Weekly Digest – 25 November 2020

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. We hope you and your family are safe and doing well. Read on for this week’s updates and some ideas that will help us all move forward.

Increase in Online Shopping Eases Pressure on UK Retailers

A surge in shopping online has eased the pressure on retailers caused by England’s four-week lockdown and tighter restrictions across the UK, according to a survey from the CBI.

With non-essential stores shut in England from 5 November, the survey found annual internet sales growth picking up. A balance of 55% of retailers said the volume of goods shifted online was up year on year, against 47% the previous month.

Are you looking to move your business online? Drop us a message so we can work out a plan!

Oxford University COVID-19 Vaccine Highly Effective and Cheaper

A large trial shows that the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University is highly effective, with interim data suggesting 70% protection, but researchers say the figure may be as high as 90% by tweaking the dosage.

While the vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna showed 95% protection, Oxford’s jab is far cheaper and is easier to store. The UK government has pre-ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, and AstraZeneca says it will make three billion doses for the world next year.

This news seems like a step in the right direction for us all so we hope you’re all remaining positive.

Three Households Can Mix Over Christmas in UK

People from up to three households will be able to meet up during a five-day Christmas period of 23 to 27 December. They can mix in homes, places of worship, and outdoor spaces, and travel restrictions will also be eased.

Anyone travelling to or from Northern Ireland may travel on the 22 and 28 December, but otherwise travel to and from bubbles should be done between the 23 and 27.

Further details of the rules can be found in this published guidance for England.

Arrivals in England Will Be Able to Cut Quarantine Time With Negative Test

The UK government has said it plans to reduce its 14-day quarantine requirement for travellers from COVID-19 hotspots to as little as five days if they test negative for COVID-19. This change will take effect on 15 December.

Also, it was announced that England will exit its lockdown on 2 December and return to a multi-tier system to prevent the spread of the virus. Details of the local restriction tier system can be found here.

Government Increases Support for Self-Employed

The UK government will be increasing its support to the self-employed over the coming months through the following ways:

UK-wide Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will allow self-employed individuals to receive 80% of their average trading profits for November.

Grants will be paid faster, with the claims window opening by 30 November rather than 14 December.

The increase means £4.5 billion of support for the self-employed between November and January. Also, more businesses will be able to benefit from government loan schemes, as deadlines for applications for additional support and the Future Fund have been further extended until 31 January 2021.

Is your business still struggling? Let us help you consider your options and apply for funding and government support. Contact us today!

‘Time is Running Out’ Campaign Launched

The government’s ‘Time is Running Out’ campaign urges businesses to step up their preparations as the UK will leave the EU on 1 January 2021. This call to action is to prevent businesses from getting caught out by new rules at the end of the UK transition period and get ready for changes and opportunities.

You may check gov.uk/transition to see actions you need to take or get in touch with us so we can provide some expert guidance.

What funding is available for my business?

To cover the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, there are grants made available by the government such as the £1.25b Future Fund and R&D rescue package for fast growth businesses and smaller businesses with a Research & Development focus.

If your business has been severely hit by COVID-19 and you need more support, the government is giving businesses access to financial support through various initiatives such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), where you can get up to £50,000 no-interest loans for the first 12 months.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offers a maximum loan of £5 million made available through commercial banks.

You can also claim for 80% of your employee’s wages plus any employer National Insurance and pension contributions if you have put them on furlough because of COVID-19 under the Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until the end of October. You can check your eligibility here.

With all the financial assistance schemes available for businesses, it can be difficult to assess which one is suitable for your business. Get in touch if you need some help.

Do you need help chasing payments and keeping your invoices on track? Get in touch with us today and let’s discuss how we can help you.

FREE Team Collaboration Tools for Small Businesses

As remote work arrangements have become far more common than ever, team collaboration and communication tools have become necessary to keep the work running smoothly. If you are looking to cut down on your monthly expenses, below are some FREE tools that can help.

Best Tools for Chat

Slack sorts out team communication into various messaging channels so everyone can stay in the loop. Its free plan will give you access to unlimited messages, video calls, and channels.
A great alternative to Slack, Flock makes it easy for your team to stay in touch. The free version comes with unlimited one-on-one and group messages, 5GB of storage for each member, and access to up to 10 different channels.
Microsoft Teams
Initially exclusive for companies with Office 365 subscription, Microsoft Teams now has a free plan for small businesses and startups. It is free for up to 300 users, offers unlimited messages and channels, and can integrate with over 140 different popular apps.

Best Tools for Video Conferencing

Currently the most popular video conferencing app today, Zoom offers video and private chat options, screen-sharing capabilities, and private chat options. The free plan allows up to 100 participants, unlimited one-on-one meetings, and group meetings limited to 40 minutes.
RingCentral is also a reliable way to host video and audio calls. You can also share screens, record meetings, unlimited one-on-one calls, engage in group or private text chats, and group calls limited to 40 minutes.
Also a widely used video conferencing tool, Skype provides audio and HD video calls, public and private chats, group calls for up to 25 participants, and screen sharing. What makes Skype unique is its voice translator which supports 10 different languages.

Best Tools for Project Management and File Sharing

Google Drive
Google Drive allows you to collaborate with your team over documents in real time. Signing up to Google Drive also allows you to gain access to Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
An all in one project management tool, Trello boards let you manage every aspect of a project from start to end. Users can assign tasks, due dates, tag other users in comments, share documents, and create built-in workflows.
One of the best apps for assigning tasks, staying on top of your team’s progress, and improving team communication, Asana is free for up to 15 team members.

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