The National Body Repair Association (NBRA) has called on Government to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
Bodyshops were allowed to remain open during the coronavirus lockdown as they provided an essential service, but the the NBRA said the 80% reduction in accident repair claims meant almost all had to close and place their staff on furlough.
Despite motorists' post-lockdown return to the roads, it claims that the sector is still struggling to balance its workforce with a reduced demand for its services.
NBRA director, Chris Weeks, said: “Whilst motor vehicle use has risen to the range of 90 to 100% of pre-lockdown levels, accident repair claims have lagged and sit at little over 60% of what they would normally be.”
In a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, the NBRA said the 2,500 SMEs that comprise the sector are generally on low margins with high operating costs.
It added that they cannot be expected to go on for long after the CJRS is withdrawn in this current economic environment.
In the Chancellor's COVID-19 recovery plan, car retailers who bring staff back from the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and retain them on a wage of over £520-month-until January will receive a grant of £1,000-per-employee as plan to boost job retention across the UK.
Sunak confirmed that the job retention scheme would be extended to October - at its current 80% rate of salary support.
Detail of the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) extension into October has been welcomed, despite fears that the introduction of larger employer contributions could bring a ‘heavy dose of complexity’.
Weeks said: “The only solution to this crisis in our sector is to extend the CJRS until there is a significant improvement in work volumes, or at the very least, until the end of December.
“The work our members do in keeping vehicles in a roadworthy condition is vital to keeping the UK’s roads safe – ensuring their viability through the COVID-19 crisis is essential.”
Cambria Automobiles chief executive Mark Lavery has conceded that “over 100 redundancies” are possible within his car retail group when the Government's coronavirus job retention scheme’s (CJRS) furlough period ends.