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  • Rob Wilks

How Clipper Contracting Group responded during the Covid-19 crisis

“How you respond will define your business in the future” – a common thread on Linkedin in recent weeks. Well, we thought we would share our experiences of managing through Covid-19. Our response to the crisis can be broken down into different stages; our initial reaction and movement to keep the business running effectively, moving to support workers through these hard times and finally, to looking forward.

How our business continuity planning has helped us ease into WFH arrangements.

Contingency planning for a crisis such as this started over 2 years ago. Whilst no one could have foreseen a virus pandemic closing much of the UK, we had made several changes to our technology infrastructure to ensure the business could continue to operate through a disaster.

Two key parts of these changes were key to allowing Clipper Contracting Group’s staff to work from home successfully over an extended period. Firstly, our VOIP phone system can be accessed on a mobile using an app – all landline numbers can be answered remotely, using existing call queues and diversions. Secondly, our IT system is cloud based, accessed using virtual desktops; our software can be accessed from any computer.

These two key adaptations along with the excellent attitude of our staff has meant that the phone lines, email communication and payments has continued throughout lockdown without interruption to service levels.

Our commitment to furlough our temporary workers

From the moment Rishi Sunak announced support for temporary workers, we made a commitment as a business to assist our workers wherever possible.

As with anything, the devil was always in the detail and dissecting the government’s initial guidance (that aimed to cover a multitude of working arrangements across many sectors) was difficult. For the umbrella company sector, it created challenges around holiday pay and what part of an employee’s pay constituted the starting point for calculating 80% of their taxable pay.

Whilst we couldn’t be left in a position of not being able to make the grant claim under the CJRS, we also couldn’t ignore the needs of our employees, many of whose assignments finished abruptly when the government’s lockdown was introduced.

Once we had legal clarification and additional updated guidance from the government regarding our areas of concern, we made a swift decision to pay our workers, paying 80% of their overall taxable pay, one of the first umbrella companies to make this commitment. Our first furlough payments went out to workers at the end of April, assisting hundreds of workers through this difficult time.

For the self-employed, we have helped as much as possible. This has predominantly been by keeping these workers up to date with the support available to them and how to access it.

Looking toward the future

It’s probably still too early to know what the rest of this year or even beyond has in store; the media are certainly painting a grim picture. There are going to be some tough months ahead, there is no denying that. We will recover though, and things will return to some sort of normality.

One thing that is for certain is that the supply chain providing contingent workers will change. With many umbrella companies rallying to support workers, their prominence will inevitably rise as recruitment agencies look to diversify their own risks. Umbrella companies have a very important part to play in providing support and benefits to temporary workers and consolidating employment risk away from recruitment agencies, especially the smaller agencies that don’t have the financial clout to support workers in the same way as the multi-nationals.

So if you’re a recruitment agency looking towards the future, consider the following when considering an umbrella company:

· Did your umbrella companies have a robust business continuity plan? Could your umbrella companies continue to pay workers through a disaster?

· Are your umbrella companies financially sound? Can they cope with paying workers prior to government aid coming through? Could your umbrella company shut down in these hard times, taking your money without paying your workers.

· Did they furlough workers? Judge your umbrella company on the support they provided your temporary workers

· Are they compliant? With your temp numbers lower, now is an ideal time to reduce your exposure to uncompliant umbrella companies.

If during this period of reflection, you realise that your current umbrella company has failed to support you, it may be time to look elsewhere. If you’d like to find out more on our navigation through Covid-19 and how we might help your business in the future, call us on 01305 233170 or call our Director Rob Wilks on 07824 638842.

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