Much-needed help for equine businesses *H&H Plus*

  • H&H examines what measures announced in the chancellor’s summer statement could help struggling equestrian businesses and seeks reaction from the Equestrian Employers Association and an apprenticeship provider...

    Bonuses for employees returning from furlough and extra money to take on trainees and apprenticeships could help equestrian businesses in the wake of the pandemic. While the support on offer is by no means a magic wand for companies hit hard by the impact of Covid-19, it could offer some assistance.

    “Our plan has a clear goal: to protect, support and create jobs,” said chancellor Rishi Sunak in his summer statement on 8 July. “It will give businesses the confidence to retain and hire. To create jobs in every part of our country. To give young people a better start. To give people everywhere the opportunity of a fresh start.”

    Measures that could help include the “eat out to help out” scheme, which has already been taken up by show venues including Keysoe. This involves a Government-subsidised 50% discount for each diner, of up to £10 per head from Monday to Wednesday in August plus a six-month VAT cut.

    Other help includes a “job retention bonus” of £1,000 for businesses that retain previously furloughed staff until the end of January, a “kick-start” scheme for work placements of young people on universal credit, and apprenticeship and trainee bonuses of between £1,000 and £2,000.

    Tullis Matson, president of the Equestrian Employers Association (EEA) told H&H he is “very conscious” of the furlough scheme coming to an end, and has already had an increase in people asking if there are any jobs with his company, Stallion AI Services.

    “I’m quite nervous come October of what is going to happen, especially for some of the centres whose margins are very small as they could really struggle when money is tight,” he said.

    Mr Matson added it is not simply a case of businesses themselves finding the situation tricky, but the knock-on impact of other job losses, such as liveries losing their jobs and no longer having that money to spend.

    “I feel the Government is trying to help,” he said, adding the £1,000 bonus is “great for the short term”, but the longer-term economic picture remains unclear.

    “That can help, but there is always going to be that eventuality when the furlough scheme stops, of how many people are not going to have jobs at the end of it.”

    He said it is vital employees are not exploited for their love of horses to prop businesses up, and equally that businesses seek help where it is available.

    “The Government is much more on it with enforcing the minimum wage now – and rightly so,” he added. “There is part of the industry that doesn’t want to be compliant with the law, but there is a larger section that slightly doesn’t know where to find the help, and EEA membership really can bring that help to them.

    “If we can help employers, that in turn will help employees.”

    Mr Matson also said exploring the possibility of taking on less experienced staff, where applicable within a business, can bring additional benefits other than the money the Government has set aside.

    “We have people coming in here very green and new to the industry and they flourish,” he said, adding this has to be balanced with experienced staff.

    Chris Hewlett, of apprenticeship provider Haddon Training, told H&H the additional funding is a “great opportunity” for equestrian businesses.

    “That said, businesses must be viable and not take an apprentice on for the sake of it because there is money attached,” he said.

    Mr Hewlett explained the money for traineeships and apprenticeships could add up to as much as £4,000, provided all the criteria are met.

    “As a training provider, we are going to be very inquisitive of businesses we haven’t worked with before as there is a moral commitment for employers to support somebody through training,” he said. “It is taxpayers’ money, and as a training provider we have a responsibility with how that is spent.”

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