Support and Guidance for Businesses
Advice, updates and support to help businesses plan and respond to COVID-19 have been collated below. Through the following links, businesses can find out how to access the support that has been made available, who is eligible, when the schemes open and how to apply.
The West Midlands Growth Company will continue to monitor and update this page, based on the latest Government guidance and resources.
Support on offer for businesses and employees in the West Midlands, including free, online resources can be accessed here.
To find more information on emergency funding for tourism businesses, click here.
Below is a timeline of relevant events and announcements from the UK Government and other public sector bodies.
17 June - support and guidance for tourism businesses
Additional Restrictions Grant Eligibility
The guidance for ARG grants has been updated to highlight the businesses that are eligible, and this has been extended to businesses that are being impacted by the delay in moving to Step 4. The guidance now states up front that:
Local councils have the freedom to determine the eligibility criteria for these grants. However, the government expects the funding to help businesses that are severely impacted by the restrictions.
Local councils are encouraged to support:
- businesses from all sectors that may have been severely impacted by restrictions but are not eligible for the Restart Grant scheme, including those which do not pay business rates
- businesses from sectors that remain closed or severely impacted by the extended restrictions, even if those businesses have already been in receipt of Restart Grants. This may include the travel and tourism sector, wedding industries, nightclubs, theatres, events industries, wholesalers, English language schools, breweries, freelance and mobile businesses including caterers, events, hair, beauty and wedding related businesses
It should also be noted that there is no limit to the number of ARG grants that a business can be awarded. So businesses that have already been awarded support under the grant can apply for further support.
Group Friendly Charter for accommodation partners
UKinbound has just launched a Group Friendly Charter, which is designed to facilitate collaboration between accommodation providers and tour operators/group travel organisers. The Charter has been developed in response to the difficulties tour operators are facing in securing the availability they need whilst having the required flexibility to respond to ever-changing global travel conditions. The Charter’s competitive terms will allow accommodation providers to offer tour operators and group travel organisers flexibility in good faith, provide peace of mind, and encourage collaboration to aid the industry's recovery.
The benefits of the Charter is open to all UK tour operators and accommodation providers (as long as they operate a COVID-safe policy) so please do share this with your members. Accommodation providers who sign up to the Charter can be identified by the UKinbound Group Friendly Charter mark, and included in their online listings.
14 June - delay to Step 4
17 May 2021 - Step 3 of the Roadmap
On Monday, the UK pushed ahead with its Roadmap, allowing more businesses to reopen across the West Midlands.
This is the Step 3 of the government’s COVID-19 Spring Response, which will allow:
- Indoor entertainment and hospitality to reopen, with the Rule of 6 or 2 households
- The accommodation sector to reopen
- Some larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number)
- Outdoor performances and sport events in venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number)
- Up to 30 people to attend weddings, receptions and wakes
- An unlimited amount of people to attend funerals
For more, visit the Gov.uk website.
10 May 2021 - updates to visitor economy guidance
The visitor economy section of the working safely during coronavirus guidance has been updated to reflect step 3 (no earlier than 17 May) of the roadmap.
Visitor attractions and recreational venues can open both indoor and outdoor areas.
- Games and recreation facilities, such as bowling alleys, skating rinks, go-karting venues, laser quest, escape rooms, paintballing, indoor play and soft play centres and areas (including inflatable parks) and trampolining centres.
- Water parks and theme parks.
- Animal attractions at zoos, safari parks, aquariums, and wildlife centres.
- Attractions such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks.
Most indoor and outdoor entertainment venues can open to the public. This includes venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, arcades and bingo halls.
Indoor and outdoor events can take place, but measures apply including following COVID-secure and social distancing guidance.
- Events permitted from Step 3 (which include business events such as conferences and exhibitions, live performances, and sport events) should follow all COVID-secure guidance, adhere to all legal requirements, and take all reasonable action to mitigate risk to public health. An event cannot take place in either Step 2 or Step 3 if it is unlikely that social distancing between groups of attendees can be maintained, or if other COVID-secure requirements cannot be met. This may be the case for events such as music festivals and carnivals.
- Capacity restrictions apply to both indoor events (1,000 people or 50% of a site or venue’s capacity, whichever is lower) and outdoor events (4,000 people or 50% of a site or venue’s capacity, whichever is lower).
- Further guidance can be found in the sections for business meetings and events and other events and attractions, and in the organised events guidance for local authorities.
Tours and transport services:
- Indoor and outdoor guided tours are permitted, but must operate within the legal gathering limits and follow COVID-secure guidance. Tours can be provided for a single permitted group of visitors (up to 30 people outdoors; up to 6 people or 2 households/bubbles indoors), or multiple permitted groups (of up to 30 people outdoors; groups of up to 6 people or 2 households/bubbles indoors) that are kept separate throughout the activity. You can find more information in the section on changes to operations.
- Private hire coaches are permitted for a private group of a single household/bubble, and may also accommodate groups containing multiple households travelling together to the same destination or making the same journey (e.g. for the purposes of a leisure tour). This can only take place under certain conditions and where coaches operate in line with social contact limits, meaning that permitted groups (of 6 people or 2 households/bubbles) must be kept separate at all times whilst indoors on the tour. You can find more information in the section on changes to operations.
- All heritage railway services are permitted to operate. This includes heritage railway services operating as public transport (journeys from point A to point B), as well as those provided primarily for dining or other recreational purposes, or for the carriage of passengers from the same start and end point. You can find more information in the section on changes to operations and the guidance on safer travel.
- People present in a work capacity (including volunteers), such as coach drivers, tour guides and skippers, are not counted as part of a group.
12 April 2021 - reopening safely
New guidance for Step 2 of the UK Government's roadmap has been released.
For information on reopening your business during Step 2, click here.
19 March 2021 - Restart Grants
On 19 March, the UK Government released grants worth up to £18,000 to businesses in the non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure, personal care and accommodation sectors
Eligible businesses in the non-essential retail sector may be entitled to a one-off cash grant of up to £6,000 from their local council.
Eligible businesses in the hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym sectors may be entitled to a one-off cash grant of up to £18,000 from their local council.
The rates that apply for the hospitality, accommodation and leisure businesses are:
- £8,000 for businesses with a rateable value of up to and exactly £15,000
- £12,000 for businesses with a rateable vale over £15,000 and less that £51,000
- £18,000 for businesses with a rateable value of exactly £51,000 or greater
More information here.
22 February 2021 - Roadmap for reopening
This plan sets a route out of lockdown and back to normality with certain sectors of the UK gradually reopening in coming months. Depending on coronavirus data continuing to improve, the plan includes:
From no later than 8 March 2021:
Education settings including primary, secondary, colleges and higher education can reopen.
From no later than 29 March 2021:
The ‘stay at home’ rule will end on 29 March but many restrictions will remain in place
Outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people (the Rule of 6) or 2 households will also be allowed, making it easier for friends and families to meet outside
Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to reopen, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports
From no later than 12 April
- Will see the opening of non-essential retail; personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons; and public buildings, including libraries and community centres
- Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will also reopen (but only for use by people on their own or in household groups); as will most outdoor attractions and settings including outdoor hospitality venues, zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas
- Self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, can also reopen
- Hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors
From no later than 17 May
- Most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors will be lifted - although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal
- Indoors, the Rule of 6 or 2 households will apply
- Indoor hospitality will reopen, alongside indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas and children’s play areas
- The rest of the accommodation sector, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs; and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will reopen
- Some larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues and outdoors venues will be allowed, albeit with a capacity cap
- Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals
- The government hopes to be in a position to remove all legal limits on social contact
- Reopen remaining premises, including nightclubs, and ease the restrictions on large events
Find out more here.
5 January – new business support measures
On 5 January, the Chancellor announced a further £4.6 billion in new lockdown grants to support businesses and protect jobs.
The support measures include:
- one-off top up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses worth up to £9,000 per property to help businesses through to the Spring
- £594 million discretionary fund also made available to support other impacted businesses
Find out more here.
4 January – national lockdown
On 4 January, the Prime Minister announced a national lockdown and instructed people to stay at home to control the virus.
From 5 January, people will only be allowed to leave their homes for the following reasons:
- shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
- go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
- exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area
- meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
- seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
- attend education or childcare - for those eligible
Read more here.
23 December – further tier changes for the West Midlands
On 23 December, the Secretary of State for Health announced further changes to tiering across England that will come into force from 26 December.
The following areas in the West Midlands have been moved to Tier 4 restrictions:
Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton
- Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
The rest of the West Midlands including Herefordshire, Telford and Wrekin, Shropshire and Worcestershire have all moved up to Tier 3.
19 December – Tier 4 introduced
On 19 December, the Prime Minister announced tougher restrictions for large parts of South EastEngland with a new Tier 4: ‘Stay at Home’ alert level.
Under Tier 4 rules:
- People cannot mix indoors with anyone outside their household or support bubble – but people can meet one person outside in a public place like a park
- Non-essential retail, hospitality and entertainment venues, and close contact services such as hairdressers, gyms and beauty salons must shut
- No overnight stays outside home
- No entry to or exit from Tier 4 areas
Read more here.
26 November – announcement on areas placed in regional tier system
On 26 November, the Health Secretary announced the tier categorisation for different areas of England.
All parts of the West Midlands, apart from Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, have been placed in Tier 3 – the highest category of local restrictions.
As set out in the Government’s COVID-19 Winter Plan, the new tier system has made some changes to the September regional tiered approach. The changes include:
- Tier 1: the government will reinforce the importance that, where people can work from home, they should do so
- Tier 2: hospitality settings that serve alcohol must close, unless operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals
- Tier 3: hospitality will close except for delivery, drive-through and takeaway, hotels and other accommodation providers must close (except for specific exemptions, such as people staying for work purposes, where people are attending a funeral, or where they cannot return home) and indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas, theatres and bowling allies must also close. Elite sport will be played without spectators. Organised outdoor sport can resume, but the Government will advise against higher risk contact sports
12 November – Local Restrictions Support Grants
A number of support schemes have been made available to help businesses that have been severely impacted by local and national restrictions.
The Local Restrictions Support Grant has been set-up by Government to provide a cash injection of up to £3,000 per month to businesses that have been required to close due to temporary restrictions.
Other measures include grants for businesses that are still open, but have been negatively impacted by the restrictions.
The grants are being managed by local authorities across England, please visit your local council’s website for more details.
To find your local council, click here.
To find out more on the support schemes on offer, click here.
31 October – further business support measures
On 31 October, as a response to the national lockdown, the Government announced further business support measures.
The new schemes are designed to help businesses through November, they include:
- An extension to the furlough scheme until March 2021 - the scheme will allow employees to receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500
- Grants worth up to £3,000 per month for businesses forced to close in England
- An extension to the mortgage payment holiday – borrowers who have been impacted by the coronavirus will be entitled to a six month delay
- An extension to the Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan, Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan and Coronavirus Future Fund until 31 January 2021
- An extension to the Self-Employment Income Support grant until April 2021, which will pay self-employed individuals up to 80% of their average trading profits for November
To find out more click here.
31 October – national lockdown announcement
On 31 October, the Prime Minister announced a new national lockdown for England.
The new restrictions will include:
- No households mixing indoors, only allowed to meet with one person from another household in outdoor public places
- All non-essential retail, leisure facilities, entertainment venues and personal care facilities must close
- Hospitality venues must also close but can still provide takeaway and delivery services
- Hotels, hostels and other accommodation should only open for those who have to travel for work purposes and for a limited number of other exemptions which will be set out in law
- Everyone who can work from effectively from home must do so
The national lockdown will start on Thursday 5 November 2020, lasting an initial four-weeks.
To find out more click here.
22 October – further financial support
On 22 October, the Chancellor announced increased financial support for businesses and workers.
A number of changes were made to existing support measures including:
- A reduction to the employer contribution for the Job Support Scheme. Employer’s will only have to contribute 5% toward unworked hours of an employee that has worked a minimum of 20% of their normal hours
- An increase to the amount of profits covered by the two forthcoming self-employed grants from 20 per cent to 40 per cent, meaning the maximum grant will increase from £1,875 to £3,750
- Additional funding to support cash grants of up to £2,100 per month primarily for businesses in the hospitality, accommodation and leisure sector who may be adversely impacted by the restrictions in high-alert level areas.
To find out more click here.
12 October - new local COVID alert levels
On 12 October, the Prime Minister announced a new three-tiered system of local COVID alert levels in England.
The alert levels are “medium”, “high” and “very high”. The “medium” alert level – which will cover most of the country – will consist of the current national measures, which came into force on 25 September.
The “high” alert level will reflect many current local interventions, but there will now be consistency across the country. The “very high” alert level will apply where transmission rates are causing the greatest concern, based on an assessment of all the available data and the local situation.
For more details on the COVID alert levels, click here.
22 September announcement – new measures across England
From 24 September, a number of new measures will come into force across England. They include:
- Staff in hospitality venues must wear a face covering
- Businesses selling food or drink must be closed between 10pm and 5am
- Table-service only in hospitality venues
- Businesses will need to display the official NHS QR code posters so that customers can ‘check-in’
- Work from home if you can
To find out more click here.
New NHS COVID-19 app
Launching on 24 September, the new NHS COVID-19 app will help businesses meet the new legal requirement to record the contact details of customers, visitors and staff on their premises.
The app will allow you to create a unique QR code for your business, which can be scanned by customers to fill in their details for NHS Test and Trace. More here.
NHS QR codes and ‘rule of six’ – all you need to know
There has been considerable confusion regarding the new requirements on tourism businesses regarding the Rule of Six that came into effect on 18th September in England and the new QR codes associated with the NHS Track and Trace app that come into effect on 24th September.
1. New Legal Requirements
On 18th September, it became a legal requirement for tourism and hospitality businesses to gain the following information from customers:
- the name of the customer or visitor. If there is more than one person, then you can record the name of the ‘lead member’ of the group (of up to 6 people) and the number of people in the group
- a contact phone number for each customer or visitor, or for the lead member of a group of people. If a phone number is not available, you should ask for their email address instead, or if neither are available, then postal address
- date of visit, arrival time and, where possible, departure time
- the name of the assigned staff member, if a customer or visitor will interact with only one member of staff (for example, a hairdresser). This should be recorded alongside the name of the customer or visitor
(In addition, operators must keep a record of all staff working on the premises, their shift times on a given day and their contact details).
2. QR Codes
The use of QR codes connected to the NHS’s Track and Trace App as a means of collecting the required information from customers was initially voluntary. However, on 18th September the Government decided that all tourism and hospitality businesses needed to use the QR Codes from 24th September.
This means that you now have to go to the following website and generate a specific QR Code for each business premises you have, print a poster to be displayed somewhere visitors can see it and ask customers to scan it when they arrive, using the NHS COVID-19 app.
If customers scan the QR Code, you do not have to collect the information specified above.
You do not need to ask someone for their contact details or to scan the NHS QR Code if the person visiting is:
- a police officer or emergency responder on duty
- making a delivery or collection by supplies or contractors, including food or physical goods.
- under the age of 16.
3. Rule of Six
It is also now an offence for the following business not to adhere to the Rule of Six when taking a booking or allowing entry to a group of customers:
- hospitality, including pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés
- tourism and leisure, including tourism accommodation, museums, cinemas, zoos and theme parks
Businesses that do not comply with the Rule of Six can be fined issue £1,000 for the first offence, £2,000 for the second, £3,000 for the third and £4,000 for any offences after that. The regulations will be enforced by Local Authorities. However, with the new restrictions announced on 22 September, these fines could be increased to £10,000.
9 September announcement – tightening of restrictions across England
From 14 September, new social distancing and self-isolation measures will commence. This will mean that only six people from a maximum of six different households will be able to gather indoors and outdoors.
Financial support and schemes
The UK Government and other organisations have rolled out grants and loans to help businesses manage the impact of COVID-19. Schemes that have a direct link to the tourism industry can be found below:
Click here to find out what support your business is eligible for.
Please see below information on business support schemes that are still open.
One-off top up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
A grant of up to £9,000 has been made available to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses that have been forced to close due to the national lockdown.
The cash will be provided on a per-property basis and will differ depending on its rateable value, as follows:
- £4,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under
- £6,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
- £9,000 for businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000
To find out more click here.
Some £594 million has also been made for Local Authorities (LAs) and Devolved Administrations to support businesses that are not eligible for the new grant.
Applications and dissemination of the fund will be controlled by LAs across England, visit our support page to find links to all the LAs in the West Midlands Combined Authority area.
Extension to existing support
The new business support measures come in addition to existing schemes, including:
- Business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure firms – businesses in these sectors in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020 to 2021 tax year
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – businesses may be able to claim wages through the scheme
- Local Restrictions Support Grant for open and closed businesses – eligible businesses may be entitled to a cash grant from their local council
- Local Restrictions Support Grant for nightclub, dance hall or adult entertainment businesses – available to businesses that have been required to close due to the national restrictions introduced in March 2020, and which have not been able to re-open
- Christmas Support Payment for wet-led pubs - supports pubs that predominantly serve alcohol rather than provide food and have been severely impacted over the festive season due to temporary local restrictions
- Self-Employment Income Support Scheme – self-employed people or members of a partnership who have been impacted by coronavirus can claim a grant
- Additional Restrictions Grant - supports businesses that are not covered by other grant schemes or where additional funding is needed
All Government-backed loan schemes have been extended to 31 March 2021. They include:
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme - The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to access loans and other kinds of finance up to £5 million
- Bounce Back Loan – Helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000
- Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme – Offers access to loans and other kinds of finance up to £200 million for medium and large sized businesses
Reach Solutions’ Marketing Support
Reach Solutions has announced #IAmOpen, a new campaign to support local businesses to market themselves effectively during the COVID-19 recovery with free services and low cost options.
Free solutions include creative design services, social media posts, a website design and multimedia video creation.
Visit here for more information.
Local authority guidance
The local authorities in which your business operates continue to keep their pages up-to-date with information that is unique to your locality.
Please ensure that you are also checking these pages regularly so you are fully up to speed on the latest news, advice and guidance in your area:
- Birmingham City Council
- Coventry City Council
- Dudley Council
- Sandwell Council
- Solihull Council
- Walsall Council
- West Midlands Combined Authority
- City of Wolverhampton Council
Official government guidance
General Business Guidance
Click here for all business coronavirus guidance.
Click here for all visitor economy coronavirus guidance.
Click here for details about maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.
West Midlands Growth Company Partners
Our priority at the West Midlands Growth Company is to continue working with our partners through this difficult time.
We want to support the needs of your business and employees as much as we possible can, and ask that you continue to liaise with our Business Growth team on how we can best do this. From raising general awareness of the region, to sharing your insights and intelligence, or promoting the remote services or products you’re offering – please share your ideas and updates with us.
Ongoing dialogue with our Partners will also help us to better understand and communicate the changing economic landscape of the region to our public partners.
Please contact our Business Growth team on the usual numbers or or email@example.com.
West Midlands Combined Authority and Growth Hub COVID-19 portals
- West Midlands Combined Authority
- Black Country Growth Hub
- Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub
- Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP Growth Hub
Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce
Further advice and guidance
Businesses can sign-up for GOV.UK COVID-19 alerts here.
Last updated: 12 January 2021