Rik Hellewell, the founder and managing director of oven valeting franchise Ovenu, has written to Business Secretary Alok Sharma urging him to examine an Australian initiative that is already helping tradespeople return to work responsibly and safely.
As part of a phased reduction to lockdown restrictions in the UK, he is calling on him to introduce an online training module to cover the fundamentals of COVID-19 infection prevention and control to help more small and medium-sized businesses make a gradual return to work.
However, he insists the initiative should support rather than replace the strict social distancing measures and be used in conjunction with government advice on avoiding the spread of infection.
The Australian government is allowing the owners of small and medium businesses to access an online training course which was designed for medical staff and those working in the healthcare sector.
Having passed the course, tradespeople are able to display their certificate which encourages public confidence in their ability to remain safe while working.
In the letter, Mr Hellwell said: “The lockdown appears to be having its desired effect and it may be time to turn our thoughts to the gradual easing of restrictions.
“This initiative is an additional measure that would give people the necessary confidence to invite reliable, professional and certified tradespeople into their homes.
“I urge you to recognise the value of this easily accessible training tool and ask you to support its introduction in this country. Encouraging more people back to work will surely mitigate the worst effects of the recession that surely awaits us.”
Ovenu operates more than 100 franchises across the UK, the majority of whom are owner operators, currently unable to earn a living and contribute to the nation’s economy – despite a demand for their oven cleaning services.
However, the company’s franchisees in Australia are already returning to work having completed and passed its government’s online COVID-19 training programme.
There, they are displaying their certificates on their vans as a way of highlighting to both the public and their clients that they are taking every measure possible to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Rik said: “Our franchisees in this country are prudent tradespeople who, prior to the lockdown, were already following social distancing measures as well as cleaning down equipment, work surfaces and their vans.
“I believe the introduction of a similar online training programme here would add a further layer of protection that could enable all tradespeople to return to work in a responsible and safe manner and resume delivering the services people require – in most cases with minimal or zero human contact.
“It may have to be phased in over a period of time or might initially apply to certain service sectors or client groups, but the government must think about the best way it can get more people back to work and begin to refuel our drained economy.”