The Meetings Industry Association has received formal clarification that business meetings and events for up to 30 delegates can take place during the second national lockdown. The association is also pleased that the furlough scheme has been extended by five months.
Jane Longhurst, chief executive of The Meetings Industry Association, said: “We have received confirmation from the Department of Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) that business meetings and events may take place for up to a total of 30 people, if social distancing can be maintained and the venue can demonstrate it has followed the guidance and is COVID-Secure.
“Event spaces can be used for reasons permitted by law, including for education and training purposes where ‘reasonably necessary. We know that the lockdown guidance is left completely to event owners’ and venues’ interpretation of what is ‘reasonably necessary’. However, having received this clarity just hours before lockdown officially commenced, it is likely to already be totally irrelevant to the majority of venues.
“The moment the Prime Minister’s announcement was aired on Saturday evening bookings were lost, including those that would have been considered necessary. Most venues are closed and will now remain closed until 2021. Our focus must now continue to call for dedicated sector support and a firm re-opening date, so that we can start to re-build for 2021.”
Jane also went on to say:“On behalf of the sector we are relieved to hear that Rishi Sunak is extending the furlough scheme UK-wide until 31 March, and that the government will continue to cover 80% of employees’ wages as it gives the financial assurance that will enable businesses to start planning for the longer-term.
“Business meetings and events organisations will only be required to cover national insurance and pension contributions for employees who have been furloughed under the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, similar to the previous arrangement, which was in place in August 2020. The level of support will then be reviewed in January.
“As we currently understand it, employers will be able to claim furlough backdated to 23 September, which could potentially give some in the sector, who have been forced to make redundancies, the chance to consider whether their business can re-employ those staff if they meet the eligibility criteria. (See 2.4 of the guidance.)
“Today’s lifeline gives the sector the time to continue educating the government how our industry can re-open and operate business meetings and events safely and securely, and not be restricted to 30 delegates in attendance. When we are given the green light to reopen, we don’t want the restriction to delegates to still be in place.”