Coronavirus: Advice and guidance for SMEs as lockdown measures ease and businesses reopen

More businesses are now resuming operations as an influx of customers return to Britain's high streets

Coronavirus: Advice and guidance for SMEs as lockdown measures ease and businesses reopen

More businesses are now resuming operations as an influx of customers return to Britain’s high streets 

As lockdown measures continue to ease, UK businesses are reopening their doors and welcoming customers since the nationwide shutdown earlier in March. The government has continued to implement various schemes to help businesses cope during the coronavirus pandemic. How will businesses adhere to the new social distancing rules? Will customers still fear to return to the shops? And will businesses be able to get back on their feet post-lockdown? 

From July 24, it is mandatory for everyone in the UK to wear a face covering in shops and supermarkets ‘ and those who fail to comply to the new rules can face fines of up to £100. Children and those with disabilities are exempted. Indoor pools and water parks, gyms, sports courts, fitness and dance studios in England were given the green light to reopen from July 25 onwards. While some shoppers may still be nervous, small firms will be hoping that these new measures will inject new confidence into customers and get them back into town centres and high streets across the nation,” said Mike Cherry, National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses.   

The safety of employers and customers are paramount as lockdown measures ease and businesses kickstart operations. Employers have a legal responsibility to protect their employees and other people on site. The government has published eight separate guides covering eight different types of work environments, setting out steps that employers can take to meet health and safety obligations in the workplace during the coronavirus pandemic. The guide is available here.  

However, some businesses may not be able to open yet due to various funding challenges they have faced during the pandemic. Various national grants and schemes are available for small businesses and the self-employed to support them during this difficult time. In addition to national funding, there are also resources to local funding and support which can be accessed via local councils.  

Physical activity and mental well-being of the nation is all the more important during this period. Research from Sport England has shown that 62% of adults currently consider exercise to be more important than ever and 65% of people believe exercise is helping their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. The UK’s Chief Medical Officer said: Anything that can be done to encourage and to allow people to take exercise is clearly a good thing.  

Meanwhile, the government has launched various incentives to help businesses bounce back after lockdown. The government launched an initiative in 2019 to tackle employment inequality across the UK last year. Jobseekers across the UK can benefit from mentoring support designed to help them get into work. The Department of Work and Pensions is now looking for businesses to get involved in its youth mentoring circles initiative. UK-registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £55 million for new projects focusing on sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19 in the Sustainable Innovation Fund. The US Embassy in London is holding a virtual discussion on opportunities for international trade with Dr Sharon Freeman, the President and chief executive of Gems of Wisdom Consulting. She will discuss how a UK US free trade deal could help strip away tariffs and red tape, assisting small firms looking to do business across the pond. The event will take place on July 29. 

The FSB has also taken initiatives to provide valuable tips and information to SMEs during this difficult time. The FSB is hosting a Creative Industries webinar, providing businesses in the sector with information on finance, tips on how to access the new arts sector fund and technology solutions. The webinar will be held on July 31 and attendees must register in advance. Former military personnel can receive some much-needed advice on how to navigate through this challenging economic climate in a networking event held by FSB and X-Force Enterprise taking place August 27.   

As life begins to return to Britain’s high streets, SMEs must implement the necessary guidelines to ensure the safety of their staff and customers. Meanwhile, businesses can seek out funding, grants and various schemes tailored to help ease the transition and restart operations in a post-lockdown world.

Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

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