Over the past few days, we’ve attended meetings with the BRC and BEIS regarding the current COVID-19 situation and the various effects it is having on business. Tomorrow (Tuesday 11th January) we are joining a call with the IRC, and we’d love your input to inform how we approach this.
Helen Dickinson (BRC) outlined the issue of staff absence, with rates currently between 5-15%. Across the retail sector, smaller stores are finding this more challenging and some are now shortening trading hours as part of a coping strategy. Helen indicated that if absences rise to 20-25% the severity of the consequences will rise exponentially, with some businesses having to close for a period of time.
The difficulty of obtaining Lateral Flow Tests has been raised, and Mark Harrop (UK Health Security Agency) provided reassurance that supplies have been consolidated and that from Monday 10th January there will be a much better flow of availability to individuals, either through the government website or from pharmacies. Only businesses and organisations deemed to be essential such as emergency services, those supplying food and electricity, transport operators and healthcare will be supplied directly. Non-food retail is not in this group. Mark has asked that managers encourage staff to be fully vaccinated and boosted, and also confirmed that the HSA are developing a flowchart explaining how to deal with COVID.
Of course, the other side of the coin is consumer confidence, and Charles McCall (also from the UK Health Security Agency) reported that whilst overall footfall is down the value of purchases being made is up, the two metrics counterbalancing each other.
Some larger-scale businesses are finding the different approaches of the four nations is causing further confusion and making it even harder to have effective plans for addressing the challenges.
Against the backdrop of this information, it would be very helpful if you could please feed back to us today on the following:
- Does your experience fit with the above?
- What contingencies are you having to put in place around staff absences?
- Are differences in approach between the four nations exacerbating the challenge for your business?
- Would you support a shorter isolation period than 7 days?
As your trade body, we are most effective when we gather your input to inform how we represent you at meetings such as the IRC one tomorrow. Any feedback you can share with us is useful and we’re always pleased to hear from you. Drop Matt an email today and we’ll make sure your voice is heard.