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Majority of small firms ready to reopen with social distancing measures in place

The latest tracker poll from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) suggests most small businesses are prepared for the steady reopening of the UK economy.

The BCC’s Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker, which has surveyed the mood of the UK’s small business community each week through the COVID-19 lockdown, found that 75% of small firms were able to reopen with social distancing measures in place.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently unveiled the Government’s roadmap to reduce lockdown restrictions for businesses, with a new safe workplace guidance published.

The vast majority (89%) of small business owners surveyed by the BCC said they would need no more than three weeks to prepare for reopening, implementing new measures to keep staff and customers safe.

Almost three-quarters (70%) of small firms said they could enable remote working, but 20% admitted remote working was simply not an option for their business.

Three-fifths (61%) of businesses are also on board with the idea of staggering the arrival times of employees, although 29% said that this was not possible for their operations.

The number of firms that have submitted claims for the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme during the lockdown has also risen from 59% to 73%.

Although it is encouraging to note that the BCC’s tracker suggests “very few” businesses have been forced to make redundancies thus far, plenty of hurdles remain for entrepreneurs to overcome.

Dr Adam Marshall, director-general, BCC, said: “The Government should continue to listen to business and evolve the [furlough] 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.”

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that cash reserves will be a medium-term issue for many small businesses.

Almost half (44%) of firms still trading between 20th April – 3rd May admitted their cash reserves would keep them afloat for less than six months.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman, of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “Policymakers now need to realise that the economy will not go from zero to a hundred overnight once we’re into the recovery phase.

“The crucial support that’s on offer needs to be kept under review and adapted to reflect the new normal as we chart a course back to economic recovery.”

For our latest COVID-19 news and guidance for your business, visit our dedicated Coronavirus Hub.
We will be updating it regularly as we continue to monitor and digest all the latest information

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