‘Tsunami’ of job losses in pubs if lock­down rules are tight­ened

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Han­nah Ut­t­ley

PUB and restau­rant bosses have hit out at “dizzy­ingly com­plex” rules on so­cial­is­ing and urged min­is­ters to main­tain the lat­est guide­lines or risk “a tsunami” of job losses.

In­dus­try chiefs have grown frus­trated with what they de­scribed as “mixed mes­sages” from the Gov­ern­ment re­gard­ing ad­vice on so­cial­is­ing over re­cent weeks.

Last week, Boris John­son warned that the UK could be head­ing for a sec­ond na­tion­wide lock­down, a move which could force venues to shut down for a pro­longed pe­riod.

It comes just days af­ter peo­ple were told they were only al­lowed to so­cialise in groups of up to six at any one time.

Tim Martin, chief ex­ec­u­tive of JD Wether­spoon, said: “The main gov­ern­ment mis­take is a dizzy­ingly com­plex set of rules, which keep chang­ing.

“Only two things are sci­en­tif­i­cally proven to work: so­cial dis­tanc­ing and hand­wash­ing. By in­tro­duc­ing a chang­ing rota of com­plex­i­ties like the rule of six, mil­lions of peo­ple have for­got­ten the two main rules.”

Hugh Os­mond, whose restau­rant group Var­i­ous Eater­ies owns the Coppa Club and Strada brands, added: “We have to bring an end to this ran­dom­ness of an­nounce­ments made at the last minute. Is it Eat Out To Help Out and every­body should go back out, or is it rule of six? We don’t know if the Gov­ern­ment is ac­cel­er­at­ing or rev­ers­ing.”

With the fur­lough scheme set to close on Oct 31, hos­pi­tal­ity busi­nesses are con­cerned that any fur­ther tight­en­ing of re­stric­tions could lead to job losses on a mass scale. Tens of thou­sands of roles within the sec­tor have al­ready been lost since the cri­sis be­gan.

Si­mon Emeny, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Fuller’s, urged the Prime Min­is­ter to main­tain cur­rent ad­vice on so­cial­is­ing un­til the end of the year to avoid a wave of job cuts. He added that “mixed mes­sages” from the Gov­ern­ment were con­fus­ing con­sumers and plac­ing fur­ther strain on strug­gling firms.

“We’re only a week into these new re­stric­tions and I think they are sen­si­ble, but any fur­ther creep on that will cause un­told dam­age and re­sult in a tsunami of job losses,” he said.

“The Gov­ern­ment has in­tro­duced a job re­ten­tion bonus de­signed to en­cour­age us to keep peo­ple em­ployed but we can’t keep peo­ple em­ployed if we’re barely open.”

He added that the rule changes would hit the younger gen­er­a­tion par­tic­u­larly hard, with this part of so­ci­ety ac­count­ing for the ma­jor­ity of the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor’s work­force.

“It’s go­ing to be younger peo­ple that are pay­ing for this in terms of the state of the econ­omy,” Mr Emeny said.

The warn­ings come as in­dus­try chiefs call for a fun­da­men­tal re­view of the busi­ness rates model, rec­om­mend­ing that rates are sus­pended for the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor un­til April next year and that a new, lower rate for the in­dus­try is in­tro­duced.

The rec­om­men­da­tions are among those which have been put for­ward in re­sponse to the Trea­sury’s call for ev­i­dence on its re­view into the rates sys­tem.

Kate Ni­cholls, chief ex­ec­u­tive of UKHos­pi­tal­ity, said: “The rates hol­i­day needs to be the first ac­tion in a sus­tained pack­age of sup­port and re­form that helps busi­nesses sur­vive.”

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