Plan B Covid restrictions set to end: What does this mean for SMEs?

Plan B Covid restrictions set to end: What does this mean for SMEs?

No more home working and face coverings will be scrapped 

The number of coronavirus cases are on a decline following the surge over Christmas, and the government is now taking further steps to return life back to normal. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced England’s Plan B measures will end from next Thursday ‘ what does this mean for SMEs?

During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday evening, Mr Johnson told ministers ‘we must learn to live with Covid in the same way we live with flu’ as he announced plans to ease restrictions. From next Thursday, mandatory face coverings in public and Covid passports will no longer be enforced. The government will also drop its advice for people to work from home. Mr Johnson encouraged employers to arrange plans for workers to return back to the office, removing the national requirement for employees working indoors. There will also no longer be mandatory Covid passports for entering night clubs or large events ‘ but businesses who wish to use Covid passes still can do so. Students at schools will also no longer be required to wear face masks in classrooms, and will have access to communal areas in due time.

Mr Johnson told MPs scientists believed the Omicron wave had peaked nationally, though this should not be seen as the ‘finish line’ because the virus still remains. Mr Johnson urged people to take precautions such as hand washing, ventilating rooms, and self-isolating if positive, which has now been reduced to five days. However, Mr Johnson promised self-isolation rules will expire on 24 March ‘ and this could be brought forward if there is sufficient data to show it is safe to do so, he added. The Prime Minister also encouraged those who are unvaccinated to go and get their jabs done. Mr Johnson told MPs the Government will still ‘suggest’ to people to wear face coverings in certain ‘enclosed or crowded places’ but ‘we will trust the judgement of the British people’.

The Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the move, saying this would be beneficial to small businesses who are recovering from months of disruption. However, businesses are still faced with higher taxes and business rates that may set them back in their recovery, and he urged the government to look at policies to empower small firms. National Chairman Mike Cherry said: After two years of chopping and changing, small businesses right across England will be hoping that this marks the beginning of a final winding down of trading restrictions. We would now urge everyone to get behind small firms ‘ be that on a commute, whilst working from home, online, or in-person ‘ as they work night and day to recover from another incredibly stressful festive season.

Equally, it’s important to respect the house rules that each individual small firm has implemented to keep its customers and staff safe ‘ many have invested thousands in making premises more secure. Small firms and sole traders stand ready to spur our economic recovery from this recession as they did the last. After new import checks took effect this month, however, they are now staring down the barrel of a jobs tax hike, a dividend taxation increase and business rates bills landing in April.

The Government should be looking at policies that will empower small businesses and start-ups to get our economy firing on all cylinders again. In an environment where inflation is surging, and the labour market is exceptionally tight, hiking an indiscriminate tax on job creation is not one of them.

Meanwhile, some employers expressed the concerns about the safety of employees who are set to return back to the office. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: We need a safe return to workplaces. Employers must consult with staff and unions on working arrangements – including flexible working options, and bosses must carry out proper risk assessments and improve ventilation. Face coverings have been proven to reduce the spread of Covid. Making them optional on public transport and in shops at this stage in the pandemic is premature and will put workers at risk. Ministers must fix our broken sick pay system once and for all. The government is asking people to return to their workplaces but is offering them little or no financial support if they become ill.

Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

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