South: Back-to-work scheme ‘will fail to get SMEs to the office’

The Government’s back-to-work scheme will fail to get SMEs back into offices and factories because social distancing measures make a productive return impossible.

That’s according to Sharon Wiltshire, UK commercial director, Bibby Financial Services.

She said: “The Government’s latest campaign to encourage people back to the office is understandable, but for many of the UK’s SMEs it is simply impossible.

“Already facing financial challenges and worried about the end of the furlough scheme, many of the country’s SMEs are unable to both bring back their workforce and comply with social distancing measures.

“This is of course having a knock-on effect, preventing them from meeting pre-lockdown levels or productivity, and engaging with new business opportunities. These problems have to be tackled if we want to see SMEs return with confidence and help to secure the UK’s economic recovery.”

Survey data*

    • 26% of SMEs cannot conduct normal operations under the 1m+ distancing rules
    • 32% of SMEs warn social distancing measures have reduced capacity for growth
    • 14% of SME staff have refused to return to work
    • 14% of SMEs don’t have capital to buy supplies to fulfil orders
    • 19% of SMEs have taken on debt to maintain cashflow
    • 49% of SMEs think it will take more than 6 months to reach pre-lockdown levels of productivity
    • 35% of SMEs have brought back some staff from furlough
    • 16% of SMEs want the furlough scheme extended
    • 11% will make redundancies if the scheme is not extended

* The Bibby Financial Services COVID-19 Pulse survey is a poll of 500 SME owners taken from across the UK. Fieldwork for the survey ran from July 10-20 2020. Research is conducted by Critical Research, one of the UK’s leading independent market research companies.