Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updated 17:00 on Thursday 4th March with information from the Budget statement.

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.

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.

Operations

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.
  • The timeline of the Creative and Design Route Review has been extended, including postponing all external meetings and annoucements 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

The government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and Bounce Back Loan Scheme will both be coming to an end in March 2021. It will be replaced by a Recovery Loan Scheme, which includes a government guarantee to lenders of 80%. Loans between £25,001 and £10 million will be available.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

  • In March 2021, the furlough scheme was extended until September 2021. Employees will receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked.

Other 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 until the end of June 2021, after which business rates will be discounted by two thirds until the end of the year.
    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.

Other business support:

  • Coronavirus Local Restrictions Support Grant: a cash grant from your local authority if your business stayed open but was impacted by local restrictions from August 2020.
  • Coronavirus Local Restrictions Support Grant for closed businesses: Outline above. Local authority support if your business had to close during local coronavirus restrictions.
  • Coronavirus Additional Restrictions Grant: For those not covered by other support schemes, or where additional funding is needed.
  • VAT and tax support: The Payment Scheme for VAT provides the option for businesses to pay back loans in 11 smaller interest-free payments during the 2021-22 financial year. For this, HMRC will put in place an opt-in process in early 2021. Self-assessment taxpayers will be able to benefit from a separate additional 12-month extension from HMRC on the “Time to Pay” self-service facility.

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.
  • Self-employed individuals can apply for the Self-employed Income Support Scheme. The grant will be limited to self-employed individuals who are currently eligible for the SEISS and are actively continuing to trade but are facing reduced demand due to COVID-19.
    • The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme will be extended to include a fourth and fifth round of grants: Provided a tax return was filed by midnight on 2nd March, individuals will be eligible for the fourth and fifth grants.
    • 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 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.

Warehouses and supply-chains

  • From 5th January 2021, the government has advised all those who can work from home to do so. There is however guidance for making sure those spaces that do need to open can operate safely. This includes warehouses and can be found here.

Offices and other physical work spaces

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

For the arts and culture sector

  • The second round of grant funding from the government’s £1.57 billion support package for the arts and culture sector will open on 6th January 2021. More information can be found on the Arts Council England website here.

School Closures

  • From 8th March 2021, all schools and colleges will reopen in England with asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in place.

Examinations and assessments

  • Summer 2021 examinations have been cancelled, following the announcement of a national lockdown in England in January 2021. More information from the DfE can be found here.

Free school meals

  • The free school meals scheme will continue while schools are shut during the early 2021 lockdown in England.

Funding package for schools

  • The government has updated its recovery support package to help children and young people catch up on missed learning and development during the pandemic.

Universities and higher education

Following the announcement of the government’s roadmap in February, university students on practical courses who need to access specialist facilities and equipment can return to in-person teaching and learning from Monday 8th March. Twice weekly testing will continue to be available for all on campus. A review of this guidance will be conducted after Easter.

In May 2020, the government announced a series of support measures for the HE and research sector 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.

These measures were added to in July 2020 by Business Secretary Alok Sharma, with the following financial support package for the HE and research sector. It includes:

  • 80% of the value of the missing income from international student fees this year will be covered by the government.
  • A combination of new and redistributed money worth up to £280m will be issued to support R&D in UK universities. This includes money for funded extensions to UKRI-funded projects.

Research and development

  • The Secretary of State for Business, Alok Sharma MP, has launched a research and development ‘roadmap‘ to ‘cement the UK as the world’s leading research and science superpower’.
  • It ‘sets out the UK’s vision and ambition for science, research and innovation’, with a particular emphasis on reducing bureaucracy, attracting talent, and conduction cutting-edge research.
  • The announcement includes a commitment from the government to maintaining a ‘close relationship’ with European partners by seeking to agree a fair and balanced deal for participation in EU R&D schemes.

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.

We will continue to survey our members in the new year 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.