Enhanced job support package ‘welcome’ but more help needed

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

State help: industry bodies lauded the enhanced scheme but urged the Government to provide further financial support
State help: industry bodies lauded the enhanced scheme but urged the Government to provide further financial support

Related tags: Legislation, Jobs, Government, ukhospitality, British beer & pub association

The Chancellor’s expansion of the Job Support Scheme (JSS) for areas in local lockdown has been lauded by the on-trade however, industry bodies have called for further financial aid.

The additional measures announced on Friday (9 October) mean the Government will pay employees who cannot work two thirds​ (67%) of their salaries up to £2,100 a month.

The scheme will begin on 1 November and run for six months before a review. Pub staff must be off work for a minimum of seven days to be eligible.

“The enhanced JSS announced by the Chancellor will help save some jobs in areas facing local lockdowns," British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said. "The fact remains though that for other pubs across the UK struggling with the 10pm curfew and rule of six, which is decimating their sales, the standard JSS is no way near adequate. 

“Cash grants for pubs forced to close for a local lockdown, or do takeaway and delivery only, are a necessary measure to give them a fighting chance of survival whilst they cannot fully open to do business.  

“While the support for pubs facing a local lockdown is welcome, we do still have serious questions over the effectiveness such lockdowns will have in stopping the spread of the virus.  

“The latest Covid-19 surveillance report from Public Health England (PHE) shows just 30 incidents of Covid-19 were from hospitality settings. NHS Test and Trace numbers linked to pubs across the UK remain exceptionally low. Based on these insights we must ask why the Government isn’t taking evidence-based, proportionate measures to tackle the virus? "

Transmission impact

McClarkin added: “It remains the case there is no hard evidence as yet to suggest that pubs, with their strict adherence to Government guidelines, are unsafe, making it unclear if local lockdowns, or indeed the 10pm curfew, will have any material impact at all on transmission.  

“The Government must review its measures on a regular basis and commit to removing them if they are found not to effectively reduce the spread of the virus.” 

UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls said the step was welcome and praised the Chancellor for introducing flexibility and a sector-specific approach.

“Support for nightclubs and other businesses left in limbo, still unable to reopen, is very welcome," she explained. "It will help save jobs in a sector that would be sorely missed it were allowed to die.

“However, worryingly, it does nothing to address the issues faced by sector businesses operating well below capacity due to restrictions and consumers avoiding travel and struggling to keep their workforce employed.

“The curfew has been crippling for many hospitality businesses, with sales down around 30% even in areas of low infection. A more comprehensive support package for our businesses affected must follow swiftly if they are to survive the winter and avoid contributing to mass unemployment. If the Government is serious about saving jobs, it needs to rethink the mandatory curfew in areas where Covid-19 rates are low.

“The need now is no less – possibly is even more – than the first lockdown, so a more comprehensive package of financial support is crucial. In addition to employment support that must include grants for businesses to cover losses on stock and other overheads, which are piling up. We have already seen some high-profile failures and the situation is becoming increasingly unsustainable. The financial support on offer must go further if tragic levels of closures and redundancies are to be averted.”

Serious questions

Young’s chief executive Patrick Dardis calculated how many customers the pubco has had through the doors that have tested positive for the virus.

He said: “Since reopening, we have had 2.7m people through our doors, but just nine confirmed Covid-19 cases. That’s an infection rate of just 0.00000328%. 

“NHS Test and Trace numbers linked to pubs across the sector are also exceptionally low. The latest Covid-19 surveillance report from PHE shows just 30 incidents of Covid-19 in the last week were from hospitality settings.  

“Serious questions must be raised over the effectiveness local hospitality lockdowns will have in stopping the spread of the virus, as well as the 10pm curfew which is pushing people into the streets or into unsecure venues.  The Government must use evidence-based, proportionate measures to tackle the virus instead and commit to reviewing the measures on a regular basis and remove them if they don’t stop the spread of the virus. 

“Our sector has spent hundreds of millions in ensuring it is Covid-safe and secure for staff and customers alike. The sector should be congratulated by the Government for adapting so well to create a safe environment for socialising in and should be seen as a solution to fighting the virus, not a problem.” 

Scottish-based Signature Group owner Nic Wood labelled the Chancellor’s scheme a “welcome lifeline”, which will help safeguard jobs.

He added: “Pubs and bars are part of the fabric of this country and represent a safe environment where people can meet and socialise in a responsible and well managed environment. Blaming them for rising infection rates ignores the evidence and the important role they play in society. We need hospitality to stay open as a source of employment but also as part of the support system for our collective mental health.

“The scheme launched by the Chancellor is a step in the right direction and offers some hope but we need further measures moving forward to ensure pubs and bars have a real future in this country”.

Related topics: Legislation

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