As businesses have reacted to the delay, many have pointed out that whilst continuing restrictions are a very difficult choice, the roadmap was always subject to the data. UK Hospitality, a representative body of pubs, bars and restaurants, has called for greater levels of government support. Meanwhile The Night Time Industries Association, which represents nightclubs, said that many businesses were given insufficient warning of the delay and 54 per cent had ordered stock, 73 per cent had called in staff and 60 per cent had sold tickets out of the venues it surveyed. The delay is compounding the effect of the 15-month closure nightclubs have experienced.
“We would be calling for the government to provide further cash grants, at least equivalent to levels provided during the first lockdown, and to delay the tapering of government payments into the furlough scheme, planned for the start of July. The government should also look at extending the trade credit reinsurance scheme beyond the end of June to minimise possible disruptions in insurance coverage.” The British Chambers of Commerce co-executive director Claire Walker
In response, the Treasury has pledged its commitment to helping businesses and individuals through the extension by its decision to provide certainty over the summer through the furlough scheme and support offered to the self-employed being in place until September. Eligible businesses can also access business rates relief, VAT reductions and the Recovery Loan Scheme.
Whilst Chancellor Rishi Sunak accommodated lockdown easing delays when he extended these support measures until the end of September, it does mean that the level of support starts to decrease from July. From 1 July, employers will have to pay 10 per cent of an employee’s wage, rising to 20 per cent in August as taxpayer support is cut from 80 per cent. Similarly, retail, hospitality and leisure businesses have been offered 100 per cent relief on business rates which is due to be reduced to 66 per cent from 1 July and is set to remain until the end of March 2022.
Challenges facing employers
Employee anxiety is being reported in numerous forms. From anxiety about returning into the physical workplace where some might be worried about catching Covid to worrying about returning to the commute on public transport, there are numerous aspects of the return to work that need to be addressed. Other employers are reporting that their people are concerned about the point at which they will be asked to return to the office and whether they have received their vaccinations. Whatever the concerns voiced by employees, ensuring that these are sought out and listened to is absolutely vital to a smooth transition to the office. Line manager training and open communication has a direct impact on the effectiveness of each team.
Many employers have reported that whilst employees have been working hard and productivity has been maintained, some have hit a virtual brick wall. Some employees are reporting that they are not working as collaboratively, effectively or efficiently as they would be if they were allowed to return, as they actively miss the ad hoc social interactions with colleagues and general buzz of the office. Therefore, employers will have to accommodate flexible working requests whilst balancing these against the wider impact on their culture so that those who work remotely are not disadvantaged and become ‘out of the loop’.