Benefits and schemes to ease energy price hikes

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Financial assistance: you may be able to find a way to help pay your bills (credit: Getty/The Good Brigade)
Financial assistance: you may be able to find a way to help pay your bills (credit: Getty/The Good Brigade)

Related tags Finance Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators Tenanted + leased Social responsibility

As eye-watering energy costs continue to batter the UK, pubs have not been spared but there is help out there for beleaguered businesses and staff members.

The Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS)​ was announced by the Government in September last year by then business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg who claimed the legislation would protect businesses​, charities and public sector organisations from rising energy costs while the Government would work with suppliers to reduce wholesale energy costs for UK businesses.

However, the discounts attainable for non-domestic customers in Great Britain and Northern Ireland via the EBRS will be applied to energy usage from 1 October 2022 but is set to finish on 31 March 2023.

Trade bodies, such as the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), says they are pushing for this to be extended beyond March for pubs and brewers.

EBRS is applied automatically so no licensee should have to chase anyone to take advantage of this scheme.

The BBPA also highlights a Government scheme called Time to Pay​ that allows flexibility on payment time for bills that would give a licensee extra time to get a financial plan into place.

The Licensed Trade Charity​ is a stalwart to the on-trade and offers free support for people in the industry.

UKHospitality made all its members-only energy guidance advice available publicly for free​ in October 2022. The advice is available by filling in a simple form here​.

Meanwhile, according to Hospitality Sector Council Energy Saving Guidance – to net-zero at pace​, which has been compiled by Zero Carbon Forum, and Wrap, a typical hospitality operator uses more than 376 tonnes of carbon per year – the equivalent of heating 117 households in the UK.

It adds the annual energy costs for this sector are in excess of £1.3bn, resulting in carbon emissions of more than 8m tonnes per year, adding: “If we can reduce the amount of energy used within the hospitality industry then not only will businesses be saving carbon, they will reap the added benefit of lower energy costs which, in the current energy crisis, will be hugely beneficial.”

Although its research shows cooking as being the top energy consumer at a site, front of house tends to use more power than back of house.

On Tuesday 3 January, The Drinks Trust opened applications to its Energy Crisis Fund, which offers grants to support the on-trade employees with gas and electricity bills.

The organisation, which helps current, former and aspiring workers in the drinks hospitality industry including financially, in wellbeing and training, has fundraised more than £150,000 to date.

The Energy Crisis Fund will be distributed in grants of £350 per person, and applications can be made here​.

The Drinks Trust chief executive Ross Carter says: “The support we can offer is thanks to the generous support of industry business and organisations who have understood the acute hardship faced by many of our colleagues. We could encourage more businesses to do the same and join our donors and us in delivering what support we can.”

Two major Government initiatives

Heineken’s pub arm – Star Pubs & Bars – cites the EBRS and the extension of the business rates relief​, which was announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt in his Autumn Statement in November last year, as key to benefiting pubs.

The business rates relief, which was due to end in April 2023, was extended and increased from 50% to 75% up to £110,000 per business with the support package, worth £13.6bn, also including freezing the business rates multiplier for another year (2023-2024).

Star Pubs & Bars central operations director Caren Geering says: “There are two major Government initiatives that benefit pubs currently: the Energy Bill Relief Scheme and business rates relief. Both of these should be applied automatically – by the energy supplier in the case of a reduction on energy bills and by the local council in the case of business rates relief. So there’s nothing for licensees to do, although it’s always worth them double-checking to ensure the reliefs are being applied to their bills. 

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Caren Geering of Star Pubs & Bars

“Another Government programme that licensees should consider taking advantage of is apprenticeships. These are a great way to attract and retain talent, plus they are also highly cost-effective, because the Government pays 95% of the cost. They’re suitable for all ages and available to new and existing members of staff. Star has a dedicated apprentice provider REMIT that can find recruits and runs apprenticeship courses for Star licensees. The British Institute of Innkeeping National Innovation in Training Award (NITA) for Hospitality Apprentice of The Year and runner up award went to apprentices at two Star pubs this year.

“Outside of Government assistance, any leased and tenanted operator should take full advantage of the support provided by their pub company. At Star, for example, we provide free support that delivers significant savings for our licensees. Examples of the free services we offer are BII (British Institute of Innkeeping) membership, beer quality and social media training, and point-of-sale material for key calendar events, such as the rugby Six Nations.

“In addition, we have created a ‘buying club’ that is specifically designed to cut licensee’s costs. Under the scheme, Star uses its purchasing power to secure competitive rates on products and services that would not be available to individual licensees. There are savings of 10 to 50% from suppliers such as Sky Ultimate, Biffa waste management and recycling, and Nisbets. Star both manages the supplier agreements – to ensure great service for licensees – and receives no financial remuneration from them.”

Benefits for employees

North-west brewer and pub operator Robinsons has a range of benefits for its employees to help them financially.

Staff at the Stockport-based pubco receive 25% off food, drink and rooms with the food and drink allowance rising to 50% while on shift.

All 1,000 employees also benefit from high street savings via The BAR (Benefits At Robinsons) scheme, says director of marketing David Bremner. “About two thirds have signed up on this initiative, which we launched in September and entitles them to around 4% off their supermarket shop, 5% off B&Q via an instantly redeemable voucher they buy at the till. It can also be used to save up so if you want to buy vouchers for, say, Sainsburys that are worth £100 per month then you will only pay £96.”

Other benefits include access to mental health and wellbeing support through the company’s Employee Assistance Programme; help and financial support through the Licensed Trade Charity; funded flu jabs for those that need to pay for theirs through a pay and expense scheme; and, where available, staff accommodation is subsidised plus expenses for all utilities, including council tax.

Robinsons director of tenanted operations Ben Robinson adds: “In terms of support for our tenanted licensees, post-pandemic, this has been on a case-by-case basis, however, we have set up weekly surgeries so as soon as licensees start to find themselves in difficulties or operating costs have dramatically increased we can tailor individual support swiftly and decisively.

“We have also employed our first ‘Licensee Engagement Manager’ with a dedicated focus on licensee wellbeing and mental health.”

Greene King also explains its stance on helping its workers. Andrew Bush, chief people and transformation officer at the Suffolk-based brewer and pub operator, says: “Our team members’ wellbeing, both financial and emotional, is hugely important to us so we’ve increased a range of support and additional benefits for our teams to access during the cost-of-living crisis. 

“We’re offering practical and accessible benefits that will help people manage their individual circumstances at this difficult time. These include free meals for our pub teams, increased team member discount, access to our ‘Team Member Support Fund’ with up to £5,000 grants available to those in most financial need, and free access to the money management app, Wagestream.

“Our teams continue to have an extensive benefits package that runs throughout the year offering financial, emotional and physical help but we hope this additional support will ease some of their current challenges.”

South-west England and Channel Islands pubco Liberation Group offers a 75% discount to team members for food when on shift. They also get 20% off when not in shift. A spokesperson adds: “We offer loads of other benefits like employee assistant programmes, various discounts off high street retailers, sabbaticals, option to buy extra holiday, healthy eating recipes, online fitness classes, etc.”

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