Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Firms ready to embrace ‘new normal’ but government support must adapt, says British Chambers of Commerce

Dr Adam Marshall


Firms are ready for a gradual reopening of the economy but will need continued, adaptable government support during a phased return to work, according to the results of the latest Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker from the British Chambers of Commerce.

The seventh tranche of polling was conducted from 5 to 8 May, prior to the prime minister’s announcement on a roadmap to gradually ease lockdown restrictions and the launch of safe workplace guidance, and the Chancellor’s announcement on the extension of the Job Retention Scheme until the end of October.

Readiness to restart

The vast majority of the 601 respondents continued to report high levels of readiness to restart operations as and when the government eases restrictions, with 89 percent requiring three weeks or less to reopen.

This week the survey revealed new information about whether businesses were prepared to implement measures to protect staff and continue operations during the 'new normal' as restrictions are eased.

  • 75 percent agreed they could implement social distancing measures
  • 70 percent agreed they could make provisions for remote working, with 20 percent saying this was not applicable to their business
  • 61 percent said they could stagger arrival times, with 29 percent saying this was not applicable to their business

Businesses furloughing employees

Data from this week’s Tracker reveals that 71 percent of businesses surveyed have furloughed a portion of their staff, which remains consistent with previous weeks.

The percentage of respondents that have submitted a claim to the government’s Job Retention Scheme and received payment remains high, at 73 percent this week, up from 59 percent last week.

Only seven percent of respondents submitted a claim more than six working days ago and are yet to receive payment. Our results indicate that very few businesses have made any redundancies.

The furlough scheme continues to provide crucial support to businesses and is helping them to avoid redundancies. 63 per cent of firms agreed they could un-furlough staff as restrictions begin to ease, but 36 percent said they could not.

Fieldwork was conducted before the chancellor announced the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of October.

Bounce Back Loans Scheme

Over a third (36 percent) of respondents have either attempted to use the Bounce Back Loan scheme or have plans to access it.

However, 62 percent of respondents said they had no intention of applying for a Bounce Back Loan. Reasons for not attempting to access the scheme varied between firms with more than three months in cash, and those with less than three months.

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

Commenting on the results BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall said: “The Job Retention Scheme has been successful in its aim to protect livelihoods and its extension will come as a huge help and a huge relief for businesses across the UK.

“The government should continue to listen to business and evolve the scheme in line with what’s happening on the ground.

"Further, phased support may yet be needed for companies who are unable to operate for an extended period, or those who face reduced capacity or demand due to ongoing restrictions.”