Restaurants, pubs, and bars that are forced to close under novel coronavirus restrictions will be eligible for a reduced furlough scheme, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced today. From 1 November, the government will pay two-thirds of employees’ wages up to £2100 per month, if their place of work is ordered to shut down entirely as part of COVID-19 lockdown measures.
With fears mounting over the possibility of further closures in the hospitality sector following the national lockdown between March and July, the news will be of small reassurance. It will also appear faintly strange, as it runs parallel with the new job support measures for businesses that are trading, also coming in from 1 November, which revolve around “viable jobs.” “Viable” translates to an employee working at least a third of their hours, an expectation placed on restaurants, pubs, and bars at the same time that they are being told to curtail business as early as 10 p.m., as part of the hospitality curfew. Both the curfew and any local shutdown are government-mandated coronavirus measures that severely depress revenue and make business less viable, but only one is eligible for additional job support that costs the government money.
Trade body U.K. Hospitality responded to the news by again pushing for “ much more comprehensive package of support for the whole sector to cover rent and other overheads to ease the strain on businesses.” Chief executive Kate Nicholls said:
“Paying two-thirds of wages for employees in lockdown is a welcome step and it is encouraging to see that the Chancellor has introduced flexibility and a sector-specific approach into the JSS and recognises that this is an evolving situation. Support for nightclubs and other businesses left in limbo, still unable to reopen, is very welcome. It will help save jobs in a sector that would be sorely missed it were allowed to die.”