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Coronavirus update

Coronavirus help and support for your business

As the impact of Coronavirus is felt in communities and organisations across the UK, we would like to reassure you that Unity is here to help you through these challenging times.

We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions below to give you the latest information and advice to support your business.

We’ll keep this page updated and the information is correct at the time of writing, but please visit regularly as things may change.

Contacting us for routine enquiries

To enable us to help the people who need us most, we’re asking all customers with routine enquiries to view our online tutorials, or to send us a secure message through Internet Banking.

This will allow us to maximise our availability for those customers most impacted by Coronavirus who seek more complex help over the phone.

We’re continuing to answer your calls 5 days a week, Monday to Friday 8.30am-5pm (Thursdays 9.30am-5pm).

Coronavirus FAQs

  • 1. How do pay in cash or bank online with Unity?

    Paying in cash

    Your normal banking and phone services for everyday transactions can be conducted online as usual and where customers need to make deposits, we urge you to follow the Government guidance around social distancing.

    NatWest
    RBS
    Ulster Branch
    The Post Office

    Due to Government advice, some branches may be operating via reduced opening hours. You can use the above banks’ Branch Finder tool to find out which branches are open near you. If your usual branch is closed, you can switch to online banking to complete any necessary payments.

     

    Foreign Transfers

    Please note, we are unable to transfer funds to countries that are currently in lockdown due to Coronavirus.

    For an up to date list on impacted currencies, you can view Western Union’s website.

     

    Help with internet banking

    We are on-hand to help you with your Internet Banking account. We can support you in the following ways:

    Log in: Visit www.unity.co.uk and select ‘Login’ in the top right-hand corner. You will be asked to enter your username and password. Enter your details and select ‘Log in’.

    Secure Customer Authentication: You may be asked to verify your identity through SCA when logging on or completing actions on your account. View our tutorials to receive a step by step guide on how to complete these additional security measures.

    Contact us: To enable us to release telephone capacity and assist those with more complex needs, we are asking customers with routine enquiries to view our tutorials or send us a secure message through Internet Banking.

    Open a new account: You can set up an account by visiting https://apply.unity.co.uk/. You can submit all relevant documentation, including proof of identification, online.

    If you are not yet registered with online banking, contact our Customer Services team on 
0345 140 1000* to get set up.

  • 2. What additional help is available from Unity?

    Accessing finance

    If you’re concerned with the financial impact of Coronavirus on your business and would like to speak to us about additional help and support, such as alternative arrangements around your lending and repayment terms, please contact your Relationship Manager.

    If you have a Current Account with Unity but don’t have a Relationship Manager and would like to discuss available options, call our Customer Service Team on 0345 140 1000*.

    We have also included detailed links of other ways to access finance for different business sectors within section 4 of the FAQs.

    Help with fees and payments

    Unity’s fees have not increased since 2016 – as part of our efforts to help our customers at this difficult time, there are no fee increases planned in our standard tariff.

  • 3. What help is available from the Government?

    A package of measures is available through the Government to support businesses and charities to minimise the impact of Coronavirus.

     

    Testing

    If your employees are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus, they can request a test to take from home. It’s vital that they get the test done in the first 5 days of having symptoms.

    Your employees can also get a test if:

    • Someone they live with has symptoms
    • They live in England and have been told to have a test before you go into hospital, for surgery for example
    • They live, work or study in these local council areas: Leicester, Luton, Pendle, or Blackburn with Darwen
    • Their local council has asked them to get a test

    You can apply for a test on the GOV.UK website or by calling 119.

     

    Bounce Back loans for SMEs

    Small businesses can benefit from a fast-track finance scheme providing loans with a 100% government-backed guarantee for lenders. Businesses can borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 and access the cash within days. For more information, view the British Business Bank website.

     

    £1.25bn package to support start-ups

    The government has announced a £1.25bn package to support innovative new companies that are not eligible for existing coronavirus rescue schemes.

    The scheme is accessible to companies that meet the following criteria.

     

    Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

    Available from Monday 23 March, CBIL is providing a fund of £5m through existing Commercial Lenders with a Government guarantee of 80% against each loan and no interest payable for the first 12 months of the loan.  The approved lenders are listed on the UK Finance website.

    To be eligible for the scheme the business:

    • Must be UK based with turnover of no more than £45m per year;
    • Operate within an eligible industrial sector
    • Must apply by 30 November 2020

    You can find more information about the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and see the list of providers on the British Business Bank website.

    If you would like to discuss additional lending, please get in touch with your Relationship Manager in the first instance who will review requests on a case-by-case basis.

     

    Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

    You will now be asked to contribute towards the cost of your furloughed employees’ wages. Find out more about how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

    To claim the grant, businesses will need to advise affected employees that they have been designated as ‘furloughed workers’ and then notify HMRC via a new online portal.

    You can only claim if you have previously furloughed your employee before 30 June and you had submitted a claim for this by 31 July. This may differ if you have an employee returning from statutory parental leave.

    Further information on eligibility and how to access the scheme is available at gov.uk.

     

    Statutory sick pay

    Businesses with under 250 employees who have employee absence due to Coronavirus will be able to claim a refund of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

    Employers will need to maintain records of staff absences and SSP made while a new rebate scheme is being created.

    More information on eligibility and how to access the scheme is available here.

     

    Business Rates

    The Government has confirmed a 12-month business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020/21 tax year.

    No business action is needed but any enquiries should be directed to the relevant local authority. More information is available here.

     

    Grants

    The Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme provides retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property.

    Those of a rateable value of under £15,000, will receive £10,000.

    Those with a rateable value between £15,001 and £51,000, will receive £25,000. No action is required. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant.

    More information on eligibility and how to access the grant is available here.

     

    Tax liabilities

    A dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. Call the dedicated helpline number 0800 0159 559.

     

    VAT

    The VAT payments deferral scheme ended on 30 June 2020.

    If you’re a UK-Vat registered business that deferred VAT payments between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, you now need to:

    • Set up cancelled Direct Debits in enough time for HMRC to take payment
    • Continue to submit VAT returns as normal and on time
    • Pay the VAT in full on payments due after 30 June 2020

    Any VAT payments you have deferred between 20 March and 30 June should be paid in full on or before 31 March 2021.

    For more information, visit the GOV.UK website.

     

    £750m support for Charities announced 

    The Government pledged £750m funding to support tens of thousands of charities providing vital services in the form of direct cash grants to ensure they can meet increased demand as a result of the virus as well as continuing their day-to-day activities supporting those in need.

    £360m has been distributed through Government departments to charities across the UK providing support to vulnerable people including St John’s Ambulance, hospices, vulnerable children and victims’ services, community charities providing food and medicines deliveries, and Citizen’s Advice.

    A further £370m has also been made available to Small and medium-sized charities via grants from the National Lottery Community Fund for organisations in England working in local communities, such as those delivering food and medicines and providing financial advice.

     

    Useful links

    To keep up-to-date with the latest information, please visit the following websites:

    • GOV.UK

    For official Government updates and advice including the impact of Covid-19 on organisations, available financial support and how to stay safe, visit this link.

    • British Chambers of Commerce

    As the Coronavirus continues to impact the operations of businesses, learn more about the steps that Chambers and members can implement to minimise impact on local communities and support the UK government’s strategy here.

    • British Business Bank

    The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is just one of the measures the Government has implemented to help to support small businesses. Key features and information of the scheme can be found here.

    • UK Finance

    UK Finance regularly responds to Coronavirus updates in press office.

    • Big Society Capital

    Big Society Capital have released a guide sharing tips on how to make the most of government support, managing relationships with funders, as well as business and operational planning; visit Good Finance.

  • 4. Do you have any information for specific sectors?

    Charities

    The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has published guidance on managing finances, supporting employees, supporting service users and insight into how other charities are helping to deal with Coronavirus: NCVO practical support

    Guidance for dealing with Coronavirus has also been released specifically for each UK country:

    Civil Society has shared a list of financial support available to the charity sector: charity funding

    The CEO of Charity Excellence Ian McLintock has posted a toolkit of emergency funding for charities.

    Crowdfunder is offering 100% free crowd-funding throughout the crisis (i.e. you won’t pay any fees).

    The Government has announced £750m of funding for charities.

    CEO of National Lottery Community Fund Dawn Austwick released an announcement about funding during the Coronavirus pandemic.

    Applications are open for the Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund (RRLF) offered by Social Investment Business (SIB). It is a new fund for social enterprises and charities who are experiencing disruption to their normal business model as a result of Coronavirus. For more information you can view the SIB website.

    Social Enterprises

    Social enterprises may be eligible for a range of Government schemes including loans, business rate relief and grants. More details can be found in the Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) briefing.

    Social Enterprise UK are also posting daily resources to inform the social enterprise community about available support.

    Social Enterprise Scotland CEO Chris Martin has released a statement to its sector members: view statement

    Social Investment Scotland has outlined the ways the organisation will support social enterprises and communities during this uncertain period: see update

    Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) have published information about foundations responses, funding options and other useful resources.

    Social Enterprises may also be eligible for the government schemes published here.

    Trade Unions

    The TUC has provided a guide for trade union reps to give an understanding of workplace issues in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic: TUC guidance

    A report has also been published setting out the steps that are needed to protect workers’ jobs and livelihoods during the Coronavirus crisis: see report

    Credit Unions

    The ABCUL have released a website response to the Government advice on Coronavirus situation to notify Credit Unions of its ongoing position: ABCUL response

    ABCUL have also shared a Pandemic Business Continuity Planning guide for the reference of Credit Unions: ABCUL planning guide

    Charity Finance Group have a dedicated hub with information and resources available to charities to help manage finances, employees and day to day running of charities.

    Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) have published information about foundations responses, funding options and other useful resources.

    Charity Excellence Platform has published a list of 62 organisations for emergency funding has an online toolkit that can be accessed upon registration.

    For all support available to individuals and businesses affected by Covid-19, view the Government advice. Credit Union members may be supported by some of these initiatives.

    Healthcare

    The Care Quality Commission has shared the following guide for Care Homes and providers registering to increase existing or introduce new capacity for patients being released from hospital: CQC guidance

    To support NHS and social care providers and Trusted Assessor schemes during the Coronavirus pandemic, the CQC has released a Trusted Assessor guide.

    Gov.uk have shared an online guide which sets out how health and care systems and providers should change their discharging arrangements and the provision of community support during the Coronavirus situation.

    To help find your business funding solution, the NACFB’s not-for-profit trade body hosts a searchable broker directory through its free platform: findSMEfinance

    NHS England have released updated guidance on operating procedures within Community Health organisations: view document.

    For all support available to individuals and businesses affected by Coronavirus, view the Government advice.

    Social Housing

    Following the Government extending the measures to limit the spread of Coronavirus, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) is  providing key support information online: SFHA webpage

    The National Housing Federation has coordinated an urgent programme of work designed to support and connect the social housing sector: NHF webpage

    For all support available to individuals and businesses affected by Covid-19, view the Government advice.

    Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs)

    Unity Trust Bank supports funding for CDFIs. A list of accredited CDFI lenders can be found here.

    Employee Owned Companies

    The Employee Ownership Association has recorded a guide of information for its EO community, including FAQs and financial support: EOA resources.

    EO businesses may also be eligible for the government schemes published here.

    And for additional finance needs NACFB has a COVID hub with resources and finance information. NACFB also hosts a searchable broker platform for businesses looking for finance – Findsmefinance.

     

    Co-Operatives

    Co-Operatives UK has produced and collated a range of practical guides and guidance for co‑ops: view website.

    Self-Employed

    The Chancellor has announced a world-leading scheme to support the UK’s self-employed affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. Full details of the scheme can be found on the gov.uk website.

  • 5. Do you have any tips around Business continuity?

    Tips for working from home

    Working from home may be a change for you and your employees. For guidance and tips on working at home effectively, read the below links:

    BBC: Coronavirus: Five ways to work well from home

    SCVO: John Fitzgerald – My top ten remote working tips

    SHP: Home working advice and wellbeing considerations for self-isolation

    Looking after your mental health

    As life slowly starts to return to normal, it’s natural to feel concerned or overwhelmed. Here’s what you can do to protect your mental health during this time:

    • Slow and steady: Try to ease back into ‘normal’ life slowly. Perhaps speak to your colleagues about returning to the office on a rotational basis or working flexible hours. Understand that everyone feels differently about life Covid-19 and it’s ok to feel anxious.
    • Take a break: These uncertain times may evoke a sense of panic and you may feel that there are endless things to sort out. Try taking regular screen breaks to move around and adjust your mindset – this is great for productivity too.
    • Talk to us: We are here to support you. If you have any concerns, please get in contact directly with your Relationship Manager, or our Customer Services team on 0345 140 1000*.

    Business Continuity Planning

    The Coronavirus outbreak has proved how important it is for businesses to operate from a well-constructed business continuity plan. The Federation for Small Businesses has shared some helpful guides to pulling together and executing the perfect plan:

    Services for Federation of Small Businesses

    FSB members have access to a range of tools to support their business, including a 24/7 legal advice helpline staffed by UK-based lawyers and Care Service providing practical advice and emotional support.

    The FSB website is accessible to all and contains key guidance materials for organisations to stay protected from Coronavirus and informed on the available support. This includes:

    In Section 4 we have provided sector-specific guidance for businesses who are unsure about the options available to access finance. If you are unsure about your eligibility for Government financial support and what options are available for your organisation, view Section 4.

    Returning to work

    Most businesses have already placed restrictions on work-related travel, and some have adopted a phased return for employees. Employers should continue to monitor the latest Government advice.

    In addition to informing staff of new government requirements around self-isolation, the best way to protect your employees is to remind them to frequently wash their hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser for 20 seconds.

    For more information and advice about how you can return to work safely, you can view the GOV.UK website.

  • 6. How do I stay safe from increasing fraud?

    Criminals are using the unpredictability of the Coronavirus situation to target organisations. Here’s what you need to look out for to identify fraudulent activity and protect your business:

    Phishing/vishing scams

    With working from home now commonplace, fraudsters are likely to attempt phishing/vishing scams knowing people are away from the usual office environment. Emails may claim to include important information about Coronavirus including advice from the Government or World Health Organisation, as well as an illegitimate link.

    We encourage you to take your time when reading and interacting with your emails or Internet Banking account. Ensure you double check email addresses and keep an eye out for any strange spelling mistakes or links. If you have any doubts, please contact us immediately.

    Cold calls

    Cold calling is expected to become more common during this uncertain period. Calls may ring through from an unknown number, claiming to be your bank and insisting the need for you to provide personal information or transfer monies to a different account. Please be aware that Unity would never ask for your personal bank details. End the call and get in contact with us.

    Refunds

    Scammers may approach their victims with fake product refunds whilst pretending to be travel agents, airlines and insurance companies. Be wary of any communications that promise you are owed large amounts of money, as this may well be fraudulent. If you are in doubt, call the company directly on a number you know to be correct – not the one supplied on the communication.

    Useful links:

Updated 24 August 2020

*Calls may be recorded and monitored for training purposes.