71% of businesses furlough staff in UK

LONDON, April 18, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A woman walks past a closed shop on Camden High Street in London, Britain, April 17, 2020. Another 847 people who tested positive for COVID-19 have died in hospitals in Britain as of Thursday afternoon, bringing the total number of coronavirus-related deaths to 14,576, the Department of Health and Social Care said Friday. (Photo by Tim Ireland/Xinhua/IANS) by .
A woman walks past a closed shop on Camden High Street in London. (Photo by Tim Ireland/Xinhua/IANS)

Around 71 per cent of UK businesses have furloughed staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic, up from 66 per cent last week, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said.

The latest BCC Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker released on Wednesday showed that 30 per cent of respondents said they have furloughed between 75 and 100 per cent of their workforce, while 28 per cent have not, reports Xinhua news agency.

“The vast majority of businesses surveyed have furloughed a proportion of their workforce, and are awaiting funds from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as payday approaches for many,” said the national body.

According to the scheme launched by the Treasury in March, the government would cover 80 per cent of wages for employees who have been unable to work due to coronavirus, up to 2,500 pounds ($3,084) a month.

Meanwhile, the survey revealed that cash flow would be a significant concern for many businesses, with “59 per cent of firms reporting that they have three months cash in reserve or less”.

Noting over 70 per cent of businesses will be using the furlough scheme in some form, Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, said “it’s absolutely crucial that it delivers”.

“It is now critical that payments from the furlough scheme reach businesses as smoothly and as quickly as possible in order to protect jobs and livelihoods,” Marshall said.

In March, among other measures, the British government pledged to provide 330 billion pounds of loans and guarantees to businesses in a bid to support firms getting through the tough times as the coronavirus outbreak escalates in the country.

The UK has reported 134,638 coronavirus cases, with 18,100 deaths.