Suffolk businesses call for greater furlough flexibility

Ipswich centre during lockdown Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipswich centre during lockdown Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The flexibility to furlough people part-time would help Suffolk businesses smooth the transition to life after Covid-19 according to a new survey.

According to Suffolk Chamber’s eighth weekly survey, 70% of firms have used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to furlough staff but many would like to see the scheme become more flexible – including allowing companies to furlough people on a part time basis.

Currently the Job Retention Scheme lets businesses furlough employees for a minimum period of three weeks, with the government paying 80% of their wages up to the value of £2,500 per month.

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The employee must agree to be furloughed and is not allowed to do any work for the company – but they may be allowed to complete some training.

Companies do not have to keep on furloughed employees when the scheme ends.

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Koyas Miah, trade business advisor at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “These are incredibly difficult times, but Suffolk businesses are showing a remarkable resilience in how they are adapting to new ways of working.

“The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is helpful support for many businesses but we are seeing increasing numbers of business owners asking for the ability to furlough staff on a part-time basis. “Not only would this help businesses operate during the pandemic, but it could be key to ensuring a smooth transition and recovery phase for the reopening of some businesses.

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“The Suffolk Chamber through our Westminster office, the British Chambers of Commerce are looking at the reopening of some businesses, and we will explore the part-time furloughing issue as part of this.”

The survey suggests that other forms of government assistance are continuing to reach businesses.

Find all of our coronavirus coverage here.

For the third consecutive week the percentage of businesses which are concerned about their cash flow has fallen, now to 82%.

The percentage of businesses concerned they will have to close if coronavirus continues has also fallen and is now 32% – the lowest it has been since the first week of survey.

The weekly poll also found that 79% of Suffolk businesses are now working flexibly during the pandemic.

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