More than 70% of UK firms place staff on furlough

Businesses are using the furlough scheme extensively to save jobs and most are ready to implement safety measures such as social distancing and staggering start times.

Flexible worker

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Three quarters of businesses say they can implement social distancing measures at work while 70% and 80% said they would require three weeks or less to reopen, according to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce.

The BCC Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker weekly survey of over 600 businesses also revealed that 70 per cent agreed they could make provisions for remote working, with 20 per cent saying this was not applicable to their business, and 61 per cent said they could stagger arrival times, with 29 per cent saying this was not applicable to their business.

Just over 70 per cent of businesses surveyed have furloughed a portion of their staff and 73 per cent have  submitted a claim to the government’s Job Retention Scheme and received payment, up from 59 per cent last week. Only 7 per cent of respondents submitted a claim more than six working days ago and are yet to receive payment. Very few businesses have made any redundancies.

Sixty three per cent of firms agreed they could un-furlough staff as restrictions begin to ease, but 36 per cent said they could not.

Over a third (36 per cent) of respondents have either attempted to use the Bounce Back Loan scheme or have plans to access it, but 62 per cent of respondents said they had no intention of applying for a Bounce Back Loan.

Overall, 19 per cent of firms stated they had concerns about repaying the loan. However, this figure rose to 28 per cent among those with less than three months’ cash in reserve, and fell to 14 per cent for those with more than three months’ cash in reserve.

BCC Director General Dr Adam Marshall said: “The Bounce Back Loans scheme has made an encouraging start and will provide help for smaller businesses that are struggling to stay afloat.

“However, as our research reveals, many smaller, cash-strapped firms are unwilling or unable to take on more debt. Government must therefore be ready to further expand existing grant schemes to ensure that as many businesses as possible get access to the support they need.”

Meanwhile, the first day of the government’s grant scheme for self-employed people whose businesses are affected by coronavirus has seen claims worth over £340m. A total of 110,000 people submitted claims worth an average of £3,090 by midday on Wednesday under the new Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, HMRC chief executive Jim Harra said.

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