The BCC has criticised the Government for it’s last minute introduction of Plan B COVID-19 restrictions, including a return to working from home and the use of face masks in shops.
Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, CBE, President of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “We have been calling on the UK Government for several months to set out what contingency plans for business would look like if further restrictions were needed this winter.
“Yet again, firms are now being asked to make changes at the very last minute. Restrictions will also impact on consumer behaviour with knock on effects which could risk the fragile recovery, order books and revenues.
“Many businesses have only just begun to get back on their feet and this move will inevitably damage business confidence. Critically, firms need to know that the Government will support them through this next period.
“The Government must once again stand shoulder to shoulder with business and provide a package of support to ensure that we get through a challenging winter without serious damage to our economic recovery.
“A return to advice that staff should work from home ‘where they can’ will come at a huge cost to swathes of businesses.
“While many firms now have well established remote or hybrid working practices, which will provide some resilience, there will be many more that will be badly affected by reduced footfall in our towns and city centres.
“This will impact on business revenues at a time when many needed to have a prosperous festive season. We need to have grant support in place for all firms affected and their supply chains.
“We need to immediately see full details from Government of how businesses will be expected to implement this policy.
“Chamber businesses have told us repeatedly that this could prove difficult to implement and police effectively without comprehensive support and clear guidance. The full backing of Government and authorities is needed in enforcing this policy which can often put staff at risk of harassment or even violence.
“In addition, they will need to understand urgently where legal responsibility for compliance with the policy sits. Businesses will have a strong preference for legal responsibility to sit with individuals to comply, as it does with facemasks.
“Firms will also want early clarity on whether booster shots will play any part in the scheme.
“We welcome the pragmatic step to allow contacts of Omicron cases to leave self-isolation per daily negative lateral flow test results. This will give businesses providing critical services a chance to maintain staff levels at a time when these are already strained by labour shortages and will help to avoid another ‘pingdemic’.”