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Hauliers have demanded the government explains how its system for paying employees 80% of their salaries is going to work following concerns that it isn’t flexible enough to deal with their industry.

Ian Barclay, operations director at Roger Warnes Transport in Kings Lynn, said the idea of furloughing its workforce – granting them a leave of absence during the Covid-19 pandemic – doesn’t work if parts of a business are seasonal or are experiencing a surge in growth while other parts are in decline.

He said: “We need to flex down and up again, depending on customer demands. What furloughing says is that you put people off, full stop.

“That would work for a factory closing down, it would fund their employees perfectly. But for the transport industry, I don’t think that will work. We don’t know what the demand will be.

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“We have had a few more demands in agriculture: for example, barley for malt to make beer and also on sugar beet pellets. But then what happens when you come out of that season?”

“We need an ongoing ability to flex hours without having to go through the red tape processes.”

Barclay said Roger Warnes Transport was in a strong position, with a low gearing ratio but he added: “What concerns me is dealing with a floodgate of tribunal claims later on.”

The RHA said it was asking the government for “a very substantial package of help” for the haulage industry and that many problems had surfaced since the announcement of 80% grants for employees.

Rod McKenzie, RHA director of policy and public affairs said: “The issues are different from company to company.

“Some are rushed off their feet, some are parked up and there’s not much understanding within government about things like standing charges.

“Furlough needs to be very flexible.”