Coronavirus: Firms can plan 'hibernation' to survive virus

Media caption,
Economy Minister Ken Skates has called for action to help firms hit by coronavirus

Businesses in Wales have time to "plan for hibernation" following the UK government's wages pledge, a Welsh minister has said.

Employees unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic will be given 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 a month.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the "unprecedented" measures were part of plans to protect people's jobs.

Welsh Economy Minister Ken Skates welcomed them, having earlier warned firms had "just hours" to survive.

It is understood that the wage subsidy, backdated to the start of March, will apply to firms where bosses have already had to lay off workers due to the outbreak, as long they are brought back into the workforce and instead granted a leave of absence.

The chancellor said the move would mean workers should be able to keep their jobs, even if their employer could not afford to pay them.

Reacting to the decision, Mr Skates said: "Party political differences are suspended and I'm working closely with my counterparts on further support for business.

"It has to deliver at maximum pace - but this announcement today will stop premature decisions being made by business and offer space for them to plan for hibernation through the coming weeks."

Image caption,
"The government is going to step in and help to pay people's wages" said Rishi Sunak

Earlier at a Welsh Government news conference on Friday, Mr Skates said: "Many businesses have just hours, not days, to survive and they cannot wait until next week."

Mr Skates said the Business Wales support line had received just three calls from companies with concerns about coronavirus last Friday, but that number had risen to 1,300 on Monday and was "rising all the time".

But he also urged industry and business leaders to do "as much as they can" to help their workforce.

Mr Skates said: "It's absolutely essential that business leaders do all they can to support their employees, to pay as much as they are able to, to give guidance and support as regularly as possible to communicate positively with their employees."

It is expected that up to a fifth of the workforce could be off work at the peak of the outbreak.

The hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors as well as the creative industries are expected to be particularly badly affected.

Cafes, pubs and restaurants must close from Friday night - except for take-away food - to tackle coronavirus, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

All the UK's nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres have also been told to close "as soon as they reasonably can".

The Welsh Government has announced a package of £1.4bn to support businesses and is working on a fund to support businesses and the self-employed.

'Fight together'

Mr Skates said it was important to celebrate those business leaders who help their communities.

"I am hearing on an hourly basis about businesses that are taking extraordinary actions, not just to support their employees, but to support their communities," he said.

He issued a message of support to firms worried about their survival.

“If you had a good business in 2019, you will have a good business in 2021. If you had a good job in 2019, you will have a good job in 2021," Mr Skates said.

"Here in 2020 we have a battle we must all fight together."

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.