On 31 March 2020, Jane Frost, CEO of MRS, wrote her second letter to The Rt. Hon Rishi Sunak, MP Chancellor of the Exchequer.  

Dear Sir,

ONE SIMPLE STEP TO SAVE ONE OF THE UK’S WORLD LEADING SECTORS

The market and social research sector is appreciative of the steps so far taken by the Government to support the UK economy in this unprecedented time.

There are some simple things that can be done to underpin our sector, which do not require new policy initiatives or systems. If you extend the support you have given to the face to face sectors of hospitality and leisure to the market and social research sector, you can still save it from possibly irreparable harm.

Because of the close contact required during the conduct of face to face data collection, qualitative research, ethnographic surveys and home placement and mystery shopping commissions in this sector started drying and being cancelled well before the Government’s advice on social distancing. Indeed, to protect the sector’s workforce and to ensure the continuity of the amazing trust the public shows in research professionals, MRS issued advice to close down face to face projects on 17th March. We believed this was the most publicly responsible step.

However, the overwhelmingly SME businesses in this sector and their suppliers (such as viewing facilities used for qualitative research activities) are not covered by the assistance given to hospitality and leisure businesses despite facing identical problems. For example the 12 month business rates holiday needs to be widened beyond the current scope of retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses to include any business which can no longer operate face to face functions such as research viewing facilities, venues used for public gatherings, training facilities, etc.

Whilst new government initiatives such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is welcome it is not clear whether this applies to research interviewers.  There are thousands of face-to-face interviewers who are workers on zero rated contracts, who work for multiple research organisations not single organisations and pay their tax via PAYE arrangements with the research businesses.  Many of these interviewers are desperate for financial assistance and yet it is still not clear if the furlough arrangements will apply to them and if it does how the scheme will be administered.  

As the professional and trade body for the market and social research sector, MRS stands ready to assist your officials, if necessary, in identifying those businesses in face to face research in need of help. 

The government can help safeguard one of the UK’s world leading sectors if it takes this simple step.

Yours faithfully

Jane Frost, CBE

Chief Executive Officer
Market Research Society

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