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Getting back control under COVID-19: help for leisure businesses

People on a bus
Jonne Tanskanen
5 min read

Getting back control under COVID-19: help for leisure businesses

If you write the word “crisis” in Chinese, there are two characters. One means danger and the other opportunity. 

For leisure and entertainment businesses around the world, this is a pretty scary and uncertain time. The challenges of the next few weeks and months are among some of the biggest many will face in their careers, and there is not a business or worker who is unaffected by the knock-on effects of COVID-19.

While safeguarding yourself and your people should be priority number one, smart businesses are already looking for opportunities to better prepare themselves to bounce back stronger, including by investing in better tech to make better decisions..

So, in talking with some of our customers and leaders in the industry across the globe, we have compiled a list of digital tools, advice and information on Government assistance which can help you get through.

No matter what you do for business, this is an extraordinary and difficult time and while we advise you to consider official websites and information and get personal, professional advice before making any business decisions, we hope this information can help you make sense of the changing situation.

Before we start

In this unpredictable time there are only two certainties which we encourage everyone to follow: listen to the advice of the experts and authorities and protect yourself with good health and hygiene habitsTogether, this can help stop the spread of COVID-19 and can help those who are most vulnerable get through and millions of businesses around the world bounce back. 

We are proud of the work you’re doing

The worst in this virus is bringing out the best in the people who work in industries like yours, changing the way you do business overnight sometimes and investing in the people who matter — your employees and your customers — to save as many jobs and offer as many services as possible. We want to support you and your business to come back from this crisis even stronger.

More than ever, businesses like yours need a communications tool to help you and your people stay in touch and informed and we have a few ideas to help.

We celebrate those on the frontline

With the sad and distressing news about vulnerable people coming out of countries across Europe and around the world every day, we are proud of the thousands of healthcare workers who are still doing such an extraordinary job in such unbelievable times. We are proud to support thousands of care home and healthcare workers across the UK and other parts of the world as they take on one of the most important roles during this crisis — caring for the vulnerable.

So remember three things. Stay safe. Stay in touch. Stay calm.

We wish you, your colleagues and families safety, wellness and positivity during these challenging times and we hope you find this ebook useful as you deal with COVID-19.

London eye

Government assistance for leisure and entertainment businesses during COVID-19

Amidst these challenges, there is a lot of support for businesses and workers like yours at the moment, so make use of all the help you can get, to get through this challenging period. 

We encourage you to consider some of these options and see if they can help you and your business in the next few weeks and months.

COVID-19 job retention scheme

The UK Government has announced it will pay 80% of people’s wages if their employment is affected by COVID-19, up to £2,500 a month. This is so people who would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis can continue to get the support they need to get through. 

Business rates holiday for leisure and entertainment companies

For businesses that are in hospitality, retail and the leisure and entertainment industries, there is a rates holiday available for the 2020-2021 tax year for businesses in England. If your business received a retail discount in the 2019-2020 tax year, that will be reimbursed by your local authority as soon as possible. 

If you run a business in the UK but outside England, we advise you to get in touch with your local authority and see what eligibility criteria apply for you. 


You are eligible for the business rates holiday if:

  • your business is based in England
  • your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector

And your business is mainly using your premises:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
  • for assembly and leisure
  • as hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation

How to access the scheme

There is no action for you right now. This will be applied to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill automatically to exclude the business rate charge. They will do this as soon as possible.

Cash grants for businesses

A series of cash grants are available for retail, leisure and entertainment and hospitality businesses under the UK Government’s Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme. It gives some of those businesses in those sectors affected by the COVID-19 crisis a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property.*


There are similar criteria for this as there is above, but as always you should check official websites and check in with your local authority to make sure you’re getting the most up-to-date information.

A tablet

Deferring VAT payments

All businesses will have VAT deferred for three months, running from 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020. The Government’s advice is that this is automatically applied to all businesses so you won’t have to make an application to access this. If you’re a business which pays its VAT or income tax via direct debit, you should make sure you cancel it.

Help with paying your people while they’re sick

It can be tough covering things when you have sick staff at the best of times, but it’s even more stressful these days. Businesses with fewer than 250 people working there will be able to claim two weeks’ worth of sick pay back from the Government if they have been off work because of COVID-19.

Support for self-employed businesses

For the many business owners who are self-employed, you can apply for assistance to get a cash grant of 80 per cent of your average monthly trading profit over the past three months, capped at £2,500. While this will help businesses such as small restaurant or bar owners, who will often have several people in your team, if your taxable profit above £50,000, you will be excluded from the scheme.


As well as the limits on the number of staff, there are a number of other things to consider:

  • the size of an business is defined as the number of people they employed on 28 February 2020
  • you should maintain records of staff absences and payments, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note

Loans and finance for businesses affected by COVID-19

There is a loans and finance scheme in place for businesses whose trade has been interrupted by COVID-19. Up to 40 lenders will be able to administer the scheme to businesses like yours, including all the major banks. 

This means businesses like yours could be eligible for access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to six years. The Government will cover the interest payments for the first year and any fees levied by your lender, as well as offering a guarantee of 80% (subject to pre-lender cap on claims) to give lenders the confidence to assist you in getting access to finance should you need it.  

Man on the climbing wall

How to set your leisure business up to bounce back

There’s not a business or a person in the world unaffected by COVID-19. While advice from authorities and experts must be followed at all times, we understand many businesses are struggling and many have had to make incredibly difficult decisions. 

But beyond that, there are opportunities to make a few smarter decisions now to put yourself in a better position to bounce back when normal business trade resumes.

Look after your people

We know this is a really stressful time for everybody working in and around the leisure and entertainment industry sector, especially those who are shift-based workers in your business and face lengthy periods without regular income. 

Maybe they are students who would have used this upcoming summer period to earn some cash for the next year or a technician or engineer working on routine maintenance of your equipment in the off-season. Either way, this is a challenge for a lot of people at the moment and smart businesses know that looking after those people now will pay off in the long run. While we urge and support Governments helping those affected with survival payments as soon as possible, we also urge you to look after them.

Check in on their mental health, make sure you’re as clear and regular in your communication as you can be. And make sure they know about the abundance of support measures from Governments, charities and other organisations for payments, mental health and other information when they need it the most. 

Your people are the best asset in your business. When you need to bounce back after this crisis, discerning consumers will look for good people and good experiences in your business to spend their money on. Remember that while outstanding experiences like days out with the family, friends and entertainment is what makes your business work, it’s outstanding people — the ones already working for you — who make that all possible.

We believe the way you treat your people will make or break your business. For our guide in treating people right and making better business decisions, head over to our new blog post here.

Offer virtual tours

If your business usually relies on tourists through the door — to an art gallery, the cinema or even an iconic theme park — there are opportunities aplenty to keep promoting your business online. All you will need is your phone and a reliable livestream to showcase the best of what your business has to offer — whether that’s an amazing artwork or award-winning parks and gardens – that people can enjoy from home. 

You and your people should be proud of what your business has to offer and it’s still a chance to give an expert’s briefing on your latest exhibit, how this year’s springtime flower show got to where it is today or just how the imagination of some of your talented engineers brings some of the world’s most exciting rides and theme parks to life. Let people ask questions and engage the audience in a world of imagination right from their living room. 

Showcase what’s best today so people can’t wait to see it in person once the social distance restrictions are eased.

Couple at the cinema

Screen the classics

Do you run a cinema? Perhaps your business was already experiencing difficulties with competition from streaming services and content on demand before the challenge of COVID-19? Think about how you can use your business to give people the cinema experience at home. 

While content streaming services have some great ideas, now might be the time to release some old classics and share them with your audience via livestream. And trust us, now that we are several weeks into self-isolation, people are getting tired of the same old content streaming services offer.

Maybe it’s an iconic Film Noir piece, a Hitchcock thriller, or something the whole family can enjoy together? Promote a live stream on your social media, complement it with some content about how to make the perfect popcorn or chocolate brownies and encourage your customers to watch it with their family, neighbours and friends at the same time.

Just make sure you check any regulations around screening and copyright before you go on bringing the best of the big screen to living rooms across your customer base!

Offer virtual classes and field trips

There’s barely a social media network in the world today without tips for parents trying to juggle their own work from home whilst having school-aged children suddenly homeschooled too. And while schools and teachers — and you parents! — are doing an awesome job making it all balance and helping kids learn, businesses like yours can easily add to the fun and learning along the way.

Maybe you have a technician who can explain to kids the science behind fast roller coasters and the physics in some of their favourite rides at your park? Maybe you have some farm animals and you can help teach kids about where their food comes from? Or maybe you’ve got a great teacher or tour guide on your staff — who usually looks after the kids. Why not get them to do an online book reading or show some of the kids’ favourite activities and give your customers something else to watch and do when the kids are home all day?

It might be worth getting in touch with your local school or kindergarten to see what the students are focusing on at the moment and see if some of your learn-at-home content can fit in straight away. You can then use this opportunity to organise field trips and tours with the kids in real life once this period passes.

Exercising woman

Rent out unused equipment

Ok, so clearly this one isn’t for roller coasters or farm animals (although a roller coaster at home is probably every kid’s dream!) but if you run a fitness centre or gym, the next few weeks and months will mean the equipment you normally use for classes and your clients will go unused. 

Get in touch with your client base and offer the chance to rent your unused equipment — complete with set up in the home — for the next few months. It will not only help you raise some cash immediately but it’s also a new way to keep in touch with your clients even though they can’t come to the gym anymore. 

With the many home workout inspirations on social media offer your clients — and your business — the chance to do it safely with the right equipment installed (and then collected at the end) by a trained professional. 

Update your employee handbook

Other than making the most of the resources you have at the moment, the next few weeks could be a great time to review your current policies and procedures to make sure your people are informed of the way you run your business, your expectations of them and how to keep themselves safe while they’re at work.

Have a look at your onboarding process for new employees and make sure everything reflects the most up-to-date information and that people are given everything they need to make your business even better.


Use a loyalty program

Now — more than ever — it’s vital to look after the people who are using your business at the moment and reward their loyalty. Maybe it’s a discount code if they use some of your at-home lessons or field trips, or maybe it’s a month’s discounted personal training if they have rented a piece of equipment off you during lockdown. Making a note of how people are using your services now — and making sure they know you appreciate it — makes a big difference to the customer experience, which will be vital in helping your business bounce back.

Thanking people for supporting your business now will pay big dividends once the market bounces back after COVID-19, so look after your loyal fans!

Look at your staff growth/development plans

Your people are the best asset in your business. And it’s human nature to want to grow and develop with a company, especially if your business is specialised or technical. 

Over the next few weeks, use the opportunity to ensure you’re thinking about ways to keep your people up to date with the latest trends and innovations, that all safety requirements and qualifications are complied with (and up to date in Planday) and that everyone who works for you has a chance to grow and shape their career.

It’s an essential part of good employee engagement, it will help keep your best people for longer and will make a real and positive difference to your business in the long run.

You can download your how-to guide at best-practice employee engagement here.

Stay safe. Stay informed. Stay in touch.

These are the most important things you can do right now to help your business — and the people who work for you — to get through. 

A woman

How we can help

Planday is a communications tool to help you and your people stay in touch and informed. As COVID-19 continues to challenge the way we work and the situation changes rapidly, here are a few key features we suggest you use in this period. 

Shift swaps, changes and flexibility

As the situation with COVID-19 changes rapidly, businesses like yours will need to be as quick and agile as possible, understanding that your staff’s availability can change in an instant. For our tips on managing this quickly and simply, read here.

Sick man

Quick templates to manage unexpected changes

No two days will likely be the same in the coming days and weeks, but using templates will help you get a head-start on whatever changes are thrown your way. Have a look at how some of our templates can help you schedule smarter.

Trigger notifications to instantly alert your employees

When things change quickly, it is vital to keep your people informed. Planday lets you send notifications and updates to your staff quickly, with notifications to make sure everyone gets the message at the same time. See how here.

*Please note: SMS messages may incur additional fees

A phone

Communicate with everyone in one go

It is more important than ever to make sure everyone is informed and no one misses any message. Planday helps you communicate with all your employees in one go. You can read more about it here.

Optimised scheduling: get the right person in the right place

Now is more important than ever to make sure you have the right people in the right place at the right time. To see how Planday helps you schedule by position so you have the right person every time, see here.


Planday guides — your ‘how to’ info in one place

For all the information you need on:

Get started guide

  • Scheduling
  • People
  • Time Off And Vacation
  • Time Tracking
  • Contracts & Documents
  • Payroll
  • Revenue
  • Integrations

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We support you

Look after yourself. Look after your people. 

We know this is a really tough time for a lot of people and the challenge of living in the COVID-19 crisis changes every day. We are proud to help thousands of UK businesses as a communications tool that brings your team together in tough times like this.

We encourage you all to continue to monitor and follow the advice of medical and scientific experts – to stay safe and look after each other as we face this global crisis together. 

We wish you, your colleagues and families safety, wellness and positivity during these challenging times.


This piece is general in nature and should not be taken as professional, legal or qualified advice. Before taking any action at this time, we urge you to read the terms and conditions of each of the relevant agencies and seek your own specific professional advice before making any business decision. All information has been sourced from Government agencies and websites and links are contained within. Information was sourced and up to date as at 27 March 2020 local time. 

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