If you don’t furlough, you don’t get help. Is it fair?

Steve Woodman, who runs Woolacombe Food Store in north Devon, wrote to say that he realised a lot of businesses were a lot worse off than his family Londis Convenience Store plus post office counter.

“In these difficult times we find ourselves in a very difficult situation with even more difficult decisions to make. Tourism is the lifeblood of our business but we have a good local trade. We employ a team of 15 in total including the family but we employ more during the season from May to September.

“We are classed as an essential business during this crisis and our team are classed as key workers. We are not a large national supermarket chain, We are a small village store. Things are much quieter for us now. There is also a pharmacy and another small newsagent selling some convenience items that are also still open.”

All the rest are closed.

He adds: “I am giving you the following scenario: Our shop – rateable value between £10k and £51k. a) Staff are key workers b) Full business rates rebate and c) 25k grant.

“We want to keep our team on full pay even if we have to reduce their hours. We can all share the load, keep the shop going even though it is very quiet now and even more importantly give the village its much needed lifeline during this time. If we reduce hours and pay, then things will become very hard for our team.

“Even after this short period of uncertainty our dedicated team are emotionally and physically shattered. If we lay off any of our team on full pay then we could claim back 80% of their pay . They would be safe and secure away from the situation but the rest of the team would still have to face this Covid-19 head on. That is not fair or right. If we keep our full team then we can keep pay the same, reduce their hours to keep them safer, share the load and keep them refreshed and ready to get through this.

“We pay 100% of our team’s pay with no subsidy.”

He points out that, for employees still working, the prospect of seeing colleagues sent home on 80% of salary guaranteed for three months (with the possibility of the employer topping this up) may not sit easily, particularly where their work may put them at greater risk of Covid-19.

Then he says: “Now for example, another shop in the village: rateable value between £10k and £51k. a) Staff are not key workers b) Full business rate rebate and c) 25k grant.

“They can close the business, furlough all of their staff, pay them 100% of their wages and reclaim 80%. Staff are safe and secure and don’t have to face this difficult situation and it only costs the employer 20% of their pay.

“If we could get help with even 50% of our team’s pay it would keep things going. This would also save government/HMRC 30%. Our team would be safer and the village would have its village store to rely on.”

And he concludes: “Government has done really well in handling this crisis but this is something that we think they have not really thought through. This will apply to every other similar convenience store.”