Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Update 18:00 PM Friday 29th May with new information on the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme and self-employed income support scheme.

We will update this web page on an ongoing basis to link to the latest government advice for businesses relating to Coronavirus (COVID-19), as well as relevant announcements and resources of relevance to the publishing industry.

Please check back regularly for the latest information.

Government support for businesses and employers

For the latest information and advice, employers and business owners should visit COVID-19: guidance for employees, employers and businesses. Businesses should check for daily updates and subscribe to receive GOV.UK email alerts to ensure they are acting on the most up to date information.  

Please expand the headings below for detailed information on the various guidance and economic support available, as well as relevant updates from various departments.

Health

  • The NHS has the latest health information and advice, including guidance on symptoms, staying at home and guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.
  • Public Health England Knowledge and Library Services Team have collated resources for information services professionals, including open access research from academic publishers.

Business support

  • The government has launched a Business Support website to with information on all government support, including grant funding, business interruption loans and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have scaled up their Business Support Helpline (0300 456 3565) so businesses in England of all sizes can pick up the phone and speak directly to an advisor. Devolved Administrations have their own equivalent services in place.

The government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy

  • The government has published a 50-page document containing further information about its COVID-19 recovery strategy and ‘roadmap’ for the future. This includes a three-step plan for gradually modifying existing restrictions and returning the country to work and school.
  • The guidance does not contain any specific advice on when bookshops should reopen, but there is an explicit intention for opening “non-essential retail” in phases from 1 June.
  • It is the government’s intention that some classes return to school from 1 June. Please see below for more information on this specific guideline.
  • If you would like more information on this guidance, please contact Maeve for a broader briefing.

Management accounts

  • HMRC has launched a tax helpline (0800 0159 559) to help businesses concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Companies House has produced guidance if coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected your company and you need more time to file your accounts.

Arts Council

  • Arts Council England (ACE) the latest guidance for organisations and projects funded by the Arts Council as well as FAQs for grant recipients. The FAQs have been recently updated to clarify eligibility for grants.

Operations

  • If your supply chain has been affected, the Department for International Trade can help you to find alternative suppliers. The department has relationships with a global network of businesses across the world and will be able to advise you on the options available. Contact covid19@trade.gov.uk for more information.
  • If you would like further advice on how to adapt your workplace safely to allow staff to return to work, the government has released specific guidance for different workplaces including warehouses, research facilities, offices and shops.

Human resources

  • ACAS has published guidance for employees and employers, including staff health and safety, sick pay and absence from work.
  • The Government Equalities Office has announced that gender pay gap reporting deadlines are suspended for this year (2019/20): “there will be no expectation on employers to report their data.”
  • The Department for Education (DfE) and Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) have published guidance for employers with apprenticeship programmes, which includes guidance on reporting a pause or break in your apprenticeship programme, and remote learning and assessment. Please note that salary support for furloughed workers also applies to apprentices.
  • We have also been notified as of Tuesday 23rd March that the timeline of the Creative and Design Route Review has been extended, including postponing all external meetings and announcements until further notice.
  • The government has also committed to relaxing annual leave regulations to allow employees to carry over annual leave for two years. The regulations will allow up to 4 weeks of unused leave to be carried into the next 2 leave years, easing the requirements on business to ensure that workers take statutory amount of annual leave in any one year.

Overseas travel

  • The Foreign Secretary has advised all short stay British travellers currently abroad to return to the UK where commercial flights are still available.
  • The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has guidance for British people living or travelling overseas following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has laid out a series of economic measures to support businesses and individuals through the COVID-19 crisis. These are outlined below and are being regularly updated:

Government-backed loans for businesses

£330bn (15% GDP) is available through Government-backed loans and guarantees. There are two types of loans available:

For large companies, a new lending facility will be established to provide “low cost, easily accessible” loan

  • The Bank of England has announced it will buy short-term debt from larger companies, allowing companies to support their short-term liabilities as part of their Covid Corporate Financing Facility.
  • Further details of the Facility, including application forms, terms and conditions and operating procedures are on the Bank of England’s website.
  • The government has extended its Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS). All firms with a turnover of more than £45 million will now be able to apply for up to £25 million of finance and firms with a turnover of more than £250 million will be able to apply for up to £50 million. Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interests.

For SMEs, the Business Interruption Loan Scheme will now offer loans of up to £5m with no interest due for the first 12 months.

  • A temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), delivered by the British Business Bank, is now available. You will be eligible for the loan (or other forms of finance i.e. overdrafts) if your business is UK based and has a turnover of no more than £41 million per annum.
  • The scheme provides the lender with a government-backed guarantee against the outstanding facility balance, potentially enabling a ‘no’ credit decision from a lender to become a ‘yes’.The Government will also cover the first 12 months of interest payments, so businesses will benefit from lower initial repayments.
  • More information on the loan scheme can be found here, including the 40 lending providers and more detail on the eligibility criteria.
  • The government has recently announced that all businesses impacted by Coronavirus will be able to apply for the CBILS. Previously, government-backed loans for small firms were only available for those businesses which had been rejected for a commercial loan from their bank.
  • Additionally, the government has also announced that lenders will no longer be able to request personal guarantees for loans under £250,000. For loans over £250,000, personal guarantees will be limited to just 20% of any amount outstanding on the CBILS lending after any other recoveries from business assets. This will apply to finance already offered under the scheme, to ensure that all business owners receive the same level of government protection.
  • All businesses will be able to apply for the new Bounce Back Loans of up to a maximum of £50,000, or 25% of turnover, with the government paying the interest for the first 12 months. The loans will also be 100% guaranteed by government. This scheme is aimed at smaller businesses in need of crucial support and went live on Monday 4th May. More information and the application portal can be found here.
    Action: Contact your bank or finance provider for more information on how to access the CBILS or apply for the Bounce Back Loan scheme here.

For start-ups, the Chancellor has announced a £1.25 billion support package focussed on research and innovation. To qualify to receive the government money, a company must have raised £250,000 privately in the last five years and not be eligible for the other rescue schemes. BBC coverage here.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

  • Under the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme any employer in the country can contact HMRC for a grant to pay wages for their staff on pay roll. Government grants will cover 80% of the salary of retained workers, up to a total of £2,500 a month.
  • The scheme will include all employees in the PAYE system, plus it does cover zero-hour contracts.
  • On 15th April, the Government announced an extension to the eligibility of the scheme to include those employed up to 19th March. The link to the online portal for applications can be found here.
  • The scheme will be open until 31st October and there will be no changes until 1st July. On 1st August, the government will continue to cover 80% of the wages of furloughed staff and employers will need to pay their national insurance and pension contributions. From 1st September, the government will pay 70% of their wages and the employer will pay 10%, rising to 20% in October.
  • From 1st July, a new ‘flexible furlough’ will be available wherein employers can bring back furloughed staff on a part-time or flexible basis however suits their business.
  • The deadline for registering a new applicant is 10th June, to allow for the minimum three-week furlough period by 30th June, after which the new ‘flexible’ furlough scheme will begin. More information can be found here.

Support for the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, including bookshops

  • Government action and advice will allow businesses with an insurance policy that covers pandemics to make a claim.
  • The business rates “holiday” is being extended to all businesses in these sectors for 12 months, regardless of rateable value.
  • Action: Businesses do not need to do anything to apply for this rate relief. If you are eligible, it will automatically be applied to your April 2020 council tax bill.
  • For smaller businesses (i.e. under rateable value of £51,000), a further grant worth up to £25,000 will be provided. Action: To apply for a grant, or assess your eligibility, you must contact your local authority who will be managing the grant provisions.

Other business support:

  • Cash grants of up to £10,000 will be available to the smallest 700,000 businesses in the country. Action: Those eligible for this cash grant are small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR). If your business is eligible, there is no action for you – you will be contacted by your local authority.
  • To add further cash flow support through the tax system, the government will be deferring the next quarter of VAT payments – no businesses will pay VAT until the end of June and businesses will have a year to pay these bills. This is a £30 billion cash injection in total.
  • The government has added new guidance for the deferral of VAT payments by businesses including how to apply and details of VAT payments that can be deferred.
  • The government has also increased the monetary fund available to local authorities who wish to support local small businesses with ongoing fixed property costs. Businesses must be small, under 50 employees and able to demonstrate a significant drop in income due to Coronavirus restriction measures. More information can be found here.

Support for self-employed individuals

  • The minimum income floor will be suspended for everyone affected by coronavirus. This means those who are self-employed can access a universal credit rate equivalent to statutory sick pay for employees. The next self-assessment payments will be deferred to January 2021.
  • On Thursday 26th March, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new support scheme for self-employed workers.
    • All self-employed workers will be eligible for a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years; up to £2,500 a month. This is the same as the offer to employers furloughing staff. This will cover 95% of those who make the majority of their income from self-employment and will be available for three months – although the Chancellor will look to extend it if necessary.
    • Additional points of note:
      • HMRC hopes to have this scheme up and running by the beginning of June, earlier if possible.
      • This will be targeted support and open to anyone with trading profits of up to £50,000.
      • It will be made available to those who make the majority of their income from self-employment.
      • Only those who submitted a 2019 self-assessment tax return will be eligible, although if individuals missed the 31st January deadline, they will be able to file for the next four weeks.
      • The payment will be backdated to March.
    • The Chancellor advised that those seeking immediate support can get an advanced payment immediately after making a Universal Credit application. Additionally, local authorities have extra resources to help those needing extra financial support, such as suspending council tax bills.
    • In response to another question, the Chancellor advised those with no 2019 tax return (i.e. those who came into the market as self-employed more recently), to look at other support options (outlined below).
    • In summary, the options on offer to self-employment individuals are:
      • A taxable grant worth up to 80% of their monthly profits over the last years.
      • Business Interruption Loans
      • Deferring self-assessment papers
      • Universal Credit can be accessed in full
      • Self-employed individuals who live in the social rented sector can receive welfare support.
    • On Friday 29th May, the Chancellor confirmed there will be a second and final grant opening in August for self-employed individuals. It will work in the same way as the first and individuals will need to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus when applying. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant in order to be eligible for the second and final grant. More information here.

Warehouses and supply-chains

  • The government has released specific guidance which sets out how each type of physical (work) space can be adapted to operate safely. This includes warehouses and can be found here.

Offices and other physical work spaces

  • As mentioned above, the government has released specific guidance for adapting work spaces to make sure they can operate safely. These include offices, shops and research facilities.

Exporting

  • UK Export Finance (UKEF) has expanded the scope of its Export Insurance Policy (EXIP) meaning UK businesses will now be eligible to secure export insurance cover to all major markets.
  • This policy offers cover against the risk of:
    • not being paid under an export contract
    • not being able to recover the costs of performing that contract because of certain events which prevent its performance or lead to its termination

In March, the Secretary of State for Education made a statement to the House of Commons explaining the effect of COVID-19 on schools and other education institutions. This has ramifications for the education publishing environment. The key announcements were as follows:

School Closures

  • From Friday 20th March, schools in England will close until further notice. This will include nurseries, FE colleges and independent schools.
  • This will apply to all children except those of key workers (e.g. NHS staff – the full list of key workers can be found here), and where children are most vulnerable (those with social worker, or health and educational care plans). The schools will remain open to just these children during the Easter holidays too.
  • Independent schools, boarding schools, nurseries and private schools will also be asked to close.
  • This echoes announcements today that schools in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also be closing in the coming days.

 Examinations and assessments

  • There will be no exams in May and June. Performance tables will not be published for this academic year either.
  • For this summer’s GCSE, AS and A Levels, schools and colleges are being asked to provide centre assessment grades for their students. These should be fair, objective and carefully considered judgements of the grades schools and colleges believe their students would have been most likely to achieve if they had sat their exams and should take into account the full range of available evidence.
  • These grades will be derived from a selection of evidence including classwork, mock examinations and results in assignments.
  • To make sure that grades are as fair as possible across schools and colleges, exam boards will put all centre assessment grades through a process of standardisation using a model being developed with Ofqual.
  • The government will consult on the principles of this model shortly, but they expect it will look at evidence such as the expected national outcomes for this year’s students, the prior attainment of students at each school and college (at cohort, not individual level), and the results of the school or college in recent years.
  • Schools and colleges have been told that they must not share their centre assessment grades with students, parents or carers, under any circumstances, until after final results are issued.
  • There will be an opportunity for students to appeal where appropriate.
  • The government is working with exam boards to give students the opportunity to sit exams at the earliest reasonable opportunity in the new academic year.
  • In a letter to students, the chief regulator of Ofqual confirmed that the grades achieved will have the same status with universities, colleges and employers, to help students ‘move forward with their lives as planned’.
  • Further information for teachers, students, parents and carers is available here.

Free school meals

  • Schools will also have the flexibility to provide meals or vouchers to those on Free Schools Meals. The costs of this will be reimbursed.
  • The government is also looking to develop a national voucher for children eligible for Free School Meals.

 Additional school measures

  • Ofsted has ceased all routine inspections.

The government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy: Reopening schools

  • According to the government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy document, step one of the phasing plan includes local authorities and schools urging more children who would benefit from attending in person to do so from Wednesday 13th May.
  • According to step two of the phased plan, which is to start no earlier than Monday 1st June, the Government expects Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back in school in smaller sizes.
  • Secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year.
  • The Government’s ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer for a month. The Department for Education will engage closely with schools and early years providers to develop further detail and guidance on how schools should facilitate this.

Universities and higher education

On May 4th the government announced a series of new measures including:

  • Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation, will bring forward £100 million of Quality-related Research (QR) funding to eligible institutions. More funding is due to be discussed.
  • The eligibility of universities for Government support schemes, including business loan support.
  • The establishment of a research sustainability taskforce, led by the Departments for Education and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy which will consider how best to respond to the challenges universities face on research as a result of COVID-19 (including any further funding required, as mentioned above).
  • The provision of an advance of £2.6bn in tuition fees to UK universities to help institutions address financial difficulties without needing to increase student admission costs.

Requests for business intelligence

Collating information from publishing businesses about the most pressing and urgent issues that you are facing will inform our government lobbying strategy.

Thank you to those who participated in our publisher survey in March. We will continue to survey our members to gather business intelligence on how COVID-19 is impacting our industry. If you would like to participate in these surveys, please get in touch with Eliza: ekavanagh@publishers.org.uk

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is also seeking business intelligence on how COVID-19 is impacting individual businesses and business sectors. They are welcoming information from businesses on:

  • The impacts across supply, demand and labour markets
  • Actions being taken by firms to address these impacts
  • Any gaps in the Government response from your perspective

You can send your business intelligence to intel@beis.gov.uk. It is understood that individual company information may be commercially sensitive, and it will be treated accordingly.

Support for members

  • Member meetings: Convening our members is a crucial part of our work, but given the latest government advice, we will be delivering as many meetings as we can via video/conference call rather than in person. Where this is not possible, we will postpone meetings until an appropriate time. Where members are due to attend a meeting organised by us in the coming weeks, we will be in touch with information on how to join these remotely.
  • Business support helpline: Publishers Association members can access a Business Support Helpline run by Croner, where they can get free and unlimited advice on employment law, health and safety, tax and VAT advice – you can call them on 08445 618116. Please contact Mark Wharton for the policy number. You can also find out more specifically on coronavirus here.

Support for high street bookselling

The Booksellers Association and their members are very grateful for anything publishers can do to promote books and bookselling at this difficult time for high street retailers. You can find social media resources and more information here.

Contact

If you have concerns relating to your business or would like to highlight something that you are doing, please get in touch with Maeve or Eliza respectively.