Businesses need answers to practical questions about easing lockdown

Business leaders said their practical questions needed answered so they can plan to restart the economy following Boris Johnson’s speech on the easing of lockdown measures.

Firms also want to know if the Government programme to pay the wages of workers under the furlough scheme will be extended beyond the end of June.

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses share the Prime Minister’s ambition to see more people return safely to work over the coming weeks.

“Companies will do everything they can to protect employees and customers, maintain social distancing and operate successfully as more sections of the economy are permitted to re-open.

“Businesses will need to see detailed plans for the phased easing of restrictions, coordinated with all nations across the UK and supported by clear guidance. It is imperative that companies have detailed advice on what will need to change in the workplace, including clarity on the use of PPE.

“Firms will also need to know that Government support schemes, which have helped save millions of jobs in recent weeks, will continue for as long as they are needed so that they can plan ahead with confidence.

“The timing of further easing of restrictions must be guided by the public health evidence, but businesses need their practical questions answered so they can plan to restart, rebuild and renew.”

Jonathan Geldart, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “Directors know that the battle with this virus is far from over, and they want to play their part in preventing a second spike, which would extend the economic pain.

“As the Government begins to ask more people to return to work, it’s vital that the guidance is clear so that companies can plan how to return safely.

“As people with ultimate legal responsibility, directors need to have confidence that it’s safe, and that if they act responsibly they won’t be at undue risk. Businesses should consult with their people to put in place robust policies, which in many cases might not be an overnight process.

“For a large number of firms, operating under social distancing rules will mean significantly reduced activity, so the Government’s support measures must match continuing restrictions.

“A more flexible furlough system would help businesses get back on their feet, bringing people back to workplaces gradually. Meanwhile, countless small company directors continue to find themselves left out in the cold, unable to access the Government’s aid, and this need to be changed quickly.”

Richard Jones, of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health said: “Health and safety must come first. People shouldn’t re-enter workplaces until employers are certain that they’re properly managing the risk of infection and providing the support that workers need.

“Prevention has to be the focus because, if organisations don’t get this right, workplaces can become places of transmission.”

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general, said: “Today marks the first glimmer of light for our faltering economy. A phased and careful return to work is the only way to protect jobs and pay for future public services. The Prime Minister has set out the first steps for how this can happen.

“Businesses are keen to open and get our economy back on its feet. But they also know putting health first is the only sustainable route to economic recovery. The message of continued vigilance is right.

“This announcement marks the start of a long process. While stopping work was necessarily fast and immediate, restarting will be slower and more complex. It must go hand-in-hand with plans for schools, transport, testing and access to PPE. Firms will want to see a road map, with dates they can plan for.”

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