Coronavirus: The damaging impact on SMEs

A fifth of the UK's workforce could be off sick.

by Elizabeth Howlett and Francis Churchill

As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK hits 90 and Europe's largest regional airline Flybe sinks into administration, placing some of the blame on the outbreak, Goldman Sachs warns the country could be pushed to the brink of recession in the coming months.

According to the government’s action plan, released earlier this week, a fifth of the UK’s workforce could be off sick at one time. It urges companies to enact “business continuity plans” and build their resilience.

But for many SMEs – particularly those in the hospitality, events and tourism sectors where job roles are less flexible – this has already meant making layoffs. Tracey Hudson, director at The HR Dept, says many of her clients were already making “quite dramatic changes” to their workforces. “I haven’t seen so many queries about layoffs for quite a few years [since the recession] – that shows the gravity of the impact coronavirus is having on the SME market.”

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