On Thursday, 16 April at 10:00 am we will holding the next
Task Force webinar. 

Questions last time included:

  • Lease termination repercussions / responsibilities 
  • Cash flow issues/Government Covid business interruption lending (CBIL) But the rejection level high. Businesses need to improve business plan write up - your Chamber can help either directly or via a referral
  • Furloughing staff (T&C explained)
  • Directors can be furloughed, but must retain responsibilities with conditions

Please book here for your FREE place:

If you have missed our webinars, you can watch them now: https://hounslowchamber.org.uk/10015  

Yesterday, the Chief Executive of HMRC, Jim Harra, appeared before the Treasury Select Committee and announced their online system for making claims under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be launched on 20 April.

The system has been tested to handle up to 450,000 claims per hour and yesterday they began live testing with a small number of invited businesses. Employers can expect to receive their furlough grant within 4 to 6 days of submitting their claim and the first payments are due to come through by the end of April.

Mr Harra said he was confident the portal would not crash but accepts that their call centre may struggle to cope with call volumes if many employers call for assistance on using the system. HMRC have put plans in place to ensure the process works as smoothly and quickly as possible, with 2,000 staff already dedicated to their helplines and another 3,500 redeployed to help process the huge number of anticipated claims.


Retail sector
Letter from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, to those working in retail. The letter thanks all those who are working in retail during the coronavirus pandemic. The latest guidance on operating safely in the workplace during coronavirus for the retail sector is available here . The British Retail Consortium has also developed sector specific guidance on social distancing in warehouses and distribution centres aligned with this advice.

Manufacturing sector
Letter from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, to those working in the manufacturing sector. The letter thanks all those who are working in manufacturing during the coronavirus pandemic. Read the latest guidance on operating safely in the workplace for manufacturing and processing businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.


Charity Support package details
The Chancellor announced a £750 million package of support for charities yesterday to ensure they can continue their vital work during the coronavirus outbreak. £370 million will also be allocated for small and medium-sized charities, including through a grant to the National Lottery Community Fund for those in England. The application system for the National Lottery Community Fund grant pot is expected to be operational in the coming weeks. You can find more information here.

Supply chain support
The Chartered Institute of Transport (CILT) has set up a database for organisations in urgent need of supply chain resources.
The database has been made up from information provided by industry and provides a service that matches organisations together, so that those who have capacity can help those organisations in urgent need, such as the NHS and the grocery retail sector, by making available staff, vehicles, warehouse space and expertise to support the supply chain.


NEW: Help the government increase coronavirus (COVID-19) testing capacity
The government wants help from businesses to increase testing capacity in the UK as part of its strategy to protect the NHS and save lives. Find out more here.
More information about furloughing:
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Can a director furlough themselves?

As part of their efforts to keep their businesses afloat, company directors can furlough themselves.

  1. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme only supports permanent employees. An executive director is usually the most senior contracted permanent employee of a business, so would qualify.
  2. Non-executive directors are not permanent employees, so would not qualify.
  3. Furloughed employees must not perform any work for the employing business – few company directors can meet the requirement to remain entirely inactive.
  4. Depending on the size and needs of the company, it may be possible to furlough one or more directors.
  5. The UK government has recently indicated that a director can furlough and continue with their statutory duties. However, references to these duties only mention certain compliance activities such as filing accounts. Given that the first statutory duty of a director is "to promote the success of the company.
  6. Directors paid a nominal salary but receiving the bulk of their reward through dividends would only receive 80% of the nominal salary (if they qualify). Payment-by-dividends is not supported by the Scheme. 

How to furlough employees
  • The employer must first determine whether the situation leaves no option but to lay-off employees or make them redundant.
  • The employer must then inform the affected employee(s) of the decision to furlough them. Relevant clauses in the contract of employment will still apply. There may be a need for negotiation and written agreement, particularly if an employer is requiring the furloughed employee to take a 20% reduction in salary.
  • The employer must then use a new HMRC portal (in production) to register the names and salary details of furloughed employees (Remember – the government will pay up to £2,500 per month).
  • HMRC announced today the portal for job retention will be available on 20th April, first reimbursement payment should start being distributed before the end of April 2020
Please click here for more details from HMRC about the information you will need to provide, should you be eligible for the above scheme.
Support for self-employed individuals : advice from Bright Grahame Murray:  click here
Personal Plea for Help from the NHS:

I am the Procurement Director for both Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust and as you may be reading all the trusts in the North West London region are seeking to source Personal Protective Equipment.

The most at risk areas are long sleeve fluid resistant gowns and full coveralls.

We are seeking leads to source either of these. If any of your members:
a. Have been furloughed and have stock we would be willing to purchase the stock from them, or b. If any of your members could re purpose to manufacturing these items we would like to enter into a dialogue with them, for example a major UK chemical and oil company switched production to alcohol hand sanitiser.

If you feel any of your members could help especially with current stock of appropriate items please have them contact me either by e-mail denis.kelliher@nhs.net or mobile 07557 847361.

Many thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.

Denis Kelliher MCIPS
Heathrow COVID-19 Update

Heathrow is critical to tackling COVID-19

Vital supply lines - the number of passenger flights operating out of Heathrow has reduced by 75% but we are making sure that cargo flights carrying essential medical supplies, ventilators and medicines, as well as food supplies, remain able to touch down in the UK. 

Only a few days ago, a Virgin Atlantic flight touched down from China loaded solely with medical supplies such as ventilators and PPE to help the NHS save lives and keep medical staff safe.   In the last week of March, Heathrow saw a 409% increase in cargo only air traffic, compared to the average seen before the pandemic. Over 40% of the UK’s pharmaceutical products such as medicines, vaccines and respirators, are imported via Heathrow.

UK’s air bridge - freight is quickly transported across the country through our domestic route network and road transport. Heathrow currently links up our international network to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Isle of Man and Manchester via air and provides the only remaining air link from Belfast.

Getting UK nationals home - remaining international passenger flights at Heathrow are a crucial lifeline to the hundreds of thousands of UK residents that are being urged to return home by the Government. Where possible, the UK Foreign Office is calling for as many travellers as possible to use commercial services and we are vital to assisting with that.

For example, last week, two British Airways chartered planes landed at Heathrow bringing 330 British nationals home from Peru. Many of them had been confined to a hostel in Lima with COVID-19 patients and had no medical care. Now they are back home where they can be with their families and get the support they need.  

On Sunday, the UK Foreign Office announced plans to step-up efforts to bring home UK travellers stranded abroad because of COVID-19, with commercial partners. Heathrow is ready to play a central role in this operation.

Thermal Testing

We have received some questions about the thermal testing of all passengers. Heathrow does not make these decisions; the airport has been closely following the guidance of PHE on which measures are required to contain and respond to Coronavirus effectively and keep the public safe. Both the Government’s Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser are currently advising that temperature screening is ineffective in detecting or preventing the spread of Coronavirus. 

However, governments in some other countries are now asking that arriving passengers must have had temperatures checked, before boarding UK-side, in order to be permitted entry. As this is the request of some foreign governments, we are working with relevant partners to ensure these actions can be performed where it is deemed necessary.

Caring for our Communities

Last week, we updated you on our donation of thousands of FFP3 face masks to our local NHS and Air Ambulance Trusts. The donation is in addition to a number of initiatives exercised by the airport and its partners, to support the local community through the global COVID-19 outbreak, including:
  • Heathrow Community Trust (HCT) has ringfenced £95,000 as an emergency COVID-19 fund – support has been offered to all HCT’s 145 active grant projects
  • Online educational resources available to schools and parents on the Heathrow website
  • Heathrow Community Rangers being redeployed to support some of our local communities, including delivering donations to local food banks

We recognise the importance for Heathrow to play our part in these ways but will always look for more opportunities to support the most vulnerable in our communities. You can find out more here .
Top 10 Security Tips for Closed Business Premises. Click here
Bespoke Protective Screens from SKS Group

Personnel Protection Screens are now available made to size direct from SKS Group. Protection screens are not only a great way to protect your staff from potential dangers but also to help reduce customer contact during difficult situations.
Typical Product Specification
  • 1000mm wide x 800mm high (600mm screen with 200mm gap for transfer of goods)
  • Clear Perspex will prevent direct contact and reduce potential contamination.
  • The screen can be mounted directly to the counter or work surface.
  • Standard cost £565 per screen including delivery (for example as attached)
  • Bespoke screen sizes in any configuration available to order.
To place your order or discuss your requirements: Call – 01342 842116

Good News:
Social distancing working according to tracking app as number with symptoms declines
NASA satellite pictures reveal pollution levels have plummeted in China
Hounslow Chamber of Commerce is the primary support, networking, and representation organisation in west London for SMEs.

We support the interests, the commercial aspirations and the investment for some 18,000 firms - from Chiswick to Feltham, Heathrow to Osterley and Brentford to Bedfont - the Chamber is the voice for all businesses located in the borough.