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The New Normal Becomes the Next Normal

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Written by:

Robert Lloyd Griffiths
Director
IOD Wales


What is normal?  It’s difficult to say at the moment and there are some who would suggest that we’ll never know normal again.

Of course, in any normal year September would see many of us returning from holiday and children getting back to school. We’d be refreshed and looking forward to the coming three months in the build-up to the Christmas period ahead. But life isn’t normal.

It is pleasing to know that many of us managed to enjoy a staycation. Our tourism industry certainly needs our ongoing support wherever and whenever possible.  It’s also reassuring that as the schools begin their new academic year we are seeing many of us now returning to the workplace. Our city centres certainly need the footfall. Our transport providers are gearing up accordingly and I am absolutely confident that with the right safety measures and precautions then we’ll all be able to adapt to living and working with the new normal and the next normal. Whatever that may mean.

Yet the situation in Caerphilly shows us what a knife edge we are all on. Businesses there and across the rest of Wales will be taking a sharp intake of breath. We all need to be acutely aware of how local lockdowns may impact our economy over the coming months, particularly as we approach the end of the furlough scheme. There is going to be an inevitable impact on jobs and this is already starting to show.

As so many people keep saying, these are unprecedented times. We’ve gone through so much over recent years with political turmoil, the threat of Brexit and the current pandemic. But what worries our members most about Covid-19 is that they’re not in control of their own destinies. We have the very delicate balancing act of protecting lives and livelihoods for some time to come.

This might well be the never normal which is why we’ve got to do our best to carry on, carrying on.  I hear from so many colleagues and friends that they are hunkering down, both personally and professionally. We’ve all just got to concentrate on survival (in the literal sense).

These are hugely difficult times with an awful lot of uncertainty.

That is why the IOD is calling for an extension to emergency insolvency measures to prevent company collapses and job losses.

Under normal circumstances, directors have a strict duty to cease trading if their company is facing insolvency and may face financial or legal liabilities if they seek finance instead of doing so. In June, the Government introduced emergency coronavirus legislation to suspend the threat of liability for such ‘wrongful trading'.

This protection runs out on 30 September, and we have warned that failure to extend the measure could lead to entirely preventable company collapses. As we start to emerge from the pandemic, many normally successful small firms are in a perilous position, and we must give them a chance to get back on their feet.

Without these measures, we could see some entirely preventable company collapses, putting our economic recovery and jobs at risk. These are well-run businesses with strong Directors and excellent management teams that are being impacted by circumstances completely out of their control. The UK Government must continue to support them through the crisis as they shouldn't be penalised for acting responsibly amid unprecedented circumstances. I’m also sure that Welsh Government will continue to play their part in assisting businesses.

We face a backdrop of huge uncertainty as we adjust to the next normal but our continued resilience is key. None of us know the answers but I do know that we’ll carry on, carrying on. We will be bounce back. We just don’t know when.