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COVID-19 UPDATE: Saturday 21st March 2020 (Issue No.4)

We just wanted to update you on a couple of issues today, after last night’s significant announcement by the Chancellor.

Firstly a new term for many is “Furlough” and what does it mean?

The definition of furlough is to allow/force someone to be absent, temporarily from work. In the way used by the Chancellor, it means anyone asked to stop working during the coronavirus pandemic but not made redundant.

The update below summarises the Chancellor’s announcement and provides an update for our businesses to practice social distancing.

Monitor our social media channels and check your email inbox for regular updates.

You can contact me at:

Stay safe.

Colm Shannon,
Chief Executive Officer
Newry Chamber of Commerce & Trade



  • All employers, large or small, including charitable and non-profit, will be eligible to apply.
  • The HMRC grant will cover 80% of the salary of an employee laid off but not made redundant up to a total amount of £2,500 per employee.
  • The scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to 1st March and will be open initially for a 3 month period, but will be kept under review.

Full details on how to apply for the grant haven’t been announced.

HMRC is working on changes to their IT systems, to facilitate the coronavirus jobs retention scheme. They have advised that it will take until April as it will require changes to the PAYE system.

When asked about staff on Zero Hours Contracts, he said:

“It covers everybody who is on PAYE through the company. Zero hours covers a variety of situations, but it may well be you are on a PAYE scheme and have a set of regular earnings and it will be covered depending on your particular circumstances.”

The guidance, once issued, should provide further clarity.


  • Business VAT payments will be deferred until the end of June.
  • Companies will be given an extension until Dec 2020 to settle VAT bills outstanding, as a result of the three-month waiver period.
  • HMRC and software providers will need to update Making Tax Digital Software so that there is a new dual system for those that do not use the waiver.


  • The loan will be interest-free for the first 12 months and not 6 months, as originally announced.
  • The loan scheme will be available from Monday 23rd March 2020.


There were a number of measures targeted at the self-employed including:

  • The Universal Credit standard allowance will be increased by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months. This will bring the payment in line with the Statutory Sick Pay for employees.
  • Self Assessment for tax payments will be deferred to January 2021.


Newry Chamber, Newry BID and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council had a teleconference yesterday on the impact of coronavirus on the community.

Collectively, we want to issue a strong message about the importance of social distancing. We congratulate those businesses employing social distancing measures.

We recognise that it can be challenging but if your business remains open, in the interests of your own safety, your staff and customers’ safety, please ensure you have robust social distancing measures in place.

Information on the importance of social distancing is available HERE.

All cafés, bars, pubs and restaurant are now closed, although take out services can continue to operate.

Theatres, cinemas and gyms are also closed.


Chamber staff have trawled a range of websites and other sources of information to provide this up to date information to members.

Further updates will follow.

We strongly encourage you as a member, to get in touch with us with any queries that you have via email and we will do our very best to get you the answers you need and relay them back to you.


Stay safe.