Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Update 15:00 PM Friday 17th July with new information on the government’s next steps for the UK’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

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.
  • On 17th July, the Prime Minister unveiled the next steps for the country’s post-COVID-19 recovery. The announcement included:
    • A new announcement regarding working from home: From 1st August, employers can use their discretion as to whether employees work from home or at the office.
    • Local authorities will be given new powers to close specific indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as to restrict events and local transport systems.
    • Larger gatherings, such as arts performances and sports events, will be piloted with a view to wider reopening in Autumn.
    • Schools and colleges will be open full time for all pupils from September. Universities, the PM added, are also working to open “as fully as possible” in the new academic year.
    • Conferences could also open from Autumn “in a COVID-secure way”, subject to piloting.

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

  • 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.
  • Those employed up to 19th March are eligible for the scheme.
  • The scheme will be open until 31st October.
  • 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 has now passed (it was 10th June, to allow for the minimum three-week furlough period by 30th June). More information can be found here.
  • The government has also announced an exception will be made for parents returning to work after paternity and maternity leave. More information 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.
  • For self-employed workers, the Chancellor has announced the following support scheme:
    • 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.
    • Additional points of note:
      • 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 2020.
    • 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.
    • 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

For the arts and culture sector

  • On Sunday 5th July, the government announced a £1.57 billion support package for the arts and culture sector. The details of the package, including eligibility and division of the funds between sub-sectors, have yet to be confirmed.

From Friday 20th March, schools in England closed until further notice. This included nurseries, FE colleges and independent schools and applied to all children except those of key workers (i.e NHS staff – the full list of key workers can be found here).

 Examinations and assessments

  • There will be no exams in May and June 2020. 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.
  • The Education Secretary has confirmed that summer exams are expected to go ahead as planned in 2021, although there is some acknowledgement that ‘substantial modification to the curriculum may be needed at the start of the year, so teaching time should be prioritised to address significant gaps in pupils’ knowledge with the aim of returning to the school’s normal curriculum content by the summer term’.

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 confirmed visits will start again when schools and colleges return in the autumn.

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

  • From 1st June, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils returned to school.
  • The government did aim for all primary students to return to school before the summer holidays, but on Tuesday 9th June Education Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed these plans have been dropped. Schools with the capacity to bring back more students, whilst upholding small class sizes, before the summer holidays have instead been urged to do so. Primary schools will no longer have to prepare for the return of all pupils, as previously proposed by the government.
  • The government has also outlined the government’s expectation for all schools and colleges to re-open in full from September. Children will be kept in class or year group sized ‘bubbles’ to limit the possible transmission of the virus, alongside protective measures such as regular classroom cleaning and handwashing.
  • The Department for Education has published corresponding guidance, which advises teachers that printed resources, such as textbooks and workbooks, can be shared between pupils within each “bubble”, and explicitly reminds teachers to provide printed resources for pupils who do not have online access.

Funding package for schools

  • The Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Education have confirmed a new funding package for English schools. This “catch-up” package is intended to tackle the impact of lost teaching time over the last term.
  • £650m of this fund will be shared across state primary and secondary schools over the 20/21 academic year. The government has articulated an expectation that the fund will largely be spent on small group tuition for whoever needs it, and the EEF have released a corresponding guide to help schools make spending decisions.
  • A further £350m has been allocated directly to a National Tutoring Programme, which will seek to increase access to high-quality tuition for the most disadvantaged young people over the coming academic year.

Universities and higher education

In May, 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.

These measures were added to in July 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 ‘roadmap’ has been published alongside an open survey on the UK’s R&D sector, which closes on the 12th August. There is a clear ambition to develop this roadmap into a ‘comprehensive R&D plan’ for the UK in the near future.
  • 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.

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.