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Business Support in a COVID World

The Government has a number of schemes and services set up to aid businesses and employees during these uncertain times. Recently, it launched the Kickstart Scheme, funding employers to take on 16-24-year-olds who are currently receiving Universal Credit. The Government will also pay an amount for new trainees and apprenticeships, with a bonus for those hiring individuals over 25. There is also the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Bonus, where employers can receive a bonus for retaining staff who were furloughed.

There are a variety of surveys and reports that discuss the support that businesses currently need. One survey is the COVID-19 Impact Survey from Hertfordshire Growth Hub, powered by the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and delivered by us, Exemplas. This survey was aimed at understanding the immediate impact that the pandemic and subsequent lockdown were having on Hertfordshire businesses. The survey concluded that the top three negative impacts were: decreased sales and bookings (83%), cashflow (73%) and access to domestic customers/supply chain (54%). With intelligence such as this, business support providers and those delivering support services are better able to tailor their schemes and services to aid businesses in the way they require.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will end on 31st October, and with it there are large concerns that this could lead to high levels of unemployment. In July, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) stated that the scheme was “an undeniable success in terms of keeping furloughed employees attached to their jobs”. Now with the Job Retention scheme ending, businesses are once again considering redundancies as they prepare for the end of the support scheme.

With many companies losing business and having to furlough staff or make them redundant, the skills those employees had developed were, and still are, at risk after being out of work for a significant period of time. Certain skills can only be maintained with regular use, and if out of work for a long time, those skills start to deteriorate. Skills Support for Redundancy is one Government scheme that ensure employees who are made redundant can access bespoke training and careers guidance to support them with finding suitable employment.

However, despite how effective the scheme may be, according to an article by Business Leader, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) stated that the unemployment rate in the UK grew to 4.1% in the three months to July, the highest level since the end of 2018. With the Government’s furlough scheme coming to an end, the ONS stated that 156,000 people were made redundant in the three months to July, an increase of 48,000 from the three months to the end of May. Being made redundant in these times forces employees to compete for roles in a way they never have before. The already highly competitive market now has a significant upgrade due to the impact of COVID-19 and the loss of business on a grand scale.

The incorporation of flexible and remote working arrangements has allowed many businesses to continue to survive through these uncertain times and keep staff employed. These arrangements are continuing to become the norm throughout the UK.

At Exemplas, as an SME ourselves, we understand the pressures and challenges businesses are experiencing during these uncertain times. Through the projects we deliver, we help to provide businesses with the support and advice they need, while ensuring we stay up-to-date with the latest news, techniques and strategies. Advisory support is at the heart of what we do, and our knowledge becomes an SME’s advantage within the industry. We handle a number of key public sector contracts, including Enterprise Europe Network (part of the Innovate UK family) in the East of England, the Department of International Trade and Hertfordshire Growth Hub. These projects are designed to aid businesses with developing strategies for growth, resilience innovation and internationalisation, and are on hand to support businesses through these uncertain times.