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Covid & Isolation: how it is impacting businesses in the South-West and what support is available for Small Businesses

July 28, 2021

Like everywhere here in the South West of England, 19 July 2021, is the day when regulations were lifted for many businesses – whilst many have named it ‘Freedom Day’ others couldn’t have felt more different as the infection rates here have continued to increase. In our own team we’ve had team members and their families with the infection, and most others have had at least one child off school isolating.

For businesses, especially small businesses, having team members in isolation can become a logistical nightmare to co-ordinate. Even if they aren’t in isolation themselves as a parent to someone having to isolate they’re still unable to attend the work place – the knock on impact is huge and the juggle is real for both the employer and employee.

The impact in particular on the hospitality, care and services sector (where working from home is not an option) has been huge, with services not being able to run due to the number of staff members either isolating or recovering from Covid. Here in the South-West, a number of cafés, restaurants and care homes have recently been placed under extreme strain. To remain open and serviceable management were having to work excessive hours or they faced closure. Sonny Stores a café in Southville, Bristol is one recent example where Covid isolation rules resulted in them having to shut the business – losing valuable profits but with no choice but to do so.

Isolation is a current legal requirement and is in place to reduce the spread of Covid19. The responsibility lies with the individual to follow the rules correctly, however as small business owners there is some responsibility that lies with you to ensure your employees are adhering to the regulations too. If you are a business where working from home is not an option, then below are the key legal reminders for you:

  • employers may consider giving the employee the option to use their holiday
  • if you offer contractual sick pay this should be paid when someone is unwell,
  • employers should ensure anyone who is isolating receives Statutory Sick Pay as a minimum, provided they meet the eligibility criteria
  • if an employee needs time off to care for a child who is isolating and not working from home, then this would fall under the unpaid domestic incident leave although some flexibility to make up hours or use holiday is likely to be welcome
  • employers should support workers with regular check-ins to ensure they’re coping with isolating.

Small and medium employers (with fewer than 250 employees) may be able to reclaim their costs for Covid19 related Statutory Sick Pay, the government website provides more information on this and how to apply here.

Covid & Isolation: Self-isolation Exemption

The Government has also confirmed that workers will qualify for a self-isolation exemption where they carry out a ‘critical role’.

The exemption was available from Monday 19 July 2021 in “circumstances where there would be a serious risk of harm to public welfare if people in critical roles are unable to go to their workplace“.

Unlike the initial rumours, exemptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will apply to only a few workers, a list of sectors/businesses will not be provided. Employers will need to contact the Government department for their sector to ask for an exemption for their worker. It could include certain workers in food, utility, border staff and the NHS staff but there will be no blanket exemption for any sector.

Business Support Grants for Bristol businesses impacted by Covid:

Bristol local business support is still available. The Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) scheme is open to new applications. ARG is a discretionary grant available to self-employed and sole traders as well as small or micro businesses across all sectors, who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.  For more information and how to apply for this grant, click here.

Support for Gloucestershire based businesses impacted by Covid:

In Gloucestershire, the Growth Hub are a fantastic resource which can support and guide local Gloucestershire businesses that may be experiencing tricky times, please click here for more information and to find out about their Hub Mentors and Peer Networks could support your business.

Business survival during the last 18 months has been tough going for many reasons, impact of Covid is definitely one! However, there have been some success stories, one recent local success story is Bristol nightclub, Lakota who benefited from enrolling on: The Small Business Leadership Programme, the programme focussed on adapting business models so they can survive and thrive in the current climate, Lakota have changed their strategic vision and opened up their premises to more segments of the market to appeal to a variety of demographics, rather than their traditional demographic, utilising their space during the  daytime as well as evenings.

We understand the pressures many businesses are under right now and hope as the year progresses things do become easier and more manageable for all, we will continue to update you as the regulations change – 16 August 2021 is the next big date in the diary!

As always, we love to hear from you and your experience of working through the pandemic, or if you have any questions or comments on this, as always please do feel free to get in touch with us direct: Rise HR Ltd, call us on 0844 854 6704 or email us at hello@risehr.co.uk. We would love to hear from you.