The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has welcomed some aspects of the new furlough scheme announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, including the additional flexibility and gradual tapering from August.
However, the trade association has warned that for the tapered support to work, all pubs need to be open and operating at a sustainable level by the time the tapering kicks in.
According to the association, it has therefore reiterated that the government “must review” the current two metre social distancing guidance and consider the advice and guidance of the World Health Organisation from July.
The BBPA said this would significantly increase the number of the UK’s 47,000 pubs that could safely re-open from one-third to three-quarters in July and at levels that would be more operationally viable, enabling more pub staff to return to work as the furlough scheme tapers off and reducing the risk of job losses.
The trade association has also welcomed that the chancellor has brought forward flexibility for furloughing from August to July.
However, the detail remains to be seen on how it will work in practice. If pubs are to reopen on 4 July, then being able to bring flexible furlough further forward to help the process of getting pubs ready to open would be greatly welcomed.
The trade association has also highlighted that the announcement did not include any recognition of the unique pressures that the pub and hospitality sectors face having been closed the longest.
Emma McClarkin, CEO of the BBPA, said: “Whilst we welcome the tapered furlough support and increased flexibility announced today, all pubs have to be open and operating viably by July for this scheme to work.
“Pubs have been closed since March with no income coming in. Expecting them to contribute to furlough costs if they are closed or operationally unviable is simply not feasible.”
She added: “We continue to work closely with the government to ensure all UK pubs can open as soon as possible. Preventing pubs from reopening as the furlough support reduces means that those pubs will have no income to cover the additional staff costs – risking job losses and pubs staying closed for good.”
The news comes as the BBPA, British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) and UKHospitality (UKH) have called on the chancellor to extend the Job Retention Scheme to October and increase its flexibility for the pub and hospitality sectors.
In a letter to Rishi Sunak, the trade bodies have urged the chancellor to maintain the furlough salary for pub and hospitality staff at 80% until October, allowing the sector, which it says is two months behind reopening compared to the rest of the economy, to fully get back up and running whilst the furlough scheme remains in place to save jobs.
In the same letter, they have also asked the chancellor to introduce flexibility into the furlough scheme earlier than the current scheduled date of the start of August, to help fit with the sector reopening from 4 July.