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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Shropshire businesses expect at least another year of Covid restrictions

More than three quarters of businesses expect to retain some level of social distancing on their premises for at least 12 months, Shropshire Chamber of Commerce has revealed.

Shropshire Chamber of Commerce Chief executive Richard Sheehan
Shropshire Chamber of Commerce Chief executive Richard Sheehan

But nearly 80% of companies which took part in a survey on post-pandemic recovery said they had no plans to ask staff for proof of Covid-19 vaccination as a condition of employment.

Shropshire Chamber, and other members of the British Chambers of Commerce, have been quizzing businesses on their proposals for ongoing protection measures.

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The survey found that only 5% of firms have so far introduced their own proof of vaccination rules. Firms with more than 50 staff are most likely to be considering a move, but the vast majority have no plans to do so. 

However, 76% of companies say they do expect to keep some form of social distancing in place over the next year, and more than half also plan to retain face coverings.  

And only 9% of businesses expect to have been able to lift all Covid restrictions this time next year.

Richard Sheehan, chief executive of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It’s clear that businesses have no intention of undoing all the hard work of the past year in keeping staff and customers safe through the pandemic.

“But this research shows a real need for the Government to quickly clarify the measures which will be required for businesses to maintain safety standards after we hopefully reach the final stage of the roadmap on June 21.  

“In particular, they must resolve the ongoing debate around the use of vaccine certification, providing clear and decisive guidance to business over whether ‘no jab, no job’ regulations can be enforced.”

He added: “I think most businesses across Shropshire are working on the assumption that they will need to keep some form of Covid-secure measures in place over the next 12 months.

“It’s a balancing act, of course, because interventions cannot afford to get in the way of financial recovery, or restrict a company’s ability to operate at full capacity. Common sense and caution is going to be the order of the day.”

The British Chambers of Commerce says there have been mixed Government signals over the requirement of businesses to demand proof of vaccination from customers, suppliers or employees.

Gareth Jones, managing director of training services provider In-Comm which has sites in Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth, said: “It could be challenging for us to implement a requirement for proof of vaccination.

“Safety is paramount to us, but the administrative processes involved would be laborious. We would also have major HR concerns over where this would place individuals not wishing to have the vaccine due to their personal beliefs.

He added: “When it comes to other measures the main issue for us is that numbers are key to our sustainability and growth as a business.

“Actions that we have to take which reduce our number of learners take a real toll on us, so we would hope to return to our original cohort sizes as soon as it is safe to do so. Measures have to be fit for purpose as well as practicable to implement.” 

When asked separately what Covid-19 measures they expected to have in place, or implement, over the next 12 months, the highest response in the survey was social distancing at 76%.

Nearly two thirds of businesses expect to have hand sanitiser available, 46% predict continued changes to their workspace such as screens or socially distanced desk arrangements, and 45% intend to limit access to their premises. 

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