Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Update 11:00 AM Tuesday 5th January 2021 following the announcement of a national lockdown in England.

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. Please note the government’s full Winter Economy Plan can be found here.

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

  • 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.
  • 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

There are two types of loans available:

For large companies, The Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger companies, allowing companies to support their short-term liabilities as part of their Covid Corporate Financing Facility. This scheme will remain open until March 2021.

  • 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) to remain open until 30 November 2020. 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.

  • 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.
  • All businesses impacted by Coronavirus can apply for this scheme.
  • As part of the new Pay As You Grow scheme, the Government will allow CBILS lenders to extend their loans to 10 years, as well as extending the government guarantee.
  • More information on the loan scheme can be found here, including the 40 lending providers and more detail on the eligibility criteria.
  • 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.

Small businesses are also eligible for the Bounce Back Loan Scheme for 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.
  • As part of the new Pay As You Grow scheme, all borrowers will have the option to extend the term of their Bounce Back Loans to 10 years.
    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 the ‘Future Fund’ 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. This scheme ends on 31 January 2021 and more information can be found here.

New one-off grants for retail, hospitality and leisure business that are required to close:

  • This support is provided on a per-property basis to support businesses through the latest restrictions, beginning on 5th January 2021. The one-off top-ups will be granted to closed businesses as follows: £4,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under, £6,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000, £9,000 for businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000. More information can be found here.
  • These grants are in addition to the Local Restrictions Support Grant that was made available when local restrictions were introduced in November and December 2020. It allowed businesses with property to claim up to £3,000 depending on their size. More information can be found here.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

  • In December 2020, the furlough scheme was extended until April 2021. Employees will receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked.

Job Support Scheme

  • In September, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Job Support Scheme as part of the government’s Winter Economy Plan. Following the national lockdown, the implementation of this scheme has been postponed.

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 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:

  • 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. The next self-assessment payments will be deferred to January 2021.
  • Self-employed individuals can apply for the Self-employed Income Support Scheme. In September 2020 the government announced the extension of the scheme until January 2021. 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.
    • In November, the Chancellor announced the forthcoming November grant will cover 80% of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total (running between November 2020 and January 2021).
    • An additional second grant is available for self-employed individuals to cover the period from February 2021 to the end of April. The government will review the level of the second grant and set this in due course.
    • 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.
    • Those with no 2019 tax return (i.e. those who came into the market as self-employed more recently), should 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.

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 5th January 2021, colleges, primary (reception onwards) and secondary schools in England will remain open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers only. All other children will learn remotely until February half term.

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 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

Following the announcement of a national lockdown in England in January 2021, students who are not studying courses that require face to face learning (i.e. medicine) will be required to stay where they are and continue remote learning until approximately mid-February 2021. More detail, including information about which courses can return to university, can be found here.

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.