2769322
Port-of-Spain

[email protected]

In a survey of the Amcham T&T membership conducted over a two-week period before and after the official stay at home order made by government the survey showed approximately 3000 jobs across the 102 companies could be at risk over the next 6 to 12 months due to COVID-19 related measures. The majority of those jobs at risk were reported by companies that have less than 25 employees on their payroll.

The Amcham survey of its member report that measures such as a deferral of corporate tax and VAT payments, wage support, reduced duties for imports, and provision of loans or grants to small businesses may assist in their survival and preventing job losses.

The survey was conducted between March 18th and April 4, 2020, and companies were asked questions related to how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting their business, interventions they would like to see government implement, their work-from-home policies, and possible employee retention (over the next 6-12 months). One hundred and two companies of varying sizes in over 19 sectors responded to the survey.

COVID-1 effects

When asked about the effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on their businesses, 77% of companies indicated that they experienced a decline in sales. 45% of companies said this decline amounted to 15% or less; while 15% of companies reported experiencing a sales decline of over 50% when compared to their January 2020 sales figures.

Other effects identified were issues with cash flow (56% of companies); “Employees unable to work” (53%); and “Supply chain disruption” (49%). Some of the companies reported having to shut down their businesses completely due to a lack of clients or the inability to operate outside of the workplace.

Those businesses that did not report a decline in sales are expecting to experience it in the coming weeks.

Business stimulation

proposal for government

When asked what support would be needed to weather these disruptions, 45% of the companies indicated a Tax holiday and 59.8% of companies asked for a waiver of penalties and interests for overdue tax payments; 54.90% said they would benefit from wage support.

Some of the other recommendations put forward were: provide tax breaks, reduce corporation tax, VAT and duties for imports, waive interest on payments that have been deferred, provide grants or loans to SMEs, introduce work relief programmes to self-employed and employees of service industries,

Monitor prices of essential goods to prevent price gouging deferral of filling compliance documents provision of PPE payment of outstanding bills owed by the government

Companies also believe this is a good time for the government to work on revamping the public sector hardware and software systems for quick and efficient service, and ensure Customs & Excise utilise technology to process shipping documents to speed up the delivery times of essential goods from the ports.

Work from home policies

When companies were assessed on their work from home policies, the survey showed 88% or 90 companies implemented work from home policies for their employees, some even implementing those policies before the official stay at home order was made by government.

Companies involved in essential services introduced certain protocols for employees who were unable to work from home. These protocols were:

• ↓Implementation of shift/ rotation systems – 24%

• More stringent sanitisation – 22%

• ↓Provision of hygienic materials and PPE – 17%

• Social Distancing Protocols – 15%

Personal & Office Hygiene Protocols – 11%

Twenty eight per cent of the companies identified technology and connectivity issues as a major challenge in implementing their work from home protocols.

Some of the specific issues identified were limited or unstable internet connection and cybersecurity protocols (server restrictions and firewalls) preventing remote access. 11% experience challenges with providing IT equipment (eg laptops) for staff to work at home, while 10% reported having difficulty operating without some of the equipment and hard copy documents that they would have access to at the workplace; 14% of the respondents identified managing and monitoring staff as a challenge, while two companies specifically cited trusting employees and getting “value for money” during the workday.

Meanwhile, 24% of the companies had no major issues transitioning to work from home protocols. Some companies reported having this as part of their Business Continuity Plans and some were working from home prior to the pandemic.

The majority of the respondents (49%) in the survey were large companies reporting having over 50 employees. Seventeen percent of the respondents were companies with 10 or less employees.

The energy/petrochemical sector was most largely represented (25% of the companies), followed by the Financial Services Sector (12%). Other sectors represented included Information and Communication Technology, Construction, Distribution, Logistics, Hospitality and other service sectors.

A follow up survey will be conducted starting the week of April 20.