May 11, 2020 @ 9:40 by Steven Hugill
Companies need clear guidance and “practical questions answered” to help the UK begin emerging from its coronavirus lockdown, business groups have warned.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have called on the Government to deliver detailed plans for the phased easing of restrictions and further information on financial support schemes.
The calls come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out a conditional plan for the next element of England’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Addressing the nation on Sunday (May 10), the Prime Minister unveiled a blueprint that included a call for people “who can’t work from home” to return to their place of employment from today.
It also set out the potential reopening of English primary schools from June 1 and increased the amount of time people can spend outdoors “for leisure purposes”.
However, the plan has attracted criticism in some quarters for lacking clarity.
Reacting to the announcement, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general, said it was imperative the Government lays out a “road map” that will help businesses plan their futures with some certainty.
She said: “This marks the first glimmer of light for our faltering economy.
“A phased and careful return to work is the only way to protect jobs and pay for future public services.
“Success will rest on flexibility within a framework: clear guidance which firms can adapt for their particular circumstances.
“Financial support will also need to evolve for sectors moving at different speeds – some remaining in hibernation, while others get ready to open safely.
“The coming weeks should see business, the Government and employee representatives working together as part of a national effort built on openness and trust.
“This is the only way to revive the UK economy and protect both lives and livelihoods.”
Her call was backed by BCC director general Adam Marshall, who said the Government must work fast to answer firms’ many questions.
He added: “Businesses share the Prime Minister’s ambition to see more people return safely to work over the coming weeks.
“Companies will do everything they can to protect employees and customers, maintain social distancing and operate successfully as more sections of the economy are permitted to reopen.
“Businesses will need to see detailed plans for the phased easing of restrictions, coordinated with all nations across the UK and supported by clear guidance.
“It is imperative that companies have detailed advice on what will need to change in the workplace, including clarity on the use of PPE.
“Firms will also need to know that Government support schemes, which have helped save millions of jobs in recent weeks, will continue for as long as they are needed so that they can plan ahead with confidence.
“The timing of further easing of restrictions must be guided by the public health evidence, but businesses need their practical questions answered so they can plan to restart, rebuild and renew.”