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‘Simply unworkable’: Hospitality industry rejects idea of Covid vaccine certificates for pubs

PM’s proposal would ‘almost certainly result in breaches of equality rules’, UKHospitality says

Clea Skopeliti
Friday 26 March 2021 09:31 GMT
Vaccine certificates have been suggested as way to remove social distancing meaures in pubs
Vaccine certificates have been suggested as way to remove social distancing meaures in pubs (AFP via Getty Images)

Industry leaders and trade unions have roundly condemned Boris Johnson’s proposal that pubs could refuse entry to customers unable to prove they have been vaccinated, branding the idea “simply unworkable” and warning it would “almost certainly result in breaches of equality rules”.

The prime minister told MPs on Wednesday that whether a vaccine certificate could be required to enter a pub “may be up to individual publicans, it may be up to the landlord”.

Cabinet office minister Michael Gove is currently reviewing the possible use of coronavirus certificates, which the government has suggested could help to remove social distancing rules and reopen the economy.

But the suggestion has led to outcry from leaders in the UK’s hospitality industry as well as unions representing pub staff, who say the idea is unfeasible and likely to create tensions for the workers who have to enforce it.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “It’s crucial that visiting the pub and other parts of hospitality should not be subject to mandatory vaccination certification. It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainly result in breaches of equality rules.

“Through the success of the vaccine rollout we need to throw off the shackles of coronavirus in line with the government’s roadmap – not impose more checks on our ability to socialise and do business.”

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Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, also opposed the move, saying: “Our sector has already gone to extraordinary lengths to prepare for reopening and we do not believe a requirement for pubs to check whether someone has had the vaccine would be appropriate or necessary.”

She added that the association will “continue to work closely with the government in developing guidelines for a safe and sustainable reopening in April and May”.

Nick Mackenzie, the chief executive of the Greene King pub chain rejected the idea, saying that it “would be impractical, could be discriminatory”, and labelling it “unacceptable” for the company’s team members, half of whom are under 25, “to have to police these measures and deal with the fall-out from the significant number of customers who won’t have received a vaccine”.

The potential issue of discrimination was also raised by Adam Mayers, managing director at Hydes Brewery, who said: “This policy would not only be discriminatory against individuals but also pubs.  

“The Conservative party likes to consider itself the of business but it is now the party of business prevention.  The flippant announcement by Boris Johnson will further seed fear and confusion and delay the return of staff and customers alike.”

The UK’s largest trade union has also come out against proposed policy, with Unite slamming it as a “terrible idea” that could put staff at risk of violence.

Dave Turnbull, Unite’s national officer for hospitality, said the policy would mean that pub staff who are untrained in policing entry are “basically expected to act as door supervisors”, which he warned could result in “an increased likelihood of being exposed to violence”.

He added: “It’s a terrible idea that would put bar staff, already dealing with low pay and insecure contracts, into potentially dangerous situations. Unite will be doing everything possible to ensure that our hospitality members are protected from having to act as security staff.”

The GMB union also criticised the move, with Dan Shears, GMB national health and safety director, warning it would lead to “potential violence for pub workers”, and calling on the government to undertake a “full consultation with both employers and workers”.

JD Wetherspoon, whose owner Tim Martin has been a vocal critic of pub closures during the coronavirus pandemic, would not comment on the issue.

Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow business secretary, said it would be wrong to leave it up to landlords’ discretion, telling ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “If this was really a public health measure, you wouldn’t be saying, ‘Well, it is going to be a landlord discretion’ – you’d be saying, ‘This is the government’s view, this is what’s safe’.”

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