Covid-19: Key questions answers on tier 3 restrictions

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

Due to recent reports regarding Birmingham becoming a tier 3, “very high” alert level area we have produced the below business Q&A to clarify the situation.

This blog post was correct at the time of writing (30/10/20). For the latest news subscribe to ChamberlinkDaily here.

Will Birmingham be going into tier 3/very high alert this weekend?

No – Birmingham remains at a level 2/high alert level and will not be facing tier 3 restrictions this weekend.

However, due to a rising case rate and hospital admissions it is very likely that it (and potentially the West Midlands Combined Authority area) will be moving to tier 3 next week or the week after. As a result, we want to ensure businesses are aware of what this would mean for them.

What do tier 3/very high alert restrictions mean for businesses?

The main changes for businesses apply to the hospitality, accommodation & leisure sector:

  • you must not socialise with anybody you do not live with or have formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting or in any private garden or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events
  • pubs and bars must close; they can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant, which means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal, and they may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal
  • weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees; however, wedding receptions are not allowed
  • exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors; these will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with or share a support bubble with; there are exceptions for supervised activities for under-18s, and disability sport
  • you should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if you are resident in a very high alert level area, or avoid staying overnight in a very high alert level area if you are resident elsewhere

Households are also advised against travelling in or out of a very high alert area but there are exemptions for work purposes. Click here for more information on very high alert restrictions.

There are additional local variances depending what has been agreed with the local authorities in question and where their data shows COVID-19 is spreading. For instance, business closures in areas such as Lancashire, Liverpool and Greater Manchester also apply to betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, soft play centres and car boot sales.

At present, the West Midlands Combined Authority local authority leaders and the West Midlands Mayor are negotiating with Government what a “tier 3” alert level would look like for Birmingham or the region in order to be prepared ahead of a move to tier 3 (which is likely to come at short notice).

What support is available?

These measures represent a significant impact on hospitality businesses directly and the wider visitor economy and non-essential retail through significantly impacting demand.

There are a number of existing support measures and protections available (click here for more detail).

Those specific to tier 2 and 3 areas are:

  • Tier 2 Grants (for open businesses experiencing a fall in customer demand – primarily hospitality, accommodation and leisure): small businesses with a rateable value of or below £15,000 will be able to claim £934 per month; businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 can claim £1,400 per month; and larger businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000 can claim £2,100 per month.
  • Tier 3 grants (for businesses forced to close): where businesses are forced to close under tier 3 restrictions, the can access higher levels of grant: £1,334 a month for those with a rateable value below £15,000, £2,000 a month for those with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000 and £3,000 a month for those with a rateable value of over £51,000.
  • Job Support Scheme (for open businesses): Employees receive at least 73% of their normal wages while working as little as 20% of their usual hours. Employers must offer employees a minimum of 20% of their hours, pay an additional 5% of salary from the remaining hours they would usually work and the government will pay 61.67% of the hours not worked up to a maximum of £1,541.75 a month.
  • Job Support Scheme (for businesses forced to close): Employees that cannot work will receive at least 66% of their normal wages funded by the Government up to £2,083.33 per month.

The grant schemes will be managed by local authorities – however they are still waiting for a number of details from Government before they can open for applications. The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce are working closely with local authorities in the area to share members’ needs and work to ensure grants reach businesses as soon as possible.

The job support scheme will be managed by the Government (in a similar way to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - furlough). It will open for applications on the 1st November, find out more here.

Each tier 3 area is also able to negotiate additional business support packages with the Government. This is currently forming a significant part of the negotiations underway between government, the West Midlands Combined Authority local authority leaders and the West Midlands Mayor.

How are tiers/”alert levels” decided?

A number of factors go in to determining the alert level of a local authority area. These include the case rate (number of cases per 100,000 – generally anything over 250 per 100,000 increases the likelihood of entering tier 3), hospital admissions for COVID and number of patients in intensive care for COVID (in order to monitor if the NHS is in danger of being unable to cope with rising cases).

These measures do make it difficult to predict when exactly an area could be moved in to “very high” alert as the situation can change rapidly. However, Birmingham has seen a steady worsening of the situation in recent weeks and, as a result, a move to tier 3 is highly likely within the near future.

How can the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce help?

The GBCC working hard to #KeepBusinessMoving through this challenging time. We are committed to keeping businesses informed, connecting them to support and lobbying on our members’ behalf. If you are a Chamber member please speak to your relationship manager. All businesses can:

  • Call the ABCC Business Support helpline on 0121 274 3280 for advice on business support and complying with COVID-19 guidance available in English, Punjabi, Urdu and Bengali
  • Email with your queries or case studies of businesses falling through the gaps in support
  • View the GBCC Business Support Grid summarising what is currently available for local businesses here

Henrietta Brealey
Director of policy and strategic relationships
Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce