An Open Letter To The Chancellor of the Exchequer
An Open Letter To The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.
The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
1 Horse Guards Road
London SW1A 2HQ
Thursday 7th May 2020
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and furloughed staff
We will keep this brief; we know you have a lot on. Thank you for the Furlough Scheme, it was put in place extremely fast, we are very grateful for this.
Without the Furlough Scheme many SMEs hit by COVID-19 would have no choice but to lay off staff. But with the current rules, we are just kicking that can down the road. When your tap stops, we expect many SMEs will no longer exist, and if they do, they won’t be able to afford to employ these people again. We surveyed 1,000 furloughed employees on their feelings and experience so far, and they shared this fear, over 72% felt their employer will close during COVID-19 and even if the business survives, 59% are fearful they will be made redundant anyway.
Things could be different if Furloughed employees were allowed to continue to work for their employers. For businesses, under the current rules, it’s like our people are on enforced leave (over 6.3 million to date), just when we need them the most! Our loss in revenues means we can’t afford to pay them right now. But we still need their time and expertise to maximise all revenue opportunities, keep our businesses alive, plus get them ready to flourish again when more normal trading environments return. You are already paying our people’s wages. This huge sunk cost could become an investment in our future, if you let us get our people back to work.
The British economy is facing its darkest hours since WWII. Let’s not forget how Britain came through that time – everyone was called on to help in the war efforts, everyone dug deep, women came roaring into the workforce. We are pleased to report this spirit is still alive and well in Britain, with 4 out of 5 furloughed workers feeling a sense of duty to be able to contribute to our economic recovery. Just like in WWII, Britain today needs all hands on deck. Human capital is our greatest resource, we need to invest these resources in our SMEs, now.
The current murmurings about how the government hopes to wean businesses off the Furlough Scheme by reducing the amount paid from 80% of salary to 40%-60%, is also a great concern. If employers are unable to top up their staff’s salaries (which we expect many won’t), over half of those on Furlough don’t believe they will be able to meet their monthly outgoings.
We are confident there is a better way to implement the scheme that reduces government support, by linking the amount paid to the recovery of a business’s revenues. But we need everyone working now to generate our recovery.
This is not about SME’s wanting more, it’s about us wanting to work together to do more. 86% want to roll up their sleeves and contribute to the survival of their employer’s business and their job security. It’s time to let them be part of our collective recovery.
Please allow the workers you are already paying for to return to work and contribute to Britain’s future. Simply change the rule - allow Furloughed workers to work for their employers. Done right, this could be your greatest investment in SMEs.
We will then get everyone working together again, fighting shoulder to shoulder (at a safe distance) to save their jobs, our businesses, and the British economy.
Emma Loisel, Co-Founder and Chair at Volcano Coffee Works
Theadora Alexander, Co-Founder
Chris Green, Co-Founder