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Fri 30th Oct 2020 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Private contempt and public dissent, what you need to know about the Job Support Scheme, your business can make a difference to the future of the planet, supporting charities when they need it most
Authors: Paul Chase, Richard Hartley, Louise Palmer-Masterton, Nick Mackenzie

Private contempt and public dissent by Paul Chase

I listened on Tuesday night (27 October) to the hour-long lecture given by Lord Sumption on the government’s handling of the covid-19 pandemic. I have never heard such a forensic and excoriating analysis and deconstruction of a government’s conduct in relation to anything in my entire life. Lord Sumption is a former member of the UK Supreme Court, a former Oxford don and leading historian of the medieval era. Intellectually and academically out of the top drawer – and very much an establishment figure whose grasp of, and support for, the British constitution makes it all the more difficult for his views to be dismissed by the British government.

Lord Sumption laid out, in detail, the legal instruments, existing laws and new ones the government has used to set up and enforce lock-downs. He illustrated how the government has side-lined parliament, arrogated to itself exceptional powers and set up government by executive decree. We are, according to Sumption, no longer a functioning democracy in any meaningful sense. We are witnessing a slide into authoritarianism that is unprecedented in our democratic history. 

And neither was his criticism confined to the government. The Labour opposition was also criticised for its supine acceptance of this executive power grab – only criticising the government for not acting sooner or going far enough. And the tragi-comic actions of the rinky-dink assemblies in Scotland and Wales with their first ministers vying for the “Most Authoritarian Politician of the Year” award didn’t escape his withering analysis either.

Sumption’s concern is that we have had our ancient liberties snatched away from us by a government that has deliberately stoked up fear of a virus that is mostly only deadly for the elderly and those with serious co-morbidities. He laments the fact that the British people seem unaware of the enormous significance of what is happening because they are clamorous to be led to safety by an all-powerful state. One thing he said that stood out for me is that, in previous epidemics, governments have used powers to detain people who were ill and infectious, but no previous British government has ever taken and used powers to restrict the freedom of movement of the entire, and largely healthy, population.

And yet I wonder whether the British people are quite as docile and conforming as he supposes. A Freedom of Information application in Scotland revealed that since August, Police Scotland has been called out to break up 3,042 illegal parties. I don’t know what the numbers are for England and Wales but there is growing anecdotal evidence of people creating the social spaces they want despite government regulations. I know, in Merseyside, apartment-style hotels are booked solid every weekend by people who arrive with mobile disco equipment, booze and other essentials for a good night out. No social distancing, no precautions. How much better it would be to allow the pubs, bars and nightclubs to open in a covid-secure way so people could socialise in the safest way possible. But to allow that to happen would counter the fear narrative by means of which the government maintains its failing lock-down strategy.

There is clearly private contempt for the lock-down regulations. But I wonder if and when this will boil over into public dissent and disorder on the streets. Elsewhere in Europe we are seeing this already. In Italy, dozens of cities have seen violent protests against the government’s reimposition of a tight lock-down. The most serious occurred in Milan and Turin, where demonstrators committed arson, vandalised public transport, looted shops and attacked police with stones and petrol bombs. Likewise, in Spain, there have been huge protests in Barcelona, with scores of rubbish bins set on fire. There have also been major protests in Paris, Prague and Berlin. People are getting restive.

Lord Sumption didn’t explicitly call for civil disobedience in the UK, but he came pretty close. I’m sure he would deplore violent protest. I don’t want to see riots on a scale comparable to the poll tax riots under Mrs Thatcher, but I applaud the refusal of gyms on Merseyside to close in conformity with regulations and the eventual lifting of this restriction this led to. At what point will the contempt for lock-down that party-going Brits are exhibiting in private boil over into public dissent and street protest, such as we’re seeing in mainland Europe? I don’t know the answer, but unless the British government admits that lock-downs are a failed strategy, adopts a policy of focused shielding and reopens the economy then I fear it is only a matter of time before we see a social explosion.
Paul Chase is director of Chase Consultancy and a leading industry commentator on alcohol and health

What you need to know about the Job Support Scheme by Richard Hartley

This Saturday (31 October) is Halloween and, while prior years have seen the importance of this event increase for our sector, this year will be a markedly different… but I feel like I have been saying that a lot recently. The bigger scare might have come from the end of the furlough scheme but, luckily, it is being replaced by the (newly enhanced) Job Support Scheme, the next phase of government support for employees. So how does it work?

● Open and closed
The scheme is split into two elements: the open version that is designed for businesses with reduced trade and the closed version that is aimed at business that are forced to closed due to government restrictions.

● Employer eligibility
There are various criteria set out that define eligibility for each scheme. Both schemes require the company to have enrolled for PAYE online and to have a UK bank account. 

For the closed scheme, eligibility is defined as follows: businesses that are forced to close due to coronavirus restrictions set by one or more of the four UK governments. For the closed scheme, claims can only be made for the time where the forced closure was in place.

For the open scheme, it depends on the size of the business. If you have fewer than 250 employees, you are eligible. If you are have more than 250 employees, you need to go through a financial impact test. Details of the test are available on the gov.uk website but can broadly be summarised as: if July to September revenue in 2020 was lower than the same period in 2019, you are eligible (there are nuances though so do check). This does also imply that if you have more than 250 employees and were not trading in 2019 (ie, a newly formed business) you would not be eligible, although we have not had this confirmed.

Employers can claim for both schemes at the same time, as they may have multiple sites affected in different ways.

● Employee eligibility
Employees are eligible if they were on an RTI submission to HMRC prior to the 23 September. Employees are no longer eligible if they are serving notice or have been made redundant.

To claim on the closed scheme, the employee should not be working for the period of time they are claiming for.

To claim on the open scheme, the employee needs to work at least 20% of their usual hours.

Employees cannot, therefore, be on both schemes on the same day.

Any employee placed on either scheme needs to have the agreement confirmed to them in writing and this agreement needs to last a minimum of seven days.

● Claim amounts
For the closed scheme, the employee should receive 66.6% of their usual pay, capped at a maximum of £2,083.33 per month. All of this can be claimed back from the government.

For the open scheme, the government will pay 62.5% of the difference between their usual hours and their actual hours up to a maximum of £1,541.75 per month. The employer is required to pay 5% of the difference up to a maximum of £125.

For either scheme, the employer can choose to top up the wage for the employee if they so wish. The employer is also liable for national insurance, pension and holiday accrual.

● Usual pay and usual hours
This is more complicated than it was for furlough although broadly calculated on the same principles. 

For salary, it is the higher of their March 2020 or Sept 2020 salary and hours.

For variable pay staff, it is the higher of:
• Tax year 2019/20 average pay/hours
• Comparable calendar period from last year pay/hours
• Average pay/hours worked from 1 February 2020 to 23 September (or from when the employee started, if later)
• This should include any hours paid as annual or statutory leave.

● Holiday
Exact guidance has not been given on holiday, it is therefore assumed (for now) that employees can take holiday while on the agreement and it will be treated in a similar way to furlough, ie:

1. Closed scheme
a. Government pays 66.7% of usual pay up to a cap of £2,083.33 and the employer is required to top it up to their usual pay

2. Open scheme
a. If no hours are worked and holiday does not exceed 20% of usual hours
i. Employer pays for holiday
b. If no hours are worked and holiday hours exceed 20% of usual hours
i. Employer has to pay 20% of usual hours
ii. Government will contribute 62.5% of the remaining 80% up to a cap of £1,541.75
iii. Employer will contribute 5% up to a cap of £125
iv. Employer tops up the difference to ensure employee receives usual pay
c. If less than 20% of usual hours worked
i. Employer pays difference of hours worked to 20% of usual hours
ii. Government will contribute 62.5% of the remaining 80% up to a cap of £1,541.75
iii. Employer will contribute 5% up to a cap of £125
iv. Employer tops up the difference to ensure employee receives usual pay
d. If more than 20% of usual hours worked
i. Government will contribute 62.5% of the difference between hours worked and usual hours up to a cap of £1,541.75
ii. Employer will contribute 5% up to a cap of £125
iii. Employer tops up the difference to ensure employee receives usual pay

● Claiming
The claims process opens on 8 December so this will need to be funded out of cash flow until the grants are received.

● Summary
The improved version of the Job Support Scheme is a big improvement for the sector on the previous version and should be seriously considered by most operators. We would recommend talking to your scheduling/payroll provider and getting an early understanding of how it will support you.

Government has also stated it will update a number of their points of advice by the end of October. This hasn’t been released yet, but we will update when it has. Hopefully this won’t be the Halloween scare, we’ve suffered enough.

If anyone would like clarification on any of the above points, please get in touch by emailing richard@s4labour.co.uk
Richard Hartley is chief product officer at S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality
S4labour is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Your business can make a difference to the future of the planet by Louise Palmer-Masterton 

Streaming now on Netflix, David Attenborough’s documentary A Life On Our Planet contains an abundance of powerful facts that defines the devastating problems we face if we do not stop destroying our planet. 

The film shows the numbers for the rapid increase in global population, the increase in carbon in the atmosphere and the accompanying sharp decrease in unfarmed natural land. 

This moving documentary does end with a ray of hope, however, as Attenborough lays out the steps we need to take to quickly redress the balance and allow the planet to recover: 

1. Rewild the rainforests and farmland to restore biodiversity 
2. Stop eating meat 
3. Abandon fossil fuel in favour of renewable energy 
4. Using less land in more intelligent ways to produce more food, such as vertical and urban farming
5. Stop waste 
6. End poverty and increase access to education for all people, which will naturally lead to population control

How can hospitality businesses help?

You probably assume most of this list is beyond the sphere of influence of an individual or an individual business, with international action and financial incentives needed for this to happen on a global scale. 

Although it’s true international action is needed, we can all instigate actions that make a difference and many of the actions we can take are changes within our own supply chains that are not disruptive or costly, they simply involve making more ethical choices in our purchasing decisions. 

Recently, a Futerra survey showed 88% of consumers want brands to help them be more sustainable, and many people utilise their purchasing power as a way to make their mark, so it’s also a shrewd business decision to make positive changes within our own businesses.

● Rewilding
Work with the many new ethical suppliers that are making a difference. For example, we work with a tea supplier called Reforest Tea. For one 500g bag of breakfast tea, costing £12, it is able to plant six to eight trees. Perform your own sustainability audit (there are also individuals and organisations that can conduct this for you, or you could simply do it yourself). 

● More plant-based meals
It’s simply not sustainable for the 11 billion animals on the planet to eat other animals. But what does this mean for a food business that serves meat? Fortunately/unfortunately it means you need to pivot your business model. Although it might feel like your offering is well supported now, it could become increasingly regarded as unethical in the future. 

I am not lecturing here, but don’t count on people wanting to continue eating meat in the future like they do now. So now is the time to explore plant-based options that suit your brand. 

● Using renewable energy
In pursuit of renewable energy, hospitality businesses can make a huge impact by simply moving to renewable only energy sources. There are a number of these now, including the most established Ecotricity and Green Energy. 

● Vertical farming
I visited Amsterdam in February. There are some super-exciting projects there with vertical and urban farms. It is a big exporter of vegetables because of this. It gets a greater output from a much smaller footprint in this way. It’s now also breaking into the hospitality sector. I visited a restaurant called Juniper & Kin, which is on the top floor of a tall hotel building. It has a greenhouse on its roof and grows a high percentage of its produce there. 

● Waste
Food waste – more than one third of all food produced is wasted (with fruit and vegetables, it’s almost half). In medium and high-income countries, we are simply buying food and not eating it. Much of this food waste could be avoided if it were managed better. 

Packaging waste – there’s a huge amount of misinformation out there on this subject, especially with regards to single use. Packaging is a complicated subject that we’ve been immersed in researching for some time, and here is what we have learned:

● The only truly sustainable, circular solution for packaging is to use products that are made from 100% recycled post-consumer waste, which are then endlessly recycled.
● Compostable is not the answer to the issue of single use, as compostable containers are widely made from virgin materials.
● Of course, responsible use of recycled plastic products requires education, and we need to invest energy into just that.

Never underestimate the contribution an individual or individual business can play. By changing ourselves, we also generate spirals of positive influence. The more you make changes and tell others, the more people you will influence for good.
Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of vegan restaurant Stem & Glory

Supporting charities when they need it most by Nick Mackenzie

This year has been incredibly difficult for all of us. Businesses have had to navigate months of nationwide lock-down, a drop in consumer confidence and now, a very uncertain outlook as we face a winter with highly restrictive localised lock-downs. 

But one thing you can be sure of is that people working in hospitality won’t let the little issue of a pandemic get in the way of supporting their communities and charities. For those working in pubs, bars and restaurants, it’s an incredibly stressful and difficult time. They’re doing an amazing job responding to constant changes and keeping their customers safe, and many are also doing their bit to support those in need. 

For us, our priority during this crisis has been to protect our people, our businesses and, as far as we can, our future. But we also recognise we have a duty to support those that look after the most vulnerable in our society in their time of need, charities. 

Charities have really suffered during the past year. Pro Bono Economics, an independent charity, estimates that one in ten may face bankruptcy by the end of 2020, having had to deal with additional costs and a significant drop in donations since the pandemic hit the UK. This is a shocking number, and really brings home just how much these important organisations need support. 

Our charity partner, Macmillan Cancer Support, is anticipating a loss of 35% to 50% of its fundraising revenue this year – a significant drop. The organisation, which has worked tirelessly to deliver vital services to people living with cancer throughout the pandemic, is facing a real crisis if it doesn’t see an uptick in fund-raising. It’s worth remembering that it is at these particularly difficult times that individuals need charities more than ever. Life-changing illnesses such as cancer have taken a back seat in recent months as attention has focused on tackling covid-19, but for people suffering and their families, services provided by Macmillan remain as urgent and important as they ever were. 

At Greene King, we’ve always worked hard to support national and local charities that are important to our team members and to our communities. We’ve worked with Macmillan since 2012, we also support industry charity, Pub is the Hub, and our 1,700 pubs around the country do amazing things for their local charities. We also work with The Prince’s Trust and Only A Pavement Away, supporting people into work as we champion social mobility. 

This year, despite the many challenges facing us, we wanted to continue raising funds and awareness for these important causes, and we encouraged our pubs to do the same locally. 

We couldn’t hold our usual month of fund-raising back in May due to lock-down, so we moved “Macmillan May” to September this year. Given the economic environment and continued pandemic threat, we didn’t expect fund-raising to reach anywhere near the level of previous years, so it is incredible to announce that we have had a record-breaking campaign, with fund-raising hitting £1m. The credit for that goes to our teams, that, despite such a challenging trading environment, the uncertainty of potential local lock-downs and having to find innovative ways to raise money safely, have put everything into raising as much money as possible for Macmillan. Our customers have also been hugely generous, supporting local fund-raising initiatives and providing donations when many of them face difficult circumstances themselves. 

A huge number of initiatives took place during September and they seeped into October as the enthusiasm of the teams didn’t waver, with a monumental effort across our pubs and support centres. These range from our somewhat unique menu addition in the form of the nation’s first ever green burger – £1 of which went straight to Macmillan – to a 2,000-mile Tuk Tuk trip. Three of our divisional leadership teams took it upon themselves to undertake a gruelling hike up Mount Snowdon and I cycled 140 miles in a week to help raise money.

We have been astounded at the response from our teams and our customers. At a time when people across the nation are facing personal hardships, they have continued to go the extra mile for those less fortunate than themselves and we are delighted to have raised more than £600,000 in September alone. 

We know there are tough times ahead for all of us, but it’s so important we don’t forget about supporting others. Pubs play a vital role in communities as a social hub in good times but also for communities when times are tough. When it comes to supporting charities, pubs are part of the solution because they are the nation’s best fund-raisers and are brilliant at co-ordinating events, galvanising and energising customers and putting community needs at the front of people’s minds. In fact, pubs raise more than £100m for charities each year, so the role they play in plugging the current fundraising gap is vital. 

Charities are reliant upon goodwill and donations, and government support alone won’t help them survive this challenging time. We will continue working with and supporting Macmillan so that it can carry on its crucial work as we head into winter and beyond. It’s brilliant to have had a record-breaking campaign for fund-raising, but we can’t stop there. Collectively, as businesses, individuals and an industry we must ensure charities are still able to help people suffering in these difficult times.
Nick Mackenzie is chief executive at Greene King 

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