They want to ensure employees feel comfortable returning to work and that customers understand future expectations
Business groups have welcomed confirmation that most Covid restrictions are set to be eased on July 19.
But several have called for greater clarity on rules to ensure employees feel confident returning to work and customers understand future expectations.
Unions also urged the Government to provide protections for staff looking to continue working flexibly, as rules that no longer require employees to work from home come to an end.
Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director general, Tony Danker, said businesses must continue putting safety at the heart of their approach to operations.
He said: “Firms will be placing a premium on close dialogue with their employees in boosting confidence and will be demonstrating to customers how they are reopening safely and with their interests at the forefront.
“Meanwhile, Government and the Health & Safety Executive should continue to play a critical role in helping to inform good decision making and risk assessments.
“In the coming days we need Government to put in place further measures to create this much-needed confidence.
He said this would include knowing whether workplace testing will continue beyond July, gaining clarity on mask wearing for public transport and understanding how the test and release scheme will work in future.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said details around masks in workplaces must be clarified, along with changes to rules on sick pay and enshrining rights to flexible working in law.
She also called on the Government to consult with unions and employers on workplace safety guidance to avoid “widespread confusion” following the PM’s announcement on the easing of restrictions.
She added: “As the work from home guidance ends, employers must acknowledge that one size does not fit all.
“No-one should miss out on flexible working. Ministers must bring in a new right to flexible working for every worker, in every job.
“Otherwise there will be a new class divide between those who can work flexibly from home, and those who can’t.”
British Chamber of Commerce director general, Shevaun Haviland, said that more detail was needed to avoid confusion.
She added: “This is a much-needed step on the road to normality and we welcome the Prime Minister setting out the direction of travel in advance of reopening.
“But businesses in England still do not have the full picture they desperately need to plan for unlocking.
“Much remains in the balance, firms do not yet know the future of self-isolation rules, if testing will remain free for them, or when international travel will open up effectively.
“Without clear guidance for businesses around the new proposals, there could be real uncertainty on how they should operate going forward and what they should be doing to keep staff and their customers safe.”
British Retail Consortium (BRC) director of business and regulation, Tom Ironside, said: “It will take consumers and businesses time to adjust and it is vital that Government messaging is clear and consistent so that businesses and consumers easily understand what is expected of them both legally and individually.”
Trade bodies representing the hard-hit leisure and hospitality sectors were the most pleased with the announcement that restrictions were easing.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, which represents the leisure and hospitality sector, said: “The Prime Minister’s announcement marks a major milestone in how England will come to live with Covid and will be celebrated by hospitality business owners and their staff across the country.
“For the vast majority of hospitality businesses, July 19 – if confirmed next week – will be the first time in 16 months that they have been able to realistically look to break even and move towards profitability.”
She added: “Venues will need autonomy to act according to their own risk assessments, without local authority gold-plating, and a workable test and trace system that doesn’t demand blanket self-isolation like the test to remain-style system, to ensure that we can both protect our staff but trade with sufficient teams.”
Sacha Lord, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, said he was “thrilled for all involved in the night life sector” following the latest update from the Government but said ministers must ensure businesses remain supported.
He added: “We must recognise that with the crippling debt burdens accrued over the past 18 months, these same businesses will be fighting for their survival for the next three years at least.
“It is imperative that the Government continues to support the sectors most affected by this crisis in order to stave off a generation of unemployment and bankruptcy.”
And Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company which represents 600 businesses on London’s Oxford Strett, Bond Street, Regent Street and in Mayfair, said: “The hard won progress toward ‘freedom day’ is to be welcomed, and London’s West End and its visitors, shoppers and employees are very much looking forward to a further easing of restrictions having proven they can live safely with Covid.”
He added: “What the West End cannot continue to live without are our office-based customers and overseas visitors, and we urgently need a road map to open up the UK to international tourism and more than a lifting of working from home guidance, we need positive encouragement to return to the office.”
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