An extended period of social distancing could cost one million jobs unless measures to protect hospitality businesses are put in place, according to trade body UKHospitality.
On the day that Professor Chris Whitty warned that social distancing measures could last beyond 2020, UKHospitality wrote to Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove MP, recommending a six-point plan to help the country’s hospitality businesses reopen following the crisis and save jobs and businesses.
Recognising that public health must be the paramount objective in Government policy, the letter highlights how many hospitality businesses would not be able to operate profitably while implementing social distancing measures and set out the need for a pragmatic, evidence-based plan to help businesses open when it is safe to do so.
The trade body has emphasised the immense diversity and variety of business models across the hospitality sector, meaning that some businesses may be able to reopen earlier than others, following the Government’s guidelines.
The letter stresses the need for a phased approach to avoid a “yo-yo effect” of openings and closings, which could see businesses fail and see up to one million jobs lost.
The six-point plan sets out the level of support that the sector needs to reintegrate into the economy, to avoid in excess of one million redundancies and to ensure much-loved local businesses and high-street brands can survive the crisis.
The organisation recommends:
• Extension of the furlough scheme beyond the end of June for hospitality
• Legislative intervention on rent payments
• Improved access to capital
• A comprehensive fiscal package to stimulate demand post-crisis
• An overhaul of business regulation
• Guaranteeing a functioning and responsive insurance market
Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality’s chief executive, said: “With social distancing measures still in place, reopening the hospitality sector without a plan would be catastrophic.
“The hospitality sector was one of the first hit by the crisis and the hardest hit in terms of lost revenue. It will also be one of the last to fully emerge from the lockdown.
“An extended period of social distancing will mean that many hospitality businesses will not be able to operate fully, and many will not be able to open at all. Hospitality is a sector built around socialising, so there must to be Government support for businesses that continue to be hit by this crisis.
“We need a plan of phased opening for our sector. For those businesses that can trade safely with social distancing measures still in place, they should be able to.
“For the many venues where it is not possible, support, such as the furlough scheme, must be extended to make sure these businesses stay alive and jobs kept open. We can’t have a situation where, overnight, the entire sector is suddenly expected to hit the ground running.
“If the correct support is not in made available to help businesses get back to work when the time is right, then businesses will have survived the immediate crisis only to find themselves out of business during the aftermath.”