Two-fifths (39%) of firms don’t have a contingency plan in place to deal with the coronavirus, according to a survey.
The poll, conducted by the CIPD and People Management magazine, found firms are still unprepared for the impact Covid-19 will have on operations.
Over a fifth (21%) of respondents, made up of HR and senior business professionals, said their business’s level of pandemic preparedness – such as a formal policy and business continuity plan – was “non-existent”, while 29% said theirs was uncomprehensive.
Nearly three quarters (74%) had restricted business travel in some capacity, reflecting research which found the virus could cost the global business travel industry $46.6bn per month as companies cut overseas meetings.
Meanwhile, the UK’s chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a temporary coronavirus “business interuption” loan scheme offering SMEs up to £1.2m each to help firms pay staff salaries and bills, as part of the 2020 Budget.
“There is likely to be a temporary disruption to our economy. On the supply side, up to a fifth of the working-age population could need to be off work at any one time and business supply chains are being disrupted around the globe,” he said.
“This combination of people being unable to work and businesses being unable to access goods will mean that for a period our productive capacity will shrink.”
Sunak also announced the government would meet costs for firms with fewer than 250 staff to provide statutory sick pay for two weeks. Business rates in England for firms in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors valued below £51,000 will be suspended for a year.
The provisions in the Budget followed an emergency cut in interest rates announced by the Bank of England. Rates were reduced from 0.75% to 0.25%.
Separately, data from IHS Markit found labour shortages have prevented many Chinese factories from returning to full capacity.
Millions of workers returned to their home provinces for the Lunar New Year, but travel restrictions put in place following the outbreak have prevented employees from returning to work.
“Among the top 500 manufacturing enterprises, average capacity utilisation has reached only 62.2%. A particularly low utilisation rate of 25% has been recorded within the computer equipment manufacturing sector,” it said.
IHS Markit believed “production will continue to be constrained through March”, but the manufacturing sector will see a rebound later in the year, once workers have fully returned.
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