Chamber survey: Suffolk firms showing remarkable resilience under new ways of working

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s latest survey into how businesses are responding to coronavirus/COVID-19 indicates that businesses are adapting to the pandemic and finding new ways of working, but greater flexibility with furloughing would be welcomed.

With cash now reaching businesses in the form of local authority grants, and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the number of firms reporting cash flow concerns has fallen for a third consecutive week to 82%.

Furthermore, those worried that their business would close if social distancing/coronavirus continues has also fallen for a third consecutive week and now sits at the lowest level since week 1 at 32%.

However, these numbers still remain high but with the announcement earlier this week of the Bounce Bank Loans, these figures will hopefully continue to fall in the coming weeks.

Although coronavirus/COVID-19 presents many challenges for Suffolk businesses, including accessing customers, stockpiling and changes to supply chains, the number of businesses now working flexibly is at 79%, which highlights that a large majority of firms are adapting to new ways of working during the pandemic.

However, with 70% of firms reporting the furloughing of some staff, businesses would like to see greater flexibility in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to allow for staff to be furloughed part-time in order to allow for some continuity.

Koyas Miah, Trade Business Adviser 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. 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”.

Despite some positive signs in how businesses are adapting, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce continues to work with the wider chamber network and government on ensuring that other businesses are included in the support packages, including those who are unable to access grants, or support for directors who largely pay themselves via dividends, and most crucially, lobbying government for its scenarios of reopening  the economy.

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