Small firms in England are hoping for an end to the “chopping and changing” of Covid restrictions.

Looking ahead to today’s expected announcement from the Prime Minister on Covid restrictions in England, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national chair Mike Cherry said: “Small firms right across England will be hoping that this week definitively marks the end of chopping and changing restrictions that have blighted them over the past two years.

“Lockdowns have proved devastating for our small businesses. The priority now must be containing the virus and protecting community wellbeing whilst avoiding the need to shut down the economy entirely.

“As we learn to live with Covid, it’s important that we all respect the house rules that each unique small business has in place to keep staff and customers safe – many have invested thousands in safety measures. Support and swift, clear guidance remain key – small employers need to know exactly where they stand with regards to this new normal.

“The need for business support with regards to the pandemic will not disappear when restrictions do; containing this virus is clearly still a priority. Small firms should not be out of pocket when they support staff who are unwell. That’s why we’re urging the Government to expand and make permanent the existing statutory sick pay rebate for small businesses.

“It’s important access to testing is still maintained for when people feel ill, and the infrastructure surrounding it should not be immediately discarded, so that it can be deployed when new variants appear. Government should also be assessing the effectiveness of its existing Covid business support schemes ensuring that, if needed in the future, they are sufficient, widespread and quickly distributed.

“Our economic recovery is still fragile. Firms now find themselves bracing for an April flashpoint when a regressive jobs tax hike is set to take effect alongside a grab on dividend income, fresh business rates bills, a rise in the living wage and the end of residual Covid support measures such as a lower rate of VAT for hospitality. While scrapping the increase in NICs would be a huge relief, increasing the Employment Allowance by a quarter, to £5k, would go some way to offset the worst of the pain for small employers.

“Before then we’ll have the Chancellor’s Spring Statement. Our recovery will hinge on it being a pro-business one.”