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Coronavirus live blog

2 Jun 2020 By PM Editorial

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

Tuesday 2 June

2.45pm HMRC receives over 1,800 reports of furlough fraud

Over 1,800 complaints in relation to companies potentially making fraudulent claims under the government’s job retention scheme have been made to HMRC as of Friday (29 May). According to HMRC, this number has more than doubled from 795 as of 12 May, to 1,868 two and a half weeks’ later. An HMRC spokesperson said “fraudulent claims limit our ability to support people and deprive public services of essential funding,” adding: “We’d ask anyone concerned their employer might be abusing the scheme to please contact us. It could be that you’re not being paid what you’re entitled to, they might be asking you to work while you’re on furlough, or they may have claimed for times when you were working.”

2.40pm More than a quarter of UK workers now furloughed

Some 300,000 more UK workers have been furloughed in the past week, raising the total to 8.7 million since the start of the coronavirus crisis, government figures show. This equates to more than a quarter of the UK's workforce being supported by the scheme. Another 200,000 self-employed have taken up government grants, meaning 2.5 million have been given support through the self-employed income support scheme. 

12.20pm Excess workloads and fear of redundancy driving lockdown presenteeism, study finds

UK employees working from home during the coronavirus crisis are facing increased pressure to be available and are less able to switch off from work, a survey has shown, with excess workloads and fear of redundancies driving presenteeism. Almost half (46 per cent) of Brits carrying out their jobs remotely during lockdown reported feeling more pressure to be ‘present’ for their employer and colleagues, with more than a third (35 per cent) saying they had continued to work despite feeling unwell.

Of those who had worked through illness, 40 per cent said this was because they didn’t feel they were sick enough to warrant a day off. However, more than a quarter (26 per cent)  reported workload as a reason for not taking a day off, and 16 per cent cited fear of redundancy.

12pm EasyJet to resume flights on half its routes by end of July

EasyJet will resume flights on half of its 1,022 routes by the end of July, increasing to 75 per cent during August. The Luton-based carrier said flights will be at a lower frequency than normal, meaning the airline will operate at around 30 per cent of its normal capacity between July and September.

The airline previously announced it would resume operations on 15 June, but flights would mainly be restricted to domestic routes in the UK and France. EasyJet said a series of new safety measures would be introduced to protect staff and passengers, including requiring passengers to wear face masks at airports and on aircraft. Other steps to boost hygiene include not selling food during flights, enhanced cleaning of planes and disinfection wipes and hand sanitiser being provided.

11.45am How are people teams responding to coronavirus? ...Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Paula Ward, organisational development director for the trust, shares how her team has helped supercharge the development of virtual outpatient clinics and empower staff to come up with innovative ways of doing things.

8.55am Alton Towers preparing for July reopening

Managers for Alton Towers are "optimistic" that the theme park will be open to visitors at the start of July. Visitors will be asked to pre-book tickets so numbers can be limited for social distancing, and people will have their temperatures checked before they are allowed to enter the theme park. Emma Catterall, divisional director at Alton Towers added: "We will temperature-check both guests and staff to make sure that people coming on to site are fit and healthy."

7.15am Oxfam to start reopening in England from 15 June

Oxfam will begin reopening its network of charity shops in England from 15 June, but has not yet confirmed which stores would open nor how many of them. However, it said there would be space for social distancing, staff and volunteers would have the necessary personal protective equipment, donated items will be isolated for 72 hours and all surfaces, doors and equipment will be regularly cleaned.

Oxfam, which has 595 outlets around the UK, said shops in Scotland and Wales will remain closed at this stage, as no dates have yet been set for retailers to reopen there. Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB chief executive, said: "Our shops are a much-loved part of their communities and, at this difficult time, we can't wait to reopen our doors and reconnect with our supporters and shoppers."

Monday 1 June

3.05pm Dealing with harassment in the remote workplace

Menna Chmielewski outlines how employers can minimise inappropriate behaviour in the new working environment created by Covid-19. 

3pm Coronavirus ‘test and trace’ system could prompt employment disputes surge, experts warn

The government’s new test and trace system to monitor coronavirus outbreaks could contribute to an increase in workplace disputes and even tribunals, some experts have warned

Under the scheme, those who have come into close contact with someone who tests positive will receive a phone call, text message or email telling them to stay at home for two weeks, even if they have no symptoms. The idea is to avoid national lockdowns, with more localised restrictions used instead. However, Emilie Cole, partner and employment lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, warned of a potential rise in employment tribunals where staff felt unable to stay away from their jobs to self-isolate. The question, she said, was whether employees would be willing to take things as far as making a claim.

2.55pm New-look job retention scheme – what’s the detail now it’s been announced?

On Friday (29 May), chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the long-awaited detail on his plans to wind down the furlough scheme by October. This included detail on the creation of new flexibilities allowing employees to work part time while still being eligible for furlough grants, and the introduction of employer contributions.

Sunak also used this as an opportunity to announce a “new collective national effort” to revive Britain’s economy, with details of a new job creation scheme expected in the near future.

As employer groups welcome the chancellor’s approach, People Management gives the lowdown on the new system

1pm Hotels in Northern Ireland to reopen in July

Northern Ireland’s hotels can reopen from 20 July as long as the rate of infection is under control, Stormont economy minister Diane Dodds has said. "I believe the time is right to provide the tourist accommodation sector with clarity about opening dates,” Dodds said. “I want to build upon the positive progress in managing the spread of the virus and begin to reopen our tourism industry in a safe and managed way."

The reopening on 20 July is expected to cover hotels, hostels, guesthouses and guest accommodation, as well as holiday and home parks, caravan sites and self-catering properties – although the latter may be opened earlier depending on scientific advice. Dodds gave no further details on the health and safety precautions that employers in this sector would be expected to take. 

10.20am Primark plans to reopen all 153 stores in England on 15 June

Primark has said it plans to reopen all 153 of its English stores on 15 June, as non-essential retailers across England begin to restart their businesses as well. The fast fashion retailer said it will introduce physical-distancing protocols in stores, as well as hand sanitiser stations, perspex screens at tills and additional cleaning of high-frequency touch points. All employees will also be offered personal protection, including masks and gloves.

Primark has already reopened 112 stores in Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, and said trading in its reopened stores “has been both reassuring and encouraging, with customer queues outside most stores and, once in store, spending on larger basket sizes”. Primark said it had paid £10m to help low-paid workers in its supply chain in countries such as Bangladesh. 

8.30am Government planning large job creation scheme

As well as announcing details of how the furlough scheme will be wound down and made more flexible, chancellor Rishi Sunak used Friday’s daily Downing Street press conference to announce a “new collective national effort” to revive Britain’s economy, with ministers telling the Financial Times that Sunak and prime minister Boris Johnson are planning a big job creation scheme to address the danger of mass unemployment. Johnson is discussing with ministers a job creation programme – focusing on upgrading infrastructure, including broadband and green energy projects – while Gavin Williamson, education secretary, is drawing up a skills package to retrain workers, particularly the young, the FT reported.

Friday 29 May 

5.15pm Sunak announces furlough scheme flexibilities and employer contribution details

From 1 July employers will be able to bring furlough workers back part time while still claiming from the job retention scheme, the chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced. Employers will pay normal staff wages on the days they are working, and be able to claim from the furlough scheme when they are not. Because this will be a new scheme, any employers who want to put staff on furlough need to do so by 10 June – to allow them to complete the minimum three weeks required – if they want to make use of these new flexibilities.
 
The chancellor also announced plans for employers to start contributing. In June and July the scheme will continue as before, with the government paying 80 per cent of wages up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. From August, employers will be asked to pay national insurance and employer pensions contributions, which Sunak estimated would account for about 5 per cent of total employment costs. From September the government’s contributions will drop to 70 per cent, with employers expected to make up 10 per cent. In October, the final month of the scheme, the government will pay for 60 per cent of wages with employers expected to contribute 20 per cent.
 
Following pressure to extend it beyond its previous closing date of this weekend, the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme will be opened for a second round in August. Grants will be dropped to 70 per cent of earnings, or a maximum of £6,570, for three months to bring this in line with the new job retention scheme. 

4pm BA to outsource the work of 450 redundant employees 

British Airways is proposing to outsource the work of at least 450 furloughed employees it is making redundant, according to the Guardian. Last month the airline proposed cutting as many as 12,000 jobs in response to the pandemic. Jobs at risk in the outsourcing proposals include ticketing services, returning lost baggage to passengers and planning the balance of weight in the plane, known as centralised load control. 
 
Nadine Houghton, national officer for the GMB union, said: “BA’s actions so far have been deeply cynical and opportunistic. Taking taxpayer money through furlough and Covid loans and then offshoring hundreds of jobs to other countries is about as unpatriotic as you can get. This behaviour from our national flag-carrier is unacceptable.” 
 
A BA spokesman said: “We are acting now to protect as many jobs as possible. The airline industry is facing the deepest structural change in its history, as well as facing a severely weakened global economy. We are committed to consulting openly with our unions and our people as we prepare for a new future.”
 

12.45pm How are people teams responding to coronavirus? ...St Mungo’s

Helen Giles, executive director of people and governance at St Mungo's, shares how the charity is involved in a drive to allow rough sleepers to self-isolate in hotel rooms, which means looking after staff redeployed to work in new ways and locations. 

11.30am How DHL Express has taken care of its workforce in a time of crisis

Regine Buettner shares how her team has approached HR during a pandemic, including personalised ‘thank you’ videos and letting internal talent step into stretch roles.

10.30am One in five people concerned about health and safety at work, says ONS poll

One in five people (20 per cent) say they are concerned about health and safety at work, according to a weekly survey of the social impact of the coronavirus by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This was a rise from only 11 per cent who said the same last week.
 
Additionally, the ONS found a larger number of the 1,028 adults surveyed cited mental health concerns related to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions. 29 per cent said the pandemic was negatively impacting their mental health, up from 26 per cent last week. Three in five (62 per cent) people said they were worried about the future and felt bored, compared to 51 per cent who said the same last week.
 
9.30am Only half of eligible firms report gender pay gap

The number of organisations who reported their gender pay gap this year was half that of the previous year, the Financial Times reports, raising concerns that the coronavirus outbreak might stall efforts to improve gender equality in the workplace. Analysis done by the paper found the average pay gap increased from 11.9 per cent to 12.9 per cent in the year to April.

In March this this year the government effectively removed the requirements for companies to report their gender pay data in order to ease the burden on HR departments dealing with the coronavirus crisis. However, the move was widely criticised, with many experts warning that women were already likely to be more disadvantaged than men by the outbreak.
 
8.50am Debenhams cuts more than 1,000 jobs

Debenhams is cutting more than 1,000 jobs at its headquarters and in stores as a result of several store closures and in line with social distancing measures. The redundancies in merchandising, buying, design and other administrative functions at head office, as well as in cafes and other services in stores that will not reopen under social distancing rules, come after the department store went into administration last month – the second time in a year. The firm has confirmed plans to permanently close 17 of its 142 outlets. The majority of staff have been furloughed in response to lockdown, although Debenham’s website has continued to trade.
 
8.45am Renault to cut 15,000 jobs

Renault is cutting 15,000 jobs worldwide as part of a €2bn (£1.8bn) cost-cutting plan in response to a hit to sales caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Some 4,600 job cuts will be in France, and the firm has begun talks with unions. Renault said the plans would affect about 10 per cent of its 179,000-strong global workforce. "This plan is essential," said chief executive Clotilde Delbos, who announced cuts in production to focus on more profitable car models.

8.30am MPs urge extension of self-employed support scheme

MPs have urged chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme which is due to end this weekend after being open for three months. A cross-party group of 114 MPs have signed a letter sent by Labour's Siobhain McDonagh to Sunak. 
 
“This scheme is a lifeline for millions of locked-down workers right across the country," the letter says. "There are already significant holes in the support, but removing what is already in place would pull the safety net from under the feet of millions of self-employed workers. How can it be right for the furloughed scheme to continue but this scheme to not?” Earlier in May, the chancellor said the scheme was “under review” but he has not given any indication of its future since then. On Thursday (28 May), the prime minister also said extending the scheme was "under review”.

Thursday 28 May

5.30pm MPs call for urgent action to safeguard aviation jobs

Urgent government action is needed to safeguard jobs in the aviation industry, a cross-party group of 40 MPs has said. The newly formed Future of Aviation Group issued the call in a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. They complained of  a “lack of progress" in providing wider support for the industry. "The wider aviation family makes a significant economic and social contribution to the UK and will be central to our long-term economic recovery," the MPs wrote. "We need urgent action now to safeguard jobs," they added. "The consequences of inaction in this vital area are simply unthinkable."

2.30pm Extend SSP rebate scheme to all employers, says REC

As the test and trace system gets underway, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has called for the government to extend its statutory sick pay (SSP) rebate scheme from businesses with fewer than 250 staff to employers of all sizes in order to aid economic recovery. In a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak, the REC said that extending SSP, especially to recruitment agencies which typically have high volumes of temporary workers, is necessary so workers who are asked to self-isolate can do so safely.

The coronavirus statutory sick pay rebate scheme, which was announced during the budget in March as part of a package of support measures for businesses affected by the crisis, launched on 26 May. Employers receive payments at the relevant rate of SSP, currently £95.85 per week, paid to current or former employees unable to work as a result of being ill with coronavirus, self-isolating and unable to work, or shielding because they’re at ‘high risk’ of severe illness from coronavirus. The repayment covers up to two weeks of SSP for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March.

1.15pm Most employers expect staff to continue home working for some time, survey finds

Only 4 per cent of employers have returned staff to a place of work following the relaxation of lockdown rules earlier this month, a poll of HR professionals has found. Despite the government’s efforts to slowly restart the economy – with prime minister Boris Johnson asking employees unable to work from home to start going back to work from 11 May – a survey of more than 500 People Management magazine readers found the vast majority of employers were still asking staff to work from home for the foreseeable future.

Over half of those polled expected their staff to continue working from home for some time still, while another 24 per cent said they were waiting for the government to give specific guidance for their sector before returning staff to the workplace. (An additional 17 per cent said their staff had worked through the lockdown).

12.25pm Pret to reopen 204 more UK stores

Pret a Manger is to reopen another 204 shops for takeaway and delivery from 1 June, taking its openings across the UK to more than 300. The coffee and food chain has about 500 outlets in the UK and has gradually been reopening them since mid-April.

The shops will serve a stripped-down menu to help with physical distancing in kitchens, and safety measures in the reopened stores include protective screens in front of tills and limits on the number of customers in shops. Pano Christou, the chief executive of Pret, said the chain is "rapidly transforming its business" in light of the pandemic and decline in footfall, adding: “It’s going to continue to be tough for Pret in the months ahead, and I’d like to thank our team members who are returning to work and making reopening possible.”

12.20pm Cineworld plans to reopen all UK cinemas in July

Cineworld, the world's second largest cinema chain, is planning to reopen its 128 venues in the UK and Ireland in July as the government eases coronavirus lockdown measures. It said it is hoping to reopen in time to coincide with the release of two summer blockbusters – Christopher Nolan's Tenet and Disney's Mulan. The company added it anticipates government restrictions related to cinemas will be lifted by July, which means it will reopen its venues. 

The company said reopening cinemas would go hand-in-hand with physical distancing and hygiene rules to "ensure a safe and enjoyable cinema experience for its employees and customers”. However, Cineworld did not go into detail about what these rules would entail. Rival cinema chain Vue, one of Europe’s largest cinema operators, has also said it intends to reopen in July with measures including physically isolating family groups and staggering film times to reduce crowding. Vue has previously said other measures would include controlling entrances and exits and reducing the overall capacity of each film screening.

12.10pm Domestic violence: should HR get involved?

There has been an increase in reported cases of abuse in the home since lockdown began. Angela Paradise advises on what people teams can do – during the current crisis and beyond.

12.00pm Making redundancies during Covid-19

Emily Russell explains what employers must consider, including consulting obligations and trade union representatives. 

11.50am What can an employer do if someone refuses to return to work?

The coronavirus lockdown has created an abundance of unforeseen and unprecedented workplace conundrums for UK employers. And there is another tough task looming: asking people to come back into the workplace, in light of prime minister Boris Johnson’s amended guidance, issued 11 May, that those who cannot work from home should return to work.

While usually an employee refusing to attend work would be fair grounds for disciplinary and potentially dismissal, the pandemic has turned employment law gospel firmly on its head. So what action can employers take if employees refuse to return to work, without falling foul of the law? People Management asks legal experts how to approach the knotty issue of asking staff to come back to a workplace and the key employment law principles to consider.

10am 8.4 million workers now covered by furlough scheme

Around 8.4 million workers are now being supported by the government’s job retention scheme, up from eight million a week ago, the Treasury has said, with employers claiming £15bn worth of subsidies. An additional 2.3 million claims have been made through a similar scheme for the self-employed.

8.20am EasyJet plans thousands of job cuts

EasyJet has announced it plans to cut up to 30 per cent of its 15,000-strong workforce as it struggles to cope with the collapse in demand for air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement comes as easyJet confirmed it would restart flights on 15 June. However, it said levels of market demand seen in 2019 were not likely to be reached again until 2023, and as a result the firm would need to cut costs and jobs.

It added that in the coming days, it would launch an employee consultation process on the planned job cuts. The airline’s chief executive, Johan Lundgren, said: "We realise that these are very difficult times and we are having to consider very difficult decisions that will impact on our people, but we want to protect as many jobs as we can for the long term."

8.10am 270 council workers in Oxford furloughed 

A total of 270 Oxford City Council staff members have now been furloughed. A decision published by the council's website earlier this month showed that 20 workers were initially furloughed in April. The council's chief executive, Gordon Mitchell, announced last week (20 May) that the "severe financial crisis" caused by the coronavirus pandemic had contributed to the stark rise in the number of furloughed workers. 

Mitchel said there had initially been "quite a lot of uncertainty about whether local authorities could apply" for the furlough scheme because, when the scheme was first announced, the government said it did not envisage public sector employees would be furloughed as they believed most employers in this sector would continue to offer essential services. But Mitchell added: "I’m very clear the guidance does not exclude local authorities, although the political narrative has consistently come back to suggest that local authorities shouldn’t really be making use of it."

7.40am One in four firms using furlough scheme say they could not top up wages

A quarter of firms using the coronavirus job retention scheme say they will not be able to pay anything towards salaries after the scheme is cut back, according to a survey of 697 business leaders by the Institute of Directors (IoD). However, around half of companies that used the scheme said they could provide 20 per cent or above towards furloughed workers’ salaries. 

The government is reportedly considering reducing the current wage subsidy paid by the state – which currently sits at 80 per cent of the individual’s salary – to 60 per cent, and chancellor Rishi Sunak has said employers will be expected to "top up" this wage subsidy. The exact amount employers will be expected to contribute is still unknown, and expected to be announced at the end of this week. Jonathan Geldart, director general of the IoD, called on the government to make the furlough scheme more flexible as the "more flexible the scheme is, the better firms can recover and the fewer jobs will rely on state subsidy”.

Wednesday 27 May

5.45pm PM faces MPs’ questions on female employment, the self-employed scheme’s end and abuse of furlough

During a session of questions from MPs, prime minister Boris Johnson was asked about legal protections for women returning to work. He said: "It is very important people are given the protections they need and while it is true more women have been furloughed, it is also a more generous scheme than virtually any other scheme in the world.” The PM said a general study was being conducted across Whitehall on inequalities linked to Covid, which would report at the end of the month

Asked why the self-employed support scheme was coming to an end this weekend while furlough had been extended, Johnson said: “I really do understand the needs of the self-employed at this time… We will look at whether that can be set against furlough.” On a similar question later, he said: “As the chancellor said when we announced the scheme, we will keep it under review. Don’t forget self-employed people already have the access to bounce back loans… People are of course eligible for all other sorts of government support, including universal credit”. Asked about British Airways putting employees on the furlough scheme but threatening them with redundancy, he said: "People should not be using furlough to cynically keep people on their books and then get rid of them."

4pm Furlough changes could involve barring firms from putting new staff on the scheme

As latest government figures reveal a third of the British workforce is now covered by the furlough scheme, at a cost of almost £22bn to the Treasury, the Guardian reports that draft plans for the furlough scheme’s extension and new flexibilities are understood to involve employers contributing 20 per cent of salaries while the government pays 60 per cent up to the cap of 2,500 a month. Employers will also be expected to pay national insurance contributions, which they are currently exempt from. The chancellor is also considering shutting the furlough scheme to new entrants, which would bring the side effect of preventing employers from rotating staff who are currently not working with those who have spent recent weeks at work, leading to calls for government to give a lengthy gap between announcing the end to new applications and the cut-off date for that point.

2.50pm Schools and workplaces could see 'local lockdowns', minister says

"Local lockdowns" could see schools and workplaces in targeted areas of England that have "flare-ups" of coronavirus temporarily returning to lockdown restrictions, the communities secretary Robert Jenrick has said. Jenrick said restrictions on returning to work in offices and on schools reopening could be introduced at a "micro level" to control the virus in particular communities in which the number of Covid-19 cases had risen. He said the measures would be part of the test and trace system, which would be ready by next week, and that health secretary Matt Hancock will give more details. 

Hancock first mentioned such "local lockdowns" during Tuesday's (26 May) coronavirus briefing. Jenrick said the government's test and trace system would have a "local element" and identify flare-ups in particular places, such as parts of towns, schools, hospitals and workplaces. He told the BBC: "That enables us then to take action in that place which will be restrictive on the individuals who live and work there... but as a result of that we'll be able to provide greater freedom to millions of other people across the country, enabling us to continue to ease the lockdown, ease the return to school, to work and to the daily activities that we all want to get back to."

1.10pm Half of employers still anticipate redundancies when furlough ends, survey reveals

Nearly half of employers that have furloughed staff still anticipate having to make redundancies when the government’s job retention scheme comes to an end, a poll of HR professionals has found.

In the survey of more than 500 People Management readers about their plans to return people to work, 42 per cent expected to make a limited number of redundancies when the furlough scheme ended – on top of any redundancies they had already made. A further 8 per cent said they expected to make a large number of redundancies.

12.10pm The five foundations of self-care

By focusing on the key elements of self-care, leaders can help their teams safeguard their wellbeing during the pandemic, says Doug Upchurch.

12.05pm Key questions about the furlough extension

Following the announcement that the coronavirus job retention scheme will now run until October, Helen Watson answers important queries for employers.

11.10am Halfords to reopen 53 stores after physical-distancing trial

Halfords is to fully reopen 53 stores after a successful trial of physical-distancing measures on its shop floors. These distancing measures include queueing marshals outside stores, ‘sneeze screens’ for shoppers and staff, and customers being asked not to handle or try on products. Halfords has been operating 335 of its 446 shops under a ‘dark store’ model during lockdown, meaning customers have been unable to browse and instead have been placing orders with staff outside the front of the store. Among the sites reopening are Gloucester, Huddersfield, Inverness and North Shields. A number of the stores opened over the weekend and all 53 will be open by Friday (29 May).

11am UK furlough scheme now covers 8.4 million workers

Some 8.4 million workers are now covered by the government's furlough scheme, up from eight million last week, the Treasury has announced. Claims for subsidies filed by employers rose to £15bn from £11.1bn, it added. The government has said details of increased flexibility to the scheme in line with its extension to October will be announced this week. Though the government will ask companies to "start sharing" the cost of the scheme from August, sources have told the BBC the Treasury still expects to pay more than half the costs between August and October.

8.45am Greggs to reopen 800 stores in mid-June

Greggs is to reopen 800 stores across the UK from mid-June, following a successful trial at a handful of branches in the north-east where it tested safety measures put in place to protect staff and customers. The chain closed all of its 2,050 stores on 24 March, even though government rules specified kitchen areas could stay open for takeaway orders. It then changed its mind about reopening 20 locations, fearing enthusiastic customers might gather in crowds.

8.30am Working mums doing most childcare and chores in lockdown

In homes where there is a working mother and father, women are doing more chores and spending more time with children during lockdown, according to a new study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and University College London. They interviewed 3,500 families and found mums were only able to do one hour of uninterrupted work for every three hours done by dads.

"Mothers are doing, on average, more childcare and more housework than fathers who have the same work arrangements," said Lucy Kraftman, research economist at the IFS, adding that this also applied to families where both parents were furloughed or out of work. "The only set of households where we see mothers and fathers sharing childcare and housework equally are those in which both parents were previously working, but the father has now stopped working for pay, while the mother is still in paid work.”

Tuesday 26 May 

5pm McLaren to cut 1,200 jobs as virus hits demand

UK supercar maker and Formula 1 team McLaren plans to cut more than a quarter of its workforce of around 4,000 people. Of the 1,200 to be made redundant, the vast majority will be in the UK. Formula 1 racing has been suspended, while orders for McLaren's supercars have fallen because of the pandemic. McLaren's Formula 1 operation expects to lose about 70 people from its 800-strong workforce. The company said it had worked hard to cut costs and avoid layoffs. "But we now have no other choice but to reduce the size of our workforce," chairman Paul Walsh said in a statement.

1pm Reopening guidance for non-essential retailers – what staff protections does it lay out?

All non-essential retailers in England will be able to reopen from 15 June as part of ongoing plans to further ease lockdown, prime minister Boris Johnson has announced. Along with the announcement, the government has published new guidance for the retail sector to help protect shoppers and workers – which Johnson said would “ensure there can be no doubt about what steps [retailers] should take".

So what does the latest guidance for retailers advise?

12.05pm Poundland to reopen stores across UK

Discount retailer Poundland said another 26 of its stores across the UK, which have been closed throughout the coronavirus outbreak, are to reopen this week. This will be in addition to the 51 Poundland stores opened last week. 

Poundland said that while it had kept most stores open for essential shopping, about 100 were temporarily shut in March. The newly reopened stores will have "robust" health and safety measures in place like all the stores that have remained open, including door marshals, floor markers to help maintain social distancing, perspex screens at checkouts and no self-checkouts.

11.20am Unfair dismissals in the age of coronavirus

Richard Thomas explores how employers can best mitigate the risk of claims in the new working environment brought by Covid-19.

11.10am Making the most of working through lockdown

Now is a good time to invest hin our wellbeing by creating healthy work habits at home, exploring self-care methods and staying connected with colleagues, says Sarah McIntosh.

10.40am Nando’s opening 54 restaurants for delivery and collection from today

Nando’s has announced that 54 restaurants across the UK will open for delivery and click and collect orders, with another 40 reopening tomorrow (27 May). After a successful trial of phased reopening over the past few weeks, Nando’s said it will be opening restaurants in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, London and Belfast. 

The chain said all food will be prepared and delivered under strict UK and Irish government guidelines to make sure restaurant teams, delivery drivers and customers are safe. There also will be strict social distancing in place, with reduced numbers of staff to make sure that’s possible. The menu will also be reduced to help workers maintain social distance in the kitchen and food prep areas.

10am Volunteering has soared during coronavirus crisis, research finds

Ten million UK adults have been volunteering in their community during the Covid-19 pandemic, and most say they will carry on after lockdown, according to new research. In a study by Legal & General and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, one in five UK adults (19 per cent) said they have volunteered their time for community activities, such as helping with grocery shopping for others, picking up prescriptions, ringing up people living alone or helping out at a local food bank, since the start of the lockdown on 23 March. With each individual contributing an average of around three hours each week, the work was estimated to have an equivalent economic value of more than £350m a week. The research found that millennials were the least likely age group to volunteer.

9.50am BA planning to rehire employees on worse terms, says union

Union Unite has claimed British Airways plans to fire the vast majority of its workforce and rehire them on reduced pay and worse terms. BA informed unions last month that it was holding a consultation on as many as 12,000 job cuts. BA’s chief executive, Álex Cruz, wrote a letter to staff on Friday (22 May) criticising Unite and the GMB union for failing to attend consultation meetings. Balpa, the pilots’ union, had engaged in consultations, the airline said. Both Unite and GMB are understood to be considering legal action against BA on the basis that a meaningful consultation is impossible during lockdown.

9.45am Auto Windscreens owner imposes pay cut on staff

The owner of Auto Windscreens has imposed 20 per cent pay cuts on staff who have not agreed to them and allegedly pressured other employees into consenting, according to the Guardian. Around 3 per cent of staff did not agree to the cut, but it was imposed anyway, raising questions on the legality of the deductions for these staff. Having furloughed around 900 workers in March, the Markerstudy Group – which employs around 3,000 people – asked those remaining to take a temporary wage cut, backdated to 1 April, and give up sick pay. Some staff told the Guardian they received calls from managers telling them to sign the document or they would be made redundant.

A spokeswoman said: “Markerstudy has worked with staff to try and minimise, insofar as possible, the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic on every area of their business. It is not appropriate to comment on individual situations or circumstances. [The company is] not aware of any threats being made to staff, and take such allegations seriously.”

9.20am Non-essential shops to reopen from 15 June 

As part of plans to further ease lockdown, Boris Johnson has said non-essential retailers will be able to reopen in England from 15 June. Johnson advised retailers to follow new government guidance to protect shoppers and workers, which includes social distancing and the use of PPE. 

The British Retail Consortium said it gave “much-needed clarity”, but the British Association of Independent Retailers said many small shops had been preparing to open from next week, calling the announcement “a little disappointing”. 

Friday 22 May

12.15pm Wetherspoons sets out post-lockdown plan for pubs

Wetherspoons has outlined plans for reopening hundreds of pubs once lockdown restrictions are eased. It said staff will be provided with face masks and protective eyewear, and pubs will run a reduced food menu. Wetherspoons boss John Hutson said: "The safety of our staff and customers is paramount".

The firm said it is also planning to hire two new full-time employees per pub, charged with sanitising door handles and hand rails as well as ensuring that customers are sticking to social distancing measures.

11.50am How are employers supporting disabled staff during coronavirus?

Research seen exclusively by People Management reveals the crisis could have a long-term effect on reasonable adjustments and flexible working that benefits us all, says Diane Lightfoot.

11.40am Should furloughed workers be treated like returning mothers?

Alison Loveday explains how businesses can effectively manage the re-introduction of workers on the job retention scheme back into the workplace.

8.55am Covid-19 saliva test to be trialled on 5,000 key workers

A potentially “game-changing” spit test for coronavirus is set to be trialled by the government on 5,000 police and army staff amid growing concern about the accuracy of invasive nasal swabs. The two-minute test requires someone to spit in a tube, and is thought to be as accurate, if not more so, than the throat and nose swab that detects if someone has Covid-19. 

Professor Paul Elliott, the Imperial College London scientist who is leading a major government programme on home testing, said the saliva tests would be trialled on 5,000 key workers in the next fortnight. Elliott said “clinical experiences” suggested as many as 30 per cent of nasal swab tests result in a false negative, where people are wrongly told they do not have the virus, and is interested to see how the saliva tests will compare. 

8.45am 50,000 RBS staff to work from home until at least September

More than three-quarters of Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) 65,000 staff will continue working from home until at least the end of September. However, about 400 workers whose jobs include handling sensitive data have been asked to return to offices and call centres next month. Since the lockdown started, approximately 10,000 RBS employees have continued to work in some offices and branches. Approximately 95 per cent of branches have remained open.

RBS said strict physical distancing and others safety measures would be in place to protect staff. “These include limits of two people per lift, thermal imaging and temperature checks at building entrances, and one-way corridors. Hot desking has been temporarily banned, and there will be at least one empty desk in between persons to ensure social distancing,” a memo sent by chief executive Alison Rose states.

8.30am Facebook expects half of staff to work remotely over next five to 10 years

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the firm will start “aggressively opening up remote hiring” and continue extensive remote working even after coronavirus, expecting that about half its workforce would work remotely over the next five to 10 years. The news follows an announcement this week that the company plans to limit offices to 25 per cent capacity, stagger employees on multiple shifts and institute mandatory temperature checks when employees return to some of its workplaces in July.

7.20am Northern Ireland bus builder to cut 125 jobs

Wrightbus, a bus builder in Northern Ireland, is cutting up to 125 staff from its 700-strong workforce as a response to the economic slowdown resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. It will make approximately 35 permanent employees redundant as well as reducing the number of agency staff by 90 "over a phased period". 

Chief executive Buta Atwal said a large part of the workforce had been furloughed but around 100 engineers, designers and sales staff had continued working through the crisis. He added that the aim was still to have around 1,000 people working the firm by the end of 2021 and "we hope to be in a position to re-hire some of those who have been made redundant".

Thursday 21 May

4pm Home Office extends bereavement scheme for families of NHS workers

Family members of migrants working in the health sector who die as a result of the coronavirus outbreak will be entitled to indefinite leave to remain in the UK, the Home Office has said. The entitlement applies to the families of all non-EEA migrants who have worked in the NHS or for an independent health care provider – including social care – and will be applied automatically and free of charge.

Chetal Patel, partner at Bates Wells, said the announcement was far-reaching and covered all roles “irrespective of the skill or salary level, including porters and cleaners”.

“It is good to see that after repeated criticism, the Home Office has made this announcement,” she said, but added more could be done for these workers.

The Home Office had initially come under heavy criticism for excluding lower-paid professions before taking the decision to extend the bereavement scheme.

3.30pm Citigroup staff offered extended bank holiday weekend 

British staff at American banking firm Citigroup will have a four-day-long bank holiday weekend, as the company’s CEO told all 200,000 employees worldwide to take tomorrow (Friday 22 May) off work. 

Around 8,000 people work in the bank’s UK offices in London, Belfast, Derby and Edinburgh. Citigroup’s chief executive, Michael Corbat, said in an all-staff memo that the extra holiday was a mark of gratitude for all his employees had done, and told staff to “take the day to relax and enjoy time with your families, and above all, please keep in mind that, as important as it is to take care of our clients, we need to take care of ourselves”. 

2.55pm Clarks to cut 900 office jobs

Shoe chain Clarks will cut 900 office jobs worldwide as it tries to position itself for business after the coronavirus pandemic. Clarks, which employs 13,000 people globally, said it had to make "some difficult decisions" to re-energise the business, which has seen sales fall in the wake of the crisis. It added jobs will be cut over the next 18 months, and that it would "turn around the firm" to create 200 new jobs.

Clarks shut all of its stores in the UK and Ireland during the coronavirus lockdown, and said it will only reopen them "when it is right and safe to do so". It has already opened stores in countries including China as restrictions have been lifted.

1.20pm Consider mental health impact of reopening after lockdown, businesses warned

An international health and safety body has warned employers to focus on the risks to employee wellbeing, as well as virus transmission, when bringing staff back to places of work. The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has told employers they will need to create a “new normal” working culture as they begin to plan for reopening after lockdown, with workplaces likely to see changes in attitudes – as well as safety procedures – that could cause a risk to workers’ health and wellbeing if not managed properly. 

Richard Jones, head of policy and regulatory engagement at the IOSH, emphasised the need for employers to put thorough plans in place before bringing staff back into the workplace. “Any organisations that haven’t already made plans need to develop them and take precautionary action now,” he said. “It’s not just about opening workplaces and expecting workers to return, it must be safe and healthy and create a new normal.”

12.50pm Two-fifths of parents balancing homeschooling with a full-time job, survey finds

Two-fifths of working parents are homeschooling their children during the coronavirus outbreak while holding down a full-time job, a survey has found. The poll of 2,000 working adults with school-aged children, conducted by Canada Life, found 39 per cent were balancing full-time jobs while also homeschooling. And while more than a third (35 per cent) of respondents said they wanted their working patterns to stay the same when lockdown came to an end, 41 per cent admitted the stress of balancing work and schooling was becoming difficult. 

Claire McCartney, resource and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said it was unsurprising that parents were finding it stressful to educate their children while carrying out their work responsibilities, and called on employers to be flexible in their response: “It’s really important that line managers discuss with employees what they both believe can be done to carry on meeting the needs of their job role, while taking care of their child or children.”

11.55am Lessons from Asia in unlocking lockdown

As the UK prepares to ease Covid-19 restrictions, Trent Sutton and Raoul Parekh examine what employers can learn from other countries' experiences.

11.50am How can companies regain trust with furloughed employees?

As staff return to work, some will be angry at having been considered non-essential, others at having to take on extra work, so firms must work hard to rebuild engagement, says Alys O'Neill

11.45am Dyson UK cancels order for staff to return to work after employees refuse

Engineering firm Dyson has cancelled plans to have employees return to the office this week after staff refused to return to workplaces, according to a report by the Guardian. Sources told the newspaper that Dyson told staff they should start coming back into the office, in rotating shift patterns, from Monday (18 May), but the proposals were shot down by employees concerned about returning to work too soon. The company reversed its decision in a subsequent email the next day. 

The proposal would have meant some staff having to travel to Dyson's factories in Hullavington and Malmesbury, even if they were able to work from home. This would have gone against current government guidelines on safe workplace practices, which highlight that employers should ensure staff work from home where possible. 

10.20am Four in five workers in accommodation and food services have been furloughed

Almost four in five (78 per cent) workers in accommodation and food services have been furloughed, according to a survey by the Office for National Statistics. The survey looked at the impact of the coronavirus on the UK economy, finding a majority of people working in the accommodation and food services industry were furloughed between 20 April and 3 May, and that this was the highest proportion of any sector in the economy. The survey also suggested that a fifth (20 per cent) of businesses temporarily closed or paused trading during this period, while 6 per cent said they had resumed trading in the last two weeks. 

10am More than 400 people furloughed by Hampshire County Council during pandemic

Hundreds of workers at Hampshire County Council have been placed on furlough since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report by the Basingstoke Gazette. The local newspaper revealed the council has furloughed 410 workers, approximately 3 per cent of the total 12,937 total staff members employed by the council. 

This is despite the fact that, when the job retention scheme was first announced, the government said it did not envisage public sector employees would be furloughed as they believed most employers in this sector would continue to offer essential services.

9.45am EasyJet to resume flights in June 

Airline easyJet has announced the restart of a “small number” of routes when customer demand increases. Initial flights will not serve food but easyJet said hand wipes would be readily available. Additionally, aircrafts would be subject to “enhanced cleaning and disinfection” and passengers and cabin crew will be told to wear face masks. The new airline rules were drawn up according to government advice and in consultation with the European Aviation Safety Agency, which recommends the use of face masks, social distancing (where possible) and frequent hand washing.

9.25am More than 2,500 council staff furloughed across Northern Ireland

More than 2,500 staff across Northern Ireland's 11 councils have now been furloughed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Stormont minister Deirdre Hargey has confirmed. Speaking at the Northern Ireland Executive's daily briefing yesterday (20 May), Hargey acknowledged local authorities have used the government scheme because of extreme funding pressures and said that the Executive is providing £20.3m in support to keep them afloat. 

However, Hargey stressed the importance of protecting jobs, both now and "into the recovery period", and said furloughing staff at local authorities would be kept "under close observation". She added a review of furloughing such workers would be expected in August. 

8.45am Hundreds of British Airways in Wales jobs under threat

Hundreds of British Airways (BA) jobs in south Wales are under threat because of a collapse in passenger numbers because of Covid-19 and subsequent restrictions on travel. BA had said 1,000 jobs were at risk at its three sites in Wales, but Welsh economy minister Ken Skates clarified that 399 redundancies were being considered. He added that he had told BA the number of jobs at risk "needs to be reduced". 

The news comes as BA warned earlier this month that it needed to cut 12,000 roles in total across the business from its 42,000-strong workforce as a result of the crisis.

8.45am 40,000 UK workers still needed to harvest fruit and veg

Farming industry representatives have said they still needed to recruit – and retain – as many as 40,000 British residents to harvest fruit and vegetables this summer and autumn. There are deep concerns that even if enough workers initially come forward, many will quit as the lockdown eases and they are able to return to their usual employment. A recruitment campaign has been launched on government and industry portal Pick For Britain. ITV and Waitrose announced a campaign to support the drive, which will include adverts and a film following new recruits. About 70,000 workers are needed in total to bring in the British harvest over the spring, summer and autumn.

8.30am NHS and care staff to get antibody tests from next week

NHS and social care staff will be given antibody tests revealing whether they have had coronavirus from next week, ministers are to announce today. Hundreds of thousands of workers will be offered access to the blood tests, which must be processed in laboratories. However, experts warned of the risk of creating a false sense of security for those with positive antibody test results, as they offer no guarantee of immunity. “The new test’s arrival should not simply be seen as a green light to reduce PPE and other protections for NHS staff who test positive,” Dr Claudia Paoloni, president of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, told the Guardian.

Initially, priority will be given to frontline hospital personnel working most closely with Covid patients, such as intensive care staff, those working on coronavirus wards and doctors and nurses in A&E units. 

7.40am Mastercard staff can work from home until they 'feel comfortable' returning to office

Mastercard staff can continue working from home until they "feel comfortable" returning to offices amid the pandemic. The credit card company, which employs about 20,000 people globally and has offices in the UK, said a "large percentage" of their workforce is now working from home, despite offices remaining open. 

A spokesperson for Mastercard said: "At the end of the day, our employees will make the decision on when they feel comfortable returning to an office. They know their personal circumstances and needs." 

Wednesday 20 May

5.35pm Redeployed NHS staff may return to previous roles in coming weeks 

NHS England’s medical director Professor Stephen Powis has said regular healthcare services curtailed to help manage the coronavirus crisis will resume over the next few weeks and months, adding that prioritising Covid-19 throughout April was the “right thing to do”. Asked at today’s daily briefing when NHS staff redeployed from their usual roles to support areas of the health service under increased pressure due to Covid-19 would return to normal, culture secretary Oliver Dowden said capacity for more regular services would increase as the UK exits the peak of the virus. 

4.50pm Half a million businesses at risk of folding, survey shows

More than 500,000 businesses are at high risk of entering insolvency, according to a business distress tracker compiled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr). Almost one in 10 retail organisations (9 per cent) say they cannot survive another month of lockdown and are facing collapse, according to the tracker which surveys 500 businesses in a range of sectors across the UK.

However, 41 per cent of respondents reported a positive outlook for the next 12 months, suggesting some firms have already weathered the lowest point of the Covid-19 crisis. Pablo Shah, senior economist at Cebr said that while present conditions remain “challenging to the extreme, the survey results suggest that we could perhaps be starting to see some break in the clouds”.

1.10pm Could the UK introduce the legal right to work from home?

Germany recently announced that it will introduce laws giving its citizens the legal right to work from home. In making this move, Germany will be following in Finland’s footsteps, which introduced a new Working Hours Act in January 2020. One of the key amendments of this is that work performed at home and so-called distance work now falls within the scope of the Act.

Merrill April and Pooja Dasgupta from law firm CM Murray examine whether the UK could follow suit in taking a more ‘employee friendly’ approach to flexible working. 

11.15am How are people teams responding to coronavirus? ...Mental Health Matters

Claire Hall, HR and L&D manager at charity Mental Health Matters, tells People Management how ensuring staff still take breaks at home and offering internal wellbeing webinars have been key to coping with the increased demand on their services brought on by the crisis. 

8.45am Greencore prepares to reopen site as workers tire of homemade lunches

Having furloughed about a third of its 11,500 staff and closed three production sites, sandwich maker Greencore is preparing to reopen one of these sites. Sales of its fresh meals, which also include sushi and salads, initially dropped 70 per cent but have recovered to 40 per cent of pre-coronavirus levels as lockdown rules were eased and consumers grew weary of homemade lunches, according to the company’s research. The survey of 7,000 consumers found the average ‘lunch enjoyment score’ currently stands at 5.5 out of 10, after a steady decline from 6.2 five weeks ago.

8.30am Nearly half of FTSE 100 firms cut or defer dividends

UK firms have cut or deferred £30bn in dividend payments to weather the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis, according to research by AJ Bell. Almost half (46) of the UK’s FTSE 100 firms have now either reduced, deferred, suspended or cancelled cash returns to shareholders. The UK-listed companies that have made the biggest cuts, suspensions or deferrals include HSBC at £5bn and BT at £3.3bn. But 140 companies have committed to maintaining dividends, with some of these, such as Tesco, proving controversial: the grocer was forced to defend the decision to pay a £635m dividend while at the same time accepting a similar-sized tax break as part of the government’s coronavirus support package.

“While some investors might be hoping the end is in sight for these cuts, they could actually increase now the government has brought in investors,” Laura Suter, personal finance analyst at AJ Bell, told the Guardian.

8am Rolls-Royce to cut 9,000 jobs amid crisis

Rolls-Royce has announced it will cut 9,000 jobs worldwide and warned it will take "several years" for the airline industry to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The firm, which makes engines for planes, said the losses would mainly affect its civil aerospace division, but chief executive Warren East told Radio 4's Today programme the company had not yet decided "exactly" where the job losses would be because they would have to consult with unions.

But he said: "It's fair to say that of our civil aerospace business, approximately two-thirds of the total employees are in the UK at the moment and that's probably a good first proxy."

Tuesday 19 May

5.10pm Government urges furloughed workers to pick fruit

Environmental secretary George Eustice has said the UK only has “around a third” of the number of migrant workers who normally travel from Europe to help harvest crops such as salad and strawberries. Speaking at today’s government briefing, Eustice said that while small numbers may still arrive, “this year we will need to rely on British workers to lend a hand to help bring that harvest home”.

He added that the government has been working with industry to develop a plan to support workers taking second jobs – particularly those who are furloughed – and had created a website to help match people looking for seasonal work locally. “We believe those that are furloughed may be getting to the point that they want to lend a hand and play their part… if they do feel that way I would urge them to visit that website and to look at the opportunities that are there,” said Eustice.

The site, pickforbritain.org.uk, was launched by the Prince of Wales earlier today.

3.10pm Two in five UK companies are changing their employee benefit programmes due to Covid-19

Two in five (42 per cent) of UK companies have made, or are planning to make, significant changes to their benefit programmes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson. The survey of 177 employers found the benefits most likely to be enhanced were: wellbeing programmes (60 per cent); mental health and stress management services (58 per cent); annual leave policies (26 per cent); and voluntary benefits (23 per cent). 

Kevin Newman, managing director of Willis Towers Watson’s UK Health and Benefits business, said the crisis will prompt changes in employee benefit programmes for many companies, and some will be forced to "get better value from their benefits", both from a cost and communications perspective. He added: "But most companies at some point are likely to look at what they currently provide employees and ask, ‘are these benefits still relevant and is the balance still right for the new working environment?’"

12.35pm Employers able to recover statutory sick pay this month, government says

Employers will be able to recover statutory sick payments made to staff during the coronavirus pandemic at the end of this month, the government has announced. The coronavirus statutory sick pay rebate scheme, which was announced during the budget in March as part of a package of support measures for businesses affected by the crisis, is set to launch on 26 May. The scheme will allow employers with fewer than 250 employees to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related statutory sick pay (SSP). 

Kate Palmer, associate director of advisory at Peninsula, said the new scheme, alongside the furlough scheme, offered more assistance to employers that had seen staff take sick leave as a direct or indirect result of coronavirus. "It remains to be seen if eligibility for reclaiming SSP will be broadened to include larger companies, and it is likely any decisions in this manner will come as we move through the crisis,” she said. 

12.15pm Wagamama to reopen restaurants for home delivery

Wagamama is to reopen dozens of its restaurants across the UK to expand its home delivery service. The Japanese-inspired restaurant chain, which shut its doors amid the pandemic, launched a trial of the service at five of its delivery kitchens in London and Leeds earlier this month. 

The company now says it will reopen 24 more sites on Thursday (21 May) with a further 20 next week, expanding to 67 kitchens in operation by the end of June. Wagamama said it has devised a schedule of reopening new sites that will allow staff to slowly return to delivery-only work at their own discretion. Chief executive Emma Woods said: “The next logical step for us is to open additional sites throughout the UK; this will still very much form a test and learn approach for the business.”

11.40am The legalities of preparing for work after lockdown

With a number of phases set out in the government’s ‘plan to rebuild’, there is growing pressure to restart the economy, safely, as soon as possible. Although numerous guidelines have been revealed based on the type of workplace, businesses should make sure they have a robust plan in place. Julian Cox explains the steps employers should take before bringing employees back into the workplace.

11.30am How one HR consultancy has adapted to working through Covid-19

Elva Ainsworth, CEO of Talent Innovations, explains how her organisation has coped with the unprecedented demands of working during the coronavirus crisis. From the whole team becoming infected, to reduced client demand and the need to work remotely, the challenges have been numerous and she says she will never be the same again. 

11am City workers in no rush to go back to the office

More than half of financial workers surveyed by Deutsche Bank said they were considering working from home between one and three days a week even after the coronavirus pandemic has receded. The findings highlight a trend of workers becoming happier to work from home the longer lockdown measures are in place. Almost three in five (57 per cent) of the 450 global financial professionals surveyed said they would work from home at least part time after the crisis died down, up from just 36 per cent in April. Some respondents reported they would spend four or five days working from home in the future, while the proportion of respondents who said they would work from home only when necessary after the crisis dropped from 47 per cent to 31 per cent last month. 

9.35am Layoffs continue at Uber 

Ride-hailing app Uber announced today it would cut a further 3,000 jobs, two weeks after it said 3,700 jobs would be lost as a result of travel being disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. This means more than a quarter of the company’s 22,000-strong global workforce will be cut overall. Uber is also closing 45 offices and is reconsidering its ventures in self-driving cars and freight services. Drivers are not considered employees by Uber, so are not included in the layoffs.

9.05am 6,000 jobs at risk at Casual Dining Group

The owner of Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas is preparing to bring in administrators, potentially putting 6,000 jobs at risk. Casual Dining Group (CDG), which runs about 250 restaurants, yesterday (18 May) filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators. A spokesperson for CDG said: “As is widely acknowledged, this is an unprecedented situation for our industry and, like many other companies across the UK, the directors of Casual Dining Group are working closely with our advisers as we consider our next steps.”

9am Ovo Energy to cut 2,600 jobs, partly down to lockdown restrictions

Ovo Energy is to cut 2,600 jobs and close offices in central Glasgow's Waterloo Street, Selkirk and Reading. It had intended to reduce staff as it automated customer service, but said that process was being brought forward as a result of lockdown. Staff to be laid off include about 1,000 customer care call centre employees and nearly as many meter readers. The increased deployment of smart meters is removing the need for people to visit homes, the business said. Because of the lockdown, no such visits have taken place since March.

8.45am Young people’s pay will be affected for years by Covid-19 crisis, report warns

Young people are most likely to have lost work or seen their income drop because of the pandemic, a report by the Resolution Foundation suggests. More than one in three 18 to 24-year-olds is earning less than before the outbreak, it said, with the pay of younger workers likely to be affected for years. Older staff may end up involuntarily retired, it stated. Around a quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds have been furloughed, and 9 per cent have lost their jobs altogether – the highest figure of any age group. Those aged 35 to 44 were the least likely to have been furloughed or lost their jobs, with around 15 per cent experiencing this since the outbreak began.

8.30am Huge rise in unemployment benefit claimants

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit in the UK soared last month (the first full month of the coronavirus lockdown). The claimant count in April went up by 856,500 to 2.1 million, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. Separate ONS figures showed UK unemployment rose by 50,000 to 1.35 million in the three months to March. With these figures only covering the first week of lockdown, the total is likely to worsen sharply in the coming months. The total number of weekly hours worked also showed its largest annual decrease in 10 years. In the final week of March, the total number of hours worked was about 25 per cent fewer than in other weeks within the quarter.

Monday 18 May

5.30pm Electric bikes could ‘help people return to work'

Electric bikes could offer workers a way for staff to safely return to the workplace during coronavirus, a study has found. The research from the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions said the UK government hadn’t yet realised the strategic importance of e-bikes (push bikes with electric motors to assist with pedalling). The greatest impact would be in areas with poor public transport because a wider range of people would be able to use e-bikes, it said. The paper said e-bikes can be particularly effective in economically deprived areas where people can’t afford cars, but where bus services are poor.

5.20pm Self-employed grant claims top two million

More than two million self-employed people have applied to the government’s coronavirus Self Employed Income Support Scheme, chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced. The value of the claims made so far is £6bn. HMRC has invited 3.5 million people to apply for the scheme by sending them notices. According to the latest figures given by the chancellor, more than half of them have put in claims.

3.20pm Nearly a third of lower-paid employees have been furloughed or made redundant

Research from think tank the Resolution Foundation has found that nearly a third of lower-paid workers – those in the lowest-earning 20 per cent of UK employees – have been either furloughed, made redundant or had their hours reduced as a result of the economic impact of coronavirus. This compares with just one in 10 of the highest 20 per cent of earners before the outbreak. The research also found atypical workers – such as those on variable hours – were more likely to be furloughed or experience job or hours loss than those on regular hours.

“Britain’s lowest-paid workers and those with the most insecure work are bearing the brunt of Britain’s economic crisis,” said Hannah Slaughter, economist at the Resolution Foundation. “[We] need to see new measures – including job guarantees for young people – to tackle the high levels of joblessness that are likely to be with us long after the pandemic has subsided.”

3pm Investing in firms with society-minded governance has paid during the crisis, study finds

Investing in companies with better records on social issues and good governance pays, according to research, with those investments having proved more financially resilient during the coronavirus market crash. Investment funds tracking the performance of companies with better ratings on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues lost less money than those including worse performers in 94 per cent of cases during the crisis, according to analysis by BlackRock. The analysis suggested firms with better customer relations and better workforce management for example, did better in the turmoil, as did those whose boards were judged to be more effective and independent.

2.45pm All care home staff in Scotland to be tested regularly for Covid-19

Coronavirus testing in Scotland has been expanded to cover all care home workers and anyone over the age of five who present symptoms. Speaking at the Scottish government's daily press briefing today, health secretary Jeane Freeman said testing would be made available to all care home workers – regardless of whether a case has been reported in the home they work or if the individual has symptoms – and this testing will be done on a "repeating basis" for it to be effective. 

It follows the announcement on 15 May by UK health secretary Matt Hancock that every care home worker and resident in England will be tested in the coming weeks.

1.15pm Half of private sector employers planning Covid-19 pay freezes, research finds

More than half of private sector employers are preparing to freeze pay over the next year because of the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, a poll of organisations has found. The CIPD’s latest labour market outlook (LMO), which surveyed more than 2,000 employers, found a third (33 per cent) plan to freeze employee pay as a result of the virus. This increased to 51 per cent among private sector employers.

The latest LMO also found hiring intentions were at their lowest levels since the survey began in 2005. Just two in five employers (40 per cent) reported plans to recruit staff in the three months to July 2020, compared to 44 per cent that said they had implemented recruitment freezes.

Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market economist at the CIPD, said workers needed to “brace themselves for pay freezes or even pay cuts” as employers moved to protect jobs. “It seems that the pain is being directed towards pay and recruitment rather than job losses,” he said.

11.50am How to create a coronavirus risk assessment

Following the government's latest advice on a staggered return to work, employers wishing to make the workplace safe for returning employees must conduct a risk assessment, the new guidelines stipulate. Prime minister Boris Johnson assured that “employers will not be allowed to get away with forcing people to work in conditions that are not Covid-secure”.

An additional instruction that may cause some organisations concern is the sharing and publishing of these results, both with the workforce and online for the general public (if your business has more than 50 workers). But what needs to be included in the risk assessment, and where do you start? 

11.40am Creating a Covid-19 secure workplace

As the UK starts to come out of lockdown, Nick Wilson outlines the health and safety matters employers should bear in mind.

10am Filipino ambassador hits back at high death rate among UK health and care workers 

The Philippines’ UK ambassador, Antonio Lagdameo, has called for staff to be ‘properly protected’ after figures revealed the death rate among Filipinos was the highest across NHS and care.

According to the Metro, of the 173 confirmed coronavirus deaths of frontline health workers, 13 per cent were of Filipino heritage. While a “lack of reliable data'' makes it difficult to prove definitively, official figures indicated that 18,500 Filipinos worked for the NHS, amounting to 1.5 per cent of its 1.2 million-strong workforce. 

9.30am Pandemic prompts firms to slash entry-level jobs by a quarter

School leavers and graduates trying to enter Britain’s labour market will “struggle to find employment” according to Institute of Student Employers (ISE) research. 

The report found all types of entry-level roles have been reduced this year by 23 per cent, with the jobs market forecast to shrink further, as 15 per cent of employers expect to scale back recruitment in 2021. Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the ISE, said: “Some employers are backing graduates over non-graduates and others have found it too difficult to start new apprenticeships, which means that school leavers will be among the hardest hit by the crisis.”

9am Network Rail chairman says employers have ‘vital role’ preventing overcrowding on public transport 

As people in England were encouraged back to work, train firms have ramped up services and introduced security guards with crowd management training at some stations, as rail bosses raise concerns about maintaining social distancing. Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, told the BBC that employers had a “vital role to play” because they can “strongly influence people’s behaviour”. “You wouldn't set out for work if someone told you not to come," he said.

Friday 15 May

1.45pm Ryanair to cut additional 250 jobs 

Ryanair has announced it has cut another 250 support team workers across its offices in the UK, Ireland, Spain and Poland amid the collapse in demand for flights due to the pandemic. This move to cut jobs is in addition to the expected loss of 3,000 pilot and cabin crew jobs that Ryanair announced at the beginning of the month (1 May). 

As part of today's announcement, Darrell Hughes, Ryanair's people director, said the airline expects to open offices from June, but the organisation will not need the same number of support team workers. Hughes added: "These job losses were communicated to individual team members this week, and they will not be returning to work in our Dublin, Stansted, Madrid or Wroclaw offices when they reopen on 1 June."

1.40pm How are people teams responding to coronavirus? …Virgin Media

Telecoms giant Virgin Media has focused heavily on diversity and inclusion as well as staff wellbeing and redeploying vulnerable employees. People Management spoke to the organisation’s inclusion lead, Vic Whitehouse, about the coronavirus crisis’ impact on the organisation’s HR team and its 12,000 employees. 

1.30pm Furloughed workers drinking the most during lockdown, study reveals

More than a third of furloughed workers are now drinking more alcohol than they used to, research has found, as employers are urged to ensure temporarily laid off staff don’t become disconnected.

According to the poll by the charity Drinkaware, 36 per cent of furloughed workers have increased their alcohol consumption since the UK went into lockdown, compared to a nationwide average of 24 per cent. The number of people working from home reporting increased consumption was also found to be higher than the UK average (26 per cent), although not as dramatically as among furloughed workers.

10.15am Canary Wharf prepares for return to work

London’s Canary Wharf has drawn up detailed plans to bring bankers, accountants and lawyers back to the financial district as the pandemic eases, according to the Financial Times. Planned measures include introducing one-way routes, daily deep cleaning, limiting lift capacity to four people, removing soft furnishings, doors being left open to remove the need to touch any surfaces, and hand sanitiser stations being placed outside office entrances. The London estate is issuing new guidance to tenants this week. It has remained open throughout the pandemic, with about 3,000 workers attending every day, mainly to oversee the back end of operations in IT and other key infrastructure.

10am BA to cut jobs despite furlough extension 

British Airways will press ahead with cutbacks that could result in 12,000 job losses, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of its parent company has said. In a letter to the chair of the transport committee Huw Merriman, Walsh said the government’s furlough scheme would not compensate for “the reality of a structurally changed airline industry in a severely weakened global economy”. Walsh has since said the furlough extension until October only bought “a few extra days”.

9.10am Working from home will continue unless public transport is changed, says study 

Returning to offices while maintaining social distancing will require continued working from home and substantial changes to commuting patterns, according to research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS). The report found that while fewer than one in six people (14 per cent) use public transport to get to work across the UK, this rises to half (49 per cent) living in London. In the capital city, younger workers are most reliant on public transport with 63 per cent of people aged 16-24 using it to get to work, compared to 40 per cent of those aged 55 and over.

Alex Davenport, a research economist at IFS, said returning to work while maintaining social distancing will be difficult for those commuting using public transport, and having some continue to work from home will be important. Davenport said: "Re-opening the hospitality sector will create a particular challenge as many workers in this sector cannot work from home and were relatively heavy users of public transport to get to work.” 

8.40am TfL secures emergency £1.6bn bailout to pay staff and keep services running

Transport for London (TfL) has secured £1.6bn in emergency funding to keep the London underground and bus services running until September. Under the bailout's terms, London mayor Sadiq Khan is expected to restore a full tube service as soon as possible to allow workers access to transport to work. London's transport commissioner Mike Brown welcomed the emergency funding, but said "enormous challenges remain, including agreeing longer term sustainable funding for transport in the capital".

In April, Khan warned TfL would run out of money to keep running and pay staff unless the government offered it support as income from fares had plummeted during the lockdown. Khan warned services would be cut "because we can't pay people" and admitted that TfL's cash reserves would only last a matter of weeks.

8.35am Government 'opens door for safe return in June' for football if staff are kept safe

The government says it is "opening the door" for the return of professional football in England so long as staff, players and fans are kept safe while games start. Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said yesterday (14 May) that the Football Association, Premier League and English Football League had "progressed plans" for the sport to resume in June.

"We all agreed that we will only go ahead if it is safe to do so and the health and welfare of players, coaches and staff comes first," said Dowden. The next meeting of Premier League clubs to discuss the next steps will take place on Monday (18 May), and players may return to initial group training under social distancing protocols the same day.

Thursday 14 May

5.30pm Government urges people not to use public transport

The transport secretary has said it is people’s “civic duty to avoid public transport if at all possible”. Speaking during today’s daily briefing, Grant Shapps reiterated that even when public transport networks were back to running at 100 per cent, there would only be enough room for one-tenth of the pre-coronavirus capacity once social distancing is taken into account.

Earlier this week employers were urged to consider their workforce’s commute before making the decision to ask them to return to the workplace if they were unable to work from home, after images emerged of overcrowded trains and buses.

2.45pm Local council in NI considers plan to furlough over half its staff

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council (ANBC) will consider a plan to furlough more than half its 670-strong workforce, according to a report by BBC News NI. The broadcaster said a proposal to furlough 375 full-time and casual ANBC employees is set to be discussed in a council meeting tonight (14 May)

Earlier this month, Derry City and Strabane District Council furloughed around 200 staff after it estimated the authority faced a financial loss of up to £6.5m this year as a result of coronavirus.

1.30pm Latest furlough and holiday pay guidance – what has it cleared up?

The government has clarified issues relating to furlough and holiday pay in guidance published yesterday (13 May) by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. While it was confirmed last month that furloughed workers could take annual leave without breaking furlough, many questions remained regarding whether an employer could require staff to take holiday, and the status of temporary and agency staff was also still unclear.

People Management unpacks new government guidelines, including on agency workers, obliging temporarily laid off staff to take annual leave and bank holidays.

12.50pm Frontline workers less able to raise safety concerns, research shows

Frontline workers feel far less able to voice concerns over health and safety than office-based workers, new research has revealed as people begin to return to work following recent government guidance. The research, conducted by Nottingham Business School in partnership with the CIPD, found that people in operational roles, including manufacturing and construction, were less likely to have access to channels allowing them to raise issues or discuss concerns.

The report said these frontline workers were both more likely to be returning to roles where social distancing was difficult, while also the least likely to speak out about health and safety concerns. 

12.40pm 10 lessons in HR decision-making from the Covid-19 crisis

As HR moves towards greater adoption of evidence-based practice, Rob Briner looks at what it can learn from how politicians are currently using scientific advice.

12.30pm What does the government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy mean for employers?

Catherine Taylor and Mel Lane explain how the gradual easing of lockdown measures will affect firms, including social distancing and risk assessments.  

9am Self-employed income scheme receives over 100,000 claims in first four hours

The self-employed income protection scheme, launched yesterday (13 May) received more than 110,000 claims in its first four hours of operation, the Treasury has said. By midday HMRC had received 110,102 claims for grants worth 80 per cent of average salaries, or £2,500 a month, after the tax authority sent notices to 3.5 million of the 5.2 million self-employed people it believes are eligible.

8.45am Government launches five sector-specific coronavirus taskforces

The government has unveiled five new taskforces devoted to vulnerable sectors of the economy unable to reopen until at least July. They will liaise with unions and industry leaders to see how soon each sector can safely recommence business. The sectors are: pubs and restaurants; non-essential shops; recreation and leisure; places of worship; and international air travel.

8.30am Uber and Addison Lee to install protective screens

Addison Lee will fit perspex partition screens between drivers and passengers across its 4,000 vehicles next week, and Uber is installing partitions in 400 cars in Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham as part of an initial pilot. Both firms are also distributing free protective equipment to drivers. 

On Wednesday (13 May), Transport for London (TfL) updated its guidance for taxi and private hire vehicle firms, advising firms to have passengers sitting in the back seats of cars and drivers to carry a bottle of hand sanitiser gel of at least 60 per cent alcohol. The BBC reported multiple taxi firms in the UK are seeking clarification from the government and would prefer regulation to advice.

Wednesday 13 May

6.15pm Government receives nearly 800 reports of furlough fraud

The government has received nearly 800 online reports of employees being asked to work despite being put on leave through its coronavirus job retention scheme. 

An HMRC spokesperson told the Guardian that the government would assess each report and would help put right “a genuine mistake”, adding: “We won’t hesitate to take criminal action against the most serious cases.”

5pm Construction sites can apply to work extended hours

Construction sites can apply to stay open for extended hours in a bid to boost the economy as England starts to come out of lockdown.

Speaking at the daily briefing today, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said sites would be able to work “more flexible hours where appropriate”, with councils expected to authorise sites in residential areas to be allowed to keep working until 9pm Monday to Friday unless there is a “compelling reason” not to.

2.20pm Handling workplace disputes during coronavirus

As the likelihood of a coming downturn continues to increase, HR professionals should expect to see rising numbers of employment claims stemming from the critical decisions being made around furloughing, redundancies, reassignment, promotions, remuneration and more. 

Employers need to think carefully about how they manage the heightened levels of legal and reputational risk associated with this predicted rise in complex employment claims, say Ed Cotton and Peter Barrett. 

2.15pm Employers urged to consider commutes when deciding whether to reopen

Organisations have been urged to consider how their employees commute to work when deciding to reopen workplaces, as images emerge of workers packed on to tubes and buses.

With the government's more relaxed lockdown rules coming into effect in England this morning (13 May), many workers unable to work from home are starting to come back into their workplaces. Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser at the CIPD said any decision about whether workers should return to work should factor in each individual’s commute and ability to arrive at work safely, adding “many employees are likely to have genuine concerns about using public transport, especially as government advice says to avoid it”. 

12.45pm HR must prepare for increased workloads and responsibility as furlough scheme is extended, say experts

The UK’s job retention scheme has been extended to October, chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced, with additional flexibility and employer contributions to be expected in future changes to the system. He also said that, from August, the system would allow for greater flexibility to support the transition back to work, and furloughed employees could be brought back to work on a part-time basis. 

Andy Davies, senior vice president at MHR, warned there were “more challenges and increased workload around the corner” for people professionals. He said HR should prepare to audit all future decisions on the furlough scheme, including who returns to work and whether it is on a full-time or part-time basis. 

“For HR, what they need to be looking at is the selection criteria of those who were furloughed and the mechanisms they used to record all that data,” Davies said. “It’s really important to be transparent at this stage because, at some point, HR might be called to audit, and you need to be prepared to show the government who was on furlough and when.”

11.35am Testing programme criticised for taking volunteering ‘too far’

A campaign from high street pharmacy Boots to recruit up to 1,000 people to carry out Covid-19 testing has attracted criticism from unions, for taking “the notion of volunteering way too far”. 

Boots are seeking testers to work for a minimum of 32 hours per week, as the government aims to reach a target of testing 200,000 people for coronavirus per day. Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, said "unless Boots is offering its services to the government for free, it's difficult to understand why it's expecting anyone to do such important work for zero pence”. 

11.20am Teaching union advises members not to ‘engage’ in plans to reopen schools

The National Education Union, the UK’s largest teachers union, has advised its members not to “engage” with the government’s plans to begin reopening schools from 1 June. 

The union questioned government guidance that stated teachers did not need to wear PPE to stay safe in schools, and said scientific backing was needed for claims that social distancing wouldn’t necessarily need to be adhered to. Patrick Roach, general secretary of teachers’ union NASUWT, is also reported to have told membership there was “no obligation on any schools to extend their opening arrangements”. 

11.10am Manufacturing sectors oppose government’s 14-day overseas traveller quarantine 

The government is facing opposition from all five key manufacturing sectors, which claim the 14-day quarantine of overseas travellers could disrupt production, leading to supply shortages and job losses. 

The automotive, aviation, chemical, food and pharmaceutical industries have all warned that exemptions will be necessary to ensure the smooth operation of factories, which depend on specialist ‘fly in, fly out’ engineers to service production lines. Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said: “Broken machinery could lead to unpredictable delays in production. If exemptions are not made this could quite quickly have the potential to cause real issues for food and drink supply.” 

9.30am Cruise firm Carnival to cut 450 jobs

Carnival, which operates the P&O and Cunard lines, will let go 450 of its 1,600-strong Southampton workforce. Additionally, workers who retain their jobs will be asked to accept a 20 per cent pay cut until November. 

Carnival would not confirm the number of planned redundancies, but assured they were necessary to “ensure the future sustainability” of the business. Originally planning to resume voyages in mid-May, the cruise firm has not yet announced when its ships will sail, but confirmed it is planning a phased return with added safety measures on board. 

9.15am British retailers fear closures and job losses as lockdown continues 

UK retailers have warned of shop closures and job losses across the country as consumer spending in shops dropped to record lows in April, but online spending continues to boom. 

After Boris Johnson revealed plans to keep most shops closed until at least June, the figures – from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) – showed spending on items other than food (fashion, furniture etc) had dropped by more than a third over the past three months. 

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said Monday’s recovery strategy was an “opportunity missed” to provide an outline of how and when shops will be able to reopen.

9.00am Coronavirus causes cash-strapped Tui to cut 8,000 jobs

Travel firm Tui has suggested it will cut 8,000 jobs in a bid to reduce costs by 30 per cent. Coronavirus has impacted its turnover and earnings, which the firm says will be significantly lower in the current financial year. 

"We are targeting to permanently reduce our overhead cost base by 30 per cent across the entire group. This will have an impact on potentially 8,000 roles globally that will either not be recruited or reduced," Tui said in a statement.

8.45am Self-employed grant scheme opens to applications

Self-employed individuals can apply for the government’s self-employed income support scheme from today. The scheme is designed to match the support being given to furloughed employees, and grants will be calculated as 80 per cent of average monthly profit over a period of up to three years. The government said the money will be paid into the accounts of eligible people six days after applying. The maximum payment will be £7,500, intended to cover March, April and May.

8.30am Some childminders can reopen, government says

Childminders in England can reopen from today if they are caring for children from the same household, the government announced late on Tuesday (12 May). The move follows confusion about when childminders could reopen. "Childminders have been told three different things about plans to reopen in a matter of days," said Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance. Separate documents issued by the government suggested both 13 May and 1 June as dates for when they could recommence work as part of the government’s return to work plan.

8.15am Twitter staff told they can work from home ‘forever’

Twitter will allow its employees to work from home “forever” if they wish to. A spokesperson from Twitter confirmed the decision to the Guardian, saying the company was “one of the first companies to go to a work-from-home model” because of Covid-19: “The past few months have proven we can make that work. So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen.”

Twitter has suspended almost all employee business travel and all of its in-person events until 2021. It is also giving employees increased allowances to buy home office supplies including desks and desk chairs.

Tuesday 12 May

4.40pm Workers are not advised to wear PPE to protect against coronavirus

Cleaning and social distancing in the workplace are the best ways to manage the risk of the spread of coronavirus, Alok Sharma, the secretary of state for business, said in parliament today.

In a statement announcing today’s guidance on returning to work, Sharma said: “Based on the scientific evidence, the use of PPE in the workplace is not recommended by the government [to protect against coronavirus] except in clinical settings and a handful of other roles stipulated by public health England.” He added that workers using protective equipment for non-Covid reasons should continue to do so.

Employees are welcome to wear a non-medical cloth face covering – in line with recently announced requirements to wear simple face coverings when traveling on public transport – but this is not required by law in the workplace.

4pm Only 10 per cent of office space in use

Office and retail landlord Land Securities has said less than 10 per cent of its office sites are being used as people work from home. Many companies are struggling to pay the rent, it said, with 63 per cent collected within 10 days in March and early April compared with 94 per cent a year ago.

1.30pm Return to work guidance – how are different sectors being asked to proceed?

The government has published its long-awaited guidance for employers looking to bring employees back into the workplace. The eight papers – which each cover a specific sector – said most workers did not need additional protective equipment, instead stressing the importance of carrying out Covid-19 risk assessments, robust cleaning processes and redesigning workplaces to ensure employees stayed two metres apart where possible

People Managementdelves into the detail of the government’s industry-specific guidelines, breaking down the stipulations employers need to be aware of.

12.40pm Furlough scheme to be extended until October

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the government’s job retention scheme will be extended a further four months, until the end of October 2020. Speaking before the House of Commons, Sunak said the scheme would be extended and made more flexible from August, to allow workers to come back to work part time, while claiming furlough payments for the hours they were still not working. 

The chancellor also said the government would be asking employers to start sharing with the government the costs of paying people’s salaries, but assured workers they would continue to be eligible to receive the same remuneration levels.  

12.15pm Lower-paid male workers most at risk of Covid-19 fatality, ONS data shows

Men in lower-paid jobs are most at risk of dying from Covid-19, provisional data from the Office for National Statistics has suggested. The data, which shows the number and rate of deaths involving Covid-19 broken down by occupation, found that men in ‘low-skilled, elementary occupations’ were more than twice as likely as those in directorial or managerial positions to have died from contracting coronavirus.

The data covered deaths registered in England and Wales between 9 March and 20 April for people aged 20 to 64. According to the data, only 12 HR professionals had died from contracting Covid-19 in this period. 

11.40am Employers must give HR more space for staff wellbeing

Unless organisations allocate proper time for workplace wellbeing it will not be effective, which could have particularly negative effects during the current crisis, says Chris Pinner.

11.30am Handling employee data subject access requests during Covid-19

The current lockdown adds an extra level of complexity to staff requests for their personal information. Jane Bowen explains how HR should deal with them.

11.20am Subway to start phased reopening of stores

Sandwich chain Subway has today started a phased reopening of 600 of its 2,600 stores across the UK and Ireland. The stores will only be open for takeaway and delivery. 

Subway said each outlet has been fitted with new operational and social distancing safety measures to protect customers, third-party delivery and supplier drivers and staff. The chain said these measures have been tested in the small number of stores that have remained open to support and serve key workers and hospital staff.

9.15am P&O Ferries plans to make 1,100 staff redundant 

P&O Ferries has announced plans to make 1,100 of employees redundant because of a downturn in business and reduced number of vessels as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The ferry operator, which is based in Dover, Kent, said "right sizing" the company was a necessary step to create a viable and sustainable business for the future.

P&O Ferries is now planning to make 614 staff on the Dover to Calais line redundant, with a further 122 job losses on the lines between Hull and Zeebrugge and Rotterdam. The remainder are officers and shore-side staff on the same routes. 

8.45am Return to work plans boost cycling uptake

The boom in cycling already seen since the start of lockdown appears set to accelerate following the government encouraging people to cycle to work as part of the weekend's announcement around easing restrictions. Shares in Halfords jumped 17 per cent on Monday (11 May). Meanwhile, cycle-to-work schemes have reported a doubling in sales in recent weeks – a figure expected to rise even further now. On Saturday (9 May), transport secretary Grant Shapps set out a £2bn programme to expand cycling and walking, including an immediate £250m fund for infrastructure improvements and a voucher scheme for cycle repairs.

8.35am Gig workers exposed to virus, union warns

Workers in the gig economy are being put at risk of coronavirus infection because the government is failing to enforce EU safety at work regulations, according to the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, which has written to the Department for Work and Pensions threatening legal action if the duty of care is not extended to those who are not employees. 

The union, whose members are cleaners, drivers, couriers, foster care workers and others in non-staff roles, says many are not being provided with personal protective equipment or being tested for infection. Courier drivers carrying samples for testing that may contain coronavirus are particularly at risk, the letter states.

8.30am Chancellor to reveal furlough scheme next steps

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is to reveal the future of the government's job retention scheme later, amid growing calls to extend it. The Resolution Foundation has urged the government to extend the scheme until at least September. It said this would cost the exchequer as much as £48bn but would be critical in avoiding spiralling job losses. The think tank urged the government to allow for “partial furloughing” from as early as June, but said the 80 per cent support should also be kept in place across until at least August – and September for businesses in sectors where the return to work will take longer, including hospitality.

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, backed these calls. “Firms will need to know that government support schemes, which have helped save millions of jobs in recent weeks, will continue for as long as they are needed so that they can plan ahead with confidence,” he said.

7.40am Hundreds of National Trust for Scotland jobs under threat of redundancy

A total of 429 staff at the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) are at risk of being made redundant as the charity's income has been 'virtually eradicated' during what would have normally been its busiest period. The NTS said it has launched a series of emergency actions – including selling off non-heritage land and property and seeking support from the Scottish government – as its future was in doubt because of the pandemic.

The NTS's estate and holiday accommodations have been closed since March to comply with lockdown restrictions, and the charity said its income was forecast to drop by £28m this year as a result. NTS chief executive Simon Skinner said he saw "little prospect of us being able to return to more levels of membership, visitation and income for the rest of this year and beyond" because the charity has "effectively missed the busiest part" of the visitor season and the possibility that some level of restrictions will still apply to the hospitality sector even after lockdown.

Monday 11 May

5pm ‘Spot inspections’ will be carried out on businesses reopening, says PM

The government will carry out spot inspections to ensure businesses that reopen following the relaxation of lockdown rules abide by the new coronavirus safety guidance, the prime minister has said. Speaking at the Commons today, Boris Johnson said: "We are going to insist that businesses are going to look after their workers… We will be having spot inspections to make sure businesses are keeping employees safe."

Asked whether it will be difficult for parents to return to work before schools reopen, Johnson said the education secretary would be outlining more detailed proposals to help those with childcare needs.

His comments follow the publication today of a 50-page document outlining the government’s plan to reverse the lockdown. Additional sector-specific guidance for businesses is expected to be released tomorrow.

2.45pm Employers told not to ‘rush in and regret it’ as PM calls for some to return to work

Business groups and HR experts have urged employers not to “rush in and regret it later” despite the prime minister’s latest instruction that those who cannot work from home should now be “encouraged to go to work”. The calls come as prime minister Boris Johnson  outlined his “conditional plan” for getting the country back to work in a televised speech to the nation yesterday (10 May).

The TUC said the announcement was a "recipe for chaos" as the government still has not published guidance on how staff will be kept safe in workplaces. “Don’t rush in and regret it later!” Neil Carberry, CEO of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, tweeted

Speaking to People Management, Carberry said that while no employer could be asked to guarantee coronavirus would never be transmissible in their workplace, they could “still be asked to do what is reasonable to ensure staff are protected” by carrying out further, detailed risk assessments.

2.30pm Two in five anxious about returning to work, poll finds

More than two-fifths of UK workers are anxious about the prospect of returning to the workplace following the coronavirus outbreak, a CIPD survey has shown. The poll of 1,000 working adults found that 44 per cent reported feeling anxious about the prospect of going back to work because of the health risks posed by Covid-19 to them and those close to them.

The findings have led to calls from the CIPD and other experts for employers to make sure they address any employee concerns when planning their return to more normal working patterns, and for the government to recognise legitimate employee concerns in its new guidance.

1.45pm Call for tests for frontline police officers in Scotland

Representatives of Scotland's police officers have called for officers who do not outwardly present coronavirus symptoms to be routinely tested for coronavirus to avoid them becoming "super spreaders" to the public. Currently, only symptomatic police officers or members of their household are included in the priority group for testing. Scottish Police Federation (SPF) chairman David Hamilton argued that asymptomatic frontline officers should be included in the priority group for testing, and failure to do so created a "back door" for the virus to spread within the workplace and public. 

Hamilton said: "At the moment people are returning to work and continuing to work potentially spreading the virus amongst the colleagues and amongst the public and that is something that can't be acceptable from a public health perspective." The SPF has been calling for asymptomatic testing for many weeks as officers encounter situations when they are not wearing personal protective equipment. 

12pm Care worker death rate twice that of other workers

People working in social care in England and Wales have been twice as likely to die from the coronavirus as those in other sectors, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Of the 2,494 deaths analysed up to 20 April, 131 were care workers. The analysis also found men working in the "lowest-skilled occupations" had the highest rate of death involving Covid-19, with 225 deaths recorded, and men working as security guards had one of the highest rates in this group (63 deaths).

The ONS analysis factored in age, job and gender of those who have died from the coronavirus, but did not take into account people's ethnicity, location, socio-economic status or underlying health conditions. Because of this, the ONS cautioned that the analysis cannot definitively prove the deaths were caused by the jobs people do or other factors. 

8.45am Johnson says those who can’t work from home should return to work

In a televised address on Sunday night (9 May), prime minister Boris Johnson set out the changed emphasis on lockdown restrictions, from ‘stay at home’ to ‘stay alert’. While workers who can work from home should continue to do so, those who can’t should now assume they should go back to work, rather than presume they should not. Johnson said he wanted those in the construction and manufacturing industries to return to work this week. But he told people to avoid using public transport where possible. He said workplaces would receive guidance on how to become "Covid secure".

8.30am Drive-through takeaways urged to reopen

McDonald’s and other drive-through restaurants are being encouraged to reopen after a government minister said they were “made for social distancing”. George Eustice, environment minister, said takeaway food businesses were never explicitly ordered to close because of the coronavirus outbreak, but chose to do so because of footfall, staff anxiety and the sense that it was not socially acceptable to remain open.

Thursday 7 May 

4.15pm HMRC launches coronavirus support scheme for self-employed

HMRC has started contacting 3.5 million people who may be eligible for the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. From this week, those who may be eligible to receive a backdated cash grant worth up to £7,500 will receive a letter, email or text message with information about how to make an online claim when the service opens on 13 May.

If a claim is successful, payments will reach bank accounts by 25 May, or six working days after the claim is made, HMRC said, suggesting the scheme will be delivered ahead of the original schedule of “early June”. To qualify for support, individuals need to earn at least half of their income through self-employment, and have annual trading profits of no more than £50,000.

4pm Rolls-Royce to cut 'thousands' of jobs

Rolls-Royce has confirmed it is preparing to make large-scale job cuts. The aerospace company is considering making as many as 8,000 of its 52,000 global workforce redundant, according to the Guardian. The company said 4,000 UK workers have been furloughed. Some of its staff were involved in the national effort to build more ventilators for the NHS.

2.55pm What might the end of furlough look like – and how should HR prepare?

The government’s coronavirus job retention scheme is expected to formally wind down from July as lockdown measures are eased.

With prime minister Boris Johnson set to reveal plans to gradually lift lockdown this Sunday (10 May), chancellor Rishi Sunak is reportedly preparing to outline plans to officially end the scheme next week – to allow time for the fact that employers with more than 100 staff must run a 45-day consultation before making any redundancies. 

So what is the end of the scheme likely to look like, and which options do HR and employment experts believe will be most helpful and feasible for employers?

2.50pm “What starting a new HR job during lockdown taught me about onboarding”

Embarking on a new role entirely remotely led Jig Ramji, group head of talent at the London Stock Exchange Group, to contemplate the importance of staff fully immersing themselves in the cultural nuances of their new employer

2.45pm How can HR remotely manage… staff wellbeing?

Spotting a dip in employee wellbeing is challenging even when you are in the workplace, let alone in a virtual working environment. So how can HR professionals keep an eye on what’s going on with their workforces under the surface when they're not face to face? 

2.40pm Are salary reductions due to Covid-19 legal?

Recent reports Heathrow threatened to dismiss staff who refused to accept voluntary pay cuts have ruffled feathers, explains James Froud, but was the airport within the law?

11.15am Health and social care is the only industry increasing hiring

Most sectors of the economy have seen a sharp drop in demand for both permanent and temporary staff, according to the latest figures from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG.

The slump was led by businesses in hospitality and catering, while health and social care was the only industry to report an increase in demand for staff. Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC, said the new figures “set records in all the wrong ways”, adding: “While fighting the virus must remain our priority, the lockdown cannot be sustained indefinitely without long-lasting effects on unemployment and job creation.”

9.15am Ocado shareholders make protest vote against pay rise and bonus for directors

Ocado has been hit by a 30 per cent shareholder revolt against a pay rise and £88m bonus for its directors, but said this would not change its pay plans. The online grocer has reported a 40 per cent increase in sales since 1 March as it benefited from high demand for home deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic. But the company does not expect a boost to profits because of additional costs related to managing the crisis, including a 10 per cent bonus for workers, testing delivery drivers for Covid-19 and further investment in IT and infrastructure to meet increased demand for its services. 

The firm has not furloughed staff under the government’s job retention scheme. Duncan Tatton-Brown, chief financial officer, said Ocado was “outperforming” other supermarkets in offering help to shoppers shielding at home.

9am Prison and probation staff given bonuses for extra hours

Prison and probation staff in England and Wales who work extra hours during the pandemic are being given bonuses of up to £1,700, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme has revealed. Prison governors and managers are being paid an additional £1,500.

8.45am Boom in cycle-to-work scheme uptake among key workers

Cycle-to-work schemes, allowing employees to claim a tax credit on bikes they buy at work, have seen a 200 per cent increase in bicycle orders from people working for emergency services, as workers avoid public transport over fears of catching coronavirus. Adrian Warren who runs an alliance of cycle schemes, told the BBC: "This past six weeks, we have seen the biggest experiment in transport policy this country has even known. It's clear the default option is cycling."

8.30am Five more Debenhams stores to shut with 1,000 jobs at risk

Debenhams has announced it will permanently close a further five of its department stores, all located in shopping centres owned by property firm Hammerson, putting 1,000 jobs at risk. The latest closures include its stores in the Oracle shopping centre in Reading and in Birmingham’s Bullring, and mean that 16 of its UK outlets will remain shuttered when lockdown restrictions are eased.

Wednesday 6 May

6pm Jenrick says it’s his ‘mission to ensure’ everything is being done to get people back to work

During the government’s daily coronavirus briefing, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said it is the government's "mission to ensure everything we can do is done to help people go back to work safely and to reunite friends". He said his department was working on plans on how the lockdown can be eased, including work on "how workplaces can be adapted, how outdoor spaces can be managed and how public transport networks from tube to trams to buses can operate". He said he wanted infrastructure and construction work to begin again "wherever it is safe to do so".

Also covered during the briefing was the issue of whether returning teachers should wear personal protective equipment. Jenrick said the latest advice was that staff in "non-resident education settings" don't need it, but this will be kept under review. In response to a question on what the UK government can do to help Rolls-Royce, which recently announced job cuts, he said the aviation sector was facing "unprecedented" challenges but he was confident it would "have a great future".

3.45pm Uber to cut 3,700 jobs

Uber has announced it will cut 3,700 jobs, roughly 14 per cent of its corporate workforce. In a staff memo seen by the Financial Times, chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi warned additional cuts would be announced in due course as the company made “difficult adjustments” to match “the reality of our business”. Job cuts will at first mostly affect customer support and recruiting teams, the company said. Last week, rival group Lyft said it would cut 17 per cent of its workforce.

3.30pm Airbnb to make quarter of its staff redundant

Airbnb has announced plans to make 1,900 staff redundant – about a quarter of its global workforce – after it forecast that revenues in 2020 would be half the $4.8bn (£3.9bn) generated in 2019. The firm has employees in 24 countries. Some of the deepest job cuts were likely to be in newer areas of the business such as Airbnb “Luxe”, which offers upmarket homes and dedicated trip designers, it said.

1.10pm Half of workers expect to work more flexibly after lockdown, survey finds

Almost half (45 per cent) of workers expect to work more flexibly after lockdown restrictions on UK businesses are lifted, according to research conducted by O2, ICM and YouGov. A third (33 per cent) of respondents expected to work from home at least three days a week after lockdown, and 81 per cent expected to work remotely at least one day a week.

1.05pm Heathrow Airport trialling temperature testing, MPs told

CEO of Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye, has told the Transport Select Committee it is trialling large-scale temperature checks. He said the practice is already taking place at departure gates where passengers are travelling to destinations where this is a requirement. 

Holland-Kaye urged the government to produce a plan on what common standards airports should adopt. "If you want to get the UK economy started again, you have to get the aviation sector started again,” he said, adding “If we are told that the only solution until we can get a vaccine in 12 to 18 months' time is to socially distance in an airport, then tens of thousands of jobs will be cut.”

12.20pm How are people teams responding to coronavirus? …Clarity

The business travel company is keeping furloughed and home working staff up to date with a regular podcast while preparing to eventually return to its offices. 

12.15pm Do we need a new approach to flexible working?

With recent Covid-19 developments, it has become alarmingly clear that to provide for business continuity, there needs to be an element of agile working available both for the employees’ and the employer’s benefit.

James Kidd, partner at Mills and Reeve, argues this could be the push business needed to take agile working seriously and is an opportunity to test drive flexible working conditions.

12pm Are virtual candidate assessments as good as face-to-face?

With many organisations hurriedly implementing digital tools in the wake of Covid-19, Charlotte Schaller, managing director of Aon’s Assessment Solutions, explains what organisations should consider before turning their recruitment digital

9.15am BDO to potentially become one of first UK firms to regularly test staff

The UK’s fifth largest accounting firm BDO is considering testing its 5,500 UK staff for coronavirus every two weeks as the firm plans a way of returning to its offices after the lockdown ends. It is in early talks about procuring the antigen kits that diagnose whether a person has the virus, according to the Financial Times. If the plans go ahead, BDO would become one of the first firms in the UK to start regular testing of employees.

In terms of international companies who have started testing staff, engineering group ABB has started testing staff at its headquarters in Switzerland; Amazon is building its own testing facilities; BP is testing offshore oil and gas workers; while online supermarket Ocado has bought 100,000 kits for its delivery staff.

9am Think tank warns of career and pay hit to ‘corona class of 2020’

The 800,000 school leavers and graduates due to join the labour market shortly is the most exposed age group to the likely unemployment surge caused by coronavirus, according to research by the Resolution Foundation. Youth unemployment in the UK will reach the 1 million mark over the coming year unless the government provides job guarantees or incentives for school leavers and graduates to stay in education, it said. The think tank said otherwise an extra 600,000 people under the age of 25 would risk long-term damage to their career and pay prospects. 

The report said employment rates of graduates entering the labour market during this crisis were projected to be 13 per cent lower in three years’ time than they would have been. A year after leaving education the pay of graduates is projected to be 7 per cent lower, and 9 per cent and 19 per cent lower for mid- and low-skilled workers. Ministers must respond by offering guaranteed jobs, focusing apprenticeship opportunities on young workers and introducing new maintenance grants to encourage the under 25s to extend their education by a year, the think tank urged.

8.50am Qatar Airways warns of 'substantial' job losses

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker has written to staff warning of “substantial” job losses, although he did not say how many were under threat. "The truth is, we simply cannot sustain the current staff numbers and will need to make a substantial number of jobs redundant – inclusive of cabin crew," Al Baker wrote in an internal memo. The state-owned airline employs more than 45,000 people. "The unparalleled impact [of Covid-19] on our industry has caused significant challenges for all airlines and we must act decisively to protect the future of our business," a Qatar Airways spokesperson said.

8.45am Most employers say they could be ready to restart in three weeks, research finds

The British Chambers of Commerce Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker suggested businesses offering services to other businesses were the most ready, with two-thirds (68 per cent) saying they would need less than one week or no notice at all to restart operations. This compared to 50 per cent of business-to-consumer service firms. Smaller businesses might also be able to restart operations more quickly, with almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of respondents employing fewer than 10 people saying they would need less than one week, compared to half (50 per cent) of respondents with more than 50 employees. For firms of all sizes, 25 per cent said they would not need any notice, 35 per cent said they would need less than a week’s notice, 29 per cent said they would need one to three weeks’ notice, 7 per cent said they would need three to six weeks’ notice, and 3 per cent said they would need more than 3 weeks’ notice.

8.30am Government preparing to wind down job retention scheme from July

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is preparing to wind down the coronavirus furlough scheme from July as part of government plans to gradually remove lockdown measures, according to the Guardian. It reported that the Treasury is understood to be examining several options for tapering the scheme, including cutting the 80 per cent wage subsidy to 60 per cent and lowering the £2,500 monthly cap. Another option promoted by employers’ groups is to allow furloughed staff to work but with a smaller state subsidy. Sources indicated that a final decision has yet to be made, the Guardian reported, but the Treasury was working closely with Number 10 as Boris Johnson prepared to outline plans on Sunday (10 May) to gradually lift lockdown restrictions.

Tuesday 5 May

5.30pm Cyber criminals targeting organisations to exploit the crisis

During the government’s daily briefing, foreign secretary Dominic Raab warned of reports that cyber criminals are trying to exploit the crisis by targeting businesses. He said there was evidence of them targeting organisations involved in tackling the pandemic, adding the government was "working to make sure [organisations] are aware of the cyber threat" to ensure business leaders took “steps to mitigate the harm" – something that will likely, of course, involve HR professionals highlighting phishing threats to employees.

2.40pm Are organisations fulfilling their duty of care around global mobility?

Research finds employers are genuinely concerned about workforce wellbeing, which will be even more key to attracting talent post Covid-19, says Dr Benjamin Bader, academic partner and strategic adviser at The RES Forum, and senior lecturer in international HR management at Newcastle University Business School.

2.30pm How can employers deal with virtual tribunal hearings?

Richard Fox, partner in the employment team at Kingsley Napley LLP, explores how organisations can prepare for an increase in remote employment tribunal hearings caused by the coronavirus outbreak

2.20pm How to conduct a remote meeting

While a level of professionalism should be maintained during video calls, many of the usual rules can be relaxed in the current climate, says Claire Williams, director of people and services at CIPHR. 

2.15pm Virgin Atlantic to cut 3,000 jobs and close Gatwick operation

Airline Virgin Atlantic has announced it will cut almost a third of its 10,000 staff, and could not rule out completely closing its operation at Gatwick Airport. 

The company revealed today that it is to cut around 3,000 jobs in a move the pilots’ union Balpa described as “devastating”. Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said the unions’ membership and all Virgin Atlantic staff will be “shocked by the scale of this bombshell. We will be challenging Virgin very hard to justify this." Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson previously stated the company was seeking government loans in order to stay afloat. 

1pm Three in five organisations have stopped recruiting apprentices due to Covid-19, survey finds

Three-fifths (60 per cent) of employers have stopped all new apprenticeship starts since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to research by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP). The AELP also found three-quarters of employers had stopped at least 80 per cent of the starts normally expected at this time of year. 

The survey revealed a third (34 per cent) of apprentices had a less than one in five chance of completing their programmes or end point assessment in the expected timescale. Lizzie Crowley, skills and policy advisor at the CIPD, said the results were “not surprising”, confirming that apprenticeships would take longer to complete in the current crisis. She added: “However, ensuring we maintain a training infrastructure that is ready to provide the skills that we need for the future is very important."

12.20pm HR managers fear rise in staff absence due to lockdown mental ill-health

Almost three in five (58 per cent) HR managers fear losing staff to sick leave due to the mental health impacts of working in lockdown, a survey by LinkedIn and the Mental Health Foundation has found. More than half (54 per cent) of the 1,000 HR leaders surveyed said they believed mental health issues such as stress, burnout, isolation and loneliness had increased among their workforce since the coronavirus crisis hit and most workers have had to do their jobs from home. 

More than three-quarters of HR managers surveyed (79 per cent) said they believed the widespread implementation of home working encouraged so-called ‘e-presenteeism’ – a culture where workers feel they should be online and available to colleagues as much as possible, even when feeling unwell or having already worked their contracted hours.

10am Pubs call on government to lift ‘arbitrary’ grant threshold

More than 50,000 retail, hospitality and leisure businesses are at risk of closure due to being ineligible for a government grant scheme, a campaign group has warned. The Raise the Bar campaign, launched last month by the Croydon Business Improvement District and the Mr Fox pub in Croydon, has called for the government’s retail, hospitality and leisure grant to cover businesses with rateable values of over £51,000. 

The campaign has called on the government to extend the grant (which is worth up to £25,000) to businesses with a rateable value of up to £150,000, which would make a further 54,638 establishments eligible for support. A group of Conservative MPs has also written to the chancellor calling for this threshold to be raised.

9.30am Pensions industry calls for further final salary ‘breathing space’ for firms hit by Covid-19

The Pensions Regulator is facing calls to extend payment holidays for employers funding final salary pension plans. Last month, it relaxed funding rules for UK companies with defined benefit schemes, giving pension schemes totalling 11 million members the option to suspend cash payments into plans and pause transfer requests for up to three months. Now calls have been made for it to go further and extend payment holidays to six months to give further “breathing space” from disruption and market volatility caused by Covid-19.

9.15am Tenants accuse workspace provider of ‘unethical profiteering’

Workspace provider IWG has been criticised by tenants for its perceived lack of communication and support, according to the Guardian. Locked out of their offices owing to government travel restrictions, IWG’s customers have complained requests for rent reductions or deferments were initially ignored as the group insisted full rent was due because its buildings remained open for key workers and to maintain customer services such as mail delivery and IT. More than 1,000 people have signed a petition calling for IWG to close all of its 312 UK centres and freeze all rent or memberships, or provide “substantial discounts”. IWG said it had offered “reasonable” discounts, such as 50 per cent reductions, to many customers. 

Commentators warned many flexible workspace providers may be left exposed by the pandemic, with such firms – including the troubled WeWork – tending to sign long leases for buildings from their landlords while renting the space on much shorter terms to customers.

9am Furlough scheme means nearly a quarter of worker wages now paid by government

The government is now paying the wages for nearly a quarter of UK jobs as a result of its coronavirus job retention scheme. Around 2.5 million people registered last week for the scheme, bringing total claims to 6.3 million – 23 per cent of the employed workforce. The government said about 800,000 employers have reported furloughing workers since 20 April. It said it had distributed £8bn so far, with an average payout of £1,269 per employee. The scheme is currently due to run through June, suggesting the total cost could exceed £30bn.

Monday 4 May

5.15pm Amazon vice president quits over firing of staff critical of firm’s Covid-19 approach

A vice president at Amazon has quit "in dismay" at its crackdown against workers who criticised it over coronavirus safety measures. Tim Bray said the firing of protesters was "evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture". Workers have criticised Amazon for not doing enough to protect warehouse staff. Bray, who was a senior engineer at Amazon Web Services, set out in a blog why he had left the company.

5pm Hotel Chocolat to reopen some UK stores for takeaway amid worker safety measures

Luxury confectionery brand Hotel Chocolat is to reopen up to five stores next week for takeaways only after restarting production at its factory in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire and bringing around 80 staff – roughly a third of its factory workforce – back from furlough.

Angus Thirlwell, chief executive and co-founder, said the aim was to gradually bring back more staff over time, as long as social distancing measures such as perspex screens to divide staff on production lines and in the canteen continued to work well.

4.45pm Half of British adults anxious about lockdown’s impact on their jobs, wellbeing and finances

More than 25 million people were affected by high levels of anxiety in late March as the decision to put the UK into lockdown triggered fears about health, job security and making ends meet among half the adult population. People’s main concerns were personal wellbeing, their jobs and the impact of Covid-19 on their finances. Those who thought they would not be able to save any money over the following 12 months reported anxiety 33 per cent higher than those who thought they would.

4.30pm Cost of rush hour transport should be raised to reduce crowding, says IFS

The price of a bus, train or tube ticket during peak commuting hours should be raised to prevent crowding and the spread of coronavirus on public transport, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). In its report, the IFS said the usual logic of promoting public transport use – to cut congestion and pollution – could be reversed to limit the spread of the virus on packed commuter trains and buses, especially in London.

2.40pm Rolls-Royce to cut up to 8,000 jobs 

Rolls-Royce could cut up to 8,000 jobs after aircraft manufacturers were forced to cut production during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a report by the Financial Times, the aeroplane engine maker employs 52,000 people worldwide, with 23,000 staff in the UK, and has begun work on a restructuring plan to cut thousands of jobs. 

According to a company source, senior leaders have warned "cuts could be as high as 8,000, but efforts to mitigate the impact are ongoing". Rolls-Royce is expected to tell staff the actual number of job losses by the end of May.

2.30pm What are the government's new rules for reopening workplaces – and will they work?

The government has drafted initial guidance on how UK companies can reopen their workplaces and gradually exit lockdown. A draft document seen by the BBC includes a range of guidelines for businesses to follow, covering additional health and safety and wellbeing requirements.

Michael Gove, cabinet office secretary, said on Sunday (3 May) that any exit of lockdown measures would be “staged” and not a single “flick of the switch”. The government has circulated the draft guidance to business groups and unions before publishing its official final set of guidelines. People Management asked HR and employment law experts about the feasibility of draft proposals for keeping staff safe as they return to work. 

12.30pm Unions raise concerns over ‘less than 15 minutes’ meeting advice

Union leaders have called on the government to explain its official advice that work meetings are acceptable if confined to “less than 15 minutes”. Official advice from Public Health England says the priority for companies is for “social distancing measures to apply for everyone”. But where this is not possible, staff should work side-by-side or facing away from each other, and “where face-to-face contact is essential this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible”, it states.

Mike Clancy, head of the Prospect union, has written to health secretary Matt Hancock asking him to publish the medical evidence for the guidance. “We cannot find any evidence to suggest or support the proposition that exposures of less than 15 minutes are any safer than exposures of more than 15 minutes or that exposures of less than 15 minutes do not expose individuals to significant risk,” he wrote.

9.30am Government issues draft return to work guidelines

Business groups and trade unions have been sent draft guidelines of the government’s proposals to reopen workplaces. The guidance states that employers are encouraged to ask staff to stay two metres apart where possible but where it's not, additional measures should be considered. These should include additional hygiene procedures, physical screens and the use of protective equipment.

Other measures outlined include reducing hot-desking, staggered arrival and break times, minimising the use of equipment or office space by many users, and avoiding chopping and changing worker rotas. Workers considered vulnerable but who cannot work from home should be put in the "safest possible roles" in the workplace, it said.

9am TUC calls for job guarantee scheme

The TUC is calling on the government to provide a job guarantee scheme as part of its national coronavirus recovery plan. It would have similarities to the Future Jobs Fund, which was part of the national recovery plan following the recession in 2008 caused by the private banking crisis.

Jobs created by the scheme should, the TUC said, be additional jobs that would not otherwise be created by employers; benefit the UK and its communities, such as by helping to decarbonise the economy; offer secure contracts of at least six months; offer wages that pay at least the real Living Wage; provide training opportunities to help people move into longer-term work; and guarantee access to trade union representation.

Friday 1 May

4.20pm Government extends list of key workers eligible for visa extensions

The Home Office has extended its list of frontline workers who will have their visa automatically extended as part of its response to the coronavirus outbreak. The latest update will also allow NHS workers on a visa to work at any NHS site during the outbreak, and, where applicable, removes any upper limits to the number of hours these key workers can work.

However, Chetal Patel, partner at Bates Wells, said while change is welcome, the expanded list of professions “does not go far enough”. “What about other individuals who are undertaking key roles in the NHS like hospital porters, healthcare assistants or cleaners? Why can’t they benefit when they are on the frontline as well?” she said.

Patel also cautioned that, while sponsors are no longer required to notify the Home Office that staff are working at different sites, these employers still need to maintain their sponsorship duties and consider what reporting lines are in place. “Failure to comply with sponsor duties can impact both a sponsor and the individual sponsored worker. This policy announcement highlights the flexible working arrangements that need to be in place for sponsored workers moving from one NHS hospital to another during the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.

3.10pm Two-thirds of businesses have furloughed employees, ONS figures show

Two-thirds of employers have furloughed workers using the government’s job retention scheme, the latest official figures have shown.

An update from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found out of more than 5,000 businesses surveyed, 66 per cent had used the government’s job retention scheme to avoid making redundancies – making the scheme the most popular of all the financial aid programmes created by the government to help businesses through the coronavirus outbreak, which also included business rates holidays and VAT payment deferrals.

Among companies that reported having temporarily closed or paused trading, the number that have made use of the furlough scheme rose to 82 per cent.

3pm How can HR remotely manage… disciplinaries?

People Management looks at the implications of many employers now having to conduct disciplinaries remotely in the wake of coronavirus. According to new guidance issued by Acas, its code of practice and the law will still need to be followed during the crisis. Acas advises that disciplinary meetings can still go ahead as long as social distancing measures are adhered to, and that the employee has access to the necessary technology.

Helen Hayward, HR consultant at Defuse HR, says technically there’s nothing stopping an organisation conducting a disciplinary remotely. But, she says: “It comes down to an ethical and moral issue. Is it right to do it remotely, but equally, is it right to leave that person with stress?”

2.55pm McDonald's announces gradual relaunch of restaurants starting 13 May

McDonald's has announced it will begin reopening its restaurants for delivery and takeaway after closing following the Covid-19 outbreak. The fast food chain, which has more than 1,200 sites in the UK, revealed earlier this week that it had been trialling a relaunch strategy, and has now confirmed it is ready to roll out a limited service on 13 May.

UK and Ireland CEO Paul Pomroy said in a statement sent to i that 15 McDonald's restaurants will open on 13 May, but more restaurants would follow. 

9.30am Greggs postpones planned branch reopening

Greggs has changed its mind about reopening 20 shops next week, fearing crowds of customers could gather and risk the health and safety of staff and the public alike. The company originally said on Monday (27 April) it planned to reopen shops in the Newcastle area starting next week to see if it could operate effectively with physical distancing measures as the lockdown is eased.

However, it has now had a change of heart and put off opening stores again. A spokesperson said: “Due to significant interest in our 20-shop trial, and the risk that excessive numbers of customers may plan to visit Greggs, we will now initially operate these trials behind closed doors in order to effectively test our new operational safety measures." They added the bakery chain will continue to review opening their shops to the public and will invite walk-in customers when Greggs can be confident they are protecting staff and customers from risk of infection. 

8.00am Ryanair to axe 3,000 jobs due to Covid-19

Ryanair has today said it expects up to 3,000 jobs to be lost as part of a restructuring plan as its fleets remain grounded due to the coronavirus crisis. The airline said these job cuts will mainly affect pilot and cabin crew jobs, but other workers may be asked to take unpaid leave and pay cuts of up to 20 per cent. Group CEO Michael O’Leary, whose pay was cut by 50 per cent for April and May, has now agreed to extend this cut for the remainder of the financial year to March 2021.

7.30am British Airways to cut Gatwick operation and lay off 1,000 pilots

British Airways (BA) plans to cut more than 1,100 pilots and make heavy cuts to its Gatwick Airport operations as part of a restructure plan which will include 12,000 redundancies in total. The airline informed staff of the cuts after it announced on Tuesday (28 April) evening that it intended to lay off up to 30 per cent of its workforce.

In emails to staff and unions, managers, BA warned “there is no certainty as to when services can return” because of the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown restrictions on air travel, and that they had “not ruled out suspending the remainder of our Heathrow operation” in addition to the cuts being made at Gatwick and London City airports. 

Thursday 30 April 

2.50pm Oasis and Warehouse to permanently close, with loss of 1,800 jobs

Retail brands Oasis and Warehouse will permanently close all their stores and online shopping with the loss of more than 1,800 jobs after administrators said they had been unable to secure a rescue deal for the chains because of Covid-19.  Rob Harding, joint administrator at Deloitte, said the pandemic had presented “extraordinary challenges” for the retail industry as a whole and that the sale of the two retail chains was not possible. Harding added: “This is a very difficult time for the group’s employees and other key stakeholders and we will do everything we can to support them through this.”

Oasis and Warehouse called in administrators earlier this month and made 200 head office staff redundant without any payoff. The 1,800 workers now being made redundant had been furloughed under the government’s job retention scheme.

1.40pm Government reportedly preparing return to work guidance

The government could be issuing detailed guidance on how businesses around the UK can safely return to work as early as this week, it has been reported, as a number of companies are starting to slowly ramp up business. According to a report by the Financial Times, business secretary Alok Sharma will publish guidance before this weekend that will break down in “granular detail” how businesses can start to reopen once prime minister Boris Johnson orders the easing of the lockdown. 

This will reportedly set out how safe working can take place in confined areas like factories and offices while keeping in mind social distancing measures, and include advice to restrict access to communal workplace spaces. The report comes as the CIPD releases a returning to the workplace guide for people professionals, which warned any changes to the current lockdown restrictions were likely to be slow and sector-specific. 

12pm How are people teams responding to coronavirus? ...Lime Wood Group Hotels

People Management talks to Steve Rockey, people director of the hotel group, about how the organisation is tackling the logistical, financial and staff wellbeing implications of the global pandemic.

11am JD Wetherspoon plans to reopen pubs in June

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has announced it is planning “for a reopening of pubs and hotels in or around June”. In a statement to investors at the company’s half-yearly results, Wetherspoon said it was “likely to make some changes to its operating model, assuming increased social distancing, and anticipates a gradual recovery in customer numbers”. 

All 867 Wetherspoons branches have been closed since the government ordered the closure of social venues on 20 March. Almost all the chain’s staff (99 per cent) have been furloughed, while the company’s chair, Tim Martin, and chief executive John Hutson have said they will be taking 50 per cent pay cuts to help the company survive the lockdown. 

10.45am KFC to reopen another 80 UK branches

Fast food chain KFC has announced it will reopen another 80 restaurants across the UK next week, in addition to the 20 that had already resumed business in recent weeks. 

In a statement, the company said it was doing so “responsibly and carefully, with stringent processes and hygiene measures put in place”. The stores are open for delivery only, with reduced menus to support kitchen staff in maintaining social distancing. KFC also said it was working hard to open more branches in the coming weeks.

8.20am Visas for further 3,000 overseas health and social care workers extended

More than 3,000 overseas health and social care workers have had their visas extended by an extra 12 months to help fight the coronavirus outbreak. The Home Office announced yesterday (29 April) that midwives, radiographers, social care workers and pharmacists in the NHS and independent sectors and their families were now eligible for the visa extension. 

This latest move does not include physiotherapists, who have urged ministers to expand the government scheme to cover the 3,000 overseas physio workers in the UK. The announcement follows the extension of visas for 2,800 overseas NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics last month.

7.50am BBC likely to make cuts to output as Covid-19 hits revenues 

The BBC is facing another round of job cuts as its predicted income is set to fall by £125m because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Guardian has reported. This is said to be caused by many people stopping paying the licence fee during the crisis, and a significant drop in commercial revenue. According to reports by the newspaper, director general Tony Hall told staff on Wednesday (29 April) he was deferring negotiations over pay rises until later this year, putting a freeze on all but essential recruitment and reviewing major capital projects. But he warned this alone will not be enough to make up the shortfall, and there are likely to be cuts to some programmes.

In March, the broadcaster announced it planned to suspend the sweeping restructure of its news division, which would include cutting 450 journalist roles, as the broadcaster sought to cover the outbreak of coronavirus around the world. This came after the BBC said it would need to make another £40m worth of cuts to make a 2022 savings target, which included cutting hundreds of jobs across the BBC’s global news outputs. 

Wednesday 29 April

2.45pm Boeing to cut 15,000 jobs worldwide in 'body blow'

Plane maker Boeing announced it plans to cut 15,000 jobs worldwide, saying that the coronavirus pandemic had delivered a “body blow” to the business. Boeing  said it planned to reduce its 150,000-strong workforce by 10 per cent and that cuts would be steeper in some departments, such as its commercial airlines business which has collapsed since the outbreak. 

In a letter to staff, chief executive Dave Calhoun said that the pandemic had meant the demand for airline travel had "fallen off a cliff", and it could take the aviation industry “years to return to the levels of traffic we saw just a few months ago”. 

1pm How are people teams responding to coronavirus? ...King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

People Management talks to Louise Clark, the trust’s director of workforce, to discover how the NHS trust has redeployed and upskilled thousands of staff to support critical areas of its coronavirus response, as well as what it’s doing to look after the wellbeing of its 13,000-strong workforce while on the frontline of the pandemic.

12.30pm Greggs to begin reopening shops amid lockdown

Bakery chain Greggs will reopen 20 shops in the Newcastle area from Monday 4 May as part of a “controlled trial”, with more stores set to follow. In a letter to staff, chief executive Roger Whiteside said the trial, which is set to last at least two weeks, would involve a limited product range and shorter trading hours. He added that he hoped to open about 700 stores from 8 June and to have all 2,050 stores open again by 1 July, when the government's job retention scheme is due to end.

However, Greggs said this timing could change, depending on future government announcements. A Greggs spokeswoman told the BBC: “We want to play our part in getting the nation back up and running again, so we are planning to conduct a limited trial with volunteers to explore how we can reopen our shops with new measures in place that keep our colleagues and customers as safe as we can when we reopen at scale.”

11.40am Majority of employers want furlough scheme extended to September

Employers would like to see the government’s job retention scheme extended until the end of September, according to a survey published today. In the CIPD poll of more than 1,000 businesses, 60 per cent of respondents said a three-month extension to the scheme was the most important labour market policy change that would help them cope with the effects of Covid-19. 

The survey also highlighted employers’ appetite to see the scheme made more flexible, with 76 per cent of companies that had already furloughed staff reporting it would be useful for these workers to be able to put in reduced hours. Seven in 10 employers using the scheme said up to half their furloughed workers could work reduced hours. CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said measures to allow more flexibility would “reduce the risk of large-scale redundancies in this next phase of the crisis”. 

10am Government launches online platform to boost furloughed workers’ skills

The Department for Education has launched an online learning platform for people to use while not working during the coronavirus pandemic. The Skills Toolkit offers free digital and numeracy courses, which the government says will boost users’ job prospects.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said he wanted businesses to “encourage their furloughed employees to use the Skills Toolkit to improve their knowledge, build their confidence and support their mental health so they have the skills they need to succeed after the coronavirus outbreak”.

7.40am McDonald’s trials UK branch reopening 

McDonald's is testing reopening a branch of its fast food chain this week for “operational tests”, but will remain closed to customers. The restaurant group said it is keen to reopen branches as soon as possible, but it is taking its time to ensure they reopen “responsibly, when the time is right”. 

Paul Pomroy, McDonald’s UK and Ireland chief executive, said: “For now we remain closed, and will only reopen when we are absolutely confident we can have the right measures in place to ensure everyone's wellbeing.” The tests will involve “exploring social distancing measures for our crew, PPE options and opening in a limited capacity”, he said.

Tuesday 28 April

5.45pm British Airways to make 12,000 staff redundant

After furloughing nearly 23,000 staff through the government’s job retention scheme, British Airways (BA) has today announced it could be making up to 12,000 staff redundant in a further response to the significant drop in demand for air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline’s parent company, IAG, has put a restructuring and redundancy programme to trade unions after losing £459m during the first quarter of 2020. 

BA’s chief executive and chairman, Alex Cruz, said: “We do not know when countries will reopen their borders or when the lockdowns will lift, and so we have to reimagine and reshape our airline and create a new future for our people, our customers and the destinations we serve.

“We have informed the government and the trade unions of our proposals to consult over a number of changes, including possible reductions in headcount.

“There is no government bail-out standing by for BA and we cannot expect the taxpayer to offset salaries indefinitely.”

5pm More than 4,000 Covid-19-related concerns about workplace safety raised since outbreak

Between 9 March and 26 April, the HSE received 4,142 concerns related in some way to Covid-19, a spokesperson for the enforcement body confirmed today. Almost a third (31 per cent) of those complaints were received the week beginning 30 April, the week after the government closed pubs and restaurants, and required employees to work from home wherever possible. 

The HSE spokesperson said they were “listening to these concerns and working through these with a range of actions”. Last week, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy parliamentary committee said it had received over 2,000 emails from people concerned about workplace safety. In the same evidence session with business secretary Alok Sharma, the committee questioned whether the workload of the HSE had increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

1.35pm Young people twice as likely to work in sectors shut down as a result of coronavirus, report finds

Young people aged 16-24 are twice as likely as the rest of the workforce to be employed in sectors of the economy that are shut down because of the coronavirus crisis, according to a report published today by the Resolution Foundation. The study identified more than six million UK workers employed in sectors that have been ordered to shut down to maintain social distancing safety measures. This includes industries such as hospitality, retail, leisure and the arts. Between 25 and 55 per cent of 16-24 year olds work in these sectors, compared with less than 20 per cent of the rest of the workforce. 

The report also found women were more likely to face the brunt of the health risks posed by the pandemic. More than a third (36 per cent) of working women are in key worker roles in sectors such as health, education and food retail – including two in five working mothers – compared to just 18 per cent of men. This makes women twice as likely to be a key worker than men.

1.20pm Majority of HR avoids furlough as people profession ‘busier than ever’

The majority of HR departments have not had to furlough people in their own teams, a People Management survey has found. The poll found 63 per cent of HR professionals had seen no change to the current headcount of their teams, while an additional 2 per cent reported they were actually planning to grow their HR function. This is despite the vast majority of respondents taking the decision to furlough staff elsewhere in the business.

Katie Jacobs, senior stakeholder lead at the CIPD, said coronavirus had made many HR directors and their teams “busier than ever”, largely because many of the issues the outbreak has created – such as the furlough scheme itself – are to do with people. She said this was an important time for HR to be showing its value and organisational worth. Not just because the workload was so high, but also because of the opportunity it created for HR to push for employers to act ethically and do the right thing around furloughing workers, remote working and supporting mental health.

12.50pm Calls for physiotherapists to be included in government's automatic visa extension scheme

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) has called on the government to extend its automatic visa extension scheme to physiotherapists in order to protect staffing levels across health and social care at the height of the pandemic. There are 3,000 physiotherapists working in the UK who qualified overseas, and the CSP said physiotherapists and physiotherapy support workers are essential throughout the care of patients worst affected by Covid-19 – from intensive care to rehabilitation after discharge.

At the moment, the one-year visa extension scheme applies to doctors, nurses and paramedics who are employed by the NHS on a Tier 2 visa that was previously due to expire before October 2020. It does not cover NHS physiotherapists or other allied health professionals and their families. Rob Yeldham, the CSP's director of strategy, said the UK needs to retain overseas physiotherapy workers to help the healthcare system cope with the “unprecedented increases in demand caused by the crisis in the coming months and years”.

11.10am Airbus to furlough 3,200 staff in Wales after warning it is ‘bleeding cash’

Plane manufacturer Airbus has announced it will furlough more than 3,200 staff working at its site in north Wales. The announcement came yesterday (27 April) after Airbus’s chief executive, Guillaume Faury, warned the company was “bleeding cash at an unprecedented speed”.

Airbus said about half of the staff at its Broughton site would be placed on the UK government's job retention scheme, which pays 80 per cent of wages, and the company will top up salaries by a further five to 10 per cent. Faury also told Airbus’s 135,000 staff around the world to brace for potentially deep job cuts and warned that its survival was at stake without immediate action.

10am Quarter of pregnant NHS workers still working with patients who could have Covid-19, says survey 

A quarter (25 per cent) of pregnant women working in the NHS are still working with patients who could be carrying coronavirus despite being at high risk of being infected themselves, according to a survey by charity Pregnant Then Screwed. A similar proportion (24 per cent) of pregnant NHS workers said they feel unsafe because they are unable to adhere to social distancing at work, and the figure rises to 31 per cent for black, Asian and minority ethnic pregnant healthcare workers. 

Of the 2,150 pregnant women surveyed, 8 per cent reported working in environments they deem as unsafe for them, despite pregnant women being categorised as 'high risk' from coronavirus by the UK government. One pregnant paramedic told Pregnant then Screwed she is in constant contact with frontline staff and had been told by management she could not be protected because she was "not vulnerable [at] under 28 weeks pregnant".

Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant then Screwed, said the research showed confusion remains about what employers should be doing during this crisis to protect pregnant workers. She added some pregnant women had told the charity they were suspended on incorrect terms, forced to take statutory sick pay, not being paid, told to start maternity leave early or told to take annual leave. Brearley said: "It is not only crucial that all pregnant women are enabled to socially distance at work, it is also imperative that if pregnant workers are suspended then they are suspended on full pay, otherwise employers are breaking the law.”

8.15am NHS job applications rise amid pandemic

More people applied for jobs in the NHS in the last month than in the same period last year, according to a report by health officials. NHS England said more than 407,000 job applications were submitted in March, a rise of about 13,500 from the same time in 2019.

Prerana Issar, chief people officer at the NHS, said: “The huge support NHS staff have received from the public has been a massive boost as they tackle the greatest global health challenge in the health service’s history. Now, it is clear that many more want to play their part by joining the largest health and care team in the world.”

7.30am Macmillan Cancer Support furloughs 600 staff

Macmillan Cancer Support has furloughed 600 employees as it works to cope with an estimated 50 per cent drop in income as a result of cancelled fundraising events and shop closures because of the pandemic. The charity, which employs about 2,000 people, said the coronavirus outbreak meant some staff had been unable to do their jobs while others had seen a significant fall in their workloads.

Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said the effects of the virus were “profound and far-reaching” for the organisation, and the charity had decided to “make the most” of the government's job retention scheme after consultation with staff. She added: “Our people are at the heart of everything we do, and we are confident that we are taking the right steps to protect and support both our staff and our supporters through this period.”

Monday 27 April

4.10pm Small firms given access to taxpayer-backed loans 

Having previously raised concerns about slow access to existing schemes for struggling businesses, small firms are now able to secure 100 per cent taxpayer-backed loans of up to £50,000 within days. 

Speaking at the House of Commons, chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed the scheme – the terms of which guarantee that no capital or interest payments will be due for one year – would open next week and would require firms to fill in an online self-certification form. The BBC reported that unlike the existing loan scheme, banks will not retain any of the risk for these loans, which could “stretch” into the billions or tens of billions while the pandemic continues. 

3.40pm UK’s tourist destinations likely to see more job losses owing to Covid-19, report says

Workers in tourism hotspots such as Cornwall, the Lake District and Yorkshire are at the highest risk of losing their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a study from the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has warned. 

According to the research, more than a third (35 per cent) of jobs are at risk in the district of Richmondshire in Yorkshire, compared with less than a fifth (19 per cent) in Oxford. The report’s authors, Fabian Wallace-Stephens and Alan Lockey, said the analysis showed a “stark geographical divide in terms of how Covid-19 could impact local labour markets, with rural areas and coastal towns most at risk of high job losses”. 

12pm Furloughed workers receive full parental leave pay entitlement

Furloughed workers set to take parental or adoption leave will be entitled to pay based on their usual salary rather than their furloughed pay rate, the government has announced. 

On Friday, parliament ensured workers whose family-related leave commenced on or after 25 April will have their pay entitlement assessed based on their usual salary, not their furloughed wages. 

11.50am Timpson stores set to reopen in supermarkets

Key-cutting and repair firm Timpson will reopen 40 of its outlets this week. The retailer, which has more than 2,000 shops across the UK, says staff will return to outlets based in supermarkets, which are classified as essential retailers, along with a handful of Timpson Group's high street dry cleaning stores.

Staff will be given face masks, and perspex screens will be installed to separate them from customers at the checkout. But Sir John Timpson, owner and whose family founded the business, said the most important part of reopening stores was the safety of staff. He added: “Until we get there [reopening shops], we don't know how particularly the social distancing is going to work, bearing in mind we've got a shop inside someone else's shop.”

11.30am Airlines urge chancellor to extend job retention scheme past June

UK airlines have written to the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, seeking assurance that the government’s wage subsidy scheme will continue to operate past the end of June. 

In a letter seen by Sky News, Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said British air travel companies would face a “renewed cash crisis” if the scheme is withdrawn too quickly. He has advocated for a tapering of the scheme or a review on a sectoral basis, to avoid aviation firms facing a “cliff edge post-June”.

9.20am FTSE 100 firms claiming cash through furlough scheme paid bosses £321m in the last five years

The 18 FTSE 100 listed companies that have publicly stated they will be furloughing workers through the government’s job retention scheme paid their chief executives £321m over the last five years, the High Pay Centre has found. 

A report from the think tank said the large companies using the scheme, which included Primark, JD Sports and British Airways owner IAG, paid their leaders an average of £3.6m a year before the coronavirus crisis hit. Luke Hildyard, the High Pay Centre’s director, said the recipients of taxpayer-funded support would face pressure to cut high executive salaries, given that the unprecedented government support also directly benefits businesses and their shareholders.

9am Furloughed employees can reduce tax bill by returning company car

Employees who have a company car and have been furloughed can take thousands off their tax bills by returning their car to their employer, an accountant has said.

Usually access to a company car that is available for personal use is a taxable benefit. But speaking to the Financial Times, John Hood, tax partner at accountancy firm Moore Kingston Smith, said if the car was made unavailable for a period of 30 days then it would no longer be taxable. “If people are stuck at home and not able to use the car anyway… they may as well reduce their tax bill as well,” he told the paper.

8am Bosses appeal to government for a lockdown exit plan

The UK government must set out a lockdown exit plan to restore confidence among British businesses that have been hard hit by the crisis and worried about the economy's future, employers' group the Institute of Directors (IoD) has warned. The IoD said its 28,000 members were “clamouring” for information so they could start drawing up return-to-work plans, but needed further guidance from the government to begin.

Jon Geldart, director general of the IoD, said bosses from all parts of the UK needed to make plans for riding out the crisis, but “they can’t get very far if they have no idea what will be happening in a few weeks’ time”. He added: “Business leaders know [the end of lockdown restrictions] will not happen all in one go, but that’s why it’s even more important to tell them what they need to prepare for.”

7.20am Furloughed workers urged to become fruit pickers

Furloughed workers may be encouraged to work as fruit and vegetable pickers to help farmers fill labour shortages, environment secretary George Eustice has said. In the Number 10 coronavirus briefing on Sunday (26 April), Eustice said only a third of the UK's 70,000 seasonal staff, which is made up primarily of migrant labourers, to pick fruit and vegetables was available. 

He said many more workers would be needed in the summer, and “we are working with industry to identify an approach” to getting furloughed workers to fill the gaps. But Eustice did not go into further detail about how they would be recruited.

Friday 24 April

4.15pm Persimmon announces staff will return to work

Housebuilder Persimmon has announced workers will return to building sites on Monday (27 April), a month after shutting its sites because of the government’s pandemic restrictions. Dave Jenkinson, the firm’s outgoing chief executive, said workers could be removed from sites if they do not adhere to social distancing guidelines.

He said: “Having spent the last month developing and testing new site protocols that incorporate the necessary social distancing and protective measures, we believe that we are now able to return to site safely and support the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic.”

2.45pm Coronavirus test website closes after high demand

The new government website for key workers to book coronavirus tests has temporarily closed, hours after being opened. The government said the total amount of home testing kits available for today had now been ordered, adding it hoped to have 18,000 kits available each day for key workers by the "end of next week". The website would be back up and running when the next batch of slots become available, it added, reporting that 5,000 home testing kits were ordered in the first two minutes of the website going live and 15,000 tests booked to take place at drive-through sites.

1pm Thousands of workers raising workplace safety concerns, MPs reveal

A parliamentary committee has received thousands of emails from workers concerned about a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), hygiene facilities and social distancing measures at their places of work. Alan Brown, an SNP MP and member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) parliamentary committee, said the committee had received over 2,000 emails from people concerned about workplace safety.

Current government guidance states that where it is not possible for staff to remain two metres apart, they should simply “work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face if possible”. Brown said this guidance was a “giant loophole”, enabling companies to ignore social distancing obligations. But he said he believed, based on conversations with employers, that on the whole businesses were acting responsibly and following the safety guidance set out by the government.

12pm How are people teams responding to coronavirus? ...Bank of Ireland

People Managementtalks to Matt Elliott, the Bank of Ireland's chief people officer, to find out what the financial institution is doing to tackle the logistical, financial and staff wellbeing implications of the global pandemic.

11.20am Transport for London furloughs 7,000 staff

About 7,000 Transport for London (TfL) employees will be furloughed through the government's job retention scheme. Staff will initially be furloughed for three weeks and TfL said it will “pay the remainder of salaries of all furloughed employees and continue to pay pension contributions, to ensure people are supported”.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said TfL would be in talks with the government and various trade unions about putting staff on to the furlough scheme, and he hoped for an “urgent agreement”.

10.20am Changes needed to coronavirus loan scheme to avoid redundancies, says Institute of Directors

The Institute of Directors (IoD) has said the coronavirus loan scheme needs to be improved and widened to make finance more easily available to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). Almost half (47 per cent) of 900 SME business leaders surveyed said the current loan system is not suitable for their organisation. Those who were able to apply said the procedures are complex, such as needing to provide detailed forecasts, with lengthy processing times, often taking weeks rather than days.

The IoD said the leaders were more likely to reduce operational costs or make redundancies first, rather than take on external finance if they had to improve their financial situation. Tej Parikh, chief economist at the IoD, said the government's furlough scheme is vital to prevent job losses, but “it can’t operate if companies are forced under”.

9.30am One in five NHS workers more likely to quit due to the coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus outbreak has had a massive impact on the mental health of those working in the healthcare sector, a new report has found. The survey of healthcare professionals, conducted by YouGov for think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), found one in five said the coronavirus outbreak has made them more likely to leave the profession. “Given existing workforce shortages, this could create a catastrophic crisis of capacity in the health and care system,” the report said.

It also found one in two workers reported their mental health has declined in the last eight weeks; the same proportion said they experienced detriment to their family’s safety, and 42 per cent said the government has not done enough to support their mental health.

7.30am Middlesex Cricket opts to furlough players and staff amid coronavirus pandemic

Middlesex Cricket Club has decided to furlough all players, as well as the majority of coaches, professional support and administrative staff under the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme to protect the “long-term wellbeing and stability of the club”. Following a consultation, all staff – furloughed or otherwise – with an annual salary above £27,500  agreed a 17 per cent pay cut until the end of May initially. The club's senior management will take a 20 per cent pay cut.

Chief executive Richard Goatley said the club was operating in “unprecedented times”, and they “have to make difficult decisions that not only protect the future of Middlesex Cricket but the jobs of our employees”.  It joins a number of other counties, including Essex, in furloughing players, while others such as Lancashire have confirmed pay cuts for all staff.

7.10am Virus tests now available to millions of key workers

Up to 10 million key workers and their households can now book a coronavirus test on the government's website or through their employer, if they or a family member have virus symptoms. Health secretary Matt Hancock said the expanded testing programme was "part of getting Britain back on her feet". 

Thursday's figures showed 23,560 tests were carried out, and Hancock said capacity had now increased to 51,000 per day – still falling short of the government's target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of this month.

Thursday 23 April

5.30pm Car, construction and retail firms announce back-to-work plans

Carmakers Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin have joined Taylor Wimpey in announcing they will restart work with social distancing measures, while B&Q reopened 80 of its sites today, taking its total this week to 155. Jaguar Land Rover’s Solihull plant, which employs 9,000 workers, will reopen with a quarter of its workforce at first. Aston Martin Lagonda said it would reopen its factory in St Athan, south Wales, on 5 May with new safety measures. Its chief executive, Andy Palmer, and board members are also taking a 35 per cent pay cut.

Housebuilders Taylor Wimpey and Vistry (formerly known as Bovis) also announced plans today to start building again. The former has drawn up a Covid-19 code of conduct to which all staff, subcontractors and suppliers have to sign up. But many workers have taken to social media to complain maintaining the two metre physical distancing rule is almost impossible on building sites and in work canteens.

2.55pm University of Manchester warns of future staff cuts because of drop in number of students

The University of Manchester has warned job losses may be required for the university to weather the coronavirus crisis as it expects to lose 15-20 per cent of its annual income due to a “major” fall in international students. The university projected a reduction of 80 per cent in all international and 20 per cent in all home or EU students attending classes in the coming year – amounting to a drop of £270m a year in income. 

In a letter to staff, president and vice chancellor Dame Nancy Rothwell announced she will be taking a voluntary 20 per cent pay cut, along with other members of her senior leadership team, in recognition of the cash flow problems ahead. But she added further pay cuts or job losses might also be required to help the university continue. She said: “Pay represents well over 50 per cent of our budget so reducing pay costs must be a key part of meeting a major loss of income.”

1.30pm How should HR navigate the furlough scheme’s grey areas?

People Management collates expert advice on the aspects of the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme that are still unclear

12.30pm Tesco to test frontline workers for coronavirus

Testing will be voluntary and only for critical workers currently experiencing symptoms, or for those with symptoms living with critical workers, the supermarket said. It said it will begin to trial testing in an unnamed region this week and hopes to be able to then roll testing out more widely.

11.50am How are people teams responding to coronavirus? ...BrewDog

People Management talks to Karen Bates, people director BrewDog, about how the multinational brewery and pub chain is tackling the logistical, financial and staff wellbeing implications of the global pandemic

8.45am Cath Kidston agrees to hand over pay owed to UK staff

Cath Kidston has agreed to hand over three weeks of back pay owed to staff after making them redundant less than a week before pay day. Just over 900 people who were made redundant on Tuesday (21 April), with immediate effect, were told they would not be paid the salaries due to them this Friday (24 April). The U-turn came after an outcry from workers, with chief executive, Melinda Paraie, writing to those made redundant to say they would be paid for the period between 1 April and 20 April and those who had previously been notified of being furloughed would receive 80 per cent of their usual salary up to the £2,500 cap.

8.30am Essential workers being ‘ripped off for petrol’

Essential workers, including NHS staff, are being overcharged by petrol companies by more than £5 a tank, the AA has claimed. The price of oil has crashed in recent days, leaving the wholesale price of petrol bobbing around the 16p a litre mark, according to the AA. But the average pump price for unleaded has remained around the £1.10 mark. "Our essential workers need honestly-priced fuel, so they are not under even more financial pressure to help us all,” said Howard Cox, founder of the FairFuelUK campaign.

8.04am Student nurses in Wales asked to work or suspend studies

Trainee nurses in Wales are being asked to opt-in to work and fight the coronavirus or face pausing their studies. According to a report seen by BBC Wales, second year students or those in the first six months of their final year who do not want to treat coronavirus patients will have to suspend their training or potentially switch courses.

The report, issued by the Welsh government in conjunction with Health Education and Improvement Wales, invited students to spend 80 per cent of their time in clinical practice fighting Covid-19, and the remainder in academic studies. The report added the “significant pressures on the [healthcare] system and the need to ensure that front-line services are fully supported” meant it is “not possible to continue to provide the current programme for students in these years of study”.

Wednesday 22 April

3.10pm More than 285,000 businesses have claimed for furloughed employees

According to HMRC, more than 285,000 organisations have applied for help through the government’s job retention scheme since the portal opened for claims on Monday morning. 

The scheme allows businesses to claim 80 per cent of a furloughed employee’s salary up to £2,500 per month. With demand expected to be high, HMRC has said the claims portal can handle up to 450,000 claims an hour. 

2.50pm TfL 'may run out of money’ to pay staff by end of month

Transport for London (TfL) could run out of money to keep running and pay staff unless the government offers support within the coming days. Speaking to BBC Radio London, mayor of London Sadiq Khan said income from fares has gone down since the government-mandated lockdown, and TfL has been using cash reserves to keep running and pay staff.  Almost half (47 per cent) of TfL’s income was generated by fares in 2019-2020, but the lockdown has meant passenger numbers have dropped by 95 per cent. 

Khan warned services could be cut “because we can’t pay people” unless the government stepped in to offer support. He admitted that TfL’s current reserves would only last “probably [until the] end of this month”.

12.40pm Cath Kidston to close all UK stores with loss of more than 900 jobs

Vintage-inspired retail chain Cath Kidston has axed 908 staff members with immediate effect after the company said it was permanently closing all 60 of its UK stores. Cath Kidston warned it was set to call in administrators earlier this month after it failed to find a buyer for the brand. Chief executive Melinda Paraie said it was unable to secure a sale that would have allowed the brand to carry on trading in its current form against the backdrop of the pandemic.

The company employed 941 people in the UK, 820 of whom were furloughed on 22 March under the government scheme. A handful of jobs will be saved to allow Cath Kidston to continue trading online. 

12.30pm Union demands wage increase for supermarket ‘heroes’

Paddy Lillis, leader of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, has said retail workers deserve to earn a minimum of £10 an hour, and predicted a “day of reckoning” on pay and conditions after the coronavirus crisis. 

Lillis told the BBC workers should be rewarded for risking their health to keep people fed and watered during the pandemic, adding that “retail workers don't get the respect they deserve". However, the British Retail Consortium said now was "not the right time" to ask for a wage increase, noting that retailers had seen the worst ever decline in footfall in March.

8.25am Seven in 10 UK firms have furloughed staff, BCC survey reveals

Seven in 10 (71 per cent) of private firms have furloughed employees in response to the coronavirus lockdown, according to a British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) survey. This is up from 66 per cent of businesses that said the same in a previous BCC poll. The BCC said the findings showed a growing number of companies were using the job retention scheme, with more mulling access. Nearly one third (30 per cent) of the 678 businesses surveyed said they had furloughed between 75 and 100 per cent of their workforce, and 28 per cent had furloughed no staff. 

Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, said this was a “crunch week” for businesses relying on the scheme to pay staff, and HMRC's capacity to deal with the demand from businesses had been “encouraging so far”. He added: “Ministers will also need to consider keeping the scheme in place for longer, to help businesses transition as the lockdown is eased and the economy moves gradually toward a new normal.”

7.25am 1,300 permanent layoffs in Northern Ireland's tourism sector

Almost 1,300 tourism workers in Northern Ireland have permanently lost their jobs and a further 9,000 have been furloughed, according to a survey by Tourism Northern Ireland. The organisation said it has “major concerns” about the long-term effect coronavirus was having on the sector. 

Half of the 1,300 businesses that responded to the survey had reduced the number of staff in their organisation, and the poll revealed thousands of workers were furloughed, laid off or made temporarily redundant across 427 firms. Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen said the group intends to use the information collated through this survey to inform government considerations regarding current and future business support: “It is clear, however, that further, ongoing support and guidance will be required to allow many businesses to survive.”

Tuesday 21 April

4.40pm Parliament resumes with new ‘hybrid’ way of working

In new working arrangements agreed by MPs, parliament has resumed with a maximum of 50 MPs allowed inside the chamber, sitting apart from each other to comply with social distancing guidelines. 

Dubbed a ‘hybrid’ parliament, screens installed around the House of Commons will allow up to 120 MPs to take part in debates via video conference as of Wednesday. These measures will be in place until at least 12 May, although this could be extended. Other changes that have been implemented to allow parliamentary business to continue during the coronavirus pandemic include reduced sitting hours and virtual committee meetings.

12.25pm High street food chains ask chancellor for rent holiday

High street restaurants including Burger King have asked the government for a nine-month rent holiday during the coronavirus crisis. Burger King UK chief executive Alasdair Murdoch told the BBC Today programme that the company had not made its rent payments for April, and he couldn’t see them doing so for some time. 

Bar owner Jonathan Downey has said without a rent holiday for hospitality companies such as his, up to two million industry jobs could be at risk. Other chains, including Wahaca and Nando’s, have also signed a letter to the chancellor, asking that restaurants that have been ordered to close by the government pay no rent until the first quarter of 2021. 

11.16am How are people teams responding to coronavirus? ...Siemens Healthineers

People Managementtalks to managing director Peter Harrison on how the medical device manufacturer has ramped up production of vital blood gas analysers, lent ventilator expertise and given staff paid leave to volunteer for the NHS.

10.55am John Lewis and Waitrose furlough 14,000 staff

John Lewis Partnership, which owns the department store and supermarket chain Waitrose, has furloughed 14,000 staff as part of efforts to cut costs during the coronavirus pandemic. The group said the workers had been furloughed largely because of the closure of all 50 John Lewis department stores.

In a letter to staff, chairman Sharon White said the partnership had survived “a world war and bombings, economic crashes and crises”, and was confident it would “emerge stronger” through the Covid-19 crisis. She added that all frontline staff would receive a one-off bonus of £200 in recognition of their hard work during the pandemic. 

10.30am Cancelled or delayed graduate schemes hit young people’s job prospects

Some of the UK’s largest employers, including Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC and PwC, are amending, delaying or cancelling recruitment schemes and internships this year because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to an Institute of Student Employers survey, 27 per cent of firms reported that they would be reducing the number of graduates they hire this year as a result of the crisis. Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser at the CIPD, warned that “youth employment prospects are crumbling” because of such recruitment freezes. 

9.20am UK employment rate at record high before lockdown, says ONS 

Recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures have shown 76.6 per cent of people aged 16 to 64 were in paid work before lockdown measures were brought in, up from 76.4 per cent in the previous quarter. Early estimates for March showed a drop of 0.06 per cent in the number of paid employees compared with February.  

David Freeman, ONS head of labour market statistics, said: "For the first time, we have brought forward information on the number of employees in work using PAYE data to cover a more recent period.” Next month's figures are expected to reflect a lockdown-related downturn. 

9.16am Primark boss says 68,000 staff across Europe have been furloughed

Clothing retailer Primark has reported that 68,000 employees are currently receiving furlough payments from governments across Europe, without which the chain would have been forced to make most redundant. The announcement came as Primark revealed its sales had gone from £650m per month to nothing as the coronavirus crisis has forced it to close stores across Europe and the US.

Chief executive George Weston said: “When we are allowed to reopen, we must make our Primark stores safe for our staff and our customers, even if that means ensuring there are fewer people shopping at any one time and so accepting lower sales at least until the remaining risk is minimal. In time we can rebuild the profits. We can’t replace the people we lose.”

8.30am UK farm worker candidates complain of frustrated applications

British applicants for jobs harvesting crops have said farmers have made it virtually impossible for them to secure the work despite a national appeal for a ‘land army’ to save the UK’s fruit and vegetables, the Guardian has revealed. 

Offers of onsite accommodation in which three or four workers share a caravan were among the most frequent complaints on social media and in emails to the Guardian, after reports that thousands of British workers had turned down jobs and Romanians were being flown in to pick salad. Genevieve Black, in south Wales, told the newspaper she had been unsuccessful in applications for 10 jobs despite being willing to live on site in Kent, Hampshire or Scotland. “The idea that Brits are too lazy to work on farms is just not true,” she said.

8.20am Job security and financial wellbeing confidence drops

Despite chancellor Rishi Sunak’s furloughing scheme to subsidise wages now having formally opened, IHS Markit analysis showed the fastest drop in confidence since the survey began during the last recession in early 2009. The household finance index, which measures overall perceptions of wellbeing, fell from 42.5 in March to 34.9 in April. 

The survey found perceptions of job security had dropped to their lowest on record. People working in the education, health or social care sectors were least worried, while those in media, culture and entertainment were the most concerned about their employment prospects.

8.07am List of Northern Ireland essential workers published 

A list of essential workers has been published by the Northern Ireland Executive. They include food and personal protective equipment producers, newsagents, bicycle shops, vehicle repair garages, transport workers, food delivery and takeaway businesses, media workers, scientific researchers, lawyers and laboratory and analytical services. 

The list was drawn up by a forum chaired by the Labour Relations Agency, the Chamber of Commerce, CBI, trade unions and the Public Health Agency, and was approved by ministers on Monday (20 April). Economy minister Diane Dodds said the list is for advisory purposes to allow companies to make their own decisions, adding: “If a company can work within the social distancing guidelines, then it should do so.”

7.48am Coronavirus leaves Scottish care homes without enough staff

A dozen care homes in Scotland do not have enough staff to meet the needs of their residents, and nearly one in five have flagged concerns over staffing levels since 3 April, according to official figures from the Care Inspectorate. The vast majority of these homes are now properly resourced after seeking support from the Scottish government, but 31 are still graded as ‘only just able to provide’ the right staffing levels. The Care Inspectorate found a further 12 care homes “no longer have adequate levels”.

Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of trade body Scottish Care, said: “I actually think things were worse at the end of March and into early April but the picture is an improving one, notwithstanding some extreme cases.” Meanwhile, the Scottish government has revealed more than 2,600 people have applied to work in social care since a recruitment drive for the sector was launched in the wake of the crisis.

Monday 20 April

5.10pm More than 140,000 application in first day of furlough

As of 4pm this afternoon more than 140,000 firms had applied for the furlough scheme, helping pay the wages of more than one million people, the chancellor has said. Speaking at today’s daily briefing, Rishi Sunak said: “The goal of the new scheme we’ve developed is to maintain as many people as possible in their existing jobs… to maintain, in other words, our economy’s productive capacity so we can bridge through this current crisis.”

4.55pm Coronavirus could see 59 million European jobs put at risk, report says

Up to 59 million jobs across the UK and Europe could be put at risk as a result of lockdown measures, a report by consultancy McKinsey has said. Social distancing measures, while central to containing the spread of Covid-19, have already seen huge numbers of workers at risk of pay cuts, temporary layoffs or redundancy. 

According to the firm’s analysts, if severe restrictions on work and travel continue through the summer, EU unemployment could double to 11.2 per cent by next year and would be unlikely to return to pre-crisis levels until 2024.

12.08pm TfL set to furlough workers amid record-low passenger numbers

Transport for London (TfL) will be using the government’s job retention scheme to furlough some of its workforce, as travel on public transport in the capital has plummeted because of lockdown restrictions. Passenger numbers on London Underground have dropped by 95 per cent, while travel on London busses has dropped 85 per cent. 

In a leaked staff email seen by the Daily Mirror, TfL commissioner Mike Brown said the coronavirus lockdown measures had come "at a huge financial cost to us in reduced fare and other revenue”. It is not clear how many staff will be temporarily laid off, but workers in a range of roles will be furloughed from 27 April until the end of May. 

11.10am Care home staff ‘face 240-mile round trip for coronavirus testing’ 

Staff at Bournemouth-based Encore Care Homes are having to make a 240-mile round trip to Gatwick for drive-through coronavirus testing, a move that its chief executive describes as “very unfair”. 

Rachel Dryden, chief executive of Encore, said the intent to put social care workers “on par with NHS staff is a farce” as NHS staff can get tested at local hospitals. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman told the BBC it was working to launch “around 50 regional test sites” by the end of April, alongside developing a home-testing kit. 

10.10am Furlough portal receives more than 60,000 claims in first 30 minutes

Within half an hour of the job retention scheme portal opening this morning, 67,000 applications have been made. Jim Harra, head of HMRC, told the BBC that while the portal was receiving a significant volume of claims, it has the capacity to accommodate up to 450,000 claims per hour. 

"If every employer tries to use it this morning some will be asked to queue or come back later – that doesn’t mean the system has crashed, it simply means it’s full,” he said. 

8.49am B&Q to reopen 14 stores to trial social distancing

DIY chain B&Q is slowly reopening some of its stores to trial social distancing measures. B&Q stores have been closed since the end of March, and customers have only been able to use click and collect services to buy goods. But the retailer said it is now in a position to reopen a number of stores on a trial basis and “follow best practice” on hygiene and social distancing measures to keep staff and customers safe. 

8.45am Half of frontline care workers paid less than living wage

More than half of social care workers are paid below the real cost of living, according to analysis by the Resolution Foundation. It found some one million workers were paid less than the real living wage of £10.75 an hour in London and £9.30 an hour across the rest of the UK, as set by the Living Wage Foundation.

Among the lowest-rung roles in private care companies in England, as many as 90 per cent of workers were paid below the real living wage last year, it said. Tens of thousands also appear to be being paid illegally below the national minimum wage.

8.30am UK firms urged to hold virtual AGMs

Charity ShareAction has written to FTSE 100 chairs after finding two in three annual meetings announced so far are set to be held with just the minimum of participants. It called on firms to hold virtual AGMs in 2020, allowing for real-time questioning from shareholders followed by voting to be replicated online. Some companies, such as Taylor Wimpey and Unilever, have already said they will host a ‘hybrid’ annual meeting, with an online component.

7.45am Workers without university degree hardest hit by Covid-19 crisis, says study

Workers without a university degree will be hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, according to a study by consultancy firm McKinsey. The research found almost 80 per cent of workers facing job insecurity in the wake of the crisis – including cuts to hours or pay, being furloughed or made redundant – do not have a university degree. Those most at risk include retail staff, cooks, actors, construction workers and office support staff.

McKinsey said this job risk is “highly correlated” with a worker's level of education, and it could potentially exacerbate existing social inequalities in the UK and Europe. The study found ‘low insecurity' occupations include workers who either do not need to work in close proximity to others – such as accountants, architects and journalists – or those who work in key services such as healthcare staff, police, food production, education, public transport and utilities.

7.33am Hundreds of firms to stop pension top-ups over coronavirus

Hundreds of companies are expected to stop pension employer ‘top up’ contribution schemes during the coronavirus crisis, according to a leading pension consultancy firm. The finding from pension experts LCP estimated that more than 500 companies will take advantage of an emergency measure under which employers and the trustees of pensions can agree to businesses putting off paying contributions to staff pensions for up to three months. 

Jill Ampleford, partner at LCP, said: "The ability to agree with trustees a delay in making pension contributions will help firms to weather the present storm and continue their support to the scheme in the long term." The Pensions Regulator said it was vital to support businesses through the crisis and, where one did fail, staff would be supported by the UK's Pension Protection Fund.

7.18am Millions to claim as government job retention scheme site goes live

The government job retention scheme is set to open for applications today (Monday 20 April). Under the coronavirus job retention scheme, the government will cover 80 per cent of workers' wages, up to £2,500 a month, if they are put on leave.

The Treasury has said the system, which goes live at 8am, can process up to 450,000 applications an hour, and employers should receive the money within six working days of making an application. On Friday (17 April), chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the scheme would be extended by a further month, until the end of June.

Friday 17 April

4.15pm Furlough scheme extended to end of June

The Treasury has announced that the job retention scheme will be extended by a month and will now continue to the end of June.

The move comes the day after the current lockdown measures were extended for a further three weeks. Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer, said: “With the extension of the coronavirus lockdown measures yesterday, it is the right decision to extend the furlough scheme for a month to the end of June to provide clarity.

“It is vital for people’s livelihoods that the UK economy gets up and running again when it is safe to do so, and I will continue to review the scheme so it is supporting our recovery.”

2.35pm Furloughed Virgin Atlantic call centre staff to handle 999 calls in south east

Furloughed Virgin Atlantic call centre employees are being trained as 999 call handlers to deal with increased demand in the south east. The Virgin Atlantic staff are undergoing an accelerated training programme before “going live” at the Crawley headquarters of the South East Coast Ambulance Service. 

Corneel Koster, chief customer officer at Virgin Atlantic, said: “We are very proud of our highly skilled people at Virgin Atlantic and since the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme was announced, we have been inundated with our people looking to help other organisations at this time of crisis." Virgin Atlantic staff are also working with London Ambulance Service, Epsom Hospital and the London Nightingale Hospital.

2.30pm The government’s updated furlough guidance

Melanie Lane and Tracey Marsden analyse the latest clarifications to the coronavirus job retention scheme, including who qualifies and what employers can claim for.

2.20pm How are people teams responding to coronavirus? …Wiltshire Council

As part of a series of pieces looking at what employers are responding to the global pandemic, People Managementtalks to Joanne Pitt, director of HR and OD at Wiltshire Council, to find how they are tackling the business and HR implications of Covid-19.

2pm Fifth of workers furloughed on average, ONS figures show

Among organisations that continued trading since lockdown began, on average 21 per cent of their workforces had been furloughed under the government’s job retention scheme, the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data suggested. Businesses also had an average of 5 per cent of their staff either off sick or self-isolating due to coronavirus, while 70 per cent of their workforce continued carrying out their roles as normal.

Daniel Tomlinson, economist at think tank the Resolution Foundation, said the data demonstrated “just how important the government’s job retention scheme is, particularly for those on lower incomes”. But, he said, the scheme only offered support for employees whose work had dried up completely, and there was little help for workers who had seen a decrease in working hours.

According to the ONS figures, almost three in 10 (28.5 per cent) businesses had decreased staff working hours in response to the pandemic, and two-fifths (40.5 per cent) had reduced staffing levels in the short term.

12.10pm Coronavirus testing extended to firefighters, police, DWP and prison staff

Testing for Covid-19 has now been expanded to include the police, firefighters, prison staff and workers at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), the health secretary has announced. Speaking with the Health and Social Care committee today, Matt Hancock said that the list had been expanded due to the “growing capacity” for testing in the UK. 

The list for workers who can be tested now also includes critical local authority staff and the judiciary. Previously, patients, NHS and social care staff and some local resilience forum (LRF) workers were deemed eligible for testing. However, Hancock said those without symptoms may also soon be added to the list: “We have an order of priority, and we are running through it, and it includes the suggestion made that we should also test asymptomatic people in hospitals and care homes as part of a survey strand which goes along side all of this.”

11.45am Local and national newspapers could close without government support, says journalists’ union

National and local newspapers could close unless the government intervenes to support the media industry as many titles are struggling in the face of the coronavirus, according to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). The NUJ has called on the government for an immediate windfall tax to help support the journalism industry and help retain staff through the crisis. 

Media analysts at Enders Analysis previously warned the British news industry would be hit hard by the pandemic and the expected economic uncertainty that will follow, with the loss of thousands of journalists’ jobs. And earlier this month, Reach, the UK's largest regional news group, announced it plans to furlough a fifth of its workforce and ask the remainder to take a pay cut to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

10.20am Refugees among hundreds of overseas medics to respond to NHS call

Hundreds of foreign-born doctors, including refugees, have signed up to become medical support workers as part of a new scheme to help the NHS tackle the coronavirus pandemic. NHS England launched the initiative for international medical graduates and doctors after calls to fast track the accreditation of overseas medics to alleviate the pressurised healthcare sector in the UK.

The NHS plans to deploy the workers in small numbers initially. Refugee organisations have described the scheme as a good “first step”, but they urged the government and the General Medical Council to find alternative solutions to allow refugees to work as doctors, saying the current process is too long and expensive.

9.25am Surgical masks 'provide no meaningful protection' for police staff, says federation

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) has claimed new personal protective equipment for officers will not provide any “meaningful protection”. Police Scotland announced earlier this month staff would be given surgical face masks to wear when it is not possible to adhere to social distancing measures. But the SPF claimed the scientific case for the PPE had not been made and refused to endorse them.

SPF chairman David Hamilton said: “Our panel is unanimous in its views that the primary aim of the surgical mask is to prevent the wearer from infecting anyone else; and that they offer little effective barrier to the wearer from contracting the virus.”

8.45am Vauxhall puts measures in place to protect staff as it restarts production

Carmaker Vauxhall is planning to restart production after putting in place new staff safety measures. Staff will clean workstations every hour, wear personal protective equipment including face masks, and remain two metres apart at all times which plant managers hope will allow its factory at Ellesmere Port, on the Wirral, to run at about 85 per cent of capacity.

8.30am Foxtons cuts pay for high earners

Employees of estate agent Foxtons earning more than £40,000 have been asked to take a 20 per cent pay cut for April and May. All its branches have been closed since 23 March and about 750 employees were furloughed two days later under the coronavirus job retention scheme. Executive directors will also take a voluntary 20 per cent reduction in base pay until at least the end of May.

8.15am Nearly one in 10 British military personnel absent from frontline due to coronavirus

About 13,000 military personnel – 9 per cent – are absent from frontline duties because they are self-isolating, working from home or caring for vulnerable family members due to coronavirus, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The MoD stressed that many who are absent were still “contributing to defence” by working remotely. 

Officials said the absences have not affected the Covid Support Force, which is helping to boost public services including the NHS, nor British military deployments overseas. The MoD added fewer than 100 members of the armed forces have tested positive for the virus, although it did not not say how many had been tested.

7.45am Start-ups and larger companies set for extra UK bailout funds to protect jobs

New emergency measures designed to keep businesses operating through the coronavirus crisis are set to be unveiled by the government, with packages aimed at some of the largest companies in the UK as well as start-ups. Chancellor Rishi Sunak will today launch a loan scheme for companies in the “squeezed middle” that are unable to access the existing programmes the government launched shortly after lockdown started on 23 March.

Companies with a turnover of more than £45m will be able to access state-backed bank loans of up to £50m, with no upper limit on the size of the businesses able to access the scheme. The Treasury is also working on separate proposals for start-ups. Sunak said: “I want to ensure that no viable business slips through our safety net of support as we help protect jobs and the economy.”

7.15am Care home workers move into campervans to stop spread of Covid-19

Thirteen staff at Isobel Fraser Home in Inverness have moved into campervans outside the home in a bid to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading to residents and their families. Kirstie Paterson, one of the staff members staying in the campervans, said the workers agreed to stay in the three vans for the duration of the lockdown so they could cut down on the amount of movement to and from the home. She said: “We have got the perfect continuity of care for the residents, which is obviously a big thing especially when there are so many scary things on the news just now.”

Simon Cole Hamilton, deputy chairman of the trust running the home, said life in the campervans will be hard work, adding: “They are giving up their home lives, their private lives and it is asking a lot of them.”

Thursday 16 April

5.10pm Lockdown to be extended by three weeks

The current social distancing measures are to be extended for at least another three weeks, first secretary of state Dominic Raab has said. Raab said the current measures were helping, but added: “Any change to our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus.

“Early relaxation would cause more harm to the economy over a longer period.” 

5pm EU to ban executive bonuses for state-rescued firms

Businesses rescued by EU state share-buying programmes during the coronavirus pandemic will be barred from paying executives bonuses, according to a leaked document from the European commission seen by the Guardian. If backed by the EU’s 27-member states, the rules would apply to the UK as, under the Brexit transition period – which is due to end on 31 December – the UK follows all EU rules but cannot help decide them. The restrictions would extend to dividend payments and share buybacks.

4.45pm Education, hospitality and construction jobs most at risk, says OBR

Education will be the sector hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, according to Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) analysis, with a 90 per cent reduction in output and the impact likely to be felt most by universities. More than half of staff in the sector are in insecure employment, so especially vulnerable. The OBR forecasts an 85 per cent reduction in output for hospitality and 70 per cent decrease in construction.

4.30pm Areas most reliant on aviation jobs will be hardest hit by Covid-19, study finds

Jobs in cities and towns that depend on the aviation industry and aircraft manufacturing will be most under threat from the coronavirus crisis, according to research by Centre for Cities, with one in five jobs in these areas vulnerable. The economy of Crawley, near Gatwick airport, is likely to be hardest hit, the report states. Other areas facing the biggest impact include Luton and Derby, with Oxford, Worthing and Bradford among the areas where job losses are likely to be most limited. 

1pm Government must do 'everything it can' to protect armed forces personnel working to fight coronavirus, says minister

The shadow defence secretary has called on the government to do “everything it can” to protect the British armed forces from coronavirus. A growing number of armed forces personnel are helping carry out a number of frontline tasks, such as assisting the emergency delivery of protective equipment, oxygen and ventilators for hospitals and working alongside ambulance services.

John Healey wrote to the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, calling for more armed forces personnel to be tested for the virus – with priority given to the government's 23,000-strong Covid Support Force – and postponing large-scale training exercises to prevent outbreaks. A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: "The safety and wellbeing of our people is of the utmost importance, and we have issued advice in line with the guidance from PHE and the NHS. We keep our advice and procedures under constant review.”

12.15pm Fifth of workers furloughed, ONS reports

Businesses that are continuing to trade during the coronavirus lockdown are furloughing a fifth of their workforce on average, according to the Office for National Statistics

According to data collected on over 5,000 businesses for the period between 23 March to 5 April, on average businesses continuing to trade furloughed 21 per cent of their staff under the government’s Job Retention Scheme. On average, 70 per cent of trading businesses’ employees were reported to be working as normal, while 5 per cent were off sick or in self-isolation due to coronavirus. 

11am How are people teams responding to coronavirus? …Waterstones 

As part of a series of pieces looking at what employers are responding to the global pandemic, People Management talks to Andy Stephenson, HR director of Waterstones, to find out how the book retailer is tackling the business and HR implications of Covid-19.

10.30am Furlough scheme must be updated to cope with a longer lockdown, think tank warns

The government’s Job Retention Scheme should be reformed in order to manage the economic impacts of a three, six or even 12-month lockdown, the Resolution Foundation has said. 

In its report, Doing more of what it takes, the think tank has predicted a six-month lockdown could lead to unemployment averaging five million in 2021 as the furlough scheme is phased out. It has called for the programme to be adapted so that workers could return to work part-time, if it is safe to do so, and said the government will need to prepare to tackle higher unemployment through training and support for those who find themselves without a job following the lockdown.

9.30am Romanian farm workers flown to UK to pick crops due to labour shortage 

Farm workers from Romania are being flown into the UK to pick fruit and vegetables, after British farmers feared crops could be left to rot due to a lack of labour.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) said the country needed a modern-day “land army” of up to 70,000 fruit and vegetable pickers to avoid food going to waste. Air Charter Service confirmed the first flight of six, carrying 150 seasonal workers from eastern Romania, will land at London Stansted Airport today, to quash concerns raised by farmers that the UK may fail to bring the harvest in without EU workers.

The workers – who already had their temperatures taken in the city of Iași before boarding the flight – will be transported by minibus to East Anglia to pick lettuce. 

9.20am Major UK food chains to reopen for takeaway in select areas

Burger King, KFC and Pret A Manger are opening certain restaurants around the country for delivery only. Government guidelines state that while restaurants and pubs have to close, they can prepare food for collection or delivery. The chains had decided to temporarily close as the lockdown took effect.

Staff in the re-opened restaurants will wear masks and gloves, and be trained in running delivery-only kitchens hygienically and while social distancing. The restaurants will also donate meals to NHS staff working in the vicinity of the reopened restaurants.

9.10am Ford tests social distancing wristbands for workplace

A team of employees at a Ford factory in Michigan are testing wearable devices designed to alert wearers if they are getting too close to a colleague, Bloomberg reported. Ford said the wristbands, which vibrate if workers come closer than the two metres recommended by health experts, could become part of a broader set of safety protocols adopted by the car manufacturer as it prepares to resume production in the US as early as next month.

Wednesday 15 April 

4.10pm Furlough cut-off date extended to 19 March

The cut-off date by which employees needed to be on payroll to be eligible for the government’s job retention scheme has been extended to 19 March: a move the government has said would make thousands more people eligible. Initially workers needed to be employed by an organisation before 28 February to be eligible for furlough as a measure to prevent fraudulent claims, however the government said following a review of the process it has moved this date to the day before the scheme was announced.

3.50pm CBI warns of redundancies if job retention scheme is not extended

The Confederation of British Industry has expressed concern that businesses could be forced to make furloughed staff permanently redundant if the future of the scheme isn’t clarified before 18 April. 

The portal for organisations to claim wages for temporarily laid off staff is due to open from next Monday, but the CBI has said that if businesses are unable to keep workers on past the scheme’s current closure at the end of May, they would have to start redundancy procedures this weekend in order to comply with the minimum 45-day consultation period. 

HMRC chief executive Jim Harra told the BBC Today Programme the scheme will be extended if necessary, and that he was confident firms would be able to receive payments before the end of the month. 

2.30pm Firefighters to help healthcare workers with PPE fitting and deliver groceries to vulnerable 

Firefighters across the country will take on additional duties during the coronavirus pandemic to assist healthcare workers and the communities they serve, according to the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC). The NFCC said firefighters will make sure healthcare workers’ masks are fitted correctly, deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical teams, help ambulance services by offering assistance as drivers and support the most vulnerable through food deliveries. 

Roy Wilsher, chairman of the NFCC, said: “We are very proud of crews and other staff for stepping forward, using their wide-range of capabilities and skills to ensure community reassurance and support, while continuing to respond to emergencies, during Covid 19.” James Brokenshire, Home Office minister for security, welcomed the campaign saying the fire and rescue services have a “crucial role to play in the response to Coronavirus and keeping us all safe”.

2pm Norwegian Air's UK pilots and cabin crew will not receive April salary

Pilots and cabin crew employed in the UK by Norwegian Air have been told they will not receive their April salary because the airline does not have the money to pay them. The airline asked its 1,000 UK air crew to accept significant pay cuts or redundancy at the end of March, but staff have been told the airline has “no readily available funds to pay any employees on this coming payday”. 

In a letter seen by the Guardian, the airline has not “been able to secure the Norwegian government support package as of yet and hence has had to take drastic measures to survive up until May.”Norwegian Air said it will apply for the government’s furlough scheme to cover staff wages when it opens on 20 April but does not have the funds to pay workers in the interim.

1pm One in four top bosses has taken a pay cut in wake of Covid-19, research reveals

One in four of the biggest companies in the UK has cut the amount paid to chief executives as a result of the coronavirus crisis, according to research. 

A survey and analysis of FTSE 100 company announcements by the High Pay Centre, shared with the PA News Agency, found bosses at 25 of the UK’s top companies had reduced their salaries and fees by 20 per cent – the same proportion many furloughed workers have forfeited (where their employer hasn’t topped up the 80 per cent of salary covered by the government’s job retention scheme).

However, the report found one company had not yet announced plans to cut its chief executive’s pay, despite sending staff home. Meanwhile, three other businesses were still paying shareholder dividends. 

12.30pm How are people teams responding to coronavirus? …Total Produce

As part of a series of pieces looking at what employers are doing to tackle the logistical, financial and staff wellbeing implications of the global pandemic, People Management talks to David Frost, organisational development director at Total Produce.

11.30am Ministers urged to raise pay for care home staff during Covid-19 crisis

Workers in care homes need an urgent pay rise and more robust protection against the coronavirus, union leaders and employers have told the government. St John Care Trust, one of the largest charitable providers of care homes in the UK, has written to care minister Helen Whateley calling for a government-funded £11.50 hourly minimum wage for frontline workers in social care for the duration of the pandemic.

Care bosses believe the temporary state-funded boost to wages is needed to put care workers, who are often on minimum wage, on a par with other key workers in supermarkets and delivery drivers. The Scottish government has already announced a 3.3 per cent pay rise for care workers backdated to 1 April in recognition of their role in tackling Covid-19. 

11am Amazon US fires two employees for circulating coronavirus petition 

Amazon US has dismissed two employees for internally circulating a petition on warehouse worker health and safety amid the pandemic. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed to the Guardian that user experience designers Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were fired for “repeatedly violating internal policies” that prohibit employees from “commenting publicly” on its business without approval or corporate justification. 

The Guardian alleged that Amazon also censored a virtual event allowing warehouse workers to share concerns on working during the pandemic, deleting all invitations and emails, despite thousands of employees confirming attendance. 

10am Reversal on Scottish coronavirus business grants

Scottish small businesses will now be able to claim extra grants to support them through the coronavirus pandemic, as Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes announced an extra £100m of funding for businesses and the self-employed. 

Grants in Scotland were issued on a one-per-business basis, rather than one per property, as is the system in England and Wales. This means all companies were eligible for the same amount of funding, regardless of how many properties they ran. Now businesses can add a further 75 per cent grant for each extra property they run to their initial payment. However, Forbes urged organisations to only claim help if “absolutely necessary”. 

8.55am Entertainment industry helps build Cardiff field hospital

Entertainment and event professionals have been helping turn the Principality Stadium in Cardiff into a field hospital to treat coronavirus patients. Theatre and lighting technicians who usually build festival sites and TV sets are among those helping to put power into beds and create kitchens.

Tom Feierabend, director of T&M Technical Services, said they were asked because they construct festival sites and suchlike at speed. He said: “TV and film set companies are building backboards for beds, theatre technicians are running in power for beds and events crew are building marquees and putting down floors.”

8.30am More tests promised for care homes

All care home staff and residents with Covid-19 symptoms will be tested as laboratory capacity increases, the government has promised. Health secretary Matt Hancock said he was “determined” to ensure everyone who needed a test had access to one. 

It comes after the government confirmed there had been coronavirus outbreaks at more than 2,000 care homes in England – although the government did not specify the number of deaths that had occurred. Age UK, Marie Curie, Care England, Independent Age and the Alzheimer's Society have written to Hancock demanding a care package to support social care through the pandemic.

Tuesday 14 April

5.30pm Chancellor responds to OBR economic and unemployment predictions

Responding during the government’s daily press conference to today's economic outlook from the UK Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) that Britain's economy could shrink by 35 per cent in the second quarter and see unemployment jump by two million, chancellor Rishi Sunak said "these are tough times" and it will be impossible to protect every household and business. But he said the OBR has been "clear" the situation would have been "much worse" without government action announced so far.

The increase in joblessness forecast by the OBR would take the unemployment rate to 10 per cent: a level not seen since the early 1990s. The rate currently stands at 3.9 per cent.

4.30pm Oasis and Warehouse to fall into administration, putting 2,300 jobs at risk

The owner of the brands had been in talks to sell the businesses before the coronavirus outbreak, but the crisis, which has seen many shops temporarily close, has worsened the situation. The fashion retailers are expected to appoint Deloitte as administrators, with it unclear how many jobs ultimately could be saved. After the administration begins, Deloitte is expected to furlough many staff.

2.55pm UK firms at risk of making 'permanent' job cuts, CBI says 

Businesses are at risk of “permanently” getting rid of staff unless the government provides clarity over whether it will extend its job retention scheme, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said. The CBI said it is worried companies will be forced to start redundancy procedures this Saturday (18 April) to comply with the minimum 45-day consultation period unless the government planned to extend the Job Retention Scheme. The government's scheme is slated to run until 1 June.

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn told the BBC's Today programme: “We are very concerned that businesses will be forced into a position potentially of having to make people permanently redundant.” She called on the government to provide clarity about extending the national coronavirus lockdown and scheme so firms are better able to plan. 

1.40pm More than a quarter of jobs have changed as a result of coronavirus, poll reveals

More than one in four workers have seen their job role change as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, a survey by Haymarket Business Media has found, with alterations including pay cuts and staff being furloughed. In a poll of 20,489 people, 5,851 respondents (29 per cent) reported their job had either changed or been placed at risk as a result of the pandemic.

The most common change seen to job roles was pay cuts, with 31 per cent of those experiencing a change in their work taking a drop in salary. Similarly, 30 per cent said their role had been furloughed. 

1.03pm How are people teams responding to coronavirus? ...Cadent Gas

As part of a series of pieces looking at what employers are doing to tackle the logistical, financial and staff wellbeing implications of the global pandemic, People Management  talks to Martin Rimmer, chief people officer at Cadent Gas.

12.45pm Co-op hopes to raise £30m for people hit by Covid-19 lockdown

The Co-op hopes to raise £30m to help those hardest hit by the coronavirus lockdown by allowing members to donate their unspent shopping reward points to a new support fund that will also draw on the chief executive’s salary. The donations will be used initially to support food banks, a funeral bereavement fund and other local causes that are helping to alleviate the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.

The food retailer estimates that its 4.6 million members have built up points worth £30m, and it is now encouraging them to donate these points to its new coronavirus fund. Steve Murrells, Co-op’s chief executive, promised to top up the fund by donating 20 per cent of his salary for the next three months to help support those affected by the lockdown.

12.20pm Carluccio’s workers to be furloughed after landmark legal ruling

Workers for Italian restaurant chain Carluccio's will be furloughed after a landmark legal ruling. The chain went into administration last month (30 March), and trade union Unite took legal action because it was concerned that Carluccio's 2,000 staff faced the prospect of being made redundant over the Easter bank holiday weekend. High Court judge Mr Justice Snowden said Carluccio's employees qualified for the government's job retention scheme – a ruling that means staff at other companies in administration could also access the scheme. 

Howard Beckett, Unite's assistant general secretary for political and legal affairs, said the ruling offers “some hope” to other workers who have been made redundant because their employers went into administration during the crisis, including those at Beales and Debenhams. He added: “I would urge these workers to speak to their trade union or contact the relevant administrator to find out if they can be helped in any way through these tough times.”

8.45am Amazon launches further North American recruitment drive 

Amazon has announced it will create an extra 75,000 jobs in the US and Canada in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The online retailing giant, which last month announced it would hire an extra 100,000 staff, said it had hit its previous hiring target and now needed a further recruitment drive. On its blog about its response to the coronavirus, Amazon said the fresh hires – all warehouse roles – could tide over workers in sectors such as hospitality, restaurants and travel.

Announcing the first 100,000 new roles in March, Amazon said it would create 5,000 “new full and part-time positions and delivery driver opportunities across the UK in our fulfilment centres and logistics network to meet the surge in demand”.

8.30am Next restarts online sales after implementing measures to better protect staff 

The company said it had spent two weeks “reworking” warehouse operations and had taken “lots of practical measures” to ensure staff who want to work “feel safe, work safe and are safe”.

“In order to operate our warehouse safely, we are limiting the number of warehouse colleagues working at any time, and so we will limit the number of customer orders we can take each day,” the business said in a statement. Safety measures include: two-metre floor markings to help staff maintain physical distancing; a one-way movement system; sanitising stations; and staff wearing tabards with the message ‘stay two metres apart’.

8am Think tank calls for 'triple lock' on pensions to be scrapped after crisis

The Social Market Foundation has said the massive economic cost of the government’s emergency measures must be shared fairly between old and young, and that some of the anticipated deficit could be funded by abandoning the triple lock guarantee on state pension rises.

The triple lock, which was introduced in 2011 by the coalition government, guarantees the basic state pension will rise by a minimum of either 2.5 per cent, the rate of inflation or average earnings growth, whichever is largest; this has led to state pensions rising quicker than wages. 

Thursday 9 April 

5pm Banking execs forgo bonuses

Senior executives and board members at banks such as Barclays, Standard Chartered, HSBC, RBS, Natwest and Lloyd's, have agreed to give up their 2020 bonuses as the coronavirus crisis continues. This has come after calls from the Bank of England to restrict bonuses. Natwest CEO Alison Rose stands to give up about £2.3m in total; HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn will not take his annual cash bonus, which would have been up to £1.2m; and HSBC chairman Mark Tucker will donate his entire 2020 fee of about £1.5m to charity.

4.30pm Airbnb restricts bookings to key workers

Airbnb is to temporarily restrict UK bookings to key workers and “essential stays” because of the coronavirus crisis. Key workers – such as NHS and social care staff, and transport and food retail employees – can still book through a programme called Frontline Stays. The programme is designed to provide up to 100,000 healthcare staff and first responders with accommodation close to their patients and a safe distance away from their families.

3.30pm In this even more VUCA world, HR has never been more vital

As the coronavirus situation continues to develop, people professionals must adapt and respond quickly, says Opemipo Koshemani

3pm Misconduct in the (cyber) workplace

As the coronavirus pandemic forces most employees to work from home, bullying and harassment may take on a new virtual form, as Kirsty Churm and Matthew Hardcastle explain

2.30pm How can HR remotely manage… learning and development?

As part of a series of articles looking at how businesses are conducting all people processes remotely in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, People Management explores how to keep learning alive in the new virtual workplace.

2pm Furloughing staff should be a last resort, employers warned

With recent analysis of British Chamber of Commerce figures by the Resolution Foundation revealing a surge in demand for the government’s furlough scheme and the potential for between seven and 10 million workers to be furloughed in the coming months, experts have suggested a small minority of organisations could be using the scheme too readily.

9.30am Thousands apply to fruit and veg grower jobs spurred by coronavirus displacement

Record numbers of people in the UK are looking for farming jobs, according to figures shared with the BBC by job search engines. Totaljobs says it has seen 50,000 searches for farming jobs in the past week alone. Totaljobs content and communications manager Steve Warnham said workers “who have been temporarily displaced because of Covid-19 are now looking for roles in other sectors”. UK growers recently launched a recruitment drive, calling for a modern-day “land army” to prevent millions of tonnes of fruit and vegetables going to waste.

9am Passport office staff asked to return to work 

Passport Office employees have said they feel their lives are being put at risk after being told to return to work. The Home Office said it was maintaining social distancing at passport offices, but a source at the Public and Commercial Services Union told the BBC that up to 2,000 staff would be asked to go back in, with 500 in offices at any one time. 

Dozens of employees sent messages expressing their concern, with one reading: "Your actions are going to kill people." A Home Office spokesperson said that a “significant” amount of people will work from home where possible and will operate with “substantially restricted” staffing levels. 

Wednesday 8 April

5pm All NHS staff to be offered mental health support

All of the NHS’s 1.4 million staff are to be offered free mental health support to help them deal with the strain of the coronavirus outbreak, the Guardian has reported. From Friday, health service employees will be able to access online therapy and group counselling, financial assistance, support for sleep problems and specialist bereavement support as part of a new support programme.

Lucy Warner, chief executive of NHS Practitioner Health, which set up the programme’s mental health offering, said NHS staff were likely to suffer “symptoms similar to shell shock” as a result of dealing with the outbreak. “Staff might not need this most badly in the immediate term, when the crisis hits because they’ll be so busy. But three to six months down the line … staff are likely to suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome,” she told the paper.

3pm Immigration compliance during Covid-19

The Home Office announced on 30 March that employers can now conduct right to work checks using video links: a temporary measure allowing workers to provide digital copies of their documentation rather than submitting originals so employers do not need to verify the individual’s identity in person. Anne Morris, managing director of DavidsonMorris, outlines which other rules have been changed or relaxed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

2.20pm How are people teams responding to coronavirus? ...Financial Ombudsman Service

As part of a series of articles looking at what employers are doing to tackle the logistical, financial and staff wellbeing implications of the global pandemic, People Management talks to Caroline Nugent, HR director at the Financial Ombudsman Service.

1.30pm Job retention scheme guidance update: what questions did it clear up?

Over the last month, many HR professionals have suddenly had to acquaint themselves with the concept of furloughing staff.

The initial guidance on the new coronavirus job retention scheme raised many questions about who was eligible and how the scheme interacted with other types of leave or benefits. So over the weekend the government issued further guidance with extra information on eligibility for parents and carers, for example. People Management runs down what’s been clarified and what remains unclear.

11.20am RNLI chief to take 50 per cent pay cut

The chief executive of the RNLI, Mark Dowie, is to take a 50 per cent pay cut for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak to help the lifeboat charity deal with the financial shock caused by the crisis.

The charity also said it was initially planning to furlough 30 per cent of its staff on 80 per cent pay over the next few weeks – and has said for those earning more than the £2,500 it would top up their wages to 80 per cent. All planned equipment and building replacement has also been paused.

“As a charity, we have to take a pragmatic approach in these difficult times and make sure we’re focusing our supporters’ donations on maintaining our lifesaving service for generations to come,” said Dowie.

10am Ambulance staff put at risk by lack of PPE, says trade union 

The GMB Union has said members are scared for their safety, with one in five London-based ambulance staff off sick with Covid-19 symptoms. According to the union, a total of 679 frontline crew in the London Ambulance Service are currently off sick, and those still working say they feel unprotected because of inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

The government has reassured that millions of protective items have been delivered to NHS employees around the country. However, union representative Paul Turner, who has returned to frontline paramedic duties, told the BBC NHS workers were “crying out” for better equipment. "Our aprons are disposable and flimsy and our sleeve protectors do not cover all of our jackets,” he said.

9.30am TfL trials new rules to protect bus drivers following deaths

Transport for London has announced a four-week trial of new passenger rules, following the deaths of nine bus workers in the capital. The trial will ensure passengers can only board and alight via the middle doors to improve social distancing for drivers. Other measures include signs to discourage proximity to the driver, an extra layer of protection on the driver’s clear screen, and a ramped up cleaning schedule. 

Drivers in the capital had criticised the previous measures for being “inadequate”, as a total of 14 public transport workers have died from contracting Covid-19. TfL said it is working with union Unite and bus operators to improve safety measures, and director of bus operations Claire Mann told The BBC that it is “only right we consider everything we can to protect them [transport workers]”.

8.30am EF Education First furloughs staff it intends to later make redundant

One of the world’s largest language training providers is applying for the UK government’s coronavirus job retention scheme even though it has told employees they will automatically be made redundant once the programme stops running. In the UK, EF Education First told more than 40 staff they would be made redundant on 17 March, but then offered to furlough them on 31 March once the furlough scheme was announced. 

David Hunt, partner at law firm Farrer & Co, told the Financial Times that while the company’s approach might be within the rules of the scheme, it was clearly against the spirit.

8am Furlough scheme three times more popular than anticipated

The coronavirus job retention scheme may cost £30-40bn over three months, three times the size of initial estimates, according to analysis by the Resolution Foundation, which used the latest figures on take-up of the scheme from the British Chambers of Commerce. It found nearly a fifth of smaller firms plan to furlough all their staff, and 50 per cent of companies are putting most of their employees into the scheme.

Tuesday 7 April 

1.45pm Cineworld bosses defer pay amid cinema closures

Cineworld has cut its dividend and executive pay and is in talks with lenders over its liquidity requirements as it announced all venues are now closed. Executive directors have agreed not to take any of the salaries or bonuses they are due.

1.30pm Big Four weighing up reputational risk of furloughing staff

The Financial Times has reported that leaders from the Big Four consultancy firms – PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY – and their counterparts at mid-tier firms BDO and Grant Thornton, have been in talks about whether using government funds to furlough staff is wise reputationally. “The firms are terrified of suffering yet more reputation damage during this crisis,” said one of the three people the FT spoke to who had knowledge of the discussions. A second person said the call became a “moral debate”, adding that “everyone’s a bit battered and bruised and we’re all a bit cautious”.

A third person likened the situation to that of some top English football clubs, criticised for paying players high wages while relying on government support to temporarily lay off lower-paid cooks, cleaners and parking attendants.

9.10am Doctors lacking PPE 'bullied' into treating Covid-19 patients, survey finds

Doctors in Britain are being “bullied and shamed” into treating patients with Covid-19 despite not having the masks, gowns and eyewear they need to protect themselves from the virus, a survey of frontline medics has found. The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) has collated 500 anonymous reports from its network of frontline medics across 193 hospital trusts and GP practices about shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).  

Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, president of the DAUK, said it was “heartbreaking” to hear that some staff had been told to “hold their breath” to avoid getting infected because of the persistent shortages of PPE. 

9am BT, Verizon and Virgin Media raise pay for ‘frontline workers’

Telecom groups including BT, Verizon and Virgin Media are raising salaries and in some cases expanding their workforces in the wake of increased demand on the businesses. Verizon has said its engineers and retail staff in shops that have not closed will receive “significantly enhanced” compensation for performing essential services, without specifying details. 

BT will give ‘frontline’ staff such as engineers and call centre workers a 1.5 per cent pay rise in the summer, but the telecoms giant has frozen remuneration for all managerial-level personnel during the pandemic. Virgin Media said it will also raise salaries by an average of 2.2 per cent this month and is hiring 500 staff to work in its call centres to ease the strain on customer services during the lockdown. A further 700 engineers who previously worked as third-party contractors for Virgin were also hired directly last week. 

8.45am Leeds Bradford Airport workers furloughed on full pay

Leeds Bradford Airport has announced the almost 250 people directly employed by the airport – from security, car parking, cleaning and passenger assistance – would be given full pay in these “unprecedented times”. The government's furlough scheme during the virus outbreak covers 80 per cent of workers' pay.

Union Unite, which bargained for the deal with the airport, said workers would receive their full pay but would “work back” the additional 20 per cent of the wages the company had provided above the government's furlough cash. Unite regional officer Karl Stephenson said the union “has achieved assurances of no redundancies at Leeds Bradford Airport”. A spokesman for Leeds Bradford Airport said: "We are all working together in these unprecedented times for the benefit of staff, businesses and passengers."

8.30am Welsh employers told to keep staff two metres apart

All employers in Wales will be told to keep workers two metres apart from midnight Tuesday (7 April), the government has said. At a news conference on Monday (6 April), first minister Mark Drakeford said the new Welsh government rules will not amount to an “absolute ban”, but he urged employers to take “all reasonable measures” to ensure the health and safety of workers. 

The rules will require all workplaces, businesses and organisations to ensure a distance of two metres is maintained between people on their premises, and those waiting to enter. That means companies will be expected to take “proportionate action” where it is possible to do so, and police and councils will be able to enforce the moves.

8.20am Retired teachers in Northern Ireland urged to return for Easter

The education minister of Northern Ireland has appealed for retired teachers and classroom assistants to help keep schools open amid the coronavirus crisis. Peter Weir wrote to retired educators asking them to volunteer as schools would need to remain open over the Easter break to accommodate the children of key workers and the vulnerable. 

Speaking on Good Morning Ulster, the minister said the appeal was to “cover all eventualities” and that it was important to provide a pool of volunteers so schools can cope in all situations. Weir said: “At the moment, there are nearly 400 schools that are open over Easter… This [appeal] is to have a level of reserve pool so that if we reach a spike in the number of teachers who are off in any particular area, there are people who can ultimately be called upon then to provide that service.”

Monday 6 April

2.30pm Does the coronavirus crisis mean a holiday hiatus?

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown up some specific challenges around dealing with holiday – especially as employees are not able to take the traditional week in the sun or city break. Catherine Taylor and Alison Woods explain how employers should handle annual leave requests during the pandemic.

2pm Employees can be furloughed to carry out caring responsibilities

Government guidance on its job retention scheme, updated over the weekend, now states that workers who are unable to do their jobs because of caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus can be furloughed. In practice, this means parents whose children cannot attend school could be put on furlough rather than taking annual leave or unpaid leave to look after them.

The updated guidance also said that, if contractually allowed, furloughed staff could carry out paid work for another employer while still receiving furlough payments.

12.45pm Reach to furlough a fifth of staff and slash pay for remainder

Reach, the UK’s largest regional news group, has said it will furlough a fifth of its staff and ask the remainder to take a pay cut to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. The group, which publishes the Daily Mirror, celebrity magazine OK! and hundreds of regional titles, said it intends to furlough 20 per cent of its 4,700 staff during the crisis. Reach’s top management will take a 20 per cent pay cut, and all other staff will have their pay cut by 10 per cent. 

Reach said “key” national and regional titles would continue to be published at this time despite these measures. Chief executive Jim Mullen said: “It remains difficult to predict the duration and long-term impact of the crisis on our sector, so it is key we take proactive measures now on cost to protect jobs and the Reach business for the long term.”

9.20am Workers with childcare responsibilities can be furloughed

The government has updated the advice on its job retention scheme to allow employers to furlough employees who are unable to work because of care responsibilities arising as a result of coronavirus through the scheme. In practice, this means parents can be paid to look after their children if they are unable to balance work with childcare responsibilities, with 80 per cent of their wages up to £2,500 a month covered by the government.

The update also clarifies that employers can re-hire an employee and furlough them if they were made redundant or left the company after 28 February, that furloughed workers can continue to work a second job, and that both training and volunteering are allowed so long as they do not contribute financially to the company.

8.45am Casual workers at football stadiums left without pay

Thousands of casual workers at some of English football’s biggest stadiums have been left unpaid during the Covid-19 shutdown, the Guardian has reported. Workers, some on zero-hours contracts, from Delaware North – which provides catering and hospitality services at venues such as the Emirates Stadium, London Stadium, Wembley, Craven Cottage and the Ricoh Arena – contacted the Guardian after seeing booked shifts cancelled and receiving no payments since the Premier League season halted last month.

This is despite both Arsenal and West Ham previously saying they would continue paying their casual staff. They have been told by Delaware North that it is trying to establish whether they are eligible to be furloughed.

8.30am Channel 4 pays out millions in bonuses but cost-cutting measures expected

Channel 4, which is publicly owned but funds itself mostly through TV advertising, is estimated to have paid out more than £5m to its 903 staff last month, despite being in talks with the government about potentially benefiting from emergency £75m credit facility to mitigate the coronavirus’s impact on the TV industry.

It’s expected that the broadcaster will this week announce a range of cost-cutting measures, including a temporary 20 per cent reduction in executive team and board salaries. If Channel 4 follows the measures announced by ITV last week, top executives will give up bonuses for this year while staff can expect, at minimum, a pay freeze. ITV is reportedly looking to furlough some staff, and Channel 4 may be forced to do the same.

8am Under 25s and women worst hit by the virus

Young workers and the worst paid, many of whom are women, are the most likely to be affected by coronavirus lockdown businesses closures, according to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). IFS director Paul Johnson told the BBC’s Today programme young people tend to work in the leisure, retail and hospitality sectors, which have been heavily impacted.

Friday 3 April

2pm HR must look after its own mental health at this time of crisis

People professionals often don’t look after their own wellbeing. But as Annette Andrews says, they must prioritise their health to support their businesses.

1.50pm Apprenticeships threatened by uncertain funding, providers warn

Private apprenticeship providers are being forced to either close or mothball their operations because of a lack of secure funding during the coronavirus pandemic, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has said, accusing the Department for Education (DfE) of a “refusal to comply” with guidance that states government departments should continue to pay suppliers during the outbreak.

Mark Dawe, chief executive of the AELP, said that failing to support private providers could lead to a shortage of apprenticeship programmes. “Action on funding apprenticeships and other important skills programmes is needed right now if the government seriously wants this year’s school leavers and unemployed adults who need retraining after the crisis to have apprenticeships available to them.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “We recognise this is a difficult time for the sector. We are continuing to work closely with key stakeholders and the Treasury to monitor how our support packages are benefitting organisations and to consider any further action which may be required.”

1.30pm Covid-19 causing settled status application delays, Home Office warns

Applications to the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme will take “longer than usual” to process because of the coronavirus lockdown, the Home Office has said, warning that support services and application routes have temporarily changed. It said the Settlement Resolution Centre responsible for processing applications would no longer answer inbound telephone calls, and the postal route for submitting identity evidence was “currently suspended”, although emails would still be answered and the smartphone application continued to work.

The government also clarified that it would not take enforcement action against employers that were Tier 2, 4 and 5 sponsors and that continued to sponsor employees absent because of coronavirus. Pay could also be temporarily reduced to 80 per cent of the employee’s salary, up to £2,500 per month in line with the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme without this affecting an employee’s right to work, so long as this is part of a company wide policies to avoid redundancies.

10am Nissan to extend manufacturing pause

Nissan has said it will extend the suspension of car production at its Sunderland plant throughout April as the coronavirus outbreak continues. The manufacturer initially said it was halting production for two weeks. In a statement, it said that the majority of its staff would be furloughed through the government’s Job Retention Scheme during this time.

9am Firms can rehire then furlough staff who left for other jobs after 28 February, says Martin Lewis

The government has updated its coronavirus job retention scheme guidance to clarify that firms can rehire and furlough staff who left for other jobs which then fell through due to Covid-19, according to moneysavingexpert.com.

Official guidance has always stated that employers can rehire and furlough staff they’d made redundant after 28 February. However Martin Lewis, founder of moneysavingexpert.com, has said this has now been extended to allow firms to do the same for staff who left after 28 February but whose plans were then derailed due to coronavirus. People Management has reached out to HMRC to confirm the change.

8.30am CWU claims Royal Mail depot workers lack sufficient coronavirus protection

Many Royal Mail sorting offices are not providing sufficient protection for workers against coronavirus, the The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has warned. It has called for some depots to close until staff are safe. It told members they should stay away if their local sorting office had not provided masks, gloves and hand sanitiser, or implemented two-metre social distancing at all times. It estimated that as many as half of sorting offices did not have sufficient protection in place. Royal Mail disputed the claims, saying it had provided hand soap and latex gloves, and that “wherever possible” workers were being kept at least two metres apart.

Thursday 2 April 

5.30pm Norton Rose asks staff to work a four-day week

Norton Rose Fulbright has become the first large UK law firm to ask staff to cut their hours in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. The firm has asked staff earning more than £45,000 to go to a four-day week and take a 20 per cent pay cut. Those on lower salaries will be asked to take a pay cut of between 5 and 20 per cent for the same reduction in hours. 

5pm Boeing asks staff to volunteer to be laid off

Boeing is asking employees to volunteer to leave the company with a severance package. Chief executive David Calhoun sent a memo to employees today saying the move “aims to reduce the need for other workforce actions”. It’s unclear how many volunteers the company is seeking from the 150,000-strong workforce.

2.20pm Investors call for executive pay cuts at top firms

One of the UK’s largest listed asset managers has written to UK businesses asking chief executives in struggling companies to “share the pain” and take a pay cut, the Financial Times has reported. Sue Noffke, head of UK equities at Schroders, reportedly wrote to company bosses telling them that if their organisations needed capital, they should “have an expectation that their compensation should also bear some cuts.”

Politicians, including Labour’s shadow chancellor, also called for banks and big companies to show restraint when handing out bonuses. On Tuesday, the Bank of England said it would not pay out dividends worth nearly £8bn to investors this year because of the coronavirus outbreak, and said other banks should not pay out cash bonuses to their top executives. However, the Guardian points out that many in the banking sector receive their bonuses alongside their March pay cheques, meaning millions could have already been paid out. 

2pm Boots employees feel ‘unsafe’ as customers continue to shop for cosmetics

Employees working at Boots have said they feel “unsafe” at work because customers continue to come into stores to shop for cosmetics, including tanning products and hair dye, the BBC has reported.

As a pharmacy chain, Boots is classed as an essential retailer and is allowed to keep its stores open despite the current restrictions. However, the BBC said it has spoken to members of staff who have expressed frustration that some continue to sell non-essential cosmetics, while others have claimed some stores have dropped limits on the number of customers allowed into shops at any one time or that staff have not received masks or other protective equipment.

In a statement, Tracey Clements, chief operating officer of Boots UK said: "I know that this is a difficult time and we are doing all we can to make sure our colleagues have the NHS recommended PPE available, alongside extra perspex and plastic screening and social distancing equipment they can use.

“We have over 60,000 colleagues and we are doing whatever we can to protect them whilst they work on the frontline of healthcare.”

1.30pm How to maintain cybersecurity while working from home

Any arrangement where employees are permitted to work remotely poses cybersecurity risks and challenges. With the number of people working from home skyrocketing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Kelly Hagedorn considers the steps employers can take to protect their businesses.

12.30am One in four employers expect to make redundancies as a result of coronavirus, poll finds

One in four UK employers expect to make redundancies because of the coronavirus crisis, while more than half will furlough staff, according to a People Management and CIPD survey. The poll of more than 300 employers found 52 per cent of businesses planned to temporarily lay off staff through the government’s job retention scheme.

The survey also found that, despite government intervention, a quarter (25 per cent) of employers expected to make at least some redundancies. Nearly one in six (15 per cent) expected to make up to 10 per cent of their existing workforce redundant, 9 per cent anticipated having to lose up to 49 per cent, and 1 per cent more than 75 per cent.

8.30am Universal credit claims soar

Nearly a million people have applied for universal credit benefits in the last two weeks; this compares to the 100,000 claims the Department for Work and Pensions would normally expect in a two-week period. The department said 950,000 successful applications were made between 16 March, when people were advised to work from home, and the end of the month.

“The sudden and vast increase in those signing up is powerful evidence that the coronavirus crisis is an economic emergency for a very significant portion of the public – losing work and losing income in ways they could never have anticipated a few short weeks ago,” commented BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.

8am BA expected to furlough 80 per cent of workforce

British Airways is expected to announce today that it will temporarily suspend around 36,000 staff, but no redundancies are expected to be made. The airline has been negotiating with  union Unite for more than a week. Many employees at Virgin Atlantic have been laid off for two months and crews at easyJet are out of work for three months.

Wednesday 1 April 

4.30pm M&S store staff to receive bonuses for coming into work

Marks & Spencer has said it will pay its in-store staff an extra 15 per cent as a reward for their “dedication and commitment”, the BBC has reported, joining the list of retailers including that are rewarding staff for their work during the coronavirus outbreak.

Asda, Tesco, Aldi, Sainsbury’s and Asda have previously announced similar bonuses for staff.

“It’s been an extraordinary couple of weeks and despite the enormous challenges, it’s been incredible to see how colleagues have stepped up and responded, doing an outstanding job during this uncertain and difficult time,” said Tesco UK boss Jason Tarry, when announcing its 10 per cent pay increase.

“This pay bonus is just one way we are saying thank you to our colleagues and recognising that they are on the front line, helping to feed the nation.”

2.40pm BrewDog bosses give up 2020 salary to prevent job losses

BrewDog brewery bosses James Watt and Martin Dickie announced they will not take a salary in 2020 to protect jobs across its business during the coronavirus outbreak. Watt revealed the move on Twitter this week, adding that many of the brewery’s senior team had also taken salary cuts to prevent job losses across the organisation. 

Watt told The Grocer: “This is a very tough time for all businesses, and we have two priorities: firstly to survive and secondly to protect as many jobs as we can.” BrewDog closed its pubs last month and has spent the past weeks using its facilities to make hand sanitiser, which it is donating to the NHS and local charities.

2.30pm In these unprecedented times, we must judge other employers a bit less

The last week of March 2020 has to be one of the most challenging weeks to date for HR professionals. Firms face tough decisions on preserving both staff wellbeing and livelihoods as they navigate government guidance on essential business, so perhaps we should try to be a little less judgemental and recognise the monumentally unusual times we find ourselves in, argues Melanie Taylor.

2pm Understanding the legal aspect of furloughing

The job retention scheme is expected to be up and running by the end of April, according to the government. Melanie Lane and Catherine Taylor outline what this means for businesses from an employment law perspective.

1.30pm Key and home workers struggling with childcare, poll reveals

The latest People Management and CIPD survey of HR professionals found nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of employers were concerned about staff’s ability to balance home working with parenting commitments.

But, despite this concern, more than half (52 per cent) of employers responding to the latest survey said they were encouraging parents to make up their full contractual hours at home but at different times to normal. Meanwhile, 41 per cent said parents were working their normal hours but at home.

“[Employers must] be realistic and have open conversations about what work can be achieved with small children at home,” said Jane van Zyl, chief executive of Working Families. “Importantly, this is gender neutral – all parents should play their part.

10.30am Unions welcome national living wage rise for many key workers

A new national living wage (NLW) rate, which will see the hourly pay for those over the age of 25 increase from £8.21 to £8.72, has been welcomed by unions, as many key workers continuing to work throughout the coronavirus lockdown are currently on minimum wage. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said Britain was “indebted to its army of minimum wage heroes” and that they “deserve every penny of this increase, and more”.  

The Guardian reported that retailers privately lobbied for a delay, however, alongside the British Beer and Pub Association, which feared an NLW rise would result in “mass job losses and permanent pub closures”. 

10am Tottenham Hotspur announces non-playing staff will take pay cut

Football club Tottenham Hotspur has announced its 550 non-playing staff will see a 20 per cent cut in pay, initially for two months, as the club attempts to protect jobs. It will also make use of the government’s furlough scheme. Chair Daniel Levy told the BBC people needed to “wake up to the enormity” of the pandemic, adding that the club would “continue to review” its position.

Spurs is owned by Joe Lewis, who has a net worth of more than £4bn. Julian Knight, chair of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, told the BBC the decision exposed the “moral vacuum” at the centre of English football. "It sticks in the throat that clubs are continuing to pay their stars hundreds of thousands a week while furloughing staff on a few hundred pounds a week,” he added.

9.45am Tesco takes on thousands of new staff

In an email to customers, Tesco CEO Dave Lewis reported that the company had taken on more than 35,000 employees in just 10 days, including pickers and drivers, to cope with increased demand and improve the availability of online delivery slots. The company also said it had had more than one million visitors to its careers website during this period.

9.30am Laura Ashley and Tui announce furlough plans

Laura Ashley has said it plans to furlough 1,669 staff using the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, while 268 people will be made redundant. Meanwhile, 677 people will continue to work for the business as normal. Staff are continuing to run the retailer’s online operations, in line with guidance over social distancing, it said. Administration adviser PwC said it anticipated all stores would reopen, when guidance permits, for a period of time, either because the stores form part of a sale or to sell off remaining stock.

Meanwhile, travel and holiday operator Tui is furloughing 4,455 travel agency staff and more than 6,500 pilots, cabin crew and head office workers from today. About 2,000 employees will be retained.

9am Zoom’s data security and privacy questioned

Videoconferencing app Zoom has come under scrutiny as its popularity soars during the coronavirus pandemic. New York's attorney general has written to the firm raising concerns over its ability to cope with the rise in users, asking whether it had reviewed its security measures since its popularity surged. UK prime minister Boris Johnson recently tweeted a picture of himself chairing a Cabinet meeting using Zoom, leading to questions about how secure it was. A Zoom spokesperson told the BBC: "Zoom takes its users' privacy, security and trust extremely seriously.”

8.30am Government might have to scrap push to end low pay in wake of coronavirus

The government has been warned it could be forced to abandon targets for ending low pay in Britain by raising the legal minimum wage. The Low Pay Commission, the body that advises ministers on legal wage floors, said the government target to increase the national living wage to two-thirds of average earnings by 2024, or its time frame, might have to be reviewed. The news comes as a 6.2 per cent increase to the national living wage comes into effect today.

Tuesday 31 March

3.30pm Frontline NHS workers granted free visa extensions to focus on coronavirus outbreak

The home secretary Priti Patel has announced frontline NHS workers whose visas are due to expire before 1 October will be granted free automatic extensions to allow them to remain in the country. 

The extensions will apply to around 2,800 migrants working in the NHS, as well as their families. Patel said: “Doctors, nurses and paramedics from all over the world are playing a leading role in the NHS's efforts to tackle coronavirus and save lives,” adding “we owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do. I don't want them distracted by the visa process.”

12.45pm Employers must step up mental health support during coronavirus crisis, CIPD says

Employers must act now to prevent mental ill-health among staff both during the coronavirus outbreak, the CIPD has said. A poll of HR professionals across the UK, conducted between October and mid-November, found only a quarter (25 per cent) believed managers were able to spot the early warning signs of mental ill-health. 

The research comes as figures from the third coronavirus reader survey conducted by People Management and the CIPD found two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents cited supporting people’s mental health and wellbeing as their organisation’s main challenge currently. Rachel Suff, wellbeing advisor for the CIPD, said: “This pandemic presents a real threat to people's mental – as well as physical – health, and employers need to think about both when putting in place plans to protect their workforce.”

12.15pm MPs call for coronavirus compensation scheme for frontline workers during the crisis

Fifty MPs from various parties have written to Boris Johnson calling for the creation of a coronavirus compensation scheme for workers “who die as a result of contracting Covid-19 while performing frontline duties”. The letter, shared on Twitter by Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, asked for the scheme to mirror the existing armed forces compensation scheme and would include a lump sum up front, a guaranteed income for the worker’s family and child payments to eligible children under 18.

The letter has been signed by Labour MP Jess Phillips, Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts and Conservative MP Sir Charles Walker.

12pm Right to work checks can now be conducted remotely, government announces

The government has announced temporary adjustments to the way right to work checks can be conducted during the coronavirus pandemic. Checks can now be carried out online, by video call, and applicants can send copies of identification electronically instead of posting originals.

11.15am Wembley Ikea turns into coronavirus test centre for NHS workers

A coronavirus test centre for NHS workers has opened at Ikea’s store in Wembley, London. The retailer offered the store as an additional medical facility and said it has also been donating food to local hospitals, food banks and homeless shelters. 

An Ikea spokesperson said the firm was “enormously proud” of the NHS and will also be responding to requests from hospitals and doctors by delivering disposable paper tape measures to help continue the fight against the virus. 

11am Law firm staff urged to turn off smart speakers while working from home during pandemic

Employees are being advised to mute or shut off smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or Google’s Home to protect work-sensitive data while working remotely because of the coronavirus outbreak. Mishcon de Reya, the London-based law firm that advised Princess Diana on her divorce, told staff to power down and keep smart speakers away from their workplace when they talk about client matters at home. 

Joe Hancock, head of the firm's cybersecurity efforts, told Bloomberg the company was worried about the devices being compromised and possibly recording client-sensitive data or phone calls. Hancock said: “Perhaps we’re being slightly paranoid, but we need to have a lot of trust in these organisations and these devices. We’d rather not take the risk.”

9am Amazon and Asos warehouse workers voice concerns over coronavirus protections

Amazon workers have walked out of a New York City facility demanding increased protective gear and hazard pay. The strikers at the JFK8 warehouse demanded the company close down the large warehouse for thorough cleaning after reports of multiple employees testing positive for coronavirus. Amazon disputed the allegations and said it had taken measures to keep people safe, including by intensifying cleaning and procuring safety supplies.

Meanwhile, more than 98 per cent of 460-plus Asos workers who took part in a survey by the GMB union said they felt unsafe at the group’s warehouse in Grimethorpe, Barnsley. Asos said social distancing protocols were in place, with a dedicated member of staff to enforce this at break times and at the start and end of shifts, and that it had worked to organise additional buses.

8.45am 25,000 airport ground handling jobs at risk

The four companies that manage ground operations at UK airports have warned they are close to collapse. In a joint letter, Swissport, WFS, dnata and Menzies said they needed urgent assistance from the government. They warned that without their services "the airport infrastructure in the UK would grind to a halt for up to four months".

8.30am Carluccio’s employees to be furloughed as the chain collapses

Carluccio's has gone into administration, blaming "challenging trading conditions" exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis. Most of the company's 2,000 employees will be paid through the government's job retention scheme while options including mothballing or selling all or parts of it are explored. The Italian restaurant chain had already warned it was facing permanent branch closures because of coronavirus.

Monday 30 March 

3pm Redefining HR’s priorities in a Covid-19 world

Now is the time to totally rethink work while the arguments for change are fresh in our minds and those of employees, say Mara Swan and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.

2.30pm Coronavirus and pregnant employees

Last week it was announced that all pregnant women should now be included in the ‘at risk’ category and should minimise social contact for up to 12 weeks to try to prevent them contracting Covid-19. This change is causing major concerns for many pregnant women and their employers, and they’re wondering what steps to take next. Danielle Ayres explains how employers can best manage the situation.

2.00pm How are people teams responding to coronavirus? ...International SOS

As part of a series of articles looking at what employers are doing to tackle the logistical, financial and staff wellbeing implications of the global pandemic, People Managementtalks to Ben Dale, HR director for the UK and Northern Europe at International SOS.

1.20pm Food producers voice concerns job retention scheme could harm recruitment

Experts have urged businesses utilising furlough leave to instead consider cooperating with food firms to redeploy staff to help meet increased demand, as businesses in the food production industry have voiced concerns the job retention scheme could harm much needed recruitment efforts. The sector has seen increased demand as customers stockpile food or turn to supermarkets as pubs and restaurants shut, and companies were expecting to be able to increase their own workforces by hiring staff made redundant in the struggling hospitality sector.

Carl Atkinson, partner at Gunnercooke, said seconding staff to other industries would require cooperation between businesses. But, he noted that the portal through which employers claim government wage support for furloughed workers may not be running smoothly until May or even June, and until that time organisations would still need to foot the bill for staff wages.

“A secondment could save the original employer the immediate staff cost of the employees and the additional 20 per cent contribution they may be making to top up,” he suggested.

1pm Business spend on automation increases in wake of coronavirus

Two-fifths of bosses are accelerating their plans to increase automation in their businesses as workers are forced to stay at home because of coronavirus. The international survey, conducted by EY, found 41 per cent of respondents from 45 countries were spending on speeding up automation. 

11am Two million self-employed could miss out on support

Concerns have been raised that over a third of the UK’s self-employed workforce – some two million people – could miss out on the government’s financial aid package because they are ineligible for support.

Last week chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £10bn scheme that promised to pay self-employed people 80 per cent of their average monthly income up to a maximum of £2,500 if they are financially hit because of the coronavirus. However, to be eligible, they need to be earning under £50,000 in profits a year and to have filed a tax return for 2019.

There has also been little guidance on what happens for those who are self employed but have set themselves up as a limited company and pay themselves a salary. “For many, the £50,000 cap creates a sharp cliff-edge, and there is no provision in the scheme for freelancers trading for less than a year,” wrote Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE). “We are certainly disappointed that many of our members and other contractors who operate via a limited company will miss out on the level of support available to other self-employed workers.”

9.45am One in seven workers affected by changes to their working arrangements because of childcare responsibilities, says ONS

With schools and nurseries closed because of the outbreak of the coronavirus, millions of working parents are juggling a paid job with full-time childcare responsibilities. The Office for National Statistics estimated there are 4.6 million households with dependent children aged under 16 years where all parents in the household are working, of which 3.7 million are couple households and 842,000 are lone-parent households. 

If all households with a child under 16 years were to make changes to their working arrangements to provide childcare, this could affect one in seven workers, approximately 14 per cent of the UK workforce. Education is the most common industry in which parents in working households with dependent children are employed, followed by human health industries and the public administration, defence and social security industries. 

9.30am Co-op fills 5,000 temporary roles in a week

Co-op has said it has filled the 5,000 temporary in-store roles it created last week to meet the increased demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak. It said the increase in numbers would help it’s stores replenish their shelves and fulfil online orders more quickly and efficiently. Jo Whitfield, CEO of Co-op Food, said: “Just one week ago we asked members of the British public who needed jobs to come forward and join forces with us. The response has been overwhelming as people pull together to feed the nation.”

8.20am NHS offers roles to Virgin and easyJet staff at coronavirus field hospital

Thousands of easyJet and Virgin airline staff are being offered work by the NHS in the new Nightingale Hospital in east London. NHS England said many airline workers were first aid trained and had security clearance, and those who sign up will support nurses and clinicians at the field hospital. 

The NHS said workers would be changing beds and performing other non-clinical tasks to help doctors and nurses working in the coronavirus field hospital. Virgin Atlantic reported it had written to about 4,000 employees about the opportunity, and easyJet said it had contacted 9,000 of its UK-based staff. 

Sunday 29 March 

8pm 20,000 former NHS staff rejoin hospitals to fight coronavirus, says prime minister

Some 20,000 former NHS employees have returned to work to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, the prime minister has revealed. Boris Johnson, who is self-isolating after testing positive for the virus, announced in a video posted on Twitter that thousands of doctors and nurses had rejoined the NHS to help already stretched hospitals. 

Alongside healthcare professionals who have returned to the NHS, he thanked the 750,000 members of the public who have volunteered to help the country through the pandemic, saying: “We are going to do it; we are going to do it together.”

1am NHS Wales staff to travel for free as government helps struggling public transport operators

NHS staff in Wales will receive free public transport throughout the country as part of a government deal that will help bus operators. The commitment for free bus travel for NHS workers is part of a £69m hardship fund for companies struggling with drops in passenger numbers as a result of the outbreak.

Ken Skates, economy and transport minister for Wales, said the funding will give public transport operators the initial funding they needed to continue to deliver services and pay employees and subcontractors. Free rail travel is already available for healthcare workers on Transport for Wales trains.

Friday 27 March

3.30pm Your furlough questions answered

To support struggling businesses, and their employees, the government last week announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, offering employers grants from HMRC to cover 80 per cent of the wages of staff who are on the payroll but not working because of the outbreak, up to a maximum of £2,500 per worker per month.

With guidance on the scheme updated by the government yesterday, People Managementanswers the most pressing questions for employers.

2pm Questions raised around whether self-employed income support scheme is more generous than provisions for furloughed employees

Under the new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, self-employed people who faced a loss of income because of the outbreak will be able to apply for taxable grants worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

However, Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, said the package could work out as more generous than that available to employees because it can be accessed by contractors who are still earning. By contrast, furloughed employees cannot perform any work for their employer or another business while temporarily laid off.

Employees who have had their hours cut or been made redundant also do not stand to benefit from the government’s job retention scheme.

“The groups that now stand out as being much less generously treated in this crisis are employees unlucky enough to lose their jobs, or see their hours cut during this crisis. Their lack of support stands out in stark contrast to a very significant package for the self-employed today,” said Bell.

12.30pm Met asks retired police to return to work

The Metropolitan Police has asked officers and sergeants who have retired in the past five years to return to the force as it works to contain the coronavirus outbreak in London. The retired officers are being asked to rejoin on a full or part-time basis, and the Met has asked those nearing retirement to consider staying on.

Cressida Dick, commissioner of the Met, expected the demands on the force will grow over the coming weeks and wanted “people to know and see the Met is here for them”. She said: “I am hopeful that these exceptionally experienced and knowledgeable former colleagues choose to come and be part of our team and support London at this extraordinary time.”

9.20am HSBC to delay planned redundancies in wake of coronavirus

HSBC has said it has been forced to delay the majority of redundancies it had planned as part of a restructure because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Financial Times reported that in an internal memo, the bank’s new CEO, Noel Quinn, said he would defer the redundancies “because of the extraordinary impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”. The bank’s restructure was expected to include 35,000 job losses over three years.

8.30am Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley issues public apology over attempts to keep stores open

Mike Ashley has issued a public apology after trying to keep his Sports Direct chain open when non-essential businesses were ordered to close. Ashley’s Frasers Group, which includes House of Fraser and Evans Cycles, had intended to keep Sports Direct open on the basis that selling sporting and fitness equipment meant it provided an essential service. He eventually bowed to government pressure and shut stores on Tuesday.

Thursday 26 March

5.10pm Self employed will be able to claim 80 per cent of monthly wages

Self employed people financially struggling because of the coronavirus outbreak will be able to claim 80 per cent of their monthly wages from the government up to a maximum of £2,500, with the exact figure based on their monthly profits from the previous year. It will only apply to those already in self employment and have filed a self assessed tax return in 2019, and for those with trading profits of up to £50,000.

The scheme, announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak this afternoon, is meant to bring support for the self-employed in line with that available to employees who have been furloughed. It will be in place for an initial three months but could be extended.

Sunak said he hoped people would be able to access the scheme no later than June.

3.40pm What kinds of leaders will equip organisations to survive crisis and disruption?

Áine Hurley highlights the critical role of HRDs in developing, cultivating and retaining leaders of the future at times of crisis like the current coronavirus outbreak.

3pm How can HR remotely manage… onboarding?

As part of a series of articles looking at how businesses are conducting all people processes remotely in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, People Management explores how to make new starters feel welcomed remotely.

2.30pm 'Essential worker' confusion down to poor HR, say experts

HR experts have told People Management the government’s lockdown parameters were clear, and the problem around who should and should not come into work lay with inexperienced people managers. “I personally believe that the government’s advice is clear enough for organisations to act on,” said Pete Colby, director at Pragmatism UK. “The problem is that some HR professionals don’t have experience or confidence to make decisions and they’re therefore being influenced to make irresponsible decisions.”

His comments follow reports that the government has come under fire for its messaging over its social distancing policies. MPs have reported being inundated with queries from constituents asked to attend a place of work, but feeling they shouldn’t be classed as key workers and anxious about their inability to stay at least two metres apart from colleagues.

11am Leeds United players and coaches defer wages to save staff jobs

Leeds United players, coaches and senior management have voluntarily deferred their wages to keep the club running and pay its 272 full-time and casual staff in the coming months. English football is suspended until at least 30 April, and Leeds said the lack of matches will cost the club "several million pounds" each month.

Victor Orta, Leeds' director of football, said he was proud the team "demonstrated an incredible sense of unity and togetherness" and thanked them for putting "our wider team first and taking care of family". 

9.30am Virgin Media to recruit 500 call centre staff in the UK

Virgin Media has announced it is looking to recruit hundreds of new call centre staff in the UK to handle the impact of coronavirus in countries where offshore workers handle customer service calls. The telecoms giant said the move would address the potential issues of offshore workers in countries including India and the Philippines no longer being able to handle increased numbers of customer calls.

9am Support for self-employed workers to be announced later today

Self-employed workers facing financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus outbreak are set to be offered a package of government support later today. Chancellor Rishi Sunak will unveil the measures at the prime minister’s daily coronavirus briefing. It’s expected he will match the 80 per cent salary support given to PAYE employees.

Wednesday 25 March

3.15pm What does coronavirus mean for older workers?

The fastest-growing employment segment in many developed economies is the over-55s, which means a much larger percentage of older workers are now in employment than ever before. Employers need to take extra measures to protect these individuals and consider the long-term implications of Covid-19 for an ageing workforce, says Yvonne Sonsino.

3pm Can firms and staff take action against colleagues who’ve come to work with Covid-19?

Given some individuals will have contracted the virus through work, Dr Anne Sammon and April Horsman consider the legal implications for employers.

2.15pm How are people teams responding to coronavirus? ...Fideres Partners

As part of a series of pieces looking at what employers are doing to tackle the logistical, financial and staff wellbeing implications of the global pandemic, People Management talks to Kate Bicknell, head of people and culture at Fideres Partners.

2pm Suspending gender pay gap reporting obligations a ‘mistake’, say experts

Yesterday’s move to suspend gender pay reporting obligations this year has been widely welcomed as a reprieve for HR departments currently tasked with keeping employees and their businesses safe during the outbreak. But experts have called on organisations that can to still submit their data – not least to provide a benchmark to help measure the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on gender pay when this year’s snapshot is published in 2021.

Frank Douglas, CEO of Caerus Executive, called the decision to suspend reporting requirements “a mistake”, arguing that eliminating inequality in the workplace was a business-critical issue for organisations. “For the government to push the pause button sends an unneeded message [that] closing the gender pay gap is a non-essential or optional business activity," he said.

1.45pm BBC suspends plans for restructure

The BBC has announced it will suspend plans for a sweeping restructure of its news division, which would include cutting 450 journalist roles, as the broadcaster seeks to cover the outbreak of the coronavirus around the world. According to reports, Sir Tony Hall, director-general of the BBC, told staff in an internal call today (25 March) that consultations for the proposed cuts would be suspended for the time being.

Earlier this year, the BBC announced it would need to make another £40m worth of cuts to make a 2022 savings target, which included cutting hundreds of jobs across the BBC’s global news outputs. 

1.30pm NHS England calls staff back from redundancy to fill roles

NHS England has called back staff who were given redundancy notices early this year to “delay their planned exits” and work in temporary roles to help fight coronavirus, the Health Service Journal (HSJ) has reported. According to a letter seen by the HSJ, the NHS asked staff affected by planned redundancies last week to return and temporarily work in a listed a series of roles including incident managers, information coordinators and task managers across the health service. 

An NHS England spokesman told HSJ: “Exceptional times require flexible and pragmatic responses, so just like the rest of the NHS we’re using all available people and resources to deal with coronavirus.”

1pm Millions working from home for the first time, ONS figures suggest

Millions of workers across the UK are experiencing home working for the first time because of coronavirus, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest. The data revealed 1.7 million people, about 5 per cent of the UK’s workforce, said they worked mainly from home in 2019. Around 8.7 million people said they have worked from home before – equivalent to less than 30 per cent of the workforce. 

Amanda Mackenzie, chief executive of Business in the Community, said she expected the coronavirus outbreak would change work forever and that soon such models would become “synonymous with responsible working practice and corporate governance”.

12.15pm Aviation industry concerned over workforce issues after UK government announces no extra help for airlines

Aviation experts have expressed “surprised” that the industry will have to “fight on its own to protect its workforce” after the chancellor told airlines not to turn first to the government for help getting through the coronavirus crisis. In a letter on Tuesday (24 March), Rishi Sunak said the government would only step in as “a last resort” and instead urged airlines to raise money from shareholders. 

But Karen Dee, chief executive of trade body Airport Operations Association, said Sunak’s decision would leave airports “struggling to provide critical services” and support its staff. She called for the government to reconsider and “increase the flexibility of the employment retention scheme to take account of the airport context”. 

12pm IFS calls on the government to delay forthcoming living wage increase

As the majority of high street businesses face closure on government advice to slow the spread of coronavirus, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has today called for a delay to the increase to the national living wage (NLW) rate, currently due in April. 

Tom Waters, senior research economist at the IFS, noted that the significant financial support for employers and workers announced last week are set to come into force at the same time as the NLW increase to £8.72 per hour. 

“While there is a clear rationale for benefit increases in the current environment, it's much harder to see a justification for NLW rises, which could undercut the government's other policies aimed at keeping businesses afloat and avoiding massive job losses,” he said. “The government should seriously consider a delay to the NLW increase, mirroring the temporary rise in benefits."

11am Halfords stores remain open as government says it is an ‘essential provider of services’

Bicycle and car parts retailer Halfords has defended its decision to keep shops open amid the outbreak, saying it has an “essential role to play in keeping the country moving”. Its autocentre garages and mobile vans will remain open, and there are plans for “partial store coverage” across its 446 shops. 

The retailer drew criticism after it said it would keep some stores open after being named by the government as an “essential provider of services”, and some users on social media raised concerns about the health and safety for onsite staff. But Halfords boss Graham Stapleton said the stores had a part to play “in providing vital support to emergency workers, fleet operations and the general population as they travel for essential supplies”.

8am MPs report being inundated by questions about who should be working

Confusion has continued to reign over what constitutes essential work and so who should and shouldn’t be attending a place of work, with many reporting still being asked to work in factory environments or sit next to someone in a van, for example, where it is impossible to stay two metres apart.

Speaking on today’s episode of the BBC’s daily Coronavirus Newscast podcast, Labour Derbyshire MP Toby Perkins said: “We’ve been inundated with constituents getting in touch who have been told they’ve got to go to work but consider themselves not to be in essential… lines of work. I’ve had a company that makes gas metres that is staying open… I’ve even had a retailer that sells e-cigarettes that considers them to be a health product and [so] thought they were exempt from the closure.”

Tuesday 24 March

5pm Former and student medics poised to join NHS coronavirus effort, says Hancock

Speaking at the government's daily briefing at Downing Street, health secretary Matt Hancock said 11,000 former medics have answered the government's call to return to the NHS, and more than 20,000 final-year student medics and nurses will also begin work. He said the government is appealing for 250,000 volunteers to help the NHS and deliver medicines.

Labour's Jonathan Ashworth called for "clear and unambiguous advice around which workers can and can't go out". "We're hearing stories of warehouses insisting agency workers turn up; construction sites not putting in place social distancing measures," he said. "This is putting workers at risk and it's putting the lives of all of us at risk. We need clear enforcement.” Hancock said the government would be publishing guidance later to explain the steps employers should take to keep employees safe.

4.20pm Taylor Wimpey, Galliard and Barratt to shut construction sites

Three of the UK’s largest construction firms have said they will close their sites in response to the coronavirus outbreak, going against government advice that construction sites could stay open so long as workers followed health advice that they stay two metres apart. Taylor Wimpey said: “In the interest of customer and employee safety, we have taken the decision to close all of our show homes, sales centres and construction sites for all work except that needed to make the sites safe and secure.”

Similarly, Sadiq Khan has suspended all work on Transport for London and Crossrail projects over concerns about the spread of the virus.

4.10pm How will the government's new job retention scheme work?

Sarah Ozanne, employment lawyer at CMS, explains what the chancellor’s unprecedented financial support package for those temporarily laid off during the Covid-19 outbreak means for employers.

3.30pm “Being off sick with coronavirus gave me a new perspective on work”

HR consultant Elva Ainsworth shares what it was like being unable to work after catching the virus, and lessons for people professionals.

3pm How can HR remotely manage… underperforming employees?

People Management looks at the implications of many employers now having to conduct all people processes when employees are working from home – the first in a series on remote working in the wake of coronavirus.

2pm Employers criticised for asking staff to work amid lockdown

Firms forcing employees to come into work to perform “non-critical roles” risk facing legal claims, experts have said, as companies continue to insist that staff come into work against the latest government advice. Kate Ledwidge, senior associate at law firm JMW Solicitors, also said employers faced “serious reputational damage if you are seen to be prioritising profits over public safety”.

Her comments come as activewear giant Sports Direct came under fire for vowing to stay open and asking staff to work as normal, despite government guidance for all but essential businesses to shut and workers to travel to work only where completely necessary. The retailer has since backtracked on its position.

1.30pm Gender pay reporting requirements suspended this year

The UK’s equalities watchdog, the Government Equalities Office, said it has decided to suspend enforcement of the gender pay gap deadlines this year in the wake of the challenge presented to employers by coronavirus. The move in effect means businesses are under no obligation to submit their data for this year.

However, the CIPD has urged all businesses that are able to submit their data regardless. "Most organisations should already have the gender pay data to hand, so if they are in a position to submit their figures then we would strongly encourage their HR teams to do so, especially if they have a narrative and action plan ready to publish as well,” said Charles Cotton, senior reward and performance adviser at the CIPD.

Nishi Mayor, business director at Business in the Community, noted that women were likely to be “in the eye of the storm” during the current coronavirus outbreak, in part because they were more likely to pick up extra caring responsibilities as schools shut or if relatives fall ill. “All this means this crisis could lead to a widening of the pay gap – making reporting this year especially important,” she said.

10.50am Unions call for more protection for supermarket workers

Security at supermarkets should be increased, and perspex screens installed in front of tills to protect workers from the risk of infection and from angry customers, a shopworker’s union has said. The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) has also called for limits to be put on the number of customers allowed into stores at any one time.

Some of the measures called for by Usdaw have already been implemented in some stores. Morrisons, for example, has already installed screens in front of some of its tills, while Waitrose has said it will introduce a limit to the number of customers allowed in stores – enforcing a ‘one in, one out’ policy when stores have reached capacity.

10.20am Wetherspoon staff will not receive pay after 22 March

A letter from the BFAWU – the union that represents pub employees among others – has said its members who are Wetherspoon employees are only set to receive pay for hours worked up to 22 March. The letter said Wetherspoon had taken the decision not to pay staff from that point onwards until it received its government grant for wages, which might not be until the end of April.

The letter also claims that in a video circulated to staff, the firm’s CO, Tim Martin, suggested staff apply for roles at Tesco.

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said staff would be paid this Friday for all work carried out until the pubs shut, and that the chain would utilise the government’s job retention scheme. “Details [of the scheme] are in the course of being finalised between licensed trade representatives and the government at the present time,” he said.

“Wetherspoon is retaining all its employees, using the government scheme for the purpose for which it is intended,” Gershon said.

He added that Wetherspoon had received “urgent calls from supermarkets asking for help in recruitment” as customers unable to go to pubs or restaurants turned to supermarkets. “Tim Martin said in the video that staff who wanted to work for Tesco should do so and they will be given first priority when Wetherspoon pubs reopen,” Gershon said.

10am Job searches for delivery driver roles soar

Searches for job vacancies in the logistic, retail and healthcare sectors have spiked in the last week, according to an online jobs board. CV-Library has said it has seen the number of searches on its site for delivery driver roles more than treble, increasing by 222 per cent in the week 9-15 March when compared to the week before.

Sector by sector, searches for warehouse roles rose by 132 per cent, retail job searches were up 128 per cent, administration 60 per cent and healthcare 20 per cent.

Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library, said the site was also seeing similar patterns with CV registrations. “The sad reality is that many companies have had to let employees go during these challenging times and this means more people are actively looking for jobs,” he said.

9am Sports Direct stores to close after all

Sports Direct has performed a U-turn on keeping its shops open during the coronavirus lockdown following a backlash over its plans. After widespread criticism, it now says it will not open until “given the go-ahead by the government". The chain is now contacting the government "at all levels" to confirm whether its shops are deemed to provide an essential service, chief financial officer Chris Wootton said.

8.30am Sports Direct says it will stay open despite coronavirus lockdown

Sports Direct has said all stores will remain open despite the UK lockdown because selling sporting and fitness equipment makes the company a vital asset, according to an email seen by the PA news agency. Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, which includes Sports Direct and Evans Cycles, wrote to all staff within 30 minutes of PM Boris Johnson’s decision to shut down all non-essential retailers.

Monday 23 March

9pm PM outlines strict lockdown to tackle Covid-19

Prime minister Boris Johnson has outlined strict new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on public gatherings of more than two people. He said people should only travel to and from work where "absolutely necessary", and only where work cannot possibly be done from home. He also ordered the immediate closure of shops selling non-essential goods. Businesses that will not need to close include supermarkets, petrol stations, post offices and banks, and construction can continue onsite as long as social distancing measures are followed.

6.30pm Boots asks beauty and fragrance staff to switch to healthcare

Pharmacy and healthcare retailer Boots has told its store employees who work on its beauty and fragrance counters they are no longer required to attend work in stores from tomorrow (24 March), and instead asked them to stay and consider switching to healthcare so it can “continue to work tirelessly to support those who need us”.

5pm Supermarkets to erect screens to protect checkout staff

Morrisons and Aldi have announced they will install hundreds of screens at checkouts this week to protect staff as concerns grow about their safety while dealing with hundreds of customers a day during the coronavirus outbreak.

3.20pm Tesco sees spike in job applications

The number of applications for roles at Tesco has increased by 5,000 a day, with the retailer receiving more than half a million since last Wednesday. Tribe Pad, which runs Tesco’s application tracking system, said on Sunday the company was receiving 300 applications a minute, compared to just nine a minute the previous week. It said the surge was caused by jobseekers from the hospitality sector, which has been struggling with the reduced demand and calls for social distancing caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Tesco is one of a number of supermarkets that have been looking to increase their headcounts to cope with the increased demand and panic buying that food retailers have experienced as a reaction to the outbreak.

2.50pm The legalities of working away from the workplace

While most employees are happy to do their bit for the greater good, businesses should remember that, even in these difficult times, they continue to owe legal obligations to their staff. Out of sight should not mean out of mind. Kate Redshaw explains what businesses need to consider when asking people to work from home.

2.45pm Fifth of employers still do not have a coronavirus business contingency plan, survey finds

A fifth of organisations still have no business contingency plan in place to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, a survey of HR professionals has found. This is almost half the number of businesses without a plan just over two weeks ago, but experts said the figure showed many companies still have not “fully grasped the seriousness” of the outbreak.

The findings are part of a follow-up survey by People Management and the CIPD, which polled HR professionals earlier this month and again last week to find out what they were doing in their organisations to deal with the threats posed by coronavirus.

2.30pm Job retention scheme could create resentment among staff still working, experts warn

Following Friday’s announcement that, as part of the new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, employers would be able to secure grants from HMRC to cover 80 per cent of the wages of staff who were on the payroll but not working because of the outbreak, experts have warned that temporarily laying off staff on reduced pay could cause resentment from staff still required to work.

Although largely welcomed, concerns were also raised about the potential of unscrupulous employers abusing the new scheme by claiming money for employees who have already been made redundant.

12pm UK government in talks with industry to get coronavirus tests to frontline staff

The UK government has approached Amazon and other companies about using their services to urgently increase the delivery of coronavirus tests to frontline health and social care workers. This follows workers at hospitals and care homes for the elderly across the country expressing rising frustration about a lack of tests.

11am Commuters to get refund on rail season tickets

Commuters with rail season tickets will receive a refund if they choose to stay at home during the coronavirus outbreak, the government has promised.

8.30am Restaurant and store closure announcements soar over the weekend

McDonald’s became the latest to join those retailers and restaurant chains announcing closures, late Sunday (22 March) night. All McDonalds venues in the UK and the Republic of Ireland will close by 7pm today. Patisserie Valerie and Nando’s have also said they would close. 

Fashion retailer Primark closed all 189 of its UK stores from Sunday evening. About 37,000 employees will be affected by the closures but will be provided with full pay for 14 days, the company said. 

Waterstones’ chief executive, James Daunt, had said his bookstore chain was “no different to a supermarket or a pharmacy” and would stay open during the coronavirus shutdown. But then he said the chain had decided to close after some staff complained they felt at risk in the stores and had not been given any protective equipment such as hand sanitiser or gloves.

8.15am Self-employed union threatens legal action over freelancer sick pay

Gig workers are threatening legal action against chancellor Rishi Sunak’s current “discriminatory” policy of giving employees 80 per cent of their salaries if laid off, capped at £2,500 per month, but self-employed workers only £94.25 a week in universal credit. 

A survey released by the RSA over the weekend found 47 per cent of the self-employed and 51 per cent in ‘atypical’ work, such as those on zero-hours contracts, would feel obliged to work even if they had the virus. Today (23 March) lawyers for the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain will send a pre-action letter ahead of issuing proceedings for a High Court judicial review.

8am Pets at Home under fire for claiming staff are key workers

Pet supplies chain Pets at Home faced a social media backlash over the weekend after it sent a letter asserting that its staff qualified for the coronavirus key workers list. The letter was drafted by the retail company for its employees to allow them to apply to headteachers for emergency school childcare. The letter emerged as concerns continued that the key workers list is too loosely defined to ensure manageable numbers of children return to schools.

Friday 20 March

5.30pm Government to pay 80 per cent of wages of laid off staff

The prime minister has called for all cafes, bars, gyms and restaurants not to re-open after they close today.

Meanwhile, chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government would pay 80 per cent of the wages of staff who have been temporarily laid off as part of a new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. 

Sunak said all employers will be able to apply for grants worth 80 per cent of the wages of workers on retention up to £2,500 a month. The scheme will be open for at least three months – and be extended if necessary – and the chancellor said there would be unlimited funds to support it. “We expect the first grants to be paid in weeks, and we aim to get it done by the end of April,” he said.

“The government is doing its best to stand behind you and I am asking you to do your best to stand behind our workers,” Sunak said, adding that employers should look "very carefully” at the support available before laying people off.

The chancellor also increased the universal credit standard allowance by £1,000 for the next 12 months, and suspended the minimum income floor, allowing the self-employed to in essence access the equivalent of statutory sick pay through the Universal Credit scheme.

4.20pm All ‘non-essential’ businesses to close in New York State

All non-essential businesses in the state of New York will close as of Sunday, governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered. Essential services like hospitals, food shops, public transport and pharmacies will remain open, and businesses that don’t comply face fines, the governor said, adding the restriction could last for months. New York State has recorded 7,102 confirmed cases of the virus, including 4,408 in New York City alone. There have been 35 coronavirus-related deaths in the state so far.

2.30pm How can employers avoid redundancies?

With industries including travel, hospitality and retail under extreme financial pressure as a result of measures to limit the spread of coronavirus in the UK, many businesses are facing difficult decisions when it comes to the employment of staff. People Management explains seven options that businesses struggling financially in the wake of Covid-19 can consider when faced with laying off staff.

2.25pm Staff anxiety the biggest coronavirus challenge for businesses, survey finds

To explore what employers are doing to tackle the threat posed by coronavirus, People Management and the CIPD have been polling people professionals and asking them about their companies’ responses to the outbreak. After running an initial survey at the start of this month, People Management ran a second to find out how employers have developed or changed their response as the crisis has unfolded, and will be covering this second poll further over the coming days.

The latest survey, which polled more than 390 employers, found nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of respondents cited general anxiety as their organisation’s main challenge currently. The next biggest challenges were found to be staff not being able to work from home (60 per cent), and parents being unable to come to work because of school closures (53 per cent).

2pm Remote working tips from a CEO who’s been there

Chris Dyer had to roll out home working for all staff when his company faced difficulties in the late 2000s. He shares the lessons he learned and how they can apply to today’s coronavirus outbreak.

11am Recently retired NHS staff asked to return to the frontline

Letters are being sent to more than 65,000 retired doctors and nurses asking them to return to the NHS to bolster frontline services and help tackle the coronavirus outbreak, the BBC reported, with Scotland also writing to anyone who has left the medical profession during the last three years.

9.10am Supermarkets to create thousands of jobs to meet demands of coronavirus

Co-op yesterday announced it was creating 5,000 jobs in its stores aimed specifically at providing work for those who have lost jobs in the hospitality sector. Jo Whitfield, the retailer’s CEO, said it made “perfect sense for us to try and temporarily absorb part of this highly skilled and talented workforce... as we work together to feed the nation”. Other supermarkets including Waitrose, Tesco, Aldi and Morrisons have also announced they plan to increase staffing numbers either on the shop floor or in delivery or distribution roles.

9.00am List of ‘key workers’ exempt from school closures released

The government has released its full list of key workers whose children will still be allowed to attend schools after they have been closed to the majority of pupils at the end of today. They include frontline health care workers, workers in key public services including the justice system and police staff, and those involved in food production including processing, deliveries and sales, and workers for key utilities among others.

The government added that, where possible, children of parents in these key sectors should still be kept at home.

Thursday 19 March

6pm Huge spikes in workforce collaboration platform use

Slack and Microsoft have both reported big jumps in the number of new users and business from their workforce collaboration platforms, according to the FT

Slack’s group messaging app has notched up a net increase of 7,000 paying customers since the start of February, or 40 per cent more than it normally has in an entire quarter. Microsoft said the number of people using its rival Teams service on a single day early this week reached a record 44 million. 

5.30pm 'Stand by your employees', says PM

In his latest daily press conference, Boris Johnson urged businesses to look after their employees. The prime minister told employers to “stand by employees, stand by workers, as we will stand by you,” while reiterating calls for people to work from home where possible.

Johnson did not announce any further measures following yesterday’s announcement to close schools, but claimed the UK could “turn the tide” on the outbreak in 12 weeks if everyone stuck to the current guidance.

5pm Clarks closes stores but continues to pay staff

Footwear retailer Clarks has announced it has temporarily closed all its stores in the UK for the health and safety of its employees, but has said all store staff would continue to receive full pay and benefits during the closure. “We will continue to monitor the situation and will be reviewing the decision of when to re-open our stores when the health and wellbeing of our employees and customers can be protected,” the retailer said in a statement. Some franchise stores may remain open.

4.30pm Snapchat fast-tracks mental health help feature

Snapchat is speeding up the launch of a tool to help users with mental health issues. Today, it is expanding Here For You, a new feature that shows users resources from specialist partners when they search for certain topics related to mental health, including anxiety, depression, stress, suicidal thoughts, grief and bullying. It was due to roll out next month.

4pm What do the government’s latest coronavirus measures mean for employers?

The government has promised to do “whatever it takes” to tackle coronavirus, including a package of financial measures estimated to be worth £350bn to shore up the economy and to assist employers in these challenging times. Anna Cope and Rebecca Hayes explain the implications for employers of new initiatives designed to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak.

3.50pm How to support staff with coronavirus anxiety

The uncertainty of the Covid-19 outbreak causing increased concern among workers. While some stress is good for us – in this case making people more likely to act on health and hygiene warnings – it needs to be manageable. Brendan Street explains how to support staff who are worried.

3pm UNLEASH Spring conference cancelled

Following organisers suspending the show last week, it has now been announced that UNLEASH Spring 2020, due to take place on 24 and 25 March at ExCeL London, has been cancelled. In a statement, its organisers said: “We have been monitoring the situation closely whilst exploring the full range of options for the event – including postponement to a later date in the year – but have concluded that it is in the best interests of our community to cancel the 2020 event.”

1.10pm How are HR consultants coping with coronavirus?

Freelance people professionals are likely to see less demand as firms reduce their operations, but there's an opportunity to model flexible working and alternate delivery methods for meetings and training. People Management  asked three HR consultants what the impact of the virus is likely to be for them.

12.50pm Business bodies call for more support for parents working from home

Experts have called for more support to be given to working parents, who will inevitably be stretched by yesterday’s decision to close schools at the end of this week. Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD has said employers will have to accept there will be disruptions as parents struggle to balance work, childcare responsibilities and in many cases helping their children access online school activities.

A poll of workers by the CIPD found less than half of parents would be able to work from home if schools were closed. In contrast, a separate survey by People Management and the CIPD found 71 per cent of employers would encourage parents to work from home in the event of school closures, suggesting a disconnect between employers and their workforce.

10.30am London could be locked down as early as Friday

Following the announcement that schools will close at the end of this week, there has been speculation that London – where the outbreak has progressed further than the rest of the UK – could be put into lockdown before the rest of the country. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, who is briefed on the government’s UK-wide policy thinking, has said officials were thinking about introducing restrictions in London, while Boris Johnson has said he would rule nothing out.

Transport for London has already reduced tube and bus services in the capital, announcing it has closed nine stations and could shut up to 40. Night tube services will also be suspended. Londoners have been told not to use public transport unless absolutely necessary to keep services available for key workers including healthcare workers and the police.

Wednesday 18 March

5.20pm Schools in England to close to all apart from children of key workers

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has said all schools in England would shut after Friday to all pupils apart from children of parents of key workers, such as healthcare staff and delivery drivers, and of the most vulnerable children.

3.45pm Schools in Scotland and Wales to close

Schools in Scotland and Wales are to close on Friday in response to the coronavirus outbreak, with reports saying England is likely to announce school closures later today. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has said schools there now have too few staff to run as normal, and has warned they may not reopen before the summer break.

3.30pm Co-op launches recruitment drive

Central England Co-op has launched a recruitment drive for customer service advisers across many of its 242 food stores, as part of a campaign aimed at bringing communities together to support those affected by the coronavirus. The campaign has also involved the launch of a food bank appeal. 

2.30pm Millions of jobs now at risk in leisure and hospitality, says industry body

“Our analysis suggests in excess of one million jobs are now on the line,” Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, told the Financial Times. “Job cuts are extraordinarily deep and they are happening now. What the sector urgently needs is a package of support and funding to keep people in employment. This needs to happen now – within 24 hours.”

2pm Adobe offers free Creative Cloud for home workers

Adobe is offering 60 days free use of its Creative Cloud software to make working from home easier (and cheaper) during global self-isolation and lockdown measures. 

1.30pm What does enforced home working mean for employee wellbeing?

With the lines between staff’s personal and professional lives becoming blurred, working remotely won’t necessarily improve work-life balance, warns Emma Parry, who offers HR advice on mitigating this, including setting expectations around what is expected from employees and checking a suitable working environment is available. 

1pm Coronavirus will have ‘significant consequences’ for recruitment industry

Coronavirus is already having a considerable impact on the jobs market, employers plans to hire and the recruitment industry as a whole, experts have warned. Those who are still hiring will need to carefully consider how fair and inclusive virtual assessment and selection methods are, experts said, with some adding that the move from in-person to virtual recruitment, and the widespread use of home working during the outbreak, could also change the way employers hire for the better.

9am Rollout of private sector IR35 changes delayed for a year

Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury, has said the controversial changes to off-payroll due to come into effect this April would be delayed for a year, in a surprise move that reverses the government’s long-held position that the rollout would go ahead despite opposition from employers and freelance groups. The move is part of Treasury’s plans to protect the economy from the coronavirus. The change will now come into effect in April 2021.

Under IR35, contractors whose jobs resemble that of an employee are required to pay the same taxes as an employee. The change would see the responsibility of categorising whether a contractor is caught by the rule move to the employer.

Tuesday 17 March

2pm What does coronavirus mean for health, safety and the GDPR?

With up to a fifth of the UK’s workforce potentially absent from work as a result of Covid-19, and many more than usual working remotely, Steven Harte explains there are a range of legal implications employers may not have considered. Health and safety legislation extends to home working, while remote working brings its own data protection risks. Harte outlines what employers need to know.

1.30pm HR has a critical role in these remote working times

The coronavirus outbreak means many will be working from home, so people teams must communicate more carefully with staff and help leaders manage performance. For some companies this is already firmly embedded in the culture, but for many it will be a bit of a shock to the system. Ian MacRae offers some top tips for employers on how to stay in touch with a remote workforce.

11am Hundreds of thousands of hospitality jobs will be lost, warn industry bosses

British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin has written to Boris Johnson saying the industry faces an “existential crisis” as a result of government guidance issued yesterday (16 March) advising people not to go to pubs, bars and restaurants but stopping short of ordering entertainment venues to close. “Thousands of pubs and hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost in the very short term unless a proactive package creating cash and liquidity is provided immediately to the industry,” she said.

8am Amazon to hire more workers while airlines make layoffs

Amazon has announced it will hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the US, and increase pay for staff in the UK, US and Europe, to deal with a surge in sales caused by coronavirus. It is hoping to attract people who had been working in the restaurant, travel and entertainment industries but are now out of work. Meanwhile, Norwegian Air has announced it will lay off more than 7,500 staff, and Virgin Atlantic has asked employees to take eight weeks’ unpaid leave over the next three months, with the cost spread over six months' salary, or voluntary redundancy.

Monday 16 March

5.10pm Prime minister says ‘everyone’ should avoid ‘non-essential contact’ with others

In a statement this afternoon, Boris Johnson said: “We need to start working from home,” and told people to avoid unnecessary travel or going to pubs, clubs or other “social venues”. He added that everyone with a cough or a temperature should stay at home for 14 days, but stopped short of closing schools.

3.50pm Falling passenger numbers could cost TfL £500m

TfL has said it could miss out on £500m in revenue because of reduced passenger numbers as a growing number of people work from home during the coronavirus outbreak. Other public transport providers have also been affected, with the government reportedly in talks with the rail industry over steps to protect franchises from falling passenger numbers. 

3.10pm Spike in video interviews as employers recruit remotely

A staffing firm has said it has seen an unprecedented surge in the number of companies undertaking video interviews instead of conducting them face to face. Walters People has said over the last four weeks it has had a 67 per cent rise in the number of employers recruiting remotely.

2.45pm Five tips on running a remote working drill

As the UK potentially moves closer to a lockdown, all employers have been urged to stress-test their capacity to eventually oblige staff to work from home. People Management offers some top tips on running such a drill.

2.30pm Trade body calls for government-funded temporary staff redundancies

UKHospitality has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak, urging him to introduce measures to make it easier for employers to make staff temporarily redundant by funding this through universal credit. Temporary redundancies, also known as layoffs, are currently allowed under employment law, but unless an employer has a layoff clause in their contract, they are required to pay full wages during this period – making such measures inaccessible to many employers.

1.10pm Danish government to help cover struggling firms’ salary bills

The Danish government will pay part of the wages of staff working at companies that face making redundancies as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. As part of an agreement between the government, unions and employers associations, employers that are at risk of having to let go either 30 per cent of their staff or more than 50 individuals will have 75 per cent of their employees' salaries paid for by the government.

9.00am Internet can cope with increase in working from home, says BT

BT has said its residential network will be able to cope with the increased strain expected from the growing number of people working from home. Speaking to the Financial Times, Howard Watson, the firm’s chief technology and information officer, said that while people’s usage patterns were likely to change, there were no signs that the network would be unable to cope.

Saturday 14 March

9.00am Hospitality sector calls for redundancy laws to be relaxed

UK Hospitality has called on the government to change redundancy laws to allow temporary redundancy during the coronavirus outbreak, the BBC has reported. In a letter to the chancellor sent over the weekend, the industry body has warned that without additional flexibility, businesses in the sector would fail, causing a “significant number” of jobs to disappear.

8.30am Employees on statutory sick pay would face financial hardship after just one week off work

A quarter of workers who would receive either the minimum statutory sick pay (SSP) or no pay at all would struggle to buy food or pay bills after just one week off, a survey of employees by the CIPD has found. The poll found 24 per cent of employees would receive SSP and 7 per cent would have to take unpaid leave if they were self-isolating because of coronavirus, with just half of employees expecting to receive their regular salary.

Friday 13 March

10.00am: Time Out closes five offices internationally

Publisher Time Out Group has closed five of its offices in Portugal and the US in response to local government guidelines and in the interest of customer safety. The brand has also changed its London logo to Time In, noting that “leaving the house might not be on everyone's agenda at the minute".

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