Industry groups have called on the Chancellor to extend the Job Retention Scheme to October and increase its flexibility for the pub and hospitality sectors.
In a letter to Rishi Sunak, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), British Institue of Innkeeping (BII), and UKHospitality have urged the Chancellor to maintain the furlough salary for pub and hospitality staff at 80% until October. This, they say, will allow the sector, which is two months behind re-opening compared to the rest of the economy, to fully get back up and running, while the furlough scheme remains in place to save jobs.
In the same letter, they have also asked the Chancellor to introduce flexibility into the furlough scheme earlier than the current scheduled date of the start of August, to help fit with the sector re-opening from 4th July.
The call comes as the trade bodies revealed today that thousands of furloughed pub jobs could be lost, unless pubs can safely re-open and be operationally and commercially viable businesses by July, so that they can afford to pay their staff. Likewise, the call comes as reporting suggests that businesses will have to pay a further one-fifth of the wages of furloughed employees from August in announcements expected this week. This is in addition to any top-ups already being made to the 80% paid by government up to £2,500 per month.
The trade bodies are therefore also calling on the government to adopt the advice and guidance of the World Health Organisation from July, which suggests using one metre for social distancing as opposed to two metres. This, they say, would help businesses to get back up and running to serve their communities again.
It would seriously increase the number of pubs that could safely re-open from one-third to three-quarters in July, and at levels that would be more commercially viable, saving thousands of businesses and jobs while also still ensuring customer safety.
According to all three trade associations, many venues are already looking at operating plans and preparing additional safety protocols to reassure staff and customers they can create a safe socialising environment.
Hospitality was one of the first sectors to be closed by the government back in March, and will be one of the last to re-open after lockdown. Ten thousand of the UK’s 47,000 pubs are also still ineligible for any government grant support, with many who are eligible for help still waiting for government grants and loans to trickle down to them. For those jobs that cannot yet return, due to being unable to open or having severely limited capacity, full support should remain in place, say the industry groups.