The government must consider deferring payment of tax bills to help small businesses survive the spread of coronavirus, it has been warned.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has urged the government to introduce a range of measures to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on the economy in Northern Ireland.
It emerged on Monday that the UK will remain in the containment phase of its response to the coronavirus outbreak following an emergency Cobra meeting.
The delay phase of the response would involve closing schools and banning public events.
While this is not yet being implemented, one of the UK’s most senior health officials on Monday said an increasing number of people will be expected to self-isolate in the next 10 to 14 days.
This is likely to have a significant impact on peoples’ ability to go to work.
Roger Pollen from the FSB in Northern Ireland, said:n“We would urge small businesses to continue to follow Government advice, as this issue is fast moving and guidance can be subject to change.
“Many small businesses have already put in place sensible measures, such as reminding staff of good hygiene practices, which can mitigate against the spread of the virus. “Businesses should also review their business continuity plans and make contact with their insurers if they have business interruption cover to check whether their policy includes notifiable diseases.
“The upcoming Budget provides the opportunity for government to support small businesses and self-employed people.
“Appropriate action would include assisting businesses with the costs of Statutory Sick Pay, and utilising the ‘Time to Pay’ scheme to defer tax bills to give businesses more time to get back on their feet.”
He continued: “Given the dip in confidence in the economy due to the outbreak of Covid-19 now would be the wrong time to hike taxes on businesses, and the Government should think long and hard about the negative effect which removing entrepreneurs’ relief would have on the economy.”
Businesses in Northern Ireland are already advising employees to cease physical contact with clients, such as shaking hands, while other companies have already made the decision to ask employees to work from home.