Responding to the Prime Minister’s COVID-19 update yesterday, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “Tackling this virus and ending the threat to public health remain absolutely paramount. But it is also necessary for thought to be given to the future of work and business.

“It is clear from the Prime Minister’s provisional plan that the reopening of the economy is likely to be gradual, and the support for small businesses will need to reflect that.

“For small employers, there should be a way of partially furloughing staff, so that a small business which is only able to get up and running again steadily can bring back workers some of the time, but retain them via the Job Retention Scheme the rest of the time.

“We look forward to seeing more detail tomorrow on workplace guidance. We have contributed to the Government’s thinking and need to see the result of that if this is to come in any time soon.

“There must also be clarity for businesses in different parts of the UK on where guidance differs between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Maintaining appropriate social distancing, in line with official advice, is vital. Small businesses will need help with the costs of adapting to that, such as through a back-to-work voucher, to allow the limited, safe reopening of their businesses to be financially viable at a time when economic activity is low and cashflow tight.

“Small businesses will need time to adapt after the workplace guidance is published, and for smaller businesses it must be proportionate and focused on the overall outcome of maintaining safe working environments, achieved as straight-forwardly as possible.

“Smaller businesses will need support to help them to comply with the necessary requirements, and some may need financial help to adapt workplaces and purchase personal protective equipment.

“There also remain important practical questions around transport infrastructure and childcare, which are intrinsically linked to efforts to revive the economy while maintaining all necessary health steps to tackle COVID-19.

“As the pandemic’s grip on the UK gradually eases, it is vital for the economy that small businesses – which make up sixty per cent of all private sector employment – are helped and supported to get through this and provide jobs and growth in the future.”