Covid-19

How will the lifting of restrictions impact businesses?

12 Jul 2021

Following a challenging year of unpredictable change, England’s business community is looking to 19 July with a sense of optimism - and slight apprehension. Let’s take a look at what we can expect following the lifting of all lockdown restrictions and how certain sectors reacted to Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday.

How will the lifting of restrictions impact businesses?

Broadly speaking, UK business confidence has risen ahead of 19 July.

Despite concerns over rising infections, a new survey by business and accountancy firm BDO revealed that in June, companies were at their most optimistic since 2005.

Optimism among manufacturing businesses has risen sharply. 

The Covid-19 vaccine rollout is driving an improved global outlook and businesses are feeling more confident about international markets once again. 

Another survey, this time by Accenture and IHS Markit UK, found that Two-thirds of UK private sector firms expect an increase in business activity over the coming year (the highest in six years), with only 9% predicting a fall.

However, the retail and hospitality sectors want the Government to provide more clarity amid confusion over mask-wearing and vaccine passport checks.

How will the 19 July unlocking affect businesses?

The government has confirmed that the final stage of Covid unlocking will go ahead on 19 July. Almost every domestic legal restriction will be lifted and all businesses can reopen.

Businesses can resume trading with no limits on capacity, and measures such as mask wearing and social distancing are a matter of personal preference, instead of being a legal requirement as they are currently.

Self-isolation for staff

Employees still have to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus. 

They’ll also still have to self-isolate if they’ve been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive, however this is set to end on 16 August for under-18s and those who have received a second Covid vaccination at least 10 days before the contact. 

Masks on transport and in shops

Masks are no longer required by law, however ministers say that people will be “expected” to wear them in crowded areas such as in shops and on public transport. 

Rail and transport operators can make wearing a mask a condition of travel. For example, British Airways, EasyJet, Virgin and Ryanair, have said masks will still be required for air travel.

Officials say there will currently be no basis in law for retailers to prevent entry to people not wearing a mask. The same goes for pharmacies, even though in-person consultations and examinations are sometimes carried out. 

Usdaw, the union for shop workers, says masks should still be mandatory for shoppers beyond the 19 July unlocking to protect staff. 

Business as usual for offices?

From July 19, firms will no longer be obliged to make employees work from home. However, the government has said it will “expect and recommend” a phased return to offices.

Six pieces of workplace guidance will be released over the coming days for different sectors. 

Employees who are clinically vulnerable or have a compromised immune system will have no right to demand home working - and the same goes for shop workers. They are, however, being encouraged to communicate with their employers. 

Office workers no longer have to wear masks or adhere to social distancing. 

Covid passports for nightclubs 

So called “larger events” and events where lots of people will be mixing closely indoors, such as in nightclubs, are being encouraged to introduce Covid Passports. 

This would require customers to provide proof of a second vaccination at least 10 days before the event, or a recent negative Covid or positive antibody test.

It’s not a legal obligation though. Technically, nightclubs will be able to admit any number of customers up to the fire limit seven days a week without having to check a Covid Passport.

However, according to Government documents, ministers will “consider mandating” the NHS Covid Pass if “sufficient measures are not taken to limit infection”.

What about business travel?

Border restrictions will remain in place beyond 19 July. 

Further information will be released on Monday. Alongside the six sector-specific documents on returning to the workplace, a series of Sage and Spi-M papers will be shared, together with a brief document explaining the changes and what’s staying in place.

Guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be released on Monday or Tuesday. 

Funding for post-lockdown & Brexit recovery

We’re aware that many businesses are looking to secure funding for recovery and growth following the lifting of all lockdown restrictions. 

You can use the Funding Options platform to apply for a Recovery Loan Scheme facility or any other type of business finance suited to your needs, such as construction finance, a bridging loan, a merchant cash advance or a revolving credit facility. 

We also understand that you may require funding to mitigate the ongoing impact of Brexit. (BDO’s survey also revealed that inflation pressures are the highest they’ve been for four years. Brexit supply chain disruption, Covid-19, and the Suez Canal blockage are to blame.)

Whether you require finance to hire more staff ahead of the reopening or you need to boost your cash flow with supply chain finance, our Business Finance Experts are here for you.

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