Bangor Mail

A further lifeline for UK workers



The c oronav ir us pandemic has created not only a health emergency but an economic one. Protecting lives and safeguardi­ng jobs has been at the heart of the UK Government’s response and it has provided the largest package of emergency support in post-war history – worth more than £200billion.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled a new raft of support for workers and businesses following the announceme­nt by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of new restrictio­ns to help slow the spread of coronaviru­s.

Protecting jobs is a top priority, with the Coronaviru­s Job Retention Scheme extended until March and a third grant for the selfemploy­ed upped to 80 per cent of trading profits.


The measures have been a lifesaver for small businesses. Jennifer Bailey, 42, CEO of Calla Shoes, has used the Coronaviru­s Job Retention Scheme to retain her valued staff members. She also took a Bounce Back Loan to help with cashflow.

“This is ideal for me,” says Jennifer, from Newton- leWillows, Lancashire. “The cost of hiring and retraining staff can be considerab­le for small businesses, so this works really well.

“January and February are a quieter period for retailers in normal times, but with Covid it could be slower than usual, so the extension of the scheme means peace of mind for me and my team knowing we can survive this period of uncertaint­y.”

Before the pandemic, Calla Shoes was growing, but because Jennifer specialise­s in smart shoes for work or special occasions such as weddings and parties, it was hit hard. “Last year I only had one member of staff and now I’ve got three,” she says. “It’s not just about skillset for me; it’s about loving the brand and loving what we do. The staff that I’ve found absolutely encompass all the values I want. We’re in touch regularly and what they’re worried about is not having a job guarantee at the end of it all. But if I can keep them on like this, it helps to reassure them that they won’t be out of a job. I need them.”

Now, with the extension of the furlough scheme, Jennifer was able to furlough all three staff, and knowing that their jobs are safe gives her peace of mind.

“My business is my baby and these are the first staff I’d taken on, so I would have hated to tell them they’d lost their jobs,” she says.

When it comes to the Bounce Back Loan, Jennifer welcomes the new flexibilit­y around paying it back: “I’ve got longer to make the repayments, which really

These are my first staff and I would have hated to tell them they’d lost their jobs

helps for the cashflow of the business. I haven’t had to go into it yet, but I might next year so it’s good to know that cushion is there. The repayments are going to be lower and spread out for longer.”


Thanks to the UK Government’s package of financial support, Jennifer is looking forward to a brighter future. “I had my best ever September saleswise, so it’s not all doom and gloom,” she says. “I think people will really struggle putting high heels back on, so my new collection has been modified to include more casual styles and lower heels. I’m thinking what the world will look like in the next 12-24 months and adjusting the strategy. My investors seem to be quite happy with the way things are going and I’m thinking about launching into other countries such as the USA and Europe, but the growth isn’t quite as I expected in different circumstan­ces. I’m grateful for the UK Government’s support and I’ll do what I can with it.”

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STEPPING OUT Jennifer’s business was focused on smart shoes for work and special occasions
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