Welcome to the updated SWA Covid-19 support hub. Over the past few weeks we’ve been dealing with a fast-moving business environment. Our primary focus has been to support you and answer your queries about business support.
Thank you to all of you who have taken the time to tell us how much the regular Covid-19 updates have been appreciated – you can take a look at the latest updates and useful links below.
Please find below our recent activities along with Scotland’s routemap out of lockdown. It’s going to be a long process but SWA will continue guiding our members, assisting you wherever you need us and fighting to ensure that we all get through this as a united Scottish wholesale industry.
FM Launches Scottish Routemap
The SG published today their high level Framework for Decision Making - Scotland's Route Map Through and Out of the Crisis. The four-phased route map provides an indication of the order in which the SG will “carefully and gradually” seek to change current restrictions. It provides practical examples of what people, organisations and businesses can expect to see change over time, with further supplements being published in the next few days with further advice & guidance for key business sectors and the public. The phasing table will continue to be updated and will be formally reviewed every three weeks. The First Minster stated there may be occasions on which the SG would go faster while on others they may need to delay.
Here is a summary of her statement and route map:
- SG would publish a paper on how the R-rate was calculated, as well as an estimate of the R-rate every Thursday.
- The move to Phase 1 must align with the Test, Trace and Isolate strategy (called ‘Test & Protect’ in Scotland) currently being rolled out across the country’s health boards next week.
- SG plan was based on criteria from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and from the experiences of other countries
- Move to Phase 1 starts on Thursday 28th May and includes:
- Outdoor meeting with 1 other household – in small numbers
- People to use outdoor spaces (park, beach) for recreation.
- Remote/homeworking still default position but those reopening to consider staggering start times & flexible working.
- Gradual re-opening of drive through food outlets & garden centres.
- Businesses opening in Phase 2 start considering how they will do this now (further guidance to be published).
- Some outdoor pursuits free to open (ie golf, hiking, canoeing)
- Social distancing, now known as ‘Physical Distancing’, must be adhered to in all circumstances and during ALL phases.
- Move to Phase 2 (& subsequent phases) are not time referenced and will be done as evidence develops and when relevant WHO criteria for easing restrictions are met.
- Phase 2 includes:
- Meeting or larger groups outside & indoors with another household.
- Indoor non-office based workplaces can resume (ie lab & research, factories)
- Small retail units can re-open (under 250sq mtr)
- Pubs & restaurants with outdoor spaces can open (with physical distancing)
- Phase 3 includes the opening of schools from 11th August HOWEVER this date is purely for schools, with other businesses/activities opening at differing dates ‘when evidence says they can’…this could be prior to 11th Aug as well as after.
- Reliant on Test & Protect being in full effect and virus suppressed.
- Meet with more than 1 household indoors.
- Public transport operating some full services & people being able to drive beyond local area.
- Blended model of school reopening between home and school learning
- Remote working still default but indoor offices could open (subject to guidance).
- Larger retail could open & pubs/rest. can open indoor space with physical distancing.
- Restrictions on accommodation (hotels, B&Bs, holiday homes) to be relaxed.
- Cinema, museums, libraries could open.
- People could meet in extended groups (ie places of worship)
- Phase 4: virus remains suppressed & no longer considered significant threat to public health, all WHO criteria to be met and potential vaccine and/or effective treatment may have been developed.
- Relaxation on family gatherings.
- Public transport fully operational
- Remote & flexible working still encouraged but all types of workplace will be open.
- Shopping/eating – all outlets open in line with public health advice.
- Shop Local still encouraged.
- Mass gatherings resume in line with public health advice.
Overall the SG state that in taking and implementing decisions about how we restart our economy, we must work in close collaboration with employers, trade unions and workplace regulators, including the Health and Safety Executive and Local Authorities. We must restart the economy safely and this has to be built around three pillars:
- successful measures to suppress the virus, including the ability to test, trace and isolate further cases effectively;
- the right structure for workplace regulation; and
- guidance that promotes fair and safe workplaces and sectors.
SWA Product Redistribution List
Our next edition of the Wholesale Product Distribution list will go out tomorrow and I ask that you send through to me, by mid-day tomorrow, any product that you have available to ‘clear’. Please send product description, size/weight, pack size and quantity available. BBE dates are optional.
A reminder that this list is sent to ALL Scottish Foodbanks, regional food resilience groups and SG food colleagues as well as fellow SWA members.
Best Before End – New Guidance
As per their update below, our colleagues at FWD have been working with DEFRA and WRAP to assist wholesalers in extending shelf life for food items now facing a slow rate of sale…mainly Catering packs.
While guidance has been produced by WRAP and endorsed by the Food Standards Agency and DEFRA. SWA spoke today with the Chief Executive of Food Standards Scotland (FSS) as to whether they are accepting this guidance and endorse it for use in Scotland.
He confirmed that he has passed the details to their science and policy team and will revert with confirmation, or explanation of any differences. If endorsed for use, we will forward all relevant material produced by WRAP.
UKHospitality Concerned That Recovery Plan Risks Jobs & Businesses
UKHospitality, with whom SWA work closely with on joint industry concerns including DRS, today voiced their concern that plans to reopen hospitality and tourism businesses in Scotland have been drawn up arbitrarily, with no consultation with the sector and little forethought for the impact on hospitality businesses.
Executive Director for Scotland, Willie Macleod said: “We are seriously concerned that the Scottish Government’s plan for reopening will do more harm than good. It appears not to be based in any logic and has the potential to create a two-tier sector with many already-hammered businesses being left behind.”
SWA agree with his concerns and what it means for the majority of our members who service this sector, with a wait for Phase 3 being months away, eating up any small cash reserves our members may have.
Willie continued that “Reopening hospitality businesses should be phased according to agreed protocols to ensure healthy, hygienic and safe spaces for staff members and tourists. The Scottish Government’s plans rests on whether businesses have an outdoor space or not; not whether they are able to operate safely with social distancing guidelines in place. Subjecting businesses that do not have outdoor spaces but could operate perfectly safely to further forced closure is illogical and will do serious harm.”
NCSC helps small businesses move from physical to digital
At a time when many UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are considering how their organisation can adapt to the new remote working environment, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has published advice to support them in moving operations online.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus the NCSC, which is a part of GCHQ, has produced a range of guidance and launched the Cyber Aware campaign, all with the aim of helping keep the public and organisations safe online.
To use the latest advice, businesses are asked to first consider six key questions to identify current risks and areas for improvement. These questions range from what type of technology they currently use to whether they have cyber insurance.
They are then offered a series of practical tips, as well as being directed to relevant NCSC guidance such as the Small Business Guide and Home Working Guidance, published after the coronavirus outbreak.
Food Industry Resilience Forum
- Defra’s current assessment of C19 on food supply is that it is “manageable”: absences are higher than normal; production levels are near where they usually would be with fewer skus being produced; imports are at normal levels
- On a forward view there are concerns over: absenteeism which could spike if there is a second peak of C19 or the shielded population is expanded; EU imports ie fresh/seasonal workers/friction at borders; Brexit; imports from the rest of the world eg rice from India/fruit from South Africa/issues at ports such as Mombassa. Contingency measures are being put in place across a range of scenarios with the focus on making the market work
- Businesses which didn’t stop operations during lockdown do not have to publish a working safely risk assessment
Best Before End
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, wholesalers have seen a huge decline in the demand for some products, causing issues with Best Before Dates for food, primarily but not exclusively catering packs. WRAP have developed guidelines in order to assist in extending shelf life for these products, and whether such products are fit to sell and eat after their ‘Best Before’ date. This has been endorsed by the Food Standards Agency and Defra, and FWD has been working with WRAP to apply these guidelines to wholesale products. (SWA are awaiting confirmation from FSS that they will replicate this guidance for application in Scotland).
After FWD was approached by Defra to provide sector-specific evidence as to why a relaxation in drivers’ hours would required beyond 31 May, FWD members gave the feedback that no further extension was needed, which was passed onto Defra.
Several groups have called publicly for social distancing measures to be 1m, rather than 2m, in line with World Health Organisation guidelines, as a way of making the restart easier. This could be “kite flying” ahead of an announcement on a change by the Prime Minister when he makes his next announcement on the weekend of May 30.
SG Food Resilience Industry Roundtable
SWA participated in the weekly SG Food Resilience Industry roundtable, hosted by Fergus Ewing. The main discussions included:
- SG focus and those members of the roundtable will be continuing to look at C-19 recovery work but not forgetting Brexit
- Fergus thanked the food & drink industry for their continued resilience, effort and support during these unprecedented times.
- Track, Trace and Isolate testing has begun in Scotland but will focus on ‘tried and tested’ techniques, based on contact tracing which has been used successfully before.
- Scotland’s system will be App based but will not use the UK close proximity version (albeit the public can still use the UKs) as Scotland won’t be using the Bluetooth tracking facility.
- To be effective, contact tracing requires low levels of transmission in the community for it to work and we’re just about getting to that level.
- People developing C-19 symptoms are required to self-isolate immediately (for 7 days), they should contact a new NHS Scotland number or use an App, where they will be tested within a maximum of 48hrs.
- Contact tracers will then speak to the affected person, identifying and isolating anyone else whom they have been in contact with. Contacts will be isolated for 14days.
- Should the test return negative the patient and contacts will be notified and released from isolation.
- It is anticipated that this procedure will remain in place for up to 2 years. [There was no mention on whether this was dependent on a vaccine being found or not].
- Industry will be required to know and understand their obligations.
- Supplies of food and drink, according to DEFRA, are good albeit still some gaps within the market.
- SG will produce it’s manufacturing and retail guidance on Friday.
- An upgraded Food Standards Scotland business risk-assessment is being finished and will allow any business to undertake an assessment which will be proportional to their business size and type. SWA will keep you updated of when this goes live.
- Concerns were raised by SWA, Road Haulage Assoc and Freight Transport Assoc on the impact of local Council road closures which have been introduced to allow greater pedestrianisation/cycling during lockdown and how this may impact on deliveries to businesses on these roads as lockdown is lifted and businesses reopen. SG will be discussing this further with SWA.
First Minister Update
Outtakes from today’s FM announcement included:
- Unemployment in Scotland (Jan. to Mar.) rose by 13k to 113,000. While this remained a “relatively low” rate, the First Minister warned the findings wouldn’t yet fully reflect the impact of the pandemic.
- Ahead of the lockdown exit strategy publication on Thursday, the FM was asked if the proposals would “fall short” of asking those who could not work from home to return to work, as had been the case in England. While stating she had grave concerns about the job market and state to the economy, the FM stressed it was more important to focus on a safe exit strategy and return to work in order to avoid another peak in infections.
- When asked whether teachers would be returning to work in June and children returning to school on Tuesday 11 August, the FM would give no firm commitments and referred to the publication coming on Thursday for more information to be announced.
- The Enterprise & Skills Strategic Board would coordinate “rapid action” with enterprise and skills agencies to ensure people were equipped with skills for the future.
Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme set to launch
UKG announced today that a new online service will be launched on 26 May for small and medium-sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to recover coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments they have made to their employees.
The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme was announced at Budget as part of a package of support measures for businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
This means you will receive repayments at the relevant rate of SSP that you have paid to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.
To prepare to make your claim, you should keep records of all the SSP payments that you wish to claim from HMRC. You can read further guidance on checking whether you can claim back SSP paid to employees due to coronavirus (COVID-19) on GOV.UK.
Members are eligible if you have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started before 28 February 2020 and had fewer than 250 employees before the same date.
The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks of SSP and is payable if an employee is unable to work because they:
- have coronavirus; or
- are self-isolating and unable to work from home; or
- are shielding because they've been advised that they're at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus
Tory Amendment to extend alcohol sales
Murdo Fraser MSP has tabled an amendment to the Coronavirus Scotland No2 Bill to permit the sale of alcohol from 8am Monday to Sunday during this “emergency period”. The amendment was debated at Stage 2 this morning, with Stage 3 taking place tomorrow.
CGA Consumer Report
CGA’s latest research (attached) focuses on consumer current habits and mindset in lockdown. While for the first time they looked at how consumers are planning for, and what expectations they have, of the recovery both of the wider economy and specifically the hospitality industry.
Some key outtakes are:
- Three quarters of the GB adult population will return visits to pubs, bars and restaurants – but over 50% will be doing so cautiously
- Consumers anticipate feeling most comfortable returning to restaurants – perhaps due to the more controlled nature of the restaurant experience – this learning could be applied across other formats
- People’s pre-lockdown frequency in the hospitality market has a direct influence on their anticipated post-lockdown behaviour – those who were frequent visitors will return less cautiously
- In the short term people anticipate this translating into fewer visits to the market – although when asked to predict into the longer term consumers see frequency returning to more normal levels across the next 12 months
Brexit – Future Relationship Published
While we are all living with the impacts of C-19, focus for industry leaders [including here at SWA] must start and look again at Brexit. The SG Food Resilience Group on which SWA sit, originally formed to look at Brexit but which was repurposed to look at C-19, will perform a dual role over the coming weeks by looking at both!
UKG published today it’s version of a future EU-UK relationship, in which Scotland had little meaningful involvement. While UKG are resisting to move on the transition period, which is scheduled to finish on 31 Dec 2020, SG and industry are asking that it be extended. This can be done but only by mutual agreement and provided a decision is taken by 1 July.
Constitution Secretary Michael Russell commented today:
“People in Scotland will be utterly dismayed that the UK Government is pressing ahead with these complex negotiations when all their efforts should be focussed on tackling the current unprecedented crisis.
“Despite making many requests to see these texts, the Scottish Government only received these legal texts a few hours before publication so we have not yet had the opportunity to analyse in any detail what is proposed.
“But it is clear the UK Government’s plans for only a basic trade deal or what increasingly seems to be their preferred option of no deal will be a devastating blow for Scotland’s economy already hit hard by coronavirus.
“Yet again the UK Government has chosen to treat Scotland’s interests and views with contempt and they have failed to involve any of the devolved governments in any meaningful way
If you do nothing else please read the PERF update below and our ask to be kept informed, otherwise here’s todays roundup of events:
PERF – Wholesalers Funding Success
While the final round of PERF funding closed today for new applicants, it was by coincidence that SWA members started to hear whether or not they had secured the first round of funding. We are extremely pleased to hear that, so far, most members have successfully received substantial grants however there are some who have not been as fortunate.
Please let me know asap whether you have, or have NOT, been successful. We have today spoken to SG and Fergus Ewing’s team about non-successful applicants. There has been agreement that the SG Food & Drink team will look at those who have not been successful and while nothing is promised, we will continue to fight your case as we take things to the next level.
As we continue our fight for support we can only do this with continued knowledge of your business and trading conditions. We will therefore be sending out another “Scottish Wholesale Market Place” survey at the end of this week.
It’s intention is to continue to strengthen our hand in asking for SG support in the form of:
- Business rates relief extended to wholesale.
- Further tailored SG Grants to cover stock (esp. from public procurement) and rising bad-debt.
- Ensuring new furlough changes meet the requirements of our industry.
For some members, Wholesale still remains the only sector in the food supply chain that has NOT yet had any Government support…SWA are not giving up the fight in rectifying this!
Parliamentary Answers on Support for Wholesale
As mentioned above SWA are continuing to push for specific SG support for our sector. Through this process we are engaging with MSPs across the political spectrum.
The attached PDF highlights Scottish Parliamentary Questions on support for wholesalers, tabled by Conservative MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, Finlay Carson and answered by Fergus Ewing and the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes.
The questions answered include:
- What plans SG have to expand the rates relief programme to assist groups in the hospitality supply chain, including food and drink wholesalers?
- What financial support it will offer to the hospitality supply chain, including food and drink wholesalers, so that they can remain in business?
- What support it is providing during the COVID-19 outbreak to food wholesalers that have procurement contracts to supply schools?
First Minister – Scottish Routemap This Week
The First Minister today announced the Scottish Government’s route map, setting out its phased approach to easing lockdown restrictions, would be published on Thursday. The first phase of restrictions easing is expected to happen after the next formal review of lockdown on Thursday 28 May. It is hoped this will allow more outdoor activity; for people to meet up outdoors with other households as long as social distancing is in place; some sporting activity outside like golf or angling; and the re-opening of garden centres and recycling centres.
Nicola Sturgeon also confirmed the route map would set out an up to date assessment of the phased return to school and guidance for key industries to keep their employees and customers safe would be set out from Thursday onwards.
The First Minister also announced:
- The addition of anosmia or the loss or change in sense of smell or taste to the list of symptoms of COVID-19 was noted. She stressed anyone experiencing this or a new continuous cough or fever should stay at home for seven days, and any members of their household for 14 days.
- Anyone over the age of five with any of the three symptoms would now be able to book a test at the drive-through centres at airports or via mobile testing units. Nicola Sturgeon explained these tests would be allocated based on the centre closest to a person’s post code. She was conscious this could mean long drives in rural areas and said the Government was working with the military to increase the availability of mobile units.
SNP Call for Clarity on UKGvt Furlough Contribution
Alison Thewliss MP, the SNP’s Shadow Chancellor and with whom SWA had a recent ‘Zoom’ call with, has called on the UK government to offer urgent clarity on the extension of its Job Retention Scheme, amidst ongoing concern from employers that they will not be able to afford to contribute towards salaries.
Last week, HM Treasury announced that it would extend its current furlough scheme until October this year, however, advised that more details on employer contributions, staring in August, would be forthcoming before the end of the month. As yet, no details have emerged.
Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:
“A number of stakeholders – including businesses and trade bodies – have contacted me following the Chancellor’s statement last week, where he revealed that the furlough scheme would extend until October.
“Having dug a bit deeper, we see that the Treasury intends to ask employers to start contributing towards the scheme from August onwards.
“In the hospitality and leisure industry – where uptake of the furlough scheme is particularly high – there is a real fear that redundancies will be unavoidable if businesses are suddenly forced to pay towards wages and salaries. Many in the sector will have had no income for months, while bills and debt are mounting.
“We need proper clarity on what the UK government is planning to ask of business, and we need a commitment to sector-specific support to fully protect the workforce. Anything less will amount to another broken promise from this government”.
Water Commission - £50m Support for SME’s
The Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) has announced a scheme that will provide at least £50 million of support to businesses and organisations across Scotland that have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Effective from 15th May, the scheme ensures that business customers impacted by the crisis receive bills that more accurately reflect their current use of water and waste water services. In addition, unmetered and smaller businesses are eligible for a 60% deferral of their wholesale fixed charges backdated to 24 March 2020.
The scheme also allows those business customers who prepaid water and sewerage charges to their licensed providers to request a refund. Smaller customers receiving a refund are also eligible to apply for a deferral of their fixed wholesale charges.
Business customers should contact their licensed provider who can apply for the scheme on their behalf. Scottish Water will continue to relax the two-month wholesale prepayments due by licensed providers for the duration of the scheme, and full details are available on the WICS https://www.watercommission.co.uk/
Please find todays updates below. We hope you all have a great weekend.
PERF Grant – Closes Monday 18th May
While the PERF opened again for applicants yesterday, we’re aware that some members have had problems in the process and still await their “verification email link” to be emailed to them. As a matter of urgency, if this applies to you please let me know ASAP!
We remind members that the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund grant application will close on Monday 18th at 5pm…it will NOT be reopening thereafter. The SG grant of up to £100k is available to wholesalers who meet the following criteria and who should apply immediately because of the time being required to collate the data asked within the full application process. Don’t leave it until the last minute!
Am I eligible?
You must meet these criteria in order to apply:
· Your company has up to 249 employees that have been trading successfully before Covid19
· Less than £45 million turnover or balance sheet total of £38 million
· Can demonstrate the funding will support business to be viable
· You were not in financial difficulty before 31 December 2019
· You are a Fair Work employer or working towards becoming a Fair Work employer
To apply please follow the guidance here
SG Retail Guidance – Wholesale Examples
As previously updated, SWA sit on the SG Covid-19 Retail Sub-group, helping produce SG guidance for the retail sector as lockdown eases. SG guidance pertaining to retail and manufacturing will be published next week, as part of the ongoing updating of this guidance SWA have been asked to provide examples of “what good looks like”. This is exemplifying what wholesalers and our retail stores have done to maintain physical distancing, protect staff/customers, communicate with the public/customers, cleaning/cleansing etc.
Great implementation and examples will be endorsed by SG and published as examples for other industry/sectors/retailers to use when implementing their own control measures. Please send any photos or guidance documents/posters and information to myself for passing to SG.
Business interruption insurance – High Court Test Case
On 1 May 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) released a statement that they intend to obtain court declarations aimed at resolving contractual uncertainty in selected Business Interruption (BI) insurance policies.
Acting in the public interest, the FCA will put forward policyholders’ arguments to their best advantage. They are aiming to obtain legal guidance in this way more quickly and at a lower cost to policyholders than would be the case if they took their own court actions.
They are inviting policyholders and insurance intermediaries who are aware of unresolved disputes with insurers over the terms of BI policies to engage with them, if you want them to take your concerns into account as part of the test case.
Full details and contact information can be found on the FCA website
The wholesale exchange – SWA & Sector Recognised in SG
SWA and the importance of the wholesale industry was discussed during a meeting of the Culture, Tourism Europe and External Affairs committee this week. The following discussion having taken place:
Beatrice Wishart (Lib.Dem. MSP) said she was concerned at "ripple effect" on other businesses and that "many wholesalers had lost 80% of their business as the pubs and hotels they used to service have closed. Many of these businesses are still without support and experiencing severe cashflow issues. Is the Cabinet Secretary considering any specific support for wholesalers in Scotland and might Business Rates Relief be extended to cover wholesale businesses ?"
Fergus Ewing's response - "The member's absolutely correct that wholesalers face particular challenges. We've discussed some of these in relation to supply of food and provisions to the islands to ensure there's equity of supply- that our retailers - the largest and the independents are able to supply your constituents that live in the most remote parts of Scotland to have same access to a range of food and supplies as everybody else.
Wholesalers fulfil that purpose and they're facing pressures . I understand that in working with the Wholesaler's Association, very closely with them, that several of their member companies have received support from the funds that are available but I'm also conscious that some haven't and face very significant challenges particularly the loss of the on trade as BW points out . So that is again work in progress and the aim is to help these companies that are a hidden part of Scottish life but without wholesalers who supplies the schools, the hospitals, the clubs, the pubs ? Where does it all come from ?
The wholesalers are the suppliers of food and provisions and refreshments to a whole range of bodies. Without them we have another serious gap in provision for tourism and for public servants as well.
So I'm very pleased that (Committee) Members are raising all these important points."
SWA will use this discussion and MSP comments to further strengthen our ongoing asks of SG.
New COVID-19 Food Businesses Guide Launches
Many businesses are exploring, and others have already begun diversifying their business model to adapt to "the new normal". To aid this, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI ), and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have launched a free expert guide on business diversification during the pandemic.
Pubs and restaurants that had typically never offered takeaway options before are embracing it as a surefire means of generating income during the pandemic. The internet is now full of easy to use third-party platforms for businesses to set up their takeaway options. From Just Eat to Deliveroo , Uber Eats, Foodhub and others, there are many different opportunities to diversify the business model and embrace takeaway.
While it may not be relevant for wholesalers the website offers some good guidance and help for your customers looking to re-open.
Please remember that guidance relating to licensing and Health & Hygiene will not reflect that of standards set in Scotland, which will need referred to separately.
Today’s updates, including the PERF fund re-opening tomorrow…but closing again on Monday!
PERF Grant Application Re-Opens Tomorrow
Scottish Enterprise and partners today advised that from mid-morning on Thursday 14 May 2020 the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund will reopen for new applications.
“We will be closely monitoring the volume of new applications and expect both the Pivotal and Hardship Funds to reach their full capacity early next week and therefore anticipate both will close at 5pm on Monday 18 May 2020.”
SWA ask that ALL members who fall within the eligibility criteria and who haven’t already submitted a claim do so QUICKLY. We ask that you let us know when you have done so, while anyone requiring assistance please give me a phone.
Start your application by selecting the “Get Ready To Apply” button at the very bottom of the Guidance for Applicants webpage
Deposit Return Gets Vote of Approval
The Scottish Parliament has voted in favour of the DRS Regulations going ahead however the Scottish Government managed to lose the support of all the other opposition parties in the process. Tory, Labour and Lib Dem speakers made it clear they didn't feel the time was right to progress with the Regulations due to the impacts Covid-19 was having on affected businesses. Mairi Gougeon, the Scottish Government Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment responded that the government would continue to monitor the situation very closely and would work closely with industry.
More than half of MSPs were missing due to the Parliament's new social distancing requirements.36 SNP MSPs voted in favour, 16 Conservatives voted against and there were 19 abstentions. Labour ,Liberal Democrats and the Greens abstained.
We published two Press Releases relating to DRS and sent out today, the first this morning prior to the vote and the second after the vote.
Government Support Trade Credit Insurance
SWA welcome today’s announcement by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen MP, that businesses with supply chains which rely on Trade Credit Insurance and who are experiencing difficulties maintaining cover due to Coronavirus will get support from the government.
The UK Government will temporarily guarantee business-to-business transactions currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance, ensuring the majority of insurance coverage will be maintained across the market. This will support supply chains and help businesses to trade with confidence as they can trust that they will be protected if a customer defaults on payment.
SWA have been asking SG (&FWD same of UKG) to help underwrite Credit Insurance to maintain the food supply chain. We hope that this will help both our wholesale and supplier members maintain existing credit agreements and indeed extend them where required to ensure continuity of supply into the convenience channel.
Grocery Aid Assistance for Wholesale
As a reminder GroceryAid is the national charity that helps people across the whole of the retail industry, including those working in Wholesale, Retail, Convenience, Supply Chain, Offices etc.
In addition to financial assistance for those individuals who require it, GroceryAid have put together information to help industry colleagues get through these unprecedented times. Including access to their health and Wellbeing portal, Relationship Advice, Debt Advice, Law Advice and Counselling.
Please make your staff aware of this support on offer to them, whether they are in your workplace or on furlough. https://www.groceryaid.org.uk/get-help/covid-19-keeping-well/
CGA Industry Confidence Survey
CGA published the latest results from their Business Confidence Survey last week.
The poll of over 120 senior executives looked at ‘what operators are planning for’ and some of the highlights are below:
- Just 36% of leaders believe they will eventually re-open all of their sites for trading, with another third yet to decide on closures.
- The vast majority (81%) of operators have now started recovery planning, with most considering a range of different scenarios.
- When the poll was taken, most leaders assumed lockdown would be lifted in one to three months’ time, with 39% predicting between one and two months and another 29% between two and three.
- The vast majority (96%) of bosses are expecting a phased reopening for hospitality, with half believing that will be based on a number of criteria including sector, location and type of site. Only 4% expect a mass reopening.
- Two thirds of bosses believe it will take them less than two weeks to get their sites ready to trade after lockdown is lifted, including a third (33%) who think they can do it in less than a week, while another 22% anticipate a two to four week preparation period.
Anyone interested in viewing their recent webinar please watch it again here.
Please find below SWA activity updates from over the past two days. Yesterday I was involved with the SG Retail Sub-group, where SWA are a leadership body, helping SG develop guidance that allows for the phased re-opening of the retail sector. Further details on this are expected to be published by the end of the week (or start of next). Meanwhile yesterday Margaret, our public affairs consultant, joined FWD on their call with DEFRA (see FWD updates).
First Minister Update & Furlough Extension
The First Minister yesterday emphasised that UK Government announcements on lockdown relaxations did not apply in Scotland and the Scottish Government’s message remained unchanged…other than Sunday’s announcement whereby daily exercise no longer has a once a day limit (but excluded “outdoor leisure activities”). She urged the media to report clearly on the different restrictions in place in different UK nations.
She referred to the newly published Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Bill. Which included an increase of the minimum debt level to £10,000 to protect those at risk of bankruptcy. While she also stated that she wanted financial arrangements, in relation to the job retention scheme, to be in place for as long as they were needed across the UK. She said the schemes should recognise the different timelines of each country but hoped these would be minimal.
SWA yesterday wrote to Fergus Ewing, Kate Forbes (Cab.Sec. Finance) and Fiona Hyslop (Cab. Sec. Tourism, Culture, External Affairs) asking for assurance that furlough will remain in place for the wholesale sector until such times as the Hospitality industry is “operating at a reasonable level of trading”. In the letter we also asked for the introduction of a ‘flexible’ furlough scheme, which allows employees to come back to work on a part-time basis, and a reminder of our other ongoing asks of SG support for our sector.
Today’s announcement by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, alleviated our previous concerns on furlough ending soon where he confirmed that furlough will remain in place until October and across the devolved nations. The current scheme will remain in place until the end of July, with changes from August. These include a more flexible scheme which will allow employees to return part-time, with employers asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of those furloughed staff. However the final details of what the revised scheme looks like will be published by the end of the month. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-extends-furlough-scheme-until-october
DRS Final Parliamentary Vote - Tomorrow
The Scottish Deposit Return Scheme gets its’ final vote in Parliament tomorrow. Over this past week SWA have written to the majority of party leaders and key MSPs asking them for their support in at least ‘halting’ DRS until such times as a sense of new normality has returned to the economy.
We know that the Final Business case and the Business Impact Assessment underpinning these Regulations are now obsolete. There will be a need for revised data and a fresh look at the scheme design as a result of pandemic impacts on the number of containers on the market; numbers of retail and hospitality return points; council recycling rates and online food sales.
CMA Call on Wholesale Supply Chain Issues
SWA today had a top level call with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and who have been looking at evidence, provided by SWA, into manufacturer supply shortages coming into the wholesale channel, especially in Highlands and Islands. The outcome of this meeting ties in with some DEFRA work already underway with FWD and ACS, whereby they are asking for further information/data gathering on the particular supply problems we’ve highlighted and how this filters into the convenience market.
SWA may ask members for more data on specific suppliers’ but will first help FWD/ACS on their current workstream and use this to help CMA build a national picture of supply issues as well those more focused on Scottish regional variations.
PERF – Additional £45m of Support Added
The SG announced on Friday that a further £45m of funding support would be added to the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund. SWA welcome this news and will hopefully allow our members who have still to apply to be reassured they have not “missed the boat”. As we reported last week, the fund is temporarily paused but is expected to reopen this week…we will keep members updated.
Bounce Back Loan Scheme
Members are reminded that the UKG Bounce Back Loan scheme is available to all members, on a temporary basis for an initial period of six months…extendable as required.
· BBLS will provide term loans only for a term of six years, with businesses able to access loans equivalent to 25 per cent of their turnover from £2,000 up to a maximum loan size of £50,000.
· The interest rate will be standardised across all lenders and fixed at 2.5 per cent.
· There will be no fees for borrowers to access the scheme.
· A Government grant (‘the business interruption payment') will be provided for the benefit of businesses, equal to the interest incurred on the facility for the first twelve months.
· Businesses will not be required to make any repayments on capital during the first twelve months of the facility.
For more detail please go to https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan
Online Support Workshops
The UKG are hosting a few more online support workshops for businesses in helping them apply for Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and Job Retention Scheme.
Coronavirus COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme: Providing an overview of the scheme, this webinar looks at who can claim, when to start paying SSP, employees you can claim for, making a claim, keeping records, and more.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – How to make a claim: This guides you through making a claim, including the essential information you need, what to do before you make your claim, calculating and processing your claim.
PPE Demand Survey
The CBI is undertaking a survey of businesses of all types across Britain, to try and establish what the demand for PPE is likely to be in the coming months. The link to complete their survey is here and the deadline for completion is Wednesday.
If you can, please do take the time to do this, as it will give a nationwide picture and may also help you focus your own thinking on what you will need as a business.
Food Resilience Industry Forum
- Guidance on the use of face coverings in the food and drink sector will not change following Monday’s announcement. Industry reported confusion over the use of masks after the announcement, particularly the reference to their use in “some shops” and whether they should be used in the workplace
- Track and trace app test: a working group from the sector has been set up from the food and drink sector using learnings from the IoW which will feed into the design of the app for the UK. FWD is representing the wholesale sector
- Industry are seeking guidance on the 12 week vulnerable and their path back to work, as well as how long the food boxes for the vulnerable will be continued. Defra is defining the vulnerable population and the offer to them beyond the initial 12 week period
- There is confusion about the different messages from the Government and devolved administrations
Working safely consultation
Following the publication of the Government’s Working Safely guidance, FWD has been asked to provide further feedback post-publication. This might include questions about application, concerns arising from the guidance or suggestions for additional advice or tools that would be helpful. Please let us know if you have comments you would like to feed in.
Wholesale and Covid-19 online discussion
FWD is hosting an online discussion for wholesalers and suppliers at 2.00pm tomorrow on the theme of “Wholesale and Covid-19: Lockdown and the next six months”. The format is two panel sessions with contributions from Andrew Selley, Bidfood; Dawood Pervez, Bestway; Darren Goldney, Unitas; Gary Mullineux, Caterforce; Ellie Krupa, Premier Foods and Clare Bocking, DCS Group.
We will be using the GoToMeeting Platform – joining details for this are below:
Please join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
FWD-Defra call 11/05/20 (SWA also joined this call)
The FWD Council had a call with eight Defra officials to discuss wholesale issues. Points to note:
- Defra said FWD’s survey data indicates that a significant proportion of wholesalers have not utilised the available support and this was a “sticking point” with Treasury. Members said that loans with high interest rates was too great a risk without knowing when customers would return to profitability and would not help pay for stock that has been wasted. Taking out the loans offered is like “extending your mortgage when you’ve lost your job”
- Defra will provide clarity on bounce back loans and CBILs with regard to any £50,000 transfer
- Members are frustrated that businesses under less stress were offered support such as business rate relief, and believe this should be offered to wholesalers
- Some members believe the Treasury is not fully aware of the risk to the wholesale sector, or not taking it seriously, or does not understand the wholesale business model. Can wholesalers speak directly to HMT? Defra said they would try to arrange this
- Defra asked whether it was helpful that a phased approach to re-opening schools was being considered. Members said the partial opening of schools planned for June (three year groups only) may make the cost to serve prohibitive, and schools may choose not to open canteens for such small numbers
- Defra said that larger fast food chains are reopening for take away and asked if this would significantly increase business for members. National distributors anticipate some recovery though take away and home delivery, but for independent wholesalers take away is as little as 3-4% of turnover, so the impact was minimal
- Defra said FWD’s restart document was ‘comprehensive’. Members said foodservice outlets that can adhere to social distancing should be allowed to open as soon as possible. Wholesalers need to know when sectors will re-open, so they know how much cash they need to borrow to purchase stock for their customers. Wholesalers can re-open within a week so don’t need long lead times
- Any change to furlough before reopening will put stain on those business and ability to service care homes and other customers supporting vulnerable people. They are currently operating at a loss to support these customers. The extension of furlough must cover the full supply chain
- Defra asked for positive stories of members working with charities to re-purpose surplus stock. FWD will collate a list. Members pointed out that positive messages should not detract from the urgent need to cover the cost of ‘millions of pounds’ of stock in hand that has to be paid for. Grants are needed to cover the cost of stock that wholesalers were left with when emergency measures were introduced
Call with Defra Secretary of State George Eustice 11/05/20
- The Minister said the recovery strategy document wouldn’t make a huge amount of difference in the short term to the food and drink industry. In hospitality where social distancing was more difficult to achieve, the plan was to reopen the sector in the third phase from July 1 initially with pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating areas and gardens and “evolve from that point”. He said he was aware of the issues the sector would face if businesses were closed for longer. The furlough scheme may be extended for hospitality or include part-time options but the Government’s preferred option was “trying to support business to get back to work”
- A proposal on credit insurance will be published “this week”
- On 14 -day quarantine proposals the timings are still to be agreed by there would be an exemption for hauliers, seasonal workers and specialist engineers
- On Brexit, the Minister said the NI protocol was being considered but Government believed food businesses were focused on covid-19 response and wouldn’t be in the “right place” to engage on any proposals until the end of June. There was some strong push back on this
The Government has published its roadmap to recovery, which sets out how the UK plans to restart following the coronavirus outbreak. An analysis of the roadmap is attached to this update.
SG Food Resilience Industry Call
SWA joined the weekly SG Food Resilience group industry call. The highlights this week included:
- The R# for Scotland is at 0.7 and is too close to 1, leaving little “wriggle room” to risk making any changes to the current lockdown practices (as confirmed by FM later today but which could be reviewed earlier than the 3 week requirement).
- The risk of a 2nd wave of infection is too great and therefore a measured approach is needed; especially until a downward slope of the 26k infected is seen.
- DEFRA and UKG trialling a new Test, Trace and Isolate App which works on people’s phones and via Bluetooth. SG are starting to look at potentially doing their own trials within the food industry and asked for volunteers.
- SWA have offered to assist in seeking potential members to help with those trials. Please let me know if you are interested in helping and with the development of the App.
- DEFRA have reported a reducing of absence within the food supply chain and is now in single digits; ambient goods still problematic and that DEFRA are doing ongoing work into availability within Wholesale and Retail (aided by FWD and ACS).
- SRC reported food sales last week were “sluggish”, while on-line demand is still at capacity.
- Industry (incl SWA) is concerned that UKG may reduce Furlough payments, or even stop them, at the end of June.
- Industry called for furlough to remain in place, especially for those supplying the foodservice industry, for as long as that sector remained closed.
- Industry asked that furlough become more flexible and offer ‘part-time’ cover to allow business to gradually get back to work as the economy opens.
- SG confirmed that Kate Forbes wrote to the Chancellor yesterday, asking for this flexibility in Furlough payments and assurance that there would be no “cliff-edge” to Furlough. Especially if Scotland differed in timeframe to lifting lockdown.
- SG guidance on social distancing, within the workplace, will be updated and will reflect different sectors. This will allow those businesses currently closed to re-open safely. It will form a Q&A document and provide a ‘risk assessment’ for business in a similar way to the current social distancing guidelines document.
First Minister Continues Lockdown
The First Minister confirmed the lockdown restrictions would be extended, with a new review date of Thursday 28 April. She said significant progress had been made in controlling the virus but the Government was not yet confident the R number was comfortably below one, and it was believed the R number was higher in Scotland than in other parts of the UK.
On media reports that the Prime Minister would announce changes to restrictions in England on Sunday, Nicola Sturgeon said she was not aware of how true this was and potential changes had not been discussed with the Scottish Government. She said the Prime Minister had requested a call with devolved administrations later today and she would prefer all four nations to make changes together at the same pace.
The First Minister also announced the Government was considering whether it would be possible to allow outdoor exercise more often, while retaining the other social distancing requirements. She emphasised this would not change the stay at home guidance and the once a day rule would continue to apply until a decision was made. On other possible changes such as the reopening of certain workplaces and more public transport use, the First Minister did not believe these were safe to make and she argued dropping the clear stay at home message could be “potentially catastrophic”.
SNP Shadow Chancellor’s Support for Wholesale
Members may recall that SWA recently had a Zoom call with Alison Thewliss MP (Glasgow Central) on which we shared our concerns about the lack of support from UKG and SG towards our industry and wholesalers.
We attach a very positive letter written by her, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, on 6th May. This highlights many of the key concerns SWA and FWD raised on the call, including the lack of Government financial support, credit insurance issues, unaffordable loan financing and stock write-offs. Her letter was also signed by two of her front bench colleagues.
We'll keep you posted when she receives a response. SWA will also share this with her SNP colleagues in the Scottish Government.
SWA Product Redistribution List
Many thanks to the wholesalers who contributed to our first Wholesale Product Redistribution list, which is sent to ALL Scottish Foodbanks, regional food resilience groups and SG food colleagues as well as fellow SWA members. This is designed to help members clear stocks that have become stuck on your shelves due to the disappearance of the foodservice market.
Our next edition will go out tomorrow and I ask that you send through to me, by mid-day tomorrow, any product that you have available to ‘clear’. Please send product description, size/weight, pack size and quantity available. BBE dates are optional. Members who have already sent through updates this week do not need to resend.
Supportlocal.scot Public Awareness Campaign
An industry wide portal designed to sign-post the public to manufacturers, producers and wholesalers who are selling direct to the public is going to be promoted to the public within the next two weeks. While it has been put together at pace and may not be the most functional it provides members another tool that could help you turnover some cash. Scotland Food & Drink are hosting and administrating the portal and members can register their website/company on it at www.supportlocal.scot
Food Industry Resilience Forum
- Contact testing
- Testing being rolled out in the Isle of Wight. A roll-out in England (not Scotland) will be based on learnings from IoW. Officials said if it wasn’t done right it could lead to “mass absences” and was a bigger risk than PPE shortages
- If someone shows c19 symptyoms a smart phone alert is sent to those who may have come into contact with them (within 2m) for more than 15 mins up to two days prior to onset of symptoms. General public health advice will be issued, not isolation for all in contact
- The app is a low energy Bluetooth in the background and won’t drain battery
- Government is encouraging businesses to get colleagues to sign up.
- Protocols for different sectors will be designed to allow people to work closely together eg phone proximity, PPE and social distancing will be taken into account
- Independent retailers report ongoing supply issues on ambient grocery. There are potential shortages on sauces following a spike in sales ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend.
- Defra is working on guidance for the end of the first 12 weeks on the 1.5m shielded vulnerable population
- Defra is pushing for exemptions for food industry workers from any 14 day quarantine being imposed on UK arrivals
Expenses and benefits
HMRC has published guidance on taxable expenses and benefits that are paid to employees because of coronavirus.
Defra food boxes
Wholesalers were praised in a Government statement about the number of food boxes delivered directly to clinically vulnerable people. Defra secretary said George Eustice said: “The food and drink industry is working incredibly hard to support the most vulnerable at this time, but we know there is more to do. We are continuing to work closely with local authorities, charities and industry partners to support those who still need help getting essential food supplies. I would like to say a big thank you to Brakes and Bidfood for getting more than one million food parcels onto the doorsteps of those in need. It is an excellent achievement in such a short space of time.”
Please find attached today’s updates and activities.
Pivotal Enterprise Grant (PERF) – Further Updates
As per yesterday’s email the PERF fund has temporarily been “paused” due to a high demand for the Grant, from various businesses and sectors. This is disappointing for SWA, our members and indeed the SG food and drink team who have been supporting us. Following yesterday’s announcement, SWA have:
- Contacted and worked with as many members as we could to help complete their application ahead of the 5pm deadline.
- From feedback, we estimate that 65% - 70% of those eligible for applying for the Grant have successfully done so.
- SWA spoke with SG colleagues yesterday and emailed a list of problems members have had in both deciphering the application requests and technical problems with the site.
- SG today arranged a call for SWA to speak directly with the Business Support lead and who has been directed by SG to look favourably on our member claims. This call allowed us to explain first hand:
- Our concern for those who have not yet applied and how they could potentially still do so should the scheme not reopen. [Ministers are asking for the scheme to be reopened next week after analysis of those applying are worked through the system and any ‘false’ or ineligible claims are rejected. Should more money be required to ‘top up the scheme’ this will be looked at].
- Expressed concern as to the varying supporting documentation that members may supply due to the lack of clarity in the actual information being asked, especially on cashflow projections.
- Asked for confirmation that if there is any doubt in applications or ambiguity in the information supplied that applicants should be contacted and not simply rejected. [It was confirmed that the local Enterprise Agencies will be handling the applications and they have been directed to treat applications in a “sensitive way” and not to make assumptions but to contact the applicant. This was stressed emphatically by SWA that they do so, given local Enterprise Agencies and their employees may not understand our sector nor members].
- SWA recommend that members perhaps make contact with your local Enterprise Agency to introduce yourself, if you’re not known to them already, and to make yourself available should they require any further information on your claim.
- It was confirmed that the application process was hastily put together in order to get people support quickly but this has led to issues in the process. For clarity this included:
- The pre-application form funnelled the applicant into one of two Grant applications: those applying for the PERF fund and those the Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Hardship Fund.
- The Creative Fund rejected those who did not have a sales drop of 50% and who had already had help with other Grants/support
- The PERF fund had NEITHER of those conditions attached and while you still had to tick the box on application it was merely to funnel you to the correct fund.
- Grant funding is to help plug cashflow gaps, not to get businesses back to profitability.
- Successful applicants will have the funds in their bank account within 10 days of completing their application. While unsuccessful applicants should know within this timescale to.
- During the call, SG confirmed that they will continue to support our industry and discussions will resume, on this particular funding topic, once a picture emerges of applicant success/failure.
While we await PERF reopening, we ask members who have submitted their application to let us know whether or not they have been successful or rejected.
SWA Takes a Lead on SG Retail Sub-Group
SWA have been asked to be an industry lead, along with Scottish Retail Consortium, FSB, Usdaw and GMB, on the Scottish Government’s new Retail Sub-group. The group is being set up to help guide/assist the SG on its phased reopening of the economy and in particular the retail sector. At this point discussions are mainly around non-food retail but it is expected that this will eventually move into food related businesses who are not currently open.
To facilitate the discussions within this SG Retail sub-group and share member input/expertise, SWA will be contacting members over the course of the next week to help us form a “Wholesale Recovery Group”. Anyone specifically interested in joining this group please let me know.
Wholesale Availability – CMA Meeting
Ongoing supply issues into the Scottish wholesale supply chain, on certain grocery lines and healthcare products, have been frustrating, especially for our Highland and Island members. This has been highlighted within SG and Fergus Ewing recently wrote a letter to major suppliers asking for equity of supply into our channel. Discussions with the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has now led to them requesting a meeting with SWA next week, to look at particular issues experienced within our sector.
We ask that members urgently feedback to us examples of where you are not getting the supplies you require and reasons of undersupply where known. This could include where orders are only fulfilled based on historical order patterns/volumes or you are being asked for cash up front or having credit limits restricted.
SG Framework for Decision Making
The Scottish Government has published it’s latest update to its Framework for Decision Making. Designed to keep the public up to speed on SG thinking and the statistics and models behind this.
The First Minister is due to give an update on the current cycle of lockdown tomorrow (7th May). She has already stated that “At present…there is very little room, if any, for changing the restrictions at this time. However, I want to assure you that the restrictions will be in place for no longer than required.”
Despite this, she was “acutely aware” the severity of restrictions could not continue indefinitely, and this was why the Government was preparing to make changes as soon as it was safe to do so. While the next formal assessment of the restrictions would be due on 28th May, she said this did not mean changes could not be made before then if it was safe to do so.
Government Funding for Pubs Still not Received
The British Beer & Pub Association is urgently pressing the Government to not only speed up the delivery of finance and grants, but also to increase the number of loans and grants offered to pubs. It comes as a survey found that 75% of pubs and brewery businesses are still desperately waiting a decision on whether they will receive the much-needed Government backed loan they have applied for. Further BBPA analysis already conducted also found that there is a “postcode lottery” on the delivery of grants, with the pay-out rate wildly varying between different Local Authorities.
SWA members can only hope that once the funding does come through it is used to pay for some of the outstanding debt due to them!
Wholesale convenience allocations
FWD had a call with Defra director of food resilience Chris Tyas, ACS and other officials on the ongoing issue of wholesale convenience allocations. CT said data gathered from suppliers showed that service of branded products was not where it should be to any sector, but service and supply to the convenience sector was under pressure from certain brands. The supplier data does not cover what is available in store. ACS is drafting a survey and also talking to EPoS companies about what they have available to gather data about on shelf availability. Defra has a particular interest in availability in remote and vulnerable communities with fewer shopping options. If you have any information on retailer on-shelf availability, please let us know. A further call will take place next week.
Contact Tracing App trial
The Government’s coronavirus contact tracing app is being trialled on the Isle of Wight. FWD is interested to understand the impact of the app on wholesale operations. If you operate on the Isle of Wight and are part of the contact tracing app pilot please let us know.
BBC News’ interview with Bruce Hodges of Metrow Foods and FWD’s James Bielby was broadcast throughout Tuesday and has been added to the worldwide online news service. In it we make the point that foodservice wholesalers cannot survive without Government action. The direct action mentioned (tax relief) is one of many proposals put forward by FWD to Defra, the Cabinet Office and the Treasury.
Pivotal Enterprise Relief Fund (PERF) – Update
Since its’ launch yesterday, SWA have been helping members apply for this Grant as well as having ongoing discussions with SctGvt in confirming/clarifying certain points in relation to the application process.
To aid your application we can confirm:
- This Grant is there to help as many of our members as possible but there are some “criteria” that is causing confusion/prohibiting access to funding and which SWA/SG are working on.
- Eligibility is based on EITHER being under the turnover threshold OR Balance Sheet threshold…NOT having to be under both.
- SG are continuing to seek clarification as to whether the ‘Balance Sheet’ total of £32m is ‘Net Asset’ or ‘Total Assets’. This makes a huge difference to members who may fall out with the £42m turnover but could fall within the Balance Sheet criteria if it is set correctly.
- SG are seeking removal, or workaround for Wholesalers, on the application form where it asks whether you have had 50% fall in sales. This is unfair on members who have seen less but who’s business is still detrimentally impacted.
- SG are seeking removal, or workaround for wholesalers, on the application form where it asks whether you are in receipt of any other C-19 Grant. Some small members have successfully received the £10k Council Grant funding and appear to be excluded from this PERF Grant, which would be far more beneficial to business survival and which wasn’t available at the time of Council Grant application.
SWA are expecting a further update from SG on Monday on the above points. We would highlight that there is a genuine will by Fergus Ewing, and his team, to ensure our members benefit in eligibility of this grant.
WE NEED YOU TO KEEP US UPDATED OF ANY DIFFICULTIES YOU ARE HAVING IN APPLYING FOR THIS GRANT, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE BEEN DECLINED.
UK Government's Bounce Back Fund – Opens Monday
This fund will open on Monday 4th May at 9am and is aimed at the UK’s smallest firms and will offer loans of between £2,000 and £50,000.
Businesses can borrow up to the value of 25% of their turnover up to a maximum of £50,000.
UK government will provide lenders with a 100% guarantee for the loan and pay any fees
Interest free for the first 12 months. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months.
There will be a short, standardised online application to apply for a loan. There is no forward-looking test of business viability or ‘complex’ eligibility criteria. Finance should reach businesses ‘within 24 hours’ of approval.
Firms will be able to access these loans through a network of accredited lenders. More details on these loans can be found here
At today’s daily briefing the First Minister made comments on the following:
- Testing: Through the extension of the UK-wide testing booking system, all those over 65 with symptoms along with their households and anyone who is not a key worker but is required to leave their home for work will now be entitled to testing. Essential workers, including wholesalers and their employees, can book for self-tests at drive-through facilities through the UK Government’s on-line system at https://self-referral.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/ and will be conducted at five regional drive-through test sites in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Perth and at mobile test sites being initially located at a number of locations including Motherwell, Dunoon, Prestwick, Stranraer, Galashiels, Peterhead and Elgin.
For more details on testing and to register your business and your employees for testing please CLICK HERE. Our understanding is that you do not need to register your business for employees to apply under the “self-referral” link above.
- Austerity: The First Minister believed “tough” economic times lay ahead but she hoped they would be short. She argued an austerity approach to dealing with the consequences would be wrong and said she would urge the UK Government to adopt different policies. She also hoped the crisis would prompt new thinking about the economy and society. The Scottish Government’s support for businesses was defended, with the First Minister arguing it was exceeding Barnett consequentials intended for the purpose and tailoring funding to the Scottish economy. She said more help was being provided on water rates.
We are working with Defra, HMT, Cabinet Office and individual MPs on wholesale issues including stock, rate relief grants, credit insurance and the restart (SWA are having the same discussions with Scottish Government so as to provide strength to the asks of UKG and our industry). Advanced discussions about sector support with Defra are ongoing. We have a daily 121 call with Defra officials to highlight any issues. The Secretary of State will be briefed on wholesale issues next week.
FWD is working with Cabinet Office on outstanding school food payments to suppliers, which is reportedly a widespread issue and one which may have an impact on schools reopening. Cabinet Office is asking DfE to cover these costs but more evidence is required. (This has been one of SWA’s key asks of SG and discussions are ongoing on this request be included within a Wholesale Targeted Support package)
Food Resilience Industry Forum
- New guidance for the vulnerable on accessing food supplies has been published: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-accessing-food-and-essential-supplies
- The 12 week isolation period for the clinically vulnerable is likely to be increased
- Guidance on 2m social distancing won’t be changed – which will have impacts on the foodservice restart. Retail will be used as a model
- Testing: The Government’s 100k target is likely to be met. There are 49 test sites across the UK and 50 mobile units. Only a third of home test kits sent out are being collected, indicating people are stockpiling them. ACTION: if any members are having difficulty getting on the employer portal please let us know
- There are issues at Mombassa port which may affect to tea supply
- 14 day quarantine for those entering the country would have an impact on the flow of food and seasonal workers
From 1 May 2020, PPE purchased by care homes, businesses, charities and individuals to protect against Covid-19 will be zero-rated for VAT for a three-month period. Import duty has also been removed from PPE.
Please find today’s updates below including the Grant portal that is now open.
Pivotal Enterprise Relief Fund – Now Open
The new Pivotal Enterprise Relief Fund is now open (and crashed within the first few hours) for applicants with employees under 249 employees and with, an unfortunate new stipulation of, turnover less than £43m (or balance sheet of under £32m). While the wholesale sector can apply SWA realise this now excludes more members than we’d originally discussed with SG. Full details are included in the links below
Since SWA was made aware of the new application process and eligibility criteria, prior to the 2pm go-live, we have raised our concerns and had several discussions with Fergus Ewing and senior officials within the Scottish Government. The criteria and scope of the Fund represents a "changing of goalposts” compared to what we had been led to believe would be a “simple” process, assisting the majority of our sector. We have made the SG aware of the implications for the sector as well as the issues for those individual members who are now not likely to be eligible. Many members have so far received no Government support beyond the UK Government Furlough scheme. We are concerned at the complexity of the system and the hurdles members are being asked to jump over to get support particularly as this was supposed to be for those businesses that have already “fallen through the cracks”.
I'm pleased to say that the SG have responded quickly and we’ve had some clarification, on a couple of our queries (below) We are having further discussions in the morning regarding the eligibility detail.
However could we ask that members feedback to us whether or not this Fund criteria would work for you as it stands. Can you let us know under which criteria you would be eligible or ineligible. Are there any requests for supply of evidence which you would be unable to comply with to complete the application. SWA are awaiting a response on whether, given we are a high turnover low margin industry, eligibility can be based on profitability rather than turnover (similar to the criteria used for self-employed) or market lost…which was the original criteria discussed.
Am I eligible?
You must meet these criteria in order to apply:
- Your company has up to 249 employees that have been trading successfully before Covid19
- Less than €50 million turnover or balance sheet total of €43 million
- Can demonstrate the funding will support business to be viable
- You were not in financial difficulty before 31 December 2019
- You are a Fair Work employer or working towards becoming a Fair Work employer
If you are successful, you MUST accept the offer in 3 working days. So please make sure to do this.
It is also really important that that you can prove you are eligible for this fund.
Before you apply, you must meet some criteria and have information to hand. You will need to:
- meet stated eligibility criteria
- have a business bank account
- provide a bank statement from your business bank account that is less than three months old
- provide a Companies House registration number if you are a registered business
- provide a VAT registration number if you are registered for VAT
- provide the following information to complete a 12 month cash flow table: any invoicing discount drawdown, net debtors receipts, VAT, funding from Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, funding from Coronavirus Interruption Loan Scheme, any other COVID 19 grants or other grants, any other income; cost of wages and salaries, PAYE/NI costs, pension costs, employee expenses, HP payments, corporate credit card payments due, non-stock supplier direct debits, supplier direct debits, bank term loan repayments, bank charges & Interest, Supplier payments, any other monthly payments, overdraft limit.
Following SWA's calls , the SG have clarified the following Points pertaining to Eligibility & Cash Flow projections:
- Fair Work Employer: This doesn’t mean that you are currently one or currently working towards being one, just that you are prepared to potentially become one in the future.
- Cash Flow projections: Given our circumstances this is a practically impossible ask and recognised by the SG Food and Drink officials. They have instructed us to assume that hospitality will be closed until late’20 or early ’21 and we should predict cashflow/markets on that basis.. Based on discussion this doesn’t need to be too detailed and is to highlight what funds you have coming into your business versus what you had last year…in essence showing market sales lost.
SWA are disappointed that on first sight not as many of our members are eligible as we’d originally hoped. We NEED your feedback requested above.
We will continue to fight for proper recognition and support for ALL members. There is still an inequality in how SG are supporting different industries and sectors. SWA have continually said that in order to support our industry, we needed a tailored Wholesaler Support Package, that would recognise the different members and important parts they all play in Scotland’s food supply chain. Enabling support to ALL members, even those surviving through supplying the retail channel but who still face financial impact from bad-debt to wasted stock. We need to look at where SG can help assist the many get access to this funding as well as look at further tailored wholesale support.
Pivotal Enterprise Relief Fund Guidance
Overstocks Sharing Platform
Further to Tuesday’s update on helping members sell/redistribute food over-stocks, SWA plan on distributing this list to members, foodbanks and food resilience groups tomorrow mid-day. Any member who would like to add their stock to our distribution list please send over by 11am tomorrow morning.
The proposal is that YOU send me a spreadsheet with any products that you will otherwise eventually have to dispose of if not sold/donated within the next 3 months. We simply ask for a product description, weight, pack-size, quantity available (optional) and contact details that a potential purchaser can contact within your business.
SWA do not get involved with commercial trade arrangements and thus request that you DO NOT include sell prices, these are private negotiations between buyer and seller and the service being offered by SWA is purely one for matching buyers and sellers.
First Minister Lockdown Briefing
The First Minister today emphasised the “vital importance” of continued compliance with the lockdown measures.
She confirmed a further update would be given on how decision-making had developed with regard to the easing of restrictions ahead of the next official review date of Thursday 7 May. However, Nicola Sturgeon cautioned that this time next week may be too early to ease restrictions “in any meaningful way”.
The First Minister stressed the lower the R number was, the more scope the Government would have with regard to options for coming out of lockdown. Although the R number was believed to currently be below one, she explained that, while this represented “real and significant” progress, any formal or informal easing of current restrictions would “quickly” see the R number increase again. Warning the R number reaching 1.5 could lead to an “exponential” increase in transmission, Nicola Sturgeon emphasised this progress was fragile. She described increases in concessionary transport of almost one-sixth and road travel by 5% in the past week (10% on some roads) as concerning and asked those traveling to consider whether their journeys were truly essential.
Please find below our latest update of activities and opportunities.
Overstocks Sharing Platform
We are still acutely aware of member’s sitting with over-stocks of food that require redistributing but are struggling to find “buyers”. Our work with SG, foodbanks and the national food resilience groups is making progress and we believe the best solution is to physically pull together a complete Scottish product list of what our members have available for “sale”.
The proposal is that YOU send SWA (me) a spreadsheet with any products that you will otherwise eventually have to dispose of if not sold/donated within the next 3 months. We simply ask for a product description, weight, pack-size, quantity available (optional) and contact details that a potential purchaser can contact within your business. Once collated this workbook will be sent to all SWA wholesale members (who may still have a market for your product), foodbanks and SG regional food resilience teams.
SWA do not get involved with commercial trade arrangements and thus request that you DO NOT include sell prices, these are private negotiations between buyer and seller and the service being offered by SWA is purely one for matching buyers and sellers.
Deposit Return Scheme – Parliamentary Vote Tomorrow
As well as focussing on Covid-19, SWA have still been lobbying MSPs about DRS ahead of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee vote tomorrow. Our recent activities over the past week include:
· Sending a Wholesale sector update and a request to halt DRS to the Leaders and relevant spokespeople in 3 of the 4 Opposition parties - Tories , Labour and Lib Dems ahead of last Friday's Ministerial Question Time with Roseanna Cunningham and Fergus Ewing.
· Supported and signed an IAG/BSDA letter which has gone to the First Minister, Roseanna Cunningham and other key ministers.
· Sent further info and a request to halt DRS to Jackie Baillie (Scottish Labour Deputy Leader) and Elaine Smith ( Chief Whip)
· Been in touch with the Special Advisor to the Finance Secretary
· Written to Fergus Ewing , the Rural Economy and Tourism Secretary urging him to lobby the FM to pull the Regulations. He has replied and has forwarded our letter/concerns to his Ministerial Colleagues.
· E-mailed all members of the Environment ,Climate Change and Land Reform Committee urging them to lobby the Scottish Government to withdraw the DRS Regulations. We've also supplied them with an updated, shorter version of our wholesale marketplace update (post covid-19).
Scottish Government publishes guidance on face coverings for general public
Nicola Sturgeon today referred to recently published guidance on the public use of face coverings. She said there was limited evidence the use of a face covering, such as a scarf, could be of some benefit if used in an enclosed space where social distancing is difficult, such as public transport or grocery shopping, particularly if there were individuals who had the virus but were not aware of it.
She emphasised that when referring to face coverings, she did not mean medical-grade face masks and said guidance would be published to highlight this to the public. She also strongly emphasised that the most important step people could take to prevent transmission of the virus was to comply with the current social distancing and stay at home rules and that the guidance regarding face coverings was not a substitute for these measures. She said this guidance was recommended in these limited circumstances but would not be made mandatory or enforced at this stage, although noted this would be kept under review. One of the reasons for this was the acknowledgement some people would have a “very good reason” not to cover their faces when out, such as asthma sufferers. Facial coverings were not recommended for children under the age of two.
Free Skills Development Scotland On-line Courses
The First Minister announced yesterday that Skills Development Scotland (SDS) has updated its My World of Work Hub to help people find and access new courses, free of charge, during the crisis. 12 courses on subjects such as technology, business and languages would initially be provided in conjunction with the Open University.
UK Government releases details on Bounce Back Loan scheme
The UK Government has published details of its Bounce Back Loan scheme, this will:
- Offer loans of between £2,000 and £50,000 through accredited lenders to SMEs affected by coronavirus pandemic.
- UK Government will guarantee 100% of the loan
- Be fee and interest free and require no repayments for the first 12 months.
- Total term of the loans will be six years.
- Businesses already receiving support through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) can transfer their funding to the Bounce Back scheme.
Rishi Sunak has addressed Parliament regarding the programme and the wider economic response to the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement has been welcomed by the Labour Party but concerns have been expressed regarding CBILS, business confidence and Universal Credit reforms.
CCRS Insurance Review – Reduce Your Business Premiums
SWA insurance partners, CCRS Brokers, are offering members a FREE Insurance Review to help identify potential C-19 savings that could be made within your business. Such things may include potential business premium rebates/reductions with current insurance providers through to helping you undertake a risk management assessment in light of C-19. Please see their leaflet with contact details and further information, hints and tips for working from home as well as how to manage your mental health within this environment.
The Scottish Government have now released details on testing workers, outwith NHS, for C-19 and which includes wholesalers and the food supply chain (details below).
SWA are today and tomorrow continuing to lobby SG and the opposition parties to repeal the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) legislation, or vote against it, at the Parliamentary vote on Wednesday,
Testing : Key workers in Scotland with symptoms can now apply
The UK government has established a new network of Covid testing facilities for key workers. Testing will allow symptomatic key workers and their household members to know whether or not they have the virus. This will in turn keep essential services running.
Access to Covid testing in Scotland has been widened and will now be determined via a prioritisation matrix for key workers that includes a broader range of private sector workers and essential services including those with Essential roles within food supply chain (wholesalers & distributors) and food processing and supermarket workers.
Scottish testing is only currently only being conducted at drive-through sites at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports and at the University of the Highlands and Islands campus in Inverness. A small number of home test kits are also available.
The test is only GUARANTEED for those who are symptomatic. Testing is still targeted at those key workers who are self-isolating because they are symptomatic, or have household members who are symptomatic, to help enable critical workers to return to work as soon as safely possible.
Eligible employers can register with a new website and refer staff for appointments.
A new website has been established to improve the process of booking tests. This website is experiencing high volumes of demand and access is being carefully regulated to ensure the systems can continue to function effectively.
Eligible employers can register and refer staff for appointments or eligible key workers will be able to book a test directly for themselves or members of their household.
After they have entered their details on the portal, individuals will receive a text or email the same day inviting them to either book an appointment, or offering a home self-testing kit.
Those using self-referral can indicate their preference prior to registering details.
The target for sending results is by text within 48 hours. A call centre is available by phone, to help people with the process and deal with test result queries.
Obtain a login for the employer referral portal
To get a login, employers of key workers should email firstname.lastname@example.org
You must supply two email addresses that will primarily be used to load key worker contact details.
Once employer details have been verified, two login credentials will be issued for the employer referral portal.
Employers should then login to make referrals.
Go to the self-referral portal to sign up if you are a key worker and you, or a member of your family, is symptomatic.
Any questions from employers or key workers about accessing testing, the website, or results should be made by emailing: email@example.com
For full details and further information on when to get tested or negative tests and returning to work please CLICK HERE
Work of SWA Recognised at SG Ministerial Questions
The work SWA have been doing with Scottish Government and our members, especially in relation to continuity & equity of supply to Wholesale, was highlighted by Fergus Ewing at Friday’s Virtual Ministerial Questions.
SWA had written to party spokespeople in advance of the meeting. An extract of the question proposed by Orkney MSP, Liam McArthur and Fergus Ewing's response are below. It also gained news coverage within the Press & Journal.
Island Communities (Supply of Essential Goods)
“… I understand from wholesalers in Orkney that, unfortunately, they still face serious challenges. Supplies of flour, pasta, rice, tinned goods and hygiene products all fall far short of what is needed, which is having a serious impact not just on small shops, which are going above and beyond in trying to meet islanders’ needs, but potentially on care homes and the local hospital, which are supplied by the same wholesalers. I therefore urge the cabinet secretary to ensure that, in this time of crisis, the supply chains for food and other essential goods are working in the interests of the whole population, including islanders, and that suppliers are treating wholesalers with fairness.”
“I thank Mr McArthur for providing prior notice of his line of questioning. I totally agree with him that it is essential that we ensure an equity of supply of goods and provisions, including food and drugs that are required, to our island communities and remote rural population. I have sought and obtained assurances from every major retailer that they are committed to that, and I accept those assurances.
…We are totally committed to ensuring that, in all the islands of Scotland, whether it be in Orkney, Bute or Lewis and Harris, and in remote rural populations, not only the supermarkets but the smaller shops have that equity of supply to their customers…The Wholesaler’s Association are vital in this regard. It is not just the big retailers that we are talking about. We have engaged regularly with wholesalers, who face particular pressures at the moment. Some major food companies—I will not name any names—have refused to send consignments of goods in an appropriate volume to places such as Orkney and Shetland, instead demanding to send a pallet of, in effect, five years’ worth of particular products. That is no use. I recently wrote to 60 food manufacturing companies, asking them to observe the equity of supply principle.
I apologise for the length of the answer, Presiding Officer, but I know that the issue is of concern to many representatives of island communities—MPs as well as MSPs—where there are particular access issues because of ferry issues. We all want to work as a team and to set politics aside to ensure that all our constituents, wherever they live, have sufficient food and other products to see them through this crisis.”
Our daily update, with a difference … some exciting news.
Scottish Government – Support Grants to help Wholesalers
Scottish Government officials have confirmed to SWA that today’s announcement of the £45 million Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund is open to Scottish food and drink wholesalers and others who have, up until now, fallen through the cracks of all other business support measures.
SWA is delighted that the critical part being played by Scotland's wholesale sector and the negative impact of the pandemic on the industry is being recognised by the Scottish Government.
In the announcement, Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop confirmed that grant funding of £45m for "vulnerable but vital" SME enterprises in distress will be open for applications by the end of April with funds available by early May.
The Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund will be managed and developed by the relevant enterprise agencies for vulnerable SME firms which are vital to the local or national economic foundations of Scotland.
SWA understands that substantial grants will be available to wholesale businesses employing up to 250 people.
Fiona Hyslop commented: “This funding is intended to relieve the hardship of individuals and smaller firms that are ineligible for support from the UK Government or are not in receipt yet of the funds they need to survive. As well as dealing with this immediate crisis, we must look to the future. We must ensure that those businesses with a part to play in strengthening resilience in Scotland’s economy survive this crisis and thrive in future, which is why £45 million is being allocated to those firms. We continue to engage with businesses on a regular basis to understand their needs and press the UK Government to deliver for them.”
While the detail on the claim procedure is still to be finalised, SWA will keep you updated over the coming days and help guide you through, what is expected to be a “simple” process. Applications for the funding will be open by the end of the month and the Scottish Government's FindBusinessSupport website will be updated with all the relevant information for those seeking to access the funds.
It has been a relentless and often frustrating road to get to this point but we hope that the majority of our members will benefit immensely from this support. We once again thank you for sharing your data and time in helping us secure this much needed initial support.
As the UK Government has now announced an extension of the Coronavirus lockdown for a further three weeks we’ve updated the website to include helpful links and additional information about the business support and advice available. Remember that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme HMRC portal went live on 20th April.
As the trade association of the Scottish wholesale sector, SWA will continue to work with members, partners in the supply chain and the Scottish Government to make sure supplies get through to Scotland’s convenience stores and key public sector customers including schools as well as the most vulnerable people who are shielding at home or in social care settings (food2care.co.uk pairs care homes with nearby food distributors so they can get professional foodservice delivery).
The effective closure of the leisure and hospitality markets is having a particularly significant impact on foodservice colleagues with many facing substantial cashflow challenges. We know many have taken steps to re-focus their business to set up home delivery networks to serve the public directly. Meanwhile retail wholesalers have risen to the challenges of increased demand being placed on the food retail sector. I want to pay tribute to all our members for the exceptional manner in which you have responded to the pandemic.
We’re still working with the Scottish Government on specific measures to support the wholesale sector. Many thanks for the information you’ve already provided about your business to support this process. This has been crucial in highlighting the key issues faced by the sector. A particular thanks to all of you who have taken part in our members survey. This has contributed to SWA’s daily engagement with Scottish Government Ministers, officials and special advisers. We have also been working with colleagues at FWD to make sure the voices of wholesalers across the UK have been heard by DEFRA and the Treasury.
In the coming week we will:
- “meet” with Fergus Ewing, the Rural Economy and Tourism Secretary, to share the most up to date wholesale market intelligence and urge immediate financial assistance for our sector from the Scottish Government. At this meeting we will discuss a 6 page SWA dossier we sent to the Scottish Government last week which included requests for immediate grants for the wholesale businesses most adversely affected by the lockdown and business rates relief in line with the approach taken with other hospitality supply chain businesses. We continue to share information on the impacts of bad debt and wasted public procurement stock. We must have a wholesaler support package which ensures our sector is able to survive in the short term and able to play our part as part of the food and drink sector’s recovery in the coming months.
- Begin to develop and communicate our views to feed into the Scottish Government’s future exit strategy from the current lockdown restrictions. The FM has announced she’ll set out more information about how we’ll move out of lockdown in the coming days. How can we ensure that there is a wholesaler support package which is tailored to the requirements of government when schools and other customers open once again? We will also request the views of the wholesale sector are taken on board by the Government’s newly formed Advisory Group on Economic Recovery. Our 2020 Achievers speaker Benny Higgins, former strategic Adviser to the First Minister on the development of the Scottish National Investment Bank, has been named as one of the first appointees. SWA want to hear your thoughts on the challenges and opportunities our sector face in the weeks and months ahead.
Remember to keep following us on social media where we’ll be able to share up to the minute information on everything from Scottish Government announcements to our interactive training workshops… and keep letting us know how you are doing and how SWA can help.
We know that the past few weeks have not been easy but together we will come through this. I’ve never been more proud of our sector.
Well done everyone
Some updates from today’s activities.
Scottish Government Continue Looking at Wholesale Support
The SWA are continuing to liaise with the SG and we had a very productive discussion with their food and drink team today. We thank all members who have supplied the data we’ve been asking of you over the past week. This is proving invaluable as SG are actively looking at different ways of supporting our members. These include:
- Access to cash grants on which we are hoping to hear further news of in coming day(s).
- Rates relief extensions for our members. With SG today looking at the cost of adding our sector into their current budget expenditure.
- How SG can support members more in distributing excess stock (ie foodbanks, community groups).
- Continue looking at any intervention that may be required by SG in continuity of stock for our sector/members.
Job Retention Scheme Portal OPEN
HMRC’s online portal for claiming 80% of your furloughed employees wages, up to £2500, is now open (20th April). The easy to use portal has a step by step application process and up to 5,000 staff will be manning phone lines and webchat services to ensure any questions can be answered.
Once you’ve processed your employee details/claim, HMRC will pay the claim amount by Bacs into your bank account within 6 working days.
After you’ve claimed, you must:
· keep a copy of all records, including:
· the amount claimed and claim period for each employee
· the claim reference number for your records
· your calculations in case HMRC need more information about your claim
· tell your employees that you have made a claim and that they do not need
Opposition ask for Testing to Be Extended to Food Supply Chain
Scottish Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie has today called on the Scottish Government to expand the number of groups eligible for testing to include more groups as it was revealed that a number of testing facilities were not hitting their capacity.
Mr Rennie said: "We need a national effort to expand testing if we are to begin to get life back to normal…The time has come for the Scottish Government to open up these facilities for other groups of workers beyond front line NHS and care staff.
“Police officers and firefighters along with waste staff on councils could perhaps be the next group to get access to the tests. The tests could allow workers to quickly get back to work if they are found to be negative for the virus. It might also help supermarket workers and those in the food supply chain too.”
Points to note from the UK Food Resilience Industry Forum :
Meanwhile in England an antigen testing programme is being rolled out to all key workers, which includes food and drink distribution, to help get colleagues back to work
- Available to any key worker self-isolating – if they have symptoms, with priority for those who have family members self-isolating. Family members are eligible for tests as well
- Drive through test centres – 48 by the end of April. Capacity 12k tests a day.
- At home testing – employee gets a text inviting them to test, Amazon delivers the test and courier picks it up once done. Results are known within 48 hours. Capacity 5k tests a day
- Mobile tests
- Employers will be able to book colleagues in for a test via an online portal – available by the end of the week
- Results are shared with employees only
- It's likely that testing will take place in devolved administrations also and SWA will pursue this issue.
- The Government Scientific Advisory Group (SAGE) is meeting to discuss colleague demand for masks. Public Health England are putting views across strongly that any change in guidance will create considerable difficulties and that any change must come with clear guidance.
Please find attached the latest C-19 developments and activities. We hope you all have a great weekend and stay safe.
SG Economic Recovery Advisory Group
The First Minister today announced that an economic recovery advisory group would be established to plan how to rebuild the economy once restrictions were eased. The body, which will include business leaders and economic experts, will also look to build a “fairer, greener and more equal society.” A National Manufacturing Centre would also be established in Renfrewshire.
SWA, along with other Scottish trade associations, are establishing a group to look at an industry “exit strategy” and what is required of each of our members to re-establish trading and “kick-start” the economy. Further details of this group will be shared in future updates and will require input from SWA members on timings, capacity and support you need to help restart the foodservice/hospitality markets. We will also be seeking to be part of the SG economic advisory board announced today.
Lockdown Continues & Furlough Extended to June
Further to the Chancellor and First Minister’s announcement’s yesterday that the Social Distancing and “lockdown” measures currently in place will continue for a further 21days, the Chancellor today announced an extension to the employee job retention scheme until the end of June. Originally scheduled to end on 31st May, it will now be extended for a further month and kept under review and extended if necessary.
The move is to allow firms across UK to continue to protect millions of jobs and ensure people and business get back to work as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Furlough Update – Treasury Direction on Furlough Scheme
We now have a fairly comprehensive update on the Furlough scheme, from our Solicitors at BDO. Our HR specialists, 121HR Solutions are still SWA’s main contacts for FREE help and support, but we thought this was a good overview of recent changes. An important change but that could be easily overlooked is that:
- There now needs to be written agreement to furlough each employee- it is not enough just to notify them. All employers should audit their paperwork/emails and ensure they have agreement from each furloughed employee that they are on furlough and not doing any work. Emailed consent is fine.
121HR Solutions can be contacted on 0800 999 5121.
UKG Extend Loans To Medium and Large Businesses
A government-backed loan scheme for large businesses affected by coronavirus has been expanded to cover all viable firms, the Chancellor announced yesterday.
- Rishi Sunak unveils the final details of Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme ahead of launch on Monday
- all viable businesses with turnover of more than £45m will be able to apply for government-backed support
- firms with turnover of more than £250 million can borrow up to £50 million from lenders
- this complements existing support including the Covid Corporate Financing Facility and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
- The scheme will be available through a series of accredited lenders, which will be listed on the British Business Bank website.
Driving Licence Renewal: D4 Not Required
The DVLA has today confirmed that a D4 will not be required when applying to renew a lorry or bus licence until further notice. However, this will only apply if the licence has expired or is due to expire on or after 1 January 2020.
However, please note: where a lorry licence is renewed without the production of a valid D4, it will only be valid for a period of one year. This will not affect applications for renewal of licences made by those aged 65 or over as these licences are already only valid for one year. Further details can be found here.
Driver hours relaxation extended to 31 May
As part of the government’s effort to keep supply chains moving throughout the coronavirus outbreak, the Department for Transport has authorised an extension to the existing relaxation of the drivers’ hours rules.
The extension means that the temporary relaxation previously due to end on 21 April will continue until 23:59 on 31 May 2020. This extension does not apply to the previous relaxation on break requirements.
FeedNHS initiative to expand into Scotland next week
Propel Info today reported that FeedNHS, the campaign spearheaded by natural fast food brand Leon and actors Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory and Matt Lucas, is to go nationwide from Monday (20 April). The initiative, which is working with Mealforce, Feed our Frontline and BaxterStorey to co-ordinate the provision of food for critical care teams across the NHS, will expand out of London, to help feed NHS teams in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh. As a result, the coalition now has the scale to serve more than a million meals across 55 hospitals.
SG First Minister’s Questions – Lockdown & Testing Extracts
The following are interesting extracts from the First Minister’s questions and give some further insight into the Lockdown and Testing within the public and business domain.
First Minister's Questions: Covid-19 (Reopening Non-essential Businesses)
Willie Rennie: I understand that, but I think that people find it difficult to understand that even people who do not show the symptoms are not being tested before they enter a care home. Care homes are full of vulnerable people, and new people should be tested in advance. I hope that the First Minister will look at that issue again.
We need a lockdown to save lives, but tension in the workplace is rising again, as companies say that they can operate within the public health guidance, but the Scottish Government is saying that non-essential businesses should stay closed.
The Walkers Shortbread factory plans to reopen soon; a factory in my constituency is planning to reopen in two weeks; and the construction industry has told me that, after the Easter break, many companies will start work again. What is the advice for non-essential businesses that can demonstrate that they can operate social distancing and good hygiene in line with public health guidance? Can they reopen, or must they stay closed?
The First Minister: Before I answer the question about businesses, I will briefly conclude my response to the question about testing, because Willie Rennie asked whether we would consider testing everybody who does not have symptoms.
I want to see testing used to the maximum where it will help us; that is not the issue. The problem with testing someone who does not have symptoms is that the test result is not necessarily reliable—it may tell you that they do not have the virus, even when they might be in the incubation period. It does not reliably tell you what you want to know. The danger is that it gives a false assurance that someone does not have the virus, when perhaps they do, but it is at a stage at which it is not showing up. That is why we must keep prioritising infection prevention and control.
The advice to businesses in Scotland stays as it has been. We have taken a tougher line than some other parts of the United Kingdom, which some people have criticised us for, but I think that it is appropriate. Some businesses have been told to close: shops, pubs and restaurants, for example. We know that others have to stay open because they are essential to keeping the lights on, and to delivering food supplies. However, to businesses in the middle, we have tried to give very clear precautionary guidance that if what they are doing is not essential, if they cannot allow their workers to work at home, and if they cannot be absolutely sure that they have safe social distancing, then on the precautionary principle—prioritising the health of workers—they should be closed. That guidance remains. We will continue to seek to speak to individual companies when they need more advice and to address any concerns that companies or workers have. However, right now it is about making sure that we are prioritising the fight against the virus and keeping people safe.
First Minister's Questions: Covid-19 (Ending Lockdown)
Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green): I, too, would like to express my sincere sympathies to all those people who have lost a loved one. I offer my grateful thanks to all who are working in our national health service and in social care, in our public services, in our shops and beyond.
It is absolutely vital that lockdown carries on for as long as it needs to be in place and that it is not lifted a minute sooner than is safe. We know that people are feeling cooped up and that some people are feeling terribly isolated, and we cannot thank them enough for the efforts that they are making and the lives that they are saving. However, it is also important—I think that the First Minister alluded to this in her opening remarks—that people know that plans are being made for a clear exit strategy for ending lockdown safely when the time is right.
I have spoken to experts and the scientific advice seems clear: a test, trace and isolate strategy is needed to prevent further outbreaks in future. Is the Scottish Government committed to such a strategy? When might it be in a position to share more information on that with the Scottish public?
The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon): I will set out my thinking on that as briefly as I can. Unfortunately, lockdown will continue beyond this week. COBRA will meet later on and other Governments must reach their own decisions, but my clear advice is that we must continue the lockdown measures for at least another three weeks. Although we are increasingly confident that the measures are working, we are not yet confident enough that the virus has been suppressed sufficiently to lift any of the measures, because the risk of doing that is that there would be a resurgence that would be extremely damaging.
People want to know what the thinking is for the period beyond that. We do not yet have all the answers on that—no Government does—but it is important that we share the thought processes, the factors that we are taking into account and the framework for making such decisions. Over the course of next week, although we will not be able to announce all those decisions, I hope to set out the framework for decision making.
We must monitor the spread of the virus very carefully and assess the options for lifting the restrictions and what the impact of that would be on the virus, on the economy and on wellbeing more generally. Given that we will be living with the virus for some time to come, we must consider what will take the place of any measures that we lift, in order that we continue to suppress it. That is where test, trace and isolate comes to the fore. I am absolutely of the view that that must be a key part of any longer-term strategy to get life back to normal as much as it will be possible to do that while the virus remains a challenge. Next week, I hope that we will be able to set out more of the principles and the framework for that decision making.
FWD Updates (16th April)
Extension to lockdown
Following scientific advice, the Government has agreed that measures lockdown/social distancing measures should remain in place for at least the next three weeks. At today’s press conference Dominic Raab highlighted five checks that would need to be met before any adjustment to social distancing measures was made:
- Confidence that the NHS’ ability to cope with COVID-19 patients would be maintained
- A sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rate
- Reliable data that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels
- Confidence that operational challenges could meet future demand, for example PPE provision and testing
- That a second peak in cases of the virus would not be the result of ending the lockdown.
Food Resilience Industry Forum
- Following an intervention by FWD a second wholesale/convenience specific forum is taking place next Thursday (April 23)
- C-stores are seen as important channel for deliveries to vulnerable shielders. Defra has appointed a lead to work on this
- The UK Government is launching industry facing hubs listing vacancies for seasonal workers, backed by a communications campaign aimed at different audiences eg students
- Facemasks remain a big issue for industry. Public Health England guidance is clear that they are not needed but businesses are facing colleague pressure on masks. Defra: Any change to the Government guidance would create shortages and “pose a big risk to food supply”
- Footfall in convenience is down but average basket spend is up. Some availability issues remain
- The Competition Act is going to be eased to allow the NFU and Dairy UK to work together to address the problems in the dairy industry
Food and Drink Industry Roundtable
- The Government is considering underwriting credit insurance, as has happened in France. The British Association of Insurers has made a proposal to Government. Food and drink is regarded by insurers as high-risk.
- FWD was among the signatories on a joint letter to Government, calling on support to ensure the continuation of critical imports and export supplies during Covid-19 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2020/04/14/food-drink-chiefs-warn-free-trade-critical-economic-recovery/
- The GMB union is organising a summit between Government, the food industry and unions to discuss the impact of covid-19 on industry, including work place health and safety and the recovery challenges. FWD has been invited to join
- A workgroup has been set up to get a picture of PPE in the industry
- UKHospitality is producing guidance on what its members should be looking for from their suppliers ahead of the restart
Bread and Bakery availability
The Federation of Bakers has offered to help resolve any issues members might have on bread and bakery product availability in wholesale. The Federation reports that members’ sales in convenience are up by 30%. If anyone has any specific issues, please let us know.
The UK flour millers association Nabim has launched a map detailing where consumers can buy flour, including from FWD wholesalers, following ongoing retail shortages. If you would like to be added please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Single use straws
The ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The ban, which had been scheduled to come into effect at the end of April, will now begin in October.
Please find below the latest updates from SWA and Government.
Scottish Government Updates
- Nicola Sturgeon today outlined the additional support which had been announced for businesses, including the £120m to widen the eligibility for small business grants and the £100m to target self-employed people. The First Minister said she understood that many self-employed people had been without pay for almost a month but emphasised that a system to disperse funds had to be created and the Government was doing this as fast as it could.
- The Scottish Government has revised the Small Business Grant scheme including £120m to widen the eligibility for small business grants and to award a 75% grant for second and subsequent properties. The revisions will be in place by Tuesday 5 May.
- A £100m fund is also being set up to protect micro and SME businesses in distress due to COVID-19, with applications opening by the end of April. The fund will be channelled through enterprise agencies and local authorities to target newly self-employed people and businesses that have been ineligible for support from the Scottish and UK governments. In our letter to SG today, SWA have requested that funds be open to Wholesale members “left in the widening gap between those supported and non-supported businesses”.
- Nicola Sturgeon added that building up testing capacity (within care homes) over time was essential for the next stage. SWA have asked when testing may be extended to frontline food and drink workers…
- Following industry discussions last week, in which SWA were involved, Nicola Sturgeon said today that while coronavirus would impact Scotland over a long period, she hoped that over the coming days she could begin sharing the factors and process the Scottish Government was considering regarding ending lockdown measures. The First Minister outlined a range of possible factors that could be considered, including different measures for certain regions and age groups, but was unable to confirm the strategy at this stage.
Job Retention Scheme Extended to 19th March
Thousands more employees will able to receive support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) after the eligibility date was extended to 19 March 2020, UKG announced today.
- eligibility cut-off date for Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extended to 19 March 2020
- the change will mean thousands more workers can be furloughed
- scheme expected to be fully operational next week
Employers can claim for furloughed employees that were employed and on their PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. This means that the employee must have been notified to HMRC through an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee on or before 19 March 2020.
Further details can be found HERE.
SWA Evidence Call for Support in Letter to SG
Following a good response so far to our Wholesale Market Survey, SWA today sent a 6 page letter to Fergus Ewing and Scottish Government, further evidencing the need for urgent Government support of our industry.
While SWA welcome the latest business support announcement from the Finance Secretary, we would welcome an early opportunity to talk to Scottish Government officials about how wholesale businesses might apply for the funds announced today. In our letter we specifically outlined our preferred approach would be that SG focus alternative very targeted support, similar to that offered to the fishing industry, for the wholesale sector due to the specific issues our sector faces and the essential nature of our role in the supply chain.
We evidenced our call for:
- Immediate access to specific Wholesale cash grants to assist with immediate cash flow issues.
- Extension to business rates relief to cover all wholesale businesses
- Access to expedited and affordable loan finance
- A Government Stock Grant to compensate for unused stock procured for public sector contracts e.g schools or those businesses temporarily closed as a result of decisions taken by government; including restaurants, pubs, cafes and hotels.
- Facilitation of partnership working to reduce food waste and enable Foodbanks, Scottish Government and others to make the best use of all available food.
- Tax relief on ALL product that will require to be wasted or donated.
While it is frustrating and repetitive that we are still asking for the same things as we were three weeks ago, we cannot give up the fight as monies are being made available. Feedback from our member survey will be shared with opposition party leaders over the coming days, adding pressure on SG to act to protect our members and the future of the food and drink wholesale sector.
It’s not too late to add your weight and share your business data, complete our survey here.
All data shared with SG and with opposition leaders are anonymised unless specifically asked of us by SG and where authorisation has been given by the member to share their details.
Non-Domestic Rates Hardship Relief Fund (Not the same as C-19 Rates Relief)
Local councils can reduce your non-domestic rates bill with “Hardship Relief”. SWA believe that this is outwith the C-19 Rates Relief and has been in place for several years.
However, not all councils operate this relief and for those that do there is no guidance readily available on what criteria they set for awarding the relief. Other than you are eligible to apply if you satisfy that:
- You would be in financial difficulties without it
- Giving hardship relief to you is in the interests of local people.
The link above takes you to the main homepage, whereby you should then chose your local council from the dropdown box. Glasgow City council has operated this Hardship Relief since the Glasgow School of Art fires.
FWD Updates (14th April)
Support for wholesale
FWD had a further call with Defra colleagues yesterday afternoon about the specific support for the sector. More work will be ongoing on this issue over the course of the week, as well as a formal update from HM Treasury on progress to date.
Call with George Eustice, Defra Secretary
- FWD raised the issue of supplier allocations, and the ongoing need for support from Government for wholesale, both now and ahead of any restart when emergency measures are lifted
- The Government is “reluctant” to change its advice on PPE in the workplace, despite public pressure to do so
- Supermarkets reported a lack of clarity about how UK Government plans for feeding vulnerable groups fit together. The Minister said there were 2 or 3 different datasets for the clinically vulnerable and Government is working on data on non-shielded vulnerable eg elderly. More will come out this week publicising the help available
Food Resilience Industry Forum
- Absence levels across the supply chain are beginning to stabilise and in some cases decline
- Transport shortages are coming down as fewer drivers self-isolate.
Food and Drink Industry Roundtable
- Some businesses are providing PPE equipment to colleagues, despite the Public Health England guidance that there is no need. This is putting pressure on points in the food supply chain which need PPE in day-to-day operations eg meat and poultry
- Credit insurance continues to be an issue for all points in the trade, with excess and premiums increasing. The insurance industry is claiming it is unable to underwrite the food industry. Requests have been made for the Government to underwrite, as has happened in France
The Department for Transport’s temporary relaxation of the drivers’ hours is due to end on April 21st . DfT are seeking authorisation from the European Commission to extend the relaxation until May 21st, with an announcement due imminently.
Coronavirus business support hub
A new Gov.uk page bringing together key information for businesses including on funding and support, business closures, your responsibilities as an employer and managing your business during coronavirus is now available.
Please find our latest updates and activities below.
Everyone at SWA hopes that you all manage to find some relaxation over this Easter weekend and we wish you and your families all the very best.
Scotttish Government Food Resilience Call
SWA was today on the weekly Scottish Government Food Resilience call. Main points discussed were:
- Retail food and drink market is settling down to a “manageable busy”.
- Pressures still exist within the marketplace especially in reduced sales for some sectors and shift in consumer buying patterns from hospitality to home consumption
- Scottish Government discussed its assistance to the wholesale industry in asking for equity of supply from suppliers. Fergus Ewing sent a letter earlier in the week to suppliers.
- Scottish Government is looking at “exit & recovery” strategies and wants to hear industry views.
- The latter part of our SWA Marketplace Survey is to help feed into this discussion (see below).
- Any particular points you would like noted please email me.
- Meeting noted that retail sales are now below the same time last year and a rebalance is now taking place. Cash-flow issues are starting to bite and the food and drink sector needs rates relief extended to other industries. SWA echoed these points.
- SWA talking further with Scottish Government finance team next week to request quick action.
- Flour is in short supply in retail format, due to a limited number of manufacturers producing in retail sizes. Package into retail formats for local supply. Wholesalers could potentially help distribute on behalf of your local baker.
- Business loan processing has been very low and interest rates in year two are high. Scottish Government requested industry loan issues/concerns.
- SWA would ask members who have been successful or otherwise to report back to us for forwarding to Scottish Government.
Foodbanks – Scottish Government helping wholesalers
SWA and Scottish Government have been working closely over the past two days to assist our members in trying to redistribute excess stock, especially those left with product purchased for schools. The head of foodbanks for the Scottish Government has a list of SWA members, contact details and the regions you supply. Please let us know if you have stock that urgently needs redistributed and we’ll push for the relevant foodbanks to make contact sooner than later.
SWA & FWD Joint Letter to Customers
In addition to the joint supplier letter that SWA and FWD sent earlier in the week, asking for parity of supply and support of wholesale, a joint letter was also sent to foodservice customers asking them to support wholesale by paying for goods our members had already supplied. A copy of this letter is attached and we request that you also share with your customer base.
Employee Job Retention Scheme & Furlough Update
HMRC has announced that the online portal for processing payments will be open for application from 20th April. Business leader reports that HMRC should be ready to make payments by Thursday, 30th April and will be open 24/7. It claims that payments will be processed within four to six working days of receiving the claim.
Meanwhile, the UK Government updated eligibility criteria and pension contributions. You will still need to pay employer National Insurance and pension contributions on behalf of your furloughed employees, and you can claim for these too.
You cannot claim for:
- additional National Insurance or pension contributions you make because you chose to top up your employee’s salary
- any pension contributions you make that are above the mandatory employer contribution
Full details can be found here.
Covid-19 Pension Guidance Published for Employers
New guidance setting out how employers can meet their automatic enrolment (AE) duties as they navigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been published today.
The guidance is part of The Pensions Regulator’s package of measures to safeguard pensions through these unprecedented challenges.
To ensure savers receive the pensions they are due, employers are being reminded they continue to have automatic enrolment responsibilities. However, employers are reassured that TPR will support them and take a proportionate approach to any enforcement decisions in light of the current pressures.
Employers concerned they will struggle to make their contributions are urged to speak to their pension provider. TPR has written to providers asking them to be as flexible as possible when agreeing contribution payment dates.
FREE Mental Health Online Workshop
There are still places available for you and family members, working from home, to take advantage of this free two-hour interactive workshop in helping you with your mental health during Covid-19 and the new stresses you may be experiencing. Dates available are Tuesday 14th and Thursday 16th April. Click here for more information & to book.
SWA Marketplace Survey
We urge members to participate in completing our Marketplace Survey, launched yesterday. It is crucial that we understand what the "new" Scottish wholesale marketplace looks like and where support is most needed – the information provided by our members will strengthen our call to the Scottish Government for quick intervention in providing greater assistance to the wholesale channel where and when required.
If possible we would really appreciate responses as quickly as possible. Further details can be found here.
You can also go straight to the Wholesale Marketplace survey click here.
CGA Consumer Survey – Week 2
Highlights from CGA “Covid-19 Consumer Report”, conducted during the second week of the UK’s lockdown found that:
- Two-thirds of GB adults are responding to the current situation by changing their eating and drinking habits and level of exercise to protect their long-term health
- Nearly one-third think that following the Covid-19 outbreak they will visit the hospitality market less than before. About 60% will visit the same amount and less than 10% more often
- Behind visiting family, eating and drinking out are the two "most missed" activities
- 42% of the population visited the out-of-home market for "one last time" before lockdown began
- 58% of consumers are pining for a go to drink that they will savour when lockdown is over, and lager is the most popular choice
Anyone wishing to see the full report please email me.
The British Retail Consortium has also developed sector-specific guidance on social distancing in warehouses and distribution centres, in line with Government guidance.
The Government has updated guidance on the temporary relaxation on driver hours, extending the current temporary relaxation rules until 21st April 2020. Anyone driving under the EU drivers’ hours rules or the GB drivers’ hours rules and undertaking carriage of goods by road can use the relaxation where necessary.
Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
The Covid-19 Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme allows small and medium-sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to apply to HMRC to recover the costs of paying Statutory Sick Pay to employees. HMRC has published guidance which includes information about who can use the scheme and the records employers must keep.
HMRC is currently working to set up a system for reimbursement.
The British Frozen Food Federation has published guidance on the freezing down of chilled and ambient product to preserve life.
BFF has also compiled a list of contacts, in association with the Cold Chain Federation, to provide support with blast freezing and storage facilities.
Wishing you all a very Happy Easter.
Please find below some updates from today and yesterday from activities here within SWA, our colleagues at FWD and Government.
Member Conference Call With Fergus Ewing MSP Rural Economy and Tourism Secretary
SWA members today took part in what is to become a regular call with Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism who has Cabinet responsibility for the food and drink sector. Members wishing to take part in future calls please let me know.
It is clear that the Cabinet Secretary fully understands the tough times wholesalers are facing and how you are trying to support your employees and your families. He thanked you for the effort you are putting in to protect your business and those you supply. We had a helpful conversation about the challenges facing members and the sorts of financial support which would be helpful at this most difficult time. The Cabinet Secretary understood and recognised supply issues from major grocery suppliers and that urgent action is required, across Governments, to secure supply within the wholesale channel. The Scottish Government is continuing to work with SWA to ensure this equity of supply. Today an open letter was sent by Fergus Ewing to suppliers requesting equity and continuity of supply (see below).
Members spoke of how cash flow will become even more critical as time goes by and customer debt rises, highlighting the importance of loans and support required. Mr Ewing hoped the recent relaxation in loan applications would aid in members accessing those. The Scottish Government heard how bad debt in some instances will be significantly higher than normal and the impact this will have on cash flow and credit ratings on both sides. Members requested rates relief be extended to wholesale and this is a matter which SWA is pursuing.
There was discussion about stock holdings especially in relation to stock purchased for public sector contracts. As part of helping business come out the other end of lockdown, the Cabinet Secretary was asked that Scottish Government give at least two weeks' notice of when and how restrictions will start to be lifted. There is no indication of relaxations being lifted, albeit reference was made to positive news coming out of China, Italy and France. There were discussions about practical issues around furlough. This may be something for members to consider in the future, when business starts to return and restrictions lifted. How would a phased workforce return look in your business?
There was a shared concern that things won’t return to normality for a long time and the Scottish Government said it is keen to examine measures to encourage businesses and consumers to “buy more local”.
Fergus Ewing MSP Letter to Suppliers
Fergus Ewing today sent a letter to the major grocery manufacturers and suppliers, as well as to those that SWA members have fed into us, as posing particular supply problems within your businesses.
The letter stated that: “The wholesale sector is a vital element of the supply chain in Scotland.” It continues: “I understand that due to Covid-19 there are pressures on networks which has resulted in changes to distribution models to maximise efficiencies. I would ask that smaller wholesalers are not disadvantaged due to their scale. If larger minimum orders are required to make the consignment viable I ask that you work with wholesalers to find a way forward, which may include delivering consolidated loads to more than one customer.”
SWA has been asked to work with the Scottish Grocer and to help find solutions to the supply issues in recognition that the letter won’t change things overnight. SWA will be in contact with members shortly where supply disruption is most critical and to discuss what solutions could look like.
SWA & FWD Joint Letter To Suppliers
SWA and FWD also issued a joint letter which was sent to both associations' supplier members asking for their support during this challenging time. The letter asks for consideration of the revenue loss faced by foodservice members who are still operating to supply vital service customers, and recognition that convenience is still operating at full capacity and needs the same support. It also asks for fair allocation of stock for those supplying convenience stores.
Safe Working Practices – Know Your Obligations
The Partnership on Health and Safety in Scotland (PHASS) has intended to clarify the position for employers and those working at home. The health and safety of workers remains paramount. Employers must continue to provide workers with information about risks to their health and the actions their employers must take.
Social distancing is a key public health measure supported by the Scottish Government to reduce the spread of infection.
If it comes to the HSE’s attention that employers are not complying with the relevant public heath guidance (including enabling social distancing where it is practical to do so), HSE will consider a range of actions ranging from providing specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices, including prohibition notices. Local authorities also have enforcement powers in specific premises under health and safety legislation and under new public health coronavirus legislation in Scotland.
Where a worker has a genuine concern about health and safety which cannot be resolved through speaking with their employer or trade union, they should contact the relevant enforcement agency – either their local authority, or the HSE here.
For firms which are unsure about the guidance, please visit https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/social-distancing-coronavirus.htm or contact us.
SWA Online Workshop: Looking after Your Mental Health at Home
To assist our members, your employees and their family members all working at home, we have created this free online interactive training workshop, with a live coach.
The workshop, which lasts two hours, deals with the numerous challenges and stresses brought on by the coronavirus outbreak – including dealing with working at home.
This has been designed to promote interaction between attendees, encourage questions and learn to destress in a fun way.
For more information and to book this free workshop click here.
Furlough workers could take on second job
It has been clarified over the weekend that furloughed employees, if contractually allowed, are permitted to take on non-competing jobs (ie delivery driver etc) which does not break furlough.
Although taking another job if placed on furlough is possible, businesses do not need to agree to this. As a matter of course, a lot of businesses will have provisions preventing staff taking second jobs (or something similar) – so it may be that express agreement between employer and furloughed employee is required. Members may also want to be clear that any alternative job cannot compete with the business from which they are furloughed.
For any employer that takes on a new employee, the new employer should ensure they complete the starter checklist form correctly. If the employee is furloughed from another employment, they should complete Statement C.
Further details can be found here.
Feed Britain Directory
The founders of Leon have launched a new platform, Feed Britain Directory, to connect consumers with food businesses offering home deliver, including wholesalers. Fill out the form at this link and they will list you, free of charge, on the site. https://leonclub.typeform.com/to/dS6Jdy
Please find below an update from Scottish Government activity and industry guidance and assistance available to members.
Scottish Government (SG) Food Resilience Call
SWA joined the SG weekly industry call, hosted by Fergus Ewing (FE). The Cabinet Secretary has updated the First Minister on the state of the food supply chain including wholesale. He recognised the critical nature of the whole food and drink supply chain and the First Minister is expected to formally recognise the importance of the food sector at one of the upcoming daily briefings.SG are now sitting in on the daily DEFRA Food Resilience calls, which will increase understanding of issues faced across the whole of the UK supply chain.
- PPE shortages were discussed. Food Standards Scotland (FSS) said that within food handling, the best solution was Social Distancing & Hand washing.
- FSS have introduced new guidance measures for businesses which enables them to undertake a “Covid risk assessment” (more details below).
- SG announced that 120k food parcels would begin to be delivered this week across Scotland with the aid of Brakes, Bidfood and some regional wholesalers. These are going to the “shielded” (those at critical risk of catching C-19).
- FE mentioned wholesale and the need to protect the supply chain, especially to ensure remote islands are supported.
Emergency Business Loan Scheme Revamped
The UKGvt Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, has today announced changes to the emergency loan scheme that will make it easier to access and have extended the reach of the loan to include:
- Government backed loans of up to £25m to firms with revenue of between £45m and £500m
- Banks banned from asking company owners to guarantee loans when borrowing up to £250k.
- Businesses will NO LONGER have to try and get a normal commercial loan before applying for the Gvt backed loans.
- Companies will however still be liable for 100% of the debt and Gvt has NOT capped the interest rates banks can charge…even though they are able to borrow at close to 0%!
Food Standards Scotland – Guidance For Food Business Operators
FSS have launched a new downloadable document for food businesses to carry out a Covid19 Risk Assessment within their business. At the end this will in essence provide your business a “Risk management” report and discussions points on areas requiring attention. While predominantly written for food manufacturers/processors it does provide wholesalers with a good starting point for carrying out a risk assessment for your business and processes.
SWA, along with all industries, have been asked to ENFORCE that businesses and your employees MUST maintain social distancing at all times and wash hands properly and regularly.
Sell Direct To The Public
SWA and FWD are directing our members to LOCALFOODDROPS which offers foodservice wholesalers a direct route to selling to the public.
This is a not-for-profit site and is part of a number of things Foodservice Online is doing to help the sector. The business has been offering to set up wholesaler’s e-commerce websites for FREE and has already launched platforms for Scottish wholesalers. With JB Foods, Failte, Dunn’s, Bidfood and others already listed on their website.
To get listed on the website, simply complete your details at GET LISTED. To enquire about development of a full e-commerce platform, set up within 72hrs, email email@example.com or contact SWA or FWD for further details.
Read more about the service at Wholesale News.
GroceryAid Offers Foodservice Wholesaler’s Support
GroceryAid, the national charity that helps people across the whole of the grocery industry, have ring-fenced a fund specifically for wholesale colleagues.
In addition and as a result of challenges faced by the hospitality sector, Grocery Aid recognise foodservice wholesale colleagues may also need support as a result of Covid-19. This ring-fenced fund will therefore also be open to those businesses.
For more details on the eligibility and how to Apply for the funding visit here.
SG Circular Economy Bill – Not to be progressed
SWA welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement on the prioritisation of legislation caused by C-19. As part of that consideration, Ministers have decided that there is insufficient time to introduce all of the primary legislation in this parliamentary session. The Circular Economy Bill is one of the Bills that will not be progressed.
Government information and key links for businesses of all sizes looking for Covid-19 support.
Information and key links for helping support members during Covid-19.
The latest Covid-19 health advice and information on applying for testings and what symptoms to watch out for.
Employment & Volunteering
The latest links and information around employment issues and volunteering opportunities.