Staff safety remains priority as Peterborough businesses prepare for Freedom Day

Business chiefs in Peterborough have welcomed the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions but vow the focus will remain on staff welfare.

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 6:03 am

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge on Monday to lift all Covid-19 restrictions on the so-called Freedom Day, July 19, has given a lifeline to events-based businesses, travel agents and the hospitality sector.

But the scrapping of work from home rules, the mandatory wearing of masks and social distancing will leave employers to decide how best to protect the health of staff given the general acceptance that Covid-19 will not go away.

Jason Lunn, venue director of the East of England Arena and Events Centre, in Peterborough said: “We are delighted to hear the news of the government’s lifting of restrictions that have held the events industry in check for over a year.

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Former Thomas Cook IT programme manager Steve Bentzen is chief executive and former Thomas Cook IT project manager Jemma Sharman is chief information officer.

“We are looking forward to hosting more events at the venue as the summer progresses and with larger attendances.

“We will, of course, proceed with the safety of our customers, visitors and personnel as a priority. It’s good to be back.”

Despite many restrictions, the venue has successfully delivered a number of outdoor events including the East of England Antiques Fair, The National Garden Railway Show 2021, The National Motorhome and Campervan Show and East of England Autofest.

Mr Lunn added: “We are now working with organisers to ensure that we have a successful summer and autumn including The East of England Championship Dog Show, The Devitt MCN Festival, Truckfest 2021, Equifest, The Land Rover Owner Show and Crafting Live as well as a range of indoor trade shows, conferences and corporate events.”

Jason Lunn, venue director at the East of England Arena and Events Centre.

British Sugar, which employs more than 300 people at its offices in Cyrus Way, Hampton, Peterborough, says it will adapt Government advice for its workplaces ahead of July 19.

A British Sugar spokesperson said: “Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, we have taken all possible steps to ensure the safety of our colleagues, while keeping production running so that we can keep our customers supplied and play our part in feeding the nation.

“Our office in Peterborough was closed for much of the pandemic but has been open on a limited basis since May with social distancing in place.

“Keeping our people safe is our number one priority and we will maintain this in line with the latest Government advice, which we will adapt for our own workplaces ahead of the changes on July 19.

“Whilst some measures may end or become voluntary there are improvements we have introduced during Covid - like the digital connectivity between our sites and the cleaning protocols - that we will retain.”

Insurance giant The BGL Group, which employs about 1,400 staff at its head office in Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, and its call centre at Bretton, is preparing for the full reopening of its offices on July 19.

A spokesperson said: “BGL’s offices will fully reopen on July 19.

“We will keep some of our Covid-19 safety measures in place, such as enhanced cleaning regime, screens on desks and hand sanitisers.

“As we all learn to live with Covid-19, we’ll also constantly monitor infections and increases and be ready to act quickly if we need to revert to partial or full remote working at any of our sites or parts of our sites.

“We are encouraging our colleagues back, we think it’ll be 50/50 for most people, as we think some things like collaboration, social interaction are better in person.

“We have also launched a new approach entitled ‘Locate for The Day’.

“There have certainly been a lot of learnings this year with remote working but I think most people are keen to get back to interacting with their teams in person.”

It has also been a tough time for the travel industry faced with seemingly ever changing rules around quarantine and safe destinations.

Steve Bentzen, who created Sunny Heart Travel in Peterborough last October, between lockdowns, said: “We have a lot of expansion ideas, primarily involving staff.

“We have a large folder of CVs, mainly from ex-Thomas Cook staff and a wealth of bookings will mean we can implement these growth plans.

“I’m certain that the need to quarantine increased everyone’s nervousness when it came to travel.

“Replacing amber countries with vaccination proof instead of quarantine should remove a major obstacle.

“There are still some restrictions that may mean travel won’t yet return to normal, like the cost of tests and the green watchlist, but hoteliers are desperate for British holidaymakers, and so the prices we are being offered by hotels are unprecedented.

“I’m quite confident that there’s plenty left of 2021 to recover the industry to workable operational levels.

He added: “2022 is looking good for bookings already.”