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COVID-19: Business Advice and Support

As more businesses become affected by COVID-19, there are various resources to help all businesses online. You can find out more at the links below.*  

General COVID-19 Related Advice and Support
Non-Food Retail The NI Executive has allowed certain non-food retail businesses to open from Monday 8 June 2020.
  • Retailers of new and used cars
  • Retailers of light motor vehicles, lorries and trailers
  • Retailers of caravans or motorhomes Retailers of agricultural or other large machinery
The following retail businesses with lower customer density and direct street access or direct access within a retail park may also reopen:
  • Retail of Electrical Household Appliances
  • Retail sale of Computers, Peripheral Units and Software but excluding the retail of video games Retail sale of Audio and Video Equipment
  • Retail of Telecommunications Equipment R
  • etail of Household Furniture and Lighting & other Household Articles
  • Retailers of Carpets, Rugs, Curtains, Wall & Floor Coverings
Further details on criteria for this phase of restrictions being eased can be found on the Coronavirus timeline for business reopening page.
Pavement Cafe Licensing You can now apply for a pavement cafe licence from the Council.

NI Business Info

General information on related business support, including answers to FAQs on managing staff health, pay, leave and absence, business operations and finance. Also includes a Coronavirus News section with full information and support to help manage the imapct of COVID-19 in your business. 

Public Health Agency

Guidance for businesses and employers on support available, as well as poster resources to use on site to help with communications to employees. 

The Executive Office

The most recent announcements from The Executive Office are detailed on its news section, which provides details and links to various schemes etc. 


Guidance for businesses on tax. The helpline allows any business or self-employed individual who is concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus to get practical help and advice.
Time To Pay Helpline: 0800 0159 559
Income Tax Payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021. 

Federation for Small Businesses

Advice and guidance on reducing the risks from the Coronavirus to you and your business targeted at small businesses and the self-employed. 

UK Government Advice

Advice and support for businesses from the UK Government. It includes details of support packages available to businesses due to COVID-19. For key business support information visit the main COVID-19 business portal. 

Invest NI

Invest NI provide advice and support through its NI Business Info web site. Invest NI's business support team is also available on 0800 181 4422
> Find out more about Invest NI's Resource Matching Service.

Federation of Master Builders

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) provide advice and support for businesses in the construction industry and its workforce. As well as a dedicated section on their website, members make use of their advice services by telephoning the FMB Helpline on 0116 243 7623 (Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm). 

Guidance for Food Businesses

Guidance and advice for food businesses/operators including best practice on food hygiene, managing employee sickness, social distancing and specific situations. 

Advice for food businesses reopening

Advice for food businesses reopening during COVID-19.

Checklist for food businesses reopening

Checklist for food businesses reopening during COVID-19.

Hospitality Ulster

Hospitality Ulster’s latest advice for bars and restaurants

Guidance for Garden Centres reopening

Guidance and advice for garden centres reopening during COVID-19.

Guidance for Golf Clubs reopening

View the protocol for the safe re-introduction of Golf and FAQ's.

NI Hotels Federation

The Federation has been working across many strands to assist members with the Coronavirus situation. This has included producing a Toolkit of advice, lobbying for business relief and support and engaging with marketing agencies to prepare for a resumption of normal business. 

Tourism NI and DfE guidelines for the Hospitality Industry Tourism NI and DfE guidelines for the hospitality industry, including:
Hotels and tourist accomodation 
Restaurants, pubs, bars and food services
Drinking Water Inspectorate Guidance on maintaining drinking water quality when reinstating water supplies following temporary closure

Arts and Business NI Engagement Seed Fund

As part of their Investment Programme, Arts and Business NI have designated a £15,000 seed fund to support arts organisations and individual practitioners.

Social Enterprise NI

A source of information focusing on social enterprise business and organisation support during COVID19. 


Information for employers on health and safety matters in response to COVID-19 and HSENI contact details. 
The HSENI has also produced an example risk assessment which shows the kind of approach HSENI expects a small business or workplace to take when carrying out a risk assessment for COVID-19 in the workplace.

NI Chamber COVID-19 Information Hub

This hub provides up-to-date information on business support schemes available from the government, advice and guidance on internal HR issues, such as sick pay, and the work NI Chamber is doing with government to ensure that Northern Ireland businesses make it through this crisis.

Enterprise Nation

This page is to keep small businesses updated of government moves, support schemes for small business, and pro-active advice on how to keep trading through the epidemic. You can also access topical podcasts and ask advisers your specific questions. 

Matrix NI

Coronavirus is causing significant issues in the science and tech sectors in NI. This is a regularly updated list of resources and available support, plus offers and requests for help.

PSNI Crime Prevention Unit

The PSNI Crime Prevention unit has produced updated national crime prevention advice for retailers and business owners during the current emergency.  

Emergency Volunteering Leave

A new, temporary, statutory right is available for eligible workers to take Emergency Volunteering Leave to help the Health and Social Care system in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Department for Communities

If you are an employer and you require help to advertise job vacancies or have queries relating to the services available for employers you can phone the DfC Employers Services helplines or alternatively you can email:
Helplines: 023 8237 6692 or 028 9053 9458

Guidance for Employers on Social Distancing

The Cabinet Office have launched new sector specific guidance for employers on social distancing. Sectors include tradespeople, retail, farming and transport as well as a number of others. 

Customs Authorisations during the coronavirus

Find out about temporary changes to customs policy and authorisations during the coronavirus. 

HSENI Guidance for employers on working remotely

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many employees are now working from home. HSENI’s Mental Well-being at Work Advisory Service have produced an information sheet with tips on how to reduce the impact of work-related stress on individuals when working remotely

Guidance for landlords and tenants in the private rented sector

The Department has produced a guidance document setting out general advice and information predominantly for tenants and landlords in the private rented sector.  The guidance covers issues which may arise during the Covid-19 outbreak

Department for the Economy

The Department for the Economy (DfE) has published guidance on making workplaces safer and a list of priority sectors during the current coronavirus crisis.

Food Standards Agency

Guidenace for Food Businesses on Reopening and Adapting your Food Business: This FSA guidance is for food businesses looking to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sector guidance has been provided to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely in the food sector.

The Executive Office

The Executive have published a 5 stage recovery plan for easement of restrictions.  

Emergency Business Solutions Programme

Professional advice, to the value of £2,000/€2,250 inc VAT (100% funded), is available for cross-border companies in manufacturing and tradable services, to address key business challenges related to COVID-19.

E-Merge Programme

The E-Merge programme provides £2500/€2800 fully funded consultancy support to help businesses develop online sales and eCommerce solutions.

NI PPE Portal

The Buy Supply portal is a Northern Ireland wide initiative developed by the Mid and East Antrim Manufacturing Task Force with a simple aim of matching local SME
suppliers with large buyers in the manufacturing sector.

Financial Assistance

Rates Relief

There will be a three month rates holiday for all business ratepayers, excluding public sector and utilities.
The Small Business Rate Relief scheme will be continued in 2020-21. The rates of relief and thresholds for eligibility have not changed. 
The Hardship Rate Relief scheme is available for non-domestic ratepayers who have been affected by exceptional circumstances.  
The Executive budget announced on 31 March also includes a reduction in business rates. For more information visit NIbusinessinfo

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The government will pay a grant to cover 80% of furloughed workers wage costs up to a cap of £2,500 per employee per month. On 12 May, the Chancellor extended the scheme for a further four months until the end of October 2020.

From August, the scheme will continue for all sectors and regions of the country but with greater flexibility to support the transition back to work, with employers able to bring employees back part-time, while sharing the cost of wages with the Government. Further details are to be released at the end of May. 

> Claim for wages 
> Claim Eligibility Checker
> 80% Wage Calculator
> Guidance on the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme operational from 1 July 2020​
> Reporting employees wages to HMRC when you've claimed through Coronavirus job retention scheme

Deferment of VAT Payment

VAT payments for all UK businesses will be automatically deferred for 3 months for payments that would otherwise arise during the period from 20 March - 30 June 2020.

Business Interruption Loan Scheme

CBILS is a new scheme, announced by The Chancellor at Budget 2020, that can provide facilities of up to £5m for smaller businesses across the UK who are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to their cashflow.

Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £200 million to all viable firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million (available from 26 May).

Department for the Economy (DfE)

Business Support Grant Schemes: The Northern Ireland Executive has announced two grants will be available to local businesses impacted by the coronavirus.

Businesses in Northern Ireland will be able to access the following schemes:

  • COVID Small Business Grant - A grant of £10,000 for all small businesses who are eligible for the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme (ie all businesses with a NAV up to £15,000). Open from Thursday 26 March 2020. For info visit NI Business Info or contact the LPS Small Business Grant Scheme Helpline on 0300 200 7809. 

  • Hospitality, Leisure, Tourism and Retail Sectors Grant Scheme - An immediate grant of £25,000 for companies in these sectors with a rateable value from £15,000  up to £51,000. Businesses can complete a pre-application check, apply for the scheme and provide their bank details by completing the online application form. Closing date: 20 May 2020.

  • Micro Business Hardship Fund: The scheme will aim to assist businesses in Northern Ireland with less than ten employees that require financial support due to the impact of COVID-19. The funding will be available to businesses which have not qualified for the £10,000 small business grant and the £25,000 Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure scheme. Details on the Hardship Fund, including scheme eligibility criteria will be available in the week beginning 11 May. 

​Businesses that wish to offer their services to the DfE during the pandemic can email in the first instance. 

Department for Finance

Business Rates Advice and Support - grants available to businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief. 

COVID Corporate Finance Funding (CCFF) Programme for Large Companies

Assessed through the Bank of England administered scheme, the BoE purchases commercial paper from companies on similar terms to those prevailing prior to COVID-19 crisis. 

Heritage Emergency Fund

Welcoming applications for grants of £50,000-£250,000 to cover emergency costs during the COVID-19 crisis.
The £50million Heritage Emergency Fund criteria has expanded to help heritage organisations safely reopen in line with Government guidelines.
Now accepting applications for – Costs associated with safely re-opening in line with Government guidelines
 This could include:

  • additional staff to help manage queues or additional cleaning

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff and volunteers

  • implementing contactless payment methods

  • erecting temporary structures to help manage visitors such as shelter for queues or additional toilets

Self-emploment Income Support Scheme

The Government have announced a range of measures to support those who are self-employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. This scheme will allow self-employed individuals and members of partnerships to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months.
Week commencing Monday 4 May, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will start contacting around three and a half million customers who may be eligible for the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to explain the application process and help them get ready to make a claim.
Please note that claims for the first phase of SEISS must be made by 13th July 2020  

> Self Employment Income Support scheme extended
Eligible businesses will be able to claim for a second and final grant in August 2020 worth 70% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering a further 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

The Prince's Countryside Fund

The Prince’s Countryside Fund is inviting applications for emergency funding from farming and rural community support groups, who are providing assistance to counter the effects of isolation during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Heritage Emergency Fund

The £50m fund from The National Heritage Lottery Fund will be available for grants of between £3,000 and £50,000.
It is available to organisations across the full breadth of heritage, including historic sites, industrial and maritime heritage, museums, libraries and archives, parks and gardens, landscapes and nature.

The Prince's Trust and Nat West Enterprise Relief Fund

The £5million Enterprise Relief Fund will offer grants to 18 to 30-year olds across the UK who are self-employed and/or running their own business. In conjunction with cash grants, the initiative will offer one-to-one support and guidance to anyone who needs it and who may be worried about their future. To speak to someone about this opportunity, telephone 0800 842842.

DAERA Fishing Industry Support Package

A new £1.5 million support package for Northern Ireland’s fishing industry has been announced by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
The financial scheme will help the fishing industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, after social distancing measures and the collapse of the European and domestic fish markets have made trading virtually impossible.

Emergency support package for aquaculture sector

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced a £360,000 emergency support package for Northern Ireland’s aquaculture sector. The package aims to help aquaculture businesses that have experienced a significant drop in sales as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and will assist producers of species such as oysters and trout.
The support given will be in the form of a grant payment, covering the three month period from 1 March to 31 May 2020, and will be based on the income lost from sales of aquaculture products due to COVID-19.

Future Fund for Innovative Businesses

The government has announced a new scheme to issue convertible loans to innovative companies which are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak. It is open to applications from Wednesday 20 May.
The Future Fund scheme will issue loans to UK-based companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors.

UK Government Business Support Package for Innovate UK Award Holders

Up to £90 million is available in continuity grants, paid upfront, to SMEs and third sector organisations who are existing Innovate UK award holders and who are at risk of abandoning their project due to a sudden shortage or even unavailability of funds directly related to COVID-19.
These grants are for eligible organisations that expect to have a funding gap (between £25,000 and £250,000) in the remaining period of their project because they are facing loss or damages.

Creative Support Fund

Funding of £1.5m from the Department of Communities and administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to support individuals and organisations in the Arts Sector in response to COVID-19.

The initial application process is for individual artists and creative practitioners only. Funding for groups organisations should become available later and other processes will cover those. 

Bounce Back Loan Scheme

This scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to apply for loans of up to £50,000. It will launch on 4 May 2020.

The Bounce Back Loan scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.
The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.

Rental Properties with a Sole Tenant and NAV<1591 Properties Small Business Grant

Online form for rental properties with a sole tenant and properties with a Total Net Annual Value (NAV) of £1,590 or below.
Under rating legislation, the landlord is liable for rates on non-domestic rental properties with a Total NAV of £1,590 or below. For rental properties with a sole tenant and properties with a Total NAV of £1,590 or below, further information is required to ensure that that the grant is being paid to the small business who occupies the property, and not a landlord or letting agent.

Freelands Foundation Emergency Fund

The Freelands Foundation Emergency Fund will open on Thursday May 7th 2020 offering support grants of up to £1,500 to £2,500 per applicant

Co-fund programme for medical device development

Galway-based Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CÚRAM) is inviting Northern Ireland businesses to apply for their competitive Co-fund Programme for Medical Device development.
The call aims to support start-ups, small and medium-sized businesses and multinational corporations working in the medical device technology field to develop new industry solutions in these challenging times.

Federation for Small Business Advertising Fund

The FSB are giving small businesses the chance to receive a tailored advertising package worth £3000 courtesy of Mail Metro Media. The ad fund gives access to print advertising in Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, Metro and i. If you’re a small business in the UK, you can apply for the funding if you meet the following criteria:

  • Your business employs 150 employees or fewer

  • Your annual turnover (revenue) doesn’t exceed £6m

  • You have been trading as a business for six months or more

  • You’re in a position to redeem the £3000 advertising fund before 30 September 2020

ACNI University of Atypical Deaf/Disabled Artist Support Fund

Artists of all disciplines are invited to apply for 25 grants of up to £1,000 each, in order to support their practice, by 31st March 2021. The grants can support artistic output across any discipline and scale, alongside any associated access support requirements that D/deaf and disabled artists have. This fund is in addition to, not instead of, Arts Council’s other schemes such as the Artists’ Emergency Programme – D/deaf and disabled artists can apply for both.

Arts Council emergency programme for small and medium-sized arts organisations

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department for Communities has created a new financial support programme for small and medium-sized organisations to apply for maximum funding of £25,000 to help them to:

  • develop new projects or programmes

  • re-arrange events which have had to be cancelled during the COVID-19 period

Deadline for applications is Friday 12 June 2020 at 4 pm.

BBC Children in Need COVID-19 Next Step Grants Programme

BBC Children in Need are aware of the need for extra resources for organisations to adapt so we are launching the COVID-19 Next Steps programme. This will assist you to reach and continue to meet the needs of disadvantaged children and young people. We especially want to support the young people disproportionally affected by the pandemic. Your organisation may be:

  • Reviewing its working practices

  • Finding new ways of working

  • Adapting to address the current and emerging needs of children and young people.

The COVID-19 Next Steps programme aims to provide you with the funds to respond effectively and flexibly to these changes. We want you to be able to continue to meet the needs of children and young people during this time.

Tourism NI Recovery campaign

Tourism Northern Ireland is providing industry support to help tourism businesses recover from the impact of Coronavirus. It will deliver a range of digital and other advertising. The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation will assist the industry in supporting this activity and securing direct business.

Social and Community Capital Coronavirus Response Fund

Social & Community Capital (S&CC) want to help social enterprises, charities and community businesses. 

Through the S&CC Coronavirus Response Fund, they want to help bridge the gap so organisations survive the crisis and continue to have a positive impact in their communities.

  • £1 million total funding, with grants ranging from £5,000 to £50,000

  • Supports organisations who employ people from disadvantaged or vulnerable groups

  • Simple application form

  • Quick decision process and grant disbursement

Manufacturing Sector Funding

UK registered businesses can apply for funding towards feasibility studies into digital technologies to transform supply chains in UK manufacturing. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Opens Monday 6 July.

Sustainable Innovation Fund

The Sustainable Innovation Fund will help companies recovering from the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) keep their cutting-edge projects and ideas alive.


Other related information for businesses

Ventilator Readiness - Call to engineering firms

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is looking for organisations who can support in the supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the United Kingdom as part of the Government's response to COVID-19

Companies House Accounts Filing Extension

From 25 March 2020 businesses will be able to apply for a 3 month extension for filing their accounts. This joint initiative between the government and Companies House will mean businesses can prioritise managing the impact of Coronavirus.

UKRI Research and Innovation Opportunity

UKRI have announced an open call for research and innovation ideas to address COVID-19. Proposals are invited for short term projects addressing and mitigating the health, social, economic and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

UK Government Request for Business Support in response to COVID-19

Businesses can use this service to tell the UK Government how your business might be able to help with the response to coronavirus (for example, with the manufacture of medical testing equipement, PPE for healthworkers, expertise in ICT, communications and other business areas, or provision of hotel rooms). 

Skills Focus Training Programme

Skills Focus is a skills development programme funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE) and delivered across Northern Ireland by the six further education colleges. It aims to help local businesses upskill their staff.

The Skills Focus programme is available for SMEs with fewer than 250 employees. Businesses can now access free upskilling for their staff, including those who are furloughed. Funding for the scheme had been at 75 per cent with businesses making up the other 25 per cent. The 25 per cent cost to businesses has now been removed, until 31 March 2021, to support companies throughout the pandemic. Courses, with accredited qualifications, are delivered by the local further education colleges across a range of areas including customer service, health and social care, leadership and tourism.

BIRA Coronavirus Membership Package

Bira is offering a free membership package to help businesses through the Covid-19 crisis.
Independent retailers who sign up for the Coronavirus Membership Package can gain complimentary access to Bira member benefits for three months, in return for a nominal donation of £1, £5 or £10 to the Rainy Day Trust.
The deal, available until Tuesday, June 30, 2020, will support the independent retail community through the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.

Salesforce Small Business Grant

As part of Salesforce’s commitment to small businesses and giving back to the community, Salesforce is partnering with Enterprise Nation to offer eligible small businesses the opportunity to receive a £5,000 grant to help them through the COVID-19 outbreak.

DVA driving license extensions and service updates

Department for Infrastructure aims to help customers get back on track by either restoring services or extending expiry dates for driving licences

*Last updated Monday 29 June at 4.15pm.

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