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UK businesses forced to furlough Accounts Payable staff during lockdown

Tuesday 27th April, 2021

According to a new survey by Invu 41% of UK Finance decision makers have had to place accounts payable staff on furlough in at least one of the lockdowns over the past 12 months.

As of March 2021, approximately 11.4 million jobs from 1.3 million different employers were furloughed in the UK as businesses struggle to remain operational during lockdown measures.

An independent research report, commissioned by document management, accounts payable and purchasing solutions provider Invu, has shown that cost-cutting was the focus for almost a third of UK Finance decision-makers (31%) during lockdown, compared to only one in five (20%) before measures were introduced. Perhaps understandably, cash flow also became a higher priority, up to 14% during Covid-19 from 9% beforehand.

“The Covid-19 stress test for business: An accelerator for change” report also highlighted that revenue and profitability has dropped down the priority list for UK Financial decision-makers. With just over a quarter (26%) focusing on these key financial metrics, compared to 36% (revenue) and 33% (profit) before Covid-19 hit.

Commenting on the results, Ian Smith, GM and Finance Director at Invu, said: “Covid-19 has proven to be a huge stress test for the purchasing and accounts payable staff, processes and systems at UK companies. The consequences in terms of the furlough of staff have been broadly similar, whether or not a company had previously digitally transformed their systems.”

Covid-19 has been widely dubbed as an accelerator for technological change, and the research report tested this hypothesis.

Looking into how Covid-19 accelerated a change to remote working for finance staff, other results included:

Finance workers attending the office full-time is expected to drop to 33% when offices reopen, from a pre-Covid-19 high of 73%.

Over half (55%) of finance workers now expect to adopt a hybrid approach to remote working (part-time home, part-time office-based).

As the country begins to emerge from lockdown, and restrictions on travel and social interactions ease, business leaders need to make it clear to finance workers what their future working scenario looks like.

Smith concludes, “This survey shows that businesses that have digitally transformed and automated their purchasing and accounts payable processes have been more able to comply with the work from home measures and have fewer concerns about the efficiency, visibility and control of their systems.”

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