The Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) has called for the government to consider reducing the Covid isolation period for workers, or to work with the hospitality industry to examine a ‘test and release' scheme to help stem the workforce challenges for businesses.
The calls follow comments by education secretary and former vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, who told the BBC that cutting self-isolation to five days would help with staff absenteeism. People who test positive for Covid are required to self-isolate for at least seven days.
The hospitality sector has faced a New Year once more without Christmas cash reserves after Omicron concerns and government messages decimated December trade. On top of this and with staffing shortages already plaguing the industry, some operators told The Caterer 10% of their staff were absent due to having to isolate.
Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of Inception Group, told The Caterer the seven-day isolation rule remained a challenge for operators. He said: "London was hit first and hardest by Omicron in December. Self-isolation rules meant we had to close a couple of sites early for that year as we didn't have enough staff available to maintain the service standards our customers would expect.
"Cases thankfully seem to be on their way down in the capital although coronavirus cases and the seven-day rule still continues to present huge challenges."
Michael Kill, chief executive of the NTIA, said the isolation policy, although recently reduced to seven days, was still resulting in "considerable losses" in staff numbers to illness and isolation, placing pressure on the supply chain and limiting trading capacity.
He said: "Since 'Freedom Day' we have been plagued with staff and supply chain shortages, further exacerbated by the implementation of new rules due to the Omicron variant, which has since compromised our trading levels and service and generated a level of anxiety within the workforce and in some cases compromised public safety."
"We are asking the government to consider the pressures on the workforce, not only as employers, but as employees trying to survive."
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