There are no two ways about it – the Coronavirus pandemic has delivered a huge blow to businesses across the world and with little to no time to prepare, companies of every size are battling against the tide to survive the deadly outbreak.
Out of nowhere, COVID-19 has brought the UK economy to a temporary standstill, with KPMG’s latest quarterly UK Economic Outlook forecasting a 2.6% decline for 2020. Whilst the country cannot escape the impact of the global pandemic, businesses everywhere can take measures to best prepare themselves moving forward.
- Most importantly, as a business, you must take all the necessary steps to keep employees safe.
- If employees at your business can work from home, as an employer it is your duty to enable that to happen.
- For businesses that cannot operate remotely, your business must enforce the 2 metres apart rule and should provide any additional protective equipment, as well as an ample amount of hand washing stations.
- Ban large gatherings on any business premises.
- Restrict all employee travel for work and only allow travel when absolutely necessary.
- Offer guidance on working from home and where possible, provide additional resources to ensure productivity is not impacted, such as additional screens, work phones, and equipment.
- Communicate important updates on statutory sick pay (SSP) regarding Coronavirus.
- If you intend to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, you must designate employees as furloughed workers and notify them immediately. Employees must agree to be furloughed, as any change to the status of an employee remains subject to existing employment law.
- Roll out training for any new technology/software your business intends to use to combat challenges presented by COVID-19.
- Regularly analyse the situation and inform all relevant parties about any changes on an ongoing basis. This includes: Staff, customers, suppliers and the media.
- Ensure direct lines of communication between employees and management so that queries on either side are immediately dealt with. That could mean designating HR personnel to specific departments or having line managers directly responsible for their teams on the matter.
- Invest in technology to connect with customers and clients to offset the impact of social distancing.
- Implement an eSignature process using apps such as DocuSign and Signable. This way, your business can continue to have important sales, employment and order contracts signed off whilst meeting the legal requirements of signing processes.
- Review any commercial contracts you have that could be impacted due to unprecedented delays or closures caused by Coronavirus.
- Communicate immediately with any external parties that may be impacted to ascertain whether there will indeed be issues with the contract, including possible delays, material adverse change, and termination.
- If your business is unable to deliver on contractual obligations due to COVID-19, investigate whether a force majeure event can be applied – seek legal advice on the matter, preferably before taking any other action.
- Currently, there is an increased risk of cyberattacks and cybercriminals are expected to exploit the boost in corporate reliance on digital tools. Protecting your business must be a priority.
- Have your IT department regularly conduct vulnerability assessments.
- Ensure that all employees regularly install the latest updates to any work devices.
- For more information, read our blog on How To Protect Your Business From Cyber Attacks.
- Review all of your business policies to establish what level of cover exists for business interruption and the loss of revenue as a direct result of COVID-19.
- The government declared the outbreak as a “notifiable disease” which is usually a key classification required by most insurers.
- It is predicted that most business interruption policies will only provide cover when coronavirus is found on-site, but all firms should assess their insurance policy to see if they are covered.
- Leading business insurance providers, including Axa and Direct Line, have declared that their policies do not cover losses incurred by Coronavirus.
- Invest in task management apps such as Asana, Trello, Monday, and Easynote as a way to organise collaboration remotely within your teams.
- If you are concerned about productivity dropping due to newly introduced remote workforces, you can invest in tracking apps such as Time Doctor, Roadmap App and Timely.
- To ensure seamless communication continues with your employees, clients, customers, and suppliers, there are apps such as Whatsapp, Skype, Slack and Zoom that will enable you to conduct meetings via video call instead.
- Creating or reviewing your business continuity plan should be a high priority.
- Use this guide for additional help on creating a business continuity plan.
Cash Flow Management
- Access as much cash as possible to get you through what is expected to be some very challenging months ahead. Selling unwanted assets, for example, is one way to top up your cash reserves.
- Be more proactive than ever before when chasing your invoices. Reach out to your customers to find out whether they can pay on time. Many businesses are sadly experiencing the same issue with making payments, so Invoice Finance could be one way in which your business can access unpaid invoices whilst it waits for the economy to stabilise.
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: rather than lay off your workforce, consider furloughing employees instead. The government has pledged to pay 80% of each employee’s wage, up to a cap of £2,500 per month and your business will not be expected to pay this money back.
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme: a new government scheme to help support businesses in need of funding has been launched. It enables SMEs to borrow up to £5m and for the first 12 months of the loan, there will be no interest or lender fees required.
- Cash grants are available to various businesses. If your company meets the criteria, your local authority will be in touch. There is no need to apply.
- Business rates holidays for retail, hospitality, leisure and nurseries have been granted by the government. There is no need to take action – if your business is eligible, the business rates holiday will automatically be applied.
- Statutory Sick Pay(SSP) Refunds: if your business employs less than 250 people, it can reclaim SSP payments for sickness absence due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
- VAT payments have been deferred for three months.
The Chancellor’s £350bn finance package will help many small businesses across the UK, but it is unlikely to be enough to support every business in need of additional funding due to COVID-19. Whilst government support for businesses badly hit by the outbreak has provided some relief for SMEs, there are other options available for companies that are concerned they won’t meet the criteria set out by government officials.
At Nucleus, we remain dedicated to helping support UK businesses. We want to reassure SMEs that we are open for business and thanks to our investment in technology, we can process business loan applications and provide decisions quicker than ever before.
For more SME advice regarding the Coronavirus situation, take a look at the additional resources on our Coronavirus Hub.
1 April, 2020