Vaccine rollout boosts confidence among UK SMEs - although some doubt their long-term survival

Confidence among smaller firms in the UK is being boosted by the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, but a quarter are still concerned they won’t survive past 2021, according to new research.

Meanwhile, another study has found that nearly four in ten UK employers have suggested they will be mandating vaccinations within their workplace.

A recent survey by Simply Business, an insurer focused on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), has revealed that nearly two thirds of owners of such firms believe the vaccine rollout is making them more confident about the recovery of their business.

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The findings come as Scotland prepares for further easing of lockdown restrictions this Monday.

A survey has found that 65 per cent of small business owners say the vaccine rollout is boosting their confidence over the recovery of their business. Picture: Andrew Milligan/Getty Images.

Simply Business noted that small businesses account for 99 per cent of all companies and generate a combined £2 trillion in turnover annually. It has found that 35 per cent of SME owners overall feel optimistic about the future – and a quarter believe they will return to pre-pandemic levels by spring or summer 2022.

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But it added that the sustained economic hit from the pandemic, which is set to cost SME owners more than £126.6 billion, has left a quarter unsure about whether they’ll be trading next year.

The survey last month of about 1,200 small business owners also showed that one in five worries that they will have to permanently close their business in 2022 or later, and just under half still live in fear of future lockdowns given the consequences it could have on their organisation.

Simply Business UK chief executive Alan Thomas said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and will be at the heart of our collective recovery. Behind every small business is a small business owner – with families, livelihoods and big dreams. The impact of the pandemic on so many of these individuals has been devastating, both financially and emotionally, so it’s crucial we all continue to support the small businesses in our communities as they reopen.”

Furthermore, Simply Business has launched a Covid-19 support hub, to help the likes of small businesses quickly navigate uncertainty, and determine what financial support and schemes are available.

Separately, HR software platform Employment Hero last month surveyed more than 500 employers and 500 employees in the UK, and found that 84 per cent wanted the vaccine.

Pressure

It added that a “surprising” 37 per cent of UK employers suggested they will be mandating vaccinations within their workplace, and a quarter of workers cited feeling forced to take a jab by their employers. Employees in Scotland, however, were found to be 74 per cent less likely than other cities to feel pressured.

Employment Hero also said three in ten employers are considering the idea of long-term remote working, with an additional 26 per cent saying they would allow more flexibility on the location and/or hours of work. Only 23 per cent said they would return their teams to the office as normal over the next six months.

Ben Thompson, chief executive and co-founder of Employment Hero, is encouraging company bosses not to make assumptions about staff’s resistance to the vaccine or returning to the office. “Share verified information with your employees – and be open to their feedback or risk star talent jumping ship.”

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