As the UK Job Retention Scheme comes to an end the UK Food Council calls for future support for the food industry

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic society and economy is no longer speculation. It is clear the detrimental effects will leave a scar on the UK’s economic growth, particularly on jobs 

2 minute read

Posted: 30/09/2021

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UK Food Council

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Arno de Bruin



PRESS RELEASE

London, September 30 2021,

As the UK Job Retention Scheme comes to an end, the UK Food Council calls for future support for the food industry

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our society and our economy is no longer speculation. It is clear the detrimental effects will leave a scar on the UK’s economic growth, particularly on jobs. The UK Government’s response to protecting viable jobs using the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) has been highly successful from the food industry’s perspective and has been the lifeline for many businesses, large and small.

We now take the view that inflationary input pressures are unlikely to be transitory in the short-term, material, ingredient and fuel prices are now rising at pace as the industry from sector-to-sector endeavours to relieve pressure on its margins. This is something the industry had been reluctant to do at the outset of this inflationary spell, as within the context of the UK’s new EU and global trading relationship, the industry had been keen to maintain an offering that is as competitive as possible amongst the throng of post-pandemic activity.

These various pressures mean that there remains a risk that once the JRS expires there is going to be an increase in redundancies for skilled viable jobs in some of our most valuable sectors, whilst other sectors will struggle to recruit experienced personnel and so some form of tapering off of employment support should continue in the medium term.

UK Food Council is calling for:

A modified version of the Job Support Scheme (JSS) to follow the JRS: When plans for the JSS were laid out initially, we did not believe it was appropriate for the situation at that time where firms struggled with high demand and supply for its goods. However, recent UK Food Insight Surveys have indicated that demand is increasing across the industry, and it is mainly the uncertainty of supply that currently hinders growth. The JSS would now give support to a business’s current circumstance, where there is a stream of work available for employees (due to an increase in demand for goods and services) but that stream is increasingly staggered due to the uncertain nature of access to and deliveries of resources. Such a scheme would enable firms facing difficulties to utilise their workforce more flexibly and ensure they can return to 100% capacity once these disruptions subside. The JSS would need to be adapted to ensure that employers do not overpay for productive hours, and instead only pay the portion of the salary that the worker fulfils. We would also recommend that those employees who are users of the JSS spend part of the time where they are not in work undertaking training, for example through the Government’s new Skills Bootcamps.

The Job Retention Scheme (JRS) to be reintroduced in the event of local or national lockdowns: Whilst we do believe that JSS is the best support option now that the economy has finally reopened, there remains a risk that social restrictions and lockdowns may return later down the line should infections increase, and vaccine effectiveness be limited. In this situation the benefits of the JRS do outweigh the costs by preserving the nation’s capacity to produce and allowing it to bounce back faster. Therefore, to ensure confidence levels do not fall below a minimum level that enables firms to at least plan should such restrictions return, we want to see Government guarantee the JRS will always be accessible during temporary economic shutdowns.

Work with industry on developing a long-term generic crisis management tool: The JRS has shown that during a crisis saving jobs is a sustainable solution to preserving the UK economy’s long-term health. We see a strong case for a long-term generic crisis management tool to be available for labour protection should there be other challenges in the future that risks large scale redundancies across the nation.

Next steps: UK Food Council will continue to engage with Government and wider policy makers, as well as using the upcoming Spending Review, to make the case for these protections for our industry.

Support: We have prepared two new template letters for employers (members) to use to end full or flexible furlough, you can access these, as well as further advice here.

News / UK Food Council – September 30th, 2021
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