Trade group UK Hospitality is calling for the government to reintroduce the full furlough scheme for workers in areas under local lockdown to save jobs and businesses, as new coronavirus restrictions are due to be announced in England next week.
Speaking during a number of media interviews, UK Hospitality’s CEO Kate Nicholls urged the return of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, whereby 80% of employees’ wages were paid by the government.
The scheme ended in October and was replaced by a smaller wage subsidy scheme that saw the government top up incomes for employees who worked at least a third of their hours.
The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, with pubs and bars struggling further after the government introduced a 10pm curfew on licensed venues in England on 24 September.
From today at 6pm, licensed venues across Scotland’s central belt (including Glasgow and Edinburgh) will be ordered to close, while new restrictions on hospitality will be enforced across the rest of the country. The new Scottish measures were branded a “death sentence” for the industry.
UK chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to make an announcement later today, outlining further financial support for businesses that may be closed soon to prevent the spread of Covid-19. An update on additional restrictions for England is due to be announced on Monday (12 October), and could include the temporary closure of bars, pubs and restaurants.
Ahead of Sunak’s announcement, Nicholls also called for a 66% furlough support for hospitality in areas under restrictions on trading.
“We absolutely support the government’s tiered approach to protect public health,” said Nicholls. “Our sector has invested heavily to ensure that our venues are the most monitored and Covid-secure of public spaces.
“The inarguable fact is that all of the restrictions currently in place or under consideration, make it impossible for most venues to operate anywhere near profitably.”
Nicholls also highlighted the need for a new grant scheme to save businesses.
She said: “To save jobs and businesses, government support for hospitality must be at the same levels of the furlough scheme where there are forced closures, and two thirds of wages where curfews and other restrictions are seeing trade hit hard.
“Alongside a new package of grants, this would help to preserve a sector that has the economic might to help drive Britain’s economic recovery, as this morning’s GDP figures demonstrate. It would be reckless to make momentous decisions on our future without protecting the positive investment of the furlough scheme, which has done so much to sustain so many jobs thus far.”
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Author: Nicola Carruthers