The deferral of corporate taxes and VAT payments, reduction of import duties, wage support and the provision of grants to small business are just some measures in which government can help companies across the country stay afloat and prevent major lay-offs during the covid19 crisis.
This was the findings of an American Chamber of Commerce of TT (AmCham) survey which painted a picture of how some 102 companies and their thousands of staff members have responded to the pandemic. It was conducted between March 18 and April 4, with a follow up survey expected to start later this month.
Just about half the companies which participated in the survey were large companies, with 50 or more employees, while 17 per cent were small companies with ten or fewer employees. About a quarter of the responders were companies in the energy/petrochemical sector, with the next highest single group being the financial services sectors at 12 per cent.
The survey began before the official stay-at-home order was issued by government. It covered topics relating to the effects of the covid19 pandemic on their businesses. focused on measures or interventions they would like government to implement, the work from home policies, and matter of employee retention over the next six months to a year.
The responding companies of varying sizes represented over 20 sectors of business. Almost a quarter were in the energy sector, with the next single largest group of responders being financial services with 12 companies or 11.76 per cent of responders.
Just over three-quarter of companies said they experienced a decline in sales, during the survey period, as compared to their January figures, with the 15 per cent of companies among the worst affected, experiencing declines of more than 50 per cent. Nearly half the companies reported declines of 15 per cent or less.
CASH FLOW PROBLEM
Other effects identified were issues with cash flow (56 per cent of companies); employees unable to work (53 per cent); and supply chain disruption (49 per cent).
Some of the companies reported having to shut down their businesses completely due to a lack of clients or the inability to operate outside of the workplace. Those businesses that did not report a decline in sales are expecting to experience it in the coming weeks.
The companies were then asked what support would best help to weather these disruptions, of which 45 per cent indicated a tax holiday. Nearly 60 per cent of companies asked for a waiver of penalties and interests for overdue tax payments, while 54.90 per cent said they would benefit from wage support.
Some of the other recommendations put forward were: (to) provide tax breaks; reduce corporation tax, VAT and duties for imports; waive interest on payments that have been deferred; provide grants or loans to small/medium enterprises; introduce work relief programmes to self-employed and employees of service industries; monitor prices of essential goods to prevent price gouging; deferral of filling compliance documents; provision of personal protective equipment; payment of outstanding bills owed by the government
Companies suggested the time was appropriate for government to work on revamping public sector hardware and software systems for quick and efficient service, and to ensure Customs & Excise utilises technology to process shipping documents to speed up the delivery times of essential goods from the ports.
3,000 JOBS AT RISK
In terms of employee retention, the survey indicated some 3,000 jobs across the 102 companies could be at risk over the next six months to a year, because of restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic. The majority of jobs at risk were reported by companies that have fewer than 25 employees on their payroll.
When companies were assessed on their work-from-home policies, the survey showed 90 companies, or 88 per cent of responders, implemented such measures, some of which implemented the policies before the official stay at home order was made by government.
Companies involved in essential services introduced certain protocols for employees who were unable to work from home. These protocols were: Implementation of shift/ rotation systems (24 per cent); more stringent sanitization (22 per cent); provision of hygienic materials and personal protective equipment (17 per cent), social distancing protocols (15 per cent); and, personal and office hygiene protocols (11 per cent).
More than a quarter of the companies identified technology and connectivity issues as a hindrance in implementing their work from home protocols, including unstable internet connection and cyber-security protocols, such as firewalls, preventing remote access.
About a tenth experience challenges with providing IT equipment, such as laptops and tablets, for staff to work at home, while another 10 per cent reported having difficulty operating without certain equipment and documents which are available on the work site.
Some 14 per cent of responders identified managing and monitoring staff as a challenge, while two companies specifically cited trusting employees and getting value for money during the workday. One quarter of the companies, however, reported no major issues transitioning to the new work from home protocols, with some companies reported having this as part of their continuity plans.