AN Altrincham HR expert have been praised by one of the UK’s most senior politicians for her “invaluable feedback and insight” in influencing Government support for smaller businesses during the pandemic.

Altrincham and Sale West MP Sir Graham Brady, said Jill Bottomley of The HR Dept has made “an important contribution to influencing change at a national level”.

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic in March, The HR Dept has been lobbying Government over the details for support for SMEs.

Led by Mrs Bottomley, the company has successfully recommended changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ‘furlough scheme’ and Job Support Scheme (JSS) – particularly in areas facing local lockdowns where businesses are impacted by top-tier restrictions.

Suggestions have been communicated via Sir Graham Brady to the Treasury, led by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, with some gathering support along the way from influential bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Mrs Bottomley said: “The announcement by the Prime Minister this weekend has deferred the introduction of the revised Job Support Scheme, instead continuing with the furlough scheme until December 2. I am pleased that for smaller businesses especially, the ability to furlough ‘flexibly’, that we had campaigned for, continues.

"Throughout the pandemic, I have been keeping Sir Graham updated on issues local businesses are facing and making recommendations. We had lobbied for the introduction of a flexible element to the furlough scheme, which was subsequently launched in July (earlier than originally planned) thanks to further lobbying. I’m grateful for his support in having these issues heard and I’m delighted to see them adopted as Government policy.

"The introduction of the Job Support Scheme again was great in principle of support, but, in the same way that the original furlough arrangements weren’t meeting the real needs of SMEs, the scheme wasn’t providing the flexibility and ability to offer fewer hours of work.

"The contribution from employers needing to pay 55% for 33% of hours worked simply wasn’t viable for businesses struggling to trade either. With the intended end of the furlough scheme that was looming at the end of October, many of my clients were finding that the original scheme would not give them the support they needed in helping retain valued, skilled and experienced employees – lots of whom have long service."

Sir Graham said: “I’d like to thank Jill for the invaluable business feedback and insight she’s been providing to me throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, in terms of both the impact of Government support schemes on the local SME business community and recommendations for improvement."