Most firms only have up to three months' cash in reserve as they deal with a huge fall in domestic and overseas revenue, a new study suggests.

Research by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) indicated that almost one in five firms have less than a month's worth of cash.

A survey of 600 businesses found that almost half expect to take advantage of the Government's coronavirus job retention scheme, which covers 80 per cent of the wages of furloughed workers, to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

A third of those polled said they were planning to furlough between three-quarters or all their staff in the next week, while one in four said they would not use the scheme.

Two out of three firms said they were embracing remote working, with half using video conferencing, while a fifth said they had closed their business temporarily.

The results came from the organisation’s first ‘Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker’, which surveyed businesses between March 25 and 27.

BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall said: "The coronavirus pandemic has taken a heavy toll on business and economic activity across the UK.

"While businesses have welcomed the unprecedented size and scope of the Government support packages, our findings highlight the urgent need for that support to reach businesses on the ground as soon as possible.

"The majority of firms cannot wait weeks or months for help to arrive.

"There's no escaping the scale of the challenge UK businesses are facing, yet many are already finding ways to contribute to the national effort to tackle coronavirus.

"Chambers and their members are working together to play their part, including gathering unused PPE equipment from local businesses and delivering them to the NHS."

BCC says the new tracker will “serve as a barometer of business’ response to the Government’s measures and changes to business’ working practices over the next few months”.

It will also track how quickly new Government interventions are getting to the businesses at the front line.