Covid: nearly 500,000 layoffs planned since the start of the crisis

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British employers predicted 58,000 layoffs in August, bringing the total to 498,000 for the first five months of the Covid crisis.

966 separate employers have told the government it plans to cut 20 or more jobs, up from 214 last August, an increase of more than four times.

However, the figures were below levels seen in June and July, both of which predicted 150,000 job cuts.

The figures were released to the BBC after an access to information request.

Employers anticipating 20 or more layoffs

HR1 forms submitted

The economy rebounded this summer after the unprecedented economic downturn at the start of the year, with workers urged to return to the office and customers encouraged to spend more through programs like the Eat Out To Help Out restaurant vouchers. .

However, a number of large companies in many of the hardest hit industries such as retail and food service have announced major layoff plans including Debenhams, DW Sports, Marks & Spencer, Pret a Manger, the money exchange company Travelex and WH Smith.

The 58,000 positions at risk in August were significantly lower than in previous months, but were still up more than 150% from the previous year.

“There was a sense of optimism in August, we were starting to see more spending and more activity, there were hopes of a quick recovery,” said Rebecca McDonald, senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree think tank. Foundation. “It seems a lot less likely now. ”

A government spokesperson said: ‘Supporting jobs is a top priority, which is why we have presented our jobs plan to protect, create and support jobs across the UK.

“We are helping employees get back to work with a £ 1,000 retention bonus, creating new roles for young people with our £ 2 billion Kickstart program and doubling the number of frontline work coaches. “

How will the end of the leave program affect the layoffs?

The great summer rush may have been partly caused by companies preparing to cut staff before the leave program ended on October 31.

The scheme, in which the government pays part of workers’ wages when their employers cannot, has helped reduce the number of layoffs linked to a pandemic. A total of 9.6 million jobs were made redundant.

But given that most layoff processes take months, companies planning large layoffs before leave ends should have informed the government this summer.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a new employment assistance program last month, under which the government will subsidize the wages of employees who work less than their usual hours due to reduced demand.

It is less generous than the holiday scheme, and the coming months of layoff data will give a first indication of its success in protecting jobs.

“Many employers will have difficult decisions to make in the months to come. Given the design of the new regime, it seems likely that there will be a significant number of layoffs in the winter, ”Ms. McDonald said.

“We are concerned that the lowest paid workers in the hardest hit sectors will be hit the most. “

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Media legend“Very frightening” redundancy risks

Employers are required to notify the government when they plan to lay off 20 or more people in a single “establishment” using a Layoff Notice Form HR1. However, they often make fewer extensions redundant than the number they initially notify.

These figures reflect an increase in layoff plans well ahead of the National Statistics Office’s layoff figures, which appear with a lag of several months.

ONS figures showed 156,000 layoffs from May to July, compared to 107,000 in the previous three months.

However, any redundancy process involving less than 20 people does not show up in these figures, so the eventual total is likely to be larger than the HR1 figures suggest.

Companies in Northern Ireland file their HR1 forms with the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency and they are not included in these figures.

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