Business leaders criticize the government’s handling of the ‘pingemia’ | Business
Business leaders, health experts and professional associations representing tens of thousands of businesses denounced the government’s handling of the “pingdemic” self-isolation crisis.
Amid growing concern that staff absences are stifling the economic recovery, Princess Yachts and luxury automaker Bentley have added their names to a growing list of companies with significant numbers of absent workers.
And a day after the main business lobby group, the Institute of Directors, criticized the government’s “poor communication and mixed messages”, a multitude of business associations followed suit.
Figures from agriculture, accounting, boating, paper and printing, and engineering said they were dismayed at the government’s apparent confusion over whether staff who are screwed up by the test and the NHS trace must isolate itself.
The government withdrew from comments from Business Secretary Paul Scully – and a letter to a manufacturer from Investment Minister Lord Grimstone – stressing that the pings were only advisory. The number 10 then insisted on self-isolation after a ping was “crucial.”
“The mixed messages from the government on self-isolation rules are now having a serious impact on businesses,” said Mark Bridgeman, president of the Country Land & Business Association, which represents 28,000 farmers and rural businesses.
Tourism and hotel businesses in the countryside have had a “particularly scorching year,” he said, warning: “With the current confusion, consumer and business confidence is being compromised at the worst possible time.”
Glenn Collins, of the ACCA UK accounting body, said businesses “need a clear message” about what happens when staff are interviewed.
“This is especially important because companies need to be careful about employee welfare and responsibility – now is not the time to confuse people.”
Poor communication has “put employers in a very difficult position,” according to David Frize of the Building Engineering Services Association.
“Westminster can’t really have it both ways: either you make it a legal obligation to isolate, or you really leave it up to personal choice,” he said.
Iain McIlwee, general manager of the industry trade body Finishes & Interiors, said that at the onset of the pandemic, the government had “failed to provide clear and effective leadership.”
“We cannot let this happen again. The consequences in terms of contractual liability, employee well-being and associated stress are totally unacceptable.
Andrew Large, the director general of the Confederation of Paper Industries, said he was “concerned about the current unclear messages on the subject of self-isolation“, while Charles Jarrold, the managing director of the British Printing Industries Federation, called the government’s communications “very confusing”.
Environmental health experts have also questioned the government’s approach. “We are increasingly concerned about… mixed messages,” said Kate Thompson, director of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
“Testing and traceability is an important tool in keeping Covid in check as we lift restrictions, and the government should play a key role in making this clear to the public.
“Conflicting statements from different ministers and ministries suggest a lack of leadership at the top and will confuse business and the public. “
Michelle Ovens, founder of Small Business Britain, said the staff shortages caused by the pandemic were “just unacceptable to many business owners.
“Clear advice and support is urgently needed from government: if companies are to isolate their staff, they need both clear direction on this and other support programs to keep them going.” afloat. “
Dozens of companies in industries ranging from advertising to car manufacturing have warned that business is disrupted by staff absences, with the list of companies affected including Marks & Spencer, Greene King, Asos, Nissan, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and Wetherspoon’s.
Manufacturers whose staff cannot work from home have been particularly affected.
Luxury motor yacht builder Princess Yachts, which employs 3,200 people, said on Tuesday more than 10% of its workforce was in isolation, with suppliers also being hit hard.
“The contrast between easing restrictions while requiring continuous and highly sensitive tracking and tracing pings is inexplicable to us,” said Executive Chairman Antony Sheriff.
Bentley said Tuesday that 5% of its manufacturing workforce is self-isolating, although it is still operating at full production and providing staff self-test kits.
Widespread absences in sectors such as retail, manufacturing and hospitality have raised fears that the lifting of restrictions could hamper the UK’s economic recovery.
Rory Macqueen, senior economist at the National Institute for Economic and Social Research think tank, said lifting the restrictions was “unlikely to fuel an economic boom” given the number of absent employees.
“If there is an obligation for people who are ‘nuts’ to self-isolate, this must be clear in terms of the number of days, the need for a sequence of Covid tests and also whether those who have been vaccinated can follow a protocol.