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08 Dec 2021

Work from home directive "raises anxieties among business owners"

Derry Chamber of Commerce CEO calls for more clarity and less mixed messages from the Executive over Covid-19 guidelines for employers

Work from home directive "raises anxieties among business owners"

Derry Chamber of Commerce CEO, Paul Clancy: "Increased talk by ministers of restrictions or sweeping mitigations are deeply concerning for businesses."

Derry Chamber of Commerce CEO, Paul Clancy, has said the Executive working from home directive is “merely tinkering around the edges” and has “done little except raise anxieties among business owners and leaders”.

Although working from home when possible has long been a guideline from the Executive during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, this week's reiteration of that has caused a degree of alarm in the business and retail sector.

Ministers stated that working from home can help reduce the rise of Covid-19 but stopped short of ordering all employers to facilitate home working.

However, Mr Clancy said that this week's statement from the Executive has heightened concerns and stated that the number of “mixed messages” from Stormont has not provided sufficient clarity for businesses and employers which has made them worry about “being left in the lurch for a second Christmas”.

He said: “The latest Executive decisions have done little except raise anxieties among business owners and leaders.

“Even though it has been reinforced and reiterated by ministers, the ‘work from home if possible’ guidance has not changed since the start of the pandemic and, as such, this announcement by the Executive is merely tinkering around the edges. However, it has heightened concerns for businesses.

“Mixed messaging from separate Executive ministers as well this week is harming business confidence.

“We have the Health Minister saying one day that hospitality businesses may be required to close over Christmas, while the next day the First Minister says we are not ‘in a space where we can be looking at closure of businesses’.

“These statements are wholly contradictory and do nothing to provide clarity or certainty for businesses at one of the busiest and most important times of the year.

“Increased talk by ministers of restrictions or sweeping mitigations are deeply concerning for businesses. However, there has been no talk of financial supports or safeguards in such a scenario.

“All this does is raise anxiety levels for small business owners and makes them worry that they’ll be left in the lurch for a second Christmas running.

“It’s crucial that the Executive commits to clear messaging over the coming weeks and works together to suppress Covid cases.

“We would also encourage shoppers and customers to continue to wear their face masks when out and about this Christmas and take sensible decisions which will keep everyone safe.”

Chief Executive of Retail NI, Glyn Roberts warned of a knock-on effect that could hurt the retail sector and stated that the importance of the Executive implementing a support package to traders was “a matter of urgency”.

He said: “Whilst we recognise the importance of controlling Covid-19 community transmission and the part everyone must play, the Executive’s decision to strengthen work-from-home guidance will have a significant knock-on effect on our local high streets and independent retailers who rely on footfall from office workers.

Chief Executive of Retail NI, Glyn Roberts: "If the work-from-home guidance continues, the inevitable loss in trade for our high street retailers will be damaging"

“The Christmas period is traditionally one of the busiest periods for many businesses, especially smaller retailers who are the lifeblood of our towns and cities.

“After the severe impact of the pandemic, these businesses need all the support they can get. If the work-from-home guidance continues, the inevitable loss in trade for our high street retailers will be damaging.

“Independent traders have been hard-hit in the last 20 months and are only starting to get back on their feet. It is imperative that the Executive works alongside the retail sector and implements a support package to local traders affected by this decision as a matter of urgency.”

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