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COVID-19 Business Support

Updated 25 March 2020

The impact of the coronavirus response is changing by the day and we are aware that local businesses in Tower Hamlets may be feeling worried. Please be assured that we are taking every step necessary to plan for what might come. 

New government guidance means a significant number of businesses and premises will be required to close. Even those that can remain open will be experiencing unprecedented challenges.

Local businesses and employers are advised to check the additional government advice on how this crisis may impact your business, as well as the information outlining the support available to businesses.

This support is also outlined in more detail below.

The London Growth Hub has produced fact sheets and a business checklist, that you might also find useful, and is providing the opportunity to talk one-to-one with an adviser.

Guide to business and self-employment support

Overview of government business support

Support for all businesses

Self-employed, freelancers or all gig economy workers

If you employ people

If you run a nursery business

If you are a larger business

Support for commercial tenants

Advice from the Metropolitan Police 

Tell us about the impact coronavirus is having on your business


Overview of government business support


A comprehensive Business Support website is now available with up to date information as new announcements are made. It includes:

  • Business interruption loan scheme and financing facilities
  • Job retention scheme
  • Statutory sick pay
  • Business rates holiday for nurseries
  • Self-employed income tax referral
  • VAT deferral

This website also provides links to business representative agencies such as the Federation of Small Businesses and Make UK (Manufacturing), and ACAS.

The government is considering how to extend wage support schemes to self-employed individuals. The Business Support website will be updated with the latest information when further announcements are made. 

For all HMRC enquiries please call 0800 159 559.

Support for all businesses

  • The coronavirus business interruption loan scheme offers finance to smaller businesses that are viable but unable to obtain finance due to insufficient security to meet the lender’s normal requirements.
  • Businesses with a turnover of no more than £41 million can apply for a loan of between £1,000 and £5 million, from a range of lenders
  • At the discretion of lenders, loans below £250,000 the scheme can be used for unsecured lending.
  • Commercial tenants unable to pay rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction.
  • No interest is due on the loan for the first 12 months and there are no fees.
  • You should talk to your bank or finance provider (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible and discuss your business plan with them.
  • If your business premises is eligible for Small Business Rate Relief, grants of up to £10,000 are being made available.
  • A new helpline (0800 015 9559) to the HMRC's Time to Pay service is open, so businesses and the self-employed can arrange to defer tax payments. More information is also available online.     
  • VAT payments are going to be deferred for three months. The deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020 and businesses will not need to make a VAT payment during this period.
  • Advice for businesses that trade internationally has been published by the Department for International Trade.

Businesses in the retail, leisure or hospitality sectors

This includes shops, cinemas, restaurants, museums, art galleries, theatres, gyms, small hotels, bed and breakfasts and guest houses, sports clubs, night clubs, drinking establishments, club houses, live music venues and caravan parks.

  • All retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will be exempt from business rates for the next 12 months.
  • If your business premises is currently eligible for Small Business Rate Relief, grants of up to £10,000 are being made available.
  • If you pay business rates on premises with a rateable value between £15,000 - £51,000, grants of up to £25,000 are being made available.
  • Government have confirmed that their advice to avoid pubs, clubs, theatres, etc is sufficient for businesses to claim on their insurance, where they have appropriate business interruption cover for pandemics in place.
  • Relaxation of planning regulations will be introduced as soon as possible, allowing pubs and restaurants to start providing takeaways without the need for planning permission. More details on when this comes into effect and the steps businesses will need to take are being confirmed.

Self-employed, freelancers, or gig economy workers

  • Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.
  • Changes to the way freelancers and contractors are classified for tax purposes, under the IR35 or ‘off-payroll’ reforms, have been deferred by 12 months.
  • If you are a ‘gig-economy’ or zero hours contract worker you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay –  check your eligibility.
  • If you are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, you may be eligible for benefits such as the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit.
  • ESA can be paid if you are sick, isolating according to government advice, or caring for a sick or isolating child.
  • ESA will be claimable from day one, rather than day eight of sickness.
  • ESA pays up to £73/week and is not impacted by a partner’s income, though it may be affected by a claimant’s personal pension.
  • Self-employed claimants on Universal Credit who are required to stay at home or are ill will not have a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time while affected.
  • Please contact Job Centre Plus for claims for either Universal Credit or ESA.

If you employ people

  • Through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue to pay part of the salaries of employees that are laid off because of the crisis.
  • HMRC will reimburse 80 per cent of these worker’s wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month, backdated to 1 March 2020.
  • HMRC will be setting up the systems required for this new scheme and more details will follow.
  • All UK employers will be able to access support to Statutory Sick Pay will be available to all who are advised to self-isolate from coronavirus or are caring for someone else who has, provided the employees earnings are over £118/week.
  • Rules around GP sick notes have also been relaxed, and a notification can be obtained from NHS 111 Online.
  • Statutory Sick Pay will be paid from day one instead of day four and government intend to legislate so this measure applies retrospectively from 13 March 2020.
  • The government will refund the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for up to 14 days to small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Employment allowance to increase by £1,000 allowing certain businesses who employ staff to reduce their National Insurance bill by £4,000.
  • The Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has advice for businesses on dealing with a range of employment issues including staff absence, homeworking, staff presenting symptoms, closing premises and staff lay-offs.

If you run a nursery business

  • Nursery businesses will benefit from a business rates holiday for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.
  • The council will identify eligible businesses and automatically apply all new reliefs and issue adjusted bills.

If you are a larger business

The Covid Corporate Financing Facility will support liquidity amongst incorporated businesses through the Bank of England buying short term debt from larger companies.

Support for commercial tenants

The government has announced new protections for commercial tenants who are not able to pay their rent during the next three months, as a result of COVID-19.

  • Network Rail has announced it is cancelling all first quarter (25 March to 23 June 2020) rent payments due from tenants in their commercial estate portfolio, providing significant relief for small businesses.
  • It has been announced that small and medium businesses on TfL's estate, which make up 86 per cent of tenants, are to get 100 per cent rent relief. This will start from start from 25 March for next three months.
  • If you are concerned, please email us directly.

Advice from the Metropolitan Police

The Metropolitan Police Business Crime Hub has issued some useful guidance about ensuring your business does not become a victim of crime during these challenging times.

Tell us about the impact coronavirus is having on your business

If you have any specific concerns or questions relating to coronavirus and how this might affect your business, please complete our online form and someone from the team will get back to you.


Updated 18 March 2020

The council is continuously monitoring the COVID-19 virus's impact. We issue updates to staff from the GOV.UK website as they come through.

Certain services and planned meetings may have to be postponed at the last minute and rescheduled.

The council knows this is a very difficult time for our 16,000+ businesses. We are looking at ways we can support you through the next few months.

LBTH Enterprise Support

The Enterprise team is still in operation. Support projects are in preparation for when business as usual resumes.

However, we recognise that what businesses need right now are interim solutions in a testing time.

The Enterprise Team have made a list of resources and information that gives sources of support. These include financial, networking, workshops and useful articles. There are also ways to get directly in touch with a member of the team.

Rest assured, we are working hard to find solutions to support the survival, sustainability and recovery of your business.

Supporting you and your business health

Support for your business:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): UK government response

Regular and accurate updates from the Government relating to COVID-19.

HMRC Helpline

HMRC have set up a helpline for the self-employed and businesses who will be struggling now due to the corona virus.  Contact the Coronavirus helpline on 0800 0159 559 for advice on your tax and any benefits you can claim


London Growth Hub

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – Support for Businesses and Employers

London Mayor

Mayor contributes £1m to new emergency support fund to help community and voluntary organisations

London Councils

London Lorry Control Scheme suspends enforcement


What help for Coronavirus/COVID-19 will there be, and who can I talk to about it?


Tower Hamlet’s Enterprise Team

We are currently working on a package of local assistance measures. We will provide an update as soon as we are able. 

To help us, please complete the Business Continuity Support Survey.

Industry business / financial support


E- Marketing and Pitching for funding workshop: 26th March 2020

We are now delivering our workshops online. Click the link above to register for our next workshop.

Support for you and your wellbeing


Get accurate and up to date information and advice.

In the Know

This is a list of services in Tower Hamlets that help you or someone you care about to manage and improve mental health and wellbeing.

Home Choir

Gareth Malone brings together isolated singers with home choir project.


Coronavirus and your wellbeing.

Get accurate info

Coronavirus: Chancellor announces £330 billion in government-backed loans to help businesses from the Independent

Chancellor throws a multibillion-pound cash lifeline to businesses to help them through coronavirus crisis from the BBC

Budget 2020: Business rates suspended for shops and cafes from the BBC

NatWest pledges £5bn Working Capital Support for SMEs during Coronavirus outbreak from RBS

Banks issue emergency loans to UK firms hit by coronavirus crisis from the Guardian

Five ways companies can get UK government help to deal with coronavirus from the Financial Times

List of small business grants in the UK from the Entrepreneur Handbook

Contact us

The Enterprise Team have a call back facility. This lets our businesses directly contact a member of the team.

To speak to a team member about real time issues affecting your business, please contact us to book an appointment.

A member of the team will contact you within 24 hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm).

Please be advised that this is a business support assistance facility. General residential enquires go through the contact details published on the council’s website.

Keep Updated

Join our mailing list to receive regular business support updates from the Tower Hamlets Enterprise Team.

Social Media - Follow us on:

Twitter: @TH_Enterprise @TowerHamletsNow

Facebook: www.facebook.com/towerhamletscouncil

Instagram: @TowerHamletsNow

We will continue to update this page with new information as and when we receive it.