Understanding the need to reopen the economy safely, with public health as the number one priority, we listened in to the practical preparations for restart and recovery suggested by the CBI today.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the CBI talked in the CBI’s daily webinar of the need to change the language around restarting the UK economy. Often, we hear about trading off health versus the economy, which destroys public trust, creating the idea that business would put economic concerns ahead of public health. The health of the nation clearly comes first and we need conversations that reflect business’ desire to reopen the economy safely. In fact, those businesses that have cautiously reopened, have done so by adhering to the current guidelines on social distancing, making sure that the measures necessary to protect staff and the public were agreed and understood by staff. It is not business as usual. Robust social distancing measures are in place.

The CBI is involved in the discussions the government is having regarding the creation of protocols and guidance which would characterise safe working in the future. It acknowledges that only after the government’s five key tests – falling deaths, NHS protected, rate of infection down, sorting out the challenges of testing and PPE and avoiding a second peak – have been met, will we move to a gradual restarting of the economy, but it stresses the importance of allowing businesses to plan ahead.

Dame Fairbairn shared that the government was considering looking at guidance based on workplace rather than sectors, citing outdoor work, leisure and wellbeing, non-food retail, office work, factory and industry and distribution and logistics as possible workplace categories for protocols on safe working. Practical guidance for protecting staff and the public in an office environment may be different to that required for a shop or a call centre for example.

Wayne Thomas, Partner at Bates Weston comments:

“It is reassuring to know that business is represented by the CBI in the debate about what happens next, and for the sake of the business community going forward, it must not be painted as the “bad guy”. Clear guidance and protocols must be put in place so that when the economy gradually reopens, businesses act in a socially responsible and safe way and the public fully understands that.”