Sheffield industrialist speaks out for region’s SMEs during crisis

James Harding-Terry

A Sheffield industrialist has spoken out in support of the region’s many SMEs which are struggling to keep going during the coronavirus pandemic.

James Harding-Terry, Managing Director of Steetley Corner Group of companies, has raised awareness of the UK’s 5.82 million SME businesses, which are trying in the face of adversity to maintain productivity to protect their businesses and the future welfare of their employees.

James has had more than 50,000 views on a LinkedIn post that he published, spelling out what the Government’s Covid-19 directives actually mean for businesses and employees.

“SMEs are the lifeblood of the UK’s economy, providing around 60 per cent of the total employment in this country, yet general misunderstanding around work responsibilities at this time will push many to the brink of collapse,” he said.

“As a business owner, I feel compelled to spell out that the Government guidelines around Covid-19 are not just about protecting our health and the NHS, but they are also there to help businesses to continue operating as far as is practicable.

“The Government website for businesses and Covid-19 says quite clearly, that ‘with the exception of some non-essential shops and public venues, we are not asking any other businesses to close – indeed it is important for business to carry on.’”

Government guidance for businesses states that “certain jobs require people to travel to their place of work – for instance if they operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or are delivering front line services”.

“This is not about ‘essential’ workers, an overused and confusing term, nor is it about ‘critical’ workers, who are generally involved in the direct response to Covid-19 and can access schooling or childcare. It is basically saying that every employee should work, preferably from home, but if you cannot work from home, then you can and should travel to your place of work,” said Mr Harding-Terry.

“All businesses owe a debt to those employees who still attend and maintain productivity to keep the economy turning, despite the fact that very few companies will even approach a profit in 2020.

“SMEs are going to need all the support that they can get if the UK is to keep any sustainable employment following the Coronavirus crisis, and that includes support from their employees.

“In truth, the financial support being offered to SMEs is not going to save those businesses from bankruptcy. We need, as a nation, to fight tooth and claw to keep our SMEs operating as they follow Government guidance to protect their employees’ health.

“It is right that we take steps to save lives from the spread of Covid-19, but if the UK loses a significant portion of its SME sector, the resulting job losses and recessionary poverty will push even more people to the NHS through poor health.

“Part of the problem is that the media is understandably focused on the human cost of this crisis, which means that the economic impact is barely being reported.”