Weekly Digest – 19 January 2022

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

PM Signals Possible Easing of COVID-19 Rules

Prime Minister Boris Johnson signaled possible plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions in England. While cases are high, numbers are down 39% in the most recent seven-day period compared with the previous week. The Plan B measures introduced in December are scheduled to expire on 26 January.

Self-Isolation Cut to 5 Days in England

The minimum quarantine period has been reduced to 5 full days in order to help ease staff shortages. However, people need to present negative lateral flow tests on days five and six of their isolation.

Inflation Hit 30-Year High

Prices have gone up at their fastest rate in nearly 30 years, as inflation hit 5.4% in the 12 months to December. With gas and electricity costs set to rise further in the spring, this could get even worse according to experts.

The Office for National Statistics said increases in prices of furniture, food, and clothing also contributed to December’s rise in the cost of living.

Survey: UK Overtakes Germany and China as Top Growth Market for US Business

The UK has overtaken Germany and China as the market where American companies expect to see most growth in the next 12 months, according to the latest results of PwC’s annual survey. Around 37% of the respondents named the UK as one of the three countries that would be most important for their companies’ revenue growth prospects in 2022.

Hundreds of UK Construction Companies Are Collapsing

Construction companies in the UK are going bust due to rising costs, supply chain disruptions, and labour shortages.

According to the latest government insolvency data, between August and October 2021, 797 construction firms went bust, up by more than a fifth compared to the previous three months. The data also showed insolvencies across all industries were up by 88% compared to the same period last year when pandemic support was in place.

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UK Government’s Plan for Jobs is Working for Scotland

Latest ONS employment figures show Scotland’s rate of employment increased 0.7 percentage points compared with the same time last year, indicating the UK Government’s Plan for Jobs is working. Payrolled employees are remaining above pre-pandemic levels, and are increasing a greater monthly percentage than anywhere else in the UK.

Scotland’s unemployment rate is at 3.6%, the lowest since February 2020.

Over £700 Million New Grant Fund for Businesses Impacted by Omicron

Businesses in England most impacted by the Omicron variant will be able to tap into a new £700 million support package in the coming weeks.

Firms in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors will be able to apply for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises depending on rateable value:

  • businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or above: £6,000
  • businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000: £4,000
  • businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or below: £2,667

In addition, more than £100 million worth of discretionary funding is also being made available for local authorities to support other businesses.

£1 Billion Support for UK Businesses Impacted by Omicron

The government is providing one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England. More than £100 million discretionary funding will be made available for local authorities to support other businesses.

The government will also cover the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for Covid-related absences for small and medium-sized employers across the UK. To enable more cultural organisations to apply for support during the winter, further funding amounting to £30 million will be made available through the Culture Recovery Fund.

Deadline Extension for Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Scheme

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed that it is proposing a 12-month extension to the non-domestic RHI’s application deadline, moving the date from 31 March 2022 to 31 March 2023.

Also set to be extended are the second and third allocations of the scheme’s tariff guarantee, which will allow organisations to secure a fixed tariff before their installation is commissioned and accredited.

New Laws and Code of Practice to Resolve Commercial Rent Debts

From 25 March 2022, new laws introduced in the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill, will establish a legally-binding arbitration process for commercial landlords and tenants who have not yet reached an agreement, following the principles in the Code of Practice.

The new laws will be implemented in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland will have the power to introduce similar legislation. The Commercial Rent Bill will apply to commercial rent debts related to the mandated closure of certain businesses such as pubs, gyms and restaurants during the pandemic.

Cold Weather Payment Scheme

From 1 November 2021, households have become eligible for the Cold Weather Payment scheme which involves a weekly reduction on their energy bills.

You can receive this payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below over seven consecutive days. Eligible individuals will get £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between 1 November 1 and 31 March 2022.

£500 Million Plan for Jobs Expansion

Workers leaving the furlough scheme and unemployed individuals over 50 years old will be supported back into work as part of more than £500m expansion of the government’s Plan for Jobs. People earning the lowest wages will also benefit and existing schemes targeting young people will be extended into next year as part of the new package.

Starting in April 2022, the Government is enhancing its programme of support for workers on Universal Credit.

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