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BCC urges long-term contingency plan for pandemic response

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is urging Government to provide a clear framework for businesses on ‘Living with COVID’ as high levels of absence rates and infections continue to disrupt firms.

With the removal of free testing tomorrow in England, businesses are still reporting absence rates of up 20% and say advice on how to protect vulnerable staff and customers, including pregnant women, is still far too vague.

Hannah Essex, Co-Executive Director of the BCC, said: “Research by our Chamber Network has found that many firms are still struggling to get to grips with the way ahead.

“Business leaders are keen to get back to pre-pandemic trading conditions and full capacity in the workplace, but they are worried about their legal responsibilities and liabilities once the working safely guidance is removed and replaced with general public health guidance.

“Businesses need crystal clear guidance, especially smaller firms who don’t have their own HR departments to help them manage these sorts of issues.

“For many firms, “living with covid” really means living with disruption. One positive covid case in a workplace has the potential to be hugely disruptive if it causes several other colleagues to become ill and need time off work.

“Firms are also concerned about how to protect their vulnerable members of staff when the removal of free testing means either not being able to identify covid cases or incurring additional costs for tests that they can ill-afford in the current climate.

“If Government is not prepared to provide tests for the workplace, then it must at least look to secure low-cost options for hard-pressed firms who are already facing a rising costs crisis.

“Businesses also need to understand how Government will respond to further variants of concern – or any future pandemic – and what support would be put in place if new guidance or mandatory restrictions are introduced that have a negative impact on the economy.   

“Firms will only truly be able to live with Covid’ when they are confident that a plan is in place for future outbreaks. Otherwise, uncertainty will put a brake on investment and the shadow of the pandemic could continue to loom over our economy for months to come.” 

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