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Almost 50% of firms to furlough staff next week

Nearly half of all UK businesses (44%) will furlough at least half of their workforce over the next week, The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have warned. 

Following the government’s pledge to cover 80% of a furloughed employee’s salary up to £2,500 a month, 32% of respondents said that they were planning to furlough 75%-100% of their workforce over the next week, the BCC’s new Covid-19 Business Impact Tracker found.

More than a quarter of firms (26%) were not due to use the scheme in the next week.

The new tool also revealed of businesses are quickly running out of money: 62% have three months’ cash in reserve or less, while 18% reported having less than a month’s worth of cash. Only 6% of respondents reported having more than a year’s worth of cash in reserve.

BCC director general Adam Marshall said: “The coronavirus pandemic has taken a heavy toll on business and economic activity across the UK.

“While businesses have welcomed the unprecedented size and scope of the government support packages, our findings highlight the urgent need for that support to reach businesses on the ground as soon as possible. The majority of firms cannot wait weeks or months for help to arrive.

“There’s no escaping the scale of the challenge UK businesses are facing, yet many are already finding ways to contribute to the national effort to tackle coronavirus. Chambers and their members are working together to play their part, including gathering unused PPE equipment from local businesses and delivering them to the NHS. I’ve no doubt we will see further examples of resilience and innovation – the hallmarks of the UK business community – in the coming weeks and months.”

The BCC says its new tracker will serve as a barometer of companies’ response to the government’s measures and changes to working practices over the next few months. It will also track how quickly new government interventions, introduced to deal with the real-world impact of this crisis, are getting to the businesses at the front line.

The first set of polling was conducted on 25-27 March and received responses from more than 600 businesses. It revealed that “a majority of firms” had recorded a significant fall in revenue from both the UK and overseas.



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