SMALLER businesses are being warned of an "incredibly challenging juggling act" ahead as the furlough period comes to an end.

That's the view from Bradford-based experts The HR Dept, which provides human resources advice and support for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) across the UK and Ireland.

The company says widespread redundancies are "inevitable" over the coming weeks, but employers should combine immediate survival plans with longer-term strategies to help them adapt to the lasting impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

While The HR Dept welcomes Government support announced last week, it says that in many sectors, businesses should accept that the pandemic will result in widespread changes and start to implement new models now.

But this should be done while respecting the rights of employees and giving serious consideration to not losing valuable expertise from the business.

Joanna Charles said: “It’s an incredibly challenging juggling act. Practically, emotionally and financially, the costs of getting things right and wrong over the coming months and years will have potential to make or break a business.

“There will invariably be some businesses which, unfortunately, will end up insolvent.

"However, others have opportunities to pivot and adapt to the rapidly-changing world which this crisis is going to leave behind. Those companies have exciting prospects ahead of them but they need to manage the short-term obstacles while also visualising the future and strategising accordingly.

“It is important to state that we believe your people are your biggest asset and deserve to be treated properly."

She also warned against the danger of losing vital inside knowledge from the business – valuable experience which may have taken many years to accrue but could be quickly lost.

“While it may be tempting to divert directly to redundancy as the least risky option,” she said.

“I would advise caution before losing valuable experience and training from any business."

Joanna said the pandemic has accelerated change which was already underway, like the rapid growth of flexible working. She expects future legislative activity to reflect an entirely different business landscape to that which existed two years, a year or even six months ago.

“Business owners across the board should keep abreast of what is a rapidly-changing situation, or risk severe impact on their futures. The worst thing to do is pretend none of this is happening,” she said.

“There is also a chance for SMEs to make their voices heard and it’s vital that they do so. Government and the legislators are starting to recognise the importance of the smaller firms which make up the vast majority of the UK’s business community."