Weekly Digest – 15 September 2021

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

UK Sets Out Pandemic Plan for Fall and Winter

The government outlined policies to tackle the COVID-19 crisis for the fall and winter. The plan is primarily aimed at avoiding further lockdowns.

The five pillars of the fall-winter COVID plan involve vaccine uptake, test, trace and isolate, supporting the NHS and social care, government guidance and communication, and an international approach to the pandemic.

There was also mention of support for those self-isolating, including free PCR testing and symptom-free lateral flow tests. Furthermore, contact tracing through the NHS test and trace system is set to continue, and financial and practical support will be provided to eligible individuals.

£650 Billion Infrastructure Investment

The government set out how £650 billion of private and public investment will be implemented in infrastructure projects across the country over the next decade. The record infrastructure investment will support 425,000 jobs a year.

UK Economy Grew Just 0.1% in July

Latest data from the Office for National Statistics showed the UK economy barely grew between June and July, as rising COVID-19 cases and supply-chain issues impacted economic recovery. The 0.1% growth in GDP was well below the 0.6% economists polled by Reuters had been expecting and the 1% expansion in June.

The Services sector, which accounts for about 80% of the economy, registered zero growth. Significant declines in retail output and law firms offset growth in outdoor events.

UK Payrolls Hit Pre-Pandemic Level

The number of workers on company payrolls rose above pre-pandemic levels as vacancies hit a record high with companies battling staff shortages created by Brexit and lockdowns. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics showed a 35% increase in job openings in the quarter, as it reached 1.03 million. This is the first time this figure has risen above a million.

The latest data suggests that the labour market remained buoyant over the summer even amid the resurgence in COVID-19 cases and supply disruptions that significantly impacted economic growth.

COVID Local Support Grant Extended

The government’s COVID Local Support Grant has been extended until September, bringing it in line with the end date for furlough and other COVID-related support. The funding is ring-fenced so that 80% is used to support families with bills for food, key utilities and other essentials.

Cash Boost For Apprentices

Employers of all sizes in England can apply for additional funding to help them take on new apprentices. The boost to the apprenticeship incentive scheme has been available to claim from 1 June. Businesses can apply to claim £3000 for each new apprentice hired as a new employee from 1 April until 30 September.

Recovery Loan Scheme

The government’s Recovery Loan Scheme helps companies access loans of £25,000 up to a maximum of £10 million. The loans will include 80% government guarantee and interest rate cap of 14.99%.

This is in addition to the extended furlough until 30 September and the New Restart Grants scheme.

Job Retention Scheme Running Until End of September

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will run until 30 September 2021. It will remain unchanged until the end of June, and a phased reduction in the level of funding will be implemented from 1 July 2021.

Currently, employers can claim grants equal to 80% of a furloughed employee’s reference pay. Grants for each worker are capped at £2,500 per month.

For claims starting 1 July 2021, the grant will be reduced to 70% of the reference salary and capped at £2,187.50 per month. It will be further reduced to 60% of the reference salary with a cap of £1,875 starting 1 August 2021.

You can read more about it here.

SME Brexit Support Fund

A £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund has been announced to help businesses adjust to new customs, rules of origin, and VAT rules when trading with the EU.

Traders will be able to apply for a grant of up to £2,000 to pay for practical support for importing and exporting. This fund will help businesses prepare for the implementation of import controls that will take effect from April and July.

More details can be found here.

Kickstart Scheme Grant

  • Provides funding to create new job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit
  • Covers 100% of the National Minimum Wage (or the National Living Wage) for 25 hours a week for a total of six months
  • Also covers National Insurance contributions
  • Employers can spread the start date of the job placements until the end of December 2021

More information can be found here.

How Business Leaders Can Prevent the “Great Resignation”

The pandemic has turned our lives upside down, and many of us are responding by making significant changes in our personal and professional lives. With people becoming increasingly confident that they can find better work, the “Great Resignation” has ensued.

This Forbes article outlines some ways employers can stop the mass exodus:

  • Listen and learn. Gauge your employees’ well-being. Check how they’re doing on a regular basis and find out what they need for personal and professional growth.
  • Coach to mitigate burnout. Many people leave their jobs because of burnout. So review your wellness benefits or consider adding more. You might also want to identify at-risk staff and offer mental health hours to step away from work.
  • Invest in flexibility. It might not be easy for small businesses to provide extremely high pay, but you can at least offer work flexibility. If you can ease up on conventional standards of when and where your employees work, they are more likely to stay.

In a nutshell, it boils down to one thing: put your people first. If you need more focused business advice, get in touch with us today and let’s work out a plan!

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