Businesses are calling for their practical questions to be answered so they can plan to 'restart, rebuild and renew'.

Small businesses are also pressing for support with the costs of adapting for life post-lockdown, such as back-to-work vouchers, 'to allow the limited, safe reopening of their businesses to be financially viable at a time when economic activity is low and cashflow tight'.

The calls for clarity came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation on Sunday evening to set out a conditional plan for the next phase of England’s response to Covid-19.

Andrew Digwood, a partner at York law firm Rollits, and president of the York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: "Most businesses share the Prime Minister's ambition to see more people return safely to work over the coming weeks, and we all want to try to reset and restart the economy of our region as soon as it’s safe to do so.  

"However, the announcement coming as it did on a Sunday evening just before the start of a new working week, could have been clearer, and businesses should wait to see the details of what is intended, in the long document which is to be published later today, before they can sensibly talk to their staff and make any big decisions."

York Press:

"The safety and wellbeing of staff and customers must be paramount, and although the HSE are not presently suggesting any particularly onerous requirements on employers in order to safely start to bring people back to work, equally I don’t think we can expect a return to workplaces on any scale until for example, there is a sense that public transport can be used safely, schools and nurseries can re-open (again with some assurance about safety for all concerned) and employers can get clear and unambiguous advice about their obligations to staff (for example to what extent should they be providing PPE to employees).

"The Chamber, through the British Chambers of Commerce network, is working on behalf of businesses to seek from Government greater clarity on the proposed phased easing of restrictions, the prompt publication of guidance that firms need to follow in order to keep their employees and customers safe, and a clear picture of the future of the business support schemes which have saved many livelihoods in recent weeks.

"For example we know that many businesses want to know what is going to happen about the furlough scheme – will it continue beyond the end of June and in what form?

"The Chamber’s view is that we need government to extend this scheme and also to allow a phased return for staff, perhaps initially on a part-time basis so that companies can start to build up their order books and cash reserves again."

British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall added: “Companies will do everything they can to protect employees and customers, maintain social distancing and operate successfully as more sections of the economy are permitted to re-open.

“Businesses will need to see detailed plans for the phased easing of restrictions, coordinated with all nations across the UK and supported by clear guidance. It is imperative that companies have detailed advice on what will need to change in the workplace, including clarity on the use of PPE.

“Firms will also need to know that government support schemes, which have helped save millions of jobs in recent weeks, will continue for as long as they are needed so that they can plan ahead with confidence.

“The timing of further easing of restrictions must be guided by the public health evidence, but businesses need their practical questions answered so they can plan to restart, rebuild and renew.”

The Federation of Small Businesses which has members across York, North and East Yorkshire, agreed that practical guidance for businesses would be key to reopening the economy safely.

FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “Tackling this virus and ending the threat to public health remain absolutely paramount. But it is also necessary for thought to be given to the future of work and business.

“It is clear from the Prime Minister’s provisional plan that the reopening of the economy is likely to be gradual, and the support for small businesses will need to reflect that.

“For small employers, there should be a way of partially furloughing staff, so that a small business which is only able to get up and running again steadily can bring back workers some of the time, but retain them via the Job Retention Scheme the rest of the time."

Speaking after Borish Johnson's announcement on Sunday evening, Mr Cherry said he was keen to see the detail on workplace guidance today, Monday.

"We have contributed to the Government’s thinking and need to see the result of that if this is to come in any time soon.

“There must also be clarity for businesses in different parts of the UK on where guidance differs between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Maintaining appropriate social distancing, in line with official advice, is vital. Small businesses will need help with the costs of adapting to that, such as through a back-to-work voucher, to allow the limited, safe reopening of their businesses to be financially viable at a time when economic activity is low and cashflow tight.

“Small businesses will need time to adapt after the workplace guidance is published, and for smaller businesses it must be proportionate and focused on the overall outcome of maintaining safe working environments, achieved as straight-forwardly as possible.

“Smaller businesses will need support to help them to comply with the necessary requirements, and some may need financial help to adapt workplaces and purchase personal protective equipment.

“There also remain important practical questions around transport infrastructure and childcare, which are intrinsically linked to efforts to revive the economy while maintaining all necessary health steps to tackle COVID-19.

“As the pandemic’s grip on the UK gradually eases, it is vital for the economy that small businesses – which make up sixty per cent of all private sector employment – are helped and supported to get through this and provide jobs and growth."