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‘Bonfire of jobs’ with a THIRD of firms planning lay offs this autumn

Fears are mounting of a ‘bonfire of jobs’ amid warnings a third of firms are planning to lay off staff this autumn.

Shock research found huge numbers of companies expect to axe roles in the third quarter of the year as coronavirus hammers the economy. 

Many of the cuts are set to come from hospitality businesses such as hotels, restaurants and cafes, as well as shops that were already on the brink before the pandemic.

The hit emerged in a survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) with recruiter the Adecco Group. 

Labour demanded the government ditches plans to scrap the furlough scheme entirely from October, forcing employers to take on the full costs of staff wages again. 

Meanwhile, figures released this week are due to confirm that the UK has formally entered recession – with a second quarter of GDP contracting. And official jobs data are scheduled for tomorrow. 

Figures on Wednesday are widely expected to show the economy contracted massively during the second quarter following the imposition of the virus lockdown.

That comes after output declined in the first three months of the year. Two successive quarters of contraction officially marks a recession, which would be the first since the financial crisis hit. 

Separate figures from the Insolvency Service have indicated that more than 139,000 jobs were lost in June.

The number of firms that cut 20 or more roles during June was up fivefold compared to last year, rising to 1,778.

And economic figures due this week are due to underline the scale of the problems, with jobs figures and the latest GDP estimate coming within days. 

There are fears that huge numbers of people working from home is causing damage as businesses that rely on busy offices – from sandwich shops and pubs to dry cleaners and hairdressers – are deprived of custom.

Sandwich shop chains Pret a Manger and Upper Crust have already axed thousands of jobs between them, with Pret yesterday asking staff to accept reduced hours.

Gerwyn Davies, of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said businesses were now facing the prospect of rising costs as the Government winds down its jobs furlough scheme. 

He added: ‘For many firms, the problem is that revenues are simply not coming in. There is undoubtedly going to be a lot of job losses.’

Firms that revealed plans to lay off staff in June included Royal Mail, Jet2, HSBC, Jaguar Land Rover, Centrica and the Restaurant Group, owner of Frankie and Benny’s. 

Similar announcements followed from other big names in July, such as Marks & Spencer, Boots and John Lewis.

High Street businesses have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, with lockdown measures dramatically reducing visitor numbers and forcing ‘non-essential’ shops to close for months.

But the jobs bloodbath is expected to intensify when the Government’s furlough scheme winds down in October.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been urged to extend the scheme for specific sectors that have been worst hit but has so far resisted pressure to do so.

Shadow business minister Lucy Powell called for the Government to ‘urgently rethink their rigid approach’, which will see the furlough scheme end entirely in October. 

‘The unpredictable nature of this virus means that public health measures must be flexible and responsive, but it surely follows that economic measures must be the same,’ the Labour MP said. 

‘It’s clearly illogical and unfair to prevent businesses from opening their doors, cutting them off from any income, and to cut their furlough lifeline at the same time. 

‘They’ve said they can’t save every job, but we’re seeing a jobs bonfire. They need to target their support at the hardest-hit sectors or be responsible for another wave of mass redundancies.’ 

As part of plans to set an example and get the country moving again, the Government has told civil servants – four fifths of whom are still working remotely -to get back to work in central London or risk losing their prestigious Westminster offices.

Treasury officials are said to be considering mass sell-off of the Government’s buildings in the capital before this autumn’s spending review.

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