March 19, 2020 / 10:53 AM / 21 days ago

UK manufacturers demand immediate help, warning of layoffs

LONDON (Reuters) - British manufacturers demanded an immediate deferment of tax and social security payments, warning the government that thousands of layoffs were imminent as the coronavirus crisis hits the economy.

“There are alarm bells going off right across the manufacturing sector with the prospect of substantial lay-offs looming,” Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK, said in a statement on Thursday.

“Order books are collapsing and this is creating immediate cashflow issues for companies which need addressing within days not weeks.”

The group welcomed measures rushed out by British finance minister Rishi Sunak to help companies, many of which are facing virtual shutdowns in business, but it called on him to go further because the crisis was deepening so quickly.

Make UK urged Sunak to agree to an immediate deferment of payments of value-added and payroll taxes and of social security contributions for at least three months.

The group called for a ramping up of government money to support sick pay costs which was announced last week and for help paying the wages of workers who are laid off or put on short-time working, similar to schemes in France and Germany.

It also called for an extension of pension scheme valuation cycles and a longer period for companies to publish their financial accounts.

Sunak has previously said he is working on plans to support employment.

Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Michael Holden and Kate Holton

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