It was fantastic to see people flocking back to the high street and into pubs, restaurants and cafes on Monday, as the long winter lockdown gave way to the long awaited second phase of the Government’s roadmap to recovery.
People just wanted to be with other people, to smell the coffee, see and feel the goods and take in the experience of real everyday life. We all know only too well that you do not get any of this staring at and talking to a screen.
I was heartened by the optimism of both business owners and customers as both sets talked not only of what they had missed but looked forward to a new beginning.
The start of a renaissance for our high streets? – let us hope so.
Back to reality with the other news on Monday that the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Trade Confidence Outlook for Q1 revealed the stark issues facing UK exporters in the first months of 2021.
Data from the survey of more than 2,900 exporting businesses revealed that 41 percent reported decreased export sales on the previous quarter. 20 percent did however, report increased export sales with 40 percent revealing no change.
Historically the proportion of firms reporting an increase in sales is at an all-time low and it is this figure which we need to keep an eye on in subsequent surveys.
Respondents cited Brexit and the impact of Covid-19 as the biggest causes of problems in trade with shipping delays, increased cost of transporting goods and extensive paperwork requirements. Worryingly, many saw the problems as structural rather than short-term issues likely to alleviate as companies adjusted to changes in the new EU-UK trading relationship.
In response, the government has set up the £20 million SME Brexit fund, but it will take much more than this to fix the current problems.
The message from Staffordshire Chambers and the BCC is that the difficulties exporters are facing are not ‘teething problems’. They are structural issues that, if not addressed now could lead to long term and potentially irreversible weakness to our export sector.
We are calling ion the UK and EU to get back around the table and produce solutions to reduce trade barriers and give exporters a fighting chance.
Finally, this week also saw the start of Ramadan, the holy month of the Islamic calendar in which Muslims commit to a period of fasting during daylight hours.
Given the physical demands of daytime fasting, staff observing Ramadan may require some adjustments to their working routine, even if they are working from home. This could include altering shift patterns, allowing staff to start and finish earlier in the day to aid with daytime fasting, or amending workplace duties to reduce the chance of fatigue impacting performance or increasing the risk of injury.
It is important to remember that the requirements may affect each person differently, and organisations should refrain from taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to flexible working arrangements.
Here at the Chambers, we are committed to accommodating people from all backgrounds and we have for a long time had policies in place to ensure respect and equal treatment of all our staff.
If you would like any advice on how to accommodate staff during Ramadan please get in touch via the contact details below.
If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org