Lancashire Times
A Voice of the North
4:00 AM 1st May 2021

If The Government Can Show Its Hand On Next COVID Steps It Can Bolster Recovery Efforts – CBI President

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
The CBI is calling on the Government to provide greater clarity on the future direction of travel for some of the big decisions remaining as we progress through the roadmap, to bolster the economic recovery.

Questions remain on Covid-status certification and it’s use to reopen global travel and whether such a scheme will extend to certain domestic activities and the future of social distancing in England, especially.
Current social distancing guidelines mean only two-thirds (68%) of staff can physically work on premises & firms are operating at 81% of pre-pandemic capacity – CBI survey

If the Government can ‘show its hand sooner rather than later’, firms can plan ahead more easily and spur economic activity, according to CBI President, Lord Bilimoria. Since its publication, the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown has proved a beacon by which firms can work to and plan around, as many slowly reopen or adjust operations. To ensure the final steps progress efficiently, clarity and publishing the data and evidence-base for decision-making will be crucial.

Lord Bilimoria
Lord Bilimoria
Lord Bilimoria, CBI President said: “The ongoing success of the vaccination roll-out and Government roadmap have provided firm foundations for the safe and gradual reopening of the economy. The indicative timings have been invaluable in helping businesses to forward plan and develop contingencies with confidence.

“But with the end of the roadmap period looming ever larger on the horizon, firms are anxiously awaiting big decisions from government that will impact the way they run their businesses over the coming months.

“The future of social distancing in England and covid certificates will affect all of our lives, so it’s important to start building consensus among businesses and the public for the way forward.

“Showing your hand sooner rather than later by communicating early and clearly, will help businesses to plan, prepare and invest.

“There is a risk of business plans stalling with decisions put off once again.

“Many workplaces are not operating at full productive capacity right now. Businesses need to know what might be coming down the track to help prepare their strategies and investment plans. And, for some sectors this is mission critical. The viability of their business over the summer months will be impacted by the outcomes of the ongoing reviews.”
Risk of stalling business plans without clarity

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
On social distancing, Lord Bilimoria said:

“Given the potential ramifications the social distancing review will have on firms, and the lead-in time some businesses will need to prepare, some are already planning and making assumptions about the future of the business environment. 
Questions put in latest CBI Economic Surveys:

1. Relative to pre-pandemic norms and no social distancing, what proportion of your total staff could physically work at your business’s premises under the current guidelines for social distancing in the workplace (ie, 2m or 1m plus mitigation): Sliding scale 0% - 100%
2.Relative to pre-pandemic norms and no social distancing, what is the operating capacity of your business (in terms of output/business volumes/number of customers) under the current guidelines for social distancing in the workplace (ie, 2m or 1m plus mitigation): Sliding scale 0% - 100%
574 respondents

“Some firms expect social distancing and the use of face coverings to continue beyond June 2021. Other firms are considering and trialling how their office space can be more flexible, to “dial up” and “dial down” social distancing, if required. The impact falls differently on each sector.

“The future of social distancing must be science-led, flexible and any change for the longer-term.”

On Covid-status certificates, Lord Bilimoria said:

“It appears that certification via the NHS app will be used to help open up international travel, but businesses await confirmation of this decision.

Unlocking international travel through a scheme that can confirm vaccination or a negative test has always seemed a sensible path.

“It’s much more tricky on smaller domestic settings, like pubs, restaurants or shops. People-facing industries that have faced great difficulty over the last year would be reluctant to add to their burden. If the advice is that certification is not necessary, but there is flexibility for business owners to make their own choice, then that would be a positive outcome. Such a scheme should be time-limited.

“Any decision needs to be consistent across all four nations of the UK. But most importantly, we need a decision.”

Only around two-thirds (68%) of staff could physically work at businesses’ premises under current social distancing guidelines (ie, 2m or 1m plus mitigation).

The potential for home working reduces the impact of workplace social distancing on the actual operating capacity of businesses, but firms still see a significant reduction in operating capacity, to around four-fifths (81%) of pre-pandemic norms.

Relative to pre-pandemic norms, only 68% of staff could physically work at businesses’ premises under the current guidelines for social distancing in the workplace (ie, 2m or 1m plus mitigation).

Distribution firms are best able to accommodate their workforce (74%), with almost four-fifths (79%) of staff in retail able to work at their business premises while maintaining social distancing.

Manufacturers can accommodate 72% of staff under current social distancing guidelines.
Social distancing guidelines are most restrictive for services firms, which can accommodate only 65% of staff on their business premises. The share was lowest for consumer services (58%), with business & professional services firms able to accommodate 67% of staff on their business premises under the current guidelines, broadly in line with overall average.

Current social distancing guidelines are perceived to have a significant impact on the operating capacity of business (in terms of output/business volumes/number of customers), reducing this to 81% of pre-pandemic norms.

Manufacturers reported the smallest impact on capacity, with social distancing reducing operating capacity to 90%.

Distribution firms reported operating capacity was reduced to 83% (82% for retail, 87% for wholesale).
Services firms see the biggest impact on operating capacity, with capacity reduced to 78%, with a particularly large impact for consumer services firms (69%), while business & professional services firms reported an impact (81%) in line with the overall average.