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Businesses call for support as new restrictions are imposed

22 September 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced a number of new restrictions for England intended to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The measures could be in place for the next six months but Johnson has promised that "businesses can stay open in a COVID-compliant way". Scotland and Wales are introducing similar restrictions and local lockdowns will continue as needed.

These are the key restrictions that businesses need to be aware of:

  • Office workers who can work from home must do so.
  • In key public services and professions, where homeworking is not possible, people should continue to go into work.
  • From Thursday 24 September, all pubs, bars and restaurants must operate table-service only except for takeaways. Together with all hospitality venues, they must close at 10pm.
  • The requirement to wear face coverings is to be extended to include staff in retail, all users of taxis, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
  • Business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events will not be able to reopen from 1 October as previously planned.
  • COVID-secure guidelines will become legal obligations for businesses and they could be fined or even closed if they breach these rules.

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: "Businesses understand that further restrictions are necessary to tackle the rising number of coronavirus cases, but these measures will impact business and consumer confidence at a delicate time for the economy."

Both the British Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors (IoD) are calling on the government to outline the next phase of business support as the UK enters a second wave of COVID-19.

Roger Barker, IoD director of policy, said: "These new measures will inevitably put the brakes on the economic recovery somewhat, but businesses will hope they prevent stricter measures down the road. With the return of more restrictions, the onus is squarely on the government to set out the next phase of its support.

"Key schemes are set to wind down in the months ahead, but it's clear that businesses aren't out of the woods yet … the government should also seek to help small firms adjust and adapt to the circumstances."

The IoD has recommended the following measures to provide business support in the months ahead:

  • Extend emergency business interruption loan schemes;
  • Reduce employment costs by cutting Employers' NICs;
  • Adjust the furlough scheme so it can support businesses directly impacted by lockdown measures;
  • Extend emergency insolvency measures to remove the threat of liability for so-called "wrongful trading" from those struggling firms who seek finance.
  • Ensure local authorities have the means to allocate local discretionary grants to support more businesses;
  • Provide tax incentives to support SMEs to adopt digital practices and technology.

Written by Rachel Miller.

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