Most firms could be ready to restart operations in less than three weeks

May 6, 2020 @ 10:13 by Richard Dawson

Amid signs that the UK lockdown could be eased in the coming weeks, a British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) survey suggests that the vast majority of firms are ready to ‘restart’ within three weeks.

The BCC Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker is a weekly survey of businesses right across the UK and this week asked how long firms would expect to need to restart operations.

It found that smaller businesses may be able to restart more quickly, with 64 per cent of respondents who employ less than 10 people saying they would need less than one week, compared to 50 per cent of respondents employing more than 50 staff.

For firms of all sizes, 25 per cent said they would not need any notice, 35 per cent said they would need less than a week, 29 per cent said they would need one to three weeks, while 7 per cent said they would need three to six weeks and just 3 per cent said they would need more than 3 weeks.

By sector, 68 per cent of business-to-business service firms said they would need less than one week or no notice to restart operations, compared to 50 per cent of business-to-consumer service firms.

The number of firms accessing the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) remains consistent with previous weeks, with around 74 per cent of respondent furloughing a portion of their staff.

Since the scheme’s online application portal opened on April 20, the vast majority (59 per cent) of respondents have submitted a claim and received payment from HMRC.

BCC Director General, Dr Adam Marshall, said: “Over the coming days, business communities will require clear forward guidance from Government on plans to re-open parts of the economy, transport networks, schools and local services.

“Our results show that businesses’ ability to restart quickly varies by company size, and by sector.

“For these reasons and more, it will be crucial for the Government to maintain and evolve support for businesses, to give as many firms as possible the chance to navigate a phased return to work.

“While the fight against coronavirus must remain the top priority, the communication of plans for the easing of restrictions must also begin immediately.

“The Chamber Network will continue to work constructively with governments across the UK to plan a coherent path forward.”

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