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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 17 July 2020

Next steps to recovery
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today announced the next steps in the UK’s roadmap to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Mr Johnson announced during his news conference that public transport was open to all with immediate effect, and that advice for employers around how employees can return to the workplace would be changing from 1 August.

Mr Johnson said: “Instead of government telling people to work from home, we’re going to give employers more discretion and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely.

“That could mean continuing to work from home, which is one way of working safely and which has worked for many employers and employees. Or it could mean making workplaces safe by following COVID-secure guidelines.

“Whatever employers decide, they should consult closely with their employees and only ask people to return to their place of work if it is safe.

“As we reopen our society and economy it is only right we give employers more discretion while continuing to ensure that employees are kept safe.”

Also from 1 August, bowling, skating rinks, casinos and beauticians can reopen – but nightclubs and soft play areas must remain closed. Wedding receptions for up to 30 people will be allowed to take place from next month, as well as outdoor performances.

Audiences will be able to watch indoor performances in theatres and other live venues from 1 August, it has also been announced.

Pilots will also be taking place in the coming days and weeks as the government intends to allow supporters to return to stadiums and conferences and other business events to recommence from October.

And from tomorrow local authorities will have new powers to shut public spaces and close down events so local lockdowns can be instigated faster.

You can read the Government’s next chapter in its COVID-19 recovery strategy here.

Government scheme to help universities in financial difficulties
Universities facing severe financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus will now be able to apply for further government support, the Education Secretary announced this week.

Gavin Williamson announced details of a new restructuring regime, specifically for higher education providers that could be at risk of insolvency. The scheme aims to support the important role universities play in their local economies, and preserve the country’s science base.

Eligible providers will be able to seek this additional support to develop cost effective restructuring plans with conditions designed to focus the sector towards the future needs of the country, such delivering high-quality courses with good graduate outcomes.

Mr Williamson said: “We understand the challenges universities are facing, which is why we have already provided a range of support to ease financial pressures. This new scheme will help those who are still facing financial difficulty as a result of COVID-19.

“As the country recovers from the pandemic we must look to the future, and our world-leading higher education has an important role to play in our success.

“We need our universities to achieve great value for money – delivering the skills and a workforce that will drive our economy and nation to thrive in the years ahead.”

The Restructuring Regime will only provide support after all other finance options have been exhausted and when there is a case to do so.

As a condition for taking part in the scheme, universities will be required to make changes that meet wider Government objectives, depending on the individual provider’s circumstances. This could include ensuring they deliver high quality courses with strong graduate outcomes, improving their offer of qualifications available, and focusing resources on the front line by reducing administrative costs, including vice-chancellor pay.

Further details on the regime, including support and conditions can be found here.

Additional updates and guidance

Opportunity Areas programme to support young people hit hardest by pandemic
Thousands of young people in the most disadvantaged parts of England are to benefit from a new focus on making up lost learning time due to the pandemic, as well as levelling up their education outcomes and tackling barriers to skills and employment. Read more.

£62m to help discharge people with learning disabilities or autism into the community
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has called for a renewed focus to ensure people with learning disabilities or autism are discharged promptly from hospital back into the community.