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Call to all marketplace sellers: Please do not lay off staff

By Chris Dawson March 23, 2020 - 11:33 am

We’ve heard from a large number of sellers who have run perfectly viable businesses for years, decades in some cases, who have seen sales drop to zero, or close to zero, and we know you are facing the hard decision to lay off staff and shut down now or carry on trading and go bust later. Today we are appealing to you not to lay off staff.

We know so many sellers are heartbroken to see their businesses fail overnight as well as facing incredible financial pressures. We also know your business is still perfectly viable, or at least will be as soon as the Coronavirus crisis is over so today we want to emphasise that the government help to pay wages does apply to you and your staff.

All businesses, no matter how large or small, are eligible for government help to pay 80% of staff wages if they are on PAYE. Even if your staff are on zero hours contracts you are still eligible for help to pay their wages. The amount will be based on 80% of their February earnings before the crisis took hold in the UK.

It’s not everyone who is negatively affected – as always there are winners and losers and some businesses are booming and will continue to do so. Anyone selling garden furniture, garden toys, barbeques, hot tubs etc and home office furniture and home improvement products are likely to see record breaking years and if that you then your biggest problem is likely to be sourcing enough stock. It’s highly likely that even if people hadn’t booked summer holidays that they have already taken the decision that they won’t be doing so this year even if the crisis is over, and they’ll be wanting to make the most of working from home and enjoying their gardens if they have

For many however, if you have seen sales plummet to such a level that it’s no longer viable to trade through the current crisis we would like to ask you not to lay off staff and make them redundant. The government have promised to assist you and if your staff are on PAYE then you can furlough them and put your business on pause. The government will fund up to 80% of your staff’s wages and this means that when you are able to restart your business you’ll still have your loyal fully trained staff ready to go. They’ll know exactly what to do to run your business and you’ll want them back as starting up again after a break is still going to be a challenge as consumers slowly start to pick up their normal lives again.

The government have promised to have the 80% salary scheme up and running within weeks, but it will be backdated to the 1st of March. Even if you have already had to lay off staff, it’s understood that if you bring them back onto the company payroll the scheme will still apply.

The alternative is stark – the country and indeed the world will get over the pandemic, although things will have changed and many will have lost loved ones. Your staff are probably just as worried as they’ll have food to buy and rent to pay so give them as much reassurance as you can. The government have promised to do whatever it takes and it’s time for businesses to also tell their staff they to will do whatever they can to look after their workers including keeping them on the payroll and applying for government assistance as soon as the scheme is up and running.

Frankly, although it’s not ideal, your staff will very much appreciate you telling them to go home, they are still employed, you don’t have the cash for the March payroll but pay will be backdated to the 1st of March as soon as Government funds come through if the alternative is to be sacked. However that’s probably technically illegal and most viable businesses should have funds for their March payroll – if not measures from the likes of eBay and Etsy offering to defer fee payments for 30 days should help free up some cash to assist with looking after your staff.

We know that many of you are also self employed and this is an even more difficult time as the government are still trying to figure out how to assist and have said that its operationally difficult. The self employed don’t have a regular pay cheque and some will make all their money in just a few months of the year whilst others have income spread out across a full 12 months. Currently the fall back position is benefits but around £400 a month and deferred tax bills won’t even pay most people’s rent let alone food and essentials like mobile phone and car payments. Doubtless there will be more news in the coming days and we’ll update you as soon as we can.

  • Maciej
    5 months ago

    “The amount will be based on 80% of their February earnings before the crisis took hold in the UK.”

    Do you have a source of this info?

    • 5 months ago

      Not yet that I can link to. But it will cover basic regular pay (not bonuses or commissions), will be subject to normal NI and Income Tax and employers can top up to 100% if they wish to (and can afford to) but are not obliged to do so.

      Full details to come as HMRC work to build a portal for employers to register their employees as furloughed in order to claim the grants for them.

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