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Extended social distancing could cost one million hospitality jobs

Published:  23 April, 2020

An extended period of social distancing could cost one million jobs unless measures to protect hospitality businesses are put in place, UK Hospitality (UKH) has warned.  

The warning follows the government’s chief medical adviser, Professor Chris Whitty, advising at yesterday’s Covid-19 press conference that the UK will have to live with some disruptive social measures for at least the rest of the year.  

In response, UKH has written to cabinet minister Michael Gove, recommending a six-point plan to help the country’s hospitality businesses avoid “catastrophe” following the crisis.

With social distancing measures still in place, reopening the hospitality sector without a plan would be “catastrophic”, said  UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.

“Hospitality is a sector built around socialising, so there must be government support for businesses that continue to be hit by this crisis. We need a plan of phased opening for our sector. If the correct support is not in made available to help businesses get back to work when the time is right, then businesses will have survived the immediate crisis only to find themselves out of business during the aftermath,” she said. 

The letter stresses the need for a phased approach to avoid a “yo-yo effect” of openings and closings, with the six-point plan calling for an extension of the furlough scheme beyond the end of June for hospitality; legislative intervention on rent payments; improved access to capital; a comprehensive fiscal package to stimulate demand post-crisis; an overhaul of business regulation; and the guarantee of a functioning and responsive insurance market.

Recognising that public health must be "the paramount objective" in government policy, the letter highlights how many hospitality businesses would not be able to operate profitably while implementing social distancing measures and set out the need for a “pragmatic, evidence-based plan to help businesses open when it is safe to do so”.

Emphasising the diversity and variety of business models across the sector, UKH also argues that some businesses may be able to reopen earlier than others, following the government’s guidelines.

At the beginning of this week, Gove confirmed that restaurants, bars and pubs would be among the last to reopen for business following the Covid-19 lockdown.