Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Update 5:00 PM, Friday 27th March. Added annual leave information for businesses to ‘Economic support’.

Update 6:00 PM, Thursday 26th March. Added summary of support for self-employed workers to ‘Economic Support’.

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.  

At close of play on Tuesday 25th March, parliament will rise six days early until 21st April 2020. It is not clear what form parliament will take when it returns, with suggestions of virtual questions with Ministers instead of MPs attending the Chamber. We will keep you updated.

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.

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.

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.

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).

In the last seven days, 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

From early next week, £330bn (15% GDP) will be 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 will be published on the Bank of England’s website on Monday 23 March 2020.

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 new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will be available early next week. 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.
  • Action: Contact your bank or finance provider. This will help them to act quickly once the scheme launches next week.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

  • The government is launching a ‘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.
  • There is no limit on the funding for the scheme and costs will be backdated to 1st March and available for three months, although it could be extended for longer. The first grants will be paid in weeks, with the aim to have most awarded by the end of April.

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.

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.
    • Beth Rigby of Sky News pointed out that this scheme will take a few weeks to set up and at present there is a four week wait for alternative sources of support i.e. Universal Credit (UC) payment. The Chancellor advised that those seeking immediate support can get an advanced payment immediately after making a UC application. Additionally, the Chancellor highlighted that 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.

Regulatory restraints

  • Cabinet colleagues will be meeting with business leaders from the most affected sectors (including transport). Where appropriate, Government is considering relaxing regulatory constraints to ease burdens on businesses.

Warehouses and supply-chains

  • We are currently seeking further clarity from government as regards those workers who cannot do their job from home, such as warehouse operatives and supply chain staff.

On Wednesday 18th 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:

Change to public health situation

  • The Secretary of State the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP said that the public health benefits of schools remaining open have shifted. Schools are struggling to operate due to staff numbers and student attendance.
  • In the daily press conference that followed, the Prime Minister echoed Gavin Williamson’s message that this was the ‘right moment’ for schools to close. The Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance also stressed that schools are not a dangerous place for children – children are indeed the least at-risk group – these closures are being actioned to further delay the transmission of the virus.

School Closures

  • From Friday afternoon, 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.
  • The PM confirmed that the government will make sure the students get the qualifications they need by other means, although he did not confirm the details of how this will happen.

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.

 Universities

  • The Secretary of State said the Department of Education trusts the decisions of university vice-chancellors in keeping their students and staff safe.

 Additional school measures

  • Ofsted has ceased all routine inspections.

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.