Confusion and concern for SMEs as ‘Freedom Day’ approaches

Confusion and concern for SMEs as ‘Freedom Day’ approaches

It has been confirmed that ‘Freedom Day’ will go ahead next week as promised; unlocking England’s economy and lifting almost all virus-related restrictions – a move which will allow pubs and restaurants to operate at full capacity and nightclubs to open their doors. However, against a backdrop of Covid-19 cases surging across the UK yet again, Britons have been urged to keep wearing face masks in crowded, indoor spaces.

A new poll from small business insurance provider, Simply Business, reveals the mixed feelings this milestone is creating for SMEs and the self-employed. Over half (53%) of those polled believe social distancing restrictions are being lifted too soon. The concern is so great that almost 1 in 3 (30%) small business owners will retain social distancing and reduced capacity within their businesses.

The government decision to recommend the continued use of face masks in crowded indoor spaces represents a shift towards a more cautious reopening where personal responsibility has an increasingly large role to play. Almost half (47%) of small business owners think the responsibility for a safe unlocking should be shared by businesses and individuals.

However, the lifting of restrictions is understandably leaving small business owners with a headache and 29% think there should be clearer guidelines provided to help small businesses reopen safely.

This latest challenge comes after a previous 2021 study by Simply Business showed that Covid-19 will cost SMEs an estimated £126.6 billion in total – double what owners predicted it would cost them when asked a year ago. With six million SMEs in the UK – accounting for over 99% of all businesses, 33% of employment and 21% of all turnover – this £127 billion hole in the books of small businesses represents a huge blow to the economy.

Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business, comments:No business, big or small, has been able to escape the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 16 months of restrictions, lockdowns, and uncertainty were always likely to take their toll. But the scale of the impact felt by the self-employed is abundantly clear from our latest research which shows Covid-19 will cost SMEs an estimated £126.6 billion – double what owners predicted it would cost them when asked a year ago. 

“Small business owners’ hopes for Freedom Day are at risk of turning to fears, with over half of SMEs saying restrictions are being lifted too soon. Given the rising number of cases, it comes as no surprise that there are strong calls for clearer guidance on how to safely manage a full reopening of businesses. Small business owners need clear, consistent guidelines but the onus on personal responsibility breeds confusion. SMEs aren’t public health experts with the ability to gauge the threat of a disease. 

“SMEs account for over 99% of all British businesses and contribute £2 trillion to our economy every year. They’ve been among the hardest hit by Covid-19 lockdowns and will prove central to our collective economic recovery. With one in 10 small business owners not confident in resuming trading after 19 July, it’s vital that we support small businesses through this latest – and possibly confusing – period of recovery from the pandemic. That’s why we’re giving away £25,000 to help one small business bounce back from the effects of Covid-19.”

Simply Business are giving away £25,000 to one small business owner as part of their Business Boost campaign – people can enter the competition online here.


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