universal Credit purposes.

 

2. Deferral of Self Assessment tax payments

Self Assessment payments on account due on 31 July 2020 were automatically deferred until 31 January 2021 unless the taxpayer chose to settle this sooner. There are no penalties or interest on this ‘late’ payment.

Where a taxpayer did defer their 31 July 2020 payment on account, the deferred amount plus any balancing payment for 2019/20 and the first 2020/21 payment on account is payable by 31 January 2021. The January tax bill may therefore be larger than usual.  

Any customers who are unable to make these payments in full by January 2021 can set up a ‘Time to Pay’ payment plan of up to 12 months. Those with self-assessment tax debts up to £30,000 and who need extra time to pay will be able to access this Time to Pay facility online and can get automatic and immediate approval. Those with self-assessment debts over £30,000, or who need longer than 12 months to repay their debt in full, will still be able to set up a Time to Pay arrangement but they will need to contact HMRC to set it up.

 

3. Protection from eviction from rented and mortgaged accommodation

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, no tenant in social or private accommodation could be forced out of
their home as landlords were not able to take any court action against a tenant for non payment of
rent until after 20 September 2020. This was a further extension to the previous date of 23 August. At the same time as extending the moratorium on court proceedings, the government also increased the required notice period for taking action to six months. This is to remain in place until at least 31 March 2021.

The Government has also made clear that where tenants do experience financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic, landlords and tenants should work together and exhaust all possible options, such as flexible payment plans which take into account a tenant’s individual circumstances, to ensure cases only end up in court as an absolute last resort.

Furthermore, landlords will now have to give all tenants six months’ notice (instead of two) if they intend to seek possession (i.e. serve notice that they want to end the tenancy). This extended period will apply in law until 31 March 2021. 

This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of evictions. This includes possession of tenancies in the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988. 

The suspension of housing possession cases also applied to possession cases brought by mortgagees against homeowners, and to possession cases brought by landlords against leaseholders (forfeiture).

Additional information for both landlords and tenants can be found here.

 


  

C. Help for individuals and Workers

 

1. Legal duty to self isolate, financial support whilst isolating and fines for non-compliance

From 28 September 2020, people in England are required by law to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace. The Government is engaging with the devolved administrations to explore opportunities for a UK wide scheme with as much alignment as possible.

  • Who should self isolate?

If someone or another member of their household has symptoms of coronavirus, they should, as now, isolate immediately. If someone receives a positive test result, they are now required by law to self-isolate for the period ending 10 days after displaying symptoms or after the date of the test, if they did not have symptoms. Other members of their household must self-isolate for the period ending 14 days after symptom onset, or after the date of the initial person’s positive test.

If someone is instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, because they have had close contact with someone outside their household who has tested positive, they are legally required to self-isolate for the period notified by NHS Test and Trace. Both household and non-household contacts must self-isolate for the full period, regardless of whether they have symptoms and, if they develop symptoms and take a test, regardless of whether any test taken gives a negative result.

The legal obligation to self-isolate will afford specific exemptions including for those who need to escape from illness or harm during their isolation, and those that require care.

Users of the official NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app are anonymous and cannot be forced to self-isolate nor can local authorities identify them if they are not self-isolating. The app advises users to self-isolate if they have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The Government makes it clear that users should follow that advice to protect their loved ones and stop the spread of the virus.

  • Financial support

A new £500 ‘Test and Trace Support Payment’ for those on lower incomes who cannot work from home, will be payable through Local Authorities. The scheme is expected to be in place by 12 October with backdated payments for those eligible persons who are told to self isolate from 28 September.

Individuals will receive this payment on top of any Statutory Sick Pay or benefits they receive. The criteria for self-isolation payment is that the person:

  • Has been instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, either because they’ve tested positive or are the close contact of a positive case
  • Is employed or self-employed
  • Is unable to work from home and will lose income as a result
  • Is currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit

Councils will also have discretion to make payments to those who don’t receive the qualifying benefits, but are on a low income and could suffer financial hardship as a result of not being able to work.

  • Fines for non-compliance

There are fines for those breaking the rules which start at £1,000 and increase up to £10,000 for repeat offences and the most serious breaches, including for those preventing others from self-isolating.

Employers who force or allow staff to come to work when they should be self-isolating will also be liable for fines of up to £10,000.

 

2. Easing lockdown: General help

With so many frequent changes to Government rules and guidance there remains uncertainty in many people’s minds around what they can or cannot do and what they should or shouldn’t do.

The Government updated its list of Coronavirus Outbreak FAQs - What you can and cannot do on 22 September 2020. This is very helpful in answering a wide range of commonly asked questions.

From this, there are links to other forms of updated guidance such as:

 

3. Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare

On 7 May, the Government published temporary changes to the eligibility criteria for Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare, during coronavirus. The changes may affect you if you, or someone you live with, are:

  • On furlough
  • Not able to work or you’re working less
  • Self-employed
  • A critical worker

More details can be found here.

 

4. Help for low-income families with seriously ill or disabled children

The Government has announced over £37 million of funding to help low-income families with seriously ill or disabled children with the cost of equipment, goods or services. Of the total amount, £10 million has been committed to the unique difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, helping parents educate and look after disabled or critically ill children who are staying at home more than usual.

Families with children that have complex needs and disabilities will be eligible for grants through Family Fund for vital equipment to make their lives easier while implementing social distancing measures, including computers, specialist equipment and educational toys.

 

5. HMRC advice on giving up employment or investment income during COVID-19

HMRC is urging people to check the tax rules on waiving income or donating to charity. It is aimed at those who choose to give up some of their income to support their business or donate to charity during the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases, in order to keep the business going, it may not possible to furlough all staff. It may, therefore, be necessary for directors and staff to consider taking a pay cut and a waiver of salary is one way to achieve this.

There is a right way and a wrong way to do these things! The guidance should help avoid a situation where tax and national insurance is still payable even though the waived income is never received. It covers salaries, bonuses and dividends that are either waived or paid back after receipt.

 

6. Scams: Scammers taking advantage of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

HMRC is reporting that, so far, they have detected more than 70 COVID-19-related financial scams, and have asked Internet Service Providers to take down over 400 web pages associated with these scams.

Mimicking government communications, one of the new scams says that it has ‘identified you as a candidate for the Key Worker Rebate’.

They are urging people to check GOV.UK for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact and how to avoid and report scams. Suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC should reported to: [email protected] Texts should be sent to 60599.  


 

D. Other General Resources / Signposts

 

1. Charity Tax Group - Coronavirus Hub for charity tax and finance professionals

2. Charity Excellence Framework - Many, many potential grant funders (local, national and international). Register for free access to the searchable database from the link on this page. A YouTube video here explains how to best use the COVID-19 funder database.

3. NCVO - A list of funding opportunities for charities including brief details of grant criteria.

4. London Funders - has coordinated a list of over 250 Grant Funders that have pledged to stand with the Charity Sector during the COVID-19 pandemic and to operate in a flexible way to support the sector at this time.

5. HMRC - HMRC has a number of webinars and YouTube videos on the various business support packages, including the deferral of VAT and Income Tax payments, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the HMRC Time to Pay Scheme.