Protecting the workforce is critical for both business and employees

The top priority for every firm is protecting its workforce and businesses are doing what they can to keep people in jobs and employment. But as the impact of the COVID-19 crisis deepens, firms are looking to government to support them in delivering on this ambition through the following measures: 

  • Introduce a paid entitlement, at the equivalent rate to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), for all contracted workers to have emergency time off to care for dependents, with cost borne by government. This should start on 23 March to support parents and carers who can’t work because of school closures 
  • Launch an income support scheme by close of play 20 March. The government should step in to support a significant portion of employee wages in the most stressed sectors - initially manufacturing, construction, hospitality, leisure and high street retailers, with roll out to other sectors if necessary
  • Prioritise getting testing kits to key workers who are self-isolating but may be doing so unnecessarily. If they are all-clear, they can resume critical duties.


Alleviating the tensions on supply chains will help restore normality

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 started two months ago, firms’ complex and highly tuned supply chains have been impacted, with the availability of shipments from China being particularly adversely affected. As the crisis has spread around the world, these tensions have worsened, with 1000s of businesses telling the CBI that they’re struggling to service customers and obtain the goods they need.  

To help businesses manage these disruptions, the government should relax trading measures, including: 

  • Relaxing the rules around the working time directive to allow moves to a seven day working week, boosting supplies
  • Placing a moratorium on government consultations on BAU activities in order to allow businesses to focus on managing coronavirus
  • Reviewing regulations on a number of reporting requirements that are not compatible with government “stay at home” policies.

Demand and cash flow

As demand within the economy shrinks, business needs a boost

As the public respond to the government’s instructions to contain the spread of COVID-19, demand within the economy is shrinking, with hospitality, retail and leisure sectors amongst those most negatively affected. To help businesses adapt to this environment and ease pressures on cash flow, the government should: 

  • Extend business rates relief to all businesses for the next three months minimum 
  • Suspend Q1 National Insurance payments due to government

The CBI had a further recommendation to implement automatic deferral of VAT payments due in May - but this was announced by the Chancellor as part of a rescue package on 20 March, injecting £35bn into the economy.