Our editor this month
Executive Committee of Labour Business, Co-Chair of the Women in Business Policy Group
Businesses all across the UK are watching the news closely. During the last two months we have learned to wait, to examine and to fight. Successive government announcements are full of hope, for that hope to be lost when the details are eventually published quietly on Government websites.
Time and time again we have had the promise that they will do whatever it takes, only to find gaps in support that leave thousands of businesses facing ruin. We have spoken up, we have fought and, in some cases, have had success, such as an extension of the furlough arrangements so we can carry on supporting our employees.
In other areas, such as complete support for the self-employed, we are still waiting for signs that the government will plug holes that it knows are there.
While it is true that the support measures announced are like nothing we have ever seen, we also have never had to so completely close down. We thought at the start of lockdown it would be a matter of holding on for a few weeks. For hospitality it will be at least 11 weeks of forced closure before we can try to open and see if our customers return. Many once thriving businesses will not make it that far, some have already cut their losses and left.
Guidelines on the measures has been slow in coming. Business organisations have been asking for weeks and continue to press for detailed guidance that we feel we can put into place. We are well aware of our general obligations to our staff and customers, but unless all businesses, big and small, are consulted as to whether Government proposals are practicable, there will be added confusion on top of already mixed messages from the Government.
But we must look to the science. No amount of social distancing is effective unless we can keep on top of identifying where there are outbreaks of the virus. We cannot use public transport to get to and from work unless the risk of catching the virus is controlled. Efforts that businesses are putting in to keeping staff and customers safe mean nothing unless the Government keeps its promises to set an effective testing, tracking and tracing operation while we wait to see if a vaccine can be developed. No business can do this. No business can restore public confidence. It is a job for the Government alone.