Big travel companies and airline firms are bracing for major losses, Flybe and Thomas Cook have closed, Sir Richard Branson says the airline industry needs £7.5bn to keep operating
With thousands of jobs at risk thanks to the government’s lockdown response to the Corona Situation, and a huge slump coming for all holiday related industries in 2020, airlines and other large businesses will be first in line for hefty tax funded handouts from the Government.
And for the small business and sole trader, who thrive on a local economy with a bustling community life, what is there to help them?
Felicity Neyme runs an award-winning French and Spanish tutoring business, Mini French, producing interactive sessions for parents and carers with young children, based locally across Edinburgh, and in Fife, in community centres, schools and nurseries. Felicity told me:
“As of yesterday (18th March) I had to suspend all classes for the foreseeable future. This means no future work for my part-time tutors”
She continued, “I am contracted to pay them 2 weeks in case of class cancellations, but from then they’ll have no income”.
“I had insurance for employee accident or personal accident, but not for the closure of business for any Force Majeure reason”.
Felicity was concerned for her part-time tutors, who are not eligible for sick pay.
“I have spoken to my three employees with a plan for each of them, but the advice changes by the day”.
“I have about 200 families as clients with prepaid fees, and I’ve reached out to them to ask that they transfer to an online platform for the next 6 weeks to avoid a run of refunds, as I still have overheads and financial commitments. After 6 weeks, I have no further income”
Felicity was aware of the hardship funds offered by the UK and Scottish Governments, but she has had no direct contact from any agencies, and most of her up-to-date information comes from social media, or sometimes the news.
“The guidance on obtaining grants for small businesses is not clear and the phone lines are very busy, so I haven’t managed to speak to anyone”.
Felicity had mixed feelings on Richard Branson, with his $3.5bn, requesting tax funded assistance from the Government.
“Everyone has to chip in and help. I’ll be paying my employees more than I am contracted to, 3 weeks instead of 2, and that is my own money. Perhaps he should think of the same thing?”
Felicity is now working from home with her family, promoting her online platform to keep business going, and producing great content for her existing pupils.
“I am thankful that the weather is good at the moment, but it is hard to concentrate and keep my 3 children entertained at the same time. I feel sorry for people who have toddlers, then it would quite frankly be impossible”.
Felicity’s outlook is somewhat more positive than it was when she had to cancel her sessions. She believes that the UK Government is being “transparent”, and feels the statistics that back up their decisions give some hope that the situation is going to get better soon.
She was pleased with Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement of help for the self-employed, as it would “stop people taking risks to ensure they can put food on the table” Stressing that if everyone stays at home we will all “ultimately save lives”.
Felicity is fortunate that she can online work from home, and gratefully acknowledges it wouldn’t be possible without the backing of her lovely clients, both pupils and parents.
“I want families to use this chance at home to learn a new skill! I have transferred my French and Spanish music and movement programme to online workshops. Families can access a host of videos and resources from the comfort of their home. Feedback so far has been amazing!”
Felicity is making a donation to Action for Children for every workshop sold within the months of March and April 2020.