Lockdown easing | What business needs to know about end of Covid restrictions
Boris Johnson this week confirmed that COVID restrictions would ease on 19 July.
But what does this mean for business? Whilst some industries are set to reopen, others may still have various challenges to consider.
In today's story, we're looking into three of the biggest road bumps many businesses are still to face.
On Monday of this week Prime Minister Boris Johnson once again stood at a podium inside Number 10 Downing Street flanked by Professor Chris Witty and Sir Patrick Vallance, addressing the nation about England’s continued fight against the coronavirus.
In this address, he confirmed that plans to largely do away with coroanvirus restrictions on 19 July will go ahead, despite surging cases – adding that employees will no longer be told to work from home from this date.
The news will likely be welcomed by many industries that have been struggling to remain viable as social distancing and bans on certain kinds of hospitality, such as the opening of night clubs, have persisted beyond previous proposed opening dates.
However, it may not be the cause for celebration that many had hoped, with many challenges still set to face the business world.
The one key rule still in place
For many businesses, the greatest remaining challenge may well be the threat of enforced isolation – one of the few restrictions to remain past the 19 July opening date. The Guardian reports that increasing numbers of businesses are coming under pressure because staff have to stay at home for 10 days if one tests positive for COVID-19.
Kate Nicholls, the Chief Executive of UK Hospitality, noted that ‘blanket notifications’ covering whole teams may well cause huge disruption among hospitality and dining, among other industries. “Lots of businesses are reporting blanket notifications of entire teams, meaning no option but to fully close for 10 days with no revenue,” she said in a Twitter post on Wednesday. “We urgently need a test-to-release-and-test-to-remain approach to allow hospitality to continue operating.”
“Asking whole teams of people who don’t have Covid to isolate for 10 days will very quickly result in a lockdown of hospitality in all but name. We can’t go on like this – urgent action is required,” tweeted Alex Reilly, Chairman of bar and restaurant group Loungers.
Under the current rules, even those who do not test positive must remain in quarantine for the full period.
Whilst all industries will once again be able to reopen with full capacity this summer, a key concern for many will be the inability to source the talent that they need. Currently, UK job vacancies have hit their highest level since the start of the pandemic, and whilst it seems that all industries are facing the impact of the shortage, hospitality, dining and food-service sectors are currently feeling the brunt.
The Director of the Institute for Employment Studies, Tony Wilson, recently highlighted in a BBC interview that the hospitality sector struggles to retain staff, even in non-pandemic times, with high turnover impacting knowledge and recruitment costs soaring. "This sector has a very high turnover. Nearly half of people change jobs every year. A lot of firms have found people just move on to other things."
And the future doesn’t look to be too bright for those currently struggling to source staff. Kate Shoesmith, Deputy Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), noted that the hunt for key talent across all industries is set to get “quite brutal,” with hospitality currently facing a serious crisis. "[Workers] transferred to other sectors where they can work during the day, have proper breaks and more time with their family," she says.
There is also the worrying concept of liability in the face of relaxed restrictions that businesses may face as a result. David Jepps, employment partner at Keystone Law, tells Grapevine Leaders that whilst measures can be removed from 19 July, employers should think carefully about whether or not they move forward with removing such measures as they have a duty of care to protect staff in the workplace.
“With COVID-19 infection rates rising again, employers may think it is appropriate to maintain mask wearing and social distancing in their workplaces, irrespective of government policies and be seen to do so in risk assessments,” he says. “This is important to allay concerns and manage risks, particularly to those that may be clinically vulnerable. It will also demonstrate that employers are observing their duty of care, which will be fundamental to minimise their legal and reputational risks.”
“Employers should update and follow their own workplace risk assessments and listen to the views of staff. Communication with employees will be key. If it is difficult to maintain social distancing in the workplace or staff are very apprehensive then it is common sense that such measures should continue for now, perhaps with a review date,” Jepps concludes.
Source: Grapevine Leaders