Rapidly changing pandemic situation calls for flexible and quick response
Due to the rapidly advancing coronavirus pandemic, the authorities are required to implement flexible actions appropriate to the demands of the situation. Infectious disease allowance practices must be streamlined by utilising occupational health care. In addition to restaurants and events, speciality shops are extensively affected by the restrictions. There is still a need for support measures.
The Government’s extensive recommendations on working remotely and avoiding contacts, as well as the latest restrictions on restaurants and events, have a considerable impact on companies in the speciality goods trade and food service wholesale trade.
“The same companies will soon have suffered for two years from the effects of restrictions and the absence of foreign tourists,” says Simo Hiilamo, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at the Finnish Commerce Federation.
The Government’s actions, and especially communicating about them, are perceived by companies as confusing and difficult to anticipate.
“For example, it is impossible for employers to react to a reduced demand for labour and to cancel employees’ agreed shifts at short notice. This causes considerable costs and, at the same time, sales figures are crashing,” Hiilamo says.
Flexibility needed in the practicalities of infectious disease allowance
In order to ensure the continuity of commerce activities, new practices are urgently needed for the issuing of decisions on daily allowances in cases of quarantines and infectious diseases, as large numbers of ill personnel and quarantines affect the ability of both traders and personnel to cope. There is now the risk of sickness absence costs being borne by the companies.
The situation has not been alleviated by the heavily congested testing operations and unclear government guidelines.
“The instruction THL issued yesterday on shortening the quarantine was good and welcome. There is now an urgent need for new practices for the prescription of infectious disease allowance, “says Mari Kiviniemi, Managing Director of the Finnish Commerce Federation.
The right to the infectious disease allowance should be expanded.
“It would be natural and effective to include occupational health care in this work,” Kiviniemi points out.
Cost support is urgently needed, especially in the speciality goods trade
According to the latest retail sector turnover data, many speciality goods trade sectors in particular are going through challenging times. Compared with the situation in 2019, the fashion trade, the bookstore sector and the goldsmithing sector were clearly the sectors hit the hardest by the pandemic. Food service wholesale has also suffered as a result of the restaurant restrictions.
There is still a need for support measures. When preparing cost subsidies for enterprises, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment should not exclude any sector from the scope of the aid.
“Commercial companies that are indirectly affected by official restrictive measures must also be eligible for aid,” Hiilamo emphasises.
A quickly effective method would be to have flexibility in the payment of taxes. There is also a need to facilitate the tax authorities’ payment arrangements, and under these circumstances, the penalty of seven per cent charged by the tax authorities for late payment cannot be considered reasonable.
It is still safe to shop when following the instructions
Despite the prolonged pandemic, the retail sector has been able to follow safe business practices and stores have not been a source of extensive chains of infection. In its risk potential table, THL has also defined retail transactions as situations with low-level risk.
“We continue to ask the customers to follow the instructions for safe shopping in retail stores, as the instructions help them to protect themselves, the store staff and other customers while also ensuring that the transactions are as safe and uninterrupted as possible”, Mari Kiviniemi emphasises.
Safety instructions for customers:
- wear a facemask
- only enter a shop when healthy
- disinfect your hands when entering a shop, cough and sneeze into your sleeve
- keep your distance from others.
- In order to protect the people working in the retail sector, the Finnish Commerce Federation and the Finnish Grocery Trade Association recommend getting the COVID-19 vaccine, unless there is a health-related reason for not getting vaccinated.
Before Christmas, the retail sector reinstated the strong recommendation to wear facemasks. This recommendation covers the whole country. Companies are free to use the mask material produced by the Finnish Commerce Federation in their own stores. With the material, the Federation wants to further strengthen coronavirus-related communications and to support companies, especially in communications related to the use of masks and safe shopping.
“Wear a Mask” store materials for all stores >>
For further information, please contact:
Mari Kiviniemi, Managing Director, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)50 511 3189, email@example.com
Simo Hiilamo, Director, Public Policy and Advocacy, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)50 350 7564, firstname.lastname@example.org