Think-tank Reform said the UK’s Job Retention Scheme lags in comparison to other countries in its flexibility for employers when public venues are allowed to reopen again.
It pointed to schemes used by France, Germany, Sweden and Canada, which it said were more accommodating for sectors that would have to adjust to social distancing measures when reopened.
This is especially pertinent for sectors like hospitality, which may face restricted opening hours or have to impose limits on numbers, meaning a requirement for fewer staff to operate.
The think-tank said it was worried employers would face a sudden halt to economic support measures and, subsequently, have to make workers redundant.
The UK’s current scheme is distinct in its requirement that furloughed staff cannot do any paid work for their employer.
A ‘short time’ work scheme would provide financial support to those who have had hours reduced but are not eligible for supplementary employment support benefits because of their income or savings.
Reform’s report also said there was also a mental health benefit to this kind of scheme.
Report co-author Aidan Shilson-Thomas said: “The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has served its primary purpose of preventing a catastrophic wave of redundancies as Covid-19 brought the economy to a standstill. But [the] Government must not rest on its laurels.
“As it stands, the policy may not be flexible enough to meet the needs of employers as the economy slowly begins to restart.
“Ministers must allow ‘short-time’ working so employers have the flexibility to bring staff back to work in a gradual fashion while still receiving some support, once the lockdown begins to be lifted.”
Trade bodies responded warmly to the suggestion and said they would continue to push policymakers on what flexibility and support measures there would be for pubs after the lockdown.
British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “We continue to press the Government for greater recognition and support of pubs for when the reopening phase begins.
“Reopening under social distancing conditions will have a clear impact on the operational and commercial viability of pubs. We, therefore, welcome any flexibility or measures to help our sector when lockdown restrictions start to lift. These will be vital in ensuring pubs remain viable as we transition from lockdown to social distancing measures, before a final return to normality.”
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “This is a sensible measure to help pubs get back on their feet. Ideally, we need it as part of a wider package, including extension of the furlough scheme after lockdown, to make sure pubs are properly supported and jobs kept safe.”