Two thirds of British businesses have put staff on furlough

The Government’s furlough scheme has been used by two thirds of British businesses, according to a new poll.

Figures released by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have also found that as many as one third of firms have put at least three quarters of their workforces on the Government programme – which covers 80 % of salaries up to £2,500 a month, to mitigate against the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

However only two % of firms surveyed said they had successfully managed to access he Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and concerns are growing about accessing cash to pay wages.

The results were based on 701 responses between April 8 and 10.

BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall said: ‘Businesses on the front line need cash to start flowing from support schemes fast.

‘With April’s payday coming up, we are fast approaching a crunch point, and both the furlough scheme and CBILS facilities need to be accelerated.

‘While we’ve seen a high number of firms furloughing staff in anticipation of the Job Retention Scheme coming online, it is still unclear whether they will start receiving funds before their payroll date, which could exacerbate the cash crisis many businesses are facing.

‘It is essential that the Job Retention Scheme makes payments to businesses as soon as possible. Any delay could mean more livelihoods under threat, more business failures, and more hardship in our communities.’

Last week, the BCC found 71 % of respondents planned to furlough staff at some point.

The scheme will be accessible during the week of April 20, leaving only a short time for funds to reach cash-strapped businesses before payroll is processed, the chambers added.

There were also concerns surrounding cash flow, with more than half the firms reporting reserves of three months or less.

The matter was even graver for about a fifth of businesses with 17% reporting they had less than a month’s worth of cash in reserve.

Just over a third, 36 per cent, said they had between one and three months’ cash the BCC said – broadly similar to the same levels from a week ago.