Live – Employer Actions Blog

Keep up to date with what actions employers are taking to tackle the Covid-19 crisis with People Management’s live commentary

Friday 16 October

9.35am Face coverings now mandatory in Scottish workplaces 

New rules to extend the mandatory wearing of face coverings in Scotland will see them worn in workplace settings such as canteens, corridors and communal facilities. Coming into force on Monday, the rules, according to first minister Nicola Sturgeon, were needed at a “critical moment” in the pandemic. “The new rules are a proportionate additional step which will help employees keep themselves and their colleagues that bit safer,” said Sturgeon. 

Exemptions are in place for young children and people with certain health conditions.

9.30am Dunelm to return £14m in furlough payments

Homeware retailer Dunelm has said it will return £14.5m in furlough payments after it recorded strong performance in the third quarter of this year. In a trading update, the firm said the homeware market had been “resistant” and that it was outperforming the market. As such, Dunelm said would return all money received through the scheme provided it was not materially affected by the virus over the winter months, and that it would not be claiming any money through the government’s job retention bonus scheme.

Chief executive Nick Wilkinson said: “Recent months have seen homewares become even more relevant, as people spend more time in their homes up and down the country.

“While we remain cautious about the continued uncertainty in the wider market, the resilience and flexibility of our business model leaves us well positioned as we enter our peak trading period.”

9.20am HMRC to contact 24,000 freelancers over support grant eligibility 

HMRC is contacting 24,000 freelance workers who applied for state support grants amid the coronavirus crisis, checking to ensure they met the criteria. Those that made claims after they were forced to cease business during the crisis will be told to pay back any funds, as the scheme was designed to save freelancers intending to continue operating throughout the pandemic. 

HMRC said that 100,000 freelancers who have stopped trading were sent information about the scheme, and 30,000 went on to apply for support. According to the Telegraph, HMRC has determined 6,000 were trading at the time they applied and therefore qualified, but as part of its post-payment compliance checks, it is now looking into whether the remainder were eligible. A deadline of 20 November has been given for freelancers who did stop trading before they applied to hand back any money received and avoid further penalties. 

Thursday 15 October

5.20pm London restrictions could put 250,000 jobs at risk, hospitality industry warns

The new local lockdown rules coming into effect across London on Saturday could put 250,000 jobs at risk, UK Hospitality has warned. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the trade body, told the BBC the new rules would be “absolutely catastrophic” without additional support, and called for affected businesses to be exempt from having to make employer contributions through the job support scheme.

As of Saturday, London, Essex, York and several other areas will be moved to the tier two ‘high’ alert level under the government’s new local lockdown system, meaning bars and restaurants will be allowed to stay open but groups from different households or bubbles will be prohibited from meeting in any inside venues.

Nicholls said these restrictions created a “squeezed middle” of hospitality businesses, facing additional restrictions but denied access to the more generous furlough scheme – which does not require employee contributions but will only be accessible for businesses told to close under the higher tier three restrictions.

1pm Two-thirds of adults now travelling to work, official figures show

Almost two-thirds of adults travelled to work at least once last week, according to official figures, the highest number since data began to be collected in May on how the pandemic has affected the UK economy and society. 

The proportion of adults who travelled to work between 7 and 11 October was 65 per cent, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown. This marked an increase of four percentage points compared to the previous week, and the highest proportion of staff commuting to work since the ONS began collecting data on this in mid May, when only 37 per cent travelled to a workplace.  During this same period, the proportion of people working from home exclusively increased slightly from 22 per cent to 23 per cent, however.

9.50am Liverpool establishes local furlough scheme 

In reaction to Tier 3 restrictions implemented today, Liverpool City mayor Steve Rotheram has announced that the area is setting up its own local furlough scheme to supplement “inadequate” coronavirus wage subsidies from the Treasury. Rotheram said details of a “top up” local furlough scheme would be released tomorrow in a bid to help hospitality venues such as bars and restaurants, forced to close under tougher restrictions. 

Speaking during a press conference, Rotherham said the scheme would improve on the furlough scheme announced earlier this month which pays two-thirds of wages. “We’re going to have a local furlough and business support scheme that will do what the government has failed to do,” he said. 

8.40am Marstons to cut up to 2,150 jobs

Pub and brewery chain Marstons has said up to 2,150 jobs could be cut following the introduction of new restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The group had returned 10,000 of its employees to work since the initial lockdown measures were lifted, however it said the new measures – including tighter restrictions on pubs and restaurants in Liverpool – has put roles at risk.

Marstons said the introduction of the new restrictions was “hugely disappointing” and that there was a “lack of clear evidence tying pubs to the recent increase in infection rates”. The group has 18 pubs in the Liverpool region, the majority of which serve food so therefore can remain open. 

7.35am Institute of Fundraising says quarter of staff are at risk of redundancy

The Institute of Fundraising (IoF), the professional membership body for UK fundraising, has said a quarter of its staff are at risk of redundancy as the organisation undergoes a restructure to manage the effects of the pandemic. The IoF said 13 of its 53 staff were at risk of being made redundant as part of a consultation that will run until the end of the month. 

Chief executive Peter Lewis said the job cuts were a decision “that we hoped we would not have to make”, but the IoF had “no choice but to take this action now due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our organisation”.

Wednesday 14 October 

5pm Jobs crisis will not be as bad as feared, says OECD

The UK jobs crisis caused as the result of the coronavirus crisis will not be as bad as originally, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has said in its latest forecast. The OECD said that due to the government’s intervention, unemployment would average 5.3 per cent this year, down from an earlier  forecast of 10.4 per cent, The Times reported. “Without the job retention scheme we would see a much bigger rise in unemployment. The schemes were extremely effective and critical. It is remarkable the way it has kept unemployment down,” it said.

The organisation still warned that unemployment would rise as the job retention scheme comes to a close, predicting it would peak at 7.7 per cent before the end of the year. However, this was also downgraded from 11.7 per cent in an earlier forecast.

12.45pm Misconduct in the time of Covid-19

Following breaches of coronavirus regulations by some well-known figures, Paul Reeves, Leanne Raven and Louisa Blundell explain what employers need to know about the new self-isolation rules.

12.30pm Flexible working more popular with male employees since lockdown, survey finds

Flexible working has become more popular with male employees since the beginning of lockdown, according to a study of employers. In the poll of 26 UK employers, conducted by Working Families in September, two-thirds (68 per cent) reported male parents and carers had shown more interest in flexible working since the pandemic hit.

The survey also showed a general leap forward in flexible working during the pandemic compared to pre-Covid. While just under half (49 per cent) of organisations said that at least half of their staff flexed their hours before the crisis, this jumped to 85 per cent during the coronavirus crisis. Additionally, before the pandemic only a quarter (25 per cent) of employers said half their staff worked partly remotely, but this increased to 84 per cent during lockdown. 

11.15am Why the recruiter-candidate relationship is vital to inclusive hiring

Retaining the human touch and acknowledging this is a stressful time to be job hunting will sustain competitive advantage through improved employer branding, says Corine Sheratte.

11am Northern Ireland to shut restaurants and suspend schools

Northern Ireland will close its restaurants and pubs for a month from Friday (16 October) and shut schools for a fortnight from next week under a new ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown, first minister Arlene Foster announced today. Foster said the imposition of the strict restrictions were in response to a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases. Some 863 cases were reported in Northern Ireland yesterday – bringing the total to 21,898 – along with seven deaths.

In a joint letter with deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill to regional lawmakers, Foster said: “The numbers have continued to rise, the doubling rate is of grave concern, and hospitalisations are on the increase. This is deeply troubling and more steps are now urgently needed.”

The new restrictions will affect the entire hospitality sector, with the exception of takeaway and delivery services, and double the length of the annual October school break from one week to two. Under the measures, retail will remain open, but ‘close-contact services’ will be closed. People will be advised to avoid all unnecessary travel and work from home, while universities will be asked to teach remotely to the maximum extent.

10.15am NCVO restructure puts more than 40 per cent of staff at risk

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) – an umbrella body for voluntary organisations, charities, community groups and social enterprises across England – has said more than 40 per cent of its staff are at risk of being made redundant as the organisation restructures in response to coronavirus. The firm announced that 48 of its 107 staff were at risk in a bid to cut costs as it faces an estimated £4m drop in funding over the next three financial years. 

The charity said it expects to reduce headcount to 85, and that it planned to reduce the size of its leadership team from three directors to two while cutting its wider management team from 17 to nine. The NCVO said social distancing measures introduced because of the coronavirus pandemic would affect its venue hire, training and consultancy services. 

9.30am One week remaining to disclose incorrect furlough claims 

Companies have one week to disclose incorrect claims made on the furlough scheme or risk being investigated by HMRC. Following concerns about abuse of the coronavirus job retention scheme, the tax authority gave organisations a 90-day amnesty window in July to come forward with errors. For payments received before 22 July, the amnesty period concludes next Tuesday. The same applies to incorrect payments made under the self-employment income support scheme for people who work for themselves.

Richard Morley, partner in tax dispute resolution at BDO, the accounting group, told The Times: “Given that HMRC has clearly started to actively follow up on tip-offs and potentially incorrect claims, including recent arrests, businesses and individuals should start reviewing their furlough claims now.

Tuesday 13 October 

12.30pm Unemployment surges to highest level in three years, ONS data shows

The UK unemployment rate has surged to its highest level in more than three years, official figures show, as the coronavirus crisis continues to hit jobs. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown the unemployment rate for all people in the UK was 4.5 per cent for June to August – 0.4 percentage points higher than the previous quarter, and 0.6 percentage points higher than a year earlier. The ONS estimated 1.52 million people were unemployed, 209,000 more than during June to August 2019.

Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser for the CIPD,  called for “much more immediate” public investment for training and reskilling above what had been announced so far. He added that young men were “fading particularly fast in the face of the pandemic”.

The ONS estimated the unemployment rate for men was 4.9 per cent, 0.7 percentage points higher than the previous quarter. In comparison, the unemployment rate for women was 4 per cent, only 0.1 percentage points higher than the previous quarter. Among men aged 18 to 24, one in six (15.7 per cent) were unemployed, compared to just 10.2 per cent of women of the same age. 

12pm Can employers make contact tracing apps compulsory?

With the government encouraging people to download its test and trace app, Fiona Herrell explains whether firms can insist their staff use it.

10.30am How managers can successfully lead remote teams

With working from home here to stay for the foreseeable future, Jeya Thiruchelvam offers tips on how to be a good leader.

9.50am Financial firms must monitor staff working from home, says FCA 

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned financial service firms that staff working from home should be monitored to the same standard as they would in the office. Financial service workers typically work in strictly controlled offices where monitoring, such as recording phone lines and logging computer use, is the norm to prevent market abuse. 

Speaking at a virtual City & Financial Global event yesterday, Julia Hoggett, director of market oversight at the FCA, said: “Our expectation is that, going forward, office and working from home arrangements should be equivalent – this is not a market for information that we wish to see be arbitraged.” She added that the FCA will expect firms to have already “updated their policies, refreshed their training and put in place rigorous oversight reflecting the new environment – particularly regarding the risk of use of privately owned devices”.

7.40am Mitchells & Butlers consulting on job cuts

Pub and restaurants group Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has begun redundancy consultations with a number of staff as it struggles with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. M&B, which owns Harvester and All Bar One, employs 44,000 workers across 1,700 pubs and restaurants. The group would not disclose how many jobs are at risk. 

A spokesperson for M&B said the move to start a redundancy consultation was a “difficult and regrettable decision”, and the group would “seek to redeploy affected staff wherever possible”. The spokesperson added: “While we have worked incredibly hard to make sites Covid-19 secure and keep staff and customers safe, we are facing significant difficulties from the recently introduced 10pm curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants, new enforced closures and tapering government support that doesn’t go far enough.”

Monday 12 October

4.30pm Prime minister confirms three tiers of local lockdown measures

Boris Johnson has confirmed the introduction of a tiered local lockdown system for England. As expected, the country will be broken down into three alert levels, starting with medium and increasing to very high.

Under the medium alert level – the lowest category that most areas of England will find themselves in – the current national lockdown rules will apply, including the ‘rule of six’ and a 10pm curfew on pubs and bars. In areas placed under a high alert level – most areas that already have local restrictions – there will be a ban on different households or support bubbles mixing in indoor spaces. However, the rule of six will still apply outdoors in both public spaces and private gardens.

The most severe alert level will be ‘very high’. Areas falling into this category will see, as a baseline, a ban on households mixing indoors or in private gardens and the closure of pubs and bars. In addition, the government has said it will work with local leaders in ‘very high’ alert areas to tailor additional measures, potentially including restrictions on the hospitality, leisure, entertainment and personal care sectors. However, Johnson said the retail sector, schools and universities would remain open. Financial support – including through the furlough scheme – will be available to businesses told to close

An agreement has already been reached with local political leaders in Merseyside, which will move to a very high alert level from Wednesday. As well as the baseline closures, the area will close its gyms, leisure centres, betting shops and casinos. The prime minister said he was in talks with other local leaders in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber about introducing very high alert levels.

1.20pm Many firms will ‘fall between the gaps’ of furlough extension, say experts

Many employers could “fall between the gaps” of the extended furlough scheme, experts have warned, as businesses wait to hear how they could be affected by a new tiered lockdown system, to be announced this afternoon. On Friday (9 October), chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined an extension to the job retention scheme to support UK employers that could be forced to shut their doors over the winter because of coronavirus restrictions.

Under the scheme, the government will pay two-thirds (67 per cent) of employees’ wages – up to a maximum of £2,100 per employee per month – for businesses that are legally required to close. Unlike the current scheme, employers will not be required to contribute any wages. However, they will have to pay national insurance and pension contributions where applicable.

The scheme begins on 1 November and will be open for six months. But payments will be made in arrears and businesses will have to wait until early December to claim. The new scheme was welcomed by Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD. But, he warned, many companies requiring support over the winter months might still miss out. 

12.35pm Responding to claims out of time because of the pandemic

With Covid causing problems and delays, Katie Maguire explains what employers can do if they miss the 28-day tribunal response deadline.

11.20am BA CEO steps down amid Covid job cuts row

Álex Cruz has stepped down as chief executive of British Airways (BA) after heavy criticism of the handling of 12,000 coronavirus-fuelled job cuts at the airline. Cruz will be replaced by Sean Doyle, chief executive of Aer Lingus. Doyle will also take over Cruz’s role as non-executive chairman of BA after a transition period. Last month Cruz was forced to defend BA’s job cuts strategy, described as ‘fire and rehire’ by unions, which said it was a plan to push the 30,000 employees who still had jobs on to downgraded terms and conditions. Speaking to a committee of MPs, which called British Airways a “national disgrace”, Cruz said the airline was in a “fight for survival” and that he regretted “that way too many loyal and hardworking colleagues are having to leave the business”.

10am Unions urge government to recognise Amazon workers’ key role during Covid by improving conditions

The UK government should use its influence over Amazon through state contracts – particularly those awarded during Covid – to compel the company to improve conditions for workers, trade unions have said. The TUC issued a report criticising Amazon’s employment practices today, the eve of Prime Day – an annual event when the online retailer offers deals but that unions have said puts unreasonable pressure on staff. In a joint statement with the GMB union, the TUC called on the government to improve workers’ conditions through an upcoming employment bill, but also as a client with £630m-worth of contracts since 2015. Included within this figure, Amazon has won £23m in state-funded work since the pandemic started, including £8.3m related to the NHS test and trace app. 

“Amazon workers have played a key role during this pandemic. But many are treated like disposable labour. That is not right,” said the TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady. “Public contracts should not reward bad working practices.”

9.40am Coronavirus accelerating the rise of automation, report warns

The coronavirus outbreak could accelerate the use of automation and robots as the public become more wary of human contact, a report from the Royal Society of Arts has said, adding to the potential job losses caused by the virus. The paper cautioned that the need to implement social distancing measures and the growing risk that staff could be required to take time off work because they are sick or to social isolate potentially increased the cost of human labour when compared to automated alternatives. “For business leaders, a reliance on human labour might now look like a systemic, business risk,” it said.

Friday 9 October

2.40pm Thousands of jobs at risk as Edinburgh Woollen Mill appoints administrators 

Around 24,000 jobs are at risk as Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group (EWM), owner of clothing brands Peacocks and Jaeger, plans to appoint administrators in an attempt to save the business. 

EMW said it had filed a notice to appoint administrators from FRP because of “harsh trading conditions” caused by the pandemic. A spokesperson for FRP said: “Our team is working with the directors of a number of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group subsidiaries to explore all options for the future of its retail brands, including Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Jaeger, Ponden Mill and Peacocks.” It has confirmed that the plans will not impact Bonmarché.

12.40pm What is the new local furlough scheme and how will it work?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce a limited extension of the furlough scheme today (9 October), through which the government will offer financial support for businesses that have been forced to close to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Sunak will outline new support for people and businesses in areas expected to face new restrictions next week, which will include the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants, as part of a three-tiered lockdown system to stop hospitals being overwhelmed by a surge in Covid-19 cases.

People Management explains what we know so far.

12.30pm Why staff being laid off should be signposted to fostering

With many firms currently making job cuts, Helen Gardner explains why the option of becoming a foster carer should be highlighted and offers tips on how HR professionals can broach the idea.

11.45am The pros and cons of the job support scheme

Annabel Mackay examines the government’s new attempt to preserve jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

10.20am GSK tells employees to turn off NHS track and trace app at work

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has told its UK employees to turn off the Bluetooth-enabled tracking feature of the official NHS coronavirus app when at work, the BBC has reported. The firm told its employees that it had strict protective measures at all its sites, but that some were “distinct from the everyday situations in which most people will use the NHS Covid-19 app”. It said employees could choose to use the app as normal outside of work.

Another firm, Hull-based Rix Petroleum, has also told employees to disable the Bluetooth tracking feature at work over concerns that the feature, which logs a contact if individuals have been closer than two metres for more than 15 minutes, would cause an unnecessary number of employees to self-isolate. The company’s managing director told the BBC: “Large numbers of people who are not sick will be made to stay off – or it will be suggested that they should stay off – for 14 days.”

10am Half of Brits are worried about furlough ending, survey finds

Almost half (49 per cent) of people in the UK are worried about the furlough scheme coming to an end, with a similar number (54 per cent) concerned that they or someone else in their household will lose their job when the scheme closes at the end of the month, a poll by My Online Therapy has found.

The survey of 1,000 of its customers also found 71 per cent respondents admitted they were worried about having enough money to pay their rent, mortgage and bills as a result of the outbreak, including a quarter (25 per cent) who were extremely worried, while two-thirds (67 per cent) said they were worried about having enough money to buy basic essentials such as food and clothing.

8am National Trust to cut 1,300 jobs

The National Trust is to axe almost 1,300 jobs as it seeks to save £100m a year after its income has been heavily impacted by the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The move follows a consultation launched in July when the organisation had said only 1,200 roles were at risk of redundancy. The conservation charity said the consultation process had enabled it to cut the number of compulsory redundancies to 514. The charity had also accepted 782 voluntary redundancies.

Hilary McGrady, director general of the National Trust, said: “No leader wants to be forced into announcing any redundancies, but coronavirus means we simply have no other choice if we want to give the charity a sustainable future. We have exhausted every other avenue to find savings, but sadly we now have to come to terms with the fact that we will lose some colleagues.”

Thursday 8 October

5pm School travel company PGL to cut 670 jobs 

PGL, a travel company that hosts children at residential activity centres across the UK, has announced plans to cut its workforce by a quarter amid cancellations caused by the pandemic. Roles at several of its sites, including its offices in Blackpool and Hertfordshire, will be made redundant, as well as some at its Ross-on-Wye headquarters. 

In a statement, the company confirmed the pandemic had had a “significant impact” on the business which resulted in 34 colleagues at its head office being made redundant, equating to 16 per cent of its Ross-based workforce. 

1.30pm Is it worth applying to the job support scheme?

Eligible employers using the government’s new job support scheme to put workers on reduced hours will be required to contribute a third of their lost pay – with the government topping those wages up another third, to a cap of £697.92 a month.

The Treasury has argued that the scheme provides businesses with valuable flexibility, allowing them to change working patterns week by week to meet demand. There is also tangible value in retaining their skilled and experienced employees and preventing costly staff turnover, it has argued. But this flexibility comes at a cost to employers. So what are the benefits of using the scheme, and when should companies consider it over redundancies? And crucially, why not just save money by reducing workers’ hours without topping up their wages through the scheme? People Management spoke to experts to get their take…

1.20pm Is a new bill of rights for remote workers in the offing?

A number of European countries have brought in new laws around home working in recent months. Spain has drafted legislation to ensure remote workers have equal working conditions and career development opportunities, while last week Germany proposed a Mobile Work Act, giving employees a legal right to work from home wherever possible. The Republic of Ireland is also updating its guidance for people working remotely, and France has had laws regulating home working hours since 2017.

The UK has yet to follow suit, however, in bringing forward bespoke legislation to protect home workers. But some argue the current situation makes this more urgent and more likely. People Management asked legal experts for their views on a bill of rights for remote workers, and how likely this is to be brought in at some point…

11.30am Why your business may need a director of remote work

Some companies have already created such a position, reports John Blakey, with leaders needing to make a firm ideological choice on dynamic working over the coming months. 

11am Almost 900 Manchester Airports Group jobs at risk 

Following its “toughest summer ever” Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has announced almost 900 jobs are at risk across three UK airports, including 465 roles at Manchester Airport, 376 at London Stansted Airport and 51 at East Midlands Airport.

The group has already asked employees to take a 10 per cent pay cut for a year, paused investment and reduced its management team, but MAG said the “absence of support for the aviation sector, coupled with a lack of progress in introducing testing for UK passengers, has continued to undermine consumer confidence in air travel”.

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG, said: “The end of the job retention scheme means we have to consider the number of roles that we can sustain at our airports.”

Lawrence Chapple-Gill, from Unite, said the job losses were an “inevitable consequence of the government’s failure to provide sector-specific support to the aviation industry, the sector most heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

10am Frasers ‘confident’ it did not break furlough rules

Retail group Frasers has insisted its Sports Direct unit did not break furlough rules during its annual general meeting (AGM), following claims staff were encouraged to work while on the coronavirus job retention scheme. Sports Direct was previously accused of asking furloughed shop managers to move stock from stores to depots during the pandemic to cope with a surge of online orders. 

Before the firm’s AGM, shareholder advisory firm Pirc advised investors to vote against the group’s boss, Mike Ashley, as the furlough issue was “representative of a corporate culture that does not meet best practice standards with regard to the treatment of employees”. According to reports from the Express & Star, chief finance officer Chris Wootton told investors he was “very confident” the company had complied with the government’s rules, and has since discussed the matter with HMRC.

9.45am UK hiring activity increases in September as lockdown eased

The UK labour market saw another rise in hiring activity in September, the latest REC and KPMG Report on Jobs has found, with both permanent and temporary placements increasing as the easing of lockdown measures encouraged businesses to take on more staff. The report also found that the overall number of vacancies had increased for the first time since February, although only slightly.

However, the report warned that the number of redundancies stemming from the outbreak had caused a substantial rise in the availability of staff, which could dampen wages for both permanent and temporary hires. James Stewart, vice chair at KPMG, said that while it was encouraging to see a recovery in hiring activity, it was “concerning to see another rapid rise in total candidate availability”.

“With increasing unease over what will happen in the coming months with the pandemic, Brexit and with the end of the furlough scheme in sight, the uncertainty for UK business is not going to dissipate anytime soon,” he said.

Wednesday 7 October

2.50pm Greene King to close dozens of pubs and cut 800 jobs

Pub giant Greene King has said it will close more than 25 venues and cut 800 jobs, blaming tighter coronavirus restrictions and the winding down of the furlough scheme, which had made it a “challenge” to reopen some of its 2,700 UK sites. It urged the government to provide more support for the struggling hospitality sector.

The firm has decided to not reopen 79 sites, and around a third will be closed permanently. A spokeswoman for Greene King said: “The continued tightening of the trading restrictions for pubs, which may last another six months, along with the changes to government support was always going to make it a challenge to reopen some of our pubs.”

12.50pm Half of firms would consider hiring someone who worked fully remotely, poll finds

More than half of businesses that experienced remote working during lockdown would consider hiring an employee who worked fully or mostly from home, a survey has found.

The poll of 280 business leaders, conducted by Management Today (MT) and Hays, found 55 per cent would now be more likely to consider hiring an employee who was not within commuting distance to the office and so would work completely or predominantly remotely. This compared to the 45 per cent who said they would not now be more likely to make such a hire.

The survey – conducted as part of the report Will hybrid working ever work? – found most employers were not currently advertising jobs as predominantly remote roles, however. Just a third (33 per cent) of respondents said they were advertising jobs as either partly or fully based at home, compared to 67 per cent who were not.

12pm Royal Shakespeare Company announces 158 job cuts

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has said 158 jobs across its sites are at risk of being made redundant as the organisation struggles to cope with the devastating impact the pandemic has had on the arts – a 17 per cent reduction in its 519-strong workforce.

The Stratford-based company said it has begun a formal consultation with its permanent workforce, trade unions and staff representatives, and that it hoped to keep the number of compulsory job losses to under 90.

Catherine Mallyon, the RSC’s executive director, said: “We remain positive that live theatre will be back in our communities, doing what it does best – entertaining audiences and bringing joy to so many people. These are incredibly difficult times for everyone, and for the theatre community they are especially tough.”

11.15am Virtual AGMs ‘disenfranchising’ shareholders on key corporate governance matters, body warns  

Companies must respect shareholder rights amid a Covid-fuelled shift to virtual annual general meetings, corporate governance watchdog the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has warned. It said the way some had managed virtual meetings was “disappointing” and had “led to concerns that any move to fully digital meetings could disenfranchise retail shareholders”. A survey of a majority of FTSE 350 companies found 80.7 per cent had held closed AGMs, requiring voting in advance by proxy. Of these, almost 20 per cent did not make arrangements for shareholders to ask questions of the board. 

David Styles, director of corporate governance at the FRC, said: “AGMs are not simply about voting. They are an important mechanism for shareholders to gain an understanding of board decision-making, strategy and company culture. It is disappointing that some companies have not provided for meaningful input from shareholders, in particular retail shareholders.”

10.40am How to stop virtual meetings taking over your day

Back-to-back video calls are fast causing a new kind of mental health crisis, says Helena Sharpstone – but there are ways to keep them under control.

10.20am Women’s legal rights during job cuts

Kirsty Thompson explains what employers need to consider when an employee on maternity leave is at risk of redundancy.

9.30am Airbus boss warns of a minimum 15,000 job losses

The COO of Airbus, Michael Schoellhorn, has said the European aeroplane manufacturer’s plan to cut 15,000 jobs is the “minimum of what we have to do”, Bloomberg has reported. The comments were made in an interview with German magazine Handelsblatt. Airbus is one of many aviation firms to have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent travel restrictions.

Tuesday 6 October

5.30pm Hospitality sector faces a ‘cliff edge’, industry body warns

The head of UK Hospitality has warned the sector faces a “cliff edge”, with more jobs likely to be cut than previously thought, the BBC has reported. Speaking to the treasury select committee, Kate Nicholls said the sector had been expecting job losses of some 560,000 by the end of 2020. But, because of the impact of local restrictions, renewed advice to work from home and the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants, she now feared there would be far more.

“We fear that unless there are amendments for those areas which are particularly hit, you won’t avoid the cliff edge in October and we have got large numbers of redundancies that are forecast in October because of how the jobs support scheme is set up,” she told MPs.

2.50pm Nottingham City Council to cut 154 jobs

Nottingham City Council has agreed to cut 154 jobs in a bid to save the council £12.5m in the wake of the pandemic and previous government cuts to its budget. At a full council meeting yesterday (5 October), councillors voted to make the cuts, which include removing vacant posts and accepting voluntary redundancies where possible.

The council also voted through a series of money-saving measures including delaying the employment of apprentices until April 2021, reducing the ceremonial duties of the lord mayor, closing one adult care day centre, and closing a small number of underused play areas. 

2.40pm ExxonMobil to cut 1,600 jobs in Europe

ExxonMobil has said it will cut up to 1,600 jobs in Europe as the oil company struggles with the dip in demand caused by the pandemic. Exxon employed about 75,000 people worldwide at the end of last year, and the job cuts amount to more than a tenth of the company’s European workforce. 

Exxon has been hit hard as coronavirus sapped demand this year as lockdowns grounded aircraft and kept cars off the roads. The company did not say exactly where the European job losses would take place but said country-specific impacts would “depend on the company’s local business footprint and market conditions”.

12.10pm Exclusive HR team-size data: how does yours compare?

The majority of HR teams are comprised of 10 people or fewer, a survey by People Management has found, with this predicted to remain stable over the next few years despite the Covid crisis.

The exclusive survey polled 735 employers this September and found 70 per cent reported an HR team size of 10 people or fewer. Just under a fifth (18 per cent) said their HR team was between 11 and 50-strong, 6 per cent reported 51 to 100, 3 per cent 101 to 250 and 2 per cent more than 1,000.

In terms of whether L&D and OD were counted as part of this overall figure, 83 per cent of respondents said L&D was, while 79 per cent said the same for OD.

11.50am How has Covid-19 affected working women?

Anne Pritam and Leanne Raven look at the impact of the pandemic on female employees and the legal implications for businesses.

10.20am PwC inducts record number of graduates after rise in virtual recruitment

Professional services network PwC has recruited a record 108 graduates across its three Scottish offices, the firm has said, with Covid-19 restrictions prompting a rise in virtual recruitment. Claire Reid, regional market leader for PwC in Scotland, told Scottish Financial News that the pandemic had radically altered its hiring and induction processes – which was reliant on the delivery of laptops to new starter’s homes and digital induction processes.

“Like all businesses we have had to quickly adapt to a new way of working, and that has extended to welcoming our graduate intake for 2020 – while I’m used to meeting graduates in a packed room, it was quite the experience to address more than 100 people on a video call,” said Reid. “The business has shown great resilience since the onset of Covid-19 and that is reflected by the fact we are able to welcome more than 100 graduates through our virtual doors.”

Across the UK, PwC will virtually welcome more than 1,300 student hires during September and October, and has already onboarded 243 students since lockdown was announced at the end of March.

8.40am Odeon to open weekends only at some cinemas

Odeon is cutting the opening hours of some of its cinemas to weekends only because of delays to new film releases. The chain, which employees 5,500 people across 120 theatres in the UK and Ireland, said the new change will affect a quarter of its cinemas. It declined to comment on whether the reduced opening hours would result in redundancies. 

The news comes as Cineworld announced it will temporarily close its UK and US venues, affecting 45,000 jobs in total. The change came after the release of the new James Bond film was delayed again, a move that Cineworld directly attributed to its closure of cinemas. 

7.40am Nearly 500,000 redundancies planned since crisis began, investigation finds

British employers planned 58,000 redundancies in August, according to an investigation by the BBC, taking the total to 498,000 for the first five months of the Covid crisis. According to figures released to the BBC after a freedom of information request, 966 businesses told the government about plans to cut jobs, compared to 214 in August 2019. 

However, this was still lower than the levels of job cuts seen in June and July, in which 150,000 redundancies were planned in each month. A number of businesses announced redundancy plans in August, including Pret A Manger, Gatwick Airport, Co-op Bank, Marks & Spencer, River Island and YO! Sushi.

Monday 5 October

1.50pm Government launches £238m employment programme in wake of pandemic

The new job entry targeted support scheme (JETS) will help those left jobless for at least three months during the Covid-19 crisis get back into work by giving them access to flexible and tailored support, including CV and interview coaching and specialist advice on moving into sectors of the economy experiencing growth. Speaking to the BBC, work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey said the scheme would be specifically targeted at adults over the age of 25, helping them transfer their skills to growing sectors of the UK economy, including construction and social care. “JETS will give recently unemployed people the helping hand they need to get back into work, boosting the prospects of more than a quarter of a million people across Britain,” Coffey said.

The scheme has already launched in several locations across the UK – including much of Wales – and will become available in more regions in the coming months. 

12.30pm Three-quarters of firms plan to maintain Covid levels of home working, poll finds

A poll of 958 company directors, conducted last month by the Institute of Directors (IoD), found that 74 per cent said they planned to keep the higher levels of remote working introduced because of the pandemic, while 43 per cent said they would maintain other forms of flexible working, including flexitime and compressed hours. More than half (53 per cent) also said their organisation intended to reduce its use of a physical workplace long term, with one fifth (21 per cent) reporting that their use of a place of work would be significantly lower than before the outbreak. By comparison, 30 per cent of respondents said their organisation’s office usage would not change, while just 5 per cent said it would increase.

Roger Barker, director of policy at the IoD, said working from home didn’t work for everyone, and employers needed to be “alive to the downsides”. “Managing teams remotely can prove far from straightforward, and directors must make sure they are going out of their way to support employees’ mental wellbeing,” he said. 

10am Freelancers see pay drop by 30 per cent

The average incomes of freelancers dropped 30 per cent in the first half of this year, research from IPSE has found. The freelancer membership body, which analysed figures used by the Bank of England, found average earnings fell from £22,742 per quarter at the start of the year to just £15,709 at the end of June, The Telegraph reported. Andrew Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE, called on the government to introduce “a more focused support package [of financial support] that includes individuals such as the newly self-employed and company directors who did not benefit from the first round of help”.

7.30am Cineworld confirms thousands of jobs at risk with closure

Britain’s biggest cinema chain, Cineworld, is set to close all its sites temporarily, putting thousands of jobs at risk. Cineworld, which has 128 theatres in the UK and Ireland, made the decision to temporarily close all its screens after the new James Bond film was delayed until 2021. Now, the firm says it has written to Boris Johnson and Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, to say that the theatre industry has become “unviable” because of the decision by film studios to postpone big-budget releases.

Because of these delays, the company said it will shut theatres in the UK from this Thursday (8 October). The move puts up to 5,500 jobs at risk. According to The Sunday Times, the majority of Cineworld’s staff will be asked to accept redundancy, with possible incentives to rejoin the company when theatres reopen – likely to be next year.

Friday 2 October 

3pm Sheffield Forgemasters plants to cut 95 jobs

Steel company Sheffield Forgemasters has revealed plans to cut 95 jobs because of the impact of coronavirus on global markets. The company said cuts to its workforce of 708 were an “unavoidable necessity” and a result of reduced demand in the current economic climate. 

Chief executive David Bond said: “The decision to make redundancies has been extremely difficult for us, but staff cuts have become an unavoidable necessity in order to protect the majority of jobs at Sheffield Forgemasters,” but added that “many highly skilled positions” would be protected and the apprentice training programme would continue. However, the redundancies are expected to affect staff across all areas of the business. 

1.30pm Tribunal claims surged during lockdown, official figures show

The latest statistics from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) reveal the number of single claims – where claims are made by an individual claimant – made between April and June this year was 10,318, an 18 per cent rise compared to the same three months of 2019, when this figure stood at 8,772.

This was accompanied by a drop in claims being disposed of – where the court issues a summary judgment without a full hearing. These fell to 4,496, down 21 per cent compared to 5,695 the previous year. In its quarterly report on tribunal statistics, the MoJ attributed the increase in claims to rising levels of unemployment because of “the impact of Covid-19 on the economy”, and said this was “the highest level of single employment tribunal claims since 2012/13”.

12.45pm Everything you need to know about bringing staff back from furlough

In March, the UK government announced a series of wide-ranging measures to help businesses and employees struggling to cope with the pandemic, including the coronavirus job retention scheme, which has subsidised the wages of some 9.6 million jobs at a cost of £39.3bn.  The furlough scheme is fast drawing to its close on 31 October and will be replaced next month by a new job support scheme, which will top up the wages of workers on reduced hours. Crucially, the scheme focuses on bringing employees back into what chancellor Rishi Sunak described as “viable jobs”, and only employees working at least a third of their hours will be eligible for support.

As such, many businesses are currently evaluating how to effectively transition furloughed staff back to work. People Management asked HR and employment law specialists what employers need to consider as they bring people back over the coming weeks. 

12.30pm Why trust is key to leading in challenging times

HR practitioners must help leaders to give their teams autonomy, create cultures of appreciation and ask searching questions, says Claire Gearon

12.20pm London transport ‘will shut without second bailout’

The transport system in England’s capital will shut down in a “doomsday scenario” without a second bailout, Transport for London (TfL) has warned. In May, the government agreed to a £1.6bn bailout for TfL to keep services running after the firm reported a 90 per cent drop in income during the pandemic. But the deal is due to expire in two weeks.

Andy Byford, commissioner for TfL, said the network’s finances were “right on the wire”, warning that TfL needed £3bn to stay afloat through 2021. Byford said he was “almost begging” ministers to send their offer so negotiations could start. He warned, if a new deal was not reached, TfL would be forced to stop services. As a result, he said: “London will grind to a halt – it’s as simple as that.”

10am Concern over job losses as one in ten workers still on furlough, official figures show

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has warned that 20 per cent of the 8.9 million people who were furloughed could end up losing their jobs, the Times has reported. The government spending watchdog forecast that unemployment could reach 4 million by the end of 2020, peaking at 13 per cent, or 4.5 million.

The figures come as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) yesterday found 11 per cent of the workforce were still on the job retention scheme in the two weeks between 2 September and 20 September. While the figure has decreased substantially from 36 per cent in April, millions of workers continue to rely on support that is due to end this month.

Thursday 1 October

2pm Nearly 100 leisure jobs at risk as Covid restrictions impact trade

Nearly 100 staff running the Newport Live leisure centre have been told they could be at risk of redundancy as trade has been “significantly impacted” by Covid-19. Steve Ward, chief executive of Newport Live, said local lockdowns had stopped people from visiting the centre’s various facilities. As such, he said the restrictions had resulted in a reduction in customers and loss of bookings, which have brought about “a considerable loss of income”.

He said 97 employees had been informed that they were at risk of redundancy, and a consolidation would be underway during October. He added: “We are encouraging local people to return to safe sport and physical activity with us, which in turn will help to retain services and roles for our colleagues.”

1.10pm Quarter of firms unaware of redundancy consultation legalities, research finds

More than a third of employers (37 per cent) are likely to shed jobs by the end of the year, with many admitting to being unaware of their legal responsibilities around consulting staff, according to Acas. Its survey, which polled more than 2,000 business representatives and was conducted by YouGov last month, revealed large companies were more likely to be looking to cut jobs, with 60 per cent of firms with more than 250 employees anticipating redundancies.

It found a quarter (24 per cent) of companies admitted they were not aware of their legal responsibilities around consulting staff before making redundancies, rising to a third (33 per cent) of small businesses. Of those planning to make redundancies, more than a quarter (27 per cent) said they would be telling staff via video calls or over the phone. Only a third (33 per cent) intended to tell people in person.

Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC, said the figures were “sad but perhaps not surprising”, as many businesses had been struggling over the past few months. But, he warned: “It is essential they know the law before making any decisions.” Redundancies should be a last resort and employers “must use a fair and balanced selection process and conduct consultation proceedings with those employees with as much warning as possible”, he said.

12.30pm More than half of employees still going in to work, ONS data shows

More than half of UK workers are still travelling to a workplace, despite the recent change in government advice. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that, despite the intervention from the prime minister Boris Johnson last week (on 22 September) calling on workers to return to conducting their roles from home where possible, there was only a small drop in the proportion of people travelling to work.

Between 25 and 27 September, 59 per cent of people surveyed reported travelling to work at some point during that week – a slight drop from 64 per cent the previous week. The figures did show a slight uptick in the proportion of people working exclusively from home, increasing to 24 per cent from 21 per cent the previous week.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, urged employers considering whether to keep offices open to balance the needs of those staff struggling to work from home with the importance of respecting the latest health and safety guidance.

12.20pm H&M to close 250 shops worldwide

H&M has said it plans to cut 250 of its stores globally as the pandemic has moved more shoppers online. The fashion retailer said the closures would be implemented in 2021. H&M has 5,000 stores worldwide, and it is not clear how many closures will be in the UK. 

H&M said it was “too early for us to give any details on this; the numbers will differ from [national] market to market”. Though many of its stores had reopened, it said 166 sites worldwide remained closed, and a large number were subject to local restrictions and limited opening hours.

11.15am Burger King preparing to close a number of UK restaurants

Fast-food chain Burger King is planning to permanently close a number of its UK restaurants as part of a restructuring deal triggered by the pandemic. It has hired advisers from AlixPartners to review options for one of its subsidiary companies, which owns approximately 25 of its outlets, according to Sky News.

Sources claimed the company was considering a company voluntary arrangement or a pre-pack administration for the subsidiary. The restructure could see the permanent closure of up to 10 of its restaurants with potential job losses.

8.30am Almost half of UK office staff had returned before new advice

Nearly half (45 per cent) of office employees headed back to work in September, compared with 37 per cent in August and 34 per cent in July, according to data collected by the AlphaWise research unit of Morgan Stanley. However, even at 45 per cent, the UK lagged well behind much of Europe, where 75 per cent of office staff had returned. And the impact of the government’s changed advice on 22 September, that people should once again work from home where they could, was yet to be seen, with the data compiled between 14 and 17 September.

In France, 88 per cent of office workers had returned in September, and in Spain 80 per cent were back, despite a resurgence of the virus in those countries. In Italy, 83 per cent of office staff had returned. Almost a third (32 per cent) of UK office staff were working from home five days a week. More than 70 per cent said they were working at home because their employer had made the decision or their office was closed, rather than it being a personal choice.

Wednesday 30 September

3.45pm A third of UK frontline workers feel underprepared to perform during pandemic, report finds 

A lack of training has left frontline retail workers underprepared to perform during the pandemic, according to a report from Axonify. The research, which involved 2,000 frontline workers, showed that while most (87 per cent) had confidence in their ability to perform in their role effectively under normal circumstances, a third (35 per cent) felt underprepared to perform in the current crisis – rising to 40 per cent among supermarket and grocery store workers. Nearly one in five (19 per cent) said they hadn’t received the proper training on changes affecting their job during the pandemic.

Carol Leaman, chief executive and co-founder of Axonify, said: “Any training provided needs to be carefully considered – the requirements of the retail workforce have evolved, and retail businesses must adapt to ensure their cultures continue to empower their most valuable asset: their frontline staff.”

2.50pm Fuller’s pub chain boss warns of job cuts

The boss of pub chain Fuller’s has told the BBC he may have to lay off “at least” 10 per cent of his workforce. Simon Emeny, chief executive of Fuller’s, told BBC Radio 5 Live that the job losses were “inevitable” because the government’s decision to encourage people to work from home would negatively affect the firm’s pubs. The warning follows other similar ones from JD Wetherspoon, Premier Inn and Beefeater owner Whitbread, and Greggs.

Fuller’s owns around 400 pubs and hotels across the UK, with many located in London. Emeny said: “The biggest challenge we have around job losses is in central London, because the current prime minister’s announcement last week to discourage people from going back to the office is having a big impact on city centres and in particular central London.” He said he and his management team were still working out how many staff would have to be made redundant, “but it will be at least 10 per cent”.

12.40pm Can you test employees working from home for drug and alcohol abuse?

Drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace was an issue before lockdown. Research from the CIPD found that just over a quarter (26 per cent) of employers had disciplined someone for drug abuse in the last two years.

Now, with the added stresses of the pandemic – including furlough, redundancy, working from home and in many cases greater levels of isolation – there is a tinderbox environment for individuals with drug or alcohol problems. More than one in four (26 per cent) of those working from home because of lockdown who usually have a drink were imbibing more than usual, according to research by Drinkaware released in May. This rose to one in three (36 per cent) among those 9.6 million on furlough.

But with no return to the office in sight – given the government’s recent U-turn and new guidance that staff should once again work from home where they can, potentially for the next six months – People Management asks whether you can test for drug and alcohol misuse while employees are working from home, and how to spot the signs of addiction and offer support remotely.

11.50am How to help redundant employees become entrepreneurs

Many firms offer advice on CV writing and interview technique, but they should also support laid-off staff to found start-ups, says Chris Locke.

11.10am TSB to close a third of branches and axe 900 jobs

TSB will close 164 branches and cut 900 jobs, blaming “a significant shift in customer behaviour” as more customers bank online. The bank said the closures were in addition to the 82 branches it would close in November. TSB said it hoped most of the job cuts would come through voluntary redundancies, and said it would also create 120 new positions.

It did not name the branches that would shut, but said those with the lowest footfall would go. Debbie Crosbie, chief executive of TSB, said the closure plan and job cuts were not an easy decision. Crosbie said: “Our customers are banking differently – with a marked shift to digital banking. This means having the right balance between branches on the high street and our digital platforms, enabling us to offer the very best experience for our personal and business customers across the UK.”

10.15am Google to lease extra 70,000 sq ft in UK offices despite remote working

Google is to lease an additional 70,000 sq ft in office buildings close to its £1bn new UK headquarters in King’s Cross, London, despite telling all of its 4,500 UK staff that they will be working from home until at least July 2021. Google’s request for more space comes despite many big companies attempting to shrink the size of their offices because of the coronavirus pandemic, and despite experts predicting many people will not return to spending five days a week in the workplace even when the crisis is over.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, last week said the company would focus on a “hybrid” model that would include both office and remote working. “We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having that sense of community, is super important for whenever you have to solve hard problems – you have to create something new,” he told Time magazine. “We don’t see that changing. So we don’t think the future is 100 per cent remote, we definitely value our offices, we value the culture, but we do think we need to create more flexibility, a more hybrid model.”

7.50am Shell to cut up to 9,000 jobs

Shell has said it plans to cut 7,000 to 9,000 jobs worldwide following a collapse in global oil demand because of the coronavirus pandemic. Shell said the cuts would be implemented by 2022 and include 1,500 voluntary redundancies. It gave no indication of where the job losses would happen. 

The oil giant employs 83,000 people worldwide and has around 6,000 workers in the UK. Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Shell, said: “We have had to act quickly and decisively and make some very tough financial decisions to ensure we remained resilient, including cutting the dividend. But as hard as they were, they were entirely the appropriate choices to make. And Covid-19 has hit us in another way. We have, very sadly, lost six employees and six contractor colleagues to the virus.”

Tuesday 29 September

1.20pm Adults in England without A-levels to be offered free college training

Prime minister Boris Johnson is to set out plans today as part of his ‘lifetime skills guarantee’ – a previously announced scheme to transform England’s current training and skills system to support the country to rebuild after the pandemic. In his announcement today, Johnson will say the government “cannot, alas, save every job”, but that it can “give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs”. As part of the package of new measures, people who do not have A-levels or an equivalent qualification will be able to study a college course in England from April 2021 paid for via a £2.5bn national skills fund. Currently, the government pays for a first A-level equivalent qualification up to the age of 23, but this is being extended to all ages for courses deemed to be of value to employers.

Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive of City & Guilds Group, said the government’s new measures were too narrow in scope to tackle the expected wave of unemployment and redundancies, and did not address the “vast skills and jobs challenges that lie ahead”.

“How is the provision going to be flexible enough for people to fit learning around their lives and responsibilities – whether that’s childcare, caring for a relative or a part-time job?” Donnelly said, noting that any training offered needed the option of digital learning. 

Further details of which courses will meet this criteria are due to be set out next month.

12.15pm Supporting brain injured employees in the workplace

Sally Simpson looks at how firms can best help staff who return to work after sustaining a brain injury – particularly during the Covid pandemic

10.50am Greggs hints at job cuts when furlough scheme ends 

Bakery chain Greggs, which employs 25,000 workers, has hinted it might be forced to make job cuts if business remains subdued. The firm has said it expects business activity to “remain below normal for the foreseeable future” and, as such, has reviewed staff cuts and is currently consulting with unions and employee representatives.

Greggs said it wanted to minimise the risk of losses by putting workers on reduced hours; however, it is not yet clear if it planned to use the job support scheme to top up pay for those working fewer hours. “With the job retention scheme planned to end in October we are taking steps to ensure that our employment costs reflect the estimated level of demand from November onwards,” the business said in a statement.

9.30am Youth unemployment in pandemic ‘could be worse than financial crisis’ 

The rate of unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds rose by two percentage points to 13.4 per cent between May and July, analysis by the Office for National Statistics has found, which is its highest level since the summer of 2016. In comparison, the official unemployment rate across all age groups rose by just 0.3 per cent to 4.1 per cent. It also found the unemployment rate for women in the same age range fell by 2.5 percentage points to 52.9 per cent, but for young men it dropped by 1.2 percentage points to 52.8 per cent. 

According to The Times report, economists and policy makers have raised concerns that youth unemployment will climb by 600,000 to more than a million this year as employers reduce hiring in the economic downturn. Additionally, they predict that youth unemployment will be greater in the pandemic than in the financial crisis a decade ago. 

Monday 28 September

5.20pm The Royal Albert Hall avoids job cuts with flexible lay-off scheme 

The Royal Albert Hall has announced that it avoided mass redundancies through a “flexible lay-off scheme” and has now begun consultation with its 515 staff. Under the scheme, the workforce will be laid off on 55 per cent of their normal pay and then can be called upon if the venue is able to reopen. A spokesperson told the Evening Standard: “Our ability to continue to pay our staff when the job retention scheme ceases is limited as we are still not able to open fully.

“Today we told staff of our plans to implement a flexible lay-off scheme that will avoid the need to make mass redundancies… Given our financial situation, this is a solution that looks after our staff and avoids losing our important workforce.” They added, however, that even with the lay-off scheme “a limited number of roles have been put at risk of redundancy”, but declined to confirm how many jobs were at risk.

5.15pm Employee infections at food factories much higher than reported, body warns

The number of Covid-19 infections at food factories that supply UK supermarkets and restaurants could be more than 30 times higher than reported, according to Pirc, an organisation that advises shareholders on ethical investment. So far, just 47 notifications of Covid-19 workplace infections and no fatalities have been reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by food manufacturers. However, Pirc found there have been at least 1,461 infections and six fatalities, with the true figures likely to be higher. Pirc said the discrepancy was partly down to a loophole that allows companies to determine whether employees were infected on the job or elsewhere when they submit reports to the HSE. Alice Martin, labour specialist at Pirc, said the findings showed figures submitted to the HSE by businesses lacked credibility.

1.40pm Employers could face £10,000 fines for asking self-isolating staff to attend work

Employers in England that knowingly allow or force staff to come to work when they should be self-isolating can be fined up to £10,000 from today (28 September). The new rules are part of a set of measures that make it a legal duty for individuals to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus or if they are told to self-isolate by the NHS Track and Trace system. It introduces fines for both individuals who fail to self-isolate and businesses that let workers break self-isolation through the course of their work.

The measures were announced last week by health secretary Matt Hancock as part of the government’s response to an increase in Covid cases over the last few weeks. At the time, Hancock said the government would “crack down on employers that [tried] to prevent staff from following the rules”.

1pm Will the new job support scheme really work?

Mark Kaye looks into whether the chancellor’s new initiative to prevent redundancies is likely to have the intended effect.

12.50pm How are people teams responding to coronavirus? …Bistrot Pierre

Jane Rawden, HR director for Bistrot Pierre, shares how the restaurant business furloughed more than 95 per cent of staff and had to close six restaurants permanently, but a test and learn strategy has enabled it to reopen safely.

11.30am How to avoid an ‘autumn of angst’ as furloughed staff return

Some might be coming back to work feeling unfairly treated or mismanaged while on the job retention scheme, says Sandra McLellan, who advises mediation and regular check-ins.

10am Aldi to create 4,000 UK jobs

Aldi has announced it will create 4,000 jobs and open 100 new stores as part of a £1.3bn investment drive in the UK. The new jobs are on top of the 3,000 permanent roles the supermarket chain has created this year after sales surged during the pandemic. Aldi said it planned to have 1,200 stores in the UK by 2025. 

It is currently Britain’s fifth-largest grocery chain with 894 stores and more than 36,000 staff. Giles Hurley, chief executive of Aldi UK and Ireland, said: “With the UK’s economic outlook increasingly uncertain, families are more concerned about their grocery bills than ever. We’ve seen before that our customers need us most in times of financial hardship, which is why our commitment to remain Britain’s lowest-priced supermarket is more important than ever.”

9.30am More than a million workers could lose jobs, economist warns

More than a million workers could still lose their jobs as the country enters new lockdown measures despite the chancellor’s latest package of support measures, economists have warned. Speaking to The Times, Capital Economics has said Rishi Sunak’s package of measures – which include a new job support scheme – “won’t be enough to counter the economic impact of fresh restrictions”, and forecast unemployment would rise by at least 7 per cent. Deutsche Bank also told the paper the new measures “won’t do very much to stem the rise in unemployment”.

8am EasyJet announces ‘no compulsory job cuts’ after 1,500 flight crew agree to go part time

Airline easyJet has reached a deal with unions that does not involve compulsory job redundancies. In May, the firm warned thousands of staff could face redundancy, with 727 pilots at risk of losing their jobs. The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) now says a “huge community sacrifice” has enabled compulsory job cuts to be avoided. Balpa said 60 flight crew had taken voluntary redundancy while a further 1,500 had opted for part-time employment. 

But an easyJet spokesperson told The Independent that the negotiations had not been finalised, adding: “We are waiting to receive the last few signed contracts in the next couple of days and remain hopeful that this means that when the process is completed there should be no need for any compulsory redundancies.”

Friday 25 September

1.50pm How will the job support scheme actually work?

Many businesses breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the launch of a new job support scheme to replace the job retention scheme that comes to an end next month.

But, reminiscent of the launch of the furlough scheme back in March, this new package has yet to be backed by any detailed guidance, leaving unanswered questions about who exactly is eligible and how the scheme will work. People Management asked legal experts for their views on how the scheme is likely to work, and key areas where clarity is needed.

1.20pm Lockdowns announced for Cardiff and Swansea

Cardiff and Swansea will put in local lockdowns from Sunday (27 September) evening, the Welsh government has announced. Some parts of Llanelli in south Wales will also be under a local lockdown from Saturday evening. The new restrictions will affect around 800,000 people.

11.50am Working from home costs central London £2.3bn, study suggests

Working remotely because of the pandemic has created a £2.3bn spending deficit in central London, according to data from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). The study suggested that spending in businesses near central London workplaces had been “lost or displaced” between March and July, during the height of the lockdown restrictions in the UK. The CEBR found that in April alone the number of people going to work in London was 77 per cent lower than before the pandemic. 

Nina Skero, chief executive of the CEBR, said: “During the months of March to July, virtually everybody that could was working from home, so we estimate that the lost spending during that period was more than £500m per month because all of the spending on restaurants, hairdressers and other services was almost entirely lost as people were confined to their homes.” 

8.40am Rising number of Londoners looking for work outside capital, survey finds

Londoners are increasingly looking for jobs outside the capital, according to a survey by job site Indeed, raising the prospect of a wave of “reverse commuters”. Figures from Indeed showed that on 18 September, the number of job posts advertised in London was down by 55 per cent when compared to the year before. Indeed said the decline reflected the impact of closed offices and reduced capacity for new hires in London. 

Indeed said more jobseekers in London were looking for work outside the capital. In August, the number of jobseekers looking for work outside London was up by 27 per cent year-on-year, and up by 30 per cent compared with the start of the year. 

Jack Kennedy, economist for Indeed UK, said the prolonged absence of commuters and tourists from central London was “weighing down” the pace of job creation in the capital. He explained: “Most [Londoners] are looking for work in areas within commuting distance of London. This raises the prospect of a new type of worker: the reverse commuter who lives in London but travels out of the capital for work.”

7.40am Hundreds of thousands of retail jobs ‘unviable’, Next boss warns

In an interview with the BBC, Lord Wolfson, who runs clothing chain Next, said hundreds of thousands of traditional retail jobs may be considered “unviable” because the pandemic and lockdown has triggered a permanent shift to online shopping. His comments came hours after chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new job support scheme that would see the government top up the pay of people unable to work full time. 

While Lord Wolfson welcomed the chancellor’s announcement, he said it was important that businesses eventually learn to live without government support. He said: “I think it’s important that employers begin to pay a little bit more for the schemes and that employees get a little bit less – because otherwise I think there’s a risk that our economy will just become hooked on it.”

Thursday 24 September

5pm Unions urge companies to ‘exhaust all alternatives’ before making redundancies 

In a joint statement, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the TUC and Acas have urged companies to “exhaust all possible alternatives” before making redundancies, and to treat workers fairly should they happen.

Kate Bell, head of rights, international, social and economics department at the TUC told the Financial Times: “We know we are doing absolutely everything we can to prevent [job cuts] but… they are already happening.” Bell said she hoped businesses would avoid the “completely unacceptable” ‘fire and rehire’ practices attempted by firms such as British Gas, adding that employers should be wise to discrimination when selecting workers for redundancy, as performance-based selection criteria could see furloughed or shielding workers facing unequal treatment.

1.30pm Chancellor announces job support scheme to replace furlough

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a new job support scheme that will focus on “protecting viable jobs” and replace the furlough scheme when it ends in October. Under the new scheme, the government will top up the wages of employees who have been put on reduced hours because of the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Firms will be able to reduce their employees’ working time to as little as a third of their regular hours, and will continue to pay them as normal for hours worked. The employee will then have their wages topped up to cover two-thirds of the pay lost by the reduction in hours, with the government and the employer paying a third of the remaining wages each.

TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady called the scheme a “lifeline for many firms with a viable future beyond the pandemic.” But, she added: “Unworked hours under the scheme must not be wasted. Ministers must work with business and unions to offer high-quality retraining, so workers are prepared for the future economy.”

1pm No organisation is too big or too small to plan for a crisis

Former Royal Marine Gareth Tennant advises how firms can adapt their strategy post Covid to prepare for and mitigate future risks

12.50 pm Government’s reopening offices U-turn: how six HRDs are responding

On Tuesday (22 September) prime minister Boris Johnson announced that all workers in England able to work from home would once again be asked to do so in light of an increased number of coronavirus cases over the last few weeks, bringing Westminster’s approach back in line with that of Scotland and Wales.

The announcement marked an abrupt U-turn from earlier advice urging office workers to return. In July, Johnson said people should “start to go back to work now if [they] can”, and in the last month the government has encouraged workers to return to offices, saying that many workplaces were now “Covid secure”. People Managementasked six top HR directors how the latest change in advice had affected their back to work strategies.

9.20am Up to 200 workers face redundancy at Ocado call centre

Ocado could make up to 200 workers at its Hatfield call centre redundant as it shifts roles to Sunderland. According to a report by the Guardian, the move is a cost-cutting measure at a time when the online grocer is recording record profits. One call centre worker involved in the redundancy consultation process which started this week told the Guardian that the cuts are “quite brutal” for staff who had responded to a huge surge in orders due to lockdown.

Ocado said that the Hatfield workers would be offered jobs in Sunderland or in other warehouse or support roles in Hatfield. The company said it was making the changes because it thought call centre operations would be more efficient if run from one location. 

8.10am Stobart Aviation Services plans job cuts at Stansted Airport

Baggage handling firm Stobart Aviation Services has said it plans to cut 98 roles – roughly two-thirds of its workforce at the airport – due to the financial upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The firm employs 147 members of ground crew at Stansted, and it said further cuts are also planned at Southend and Manchester airports.

Unite said ground crew’s workload at Stansted has reduced significantly since March. Before the pandemic, the firm was helping with 890 flights every week, but it is now only handling 157. 

7.50am 130 jobs at Heriot-Watt University at risk of redundancy

Heriot-Watt University, which has more than 20,000 students enrolled, has announced plans to axe 130 roles, including both academic and support positions. A spokeswoman for Edinburgh-based university said the pandemic had resulted in a “significant impact” on its income. 

She added: “This financial challenge is resulting in the need to make some difficult decisions, and this includes proposals to reduce the number of roles across the university. We are committed to finding these through voluntary means wherever possible, either through potential redundancy or other voluntary options such as a reduction in working hours, career breaks and flexible retirement.”

The announcement has been criticised by the University and College Union (UCU) as “an attempt to take advantage of the global pandemic”. The UCU has vowed to move forward with a statutory ballot on industrial action in the wake of the decision, including possible strikes.

Wednesday 23 September

5pm Chancellor hints at furlough replacement 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has hinted on Twitter that he will provide an update on “plans to continue protecting jobs through the winter” tomorrow afternoon (24 September), following weeks of calls from businesses to offer a replacement for the furlough scheme, which comes to an end next month. According to BBC reports, Sunak is potentially looking at a salary top-up scheme, similar to those operating in France and Germany. Boris Johnson revealed during prime minister’s questions today that the chancellor was working on “creative and imaginative” solutions, but the Treasury has declined to comment.

3pm Hundreds of NEC Group jobs at risk 

The NEC Group company has announced that hundreds of jobs may be at risk because of revenue falling to near-zero amid the pandemic. The Birmingham-based firm, which runs five venues including the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), Resorts World Area and International Convention Centre (ICC), is set to begin consultation with its 2,300 staff. The group said job cuts were necessary “to ensure the longevity of the business”, as revenue dropped to almost nothing since mid-March when events were cancelled or postponed until 2021. 

“With the current social distancing measures, the inability to access the £1.57bn culture support package and no sector specific extension to the coronavirus job retention scheme, there is increasing pressure on the group’s finances,” a spokesman told the BBC. 

The consultation process with employees will begin next month.

2.50pm Asda to create jobs in effort to crack down on shoppers without face masks

Asda is set to create new jobs in an effort to enforce rules on face coverings more strictly across its shops. The supermarket announced it will create 1,000 new “safety marshal” roles across its 639 UK stores to maintain safety as a key priority for customers. Marshals will remind shoppers to wear face coverings in-store and provide customers with sanitised shopping baskets on arrival.

Anthony Hemmerdinger, chief operating officer at Asda, said: “We know that safety remains a key priority for our customers, and we will continue to do all we can to keep them and our colleagues safe in store, as we have since the start of the pandemic.” The announcement followed news that Morrisons had reinstated marshals on the doors of its 497 supermarkets to remind those entering to wear a face covering.

1.30pm Should workplaces stay open despite changed advice?

Yesterday’s ministerial U-turn on returning to workplaces has created confusion among employers about whether they are allowed to – and indeed should – keep offices open, experts have warned. In a televised public address, prime minister Boris Johnson announced a reversal of previous advice given in July that workers should “start to go back to work now if [they] can”, with the responsibility for deciding whether it was safe to encourage this, and for making workplaces ‘Covid secure’, resting with employers themselves.

Instead, Johnson told MPs yesterday (22 September) that although “in key public services – and in all professions where home working is not possible, such as construction or retail – people should continue to attend their workplaces”, the government was now “once again asking office workers who can work from home to do so”. He said the restrictions were likely to be in place for six months.

But the announcement has created confusion among employers, many of whom had launched extensive plans to gradually and safely reopen their workplaces, with experts highlighting important considerations to make before abandoning these and asking staff to once again work from home.

12.40pm Can employers reduce pay for permanent home working?

Coronavirus has changed the way we work – or rather, accelerated changes that were slowly happening pre Covid. There is no longer any doubt in employers’ minds that remote working is not only possible, but comes with a raft of benefits. A recent CIPD report hailed home working as “one of the big success stories of the pandemic”, to the point where some businesses are asking whether their employees need to come back to the office at all.

Indeed, recent headway made returning staff to the office has proved short-lived in light of prime minister Boris Johnson yesterday (22 September) reversing his position and urging English employees to work from home where possible, as part of an attempt to avoid a second wave of the virus. This brought England more closely back in line with Scotland and Wales, with Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon recently promising only a review of reopening offices north of the border on 1 October, and Welsh deputy minister for transport and economy Lee Waters saying the government’s previous call for workers to return to offices where safe was “not one [they would be] repeating in Wales”.  

So, with home working firmly on the agenda for the foreseeable future and saving employees significant commuting costs, can organisations legally and reasonably cut pay for those working from home permanently? And should they?

11am The transformative nature of furlough

The coronavirus pandemic has been incredibly disruptive, but businesses shouldn’t waste the chance to use new skills their workers have learnt, says Riccarda Zezza.

10.30am Upper Crust owner warns of ‘considerable’ job cuts

Upper Crust owner SSP has warned there could be “considerable” job losses as the company attempts to cope with a collapse in sales during the pandemic. The food provider, which also owns Camden Food Co., said it expected sales to be 86 per cent lower year-on-year, roughly equivalent to a revenue drop of £1.3bn. SSP said this loss could be mitigated by a range of cost-cutting measures including job cuts. 

Simon Smith, chief executive of SSP, said: “It is with regret that the prolonged nature of this crisis has resulted in us having to restructure and make considerable job losses in order to protect the business. These are always extremely difficult decisions, and we are supporting our colleagues throughout this process.” This announcement comes after the food group said it planned to make 5,000 roles redundant in July, with the majority of cuts impacting the company’s UK operations. 

9.15am UK considering German-style furlough replacement

Rishi Sunak is reportedly considering replacing the furlough scheme with a new wage subsidy scheme based on the system currently operating in Germany, as the new lockdown restrictions have again raised the threat of increased unemployment.

The Guardian reported that the chancellor has been consulting with businesses on a number of options for the end of furlough in October, including a “short-work” scheme where the government pays part of the wages of workers on reduced hours. Under Germany’s ‘Kurzarbeit’ scheme, if an employee is on reduced hours the government pays 60 per cent of their wages for the time they are not working, while the employer pays them as normal for the time that they are.

The government is also reportedly considering another round of financial support for businesses which could be a mix of extensions to existing coronavirus support loans as well as new financial support packages.

8.20am Macmillan to cut 310 jobs due to funding crisis

Macmillan Cancer Support has announced plans to cut 310 jobs – around a sixth of its total workforce – because the charity said it was likely to lose tens of millions a year in donations over the coming years. The cancer charity had already furloughed approximately 30 per cent of its staff, and it redeployed hundreds of its specialist nurses to assist NHS wards during lockdown.

But Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan, said cost savings were necessary to protect the charity’s critical cancer services. She said: “Our people are at the heart of everything we do, but this is the only way we can meet the needs of people living with cancer now and in the future. We are committed to ensuring that this is managed equitably and fairly, and that all impacted colleagues are treated with compassion and care.”

7.40am Bank of England boss calls for furlough ‘rethink’

The governor of the Bank of England has called on the government to “stop and rethink” the ending of the furlough scheme. Speaking on a webinar hosted by the British Chambers of Commerce yesterday (22 September), Andrew Bailey suggested specific sectors may benefit from further support, and he was open-minded about further intervention. 

In August, Bailey told the BBC that he backed the ending of the furlough scheme, saying workers should be helped to move on rather than stay in unproductive jobs. On Tuesday, Bailey said the furlough scheme “has been successful”, and he supported the government’s decisions. But he said: “We have moved from a world of generalised employment protections, to specific and focused areas.”

7.10am Barclays asks staff to return to working from home

Barclays will tell hundreds of UK staff who had returned to the office to go back to working from home. The bank had said it would carry out a “gradual” return to offices in October, after Jes Staley, chief executive of Barclays, said he wanted employees to come back to workplaces “over time”. 

Approximately 1,000 Barclays employees worldwide returned to offices over the past few months. But the bank told the BBC it would ask staff to return to remote working following the latest guidance from the UK government. 

Tuesday 22 September

1pm Prime minister confirms a return to working from home

The prime minister has confirmed that all workers in England who are able to work from home will once again be asked to do so in light of the increased number of coronavirus cases over the last few weeks. Addressing parliament, Boris Johnson outlined a number of additional restrictions, but said this was “no means a return to the full lockdown” introduced in March.

“We are once again asking office workers to work from home where possible,” Johnson said, but added that workers who were unable to work from home – including those in the construction sector – would still be encouraged to go to work so long as their workplace was Covid-secure. He added that there was still no need for vulnerable individuals to continue shielding apart from in areas where there were local lockdowns.

As well as the previously announced curfew on pubs, clubs, restaurants and bars, under the new rules staff in the retail sector will be required to wear masks at work, and both staff and customers in the hospitality sector will be required to wear masks at all times apart from customers when seated.

Johnson said any businesses found breaking the new rules would face fines and possible closure if they persist, and that these new rules could be in place for around six months. Stricter measures could still be implemented if the rate of infections continue to rise.

12.30pm Owner of B&Q and Screwfix to return £23m in furlough payments

Kingfisher, which owns the DIY chains B&Q and Screwfix has said it plans to return £23m in furlough payments after it saw sales and profits increase during the pandemic. The firm saw sales in its UK business increase 3.7 per cent in the six months to the end of July as consumers bought garden furniture and materials for decorating and home improvement during lockdown.

Thierry Garnier, chief executive officer of Kingfisher, said: “The crisis has prompted more people to rediscover their homes and find pleasure in making them better. It is creating new home improvement needs, as people seek new ways to use space or adjust to working from home.”

11.40am Do self-isolating employees qualify for SSP?

Debbie Coyne explains the changes that have been made to statutory sick pay rules to cover workers who need to quarantine.

11am Hundreds of Wetherspoons jobs to be cut as airport sites close

Almost half of the 1,000 JD Wetherspoon workers at sites across six airports will be at risk of being made redundant. In a letter to staff this morning, Wetherspoons said the restructuring plan was announced following a drop in passengers using airports due to the pandemic. 

John Hutson, chief executive of JD Wetherspoon, said the company had written to its employees in its pubs at Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports to inform them that up to 450 positions are at risk of redundancy. He said: “The decision is mainly a result of a downturn in trade in these pubs, linked with the large reduction in passenger numbers using the airports. We should emphasise that no firm decisions have been made at this stage.”

9.15am Employers may have to cover the cost of rapid testing

Employers could be asked to cover the cost of rapid turnaround coronavirus tests when they become available as part of the “cost of doing business”, PA has reported.

Speaking at a webinar hosted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), head of NHS Test and Trace Baroness Dido Harding said it was up to employers if they wanted to foot the bill for self-administered tests that can quickly show if an individual has the virus. While stressing that the technology was not yet ready – and that anyone with symptoms should still be tested by the NHS – Harding said in future these “more rapid turnaround, lower sensitivity and specificity tests” could allow employees to take part in non-socially distanced activities by showing that individuals are not currently infectious.

Harding added: “[Rapid turnaround tests] that might enable more parts of the economy to get back to normal. I think in that environment I think that is actually more of a business and a consumer product rather than a symptomatic healthcare product.”

9am Work from home if you can, says Gove

The public in England will once again be urged to work from home where possible, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said, showcasing a “reluctant” shift in government advice to combat the spread of coronavirus. In a series of broadcast interviews this morning, Gove asked the public to once again work from home if they are able to, which he said could help “avert the need for more serious action in the future”. 

Gove described the latest change in restrictions – which included the return to working from home and curfews placed on restaurants and pubs – as a “shift in emphasis” but unavoidable. He told Sky News: “The rate of infection is increasing, the number of people going to hospital is increasing, and therefore we need to act. It’s important to stress that there are many roles which can’t be performed from home … where we recognise that that’s simply impossible. We need to balance, obviously, the need to ensure that people can continue to work and, critically, continue to go to school against taking steps to try to reduce the virus.”

He was unable to confirm how long the new coronavirus measures are expected to last, but he did point out that “we’re going to have a challenging next six months”. He also added that plans to bring back 80 per cent of civil servants to work by the end of the month had now been put on hold. 

8.30am Whitbread cuts 6,000 jobs

Hotel and restaurant chain Whitbread is to cut up to 6,000 jobs, shrinking its workforce by 18 per cent. The company, which owns Premier Inn, among other brands, said it had suffered a 77 per cent slump in like-for-like sales in the first half of the financial year. The chain is also cutting an additional 15-20 per cent of jobs at its head office, which would mean another 150 roles being made redundant. 

Alison Brittain, chief executive of Whitbread, said the chain is “having to make some very difficult decisions” with the demand for travel remaining “subdued” because of the pandemic. She added: “In line with our longstanding values of treating our people fairly, our priority is now to ensure that this [redundancy] process is clear and transparent for all colleagues and that everyone impacted is supported throughout.”

7.40am Pubs and restaurants in England to have 10pm curfew

All pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues in England must have a 10pm closing time from Thursday (24 September). The curfew comes as part of a series of expected restrictions the government will put in place as the UK’s Covid-19 alert level moved to 4, meaning transmission of the virus is “high or rising exponentially”. 

The measures will be set out by prime minister Boris Johnson in the Commons before he addresses the UK in a live broadcast at 8pm tonight (22 September). Johnson is expected to urge people to continue social distancing measures and to urge people to work from home where it does not negatively impact businesses. 

Monday 21 September

4.15pm Businesses take staff testing in-house

A number of employers across the UK are setting up their own in-house testing systems to monitor coronavirus infection rates in their workforce, the Times has reported. Among them are BAE Systems, which has introduced nasal swabbing and temperature scans at its shipyard in Cumbria, where it is building one of the UK’s new nuclear submarines.

The paper reported the defence company had already carried out 35,000 tests on 6,000 workers. Workers are checked on a weekly basis and results are returned by text within a 48 hour time period, and testing had already identified five employees who had Covid-19 but were asymptomatic at the start of this month. 

Similarly, private equity firms Blackstone and Advent International have launched regular workplace testing. Advent provides fortnightly home testing kits and requires employees to have negative results within the past two weeks to be eligible for entry to the office. Blackstone’s London office has free voluntary testing, and all employees must register on an app that they have no symptoms before they return. “Attendance remains voluntary and we’ve put in place stringent testing,” the firm told the paper.

2.50pm Local lockdowns confirmed for four more Welsh counties

Four more counties in south Wales will go into lockdown from 6pm on Tuesday (22 September), resulting in more than a quarter of the Welsh population being under tighter restrictions as the number of coronavirus cases in the countries increases. Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent and Newport will have the same restrictions as Rhondda Cynon Taf, which went into lockdown last Wednesday. 

As part of the lockdown, residents of these counties will not be able to enter or leave the area except for a limited number of exceptions such as work or education. People will also not be able to meet others not in their own household. Licensed premises like pubs and restaurants will also need to close by 11pm every night.

1.45pm More than £215m of furlough funds repaid by employers

Thousands of UK businesses have repaid more than £215m in furlough scheme payments to the government because they either did not need the money or claimed it in error. 

As of 15 September, £215,756,121 in job retention scheme cash had been voluntarily repaid to HMRC, according to data obtained by the PA news agency through a freedom of information request. The figures revealed 80,433 employers across the UK had returned the funds they were given to subsidise workers’ salaries during the pandemic.

However, the repayments constitute just a small part of the £35.4bn employers claimed under the scheme up to 16 August.

1.40pm Can employers make masks mandatory?

Samantha Randall explains the rules around forcing employees to wear face coverings in the workplace.

12.35pm Shop workers enforcing Covid safety measures facing tide of abuse

Chief executives and industry bodies from the retail sector will call on prime minister Boris Johnson to implement tougher penalties for customers abusing retail staff, citing incidents of workers being coughed on, spat at, verbally abused or assaulted for reminding customers about social distancing measures, the Times has reported

A letter signed by chief executives of 23 supermarkets and high street shops – including Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Aldi, Asda, Boots, Lidl, Nationwide, and WH Smith, among others – will say: “During lockdown, the number of physical assaults on staff in one retailer alone went up by 56 per cent. It is now part of the job to face this daily torrent of abuse and threats.”

The retailers will also back a private members’ bill, supported by Alex Norris, Labour MP for Nottingham North, which will ask that assaulting a retail worker be classified as an aggravated offence and carry a greater sentence.

12.30pm Waterstones cuts head office jobs to ‘safeguard future of company’

Waterstones has reportedly cut 16 head office roles as it continues to be affected by the Covid-19 crisis. A further 12 roles at its London head office have also been cut following a consultation launched in late July.

The company said the cuts were a “necessary safeguarding measure for the future of Waterstones”, adding it remains confident that this new structure puts it in a good position to deliver “the best possible Christmas”.

12pm Investec to cut 210 London jobs

Investec has announced plans to cut 210 jobs – roughly 13 per cent of its total UK headcount – in its London office. The wealth management and banking group said the job cuts were part of an ongoing simplification process brought on by the pandemic. 

7.50am Businesses voluntarily return £215m in furlough cash

More than 80,000 UK employers have voluntarily returned funding they were given to help cover worker’s salaries. As of 15 September, 80,433 companies and other bodies had returned £215,756,121 in furlough scheme payments they did not need or had taken in error, according to data obtained by the PA news agency. HMRC believes almost £3.5bn in furlough wages could have been paid out in error or fraud. 

Ikea, Redrow, Games Workshop, the Spectator magazine and distribution giant Bunzi have all said they have returned the money they have claimed through the government’s furlough scheme. 

7.20am 1,000 Butlin’s jobs at risk when furlough ends

Almost 1,000 furloughed workers at holiday camp operator Butlin’s could be made redundant when the government’s job retention scheme ends next month. According to documents seen by the BBC, Butlin’s, which employs more than 6,000 workers in the UK, said no decision had been made yet on whether to cut jobs, but suggested employees take paid holiday if they have any or unpaid leave once the furlough scheme ends. 

Butlin’s said: “Since we reopened Butlin’s we’ve worked hard to bring back as many of our team as possible whilst ensuring we’re safe and secure. There has been no decision made regarding our team who are still furloughed.”

Friday 18 September

2.45pm Government considers tighter measures which could see hospitality businesses shut 

In a bid to temper surging coronavirus cases, the UK government is considering new England-wide measures which could see hospitality businesses closed. Health secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC the government is “prepared to do what it takes” against Covid-19.

The possible measures being discussed include asking some hospitality businesses to close or limiting the opening hours of some pubs and restaurants, as has already happened in some areas. No final decisions have yet been reached but BBC reports speculate that prime minister Boris Johnson is “deeply reluctant” to order another national lockdown. 

1pm Will auto-enrolment be reformed in the wake of Covid?

Amid the financial pressures facing employees as a result of the pandemic, pensions experts are calling for reforms to auto-enrolment to ensure low-paid workers who stop paying into pensions do not lose out on employer contributions. People Management takes a look at the pros and cons of such a move, what this would mean cost-wise for employers (and admin-wise for HR), and how likely change is.

12.10pm The post-Covid company doesn’t exist yet, but we can create it together

History shows people often don’t learn from hardships, says Thibaut Bardon, so staff, managers and other stakeholders must all be intentional in embedding change.

12pm Avoiding coronavirus-related discrimination claims

The Covid-19 pandemic has created new situations for discrimination can flourish. Adam Penman examines the potential danger zones employers should be aware of.

9am Next boss voices concerns over home working

Staff have missed the everyday spontaneous conversation of the office and the chance to learn from each other while working at home during lockdown, CEO of Next, Lord Simon Wolfson, has said. He told the Telegraph that Zoom meetings had transformed “meetings from productive exchanges of ideas into boring, one-way lectures, with the ‘presenters’ rattling through bullet points already visible to their stultified audience”, and warned about the damaging and “joyless” effects of the new work environment on businesses.

8.30am Ryanair investors revolt over exec pay in wake of Covid support 

Ryanair has suffered a shareholder rebellion, with more than a third of investor votes going against an executive pay package handing CEO Michael O’Leary a bonus of £416,000. Earlier this week, shareholder advisory group ISS had urged investors to vote against the remuneration report, questioning the bonus when the airline had taken £600m in support from the UK government and furloughed thousands of employees. Despite 34.2 per cent of votes going against this package, it was backed by 65.8 per cent, while 1.9 per cent abstained. Ryanair said that where resolutions received a vote of 20 per cent or more against them, directors would “consult with shareholders in order to understand the reasons behind those proxy votes”.

8am Majority of London office staff thinking of leaving city

More than half (60 per cent) of London office workers have reconsidered their living situations since lockdown restrictions were first implemented, according to research by online lettings agent Mashroom. The research found that seaside towns such as Brighton and Hove were first choice for relocation, with 30 per cent naming this particular city their top choice. Post-Covid priorities included achieving a better work-life balance (35 per cent) and being able to ‘switch off’ at the end of a working day (31 per cent). The study also found 85 per cent of those polled wanted employers to be more accepting of remote working, with 65 per cent enjoying a better work-life balance since March. Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) can currently work from home, with 34 per cent doing so five days a week.

Mashroom CEO Stepan Dobrovolskiy commented: “As employers open up to remote working as the new way of life, millions of renters are reconsidering their living conditions. It’s no surprise so many are craving an escape to the coast or countryside, as London’s bright lights have dimmed over the past six months as restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues have been shut or operating at a limited capacity.” 

Thursday 17 September

5.30pm Women less likely to be hired than men during UK lockdown, data shows 

Women were less likely to be hired than men at the peak of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, data from LinkedIn has found. It showed April was the lowest point for female recruitment, a month after lockdown was introduced, with female hires falling to 41.5 per cent of all hires, before recovering to 45.2 per cent three months later. But in 2019, women accounted for 45.6 per cent of hires. 

Emily Spaven, UK editor at Linkedin News, told City AM: “Worryingly, women are also much less confident about their job prospects and are more stressed. This raises concerns that women will consider reducing their working hours or taking a step back from the workforce as a result.” Spaven added that employers offering flexible hours and remote working could help support working mothers who may have had to shoulder the brunt of childcare during the crisis. 

4.40pm Two-thirds of adults now commuting to work, official data finds

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that almost two in three (62 per cent) adults reported commuting to work last week – a figure that has almost doubled since May (36 per cent). 

As the government has been encouraging workers to return to offices, the ONS found while the proportion of people travelling to work has increased from 57 per cent two weeks ago, the number of people working from home stayed at 20 per cent.

The study said that the proportion of working adults “not working from home or travelling to work reduced from 23 per cent to 18 per cent, suggesting more people are returning to work”, which corroborates the CIPD’s findings that 37 per cent of employers believe staff will regularly avoid the journey into the office following Covid-19. 

However, the Confederation of British Industry previously warned the BBC that city centres could become “ghost towns” if more staff do not return, and that home working could damage small businesses that rely on office worker trade. 

4pm John Lewis scraps staff bonus in wake of Covid-19

John Lewis has confirmed that staff will not receive a bonus for the first time since 1953. The staff-owned retail group, which includes Waitrose supermarkets, reported a first-half loss of £55m as the costs of the coronavirus pandemic offset a 1 per cent rise in sales. Sharon White, chair of the John Lewis Partnership, said that “outside of exceptional circumstances” the company did not expect to start paying a staff bonus again until its profits exceeded £150m, and that it would pay a bonus of at least 10 per cent if profits rose about £300m. Earlier this year, the company paid its staff – known as partners – a bonus of just 2 per cent of salary, the lowest level in 67 years.

The brand also announced plans to convert entire floors of its flagship London store into offices for rent. It has applied for planning permission to switch up to three floors of its landmark Oxford Street store.

3pm Low-paid workers opting out of pension contributions because of Covid should still get employer contributions, says wealth management firm

Wealth manager Quilter is calling on the government to allow low earners who opt out of auto-enrolment to still receive their employer pension contributions. It predicts that coronavirus will mean many lower-paid workers will opt out of pension schemes and miss out on employer pension contributions, but the government claims it is unable to determine the exact figures. 

Quilter has proposed that reforming auto-enrolment to allow partial opt-ins would enable an individual to forego their personal contribution and any associated tax relief, but continue to benefit from the minimum 3 per cent employer contribution.This would apply to people on a salary up to £17,500, which is broadly equivalent to 60 per cent of 2019 financial year end median earnings. The threshold should be regularly reviewed.

Jon Greer, head of retirement policy at Quilter told the FT Adviser: “As people come under financial pressure, there is a temptation to opt-out of pension saving. A partial opt-in would offer them a halfway house.”

1.35pm Recruiters’ legal obligations when workers switch occupations

Hiring professionals can take advantage of the rapidly evolving jobs market but must comply with key responsibilities, says Carla Feakin

1.30pm Home working boosts work-life balance, collaboration and focus, report finds

An improved quality of life for employees, along with a boost in productivity, is fuelling an “unprecedented” rise in remote working, according to a study by the CIPD.

Its Embedding new ways of working report, funded by the Department for Energy, Business and Industrial Strategy and based on a YouGov poll of more than 1,000 employers conducted in June, revealed 61 per cent of employers said employees reported an improved work-life balance as a result of home working.

The pandemic had prompted an “unprecedented shift to home working, without which the economic and employment impacts of Covid-19 would have been much more severe”, the report stated.

It described home working as “one of the big success stories of the pandemic” and said working from home on a regular basis was expected to rise to 37 per cent of the workforce – double the 18 per cent doing so before lockdown.

1.20pm Half of workers have received no Covid mental health support, poll finds

More than half (56 per cent) of UK workers haven’t received any mental health advice or support from their employer since the pandemic hit in March, a survey has found. 

The study by mental health organisation TalkOut surveyed 1,500 UK workers in September and found that 85 per cent did not think mental health support had been their employer’s priority during the crisis. 

This was despite the finding that over a third (35 per cent) reported worse mental health now compared to before the pandemic. Additionally, more than two-thirds (68 per cent) felt anxious and apprehensive about returning to work, and half (51 per cent) said they had felt uncertain about the future of their job since March. 

12.10pm Quarter of disabled people fear losing their job because of the coronavirus pandemic, survey finds

Nearly a quarter of disabled people fear they will lose their job as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by disability charity Scope. The poll explored disabled workers concerns about returning to workplaces and how the pandemic has affected their daily lives. 

41 per cent of the 874 disabled workers surveyed said they were anxious about going back to offices, while half were worried about using public transport to commute to their workplace. Almost nine in 10 (87 per cent) feared the wider public would not respect social distancing rules, putting them at risk.

11.30am Nicola Sturgeon optimistic about furlough scheme extension 

First minister Nicola Sturgeon has suggested that chancellor Rishi Sunak may extend the furlough scheme before it comes to an end in October. Speaking at the Scottish government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Sturgeon said she was “hopeful that we will see some positive developments in that regard”, and said extending the scheme would put the UK in line with countries such as France and Germany. 

She said: “If I was taking the decision and knew that this decision, if I didn’t change it, was going to lead to lots of avoidable redundancies, I wouldn’t take it. I would try to change that.

“The chancellor, I think, is an intelligent person who I’m sure doesn’t want to see that happen either, so that is what leads me to hope that we’ll see some shift in the UK government’s position,” but added that she doesn’t know if the UK government would extend the scheme as she cannot “read Rishi Sunak’s mind”. 

11am Teachers may face half-term coronavirus travel ban

Headteachers are seeking legal advice on whether they can prevent staff travelling abroad during the October half term holiday. Stone King, a legal firm with education sector expertise, said that heads may be within their rights to ban teachers from travelling overseas in case the country they chose to holiday in was unexpectedly added to the list of banned destinations. 

Craig Vincent, head of human resources consultancy at Stone King, told The Times that staff holidaying abroad could “present complications” if they are then asked to quarantine. “We are being asked if schools can request that their staff do not leave the country during half term. As an employer this is not an unreasonable request to make and there is no legal reason that they cannot,” said Vincent. 

“Schools are also asking us whether they can treat post-holiday quarantine periods as unpaid leave. There is no requirement to pay staff for post-holiday quarantining, although schools could explore home working, annual leave, if feasible, for some or all of the time.”

He added: “We are advising schools to inform staff now of the potential consequences of needing to quarantine after a foreign holiday which could include staff having to request unpaid leave.”

9.10am Phone company Three UK to cut 280 head office jobs 

The CK Hutchison Holdings-owned phone company will cut 280 jobs from its head office as it attempts to cut costs in response to Covid and political unrest in Hong Kong. A spokesperson told Bloomberg that the company was aiming to drive alignment between it’s UK and Ireland operations to minimise redundancies by removing contractor roles and not back-filling vacancies. The spokesperson said: “We recognise this is an unsettling time and are fully supporting our staff through it.”

8.40am Historic Royal Palaces proposes 145 redundancies

Up to 145 roles are at risk of redundancy within the various sites run by the Historic Royal Palaces. The charity – which looks after a variety of historic sites including the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace – said it had been forced to reduce its workforce after an almost 90 per cent reduction in income because of the pandemic. 

In a statement, the charity said: “We expect our recovery to take several years, and that means we must plan to live within half our usual income. We have no choice but to take measures to reduce our costs. We would not be proposing redundancies if we had not exhausted all other means available to us.”

7.40am Help for Heroes to cut 143 staff

Military charity Help for Heroes has announced plans to cut 143 jobs and close three centres, saying its income has dropped by nearly a third during the coronavirus crisis. Help for Heroes said it relies on public donations for 97 per fect of its funding, but many fundraising events had to be cancelled or postponed because of the pandemic. 

As such, Melanie Waters, chief executive of the charity, said a major restructure was the only way the charity could continue with its work. She added: “The crisis has had a devastating impact on the whole UK charity sector, with lasting consequences, and it has hit us hard. These tough decisions have been made to protect the future of the charity and have been taken with our beneficiaries in mind.”

The charity said three recovery centres based in Yorkshire, Devon and Essex will remain closed indefinitely as Help for Heroes focuses on face-to-face community and online-based support. 

Wednesday 16 September

4.30pm BA CEO says company won’t ‘fire and rehire’ staff

There is no need for British Airways to lay off cabin crew and then rehire them on inferior terms, the company’s CEO Alex Cruz has said. Unions and MPs had accused the airline of a “fire and rehire” policy in the wake of the impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry, which saw some employees facing pay cuts of up to 50 per cent. But, speaking to the Transport Select Committee, Cruz told MPs “there will be no need to issue new contracts”, subject to staff approval. He said the airline would now follow the “standard methodology” of union agreements and make amendments to existing contracts, with details still being worked out. 

Long-serving cabin crew members face a 15 per cent pay reduction, while hoping to retain many of the allowances which constitute a significant part of their overall pay. “We have reached agreements in a majority of areas,” Cruz said. “We very much hope that the result of the ballots will be to accept those ballots.” In relation to whether or not BA will have to make 13,000 staff redundant, Cruz said that the company didn’t “need to get to that number”. However, a large number of long-serving cabin crew have taken voluntary redundancy and many staff felt that the terms being offered at the time meant that was their only choice.

4.15pm Government must introduce better anti-fraud checks if furlough is extended, says watchdog

Gareth Davies, the comptroller and auditor general at the National Audit Office, has warned ministers there will be “no excuse” if billions of pounds worth of furlough fraud continues under a second coronavirus lockdown. He said there had already been “significant” abuse of the scheme which would take months to identify. In an interview with the Guardian, Davies said he understood the urgency with which such schemes were introduced, but warned that the government must introduce new checks if similar measures are to be extended or introduced in a second wave of the virus, and said that abuse so far was of deep concern to auditors.

“While you can understand why some of this wasn’t anticipated, there’s no excuse for it to happen a second time,” he said. “Who knows exactly what might be needed in the future, but we must have better contingency plans so they can be rolled out quickly and the level of fraud properly controlled.” A Whitehall source said the full extent of problems with the job retention scheme may not become clear until April when loans were due to be repaid.

2.50pm Second county in Wales will go into lockdown

A second county in Wales will go into lockdown because of the rate of coronavirus cases. Rhondda Cynon Taff, which is home to around 240,000 people, will have lockdown restrictions imposed from 6pm Thursday (17 September). People will not be able to enter or leave the area without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education. And once the lockdown comes into effect pubs, bars and restaurants will have to shut at 11pm every day.

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said there had been a “rapid” rise in cases in the county, with 82.1 infections per 100,000 people over the past seven days. This is the second local lockdown in Wales, after Caerphilly was subject to restrictions last week.

12.40pm Firms spend record £6.6bn plugging skills gaps, report finds

The skills gap is costing companies a record £6.6bn a year on inflated salaries, temporary staffing, recruitment fees and training, with this financial burden tripling since 2017, according to research.

The figures, from the Open University’s Business Barometer, which surveyed 1,000 business leaders across the UK between July and August this year, highlighted the growing cost for UK employers of plugging skills gaps. This cost stood at £2.2bn when the annual survey began in 2017, and has now risen to £6.6bn a year – a 39 per cent rise on 2019.

Viren Patel, corporate director at the Open University, told People Management that spending so much money to plug gaps short term made no sense at any time, but particularly not in the current climate. He said: “At a time when more than half of employers report that their organisation’s survival depends on their ability to cut costs, it’s somewhat surprising to see that the expenditure on short-term solutions to talent shortages has risen so drastically over the last year.”

12.20pm Real-life redundancy experiences: what should have these businesses done differently?

Today (16 September) marks 45 days to go before the end of furlough. As such it’s the date many predict will unleash a new wave of job cuts (with this being the minimum amount of time required for redundancy consultations with 100 or more employees).

Employers have been urged to explore all other options before making cuts, including reductions in working time, withdrawing job offers so existing workers can be redeployed within the business and staff taking unpaid leave. But nonetheless some redundancies will be unavoidable. Which means employers need to ensure they’re approaching this in a legally robust, fair and compassionate way.

We asked three people made redundant as a result of the economic downturn caused by Covid-19 how they felt their former employer had treated them, and asked Josh Sunsoa, redundancy expert and managing partner at Sunsoa & Co, to give his professional assessment.

12.10pm How to decide when to return to the office… and if you ever should

Employers must listen to staff rather than relying on national surveys, gather data on remote working during Covid and be open to hybrid models, says Ian MacRae.

12pm Planning job cuts in the age of coronavirus

With employers needing to issue redundancy notices for the end of furlough by today, Beth Hale and Nick Hawkins explain what they should bear in mind.

10.30am Hull and Blackpool have highest jobless rates in wake of Covid, research finds

Blackpool and Hull have the highest rates of unemployment in the UK, according to analysis of the latest official jobs market figures by Centre for Cities, suggesting areas where local economies were struggling before the pandemic are now among the hardest-hit. It found one in 10 working-age adults (9.9 per cent) in Blackpool were claiming unemployment benefits in August, with a similar amount (9.8 per cent) in Hull, closely followed by Birmingham, Bradford and Liverpool. Unemployment rose fastest in places close to big airports, such as Crawley near Gatwick, Slough near Heathrow and Luton, as the sharp decline in international travel put thousands of aviation and airport jobs at risk. The research was underlined by a report from campaign group Communities in Charge, which identified Blackpool and Hull as the two places most at risk of the “double distress” of a new wave of unemployment adding to already high levels of job deprivation. 

9am Chancellor stresses furlough will not be extended but hints at a new jobs scheme

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said looking for new ways to protect jobs is his “number one priority” but stressed the furlough scheme would not be extended beyond the end of October. He told the BBC: “I wouldn’t be being honest with people if I pretended that it was always going to be possible for people to return to the job that they had. Now in terms of helping those people, I don’t think the right thing to do is to endlessly extend furlough. People don’t want to be at home, they want to be in work, and that’s why our plan for jobs is so important, because it helps provide people with new opportunities, going forward.”

Employment minister Mims Davies yesterday (15 September) indicated that more targeted support for struggling sectors could be announced by the government, prompting speculation the government was preparing a new jobs scheme. The chancellor dropped his biggest hint yet that this was the case, telling the BBC he was “always looking for interesting creative, innovative and effective new ways to support jobs and employment”. He is said to be still sceptical about sectoral targeting, however, because of issues such as how to deal with supply chains and potentially wasting funds on businesses that do not need support.

8.30am ‘Redundancy floodgates’ will open without furlough extension, union says

The Unite union has called on the government to extend furlough or face “redundancy floodgates” opening in the UK, with today marking 45 days before the end of the scheme, which is the same amount of time employers must give for notice of redundancy. The union said that without “a clear and urgent sign” from the government that it is responding to calls to extend the scheme, it fears that “employers facing short-term struggles will issue redundancy notices.”

Last week the Treasury select committee said the government should consider a targeted extension of the scheme. In the first week of September manufacturers warned of a second wave of job cuts without an extension, and industry group the CBI said a replacement was needed to avoid a “cliff edge”. On Monday (14 September) the TUC said the government should act to prevent a “tsunami” of job losses, and yesterday (15 September) Labour leader Keir Starmer called for the scheme to be replaced. “With our competitor nations announcing the extension or modification of their jobs retention schemes, we ask that your government recognises the need for UK businesses and workers to receive similar support,” Unite general secretary Len McCluskey wrote in a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson.

Tuesday 15 September

5pm UK universities on track for ‘bumper year’ of admissions despite Covid

UK universities are heading for a “bumper year” of new admissions, according to preliminary figures, defying warnings of a downturn because of coronavirus. Data from the University and College Admissions Service analysed by DataHE indicates that 22 days after A-level results, 508,090 applicants had accepted places at universities across the UK, an increase of 3.5 per cent compared with the same time in 2019. The main reason cited was the jump in A-level grades after the government’s U-turn on results last month.

Experts have warned, however, that final numbers remained uncertain. The government has committed extra funding for more expensive courses, such as engineering or nursing, at universities with large intakes this year. It has also dropped restrictions on student numbers for those which involve work placements.

4.50pm Translink to cut 54 staff 

Northern Irish transport provider Translink has confirmed plans to cut 54 staff as it tries to make savings of £20m, which it described as a “necessary step”. The company, which has been subsidised with millions of pounds by Stormont, has also proposed to end its Ulsterbus Tours business because of the impact of coronavirus. 

Chris Conway, Translink’s group chief executive, told Belfast Live: “These changes will have a minimal impact on frontline operational employees’ jobs, who continue to deliver scheduled bus and train services. However, in driving improvements to internal processes, we anticipate it is likely there will be a number of redundancies in management and overhead functions.” Conway confirmed that a consultation process with employees and trade unions will start over the coming days.

1.10pm What might replace furlough? (And how likely is this?)

The job retention scheme, the economic equivalent of shielding that has helped keep 9.6 million people in work since it began eight months ago, is set to end in just a matter of weeks. Yet when the scheme finishes at the end of next month, the removal of the subsidy from businesses still reeling from the effects of Covid-19 will see a surge in redundancies, according to experts.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer today (15 September) urged the government to find a way of extending support for those firms that need it, warning of the “scarring effect of mass unemployment” if it fails to act. His concerns echo those of the Institute of Directors, which has said that “some form of an extension to the furlough scheme should remain on the table”, and the Confederation of British Industry, which has argued that “it’s too soon to pull business support away at the end of October”.

So what alternatives to the current scheme have been mooted? How likely are these to be adopted by the government? And how should HR respond if not?

12.40pm HMS Raleigh navy base personnel test positive for Covid-19

A “small number of personnel” at the HMS Raleigh navy base in Cornwall have tested positive for coronavirus, the armed service has confirmed to the BBC. The navy said personnel at the base were under medical supervision, and other personnel who were in contact with those who tested positive were “self-isolating in line with Public Health England guidance”. HMS Raleigh is the navy’s largest training base in the south west, and the establishment has about 2,200 people on site on a “typical day”. 

The navy would not confirm any numbers, but said: “[As a result of] the Covid-19 cases and the personnel who have to self-isolate, we have now taken the precaution of cancelling the passing out parade due to take place on Friday 18 September.”

12pm Young people hit hardest as unemployment rises to highest level in two years, ONS finds

The number of employees on payrolls is down 695,000 compared to March this year, according to official data, with young workers bearing the brunt of job cuts. 

The estimates, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), revealed this drop to be the largest since 2009 when comparing both quarterly and annually.

The ONS found Britain’s unemployment rate increased to 4.1 per cent between May and July, compared to 3.9 per cent the previous quarter. This was also 0.3 percentage points higher than during the same period in 2019. Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said some effects of the pandemic on the labour market were beginning to “unwind” in July as the economy “reopened” and businesses were allowed to trade again. But he said it was clear the Covid crisis would have a larger impact on the labour market in the coming months. “With the number of employees on the payroll down again in August and both unemployment and redundancies sharply up in July, it is clear that coronavirus is still having a big impact on the world of work,” he said.

11.50am Emirates consider cutting 600 UK workers

Almost 600 UK-based Emirates employees could be at risk of losing their jobs as the airline warned it could “consider reducing the size of the UK workforce. According to an internal memo seen by the Independent, an email to staff stated lockdown and other travel restrictions had left passenger demand “extremely subdued”. The email read: “We have to reduce the scale of the operation in order to protect our cash flow and safeguard our business, to ensure that we have a viable future.” 

The Independent said the move to cut jobs could reduce Emirates’ UK workforce by a third. 

11.45am Soaring numbers misusing alcohol as a result of Covid, warn experts

Addiction services in England could struggle to cope with “soaring” numbers of people misusing alcohol, the Royal College of Psychiatrists is warning. The college estimates that, in June, more than 8.4 million people in England were drinking at higher-risk levels, up from 4.8 million in February. More people addicted to opiates are also seeking help from addiction services, the college said, referring to National Drug Treatment Monitoring System statistics showing 3,459 new adult cases in April – up 20 per cent from 2,947 in the same month last year.

The warning follows a recent CIPD report that found employees are drinking more during the pandemic but many businesses don’t offer proactive support on drug and alcohol misuse. The survey highlighted that those reporting a high workload were more likely to say their alcohol consumption had increased – 31 per cent compared to 24 per cent. Meanwhile, 37 per cent of those who had seen a change in their caring responsibilities said their alcohol consumption had increased, compared to a quarter (25 per cent) of those who hadn’t.

11.20am Managing Covid-related holiday accrual

From furlough to cancelled time off, Emma O’Connor explains how organisations can deal with mounting levels of annual leave among their workforce.

11.15am How to combat Zoom fatigue

Too many video calls can have a detrimental impact on employees, says Alice Venables, but there are ways to avoid this negative aspect of remote working.

11am Lack of Covid tests causing NHS staff absences

A lack of coronavirus tests for NHS staff is leading to absences and services being put at risk, hospital bosses have warned. NHS Providers said employees are having to self-isolate because they cannot get tests for themselves or family members. It said hospitals in London, Bristol and Leeds had raised concerns over the weekend about this. Chris Hopson, NHS Providers chief executive, said it was “clear” there were capacity problems. 

“It’s not just access for tests for staff members themselves, it’s also access for their family members as NHS workers have to self-isolate if their family members are unable to confirm if they have Covid-19 or not,” he said. “The problem is that NHS trusts are working in the dark – they don’t know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests.” Home secretary Priti Patel told BBC Breakfast “much more work needs to be undertaken with Public Health England” on testing, and more slots and home kits were being made available as demand had risen.

10.30am Ryanair set to face exec pay rebellion in wake of Covid challenges

Ryanair could this week see a pay rebellion over a €458,000 bonus for chief executive Michael O’Leary, with advisory group ISS saying it was “difficult to justify” the payout when the airline has utilised the furlough scheme and accessed a £600m loan from the Bank of England. O’Leary’s total remuneration for the year to March was €3.5m, with his bonus close to 92 per cent of the maximum he could have received. ISS, which has advised investors to vote against the non-binding pay report, said Ryanair had “ample opportunity” to reduce the bonus “in light of the obvious looming challenges facing the company”.

8.20am Domino’s Pizza to create 5,000 jobs

Domino’s Pizza has announced it will create 5,000 jobs and support more than 1,000 placements through the government’s Kickstart scheme. The 5,000 new roles – which include pizza chefs, delivery drives and customer service staff – are in addition to the 6,000 jobs the pizza chain has created since the beginning of the pandemic.

Domino’s said it will also offer on-the-job training and e-learning modules on key skills to its more than 1,000 work placements through the Kickstart scheme. Dominic Paul, Domino’s new chief executive, said: “We’re delighted to support the government’s Kickstart scheme, offering young people the chance to get back into work and to build lifelong skills through our training programmes. Together, these 6,000-plus new roles will help Domino’s continue to safely serve our local communities as we head towards the busy festive period.”

7.50am UK employers have cut 695,000 jobs since March

UK employers have made 695,000 jobs redundant since March, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published today. The ONS said the UK’s unemployment rate increased to 4.1 per cent between May and July, up from 3.9 per cent in April. 

According to the data, workers aged between 16 to 24 have taken the heaviest jobs hit, with employment of young workers down by about 150,000 since March. Older workers also took a huge hit, with employment of those aged 65 and over declining by 92,000. 

7.20am Labour leader to call for furlough scheme replacement

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour party, is expected to call on the government for a replacement for the furlough scheme. Speaking to the TUC’s annual conference today, Starmer will make the case for replacing the job retention scheme and to outlaw “firing and rehiring” methods to avoid the “scarring effect” of “mass unemployment”.

His alternative proposals include expanding part-time working and rewarding employers that give people hours rather than cut jobs; providing training and support for those who can’t come back full time; and targeting sectors most in need and those hit by local lockdowns.

Monday 14 September

1.20pm Half of key workers have blown whistle on unsafe Covid practices, poll finds

Just under half (46 per cent) of key workers have blown the whistle on their employer for engaging in dangerous workplace practices during the coronavirus pandemic, a study has found.

The research by employment law specialist Slater and Gordon surveyed 1,000 key workers in August, including nurses, doctors, teachers, service workers and transport staff. It found many had been forced to highlight issues that could put colleagues, customers and patients at risk from Covid-19.

The most common concern among those surveyed was an inability to social distance, cited by more than half (55 per cent). More than two-fifths (44 per cent) cited a lack of or limited PPE, and a quarter (25 per cent) said they were most concerned about employers forcing vulnerable people back to the workplace. 

1.10pm London City Airport to cut a third of jobs

London City Airport has said it is consulting on axing 239 roles – more than a third of its total workforce – in the latest blow to the aviation industry.

The airport closed down for three months during the pandemic and furloughed most of its staff. It reopened in June, now operating just 17 routes.  

Chief executive Robert Sinclair told the Guardian that it had “held off looking at job losses for as long as possible, but sadly we are not immune from the devastating impact of this virus”, adding: “We believe that the difficult decisions we are taking now will enable the airport to bounce back in a better shape when growth returns.”

12.30pm Covid redundancies will exceed anything seen in ‘at least a generation’, study suggests

The number of redundancies planned in the UK will exceed anything seen in “at least a generation”, according to a study that warns employers plan to make twice as many job cuts as they did at the height of the last recession.

New analysis of official data obtained by a freedom of information request found employers notified the government of nearly 380,000 staff at risk of redundancy between May and July 2020. This is double the peak reached during the last recession, when 180,000 staff were at risk of being made redundant between January and March 2009.

The Institute for Employment Studies, which published the research, estimated that the UK was likely to see around 450,000 redundancies this autumn alone. It warned this figure could exceed 735,000 if redundancy notifications continued to rise. 

11.50am How HR can revolutionise strategies post Covid

Our ways of working will be irreversibly changed because of coronavirus, says Dean Corbett, so people professionals need to pool their knowledge to decide best practice.

11.40am How might lockdown improve flexibility for working fathers?

Gary Henderson and Val Dougan explore whether the coronavirus pandemic could deliver where SPL failed and offer improved work-life balance for parents.

11am More than 60 Wetherspoon staff test positive for Covid-19

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has reported that 66 of its employees have tested positive for Covid-19 since it reopened its venues on 4 July. The chain, which employs more than 41,000 staff across 861 pubs in the UK, said most of the cases had been asymptomatic and, according to the Guardian, 28 of the affected workers had since returned to work after self-isolating.

Company chair Tim Martin told the paper that Wetherspoon had invested £15m in physical distancing and hygiene measures. 

10am Hundreds of jobs at risk at Bangor University 

Bangor University is asking staff to consider voluntary redundancy, cutting their hours, taking career breaks or early retirement as it faces £13m of cuts because of coronavirus. According to WalesOnline, Bangor University vice chancellor Professor Iwan Davies said 200 jobs are at risk and talks with trades unions have begun. Davies’ statement read: “The challenge is immediate and so it is essential that we respond quickly. It is unlikely that the university will simply return to the way things were before the pandemic. We need to be prepared to make tough decisions for us to emerge stronger and a more resilient university.”

9.20am Arcadia Group apologises for initially basing notice pay on furlough rates

Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group has apologised over a furlough pay dispute with its employees. Trade union Unite had threatened the retail empire with legal action over claims it was paying some of its head office staff only 50 per cent of their redundancy notice pay. Arcadia, which is cutting 300 jobs from its head office in response to the effects of the pandemic, said on Saturday (12 September): “We recently implemented a policy for those employees who are working their notice on furlough to receive their furlough pay instead of their full pay. We got this decision wrong and the board has today amended this policy to ensure all affected employees will receive their full pay. We are extremely sorry to all those individuals [affected] for the distress that we have caused and apologise unreservedly.” 

Unite regional officer Debbie McSweeney said it was “almost without precedent for Arcadia to apologise for such behaviour towards employees”. “But this situation should have never been allowed to happen in the first place by Sir Philip Green, one of the country’s richest men,” she said.

9am Reopening offices risks excluding women and minorities, warns CMI chief exec

The government’s back to work plan risks a return to “white middle-aged males” making important decisions in the office, while women and people from ethnic minorities are excluded at home, Chartered Management Institute (CMI) chief executive Ann Francke has said. In an interview with the Guardian, she warned that without careful oversight “blended working” could result in a two-tier system where women without sufficient childcare to return to the office are left out of key decisions. 

Exclusive polling by the CMI for the Guardian revealed that nearly half of managers (42 per cent) believe a lack of childcare caused by the coronavirus pandemic will have negative impacts for female employees, while only 20 per cent believe it will be a problem for men. However, more than half of managers (58 per cent) said they did not think women’s career progression in their organisation would be affected by a phased return to work.

Francke also put herself firmly at odds with government messaging about the safety of returning to the office, stating: “I don’t think it is the responsibility of companies to save the local sandwich shop […] The bottom line is, ultimately those businesses that are really affected in the long term will have to adapt.”

8.45am TUC congress to call for government to act as furlough nears end

Chancellor Rishi Sunak must “stand by working families” as the furlough scheme nears its October end, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady is set to say at the union’s congress in London today. “If the government doesn’t act, we face a tsunami of job losses,” O’Grady is expected to say. “Unions pushed for the job retention scheme. So my message to the chancellor is this: ‘We worked together once before. We are ready to work with you again – if you are serious about stopping the catastrophe of mass unemployment.’” The TUC is also calling for a new “job protection and skills deal”, which would include mandatory training and “upskilling” for workers placed on furlough.

8.30am Welsh government’s work from home message contradicts PM’s

The Welsh government has set a new target of 30 per cent of the workforce continuing to work from home even once Covid restrictions are eased. This runs contrary to UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s drive to get people back to work. Welsh ministers said it was a chance to adopt culture that “supports remote working”. The move could reduce congestion and pollution, and improve work-life balance, they argue. “The UK government instruction for everyone to go back to the office is not one we are repeating in Wales,” said the deputy minister for transport and economy, Lee Waters. “We believe many people will want to continue to work remotely in the longer term and this could be a step-change in the way we work in Wales.” 

As part of its policy, officials said they were exploring how to develop a network of “community-based working hubs”. These would be office-like environments within walking or cycling distance of homes, and shared by public, private and voluntary bodies. The Welsh government will not use any legislative powers to compel home working.

Friday 11 September

5.05pm American Express Global Business Travel to cut a third of UK workforce 

American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) has confirmed it will make cuts to its UK workforce because of the impact of coronavirus on the hospitality industry. It is expected to cut a third of its 2,200-strong UK workforce, according to Breaking Travel News which reported that “no firm details were forthcoming” from the company. 

A statement explained that “GBT is in a very strong financial position” but that it must reset its cost base to “more closely align with demand” in the current environment. It added that it has taken measures including voluntary retirement and severance programmes, alongside new flexible working options but said there were “some areas where unfortunately these measures alone are insufficient”. 

5pm French government to pay wages of parents forced to stay home to provide childcare

The French government has announced that working parents forced to stay home to care for children whose schools are closed by outbreaks of Covid-19 will have their wages paid by the state. One parent in each household with children under 16 will be eligible to receive 84 per cent of their normal salary. France recorded almost 10,000 new Covid-19 infections yesterday (10 September), its highest ever single-day total. 

4.45pm Return to Scottish offices won’t happen for at least three weeks, says Sturgeon

Businesses will struggle to survive a return to stricter coronavirus measures, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce has warned, after first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the return to the office would not happen in Scotland for at least another three weeks. Sturgeon told MSPs yesterday (10 September) that the reopening of call centres and offices will now be reviewed on 1 October, and that home working must remain the “default position”

Dr Liz Cameron, CEO of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “We need to move forward to ensure our economy can recover and stem the loss of jobs where possible.That’s why we need our offices to be allowed to open quickly, particularly those where businesses have worked closely with employees and invested heavily in safety procedures.” Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland’s policy chair, added that the decision would have “consequences for firms reliant on workers’ footfall in our town and city centres.” 

2.40pm Ulster Bank to cut 266 jobs across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

Ulster Bank has announced it will be cutting a total of 266 roles across its operations, split between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is understood that 216 jobs will be lost in the Republic of Ireland and 53 cut in the North.

A spokesman for Ulster Bank said the move to cut jobs was the “next phase” in the bank’s cost cutting programme, and it aims to achieve these numbers on a “voluntary redundancy basis, where possible”. The spokesperson added: “A small number of roles have also been created. We know this is difficult news for our colleagues, and we are doing everything we can to support those affected by the changes.”

1.10pm Majority of employees want to work from home for most of the week, research finds

More than half of employees want to work from home for most of the week, according to new research – an almost six-fold rise since the start of lockdown. The survey of 4,500 people conducted by Zurich Insurance, the results of which were released yesterday, revealed 59 per cent of people would still prefer to spend more than half their working week at home, despite government calls for office-based workers to return.

12.20pm Two arrested in London on suspicion of £70,000 furlough fraud

Two people have been arrested in London as part of an HMRC investigation into a suspected £70,000 furlough fraud. HMRC officers arrested an accountant and a company director yesterday (10 September) in the Romford and Walthamstow areas of London. Digital devices and business records were also seized. 

12.00pm A v-shaped economic recovery needs a matching wellbeing recovery

As the UK gets back on its feet after the pandemic, businesses must also focus on their employees’ health, argues Vicky Walker.

11.50am How are people teams responding to coronavirus?

Teresa Exelby, chief people officer for Community Integrated Care, shares how the social care charity has recruited more than a thousand staff since March, rolling out faster hiring processes and virtual training to get new workers up to speed.

11.41am Leeds DWP office ‘failed to ensure’ health and safety, inspection found 

The government office was inspected by Health and Safety England (HSE), following complaints about workplace safety concerns, and found in breach of health and safety law.

A whistleblower told the BBC that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) office in Leeds had recently undergone a recruitment drive amid the rise in Universal Credit claimants because of coronavirus, which saw the office at around 50 per cent full. The report by HSE said: “You are failing to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of your employees/agency staff at work because you have not implemented necessary measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”  Breaches included: walkways designated as two-way travel despite being a meter wide, stairwells not wide enough for two-way travel and desks lacking “do not use” signage. 

DWP has been warned a fee would need to be paid because of “material breaches” of health and safety law and was given a deadline of Tuesday 15 September to confirm action had been taken. DWP confirmed it has “taken urgent action to rectify all issues”. 

11.30am BMW factory in Oxford delays job cuts

Almost 400 job cuts at a BMW Mini plant in Oxford have been put on hold after an increase in global demand. The plant was due to drop shifts to account for a decrease in sales due to the pandemic, resulting in 400 agency workers being made redundant. But a spokesperson for BMW said the shift change and job cuts had been postponed due to “recent and unexpected improvements in global customer demand”.

However, BMW warned the situation would be kept under close review because of the “unpredictable” market, and it could not guarantee if jobs would be secured in the future. 

10.20am Norwich Theatre cuts 165 jobs

Norwich Theatre – which runs the Theatre Royal, Playhouse and Stage Two – has confirmed it has cut 165 jobs across its three sites as a result of Covid-19 and the financial implications of prolonged closure. In July, Norwich Theatre announced it would undergo a restructure, and that 113 employees were at risk of being made redundant. This equated to 53 per cent of the group’s workforce. 

A further 59 workers on zero-hours contracts were let go after the group said they would no longer receive any work because of the pandemic. Chief executive Stephen Crocker said: “None of us could have predicted the extent of the impact that Covid-19 would have on our organisation and our sector as a whole as theatres like ours across the country are being forced to remain closed and therefore make major changes in order to ensure that they can reopen again.”

8.40am Face masks in shops to be mandatory in Wales

People in Wales must wear face coverings in shops and other indoor public spaces from Monday (14 September), the Welsh government has announced. First minister Mark Drakeford said change comes on the back of a spike in coronavirus cases in Wales. 

Drakeford said: “Today for the first time we will go to a point where 20 people in 100,000 are suffering from coronavirus in Wales. That is the threshold we use for people to have to quarantine coming back into the UK. And having reached that today, we will be making the use of face coverings mandatory in shops and in closed public spaces in Wales.”

7.50am Furlough should be extended to avoid mass unemployment, say MPs

The government should consider a targeted extension of its furlough scheme or risk mass unemployment, the Treasury Select Committee has warned. The committee said many viable businesses could not remain open without the government’s support through the furlough scheme, which would lead to further job cuts. 

However, it said the blanket retention of the furlough scheme is currently “not effectively targeted” and does not clearly offer value for money. The committee also called on the government to extend reforms to Universal Credit past their one-year cut-off, support small businesses struggling with debt and define “levelling up”.

Thursday 10 September

3.55pm Worker footfall not increasing in city centres, according to report 

Despite the government’s push to get more workers into the office in a bid to protect the economy from collapse, the number of people returning to offices has not increased in the past two months. Figures from the Center for Cities, which consisted of analysis of mobile phone tracking data, showed that worker footfall across 63 of the UK’s largest town and city centres was just 17 per cent of pre-lockdown levels at the end of June, and remained at that level throughout August. 

The data showed it was down most in Oxford, Leeds and London but numbers had risen in smaller cities and large towns such as Mansfield, Basildon and Newport. This was still less than half of normal levels. Andrew Carter, the Centre for Cities chief executive told the Guardian: “Unless we see a big increase in people returning to the office, the chancellor must set out how he will support the people working in retail and hospitality who could soon find themselves out of a job.”

3.45pm Think tank urges chancellor to bolster job creation schemes with £15bn cash injection 

The Learning and Work Institute (LWI) has urged chancellor Rishi Sunak to pledge £15bn for job creation schemes at the autumn budget to protect 1 million people from unemployment when the furlough scheme ends. The think tank has said a shift in public investment was needed to create employment opportunities and avoid any lasting damage for unemployed workers. In a report it said a £4bn wage subsidy scheme should be used to pay at least 20 per cent of the wages of 500,000 workers in hard hit sectors – such as hospitality and retail – after the furlough scheme ends in October. 

LWI leader and former Treasury adviser Stephen Evans told the Guardian: “To close the jobs gap, we need public investment to create jobs, measures to encourage employers to create jobs, and a new wage support scheme to protect jobs in sectors hardest hit by the crisis.”

2.20pm Cancer charity announces second round of redundancies

Cancer charity Clic Sargent said it may need to make a second round of redundancies to cope with a £9m shortfall in funding because of the pandemic. In July, Clic Sargent made 38 roles redundant because of the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, the charity, which employs 424 staff, said it would consider making a further 39 roles redundant. The combined job cuts equate to a 15 per cent drop in staffing levels.

Clic Sargent said it needed to make further changes to the way it operates to protect its frontline services, and the charity expected some roles would be changed while new roles would be created to support new ways of working.

1.05pm Will workplace testing become mandatory? And how should HR approach it?

It has been reported that the UK government may begin to urge companies to launch regular workplace Covid-19 testing, with meetings between business leaders and Whitehall officials on the deployment of mobile testing units to offices and factories around the country rumoured to have taken place over recent weeks. Some employers could apparently be allowed to stay open even if there are fresh local lockdowns in their area if they are conducting regular testing of staff.

Yet only 1 per cent of employers responding to People Management’s recent return to the office survey had plans to implement regular testing. So what does HR need to know to get up to speed? Should they be considering workplace testing regardless of government dictates? And if so, what’s the best way of rolling this out?

12pm British Airways job cuts hit 8,000

British Airways announced today it had cut 8,236 jobs, while its parent company, IAG, said it had approved a fundraising plan earlier this week. The airline is currently in a widespread redundancy process that will see 13,000 roles lost. IAG said the majority of the roles that were cut had been voluntary redundancies. 

11.40am More than 124,500 retail jobs have been lost in the UK, study finds

More than 124,500 retail jobs have been lost in the first eight months of this year, according to a study by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR). The CRR found as many as 13,867 shops closed permanently during this period, and an approximate 124,515 jobs were lost as a result. The research comes as high street chains like M&S, Debenhams, Boots and John Lewis have announced they will be making redundancies. 

Professor Joshua Bamfield, director at the CRR, said increasing costs and the move to online shopping meant “retail was already in crisis before the pandemic”. He added: “Covid-19 has been a real hammer blow for retailers, many of which were not in good health before the contagion took a hand. The prospects for many non-food retailers are bleak.” 

9.50am Pause ‘headlong rush’ to get everyone back into offices, says disease expert 

Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, has warned there had been an “uptick” in Covid-related hospital admissions in the UK in recent days, and urged the government to “maybe pause at the headlong rush to get everybody back into offices” in England.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Ferguson said: “I’m still working from home, many people I know are still working from home and I think we should hesitate and maybe pause at the headlong rush to get everybody back into offices. But some people have to [go to] work and I completely understand the concerns in many quarters that everybody working at home has an economic impact, particularly on city centres.”

9.30am KPMG staff demand compensation for Covid pay cuts

KPMG staff have said they want compensation for pay cuts made in anticipation of profits being hit by the pandemic. Like numerous other businesses, the audit firm introduced a 20 per cent pay cut in April in the expectation that work would dry up because of the Covid crisis. KPMG staff are now back on full pay but at a recent online company-wide meeting many demanded compensation given the firm was back to awarding bonuses. “I am struggling to understand how it is fair to not pay all staff back the full amount of lost pay while committing to paying some staff bonuses,” one anonymous staffer said. Meanwhile, Deloitte has ended salary cuts early after posting higher than expected profits.

9.15am Lawyers switching to work at virtual firms

A growing number of lawyers are swapping a traditional office job for a ‘virtual’ firm as a result of the pandemic, according to business advisory firm Hazlewoods. It said there had been a 7 per cent increase in the number of lawyers at virtual firms in the UK since the outbreak of coronavirus. There were currently 1,355 lawyers working at virtual law firms, up from 1,270 pre-Covid and just 803 in 2017. Hazlewoods found that many lawyers were questioning whether they could earn more individually at a lower-overhead virtual firm by retaining a higher percentage of their billing.

9am Goldman Sachs to reopen offices with a rota system

Goldman Sachs has announced it will be reopening its offices in the coming weeks. CEO David Solomon told employees in a memo yesterday (9 September) that bosses would soon be introducing rota systems to bring staff back to the office. The rotational approach will be tailored to individuals, teams and the countries they are operating in, and workers who feel uncomfortable going back to the office will be supported by their manager. The memo said: “This rotational approach will not look the same for everyone, as we each navigate unique personal responsibilities – for example, planning around adjusted school schedules, managing personal and family health conditions, and not being comfortable commuting to the office during peak hours.”

7.30am Pizza Hut to cut 450 jobs

Pizza Hut Restaurants has confirmed its intention to shut 29 of its UK sites, putting around 450 jobs at risk. The news comes as the chain, which employs more than 5,000 people in the UK, is to switch to a turnover rent model, which would see it paying landlords based on the revenue levels in each of its 245 outlets.

Pizza Hut Restaurants said the closures and rent scheme were part of a rescue deal to “mitigate the financial impact of Covid-19”. The chain is the main franchise of the Pizza Hut brand in the UK, and is a separate company to the Pizza Hut UK business, which focuses on food delivery from a further 380 sites.

Wednesday 9 September

4.30pm New tests to ascertain who doesn’t have the virus could see workplaces return to normal, says prime minister 

In a live press conference today, prime minister Boris Johnson suggested that new tests that will ascertain who does not have the virus will be rolled out in “the near future” and could see workplaces return to “how they were before”. Johnson said he “hoped and believed” that these tests would be available in the UK soon, however further details on when they would be deployed are yet to be announced. 

4.20pm Hospitality venues must record details or face fines, says prime minister

In a live press conference, prime minister Boris Johnson revealed that hospitality venues such as pubs will be legally required to record customers’ details and keep them on file for 21 days to aid NHS Test and Trace, adding that fines will be issued to businesses that don’t comply. The cost of the fine and further details are yet to be announced. 

2.50pm Lloyds to cut hundreds of UK jobs

Lloyds Banking Group is to cut 865 jobs across the UK as the firm goes through with restructuring proposals made before the pandemic. The bank said the restructure will also create 226 new roles to add to the group’s almost 65,000-strong workforce.

A spokesperson for Lloyds said: “We will seek to redeploy wherever possible, with all colleagues given access to a package of training and support designed to help them secure their next position, whether within or outside of the group.” 

1.20pm Only a third of UK employees feel resilient, survey finds

Only one-third (29 per cent) of UK employees reported feeling resilient at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a report by Aon has found. The survey of 2,500 employers and employees across the UK, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands revealed that UK employees with poor resilience had 59 per cent lower engagement and were 43 per cent less likely to want to stay with their employer than those who felt resilient.

Compiled based on a survey conducted in March 2020, The Rising Resilient report found that while 80 per cent of employers from all countries agreed health and wellbeing initiatives were beneficial, this was not necessarily leading to the creation of resilient workforces. Only 29 per cent of UK employees were found to be resilient based on three core indicators: the employees’ sense of security, sense of belonging and ability to reach their potential. 

1pm How probation can streamline recruiting during a recession

If used correctly, probationary periods can help employers avoid costly mis-hires in the wake of coronavirus, says James Tamm.

12.50pm How CPP Group is approaching reopening its offices

The financial services and insurance firm didn’t want to just assume it could go back to normal – instead it took the chance to learn from lockdown, says Justine Shaw.

12.40pm Could employers be obliged to pay the full wages of self-isolating staff?

The government is coming under mounting pressure to reform statutory sick pay (SSP). This is currently set at £95.85 per week, leaving people just £13.69 a day to live on. Health secretary Matt Hancock reignited the debate earlier this year when he admitted he would not be able to survive on the amount paid.

Radical reforms are now being proposed, which would see a steep rise in the amount employees are entitled to, amid fears that many cannot afford to take time off if ill or self-isolating because of Covid-19. People Management explores this call for change – crucially, how likely it is to be heeded, and whether employers would be expected to foot the bill.

11.30am Concrete manufacturer to create 95 jobs

Tobermore Concrete, which manufactures paving and walling for the UK and Ireland, has said it plans to create 95 jobs. The manufacturer said it is planning to invest £30m in new production facilities and hopes the investment will allow it to target new markets. The new jobs will be across various roles including sales, operations and production. 

9.40am Health secretary won’t rule out second lockdown

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said he would not rule out a return to the national lockdown experienced throughout the UK earlier this year. His comments came after the government announced a ban on social gatherings of more than six people from next Monday (14 September), because of a surge in new infections in the UK.

In an interview with radio station LBC, Hancock said he hoped a lockdown could be avoided, but he “wouldn’t make a vow” that the UK would not return to a full lockdown should coronavirus cases continue to spike. He added: “Our goal is to avoid having to do anything more drastic by people following the rules.”

In the same interview, he assured that it was still safe for people to return to work because “we have Covid-secure offices”. He said: “We have got to protect livelihoods through this crisis as well as lives, and the strategy is to protect education, to protect work, and we are therefore bringing in tighter rules on social engagement because that’s where we are seeing the majority of the transmission.”

9am Return to work slow in City of London

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, has said confidence in using public transport is holding bankers back from returning to their offices. She said she was “very concerned” about how the lack of people in London’s financial district was hitting local shops and cafes. Some 40 to 50 per cent of staff are expected to return to the office in the medium term, McGuinness added. Her warning followed a group of London-based businesses, including insurers Aviva and Legal & General, insurance broker Aon, management consultants Accenture, law firm Clyde & Co and property company JLL holding a meeting on Monday (7 September) to discuss ways that companies would work to support employees and businesses return to the workplace.

8.50am Iceland to create 3,000 jobs 

Grocery chain Iceland has said it plans to create 3,000 jobs to help cope with a surge in demand for online deliveries since lockdown began. The new jobs include delivery drivers and extra staff in store to pick online orders. David Devany, chief customer and digital officer at Iceland, said the chain had been “blown away” by the demand for online deliveries over the past six months, with a four-fold increase in online orders since the beginning of lockdown. He said: “We see no sign of a slowdown in the demand for deliveries in the run up to Christmas, so a recruitment drive for more permanent staff was essential.”

8.20am Building affordable housing could be key to Scotland’s post-Covid jobs 

Building affordable housing should be a key part of Scotland’s recovery during the recession caused by the pandemic, a report has said. The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence and the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust said new house building would create jobs, improve health and reduce poverty in the wake of the pandemic. Its report found Scotland required 53,000 affordable homes to be built between 2021 and 2026. Their construction would create around 200,000 jobs, boost the Scottish economy by £2bn and raise £100m in tax revenue. 

Tuesday 8 September

5pm Labour calls for furlough extension to save pubs and bars

Labour has warned that many pubs and bars will be forced to close unless the government extends the furlough scheme, currently due to end in October. “Pubs are a vital part of our high streets and social fabric in communities up and down the country,” said Lucy Powell, shadow business minister. “They have been hit hard by the pandemic, and Tory indifference and incompetence over many years means that many have gone to the wall. Ministers’ blanket approach to ending the furlough scheme further threatens the future of many more. The furlough scheme must be extended for hard hit sectors to save jobs now.” Labour is also calling for funds leftover from the government’s business grant scheme to be funnelled into a new Hospitality and High Street Fightback Fund to help ailing businesses.

2.50pm Morrisons to make thousands of temporary staff permanent

Morrisons has said it plans to make thousands of temporary staff permanent as it sees a surge in demand for online deliveries because of the pandemic. The supermarket had about 97,000 workers before the pandemic and took on an extra 45,000 temporary staff during the crisis. Of these temporary workers, 25,000 are still currently employed by Morrisons, and 6,000 have already been given permanent jobs.

The supermarket chain is expected to announce on Thursday that it plans to make thousands more of these temporary workers permanent in the coming weeks. A spokesperson said: “Morrisons has been playing its full part in feeding the nation, and that has required the largest recruitment drive our company has ever seen.”

12.30pm Remote working has negative effects, says Netflix boss

Working from home has no positive effects and makes debating ideas harder, Netflix’s chairman, Reed Hastings, has said, speaking to The Wall Street Journal. “Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative,” he said. However, Netflix’s 8,600 employees would not have to return to the office until most of them had received an approved coronavirus vaccine, he added, predicting most employees would continue to work from home on one day a week even after the pandemic was over. “The hope is that, through September and October, we can really get – with proper testing – a lot more running,” he told the paper.

12.05pm HMRC won’t go after firms making ’legitimate’ furlough errors, it says

HMRC will “not set out to try to find employers that have made legitimate mistakes” when claiming through the job retention scheme, it has said, speaking publicly for the first time about the level of furlough fraud that could have been committed to date.

Speaking to MPs on Monday (7 September), HMRC said it estimated that up to £3.5bn payments made through the furlough scheme may have been claimed in error or fraudulently. It said that as much as 10 per cent of funds paid through the scheme could have been wrongly awarded. 

Hartley Foster, head of tax disputes at Fieldfisher, said HMRC had displayed a perhaps surprising amount of “leniency” towards businesses accidentally over claiming from the scheme. “While HMRC must be commended for how swiftly it got payments out, it is now clear that it has an additional and very large target – overpaid furlough payments,” Foster said. “On the other hand, the repeated warnings and nudge letters are a form of leniency from HMRC and show that it wants employers to check and come forward rather than HMRC having to identify overpaid or fraudulent furlough payments.”

11.10pm Avoiding disputes arising from Covid-19 

Layla Barke-Jones outlines how businesses can reduce the risk of grievances, from completing a thorough risk assessment to prioritising employee engagement.

9.15am Transport use increases as some staff return to workplaces

The number of passengers using major public transport hubs has jumped to the highest since the start of the pandemic amid a government push for employees to return to workplaces. More people entered the UK’s key rail hubs during the morning peak period yesterday (7 September) than at any time since the start of lockdown, according to footfall figures from Network Rail. Footfall in major stations increased by 12 per cent compared with Friday (4 September), it said, while bus travel increased by 39 per cent when compared with last Tuesday (1 September), the first day of the working week after the bank holiday. 

The figures came as MPs and industry bodies urged staff to return to their desks to save city centre economies. Despite a pick-up in spending in August, the British Retail Consortium said sales were still below pre-pandemic levels and the lack of workers going into offices was having a devastating impact on shops operating in places once busy with workers. However, London mayor Sadiq Khan warned the UK government against “berating people or shouting at them to return to central London”, calling for “honesty” about the potential risks of a large-scale return to city offices. 

8.45am Law firms reluctant to return employees to the office

UK law firms are apparently reluctant to return to the office despite a government drive to get people back. It is estimated that just 10 per cent of City solicitors are working on site, according to the Law Society Gazette, which added, however, that September and October could see a tentative return to normality. 

Eversheds Sutherland will enter “phase one” of its reopening plan this month, in which a quarter of its staff will return to 10 UK offices. Allen & Overy will open offices for employees on a voluntary basis but people will have access only on alternate weeks. At Freshfields, one cohort of staff will move to new City skyscraper 100 Bishopsgate this month. A second group is due to move to the office in December, though everyone still has the option to work from home. Other firms have kept summer restrictions in place. Meanwhile, on the financial services side of things, some 50 per cent of bankers, traders and analysts at JPMorgan are set to return to the firm’s Canary Wharf London headquarters on a ‘week on, week off’ basis, up from 25 per cent previously. 

8.30am UK employers plan to make work more flexible post Covid

More than two-thirds of UK employers plan to overhaul their working arrangements by offering staff more remote working, flexitime and training options in the wake of the pandemic, a survey by ManpowerGroup has found. It also discovered hiring intentions were up and the jobs outlook for the final quarter was improving. Mark Cahill, managing director of ManpowerGroup UK, said: “This is still the second weakest outlook we’ve seen since 1992. But the increase from last quarter, along with a positive trend in several key sectors, is cause for some cautious optimism. Despite the end of the furlough scheme in October and signs of a resurgence in the virus in some areas, employers expect the jobs outlook to be tentatively heading in the right direction as 2020 ends.”

7.30am 300,000 redundancies planned in June and July, investigation finds

More than 300,000 redundancies were planned in June and July, according to figures obtained by a BBC freedom of investigation request. The investigation revealed 1,888 UK employers made plans to cut nearly 156,000 jobs. In July, 1,784 firms began the process of making nearly 150,000 roles redundant in July.

Boots, John Lewis, Selfridges, the Guardian and the National Trust were some of the many employers to announce redundancy plans in June and July. The BBC theorised the rise in the number of firms filing notice of redundancy and the spike in the number of positions at risk gives a “strong early indication that large numbers of jobs are likely to go in coming months”.

Monday 7 September

4.20pm UK risks second wave of job cuts if it does not extend furlough, say business groups 

Manufacturing industry body Make UK has said the job retention scheme should last beyond October for hard-hit sectors to avoid a “second wave” of job cuts. A survey of more than 200 manufacturing firms said more than 60 per cent wanted the scheme extended for strategic industries such as aerospace and car manufacturing, and a quarter said it should be continued in the event of further lockdowns or a second wave of infections.  

Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK, said the first building block in economic recovery “should be an extension of the job retention scheme to those sectors which are not just our most important but who have been hit hardest”. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has also said a replacement for the furlough scheme was needed to avoid a “cliff edge”. 

4pm Bloomberg offers staff returning to the office expenses

Bloomberg staff will be able to claim as much as $75 (£55) per day to cover the cost of returning to their offices from today. The offer has been made to the company’s 20,000 global staff as part of an attempt to address health and safety fears associated with working in offices. “We are pleased to provide up to $75 a day to cover out-of-pocket transportation costs when commuting going forward during the pandemic – whether for car services, tolls, parking or public transportation,” the company told staff in an internal memo. Meanwhile, private equity groups Blackstone and Advent International are both providing staff with coronavirus tests and asking employees not to use public transport as they prepare to return to their desks after months of remote working.

1pm Three in five medium-sized firms plan to cut jobs in the coming weeks 

Three in five medium-sized firms are planning to make job cuts in the coming weeks as the government’s furlough scheme is set to end in October. According to a survey conducted by business advisory company BDO, 60 per cent of medium-sized companies in the UK plan to make redundancies once the furlough scheme ends. A majority (97 per cent) said they have already made job cuts in the organisation, while 54 per cent admitted to cutting between 11 to 20 per cent of their workforce. 

The survey also revealed less than 10 per cent have no plans for any job cuts at all in the coming weeks. Paul Eagland, managing partner at BDO, said the figures highlight some of the “very tough” challenges and decisions businesses are faced with because of the pandemic. He added: “However, the harsh reality is that these are unprecedented times and we would encourage the government to introduce policies that will help UK business survive and ultimately compete internationally – other governments around the world are and will be introducing policies to protect their businesses – we must not fall behind, particularly with Brexit looming.”

12pm National living wage could be frozen amid Covid uncertainty

The Treasury is apparently considering putting a hold on a planned rise to the national living wage (NLW) as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. According to a report in The Telegraph, the government has been discussing applying an “emergency brake” to the NLW for workers aged 25 and over, which was set to increase by 6.2 per cent as of April 2021, with hourly wages rising from £8.72 to £9.21 per hour. Those aged 21-24 were set to benefit from the biggest increase of 6.5 per cent, amounting to an hourly rate of £8.20. 

But members of the Low Pay Commission, which advises the government on annual increases to pay rates, reportedly believe the increase in April could now be unaffordable for many companies struggling in the wake of the pandemic and subsequent recession, and could result in an increased number of job losses.

The commission will meet at the end of October to decide on a number of recommendations for the upcoming autumn budget, and the panel could freeze the planned rise if evidence suggests it could be “damaging for the lowest-paid workers”.

11.30am New legal risks for recruiters

Carla Feakins explains the potential legislative pitfalls brought about by coronavirus that hiring professionals should be aware of.

11.20am Pizza Express plan to shut 73 restaurants approved by creditors

Pizza Express has been given the go-ahead by creditors to go through with plans to permanently shut 73 restaurants, putting almost 1,100 jobs at risk. The Italian food chain said 89 per cent of its creditors voted for its company voluntary arrangement restructuring deal, which will also see it secure rent reductions. 

Last month, Pizza Express said its rental costs were no longer sustainable because of the slump in revenue caused by the lockdown, the cost of reopening and the UK’s uncertain economic future. In a statement, Pizza Express said: “The successful vote unlocks the company’s ability to actively address the challenges brought by Covid-19, securing more than 9,000 jobs in the UK.”

9am Trains return to 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels to encourage people back to work

More train services in England, Wales and Scotland have begun running from today as schools reopen and people are encouraged to return to work. The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said services were returning to around 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. Rail passenger numbers are now back to about one-third of pre-pandemic levels. 

Francis Thomas, head of corporate affairs at West Midlands Trains, told the BBC travellers would notice a number of differences. “We have made big changes to our stations,” he said. “If you haven’t been to a railway station in the last couple of months you might find there’s a one-way system at your local stations, there’s hand gel available and we’ve invested in anti-fogging machines that can spread an anti-viral on trains. And there’s plenty of space. We reckon we can carry about 40 per cent of normal loads before we start to reach social distancing.” Train companies are now working to manage passenger flows by warning people if a particular service is busy. Southeastern, for example, plans to share the data with passengers so they can avoid a specific train.

8.40am Jobs at risk as north Wales art centre faces ‘financial crisis’

Up to 50 jobs are at risk at art centre Galeri in north Wales as the site has been closed since March because of the pandemic. Galeri has told staff it may be necessary to cut hours or make redundancies to ensure the organisation’s future survival. Additionally, management have said they will struggle to pay wages when the UK government’s furlough scheme ends in October. 

Gwyn Roberts, chief executive of Galeri, said it has been a “very difficult situation” for the art centre, and that it is “never easy to pass on bad news and the possibility of losing jobs”. She said: “I hope we are preparing for the worst possible scenario and that we don’t have to take it in the long run.” The centre plans to apply to the Arts Council of Wales for a contribution from the £53m fund made available to support arts organisations in the country, but Galeri will not know how much it will receive – if any – until mid-October. 

8.30am Foreign secretary urges employees to return to offices

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab warned at the weekend that home working is damaging the economy amid fears for city centre businesses. “The economy needs to have people back at work,” Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday. He said the coronavirus lockdown had led to a “massive shrinking of the economy”. Raab acknowledged there was likely to be a “bit more” remote working in future and that the return to offices could happen in “incremental stages”. However, he said: “It is important to send a message that we need to get Britain back up and running, the economy motoring on all cylinders.” 

Meanwhile, prominent technology investors have urged start-ups to return to offices, voicing concerns around productivity. Brent Hoberman, co-founder of the firstminute Capital investment fund, said: “I think it’s going to be very detrimental if we keep people apart and we lose the team spirit and learning by osmosis that happens in offices.” Tim Levene, CEO of venture capital business Augmentum, has called on CEOs to “recognise that we cannot continue to operate as we have been these past few months”, warning of dangers to the mental health of start-up employees.

8.10am Up to 200 jobs could go at Haribo factory

About 200 jobs are at risk of being made redundant at one of Haribo’s factories in Yorkshire. The sweet-maker employs 732 people at sites in Castleford and Pontefract, but declined to say how many roles were likely to be cut. However, a local councillor told the BBC that he understood about 200 jobs could be axed at the Pontefract site. 

Jon Hughes, Haribo’s UK managing director, said the decision to cut jobs was designed to protect the firm’s long-term future and had not been taken lightly. He said: “The UK has become a manufacturing centre of excellence in the global Haribo network. But to protect this position, we must respond to the significant rising costs and the demands of a highly competitive market.” 

Friday 4 September

4.10pm Unions urge government to introduce EU-modelled short-time working scheme 

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has urged chancellor Rishi Sunak to launch a ‘short-time working’ wage subsidy scheme, like those used in European countries, to avoid a “tsunami” of unemployment. 

The system would see cash-stricken companies receive a government subsidy for the hours a worker is away from their job. The TUC proposed a 70 per cent subsidy from the government for employers, provided they bring back every worker on the scheme for a minimum proportion of their normal working hours. Firms would need to top up workers’ pay to at least 80 per cent of normal wages for the hours they are not in work, including training. 

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC told the Guardian that “ministers cannot afford to throw away the good work of the [furlough] job retention scheme. There is still time to avoid a tsunami of unemployment.”

2.40pm Fashion retailer Jigsaw to cut 200 jobs

Fashion retailer Jigsaw will reportedly shut a quarter of its shops across the UK after it reached a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) to address the dramatic slump in sales since the start of the pandemic. The retailer, which employers almost 900 people and has 74 stores across the UK, said at least 200 roles will be made redundant as 19 stores are now set to be closed. 

Jigsaw said it was “pleased” its CVA proposal had been accepted by the majority of creditors. It added: “The arrangement puts the company on solid footing moving forwards, and allows us to execute our turnaround strategy.”

1.15pm Virgin Atlantic to cut 1,150 more jobs

Virgin Atlantic said it will cut an additional 1,150 jobs after completing a £1.2bn rescue plan to ensure its future for the next 18 months. The airline has already cut more than 3,500 jobs out of the 10,000 roles it had at the beginning of 2020. The company said: “Until travel returns in greater numbers, survival is predicted on reducing costs further and continuing to preserve cash.” 

It added the past six months had been the “most challenging in Virgin Atlantic’s history” and “regrettably the airline must go further one last time with changes at scale, to ensure it emerges from this crisis”. 

1.05pm Number of Brits working exclusively from home steadily decreasing, says ONS

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that between 24 and 30 August, the proportion of people who said they were working exclusively from home was just 20 per cent, down from a high of 38 per cent in the middle of June. The ONS described this as a “steadily decreasing trend” over the last two months.

The data also showed the proportion of people travelling to work was increasing. More than half (57 per cent) of working adults surveyed said they had travelled to work during the same period in August: the largest proportion of respondents since the UK went into lockdown. In terms of those in work overall, three-quarters (77 per cent) of working adults said they had either commuted to a workplace or worked from home – the same proportion as the previous two weeks.

1pm How to support bereaved employees returning to the workplace

As lockdown eases, employers should bear in mind that workers who’ve suffered a bereavement might be feeling apprehensive about going back to the office, says Jean Watkins.

12.50pm Does an employer’s duty of care extend to commuting?

Helen Farr explains whether organisations have a legal obligation to ensure their staff remain safe during their journeys to and from work.

12.20pm Northern Ireland employers offered apprentice cash support 

Employers in Northern Ireland will be paid £3,700 for each apprentice that they bring back from furlough and retain until they have completed their apprenticeship. Under a new Department for the Economy (DfE) scheme, firms can also claim £3,000 for each new apprenticeship created between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021. 

Diane Dodds, economy minister for the Northern Ireland Executive, said she had also secured an additional £17.2m funding from the Northern Ireland government to help bolster local apprenticeship systems as it “battles the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic”: a figure that had been supplemented with additional DfE funding. The scheme is set to begin on 1 November, when the UK-wide furlough scheme is set to end. 

12pm Co-op to create 1,000 jobs and open 50 new stores

Supermarket chain Co-op has said it is opening 50 new locations and creating 1,000 more jobs this year. The new roles are on top of the 1,000 workers the grocery chain recruited during lockdown as demand from shoppers increased. 

The Co-op said the additional roles will be spread across the new shops and 15 stores which are being enlarged. The chain currently employs approximately 55,000 workers and has 2,600 stores across the UK. 

8.10am Work begins on HS2 with a pledge to create 22,000 jobs

Construction work on the high-speed rail project HS2 officially begins today, and the companies behind the project have said they expect to create 22,000 jobs in the coming years. Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the beginning of HS2 construction marks a “major milestone in this government’s ambitions to build back better from Covid-19″. He added: “Shovels in the ground to deliver this new railway means thousands of jobs building the future of our country’s infrastructure.”

Balfour Beatty Vinci Joint Venture, HS2’s main works contractor for the West Midlands, said it expects to be one of the biggest recruiters in the region over the next two years. It said up to 7,000 skilled jobs would be required to complete its section of the HS2 route, with women and under-25s the core focus for recruitment and skills. 

Thursday 3 September

2.30pm Costa Coffee warns up to 1,650 jobs are at risk of redundancy

Costa Coffee has said that up to 1,650 roles are at risk of being cut as the cafe chain looks at reducing costs in the wake of the pandemic. Costa said “high levels of uncertainty” remain as to when its trade will regain pre-pandemic levels, and it is consulting with staff to find alternative roles for those facing redundancy. It has suggested that the role of assistant store manager will be removed in branches across the UK.

Neil Lake, managing director of Costa Coffee UK and Ireland, said the decision to cut jobs was an “extremely difficult” one to make, adding: “Our baristas are the heart of the Costa business, and I am truly sorry that many now face uncertainty following today’s news.” 

2.10pm What is furlough fraud and how can you avoid it?

As the government’s job retention scheme starts to wind down and additional levels of complexity are introduced, more and more employers will be at risk of falling foul of the strict rules attached to the grants.

According to HMRC, claims of misuse of the system, or ‘furlough fraud’, are on the rise: as of 22 July, 6,749 reports had been submitted, and it is currently investigating 8,000 tip offs made to its hotline. 

But what exactly constitutes furlough fraud, and how can employers make sure they stay on the right side of the law? People Management asked legal experts to explain.

1.45pm How should HR approach post-lockdown commuting?

For a number of weeks, employers have been facing pressure on many fronts to start bringing employees back to the workplace. But numerous polls have suggested many office workers are not ready to come back – with the prospect of commuting one of the largest barriers, and businesses and the government have been urged not to compel staff to return to the workplace. 

But for those organisations that feel the time is right, what can HR do to ensure health and safety is prioritised as people start to commute again?

12pm Amazon bucks retail downturn by increasing UK workforce 

Online retailer Amazon has said it will create 7,000 UK jobs this year to meet growing order demands due to coronavirus. Having already added 3,000 roles so far in 2020, the recent recruitment drive will up the total of new jobs to 10,000, taking its total permanent UK workforce to more than 40,000. 

A change in consumer behaviour instigated by Covid lockdowns has seen Amazon benefit from an influx of online orders, with its online sales figures from July 50 per cent higher than that of pre-pandemic levels in February. 

Business secretary Alok Sharma told the BBC the pandemic had been a “challenging time for many businesses” but that the new Amazon jobs were “hugely encouraging”.

11.50am After Covid, sharing data will be key to improving wellbeing

With a mental health crisis on the horizon, organisations must work together to define best practice around employee health, argues Eugene Farrell.

11.40am Supporting workers’ mental health during Covid

Richard Brown and Mariella Nigrelli explain employers’ obligations in preventing and managing psychological wellbeing issues among their staff.

9.20am High street bosses call for a return to the office

A number of high street CEOs, including those of Pizza Express, Caffè Nero and Marriott Hotels have written to the prime minister to warn that many businesses face an “existential threat” if office workers don’t start returning to the workplace, the Daily Mail has reported.

In the letter, collated by Hospitality UK and supported by the British Retail Consortium, the retail bosses said that half a million workers came to central London every day before the coronavirus crisis, but that many employers have no immediate plans to return to the office. “’This has existential risks for businesses in hospitality and its supply chain, as well as retail, leisure and entertainment, which combined employ around 20 per cent of Londoners,” the letter said.

The letter echoes previous warnings from owners of office space and business groups including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which previously warned commercial centres could become “ghost towns” if office workers did not return.

7.30am Heathrow seeks pay cuts

Heathrow Airport has told unions it will seek pay cuts for thousands of workers because of the collapse of air travel during the pandemic. The airport is looking for pay cuts of 15 to 20 per cent, affecting about half of the airport’s 4,700 engineering, airside operations and security staff. 

This follows yesterday’s warning that 1,200 jobs could be cut if no agreement between the airport and unions were made.

Wednesday 2 September

5.20pm Don’t expect ‘sharp return’ to the office, warns senior Bank of England official 

A senior Bank of England official has said a swift return to the workplace will not be possible, the BBC has reported. Giving evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, Alex Brazier, the central bank’s executive director for financial stability, told MPs that a “sharp return” to the office environment should not be expected and that a more phased approach should be taken.

“It’s not possible to use office space, particularly in central London and dense places like that, with the intensity that we used to use it,” Brazier said, adding that while he felt safe returning to the office, he could “quite understand” why many others might not.

4.30pm Quarter of Heathrow jobs at risk as union talks stall

Heathrow Airport could cut more than 1,200 jobs – around a quarter of its total workforce – after discussions with trade unions failed to reach an agreement.

According to Sky News, the airport reportedly issued a consultation notice this afternoon (2 September) on 4,700 operational roles, including security, airside operations and engineering. 

The news follows Heathrow’s baggage handling contractor Swissport’s announcement back in June that it was consulting on cutting more than 4,500 jobs across several UK airports, as well as Heathrow-based British Airways’ report the same month that it was consulting on the potential loss of 12,000 jobs.

2.30pm Eden Project to cut 169 jobs

The Eden Project has said a total of 169 roles will be made redundant due to the impact of the pandemic. In July, the Cornwall-based visitor attraction said it expected more than 220 jobs to go after it lost more than £7m this financial year. Managers for the centre said the cuts will affect 122 full time and 37 part-time roles across all areas of operations.

David Harland, executive director of the Eden Project, said the restructure was to ensure the attraction could continue running, and without it, it “would not have survived”. He added: “We are gutted that we are losing 169 brilliant people as a result of it.” The project also expected to see “further heavy losses” for the remainder of the year. 

1.40pm Coach industry warns 27,000 jobs at risk without government support

Almost 27,000 jobs could be at risk of redundancy in the UK coach industry by 2021 unless the government provides extra support, a sector body has warned. In a letter to tourism minister Nigel Huddleston, the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) said that, with bookings and travel not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until next summer, coach firms are in a “fight for [their] future”. The CPT said two in five (40 per cent) organisations in the tourism industry could be out of business by next April unless extra support is given. 

Alison Edwards, policy chief at CPT, said allowing the coach travel sector to collapse would be a “dereliction of duty from the government”. She said: “The sector is vital to the continued growth of UK tourism by ensuring that millions of people can visit attractions across the UK each year. Without support for coach travel, we are risking not just the future of the sector, but jobs across the tourism industry as people struggle to travel to days out.”

1.30pm Schools reopening won’t mean a return to business as usual, firms told

Employers have been warned not to expect the return of children to schools to mark a return to business as usual, as ministers hail the start of the academic year as a milestone on the path to recovery.

Millions of pupils will be returning to classrooms in England and Wales this week after an unprecedented shutdown because of the outbreak – one that forced many parents to change their working hours, use holiday, take unpaid leave or even go on furlough to provide childcare and homeschooling. 

Many parents have welcomed the reopening of schools, with a poll of 500 parents by Yoopies finding 76 per cent were in favour of sending children back in September. Gavin Williamson, education secretary, told MPs in parliament yesterday (1 September) that reopening schools would be a “massive milestone” for the country. 

1.25pm Why forcing people back to the office is a stupid idea

The UK government has launched a campaign encouraging people to return to workplaces, but there are at least five reasons this makes no sense, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.

1.20pm The legalities of face coverings in the workplace

Nick Wilson provides advice for employers in light of ever-changing guidance around wearing masks at work. 

1.15pm Coronavirus having severe impact on young people’s mental health

The economic and social impact of the coronavirus outbreak is having a severe effect on the mental health of young people, with those aged between 12 and 24 affected the most. A report by The Health Foundation found that compared to 2017-18, people in this age group were more likely to report being unhappy or depressed, having trouble concentrating and a loss of sleep – with those out of work twice as likely to suffer from a mental health problem than young people with a job.

1pm More than 16,000 jobs at risk in the community leisure sector, according to poll

More than 16,000 jobs are at risk among not-for-profit organisations that run local leisure services, according to research. A survey carried out by Community Leisure UK (CLUK) – which represents charities, societies and community interest companies providing leisure, sport and cultural services – found 26 per cent of the contracted workforce was at risk of being made redundant because of the effects of the pandemic on the industry. This is equivalent to almost 7,000 jobs.

The survey also found a further 9,200 casual roles were under threat because of the pandemic. CLUK said these potential job losses were in addition to more than 6,000 contracted and casual workers who had already been made redundant or who had not been offered work. 

12.45pm Financial services firms planning gradual office returns

City of London companies are not planning a rush back to offices despite ministers urging people to get back to their desks, according to The Daily Telegraph, with financial services companies saying they expect their offices to stay largely empty this month.

The newspaper said Aviva was preparing for 10 per cent of City staff to return to the office this month, while JPMorgan was planning for around 30 per cent of its 12,000 London workers to return next week. PwC is aiming to be operating at 50 per cent of its pre-pandemic capacity by the end of September, while KPMG, which currently has capacity for 30 per cent of its workforce to return to its London base, hopes to have 60 per cent back by the end of October.

Barclays and HSBC have said many staff won’t be expected back in London offices before October, while Standard Life Aberdeen and NatWest have told workers to stay home until 2021. Schroders has told staff they will never again have to spend five days a week in the office.

12.30pm PM claims ‘huge numbers’ have returned to work but TfL figures suggest otherwise

Prime minister Boris Johnson has claimed that “huge numbers” of people returned to work yesterday (1 September), despite data suggesting a large proportion of staff are still working from home. In pre-recorded remarks, Johnson told his weekly cabinet meeting that offices were seeing a marked uptick in the number of workers returning, according to the Financial Times. “People are going back to the office in huge numbers across our country – and quite right, too,” he said.

However, figures from Transport for London suggested the number of passengers taking the underground on Tuesday morning – the first working day after the August bank holiday – was still down by 72 per cent compared with a year earlier.

9.15am Hospital warns staff who refuse to wear masks may miss out on pay

NHS staff who need to self-isolate for two weeks because of coronavirus will not be paid during this period if they had previously refused to wear a mask at work, employees at a hospital trust have been told. The Telegraph has reported that in an email to staff, Lesley Watts, chief executive of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust in London, said: “If you are sent home to isolate for two weeks because you have not worn a mask, I am informing you now that you will be required to take this as annual or unpaid leave.”  

Workers at the trust were also warned they could face disciplinaries for not wearing a mask in situations where they might be putting patients or colleagues at risk.

9am Government opens Kickstart scheme to applications

From today businesses will be able to apply for grants to help pay for work placements for young people through the government’s Kickstart scheme. Under the scheme, worth £2bn, the government will cover the wages of traineeships offered to any young person aged 16 to 24 and on universal credit for six months, up to the cost of the relevant national minimum wage. Employers will also be able to apply for grants of £1,500 to help pay for the costs of providing the placement.

Thérèse Coffey, secretary of state for work and pensions, said: “There is no limit on the number of opportunities we’ll open up through Kickstart and we’ll fund each one for six months as part of our [plan to] create, support and protect jobs.”

Monday 1 September

3.20pm Capita to close more than a third of offices permanently 

Capita is to close more than a third of its offices in the UK for good, according to a report by the BBC, with the outsourcing firm planning to end leases for almost 100 workspaces. So far Capita has not renewed leases at 25 offices, the BBC reported.

A spokesperson for Capita told the broadcaster it was committed to letting its 45,000 employees continue to work in offices spread across the UK, but it would be adapting the business for the future – which would include increased numbers of staff working remotely.

“Following dialogue with our employees it has become very clear that they would like to work in a more flexible way, which will involve increased working from home, but they will still spend a significant amount of their time working from offices that are based in the heart of our local communities,” the spokesperson said.

1.50pm Shaw Trust to recruit more than 600 new workers

Employability charity Shaw Trust announced plans to recruit more than 600 employees to meet growing demand for its services in the wake of the pandemic. The charity said it was planning to grow its workforce by 25 per cent over the next year. Shaw Trust, which specialises in helping young people and adults into work, currently has 2,500 workers and 1,000 volunteers.

In a statement, the charity said its local and national programmes needed to be expanded in response to the surge of redundancies caused by the pandemic. The roles will be a mix of full and part-time working arrangements, and will be based around England. 

1.40pm Scottish government to announce ‘national mission to create jobs’

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is to announce a national “mission to create jobs” as part of the country’s plan to recover from the coronavirus outbreak in her annual statement setting out her legislative programme for the year ahead. Speaking ahead of the announcement, Sturgeon said the plan would “create new, green jobs across Scotland with fair pay and good conditions”.

Sturgeon is also expected to prioritise jobs and training for young Scots in this upcoming programme, and will announce a ‘youth guarantee’ to keep young people in work and a programme to retrain people to work in new sectors.

The first minister added: “[It is the] single most important thing that we, as a nation, can do to allow our economy to continue to open up safely.”

1.30 Four-day week could create 500,000 new jobs, says think tank

A four-day working week could create up to half a million new jobs, limiting the rise of unemployment expected as the government’s furlough scheme winds down, a think tank has said. The research, by think tank Autonomy, said it would be possible for public sector workers to move to a 32-hour week with no loss of pay, and that doing so could create between 300,000 and 500,000 new full-time equivalent jobs in the sector to make up for the shorter hours. The current average full-time public sector worker puts in 36.4 hours a week.

It estimated that the gross cost of the extra employees would equate to £17.6bn a year, working off the higher estimate of 500,000 new jobs. But, the report said, once efficiency gains had been taken into account – including a reduction in the amount of sick leave taken because of stress and burnout – the net cost would be between £5.4bn and £9bn a year, with the latter estimate reflecting an increase of just 6 per cent in the total public sector salary bill.

1.15pm Government urged not to pressurise staff back into offices

The government has been urged not to pressure employees to return to the workplace before they are ready, as it prepares to launch a campaign later this week encouraging staff to go back to their offices. The Cabinet Office is expected to launch an advertising campaign this week urging employers to reassure staff it is safe to return and highlighting workplace safety measures they’ve taken to halt the spread of the virus. 

Ministers will also reportedly emphasise the negatives of working from home, warning that workers were more vulnerable to redundancy if not at their desks. A government source told The Telegraph: “People need to understand that working from home isn’t the benign option it seems. We need workers to be alert to what decisions their bosses may take in the weeks ahead. If they are only seeing workers once a fortnight then that could prove problematic for some employees in the future.

However, Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said employees should not be forced into going back to the office. Responding to the planned launch of the campaign, Cheese said: “The government’s drive for individuals to return to their workplace should not leave them feeling pressured or duty-bound to do so.”

1.05pm Eight West Midlands Asda workers test positive for coronavirus 

Eight workers at the Cape Hill, Smethwick, branch of Asda have tested positive for coronavirus, the supermarket said. The employees are now self-isolating and a “comprehensive deep clean” has taken place.

A spokesperson for Sandwell Council confirmed to the BBC that no delivery drivers have been infected and the shop remains open. A statement from the retailer said when positive tests were confirmed it notified Public Health England and the council, and had ordered a deep clean as well as introducing “additional cleaning”. 

12.10pm Domestic violence: how firms can address the ‘shadow pandemic’

Recognising abuse remotely is challenging and makes regular interactions with your team even more important, say Justine Campbell and Paul Quinlan.

12pm Employers begin paying 10 per cent of furloughed worker salaries as scheme winds down

Companies using the coronavirus job retention scheme will have to start contributing at least 10 per cent of furloughed employees wages as of today as the government begins to wind the scheme down. The government’s contribution to the scheme will also drop from 80 to 70 per cent of furloughed staff’s wages. 

As of the beginning of last month, employers were already paying furloughed employees’ national insurance and pension contributions. However, Craig Beaumont of the Federation of Small Businesses raised concerns about the additional financial impact this latest change would have on SMEs, telling the BBC that 23 per cent of SMEs were considering reducing their headcount in the next three months. 

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, added she expected economic recovery to “lose momentum” when the scheme eventually comes to an end next month. “The government’s job retention scheme has been masking the damage wreaked by the pandemic on jobs and the wider economy,” she said.

10.40am Employers can tell staff to cancel holiday, legal experts say

Businesses are within their rights to tell staff to cancel their holiday plans if going will mean they are required to quarantine for two weeks upon their return and they are unable to work remotely, a legal expert has said.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Jennifer Smith, partner at JMW Solicitors, said: “Employers that can’t manage workflow without a specific employee for the length of their proposed holiday plus a 14-day quarantine period might be able to revoke holiday approval. This is arguably a clear business reason.”

Smith added that employers had the right to revoke annual leave so long as the notice given was the same number of days as the length of holiday.

9.30am Three-day season tickets discussed by government and rail firms 

The UK government is to try and lure office workers back to their desks with three-day season tickets, according to The Telegraph. Rail firms are coming up with new types of ticketing to better suit employees who will be continuing with flexible working arrangements. A rail industry source said: “Trains are operating at a fraction of capacity at the moment and although there is a cost implication to offering part-time season tickets, it is better to have fare-paying passengers three days a week than no days a week.” An announcement on new types of ticketing could be made this week as part of a fresh push by prime minister Boris Johnson to get people back to the office.

9.15am Four-day week could create 500,000 new UK jobs, report says

A move to a four-day week in the UK public sector would create up to half a million new jobs and help limit an expected increase in unemployment as the government’s furlough scheme is wound down, according to research by think tank Autonomy. The report said it would be possible for public sector workers to go on to a 32-hour week with no loss of pay, calculating that such a move would cost between £5.4bn and £9bn a year. 

Will Stronge, Autonomy’s research director, said: “To help tackle the unemployment crisis we are facing this winter, a four-day week is the best option for sharing work more equally across the economy and creating much-needed new jobs.” He added that the move would “boost productivity, create new jobs and make us all much happier and healthier”. Bank of England forecasts suggest that the jobless rate in the UK will rise from just under 4 per cent to 7.5 per cent by the end of the year.

9am Low demand for office workers fuels ‘asymmetric recovery’ of jobs market

Demand for office workers in the UK is lagging behind other types of work, according to data that suggests the labour market is undergoing an ‘asymmetric recovery’. The proportion of workers being hired by industries that mainly employ people in so-called white-collar roles – such as media, software and finance – has lagged behind other sectors despite the gradual return to workplaces, according to data from LinkedIn. The new job rate for workers in transport and logistics has risen by 18 per cent year on year, and new jobs in healthcare and construction are up by 12 per cent and 9 per cent respectively. However, the rate of new jobs in software or IT companies is down by 9 per cent year on year, while the rate of new jobs in media is 17 per cent lower than last year.

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