Economics bulletin 23 December

Date : 22 December 2021

Your overview of political and economic news with a focus on the food and consumer goods industry, featuring the latest developments and guidance on COVID-19, labour shortages and adapting to a new relationship with the EU.

Managing COVID-19 absence

Absence rates due to COVID-19 are manageable currently. However, it is likely that absence rates will increase in the coming weeks due to the new Omicron variant.

Businesses in England can introduce workplace mitigations to stem the increase in absence rates. These measures including ‘cohorting’, ‘fixed teams’, ventilation and screens or barriers to separate people who don’t normally mix.

Businesses can also reduce the risk by encouraging staff to get vaccinated and to receive the booster. See the section on ‘reducing contact for workers’ here for further details.

The government is requesting that businesses complete a daily labour absence survey.

7-day self-isolation

Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 will need to self-isolate for 7 days rather than 10 days in most cases in England. This assumes the following:

  • A negative lateral flow test result on days 6 and 7 of their self-isolation period
  • Unvaccinated contacts of positive COVID-19 cases are still required to self-isolate for 10 days

See here for more details.

See here for the rules on self-isolation in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

New COVID-19 restrictions

The Prime Minister has announced that there will be no further restrictions before Christmas in England, though has not ruled out introducing further restrictions afterwards.

In Scotland, new restrictions include:

  • People being advised to limit socialising to three households. This would not apply on Christmas Day.
  • Shops and hospitality venues are legally required to bring back physical distancing and screens
  • A legal requirement for employers to enable staff to work from home where possible
  • Nightclubs to close

The Scottish government will provide £100m of funding to help businesses in hospitality and food supply chains.

In Wales, the First Minister has announced the following changes to restrictions from 26 December:

  • Two metre social distancing in offices and public premises
  • Groups of no more than six people will be allowed to meet in hospitality
  • Advice has been given to limit household mixing
  • Nightclubs to close
  • From 20 December it became law to work from home where possible, with businesses and employers facing fines if they go into workplaces if they can work remotely.

See here for further details.

In Northern Ireland, the following restrictions will take effect from 27 December:

  • Table service only allowed in hospitality venues
  • No more than six people to sit together at a table in hospitality venues
  • Recommendation that no more than three households should meet together in a private home
  • Nightclubs to close from 26 December

See here for further details.

Financial support for hospitality

The government has announced a new support package, covering businesses in England. £1bn has been allocated for grants to businesses affected by Omicron. £683m has been allocated for direct payments to foodservice and hospitality businesses.

The Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS) has been reintroduced for UK-based businesses with fewer than 250 employees.

The hospitality industry has welcomed the new package.

Supply chains and availability

Recent research conducted by IGD has revealed little change in the number of adults interviewed experiencing shortages of some food and groceries in-store or online recently (61% on Monday and Tuesday), the same number as over the weekend. This compares with 65% two weeks ago and 68% last month.  Reported availability issues remain highest for savoury snacks.

There has also been little change in the number of adults who have recently felt the need to stock up or purchase more than they normally do (37% vs 36% two weeks ago). Slightly more say they will or might stock up (42% vs 37% over the weekend).

GDP slows down

The economy grew by 1.1% between July and September rather than 1.3% previously estimated. See here for further details.

Pork butchers visa deadlines

800 pork butchers have until 31 December for visas from the existing allocation in the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme, allowing them to travel and work in the UK for a period of 6 months.  See here for more details.

EU-GB Imports from 1 January 2022

Businesses are encouraged to prepare for changes to the rules regarding imports from the EU to GB from 1 January 2022. See here for further details.

This follows publication of a revised version of the Border Operating Model. Please note that full customs declarations will be required from 1 January (although delayed payment may be possible).

See further details here including our opinion on the latest changes.

See the Key dates for UK-EU transition and support for businesses

See the guidance on trade with the UK as a business based in the EU.


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