Trade bodies including BBPA, UKH and BII “bitterly disappointed” by delay which will cost pub sector alone £400 million.
Hospitality and pub industry leaders including the BBPA, UKH, BII and CAMRA have today written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanding support for their sector, following the delay to the roadmap for reopening which will mean restrictions are not removed until July 19th at the earliest.
The hospitality sector leaders have said they are “bitterly disappointed” by the delay to the full reopening of their sector, which will cost pubs £400 million alone.
As a result, they have urged the Prime Minister to delay the reintroduction of business rates payments, which would cost the sector some £93 million in just July, by at least three months.
They have also called on the Prime Minister to prioritise the additional £1.5 billion business rates support package announced back in March, to ensure eligible businesses such as brewers can apply as soon as possible.
A spokesperson said: “Our sector is facing one of its toughest periods in its history and this latest delay is yet another setback.
“Many pubs cannot break even under current restrictions and around 2,300 still remain closed.
“It is now absolutely critical that the Government provides our sector with further support – else the recovery of our pubs will be over before they’ve even been given a chance.”
Ongoing Government support essential to help sector meet challenges and rebuild after pandemic.
UKHospitality, The British Beer and Pub Association and The British Institute of Innkeeping are all warning that the long-awaited easing of restrictions this week does not mark an easing of challenges for sector businesses. Chief among these are major concerns around staffing, the supply chain and tapering of Government support.
Furthermore, the current ‘pingdemic’, as a result of the NHS Covid app, means up to as many as a fifth of staff in the sector are isolating at any one time. This is forcing operators to reduce operating hours or to close venues completely, threatening to derail recovery.
The survey of over 350 businesses operating tens of thousands of venues found that:
• 100% of businesses surveyed currently have vacancies; mainly front-of-house (84%), non-head chefs (67%) and kitchen porters (36%). A third are experiencing managerial role vacancies. Vacancy levels are running at 10% across the sector – implying a shortage of over 200,000 workers.
• Almost all (94%) of hospitality businesses are experiencing difficulties with their supply chain – 66% have reduced product lines; 63% are seeing delays in deliveries; 60% are experiencing products not turning up; and 56% are seeing major price inflation
• A return to a VAT rate of 20% next year will have negative impacts on the vast majority of businesses: 43% said they would cut investment; 30% would become loss-making; 28% would cut jobs; 22% would implement a recruitment freeze, and 21% would face business failure
In terms of priorities for Government support, respondents ranked additional business rates relief into 2022/23 as the top measure, followed by a continued reduction in hospitality VAT beyond March 2022 and, thirdly, an overhaul of the business rates system.
Other support measures needed that ranked highly were a reduction in the tax on beer and alcoholic drinks, as well as help to address labour shortages experienced by the sector.
In a joint statement, the three trade bodies said: “The easing of all legal restrictions should mark a progression into the recovery phase for our sector, which has been hardest hit during the pandemic and only now permitted to trade unrestricted and make progress toward rebuilding and paying off accrued debts.
“But businesses are faced with a range of pressing challenges meaning the road to recovery will be bumpy for many months to come. The sector has already lost more than 12,000 venues during the course of the pandemic and more than half a million jobs - without further adequate support there will be more businesses and jobs lost.
“For hospitality to begin a sustainable recovery, Government must continue working closely with us in order to put in place the right trading environment, including measures such as further business rates relief into next year and the extension of the lower rate of VAT. This will offer firms the chance to bounce back strongly and help to rebuild fragile consumer confidence. With the right support, hospitality can be at the forefront of the nation’s economic recovery, creating jobs and reviving our high streets and city centres.”
Leading law firm, Howes Percival, is urging operators to review their policy in respect of face coverings post ‘Freedom Day’ and clearly communicate their approach to staff and customers.
From 19 July 2021, dubbed ‘Freedom Day’, the legal requirement to wear a face covering in England has ceased. Although there is no longer a legal requirement to wear masks, some organisations, including Waterstones, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Transport For London, will still require customers to wear one when using their services.
Jonathan Mumby, employment law expert at Howes Percival explained, “Communication is absolutely key. If you, as an employer, wish for employees, customers and visitors to wear a face covering after 19 July, it’s important that you communicate that policy to everyone as soon as possible.
“There’s not a one-size fits all approach, organisations will need to consider the impacts of requiring, or not requiring, face masks in their workplace. They will need to review their coronavirus risk assessment and engage with staff. They will also need to consider how to police or enforce the policy should it not be adhered to.
“Although the legal restrictions have ended, the risk remains that staff or customers could still become infected with the virus especially as we are currently seeing a dramatic surge in the current rates of infection.”
Six tips from Howes Percival on considering and developing a face mask policy post ‘Freedom Day’:
1. Review your coronavirus risk assessment - consider what amendments (if any) are needed. Keep talking to staff and maintain buy-in for any action plan.
2. Should there be exceptions to your policy? Consider if any staff are unable to wear a facemask, due to an underlying health condition. Organisations should remain aware of potential claims for disability discrimination, ensuring that sufficient processes are in place.
3. Reasonable adjustments - Should the decision be made to require face masks, organisations should ensure sufficient procedures are in place to afford employees with disabilities reasonable adjustments to protect against potential claims for disability discrimination. Employers should engage with staff to explain the rules.
Remain aware of potential claims of harassment or victimisation in circumstances where some employees with a protected characteristic are unable to wear face coverings.
4. The economic impact of continuing restrictions - Although the health and safety of staff and clients will be a priority, businesses will need to factor in the economic impact of continuing restrictions. Would requiring masks encourage or discourage potential customers or visitors? Will those tired of masks favour premises where one is not required. At the other end of the spectrum will safety conscious customers or shoppers choose to avoid businesses that are not requiring face coverings?
Equally, businesses need to be aware of the risks posed by an outbreak of the virus at their place of work. Pubs have had to close as a result of the workforce being required to self-isolate. Businesses should ensure that the measures in place remain effective in protecting staff and customers in respect of the virus.
5. “The safe side”? - On 12 July 2021, the Prime Minister’s office stated, “the government expects and recommends that face coverings are worn in crowded and enclosed spaces, such as public transport, when mixing with people you don’t normally meet.” Tesco and many of the key food retailers have announced that they will continue to require shoppers to wear face masks to “be on the safe side”.
6. Remain up to date with government guidance - Set review dates, where you may consider removing the requirement, for example, if cases fall.
For more information on Howes Percival’s employment law and HR services visit: https://www.howespercival.com/services/employment-and-hr/