Government to pay two-thirds wages of pub and restaurant staff if they are forced to close
- Credit: PA
Plans for the government to pay two-thirds of the wages of workers at pubs and restaurants if they are forced to close will “keep the engines running”, Suffolk business leaders have said.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced an expansion to the previously-revealed Job Support Scheme, which is replacing the furlough scheme at the start of next month.
Mr Sunak said the new plans would provide “reassurance and a safety net” for people and businesses across the country in advance of a potentially “difficult winter”.
The government is expected to announce a new three-tier system for local lockdowns on Monday, with hospitality venues in Covid-19 hotspots potentially closing under harsher restrictions.
Mr Sunak said: “Throughout this crisis my priority has always been to protect jobs, so today I’m announcing an expansion of our Jobs Support Scheme, specifically to protect those jobs of people who work in businesses who may be asked to close.
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“If that happens, those workers will receive two-thirds of their wages for the time that they’re unable to go to work.
“I hope this provides reassurance and a safety net for people and businesses in advance of what may be a difficult winter.”
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The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses across the county, has welcomed the announcement - but warned there needs to be a “clear long-term strategy” for the future.
Andy Walker, head of policy & research at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “Businesses will certainly welcome the additional extended wage support and grants being made available due to local restrictions and lockdowns - as that will keep the engines running.
“But what our members are looking for is the opportunity to get into gear and move forward with a degree of certainty and that needs a clear long-term strategy from the government.
“At the moment, there really doesn’t seem to be a Plan A leave alone a Plan B, based on whether and when a vaccine will be found. “It is obvious that the pandemic has fundamentally jolted the economy and businesses need the government to outline how it will boost the growth sectors and support the workforces in those that are structurally struggling to confidently reskill and retrain into other roles.”
Labour councillors in Suffolk have also called for a longer-term strategy from the government and criticised the decision not to extend the furlough scheme.
Jack Abbott, county councillor, said: “We have called for a targeted extension of the furlough scheme for weeks and this belated U-turn starts to address some of those concerns. “However, there was nothing for the self-employed, nothing for those who have been excluded from support throughout this pandemic, and nothing for the sectors and business who have been crippled by this crisis.
“After a decent start with the furlough scheme, I’m afraid to say that Rishi Sunak has been too slow to plan for this winter. There is a feeling that, lately, he has been too focused on building his personal brand ahead of a leadership bid, rather than totally committing himself to saving jobs and businesses.”
Pub landlord Brendan Padfield, who owns the Unruly Pig in Woodbridge, said the scheme would protect jobs if new measures were enforced.
He said: “These are unrivalled, difficult times and we have to recognise there is not magic money tree.
“I feel like Rishi Sunak really does have our backs and is trying his best. Two and a half millions jobs are on the line - this will save those jobs.”