As many as 41% of the UK workforce have already been furloughed, with a further 4% soon to be, suggests a recent large-scale study exploring the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on UK businesses.

Our research, surveying 1,085 UK businesses between 6th and 16th April, found that 66% of businesses have (60%) or intend to (6%) furlough staff; furloughing, on average, two thirds of their workforce. Providing further evidence of the extensive uptake of the government’s scheme to protect jobs and businesses.

The transport, retail and distribution industries, were the sectors found most likely to furlough their workforce. The significant impact on small businesses was also striking, with 80% of small businesses reporting furloughing or intending to furlough staff.

Further analysis revealed that junior staff are most likely to be furloughed, with 67% of businesses using the scheme for junior team members, compared with 41% furloughing senior staff. Likely reflecting the government cap of £2,500 per month, it highlights challenges for businesses given the higher costs of retaining senior staff.

business team

Unsurprisingly, uptake of the government’s coronavirus business loan scheme has been significantly lower, with only 12% of businesses applying to date; with applications varying from £2K to £2m. Interest might, however, peak once the government’s furloughing scheme expires. Following such widespread uptake of this support measure, many question how long the fund will last. Although, notably, the Chancellor announced an extension today to the end of June.

These measures have been largely well received within the business community, with 58% satisfied by the government’s response to the crisis, versus 21% dissatisfied. Businesses with fewer than 10 employees were less satisfied, likely reflecting the increased threat to their livelihoods.

Alarmingly, the study found that three quarters of UK businesses are concerned about their ability to survive the coronavirus pandemic; with the transport, retail and distribution industries worst affected again.

Commenting on the findings, Matt Barnes, Business and Enterprise Director at IFF Research said:

“Our survey reveals the extent of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses and the UK economy. Businesses are clearly grasping the support offered by the government with both hands. While this has so far meant that businesses view the government’s response to the crisis favourably; it will be interesting to see in our future polling whether this goodwill continues.”

IFF Research is a full-service research agency who help our partners make better informed decisions. Established in 1965, we provide insight to the private, public and voluntary sectors.

To find out more about this study, or to discuss how we can offer insight related to the pandemic and it’s impact on your organisation, your customers, or wider society, contact us today.

Or, for press enquiries, contact Sara Fernie-Jones on sara.fernie-jones@iffresearch.com.