Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £1 billion emergency support package for hospitality and leisure businesses hit by Omicron.
Businesses in England will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises. These will be administered by local authorities and will be available in the coming weeks.
The government will also cover the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for Covid-related absences for small and medium-sized employers across the UK for up to 2 weeks per employee. Firms will be eligible for the scheme from today and they will be able to make claims retrospectively from mid-January.
The measures come as many hospitality businesses report having lost 40-60% of their December trade, often their most profitable month.
To support other businesses impacted by Omicron – such as those who supply the hospitality and leisure sectors – the government is also giving a more than £100 million boost to the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) fund for local authorities in England.
The chancellor also announced a further £30 million will be made available through the Culture Recovery Fund to help theatres and museums.
Commenting on the support package, chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak said: "We recognise that the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time.
"So we’re stepping in with £1 billion of support, including a new grant scheme, the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and further funding released through the Culture Recovery Fund.
"Ultimately the best thing we can do to support businesses is to get the virus under control, so I urge everyone to get boosted now."
As part of the support announced today, the devolved administrations will receive around £150 million of funding, comprising around £80 million for the Scottish government, £50 million for the Welsh government and £25 million for the Northern Ireland executive.