29 March 2022

Latest NHBF update – 29 March 2022

This week's update covers:

  • State of the Industry survey – your views please
  • Employment Allowance Increase
  • New law to resolve remaining COVID-19 commercial rent debts is now in place
  • Northern Ireland: Murphy encourages businesses back to the high street
  • Employer annual tasks webinar
  • Britain's high street crisis reaches a tipping point
  • Businesses urged to increase cyber security
  • Wales COVID -19 update: Face covering


State of the Industry survey – your views please

After a difficult winter for many businesses, we are keen to hear from you about how your business is faring as we move into the spring.

We use the results of our quarterly State of the Industry surveys in a wide range of reports, submissions and media releases.  

Your feedback and input are critical in assisting us in future campaigns and lobbying efforts to bring your voice and issues directly to the attention of the Government.


The deadline for responses is 5pm on Wednesday 6 April.

Spring Statement: Employment Allowance Increase

The Chancellor's Spring Statement on 23 March announced that the Employment Allowance will rise from £4,000 to £5,000.

The Government says: "You can claim employment allowance if you're a business or charity and your employers' Class 1 national insurance liabilities were less than £100,000 in the previous tax year.

Mr Sunak also unveiled a plan to increase the threshold people start paying national insurance contributions (NICs) by £3,000 to £12,570 from July.

In a letter to the Chancellor before the Spring Statement, the NHBF called for further support to businesses in managing their cash flow including further business rates relief, flexibility on loan repayments and fairer taxation.


New law to resolve remaining COVID-19 commercial rent debts now in place

A new law is now in place to help resolve certain remaining commercial rent debts accrued because of the pandemic, Business Minister Paul Scully has announced.

  • The new law came into effect to provide a legally binding arbitration process to resolve certain outstanding commercial rent debts related to the pandemic.
  • Commercial landlords and tenants are encouraged to negotiate agreements using the Code of Practice.
  • If they cannot agree, the new binding arbitration system can be used as a last resort for eligible businesses.
  • The general moratorium on commercial evictions ended.

Last year, the Government published an updated Code of Practice to provide commercial landlords and tenants with a clear process for settling outstanding debts. The Code sets out that tenants who can pay their rent debt in full should do so and that in the first instance, tenants unable to pay in full should negotiate with their landlord in the expectation that the landlord shares the burden where they can do so, and only as far as necessary, by waiving some or all rent arrears or giving time to pay.

Read NHBF Member guidance.

Read for further information from Gov.uk.

National Commercial debt line.


Northern Ireland: Scheme encourages businesses back to the high street

The High Street Scheme has been recognised as an effective way to stimulate the economy, restore consumer confidence and safeguard jobs for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in Northern Ireland.

That was a key finding of the 'Business Impact of the Northern Ireland High Street Scheme' report, which included a survey carried out by Retail Economics on behalf of the Department.

The research report was undertaken to assess the impact of the High Street Scheme on the retail, hospitality and service sectors and was focused on gathering business feedback.

Its findings show that the scheme delivered against five key areas. These are:

  • Engagement: there was widespread engagement, with almost every single Spend Local Card activated (99.6%), with 1.4 million residents had applied for the card;
  • Additionality: both large and small businesses reported that the pre-paid card contributed to additional spending rather than displacing spending that was likely to have occurred anyway;
  • Targeting: spending was reported to have been boosted across small independent local businesses;
  • Confidence: the pre-paid card provided an impetus for consumers to visit physical channels, which had a positive impact on footfall; and
  • Jobs: businesses reported that the scheme helped to safeguard jobs

Further information on the Back in Business scheme can be found at: www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/backinbusiness. The scheme will open for applications in May.


Employer annual tasks webinar

HMRC is holding a webinar on 30 March (and further dates in April) to set out "the steps employers need to take at the end of the tax year to send final payment submissions, issue P60s and set up their payroll records for the following tax year".


Britain's High Street crisis reaches tipping point

A record 16% of shops on Britain's high streets stand empty, and one in every 20 vacant units across the country have been shuttered up for more than three years. New analysis reveals Britain's high streets are at breaking point as town centres feel the deepening impacts of increasing shop closures and lengthening vacancy periods, according to a new report from Power to Change, which supports the growth of community business in England.

Take Back the High Street: Why now is the time for a High Street Buyout Fund examines the latest retail statistics from Local Data Company – both vacancies and persistent vacancies, where a shop has been closed for more than three years – and found that high streets are at a tipping point, even in areas with historically stable local economies. Urgent action is needed to ensure these vital community spaces that are central to local economies, community cohesion, civic pride, cultural identity, and local distinctiveness can survive.

Key findings include:

  • So-called 'Red Wall' regions are experiencing the highest high street shop vacancies across England. All have vacancy rates greater than the national average of 15.6% – ranging from 17.3% to 23.1%.
  • The North East is faring worst with almost a quarter (23.1%) of all vacant high street shops. The persistent vacancy rate, where a shop has been closed for more than three years, is also the highest in England at 7.6%, compared to the national average of 4.7%.
  • The wider picture is of struggling high streets right across the country. Comparing a sample of 30 English towns with similar-sized high streets, just five had vacancy rates lower than the national average. Whilst 15 have between a fifth (20%) and a third (34.4%) of their high street shops standing empty.

Read the full report. 


Businesses urged to increase cyber security

The National Cyber Security Centre has supported President Biden's call for increased cyber security vigilance in response to Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine.

While the NCSC is not aware of specific, targeted threats to the UK, all organisations should be vigilant to cyber risks. The NCSC has published guidance for organisations to reduce their risk of cyber compromises.


Wales Covid-19 update: Face covering

The NHBF Four Nations COVID-19 FAQ has now been updated with the latest news from Wales. Face coverings will no longer be required by law in retail settings. The requirement to self-isolate will also move into guidance. A £500 self-isolation payment to support people will continue to be available until June.

Read the NHBF Four nations FAQ here.