Convenience stores across the country have welcomed the launch of the government’s new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which went live on 20 April.

Staff in store

However, with most stores still “working flat out” to meet unprecedented demand for their products, many retailers say that furloughing staff is not currently an option, with “all hands needed on deck.”

Employers can now submit their applications for funding for a grant to cover 80% of furloughed workers’ wage costs up to a cap of £2,500 per month, as well as National Insurance and auto-enrolment pension contributions for that wage.

However, Andrew Thornton, owner of Thornton’s Budgens in Belsize Park in London, said there was “no chance” of the store furloughing anyone any time soon. “We are all hands on deck and have recruited new people to cover for team being ill or self-isolating,” he told C-Store.

Samantha Coldbeck of Premier Wharfedale in Hull also said that furlough was not currently an option.

“We made it very clear to all the staff at the start that we wouldn’t be offering furlough as demand would be high for our services and we’d need everyone working to fulfil delivery orders and manage delivery,” she said.

Mike Dorey of Eastcome Stores in Stroud, Gloucestershire, which is currently experiencing high demand for its home delivery service, also said that he did not currently need to rely on the furlough scheme but he would use it if necessary, should the situation change.

“We were very clear with our team from the outset that there was no expectation for any of them to work if they felt uncomfortable,” Mike added.

“Fortunately, we also have some stoic people working with us and they were all willing to do their bit for us and their community.”

However, Rachel Hockmeyer, owner of Hockmeyer Motors (Spar) in Sleaford, Lincolnshire has had to furlough 12 members of staff after closing the businesses’ garage workshop and coffee shop.

“Sales in the Spar store are high and our home delivery service is extremely buoyant but we have had to furlough staff from the other sides of the business,” Rachel told C-Store.

Thanks to a wealth of support and advice from various trade associations including the Association of Convenience Stores and “a very good accountant,” Rachel said the furlough process was proving “smooth” to implement.

“The emails and advice that we have received from HMRC, including the offers of free webinars and Youtube recordings, has also been very good,” she said.

“I feel lucky that we have so much wonderful support and I honestly don’t think the government could have done much more,” she added.

The eligibility cut-off date for furlough has been extended to anyone who was on payroll on or before 19 March 2020 and the scheme will now be open for applications until the end of June. You can apply here.

The government has stated that there will be a period of six days between submitting an application and receiving funds while fraud checks are completed.

Businesses should receive funds to pay furloughed employees before the end of the month if their application is submitted by 22 April.

For more information and support, visit our Shopsafe coronavirus microsite.