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Coronavirus live blog

18 Dec 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

Friday 18 December 

9.55am Northern Ireland returning to 'sustained lockdown of March'

Northern Ireland will enter tighter restrictions from 26 December which is "in large part" similar to the "sustained lockdown" in March, the government has said. The new restrictions will last for six weeks from Boxing Day with non-essential shops closing for business. Northern Ireland's health minister Robin Swann said the measures were being brought in "with a heavy heart", and he was "very mindful" of the effect the last year has had on lives and livelihoods.
 
Swann said: "We are in, large part, returning to the sustained lockdown introduced in March. Once again, a heavy responsibility will rest on all of us to remain at home as much as possible over the course of the six-week period." Close-contact services in Northern Ireland, such as hair salons, will have to shut, and pubs, cafes and restaurants will be restricted to takeaway services. In the first week of lockdown, running until 2 January, essential shops will have to close each day by 8pm. 
 
8.45am Openreach to create 5,300 jobs to facilitate long-term working from home

BT's Openreach division is creating 5,300 new jobs in its drive to speed up the UK's broadband networks. The government has told telecoms firms it wants ultra-fast broadband networks to reach every corner of the UK. The government has estimated that with such a broadband network available, nearly 2m more people than previously estimated could choose to work from home in the long-term.
 
To achieve this, Openreach is recruiting 2,500 people for engineering jobs and estimates its construction partners will take on 2,800 more. The firm aims to connect 20 million homes and firms by the late 2020s, and the £12bn project has been accelerated in part due to the pandemic. Openreach said people will not need engineering skills to apply for the jobs.
 

Thursday 17 December

3.15pm Furlough scheme extended until end of April 2021

The furlough scheme has been extended until the end of April 2021, with the government continuing to contribute 80 per cent towards wages. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, also confirmed the government-guaranteed Covid-19 business loan scheme would be extended until the end of March.

“We know the premium businesses place on certainty, so it is right that we enable businesses to plan ahead regardless of the path the virus takes, which is why we’re providing certainty and clarity by extending this support,” said Sunak.

The announcement was welcomed by Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD. But Cheese called on the government to set out its plan for jobs beyond April early in the new year. “Setting out a clear plan to extend the [job retention scheme] to the end of June would boost business confidence and mitigate the numerous uncertainties firms are facing as a result of the pandemic, as well as any challenges they may face arising from the end of the Brexit transition and over the timing of economic recovery,” Cheese said.

12.15pm More English areas go into tier three

Health secretary Matt Hancock has announced that more areas in England will be moved into tier three, the highest level of restrictions, as Covid cases rise once more. Speaking before the House of Commons, Hancock said coronavirus cases were up 46 per cent in the past week in the south-east of England and up by two-thirds in the east of England.

He confirmed that from midnight on Saturday, 19 December, the following areas would be placed into tier three: Bedfordshire; Buckinghamshire; Berkshire; Peterborough; the whole of Hertfordshire; Surrey – except Waverley; Hastings and Rother; and Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant.

Only two areas were moved down a tier as a result of falling infection rates. Hancock said Bristol and North Somerset would move into tier two. Meanwhile, Herefordshire would move from tier two to tier one.

10.30am Test and Trace firm hands £5m bonus to workers

Serco, one of the UK companies that runs the coronavirus Test and Trace scheme, said it will award bonuses totalling £5m to its staff. The outsourcing firm said its 50,000 workers will be given £100 each to recognise “the extraordinary efforts of our staff around the world during the pandemic”. 

Rupert Soames, chief executive of Serco, said: “In what will be remembered as one of the most challenging periods for businesses since the Second World War, Serco’s people have proved themselves to be resilient, flexible and dedicated to ensuring the delivery of public services.” Serco said it will also hand back £3m in furlough payments to the government and has already returned £38m in deferred taxes. 

9.15am Areas in England await Covid tier changes

Towns and cities in England will find out later today if they will be moved to a different tier of Covid restrictions. Health secretary Matt Hancock is expected to make a statement at 11.30am on the outcome of the latest review of the three-tier system, after government officials met on Wednesday (16 December). 

More than 34million people are living under tier three rules, including large parts of the Midlands, Yorkshire, the North East and the North West. On Wednesday, London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire moved to tier three amid a rise in infection rates.

8.15am Quarter of pub and bar businesses have low confidence of surviving the next three months

More than a quarter (28 per cent) of pub and bar businesses reported having low or no confidence of surviving the next three months, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The ONS found a fifth (19 per cent) of pubs and bars had high confidence of surviving the next three months. The survey also found 24 per cent of pub and bar businesses had no remaining cash reserves or less than one month of cash reserves remaining, while 21 per cent had more than three months of cash reserves.

Wednesday 16 December 

2pm Quarter of employers have no plans to hire young people in 2021, research finds

A quarter of employees are not planning to hire any young people or trainees next year, a CIPD poll has found, as experts warn that failing to bring in and develop new employees could block talent pipelines and exacerbate the skills crisis.

The survey of more than 1,000 employers, conducted for the CIPD’s Covid-19 and the youth labour market report, found 25 per cent of businesses were not planning to hire anyone between the ages of 16 and 24-years-old in the next 12 months. Just 46 per cent of employers said they did have plans to recruit from that age group, while 29 per cent said they did not know.

Responding to the findings, Helen Astill, founder of Cherington HR, said: “There will be lots of people out of work who will be looking to apply for those roles when they appear, but the smart employers will look at taking on the less experienced candidates, perhaps as apprentices or new graduates, to develop and train them to be the future of their businesses.”

1.45pm How businesses can stop the pandemic wiping out workplace gender equality

Anne Pritam and Leanne Raven round up the key steps employers can take to support their female staff – and protect themselves. 

1.30pm Victorian Plumbing to hand back furlough payments

Bathroom retailer Victorian Plumbing has said they will repay all furlough payments claimed through the government's coronavirus job retention scheme. Mark Radcliffe, chairman of Victorian Plumbing, said now that the business has more of an understanding of the impact of Covid, it felt right to "review the support we received in the early part of the year". As a result, the firm decided to return the money it had received in government support through the furlough scheme.

12.45pm Non-essential shops in Wales to close on Christmas Eve 

All non-essential shops will close on Christmas Eve as the country enters a stay-at-home lockdown four days later. Hair salons and other close-contact services will also have to shut before Christmas, while hospitality will close at 6pm on Christmas Day. 

First minister Mark Drakeford described the situation in Wales as “extremely serious”, adding that more than 2,100 people – "equivalent to five full general hospitals" – were being treated for Covid by the NHS. 

Tuesday 15 December 

3pm Parts of Scotland face tougher restrictions

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and East Lothian will move up to tier three of Scotland’s five-tier system as of Friday because of rising cases. The new restrictions mean people will not be permitted to travel outside of their own council area unless it is essential. Indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas will have to close and while pubs, cafes and restaurants will remain open with earlier closing times of 6pm, they will not be permitted to serve alcohol. 

The levels will be reviewed again on Tuesday before the festive period. 

1.45pm Low-paid jobs at risk as coronavirus speeds up automation, report finds

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the uptake of automation in the workplace, putting jobs at risk in the sectors that have been hit hardest, research has found.

A report by the Fabian Society and trade union Community warned that Covid-19 had sped up the pace of existing job disruption and dislocation, and that low-paid workers in sectors most affected by social restrictions faced a “double whammy” from the economic impact of the virus and increasing technological change. It estimated 61 per cent of jobs furloughed in the first half of 2020 were in sectors already at high risk of automation, and that many of the roles affected by lockdown measures were unlikely to be brought back after Covid as consumers shift permanently towards online.

Commenting on the report, Hayfa Mohdzaini, senior research adviser at the CIPD, said HR needed to be involved in any decisions to invest in technology that might significantly affect the number of jobs or the nature of work. “It is important to consult employees early on the proposed changes,” she said.

12.30pm Redundancies hit record high amid second Covid wave

The number of redundancies in the UK rose to a record high in October amid the second Covid wave, and as the government scaled back its furlough scheme before the decision was made to extend it. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found redundancies soared to 370,000 in the three months to October, fuelled mainly by job losses in the retail and hospitality sectors – an increase of a record 217,000 redundancies when compared to the previous quarter.

The ONS said the number of employees on payroll had fallen by 819,000 since February 2020, when the pandemic first hit the UK. Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser at the CIPD, said the worry for employers, and the UK more broadly, was the record increase in redundancies would “add fuel” to the rising jobless count in the coming months. “Pain is still being inflicted on significant parts of the workforce, especially young male jobseekers and the self-employed,” he said.

11.45am Can employers force staff to have the Covid vaccine?

Making the jab mandatory or pressurising employees to have it could lead to criminal implications, says David Sheppard.

11.30am Looking back at 2020 – the year HR stepped up

Katie Jacobs reflects on what has been a challenging yet momentous 12 months for the people profession, and explores its priorities for 2021.

9.30am Industry figures warn of ‘catastrophic financial difficulty’ following theatre closures 

West End theatre closures as London enters tier three on Wednesday will cause serious financial problems for the sector, according to industry figures. An estimated 30 theatres opened at the beginning of this month, with some investing thousands in socially distanced Christmas shows, but will now close under tougher restrictions. 

The Society of London Theatre’s chief executive, Julian Bird, said the move would mean “catastrophic financial difficulties” for thousands of theatre workers. Bird urged the government to consider “rapid compensation” to protect theatres and staff in tier three. 

Monday 14 December 

4.15pm London to enter tier three from Wednesday 

Bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants in London must resume takeaway-only service as the capital, and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire, will be placed under the toughest restriction from Wednesday. Heath secretary Matt Hancock said the restrictions were necessary to stop the spread of a new variant of the virus, which could be responsible for the faster spread in the south of England. London mayor Sadiq Khan said the restrictions could have a “catastrophic consequence” for hospitality, culture and some retail.

1.30pm CIPD calls for further extension of furlough scheme

The government should not introduce employer contributions when the furlough scheme is reviewed at the end of January, the CIPD has said, or risk causing disruption to businesses.

The body has also called for a further extension of the scheme beyond its planned end date of 31 March 2021, and said support should be gradually phased out to give employers more certainty while vaccinations are being rolled out.

In a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak, CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said: “We have been consulting with HR leaders, particularly from those in sectors hardest hit by Covid-19, [and] the message that has come back strongly is that an extension beyond March will be needed to help prevent further significant redundancies given the uncertainty around both the pandemic’s trajectory and the timing and speed of any economic recovery.”

12.45pm How to manage furlough and holiday accrual at Christmas

Helena Rosenstein explores what employers can and can’t do if their business slows or shuts down over the festive season.

1pm Tough HR lessons being learned in schools

The Covid pandemic has increased compliance work for people teams in the education sector – and refocused their approach, says Samantha Hulson.

11.45am London facing tier-three restrictions

London is likely to be placed under tougher tier-three restrictions this week as Covid cases surge in the capital. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, told Sky News that an announcement could be made later today. “My understanding is that Covid-O is meeting as we speak – that’s the sub-committee of the cabinet that makes the recommendations. We will have to wait and see what the government decides – it’s a government decision, not my decision or London leaders’ decision,” he said. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock is expected to give a statement this afternoon. 

9.15am BDO makes U-turn on furlough payback

Accountancy firm BDO has performed a U-turn and will pay back £4.1m in money it received through the coronavirus job retention scheme after a backlash about payouts to partners. BDO, which employs 6,000 people across the UK, said it would be returning the furlough cash to HMRC within days after “recognising the public mood”. 

The firm prompted a row last week after it decided to keep the furlough money despite paying a total of £137m across 264 partners. BDO initially refused to pay back the money, saying that while there had been a “moral debate” internally about what it should do, the company had concluded it had a greater responsibility “to invest in jobs”.

Paul Eagland, BDO’s managing partner, said: “BDO accepted £4.1m of furlough money from the government to protect jobs that were otherwise at risk. We were planning to review paying this back at the end of our current financial year, which is June 2021. Recognising the public mood requires a much quicker process; we have accelerated this and we will be returning the money before Christmas.”

8.45am Leon proposes cost-cutting measures, but says no jobs cuts on the table

High street food chain Leon has launched a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) aimed at slashing business costs across its sites in a bid to stay afloat amid the pandemic. Leon said it has seen footfall and sales drop as many of its outlets are located at transport hubs and city or town centres. But despite the need to cut costs, the company said no job losses were planned and the “majority” of its restaurants would remain open throughout the process. 

John Vincent, founder and chief executive of Leon, said: “The CVA is intended to provide the company with a foundation to first survive and then carefully rebuild. We had a growing and profitable business before Covid. Despite taking many actions to reduce cost and optimise revenue during the crisis, the continued lockdowns and restrictions have made this CVA a necessity.”

Friday 11 December 

4.40pm Self-isolation period shortened to 10 days 

The self-isolation period for contacts of people with coronavirus, and those returning from high-risk countries, will be shortened from 14 days to 10 across the UK from Monday. The change was announced in a statement from the four UK chief medical officers, who said that they were “confident” in the reduction, which will also apply to anyone who has already self-isolated for 10 days or more. 

However, the NHS app in England will not update its 14-day counter until next Thursday, so those with three days left on their time between Monday and Thursday can leave isolation. Deputy chief medical officer for England, Dr Jenny Harries, said the "tail end" of an infection was the period someone was least likely to transmit infection.

12.40pm Remuneration in 2021: what employers need to consider

This time last year, nobody could have predicted what 2020 had in store, and nine months on from the start of the pandemic in the UK, this year has seen the complete overhaul of many thousands of working lives. Changes to working habits that would otherwise have taken years to materialise have been massively expedited by the coronavirus crisis and employers that may once have been sceptical about remote working were forced to implement it regardless.

And as we head into the new year, many of these new ways of working – though introduced in a hurry – are likely to be sticking around, with many employees potentially reluctant to relinquish their new-found flexibility even after the mass rollout of a vaccine. And new ways of working potentially means new ways of paying those workers too.

With the new year looming, People Management spoke to employment and HR experts about what they think employers should consider when it comes to pay and progression in 2021 and beyond.

12.15pm Remote and flexible working will be the new normal

Majority of employees want to continue working flexibly post-covid and businesses must adapt in order to stay viable, says Niall Eyre.

12.10pm Fatal workplace injuries have dropped, but businesses need to remain vigilant

While the figures show workplaces are safer, employers should be cautious and not let the challenges posed by Covid come at the expense of other hazards, says Nick Wilson.

9.20am Non-essential shops in Scotland reopen 

Non-essential shops are reopening in western Scotland for the first time in three weeks, as areas move from level four to three in its tiered system. Retailers – including those in Glasgow – are now able to welcome customers with pubs, cafes and restaurants reopening tomorrow. Shops were able to reopen from 6am but many staggered opening times to avoid a rush of customers. 

Close contact businesses such as hairdressers and barbers will be able to reopen, alongside visitor attractions and gyms. But soft play, funfairs, indoor bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls will remain closed. 

8.40am £165m in emergency loans given to arts organisations

More than £165m in emergency loans to some of the UK’s biggest arts and heritage organisations has been announced to ensure they survive the pandemic. The loans are part of the government’s £1.57bn cultural recovery fund to help a sector which has been one of the hardest hit by Covid.

In total, 11 “nationally and internationally significant organisations” which provide work for more than 9,000 people will get the loans. Each will have an initial repayment holiday of up to four years, a low interest rate and a repayment term of up to 20 years.

The Royal Opera House will get £21.7m, the National Theatre £19.7m, the Royal Shakespeare Company £19.4m, the Royal Albert Hall £20.7m, the Southbank Centre £10.9m and English National Opera £8.5m.

Thursday 10 December

1.15pm Employee happiness dropped dramatically during lockdown, report finds

Employee happiness has dropped dramatically and presenteeism has increased during the pandemic, a survey of workers has found, as experts urge business to address a growing ‘always on’ culture caused by home working.

The report by Aviva, Embracing the Age of Ambiguity, which polled 2,000 people in February and August this year, found more employees were happier before the pandemic. In February, one fifth (20 per cent) said they felt complete happiness, compared to just 13 per cent in August.

It also found a significant trend of presenteeism and an ‘always on’ culture among employees. Almost half (44 per cent) felt they never fully switched off from work. The problem was worse among 18 to 24-year-olds, 63 per cent of whom said they regularly checked their emails outside working hours, up from 48 per cent in February.

12.45pm How to continue CSR activities during Covid

Employees' perception of their workplace is often based on its charitable initiatives – and despite the pandemic, there are still projects firms can carry out, says Andrew Jones.

12.30pm How can businesses protect remote staff from harassment?

Workplace bullying can occur even when employees are at home, but there are steps firms can take, say Gillian Maclellan and Molly Grace.

10.15am South Western Railway cuts onboard catering, putting 130-plus jobs at risk

Rail union RMT has called on the government to reverse South Western Railway's (SWR) decision to cut onboard catering, putting more than 130 jobs at risk. RMT said SWR planned to terminate its contract with Elior. Elior staff on the SWR contract have been told that the termination of their contract means they will be made redundant on 17 January.

In a letter to the secretary of state for transport, Grant Shapps, RMT said the removal of SWR's onboard catering provision was “completely counterproductive at a time when the rail industry should be focusing its efforts on encouraging passengers back to the railway”. It continued: “RMT is demanding that the affected staff are brought in-house if SWR is not willing to reinstate the Elior contract, and deployed to other duties until such time as on-board catering can resume. Ultimately, RMT will not allow its members to be made to pay the price of the coronavirus crisis.”

9.45am Frasers Group confirms interest in Arcadia brands

Frasers Group has confirmed it is considering buying Arcadia brands such as Topshop. Speaking to BBC's Today programme, Chris Wootton, chief financial officer at Frasers Group, said the company was interested in Arcadia brands, but added: “The process has only just started so there's a long way to go as to ascertain what – if anything – we look at with that.”

Wootton also said Frasers Group was still in discussions around potentially buying Debenhams.

8.30am Asda to close on Boxing Day as a thank you to staff

Supermarket chain Asda is to close on Boxing Day as part of a thank you to staff who have worked throughout the coronavirus crisis. Asda said all of its 631 stores would close for two days over the Christmas break, and frontline staff will also get 100 per cent of their bonus entitlement regardless of whether they have reached sales quotas.

In a message to staff, Roger Burnley, chief executive, said: “This has been a challenging year and you have all done an incredible job, continuing to serve our customers and communities while juggling so many other commitments. But it's also been challenging from a personal perspective as we have not been able to spend time with our families and friends, which has been hard for us all.

“This is of course our busiest time of year but it was important for us to give as many of you as possible the opportunity to spend this time with those loved ones that you may not have not seen for many months so, uniquely for this year, we will not reopen our stores until 27 December.”

Asda follows other retailers including Marks & Spencer, Pets at Home and toy store The Entertainer in closing. Sainsbury's said it planned to open stores on Boxing Day, but that most staff would have the day off.

 

Wednesday 9 November

1.45pm Government reveals 400 free courses to boost skills after pandemic

The government has released a list of nearly 400 free courses to be offered to adults without A-levels as part of its plan to develop in-demand skills after the pandemic.

The courses – available to adults without a full qualification at Level 3 or A-level equivalent from April 2021 – have been selected to help meet the needs of the economy and will be under regular review as the economy changes, the Department for Education has said.

The government has estimated that “tens of thousands” of adults will be able to benefit from the fully funded courses, which mark the first major announcement as part of what prime minister Boris Johnson has dubbed his ‘lifetime skills guarantee’.

1.15pm ‘Woefully inadequate’ SSP preventing workers from self-isolating, report claims

The government’s furlough scheme should be extended to help support employees who need to self-isolate but might choose not to because of the financial burden it poses, a report has said.

The research, published by think tank the Resolution Foundation, has warned that being asked to self-isolate because they may have been exposed to coronavirus can pose a serious financial risk to some workers, which means they may refuse to stay away from work.

It added that the current levels of statutory sick pay – which is worth £96 a week – is “woefully inadequate”, and that the minimum earnings threshold of £120 a week excludes too many people. The charity estimated some two million employees earn below this – including one in four part-time workers, and one in seven workers in retail, hospitality and leisure – leaving them with no income at all if they self-isolate at home.

12.30pm How Aviva supports those facing domestic abuse

As charities brace themselves for an increase in people seeking help over Christmas, Danny Harmer explains the measures the insurance firm has put in place to tackle the problem.

11.30am Amount of time spent working from home outstrips pre-pandemic levels, ONS data shows

The amount of time that people have spent working from home has outstripped pre-pandemic levels, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with increases in both March/April 2020 and September/October 2020. The ONS found people in employment in 2014-15 were only working from home for an overall average of 22 minutes per day. By March/April 2020, this had increased to an hour and 21 minutes (81 minutes), and by September/October, it rose to an hour and 47 minutes (107 minutes).

The ONS report also found that parents spent more time working in September and October, when compared to the first lockdown. According to the data, parents were doing more paid work on average (up by 54 minutes), while at the same time spent less time on childcare and unpaid housework (down by 51 minutes on average). On an average day, the increase in paid work for parents was almost fully driven by time spent working from home, showing an increase by 90 per cent to 1 hour and 45 minutes on an average day across the week.

10.45am Mother to return furlough payments

Independent creative agency Mother has said it has voluntarily returned all payments received through the government’s job retention scheme to HMRC. When the furlough scheme was launched in April, the London-based firm said it had asked those earning over £30,000 to defer part of their salary, which was due to be repaid in December 2021. Alongside this, Mother said it furloughed 32 people through the scheme – who have since returned from furlough.

Mother said it believed returning the job retention scheme money back to the UK government was the “right thing to do”. Michael Wall, global chief executive, said: “We were grateful to the UK government for releasing these funds at the start of the pandemic. As our year went on, and thanks to the hard work and commitment of our team, we found ourselves in the fortunate position of not needing the financial support. So we’re returning the money.”

9.45am Gateshead tech firm axes 67 jobs

Zytronic, manufacturer of touch screen sensors for cash machines, casinos and rail ticketing machines, has made 67 of its 164 staff redundant after the pandemic severely damaged its sales. The Gateshead-based firm said it underwent a major restructure of its business, which resulted in 40 per cent of its workforce being cut. According to an article on ChronicleLive, Zytronic saw a lack of sales when casinos were forced to shut their doors during the pandemic, and this led to revenue dropping from £20.1m in 2019 to just £12.68m for the year ending 30 September 2020.

9.15am Leeds council to cut 914 jobs 

Leeds Council has announced plans to cut 914 jobs because of Covid pressures. Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said the redundancies were necessary because the recent government spending review had failed to “fully close the gap caused by pressures associated with Covid-19”, calling the shortfall a “failure of central government”.

Blake said the local authority would be engaging with the government to secure further funding, but currently had no option but to look for further savings. She added that she would do “everything possible” to avoid compulsory redundancies.

“We have already seen a number of valued colleagues leave the council and that impact will continue to be felt as more leave over the coming year,” said Blake. “These are incredibly difficult times for Leeds City Council and none of these recommendations have been made lightly.”

8.30am UK extends ban on evicting commercial tenants

The ban on commercial landlords evicting tenants has been extended until 31 March 2021, the UK government has announced. The eviction moratorium was introduced by the government in March to protect businesses after their revenues were cut as a result of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

The moratorium, which has already been extended twice, prevents property owners from pursuing commercial tenants for unpaid rent by legal means or from evicting them. The government has said that this latest extension to the arrangements will be the last. 

Tuesday 8 December

3pm Poundland defends not repaying business rates relief

Poundland said it plans to hold back on repaying business rates relief. Responding to an enquiry by The Grocer, the discount retailer said it should not be judged on the same terms as other chains that saw business increase during lockdown like many of the supermarkets. A spokesman for Poundland said the business did not see a growth in trade because it largely traded on the high street where footfall had dropped by up to 40 per cent. 

The spokesman said it was “hard to understate the importance of the rates holiday” as it helped Poundland “protect its business, invest in the measures it put in place to trade safely and maintain employment”. He added: “Poundland remains of the view there needs to be a rebalancing of the cost of doing business between those online and supermarket retailers who were winners from Covid and able to pay large dividends, and those who continue to support the high streets that are important to communities.”

1pm Three-quarters of job descriptions still failing to offer flexible working

More than three-quarters of job adverts this year made no mention of flexible working, research has found, suggesting recruitment practices are not keeping up with the changing way of working created by the coronavirus pandemic. Analysis of more than six million job vacancies posted between December 2019 and October 2020 found that 78 per cent did not mention any form of flexible working, including job sharing, part-time hours or late starts.

In contrast, the Timewise Flexible Jobs Index found there had been a minimal increase in the number of roles advertised as flexible since the pandemic took hold. In 2019, 15 per cent of jobs were advertised as flexible, rising to 19 per cent in the three months to 23 March, just before the first lockdown.

1pm Booths defers decision on returning business rates relief

Northern supermarket chain Booths has said it will wait until the new year before deciding whether to return its business rates relief. The retailer, which operates 28 stores across the north-west of England, said the increased costs associated with coronavirus safety measures were still ongoing and it would come to a final decision on the issue of rates relief once there was a “clearer picture from the government about what lies ahead”.

Booths said it had so far used the extra funding to support employees self-isolating because of coronavirus. It also paid staff a 10 per cent bonus as a thank you for their work through the pandemic. A spokeswoman for Booths told The Grocer the chain would make “the right decision at the right time”, but that it believed it was “too soon to ‘close the books’ on Covid”.

She added: “The circumstances of the Covid pandemic has had a dramatic effect on retailers and not every business has had the same experience. Not all retailers entered this crisis with the same financial strength or reserves to implement the measures required to keep colleagues, customers and communities safe.”

12.30pm What can the Covid crisis teach us about gender equality?

The pandemic has blurred the boundaries between personal and work life, and this has disadvantaged some women, says Joy Burnford.

12pm Irish soap company triples workforce after surge in hand sanitiser sales

The Handmade Soap Company, based in Slane, Co Meath, has tripled its workforce in 2020 because of the increased sales of hand sanitiser. The company said it saw a spike in sales in March after they began selling hand sanitiser because of the pandemic, and it was able to increase its workforce from 22 to 65 as a result. 

In an article for Independent.ie, Donagh Quigley, founder of the Handmade Soap Company, said: “Things went a bit crazy for us in March – very, very busy – then in April we doubled the workforce, we went from 22 to 45, and since then we’ve increased our workforce to 65, because all the people who bought hand sanitiser came back for our other products.”

11.30am 200 new jobs created at software company Flipdish because of pandemic

Two-hundred jobs will be created in the next year at Flipdish, a food-ordering software company based in Dublin, because of the rapid growth in online food ordering as a result of coronavirus. Flipdish said 50 vacancies are to be filled immediately with the remaining 150 jobs to be filled by the end of 2021. The company, which operates in 15 countries, said it has already added 100 new jobs in 2020.

Roles will be created in areas such as software engineering, product design, data science and mobile engineering. Leo Varadkar, the Irish Tánaiste (deputy to the Taoiseach), welcomed the announcement in a tweet. “Great example of an Irish company adapting quickly to the changes brought about by Covid. They have enabled thousands of businesses in the hard-hit hospitality sector to pivot online,” he said.

11am Ted Baker reveals 950 job cuts since June

Ted Baker has recorded ongoing pre-tax losses as revenues dropped and costs increased linked to the pandemic. The retailer's revenue fell 45.9 per cent to £169.5m for the 28 weeks ended 8 August, driven by the ongoing impact of Covid on trading. Ted Baker also revealed it had made 953 job cuts across its head offices and stores since June.

In June, the retailer launched a three-year strategic transformation programme, which included the sale of its head office earlier this year and a reduction in its head office costs in the UK and US. Rachel Osborne, chief executive of Ted Baker, said: “While these are still very early days in Ted's transformation, and the economic outlook remains uncertain, we are confident that we have the right strategy and team in place and that we are setting the business up for future success.”

Monday 7 December

2.15pm Pandemic highlights lack of soft skills among business leaders, poll finds

The coronavirus outbreak has highlighted the lack of soft skills among many business leaders, a report has found, as experts warn employees’ relationships with their managers have never been more important. A poll of 3,500 UK professionals, conducted by City & Guilds, found nearly two-thirds (73 per cent) felt their organisation’s leadership had been lacking during the pandemic.

More than a third (36 per cent) of survey respondents said the leadership failed to empower teams, while a similar percentage (31 per cent) said a lack of empathy could impact on motivation and performance.

1.45pm Increase in mental health-related sickness absence during lockdown, analysis finds

Lockdown has resulted in fewer fit notes being issued to workers, according to an analysis of official data, but a marked increase in mental health-related illnesses, which has resulted in time taken off work. 

The latest data on the number of statements of fitness to work signed by GPs, published by NHS Digital, showed mental health problems now account for four in 10 (41 per cent) of all sick notes signed by GPs during the pandemic.

The research found that overall employees took less time off work during lockdown, which lasted from 23 March to 4 July in England. Analysis by NTT Data found the number of fit notes issued in April, May and June 2020 dropped by 34 per cent when compared to the 12-month average.

12.15pm Older workers are essential to UK businesses

More needs to be done to prevent the over-50s from becoming casualties of the coronavirus crisis, says Emily Andrews.

11am Amazon-owned Whole Foods joins in repaying business rates relief

Amazon has reportedly agreed to pay the UK government £2m worth of business rates relief from its grocery chain, Whole Foods. A source from Amazon told the Retail Gazette that the online giant decided to hand over the savings from the rates holiday to the UK government, following moves from other grocery chains that returned business rates relief.

9.30am B&Q owner Kingfisher to repay £130m of Covid business rates relief

B&Q owner Kingfisher has joined other retailers in returning business support. Kingfisher has said it will repay £130m it received in business rates relief. Last week, Tesco became the first company to say it would return business rates relief, followed by Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi, Lidl, Pets at Home and discounter B&M. In total, they have vowed to pay back more than £2bn to the UK government.

8.15am Frasers Group in talks to rescue Debenhams

Frasers Group has confirmed it is working on a possible last-minute rescue of Debenhams. Debenhams is currently set to shut all its stores by the end of next March, putting 12,000 jobs at risk. But Frasers said there was “no certainty” it could save the chain. 

In a statement, Frasers said: “While Frasers Group hopes that a rescue package can be put in place and jobs saved, time is short and the position is further complicated by the recent administration of the Arcadia Group. There is no certainty that any transaction will take place, particularly if discussions cannot be concluded swiftly.”

Friday 4 December 

1.40pm Private sector will see ‘cautiously optimistic’ pay rises in 2021, report predicts

Employees working in the private sector are set to receive inflation-busting pay rises of 2.4 per cent on average next year, according to a new report by Willis Towers Watson.

However, the survey of more than 550 UK companies, revealed wide variations between different sectors, reflecting the ways in which some parts of the economy have fared better than others during the pandemic. Companies in the leisure and hospitality sectors are planning average wage increases of just 1.4 per cent in 2021, while construction, property and engineering firms intend to raise salaries by 1.8 per cent and those in the automotive sector by 1.9 per cent.

Keith Coull, senior director in Willis Towers Watson’s Global Data Services business, said: “Not all industries have been impacted in the same way. While many technology and banking firms have been successful due to their ability to aid digital acceleration and financial liquidity, companies in the hospitality, leisure and airline industries have suffered.

12.30pm UK 'confident' of having 800,000 vaccine doses by next week

The government is "absolutely confident" the UK will have 800,000 coronavirus vaccine doses by next week, the business secretary has said. Alok Sharma said some of the Pfizer/BioNTech doses had arrived and more will be coming in the coming week in time for when the UK-wide vaccination programme will start. He added more doses will be expected by the end of the year, but he was unable to say how many that will be.

Sharma told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “We will have - I'm absolutely confident - that we will have 800,000 doses available at the point next week when we start the vaccination programme. Of course, by the end of this year we will expect some more doses to come through – I can't give you a number on that.”

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – enough to vaccinate 20 million people. Elderly people in care homes and care home staff have been placed top of the priority list for vaccines, followed by over-80s and frontline health and care staff. Sharma said the bulk of the vaccination programme would be carried out next year, adding that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was also reviewing the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

12.15pm Lidl to repay £100m business rates relief

Discount supermarket chain Lidl has decided to repay more than £100m business rates relief which it received in the UK during the pandemic. Lidl insists that it has been considering the issue for some time, but has now “brought forward plans to return the relief” to the UK government and the devolved administrations.

Lidl said it was “incredibly grateful” for the support, which let it quickly introduce safety measures, buy 4 million masks and 5,000 protective checkout screens, raise stock levels and hire 2,500 temporary staff.

12pm John Lewis Partnership will not return Covid relief

The John Lewis Partnership – which owns Waitrose and John Lewis – said on Thursday (3 December) that it would not return business rates relief it claimed during the pandemic. The retailer said the government support had helped counteract the devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis on its respective clothing arms. 

11.15am B&M to follow other retailers in returning Covid relief

Discount retailer B&M said it will repay the government its business rates saving of "around £80m". The move follows a similar decision by Pets at Home, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons. B&M said: “Although significant uncertainty remains, the group believes it is now right to forego the business rates relief granted to B&M”.

Simon Arora, chief executive of the company, added: “We request urgent reform of the outdated business rates system that is contributing to job losses across the retail sector and is acting as a deterrent to B&M and other potential occupiers taking up vacant space in many locations.”

10.05am Pets at Home to hand back Covid rates relief

Pets at Home has said it will repay in full £28.9m of business rates relief it received during the pandemic. It follows similar moves by the UK biggest supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda. Pets at Home has been classed as an essential retailer, and its shops were allowed to stay open during lockdown restrictions.

Peter Pritchard, chief executive of Pets at Home, said the company was “very grateful” for the relief provided back in March, and that the cash had helped the firm take the decision to keep its stores, online operations and veterinary practices open during the pandemic. He added Pets at Home was “a robust business, both operationally and financially”, and its decision to return the business rates relief “demonstrates our clear commitment to acting responsibly and treating all of our stakeholders fairly”.

10am New rules allow ‘high-value’ business travellers to skip 14-day quarantine

Senior company executives and City of London dealmakers returning from business trips abroad will be allowed to skip the Covid-19 quarantine restrictions for arrivals in England from Saturday. Currently, travellers coming from non-exempt nations have to quarantine for two weeks, but from tomorrow, some professionals will be able to forgo the fortnight precautionary quarantine.

Exempt professions include senior executives of multinational companies visiting their subsidiaries in England and executives who have left the country on business and are returning for essential company activity, according to the Financial Times report. The exemption will also apply to foreign-based executives seeking to make a financial investment or place a contract in England. Performing arts professionals, TV staff and elite sports persons will also be exempt under the new rules, in hopes to boost the economy.

Thursday 3 December

3pm Rolls-Royce aerospace arm announces 140 further redundancies

A further 140 job cuts have been announced at the Barnoldswick Rolls-Royce site in Lancashire, which manufactures aeroplane fan blades. These recent cuts are in addition 

to the 350 proposed job losses as a result of transferring fan blade work to Singapore.

In a statement, the company said the pandemic had “severely impacted the whole commercial aviation industry” and it must now reduce its manufacturing capacity and cost base to protect its remaining workforce. Chris Cholerton, president of Rolls Royce’s civil aerospace arm said: “This is a very difficult proposal to make, but we cannot afford to retain every Rolls-Royce factory that was supported by demand that has been dramatically reduced by the pandemic.”

Unite the Union described Rolls-Royce’s announcement as “choking the company’s future”, and said proposals to transfer or run down parts of the business were akin to “selling the family silver”.

1.15pm Asda to return £340m of business rate relief

Asda has joined the rush of supermarkets handing back their business rate relief back. Asda has just announced that it will pay its business rates of £340m in full to the UK government and devolved administrations. It comes hours after Sainsbury's and Aldi announced they would hand back a combined £540m after Tesco and Morrisons did so the day before. 

1.10pm How businesses can rewrite leadership excellence by putting wellbeing first

Managing the blurred boundaries of employees’ personal and work lives will be vital for success beyond Covid, says Helen Grover.

12.25pm Tate to cut 12 per cent of workforce

Tate has announced plans to reduce its workforce by 12 per cent —equivalent to around 120 full-time roles — because of the pandemic. In a statement online from senior management, the museum has launched a voluntary redundancy scheme “in all departments and at all levels” to save the £4.8m required to "survive the crisis". Though management hoped this voluntary process will "help us make these significant savings", management said they cannot rule out having to move to compulsory redundancy in 2021 to meet the necessary level of reductions.

11.35am Sainsbury's and Aldi to hand back £540m of business rates relief

Sainsbury's and Aldi have said they will hand back a combined £540m of business rates relief they received as support in the pandemic. They follow Tesco and Morrisons, who promised to repay £850m between them. Both Sainsbury's and Aldi said the decision reflected the fact both supermarket chains had been allowed to stay open during the lockdown.

7.40am Morrisons repay rates relief

Morrisons will pay back £274m worth of business rates relief it received as support during the coronavirus crisis. The decision came just just hours after Tesco said it would repay £585m of Covid business rates relief the chain had received from the government. 

David Potts, chief executive of Morrisons, said the supermarket chain had "done its best work" to meet the "enormous challenges" the pandemic had brought. He added: "We are grateful for the government's swift action at the start of the pandemic which enabled the whole sector to face squarely into the challenges and disruption caused by Covid-19."

Wednesday 2 December

3.40pm Virgin Money introduces flexible working week 

Virgin Money has announced it will put an end to the traditional working week as it hails home working during the pandemic a success. The British lender will now let most staff be more flexible over when and where they work.

Discussions are still taking place and further details are yet to be revealed. However, speaking to the Telegraph, chief executive David Duffy said the level of flexibility offered would vary between roles and that the bank would not be putting out “some generic bland statement ”. He claimed the new arrangements would allow staff to “live their best life”. 

The announcement follows Deutsche Bank considering letting all staff work from home twice a week, and Standard Chartered allowing all 75,000 employees they can work from home whenever they want.

2.50pm AIB to cut 1,500 jobs

Allied Irish Banks (AIB) has announced plans to cut 1,500 jobs, closing some of its branches and pulling out of much of its UK lending as part weir plants to save costs. The banking group had paused its voluntary redundancy programme in March because of the pandemic, but AID said it will to restart the programme early next year. The restructure is expected to be completed by 2023.

Colin Hunt, chief executive of AIB, said the group's restructure has been "influenced by the accelerating effect of Covid-19" on customers’ preference for digital banking and emerging new trends in how and where our people work. He added: “Our heightened focus on cost controls, the pursuit of new growth opportunities and our investment in digital innovation will enhance the range of financial services and products for our customers, while generating value for our shareholders and putting the bank on an even stronger footing to meet the challenges ahead.”

John O’Connell, general secretary of the Financial Services Union, said the announcement of the redundancies was poorly timed and called for them to be postponed. “We are still in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. No major announcements on job cuts should be made at this stage, particularly by a bank that is part owned by the Irish government.” he said.

1.25pm One in eight older workers delaying retirement because of coronavirus, poll finds

The pandemic is causing older workers to delay their retirement plans, a survey has found, raising concerns that the financial impact of coronavirus could be forcing people to work for longer.

A YouGov poll of 2,114 UK adults found that, among over-55s who planned to retire in the future, one in eight (13 per cent) had made the decision to delay their retirement plans because of the pandemic.

The poll, conducted for Smart, also highlighted financial concerns among older employees planning to retire. More than half (52 per cent) of all UK adults said they were concerned about only being able to afford a limited lifestyle in retirement.

11.55am Use Tesco's money to help pubs, says industry body

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) is urging the government to redistribute Tesco’s £585m business rates relief to pubs and breweries. Earlier today, Tesco said it would be returning business rates relief it received from the government during the pandemic. The SIBA said the redistributed funds could help offset some of the lost sales due to tier 2 and 3 restrictions over the Christmas period.

The SIBA said the funding would be worth £14,000 to each of the UK’s 40,000 pubs and 2,000 breweries. James Calder, chief executive of the SIBA, said supermarkets have “thrived” during the crisis, and that UK’s pubs and brewers “have been left behind”. He said: “Other supermarkets should follow the good example set by Tesco’s, return the relief they didn't need and the government should use the money wisely to give us a chance to see in the New Year.”

11.50am What challenges will 2021 bring for HR teams?

Change has been a constant theme in 2020, and next year will be no different, says Ross Seychell.

10.35am Bonmarché falls into administration

Women's fashion chain Bonmarché has fallen into administration, putting more than 1,500 jobs at risk. Administrators said the brand's 225 stores would continue to trade while options for the business were explored. Bonmarché was owned by retail tycoon Philip Day, who also owns Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Peacocks and Ponden Home stores which collapsed into administration last month.

9.45am Pfizer vaccine approved for use next week in UK

The UK has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for widespread use, making it the first country to do so. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the jab – which offers up to 95 per cent protection against coronavirus – is safe to rollout for nationwide use next week. The UK has already ordered 40m doses, enough to vaccinate 20m people.

Experts have drawn up a provisional priority list for those who will be prioritised for vaccinations first. It targets people at highest risk including care home residents and staff, people over 80 and other health and social care workers.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast this morning, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “I'm confident now with the news today that from spring, from Easter onwards, things are going to be better and we're going to have a summer next year that everybody can enjoy."

Prime minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”

9.10am New tier system comes into force in England

England has returned to a tiered system of coronavirus restrictions after its second national lockdown ended. The tougher new system has come into force hours after being approved by MPs in a Commons vote. The government said the move would help “safeguard the gains made during the past month”.

Non-essential shops and other businesses, including personal care services such as hairdressers and beauty salons, can now reopen for the first time in four weeks. Pubs and restaurants can reopen in tier one and two areas, although in tier two alcohol can only be served with a “substantial meal”.

8.40am Tesco to repay Covid-19 business rates relief

Tesco is repaying £585m of business rates relief it received during the coronavirus pandemic. The grocery chain announced the move this morning (2 December), saying it was “immensely grateful” for the financial and policy support provided by the government. This included utilising the government's 12-month break on business rates granted to all retailers.

Tesco and other supermarkets faced uncertainty earlier this year as panic buying, severe pressure on supply lines, major safety concerns and the risk of mass absences from work caused strain on the sector.

In a statement today Tesco said: “Ten months into the pandemic, our business has proven resilient in the most challenging of circumstances. While all businesses have been impacted – many severely so – we have been able to continue trading throughout, serving many millions of customers every day and although uncertainties still exist, some of the potential risks faced earlier in the year are now behind us.”

Tuesday 1 December 

5pm Gove debunks ‘vaccine passport’ rumour

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has confirmed there are no plans to introduce a coronavirus “vaccine passport”, amid rumours that hospitality venues could deny entry for those without. Gove told the BBC “that’s not the plan”, after the vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi – appointed as the new health minister to oversee the vaccine rollout in England – suggested businesses could bar unvaccinated customers.

When asked about the need to provide an immunity passport post-vaccine, Zahawi said: “I think you'll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system [immunity passport].” However, Gove cautioned against “getting ahead of ourselves” as the “most important thing” is making sure the vaccine is rolled out, but he added that businesses would “of course” have "capacity to make decisions about who they will admit and why.” 

3pm Welsh brewery chain to close more than 100 pubs

The boss of Brains – Wales' biggest brewery chain – has said it will close more than 100 pubs and furlough the majority of its 1,500 staff, calling the country's new alcohol rules “closure by stealth”. Welsh pubs and restaurants will be banned from selling alcohol from Friday (4 December) and must close after 6pm. Mark Drakeford, first minister of Wales, said the new rules would tackle a rise in coronavirus cases.

Alistair Darby, chief executive of Brains, said the new rules were “insulting” and “a huge slap in the face” for the sector. Brains directly employs around 1,500 people and has 300 tenants as well as suppliers and regular trades people.

2pm Edinburgh Zoo starts redundancy process

Edinburgh Zoo has started making job cuts and has warned it could even be forced to sell animals if it does not get government funding support, an MP told the Edinburgh Evening News. Christine Jardine, MP for Edinburgh West, called on both the UK and Scottish governments to provide funding as vital conservation work is under threat after the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) confirmed the zoo had started the redundancy process.

Jardine said she was “at a loss” to understand why the governments were not doing more to protect jobs at the RZSS and the vital work it does to conserve species like the Scottish wildcat. She said: “I am in regular contact with the RZSS, [which has] confirmed that the redundancy process has begun, so I would urge both governments to think carefully and extend emergency funding to tide the charity through the coming months.”

1.15pm Trade fair specialist Reed Exhibitions cuts staff

Trade fair company Reed Exhibitions has begun a redundancy programme that includes senior director jobs. According to a report in the Financial Times, at least 500 staff – just over 10 per cent of the company's total – have already left or will leave Reed Exhibitions by the end of the year. The chief executive of Reed Exhibitions UK business and its regional head of finance are among senior executives who are set to leave. Other executive roles in marketing, sales and commercial are being merged with only three of the nine people on Reed Exhibitions' UK boardroom expected to remain.

Reed Exhibitions did not disclose the number of job cuts to the FT but said it was “implementing necessary cost reductions across our global organisation”. It added that it was planning to run 90 per cent of events originally scheduled for 2021, with most of them taking place in the second half of the year.

11.30am Sturgeon pledges £500 bonus to NHS and care workers 

Nicola Sturgeon has promised to pay a £500 bonus to Scottish NHS and care workers and has called on Boris Johnson to make the payment tax-free. During a speech at the Scottish National Party conference, the first minister said health and social care workers deserved recognition. “We are asking nothing of the UK government – with this one exception. Please allow our health and care heroes to keep every penny of Scotland’s thank you to them. Do not take any of it away in tax,” she said. 

Sturgeon’s aides admitted they did not know whether the UK tax system would allow the bonus to be made tax free, with one suggesting it was up to the prime minister to work out the logistics. She also unveiled funding pledges to apprentices, which included a  £100-a-week apprenticeship bonus for school leavers under 18 and £5,000 to firms for each new apprentice they hire.

10am Debenhams and Arcadia Group fall into administration 

Two prominent high street shopping chains have fallen into administration today, putting at risk a total of 25,000 jobs. Retailer Debenhams has said it will go into liquidation after efforts to resuscitate the department store failed, which could result in all 12,000 employees losing their jobs over the coming months unless administrators secure a deal for all parts of the business.

The news comes hours after Topshop owner Arcadia group announced its administration – which had been expected for a number of days – putting 13,000 jobs at risk.

Geoff Rowley, partner at FRP Advisory, joint administrator to Debenhams, said: “All reasonable steps were taken to complete a transaction that would secure the future of Debenhams. However, the economic landscape is extremely challenging and, coupled with the uncertainty facing the UK retail industry, a viable deal could not be reached.”

Monday 30 November

1.15pm Wales to reintroduce curfew to hospitality

After Friday, pubs, bars and restaurants in Wales will no longer be allowed to serve alcohol and will be required to close by 6pm.

The devolved government has said that without the new rules, which will come into force at 6pm on Friday and will also affect other indoor venues including soft play areas, bingo halls and casinos, Wales could see a spike in hospitalisations and preventable deaths caused by the virus in early January.

Currently non-essential shops, hairdressers, gyms and leisure centres are not affected by the new restrictions, but the Welsh government has not ruled out expanding the curfew if necessary. The new rules come less than a month after the end of its two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown.

1pm Weight Watchers to cut half of UK coaches 

Weight Watchers – which rebranded as WW International in 2018 – is attempting to slim down its organisational costs, with plans to shed up to half its UK coaches as soon as next week. Sources told The Telegraph that the US company could make up to 50 per cent of its nearly 800 UK-based coaches redundant, although some of the departures will be voluntary.

WW coaches motivate members through their programmes via live chats and in-person sessions; however, a spokesperson for the company said the pandemic had shifted its focus to digital offerings.

A WW spokesperson said: “As the ongoing Covid crisis has forced the closure of our workshops around the world, we have had to make difficult decisions that will impact some of our valued team members. With the accelerated growth of our digital offerings in both our WW app and the launch of virtual workshops, we are taking this time to look at our physical footprint.”

12.45pm One in seven workers say employer monitoring has increased during Covid

More than one in seven (15 per cent) employees have reported that monitoring by their employer has increased since the pandemic began in March, according to new research.

In the poll of more than 3,000 workers across the UK – part of a survey commissioned by the TUC – more than a quarter (27 per cent) reported having their work communication screened, while 13 per cent had experienced desktop monitoring. A further 8 per cent of workers said their social media had been screened.

The research also found employers were using technologies to assess when employees started and finished work (26 per cent) and the amount of time taken on breaks (13 per cent).

12.15pm No last-minute deal for Arcadia Group, sources warn

Arcadia Group could collapse within hours, the BBC has reported, putting thousands of jobs on the line. The retail group, which includes Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, could enter administration today, as senior sources at the company said they did not expect any last-minute rescue deals or a cash injection to help plug the gap from lost sales during the pandemic. 

The BBC first reported on Friday that the group – which has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdowns – could be entering administration, putting some 13,000 jobs at risk. It had already announced 500 job cuts to its head office earlier this year. 

12pm The latest furlough updates – explained

Melanie Lane and Tracey Marsden outline the implications for employers of the government’s job retention scheme guidelines.

8.45am Qantas confirms 2,000 more job cuts

Airline Qantas has confirmed a further 2,000 jobs will be made redundant as it moves to outsource ground handling operations. It brings the total job losses at the Australian-based business to around 8,500 after it made more than 6,000 staff redundant when Covid-19 border restrictions were introduced earlier this year. The new round of job cuts will mainly affect ground handling operations at 10 airports across Australia.

Andrew David, chief executive of Qantas domestic and international, said the job cuts signified “another tough day” for the airline, but the redundancies were a result of the pandemic turning the aviation industry "upside down". David added: “Airlines around the world are having to make dramatic decisions in order to survive and the damage will take years to repair.” Quantas said all affected ground handling staff will be entitled to a redundancy package and be given support to transition to new jobs outside the business.

Friday 27 November

9.25am Fullers cuts 350 roles

Pub operator Fullers has shed 20 per cent of its workforce – nearly 1,000 people – since March, including 350 redundancies, Sky News has reported. The brewer and pub chain said its pre-tax losses rose to £22.2m for the six months to the end of September, compared with a £17.9m profit a year earlier.

Chief executive Simon Emeny said the imminent rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine meant “a return to normality is in sight”, but warned business would be difficult in the interim. “We are optimistic about the future in the medium term and beyond but there is no doubt that this will be a tough winter and a very different looking Christmas,” he said.

Thursday 26 November

1.40pm One in five employers monitoring remote workers or planning to do so, poll finds

One in five employers (20 per cent) are already using, or plan to introduce, software to monitor employees who are working from home, according to a new report released today, despite evidence that employees are now more engaged and loyal compared to the start of the pandemic.

The YouGov survey of 2,000 employers, commissioned by Skillcast, found 12 per cent of firms were already monitoring their staff remotely, while 8 per cent had plans to implement monitoring. Another 6 per cent were considering whether to implement monitoring in the future. Surveillance was also more prevalent among larger companies, 12 per cent of which were already monitoring their workforce, while 11 per cent have plans to introduce monitoring.

12.55pm Spending review leaves ‘big gap’ in skills investment, says CIPD

The chancellor’s spending review has not done enough to support businesses to develop the skills they need beyond the coronavirus crisis, experts have warned, despite plans to inject billions into helping the long-term unemployed back into work.

In his spending review yesterday (25 November), Rishi Sunak pledged to spend £3bn on a new ‘Restart’ programme to provide those who have been out of work for more than 12 months with tailored job-seeking support. Sunak also announced plans to increase both the national living wage and the national minimum wage, as well as pay rises for some NHS staff and the lowest-paid public sector workers.

However, Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said the spending review revealed a “big gap” on its promise to prioritise skills. He said the government’s ambition and level of investment in this area “fails to do enough” in the current crisis.

12.45pm Could Covid boost gender-balanced cultures?

The pandemic could signal an opportunity to improve equality in businesses, says Caroline Gosling.

10.55am Dentons starts redundancy consultation 

International law firm Dentons has opened a redundancy consultation which could affect up to 24 workers, but says job losses should be limited by the creation of "virtual roles". The firm said the pandemic had accelerated its digital strategy, and the business is looking to create a “small number” of non office-based roles in its energy, transport and infrastructure and non-contentious construction practices. Other jobs will be relocated to Scotland.

Dentons said it is reviewing its approach to salaries for virtual roles, to ensure that they are “fair and equitable”. It did not provide details on whether the content of the jobs themselves would change. In July, Dentons announced the closure of two UK offices to cater for full-time remote working and shrink its real estate footprint. 

9.10am Mitchells & Butlers confirms around 1,300 jobs cut

Mitchells & Butlers has confirmed around 1,300 jobs have been axed as it revealed the pandemic resulted in a £123 million annual loss for the pubs giant. The group – which owns All Bar One, Harvester and Toby Carvery – said earlier this month it was closing up to 20 of its pubs and restaurants and started redundancy consultations with staff, but did not at the time disclose how many roles were at risk.

Mitchells & Butlers said: “Despite our best efforts to protect as many jobs as we can, we have had to make circa 1,300 redundancies following the end of the financial period. The reduced levels of activity and closure of a small number of our sites meant that we could no longer support these roles.”

8.25am Eurostar appeals to UK government for urgent financial support 

Eurostar has appealed to the UK government for urgent financial support, warning it was “fighting for survival” with just one train a day now running from London to Paris as a result of the coronavirus. Eurostar chief executive Jacques Damas has written to the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, asking for assistance after the Treasury announced it would help struggling airports with up to £8m each, based on their equivalent business rates. 

A spokesman for Eurostar said: “The new scheme of rates relief for airports puts Eurostar at a direct disadvantage against its airline competitors. Eurostar has been left fighting for its survival against a 95 per cent drop in demand, whilst aviation has received over £1.8bn in support through loans, tax deferrals and financing. We would ask this scheme to be extended to include international rail services, and more generally for the government to incorporate high-speed rail in its support for the travel sector, and in doing so help protect the green gateway to Europe.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said ministers recognised the significant financial challenges facing Eurostar, adding: “The government has been engaging extensively with Eurostar on a regular basis since the beginning of the outbreak. We will continue to work closely with them as we support the safe recovery of international travel.”

7.45am Venues claimed more than £849m through government subsidised dining scheme

More than 49,000 businesses took advantage of a government-funded initiative to draw diners back after Covid lockdown, according to official HMRC figures. Restaurants, cafes and pubs claimed more than £849m through the government’s month-long ‘eat out to help out’ scheme, as diners bought more than 160m discounted meals in August. 

Official figures showed more than half (55 per cent) of claims were made by restaurants, while just under a third (28 per cent) were made by pubs. The figures showed less than 1 per cent of claims were filed by businesses with more than 25 outlets, although these companies accounted for a third of the meals claimed for and a quarter of total discount claims.

Wednesday 25 November 

2.15pm Chancellor announces £3bn unemployment scheme and minimum wage increases

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged billions of pounds in funding to help the long-term unemployed into work as part of plans to support the economy during the coming year.

Setting out the government’s spending review this afternoon, Sunak announced he would be creating a £3bn ‘Restart’ programme to provide those who have been out of work for more than 12 months with tailored job-seeking support.

However, the chancellor said he expected unemployment to continue to rise well into 2021. “Despite the extraordinary support we’ve provided, the [Office for Budget Responsibility] expects unemployment to rise to a peak in the second quarter of next year of 7.5 per cent – 2.6 million people,” he said.

1.30pm Employer efforts helped curb Covid redundancies, figures suggest

The latest official employment figures suggest efforts by employers to avoid redundancies caused by the economic fallout of coronavirus have been paying off, experts have said, despite a rise in the number of workless households.

Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics have shown that, between July and September this year, there were 2.7 million workless households in the UK – 13.4 per cent of of the total – reflecting an increase of 20,000 on the same period in 2019.

The figures also showed a drop in the number of households where all adults were in work, down from 12.5 million to 12.2 million, equivalent to 58.9 per cent of households. Similarly, the proportion of households where at least one adult was out of work rose from 26.9 per cent in 2019 to 27.7 per cent this year – with 153,000 additional homes falling into this category.

12.45pm Are redundant employees allowed paid time off for job hunting?

With cuts increasing as businesses seek to reduce costs, James Tamm explains the legal position on leave for staff to find their next role.

11.45am Debenhams may close up to 60 stores, putting thousands of jobs at risk

Up to 60 Debenhams shops could close next year as part of a rescue deal for the department store chain, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

The Guardian has reported that JD Sports has entered talks to buy the department store and is thought to be mainly interested in its website. However, analysts told the paper the sports retailer could also take on almost half of Debenhams’s 124 outlets. 

Debenhams has been considering a potential sale since the summer after going into administration in April, for the second time in a year. As part of a pack for potential buyers, the store – which employs 12,000 people – outlined plans for the possible closure of between 20 and 60 stores over time. 

10am One in five North Sea oil companies ‘expect job cuts in 2021’

Around one in five British oil and gas companies expect to cut more jobs in 2021 after the pandemic wreaked havoc on the sector, according to a survey. Research by Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Fraser of Allander Institute and KPMG, found 22 per cent of contractors in the oil and gas sector laid off more than 10 per cent of their workforce in 2020.

In 2020, 83 per cent of firms used the job retention scheme, with employers on average furloughing 35 per cent of their workforce. The majority of operators (78 per cent) said the outlook for the future wasn’t much better, with more than half (58 per cent) expecting the situation to worsen in 2021. Just 1 per cent of companies felt more confident. 

Tuesday 24 November

4pm Don’t go to work when sick, heath secretary tells workers

Speaking at a joint session of the Health and Social Care and Science and Technology committees, health secretary Matt Hancock urged workers to stop going to their workplace when sick and making others ill, describing the UK workforce as “peculiarly unusual and outliers” compared to other countries when it comes to going to work when sick.

“I want to have a change in the British way of doing things where 'if in doubt, get a test' doesn't just refer to coronavirus but refers to any illness that you might have,” he said, “Why in Britain do we think it's acceptable to soldier on and go into work if you have flu symptoms or a runny nose, thus making your colleagues ill?”

3pm Video game developer making job cuts

Video game developer Bossa has announced a round of redundancies. The studio – which created the video game Surgeon Simulator – told Eurogamer that initially 13 positions out of the 85-strong London company were at risk, but this figure has reduced to 10 and could be lower by the time the consultation period ends. A source at the studio said Bossa had suffered a number of internal issues throughout 2020 as the company shifted to work from home and then crunched in the months leading up to the August release of the sequel to Surgeon Simulator.

In a prepared statement, Bossa's management admitted some at the studio were unhappy with the company's new direction. The statement read: "A small number of people are unhappy with these changes and, as unfortunate as that is, there's little we can do other than be candid about our motives and support them as much as possible. They have the right to feel the way they do about these decisions if so they chose to, and criticise us for it. That's just the way things work."

1pm What does the new tiered lockdown scheme mean for employers?

As the end of the national lockdown in England approaches, prime minister Boris Johnson outlined plans last night (23 November) for what happens next. As many expected, on 2 December the country will return to a localised three-tiered system, similar to the scheme introduced in October, with employees who are able to do so being asked to continue working from home for the foreseeable future.

Employers have been specifically warned not to expect a sudden change, with Johnson saying yesterday that he expected things “will look and feel very different” after Easter – leading to speculation that the work from home advice could stay in place until April.

While it is still unclear which areas of the country will go into which tier next week, the government has published its 60-page winter plan, outlining in detail what each level involves – with each tier in this iteration of the system notably stricter than before the England-wide lockdown. But what will this mean in practice for employers, and how can they manage the transition from lockdown to the new tier system? People Management consulted the experts.

12.30pm Five ways to help your staff deal with seasonal affective disorder

With lockdown coinciding with shorter days and lower temperatures, many employees are struggling with mental ill-health. Jake Third explains how managers can support them.

11.45am Cineworld secures £560m cash lifelines to weather pandemic

Cineworld has secured financial lifelines worth $750m (£560m) to weather the coronavirus pandemic. The chain, which shut all of its 660 movie theatres in the US and the UK in October, said the financial agreements meant it had enough liquidity to make it through next year as long as cinemas are allowed to reopen by May. The company said it had managed to cut rental costs after agreeing abatements and deferrals with key landlords.

10.15am Redundancies at Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways

Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways have announced the decision to make 32 staff redundant. Paul Lewin, director and general manager, said the tourism operator's income had gone from making £6m this year to just £1m because of the pandemic, adding that the commercial side of operation – including train trips and cafes – were also forced to close. “We expect spring to still be difficult but are pinning our hopes on summer and autumn returning to some sort of normality,” he said.

The railway lines are a major tourist attraction and employer in Gwynedd, Wales – bringing a £25m annual contribution to the local economy. It employed 97 staff at the start of 2020, but the total headcount is now 60.

9.30am Haven Holidays and Swanage Railway to cut jobs

Haven Holidays and Swanage Railway have said they will be cutting jobs amid warnings that the tourism industry is being “hit incredibly hard” by the Covid crisis. Haven Holidays – which operates Weymouth Bay, Littlesea and Seaview parks in Weymouth as well as Rockley Park in Poole – is making an unspecified number of people redundant amid the “seismic effect” of the pandemic. The board of Swanage Railway Company is making six compulsory redundancies after an offer of voluntary redundancy found only two takers, meaning the company will see eight redundancies in total. 

A spokesperson for Haven's parent company, Bourne Leisure, said: “The pandemic has had a seismic effect on the tourism and hospitality sector and we are saddened that it is leading to significant change and jobs being at risk. As a company, we are committed to redeploying as many of our highly valued team members as possible to other roles within our brands.”

7.40am Danone will axe up to 2,000 jobs globally

Yogurt maker Danone has announced it is cutting between 1,500 and 2,000 jobs globally – including one in four workers at its global headquarters in Paris – as part of a major cost-saving restructuring programme. The company, which owns brands Alpro, Actimel and So Delicious, said it plans to reach €1bn (£1.07bn) in annual cost savings by 2023 by reducing its overhead costs by 20 per cent and procuring goods more efficiently. Danone currently employs around 100,000 staff globally.

Monday 23 November

4.45pm England to return to three-tier system after lockdown

Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that England will revert back to a three-tier system after lockdown ends on 2 December, while shops and gyms will be permitted to reopen. However, Johnson added he was “sorry to say” areas may temporarily fall into higher levels of restrictions than they were previously.

Under the new system, individuals will be asked to continue to work from home where possible under the lowest level tier-one restrictions. Tier two will see that only pubs serving meals are allowed to reopen and the highest level, tier three, will see indoor entertainment and hospitality venues close except for delivery and takeaway.

Johnson added that tiers will now be a “uniform set of measures” with no local negotiations. The specifics of which areas will fall into which tier are expected to be announced later this week.

1.45pm Number of unemployed older workers increased by a third during lockdown, data suggests

The number of unemployed people aged over 50 in the UK has increased by a third in the past year, according to new data. There were 371,000 unemployed older people in July to September 2020, a 33 per cent rise from the 280,000 unemployed over-50s during the same period last year. 

The figures, provided in the latest Labour Market Statistics issued by the Office for National Statistics and analysed by job site Rest Less, suggested this was the biggest percentage increase of all age groups and significantly more than the national average increase of 24 per cent. Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, said the UK was facing a “less well-documented” long-term unemployment “disaster” among older workers. 

“In the year that the state pension age moves to 66 and universal credit claims among the over-50s have surged to more than 600,000, more needs to be done to tackle systemic ageism in the workplace to help these talented, life-rich workers find meaningful employment,” Lewis said. 

1.30pm Why we need a fresh approach to fair flexibility

Lockdown restrictions have forced businesses to rethink what flexible working looks like for different types of employee, says Sarah Jackson.

1pm Covid has pushed mental health to a tipping point

Working from home for long periods can seriously damage your state of mind, so employers must up their game on wellbeing, says Daniel Stander.

9.45am Mining company rolls out social distancing tech to employees 

Employees at Anglo American have been given security passes that flash red if they stand too close together. In a bid to keep on the right side of social distancing rules, staff at its Trafalgar Square-based headquarters have been asked to wear the traffic light-style passes that measure the distance between people. 

The passes turn amber when staff are between 1.5 metres and three metres of each other, flashing red and beeping when the distance is below 1.5 metres. Rohan Davidson, chief information officer at Anglo American, told The Mail on Sunday: “The wearables remind people they need to stay distant. People are social animals and we can remind them as much as we like.” 

9.15am Heathrow Airport to furlough all managers

Heathrow Airport has launched a new voluntary redundancy scheme, furloughing its entire head office staff with the exception of its chief executive. According to emails sent by Heathrow executives on Friday (20 November), seen by Sky News, the company outlined a new voluntary redundancy scheme and a requirement for staff to be placed on furlough for at least four weeks between the beginning of December and the end of March

Sources told Sky News that the furlough requirement would apply to every Heathrow employee other than John Holland-Kaye, the airport's chief executive. The news comes after workers at the airport voted in favour of industrial action over four days next month, which unions have warned will mean that Heathrow "will grind to a halt".

In an email to Heathrow employees, Paula Stannett, the airport's chief people officer, said: "With the extension of the furlough scheme until 31 March 2021, all non-operational colleagues (negotiated and non-negotiated grades) and operational colleagues in non-negotiated grades will be required to take a minimum of four weeks (20 days) of furlough between 1 December and 31 March (pro-rated for part-time colleagues).This furlough could be taken in one continuous block or as flexi-furlough; for example, as one or two days each week. Reduced workload in some teams will mean that some colleagues will also continue to be asked to take longer periods on furlough."

8.15am Gyms and all shops to reopen after English lockdown

Non-essential shops and gyms in all areas are expected to be allowed to reopen to the public when England's lockdown ends. This afternoon (23 November) the prime minister will explain the details of England's return to the ‘three-tier system’ when lockdown ends on 2 December. More areas are set to be placed in the higher tiers – high risk or very high risk – after lockdown, the government has said, but details of which tier every region of England will be put into are expected on Thursday.

While parts of the tier system will be tougher, Johnson is expected to announce that the 10pm closing time for pubs and restaurants will be relaxed, alongside gyms and shops reopening. Additionally, Johnson will lay out plays for mass testing to be introduced in all tier-three areas. He will say rapid testing with military support, as used in Liverpool, will form part of the stricter system.

It had been hoped that the government would announce arrangements for the Christmas period this afternoon, but this has been reportedly delayed until at least Tuesday (24 November) to allow the Scottish and Welsh cabinets to agree the plans. It comes hours after the government said the UK's four nations had backed plans to allow some household mixing "for a small number of days" over Christmas.

7.30am Leeds council set to cut 200 more jobs

Almost 200 more jobs are set to be cut by Leeds City Council as the authority struggles to balance its finances during the pandemic. In October the council revealed 600 jobs were at risk of being made redundant. But last week the local authority was presented with a report that found it faces an estimated £118.8m shortfall for the next two years. 

The report also outlined potential savings Leeds City Council could make with the additional job cuts. Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said local authorities needed additional support from the central government during Covid. She said: "The impact of coronavirus, combined with national reductions to local government budgets over the last decade, has been of a scale nobody could have predicted. We will make every effort to protect frontline services and we will do everything possible to not make compulsory redundancies."

Friday 20 November 

1.45pm UK at ‘coronavirus crossroads’ for gender equality, report warns

Workplace equality is suffering from the devastating impact of Covid-19, with women falling further behind men in their treatment by employers, a charity has warned. In a new report released to mark Equal Pay Day today – the date in the calendar year when women effectively stop being paid because of the gender pay gap – the Fawcett Society warned women were more likely to have been furloughed and will be at higher risk of unfair redundancies when the furlough scheme ends.
 
It said more than four in 10 (43 per cent) working women were worried about their job or promotion prospects, while one in three (35 per cent) working mothers had lost work or seen their hours cut due to childcare responsibilities. Sam Smethers, chief executive at the Fawcett Society, said: “The Second World War gave birth to the welfare state; the winter of discontent led to a new Thatcherite era. The coronavirus crisis puts us at a crossroads again and it is clear that this applies to the gender pay gap.”
 
1.30pm Covid renewing employers’ focus on internal talent pools, research finds

A survey of more than 250 UK business leaders by LinkedIn found that nearly a third of employers (31 per cent) said they would be focusing on giving employees the opportunity to move into different roles internally in the next six months. A similar number (32 per cent) said that reskilling and upskilling employees is a top priority for 2021.
 
Janine Chamberlin, senior director at LinkedIn, said the continued uncertainty around Covid-19 has meant many companies are looking to “tap existing employees for new opportunities within their organisations” instead of hiring external candidates. “Encouraging internal mobility not only boosts retention and improves employee engagement, but it can also help companies evolve their businesses from within and bridge any existing skills gaps,” Chamberlain said.
 
1pm Will coronavirus widen the pay divide?

Previous crises have hit women’s earning power more than men’s, say Tracey Marsden and Catriona Aldridge. There are signs that Covid might do the same
 
12.30pm “Lockdown forced us to take our recruitment online – but now it’s staying that way”

For Duncan Short, the pandemic meant making some radical changes to hiring – but many of those changes have become permanent
 
11.10am Hundreds of Facebook workers accuse firm of forcing staff into the office 

Hundreds of Facebook workers have accused the firm of forcing content moderators back into the office amid the pandemic. An open letter from 334 staff around the world has accused the social media platform of “needlessly risking” lives to maintain profits, and called for staff to be given the ability to work remotely, alongside hazard pay. 
 
According to BBC reports, Facebook said “a majority” of content reviewers were working from home. “While we believe in having an open internal dialogue, these discussions need to be honest,” a spokesperson said. “The majority of these 15,000 global content reviewers have been working from home and will continue to do so for the duration of the pandemic.”
 
9am Fieldfisher makes 20 administrative roles redundant 

Law firm Fieldfisher has made 20 secretaries and personal assistants redundant, as the pandemic caused a fall in demand for administrative support. A total of five staff have also been redeployed in other roles. 
 
A spokesperson for Fieldfisher told Law Gazette that Covid-19 accelerated  long-term plans that were already under consideration. They said: “The pandemic highlighted that with new ways of working flexibly there was less demand for administrative support and as such, sadly, the secretarial pool needed to be reduced.” 
 
8.25am Peacocks and Jaeger collapse puts 4,700 jobs at risk

Fashion chains Peacocks and Jaeger have fallen into administration, putting more than 4,700 jobs and almost 500 shops at risk. It comes after the chains' owner Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) Group failed to find a buyer for both businesses. The EWM Group blamed the pandemic for a collapse in trade, but said it was still in talks with potential buyers. 
 
In a statement, the EWM Group said: "In recent weeks we have had constructive discussions with a number of potential buyers for Peacocks and Jaeger. But the continuing deterioration of the retail sector due to the impact of the pandemic and second lockdown have made this process longer and more complex than we would have hoped." 
 
The news comes two weeks after EWM Group called in administrators for its eponymous clothing chain and its homeware brand Ponden Home, putting almost 3,000 more jobs at risk.

Thursday 19 November 

4.45pm Cineworld to close screens 

Cinema chain Cineworld is allegedly considering cutting rent costs by permanently closing its screens. It is reported to be looking at an insolvency process, known as a company voluntary arrangement, so it can gain access to capital and keep the business afloat until more blockbusters are released. It is unclear whether such a restructure would include redundancies. Cineworld has declined to comment, but according to the Financial Times report, it has hired restructuring specialists AlixPartners.

12.45pm More than half of reward strategies not fit for remote workforces, survey suggests

Companies acknowledge that they need to adapt their pay and progression strategies in light of the increase in home working caused by the pandemic, a poll of employers has found.

The survey, conducted by Willis Towers Watson, found more than half of employers did not believe their current rewards strategy was fit for a more remote workforce. And despite many organisations expecting high levels of remote working to continue in the future, fewer than half (45 per cent) thought their current job architecture was suitable for a flexible workforce.

A similar proportion (43 per cent) said their job-levelling processes were suitable for developing flexible and agile workforces, while just over a quarter (28 per cent) said they still didn’t have policies in place to manage flexible working.

12.30pm Why Covid means we are all leaders now

Kate Cooper explores how lockdown and the rise in remote working during the pandemic have altered perceptions of leadership.

12.15pm Popular drinks maker announces job cuts as global trade plummets

Around 30 jobs are at risk at Vimto-maker Nichols after the pandemic hit its revenue. The company revealed the cuts in a trading update on Thursday, adding that “strong” UK sales were offset by a drop in global hospitality or “out of home” sales. 

Nichols – which also owns Sunkist and Levi Roots drinks brands – said it has put around 30 roles in its UK-wide out of home division under review. It is yet to begin a consultation but it is expected that affected roles would be made redundant by early next year, according to a report by the Evening Standard

Non-executive chairman John Nichols said: “The group has taken the difficult decision to propose, subject to consultation, that a number of roles are removed from our structure,” adding that the decision had not “been taken lightly”. 

10.15am Dozens of jobs under threat at Aberdeen-based paper mill

Dozens of jobs are under threat at Arjowiggins Stoneywood. The Aberdeen-based paper mill said the "significant impact" of the coronavirus pandemic meant about 70 of its 400-strong workforce were at risk of being made redundant. This comes a year after the business was sold to a new parent company in a move that, at the time, secured hundreds of jobs and the future of the site. 

Jonathan Mitchell, chief executive officer of Arjowiggins Stoneywood, said a full return to pre-Covid conditions was not anticipated, although some recovery was expected next year.

“Having experienced the elation of successfully exiting administration a year ago and creating some true positive momentum in the first six months, a restructuring programme was the last thing that we had on our minds,” said Mitchell. “It has not been an easy decision to take, and we are acutely aware of the impact that it will have on those directly affected and the wider community."

9.30am Jobcentre to recruit 170 work coaches in East Anglia 

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced it will recruit 170 work coaches for East Anglia, a region that has been disproportionately hit by unemployment, as part of its plan to hire thousands more Jobcentre staff across the UK. Job coaches provide mentoring to jobseekers to help them find, maintain and progress in a job. The DWP hopes to double their number of coaches nationally to 27,000.

A spokesperson for the DWP said: “More expert work coaches means more personal, tailored support for jobseekers who are looking to get going with a new career or to move on from a struggling sector.”

Wednesday 18 November

5pm A third of practitioners say L&D will be more important after pandemic

Just under a third (28 per cent) of HR practitioners have said L&D will be significantly more important to their organisations after the Covid pandemic, research has found.

In the study of 199 HR and L&D professionals, conducted by Arden University between August and September 2020, more than half (52 per cent) of respondents thought their L&D budget was likely to increase in 2021, with 6 per cent predicting the increase to be significant. When asked about digital learning, two-thirds (60 per cent) of respondents agreed the pandemic had changed their organisation’s attitude to digital learning; however, a third (32 per cent) said in-person training would continue to be important.

Caroline Evans, corporate strategy director at Arden University, said the survey showed the virus was accelerating changes that were already happening. “We are optimistic that this will mean greater access to high-quality learning for more people in more organisations and could mark a real shift in access to development and talent growth,” she said.

1.30pm Covid-19 vaccine: what businesses should consider

Recent breakthroughs with a number of Covid-19 vaccines in development around the world mean it is now a case of when, rather than if, the population will be able to be vaccinated against the virus. 

While all the vaccines in question are still awaiting regulatory approval, the NHS has already drawn up plans to start administering them before the end of the year. “While we don’t yet have a vaccine, we can now have hope,” health secretary Matt Hancock said this week following the news that one of the vaccines in development reported 90 per cent effectiveness in clinical trials. 

With many people desperate to return to some sense of normality, and employers still in the dark as to when staff will be able to cease following social distancing protocols and return properly to workplaces, they are faced with a nervous wait for further good news. When a Covid vaccination does eventually get cleared for use, can businesses mandate that their workers have the jab, and what’s their legal position if employees refuse? People Management asked employment lawyers and HR experts for their answers to this, and other related issues.

1pm Digital skills key to HR’s future success, says CIPD research

People professionals will have to understand how to put people at the ‘heart’ of digital transformation in 2030 and beyond in order to thrive, according to a new CIPD report. The report, People Profession 2030: a collective view of future trends, called on the profession to harness digital automation to improve processes and general insights, such as using data and analytics to inform strategy decisions.

It added that while digital working had increased to facilitate home working throughout the pandemic, it would be “difficult to predict” how advances in technology over the next decade would influence workplaces. 

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said that while 2020 had been a “monumental” year, the profession must look past the pandemic and to the future. He said: “There are a number of urgent priorities for HR teams in the short term, not least the many adaptations to working practices, wellbeing, skills and inclusion and diversity, but we must still be thinking beyond the current crisis."

12.45pm The legal implications of working overseas during Covid

Joe Beeston and Kelly Noel-Smith explain what employers should consider if an employee wants to work remotely from another jurisdiction.

12.30pm Do you need a parent retention strategy?

With record numbers of parents being driven out of the workforce, employers must think about what they can do to retain them, says Helen Letchfield.

12pm Automotive supplier to make 73 redundancies

The UK arm of German automotive supplier Brose has said it will make 73 redundancies because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Coventry-based supplier confirmed the job cuts in documents filed to Companies House, in which it predicted its turnover would be lower than the £217.7m it reported for the 12 months to 31 December 2019.

Brose received £2.6m through the job retention scheme between April and October 2020, the filing showed.

10.30am British silk weaver in administration, makes half of staff redundant

Silk Industries, trading as Vanners, has gone into administration, making half of its 64 members of staff redundant. The silk manufacturer has retained 32 employees to assist with the running of the business as it continues to fulfil orders while administrators seek a buyer.

James Lumb, director at KPMG and joint administrator for Vanners, said the company had been experiencing difficult trading conditions for some time, exacerbated by the severe impact of Covid-19 on the fashion sector. "We will be providing support to those members of staff who have been made redundant, assisting them in making claims to the redundancy payments office," he said.

8.30am Housebuilder to make 80 staff redundant

Housebuilder Stewart Milne Group is to make up to 80 of its 1,000 staff redundant as it merges two divisions in Scotland. Stuart MacGregor, chief executive, said since the current restrictions in England and Scotland did not affect construction, it would be “wrong” to make use of the furlough scheme at this time.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but one based on what is best for the longer-term future of the business, protecting the majority of jobs and ensuring we are better positioned for growth in the next five years,” he said.

During the initial lockdown, which saw restrictions in Scotland halt construction work, the group did make use of the scheme by furloughing 795 employees. It said almost all of these staff have now returned to work.

7.45am Workwear and textiles group confirms more than 1,500 job cuts

Workwear and textiles business Johnson Service Group said on Tuesday (17 November) it would cut more than 1,500 roles as the pandemic continues to hit the hospitality and catering industries hard. The group told the Press Association that its division serving catering and restaurants would cut around 1,350 to 2,450 jobs by the start of 2021, while about 200 roles are at risk of redundancy in its workwear arm.

Johnson Service Group is also due to shut its workwear site in Newmarket, one of 17 processing sites across the division. The company said it would cut its workforce through redundancies and natural staff turnover.

The company said in a trading statement: “While workwear volumes overall have recovered to the levels seen in February, there is an expectation that the lower level of new sales signed during the national lockdown, the increased uncertainty for many of our industrial customers and the potential for further lockdowns, on either a regional or national basis, will restrict the division's ability to achieve organic revenue growth in the short term.”

Tuesday 17 November

4.45pm Quarantine relaxed for overseas poultry farm workers 

Travel rules have been relaxed for those arriving in England to work on poultry farms to ensure there is enough turkey for Christmas dinners. As of today, overseas seasonal workers can start work immediately during their 14-day quarantine period, but must still self-isolate from the rest of the public. Workers will also have to form cohorts, or live and work with a group of the same workers during their stay in England, and will be banned from mixing with other employees. 

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: "Christmas dinner is the highlight of the year for many families and this year it will be particularly significant,” adding that new measures would further support businesses during the crisis. 

4.15pm Covid has caused 660,000 job loses in hospitality, says trade body

Around 660,000 jobs in the UK’s hospitality sector have been lost in 2020 because of coronavirus, the chief executive of UKHospitality has said. Kate Nicholls said that at the end of 2019 the sector was the third-largest employer in the country, but that the impact of lockdown and other measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus had caused employment to drop by 20 per cent.

Nicholls added that hospitality businesses would normally expect to earn more than a third of their annual revenue at this time of year – between Halloween and New Year’s Eve – but that instead the sector was in “intensive care” the BBC reported.

2pm Long Covid: what employers need to know

The spectre of long Covid, which can render people unable to work for months, is posing a major long-term challenge for employers and employees alike, and has prompted the NHS to spend £10m on creating a network of long Covid clinics.

So what do we know so far about the condition, and how should employers be preparing? People Management speaks to HR experts, wellbeing specialists and employment lawyers to get their answers to key questions about long Covid and the workplace.

12.15pm Why employers play a critical role in lifting the lid on domestic abuse

Lockdown has caused a jump in reports of abusive or controlling behaviour, says Paul Scully – but organisations can help tackle it.

11.45am The extended furlough scheme – explained

Tracey Marsden and Melanie Lane examine the details of the government’s latest decision to run the job retention scheme until next year.

10.15am Heathrow workers plan four-day strike 

Staff at Heathrow airport have planned a four-day strike in December in response to wage cuts, which will include walkouts by firefighters and baggage handlers.

In September, the airport warned of 15-20 per cent pay cuts that would impact around half of its 4,700 engineering, air-side operations and security staff. However, Unite union claimed Heathrow had enough money to avoid the cuts. Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King told the BBC that "the airport is using the Covid-19 pandemic as a smokescreen to permanently cut workers' pay", and that the airport had rejected “several suggestions” to avoid cuts by the union. 

A Heathrow spokesperson said: "It's very disappointing that some of our union partners have decided to take strike action during the worst crisis to hit the aviation sector. We will now activate extensive contingency plans that will keep the airport open and operating safely throughout this period."

8.30am Swissport axes 3,000 jobs

Baggage handler Swissport has made 3,000 employees redundant after refusing to put them on furlough, according to union GMB. The GMB claims the Swissport redundancies were announced before the furlough scheme extension and “were based on flight scheduling predictions before hopes of a successful vaccine were announced”. GMB said it had written to Swissport to request that employees earmarked for redundancy be put on furlough instead. 

However, the GMB said the company refused, "citing delays to the furlough announcement and lack of clarity over the application of the scheme as reasons for not accessing it." It comes after the baggage handler announced 4,175 job cuts over the summer, which the GMB described as “devastating news”.

Monday 16 November

5.30pm Working from home could lead to increase in prejudice, warns report 

Widespread remote working could lead to an increase in prejudice as individuals mix less with people with other backgrounds and cultures, a report has warned. The study from the Woolf Institute, which polled 11,701 people, warned individuals were going “back into silos”. It found that, of those who work in shared offices, three-quarters (76 per cent) were in an ethnically diverse setting, while unemployed people were 37 per cent more likely to only have friends from their own ethnic group. 

It also suggested that diverse friendship groups and colleague networks varied around England, as people in the north east are 150 per cent more likely to have only British friends, and 68 per cent more likely to only have British colleagues, compared to people in London. 

Woolf Institute founder Ed Kessler has called on ministers to focus on offices and workplaces as a vital area for improving community relations and breaking down misconceptions. 

1.45pm Government failed to ensure gig workers’ health and safety, High Court finds

Gig economy and insecure workers should have the same rights to personal protective equipment (PPE) as employees, the High Court has ruled.

As part of a judicial review following a case brought by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), the court ruled that the UK government failed to properly provide workers the protections given to them by EU directives on health and safety, including the right to be provided with PPE by the businesses they work for and the right to stop work in response to imminent and serious danger.

The ruling said the government must now take steps to ensure gig economy workers have the same protection as employees. Alex Marshall, president of the IWGB, said the ruling was “long overdue” and called on the government to take “urgent legislative measures” to ensure workers’ safety. “Key workers have been calling for greater protection throughout the pandemic and this has largely fallen on the deaf ears of their employers,” he said.

12.45pm Mitchells & Butlers to permanently close 20 sites

Mitchells & Butlers is closing up to 20 pubs and restaurants, putting scores of jobs at risk. The company – which employs about 44,000 people across a variety of restaurant chains – said it is working with advisers to offload a string of leasehold sites that face permanent closure if suitors cannot be found.

Mitchells & Butlers declined to reveal how many staff would be affected by the decision to close sites. A spokesperson said a majority, about 95 per cent, of Mitchells & Butlers had reopened after the first lockdown ended, but the remaining sites have been "under review on a case-by-case basis" ever since. They added: “We have taken the difficult decision not to reopen some of these sites and are working with leaseholders on next steps.”

The move comes just weeks after the All Bar One and Toby Carvery owner launched a round of redundancy consultations.

12.30pm Lessons from learning through lockdown

Fiona Aldridge explains how L&D professionals can capitalise on the uptick in training seen during the coronavirus pandemic.

9.30am More than 40 redundancies announced at mental health charity

Veterans' mental health charity Combat Stress has made 41 redundancies after grappling with a drop in income because of the pandemic, which fell from £16.4m in 2019 to £10.2m in the year to the end of March, according to reports by Third Sector magazine. The charity had warned in January that job cuts appeared likely. 

8.15am Greggs to axe 820 jobs

Greggs has announced plans to cut 820 jobs in the coming weeks, as the bakery chain continues to be affected by the coronavirus crisis. Greggs employs 25,000 people and has more than 2,000 shops across the UK, making the new cuts equivalent to around 3 per cent of the firm's total workforce. The chain warned of job cuts in September as the brand saw a dramatic dip in sales. 

Friday 13 November 

12.30pm How can we maintain professional relationships while working from home?

With many people still remote working and ‘Zoom fatigue’ taking its toll, Andy Lopata explains how we can keep human contact going from behind a screen.

12.20pm How can we avoid Covid creating a ‘lost generation’?

Ruth Christy looks at how employers can help young people who may have lost opportunities because of coronavirus to enter the workplace.

12pm Sussex food staff furloughed until March instead of made redundant

The staff at Sussex University's catering provider Sussex Food have been told that they will be furloughed until March instead of being made redundant.

The majority of Sussex Food's staff had been warned in October their roles were at risk of being made redundant after Chartwells Higher Education, which runs Sussex Foods, said 51 out of the current 55 workers could be made redundant. However, in a tweet earlier today (13 November), the campus unions Crisis Justice at Sussex said the workers were no longer at risk.

The group, who have campaigned for the support of the catering staff, said: “Catering Staff at Sussex uni will now be furloughed until March. This is a huge win for the workers, only made possible by the dedication and organisation of students, staff and local community. More details will be released as they come in!”

10.40am Caffè Nero seeks help after pandemic 'decimates' trading

Caffè Nero has said it has been forced to launch a restructuring of its business after it said the pandemic "decimated trading". The coffee chain is launching a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) which will allow it to renegotiate terms with its landlords and other creditors. Caffè Nero, which employs 6,000 workers, said it was able to navigate the first shutdown, but the subsequent restrictions put in place earlier this month necessitated "further action".

Following the second England-wide shutdown, Caffè Nero said: "With many people continuing to work from home, ongoing limits to social interaction and a sustained reduction to footfall in city centres, it is unclear how long this will impact Caffè Nero." It added that the CVA would allow the company "to better manage its fixed costs moving forward". It did not say whether the CVA might involve the permanent closure of sites or job cuts. 

9.45am Shrewsbury Town Football Club to make job cuts

Shrewsbury Town Football Club have made a number of staff redundant because of the continuing effects of the pandemic on the sport and business. The club said the job losses have been made across many departments, and the staff affected had a combined service of 66 years. 

In an open letter to supporters, chief executive Brian Caldwell said he was very concerned about the future of football and football clubs generally. He added the Shrewsbury Town Football Club had only three staff members currently working, with the majority of the others on furlough or having been made redundant. Caldwell added: "Clubs cannot continue to survive without income, as we don’t operate like normal businesses; we don’t try to make a profit, merely to break even."

8.55am Over 100 workers at Scottish Water company could face redundancies

Over 100 workers at Business Stream, a subsidiary of the Scottish Water Group, are at risk of being made redundant, the union Unison warned. According to Unison, 139 people could be impacted by job cuts which are set to affect the Edinburgh-based business. Emma Phillips, regional organiser at Unison, said there was a lack of transparency about the restructure process.

“The company is not being fair or transparent. They have refused to tell us exactly how many people will lose their jobs, and they said they have no intention of giving people the chance to take voluntary redundancies or exploring the furlough scheme,” she said.

A spokesperson for Business Steam said the company is consulting staff on proposals for a restructure which will affect fewer than 15 roles across the business. The firm has 300 staff in total.

Thursday 12 November

5.15pm WHSmith to close 25 stores and cut 200 jobs

WHSmith has announced it will close 25 stores, resulting in around 200 job losses. This is on top of 1,500 job cuts announced earlier this year. The retailer recorded a £280m annual loss and attributed the main bulk of this to a drastic reduction in passenger numbers, which saw annual sales at its airport and train station stores fall by 43 per cent.

However, online sales were up 240 per cent and chief executive Carl Cowling said high street sales were seeing a “steady recovery”.

"The actions we have taken have put us in a strong position to navigate this time of uncertainty and we are well positioned to benefit as our markets return to growth,” Cowling said. "In high street, we had seen a steady recovery and we were well set up both in stores and online as we went into the second lockdown. We currently have 558 stores open."

1.30pm Why stress shouldn’t be the accepted norm of crisis leadership

Being permanently in ‘fight or flight’ mode inhibits the immune system and our ability to create a compelling vision for the future, warns Karen Beaven.

1.15pm The long-term impact of Covid on the workplace

Danielle McGuigan examines the detrimental effects of the pandemic on areas such as employee mental and physical health, training, skills and equality.

12.15pm Cancer charity to cut 30 staff

Cancer charity Penny Brohn UK is expected to lose a third of its employees as a result of a £750,000 shortfall brought on by the pandemic. The charity employs 85 staff members, but 30 people could be made redundant as part of efforts to protect frontline services.

In July, the charity launched a restructure programme in response to the impact Covid-19 had on its fundraising and trading arms. Andrew Hufford, commercial director for Penny Brohn, said: "It is essential that we make significant changes to the way we operate in order to protect our frontline services and ensure that we are still here for people living with cancer who need us now and in the future."

11.30am Dyson engineers raise concerns over return to work order 

Engineers working at Dyson have raised concerns with management that they are being forced to return to their workplaces, despite feeling they can carry out responsibilities from home. According to the Guardian, Dyson told all research and development staff they must return to sites at Malmesbury and Hullavington, with employees only allowed to work from home in “exceptional cases”.

A Dyson spokesman said: “The government has stated clearly that people who cannot work from home effectively should go to work and that ‘it is vital’ for manufacturing and R&D organisations to remain open.

“Three-quarters of Dyson people, who normally work from our campus, are currently working from home. For those whose role requires them to attend, we have deployed safe working measures that go significantly beyond government guidelines, reflecting that the safety and health of our team is the priority. These measures include the mandatory wearing of face masks and they are audited by third parties on a regular basis.”

11.15am Companies pay £380m back to furlough scheme 

Businesses have paid £382m of claimed furlough funds back to the government, HM Revenue and Customs has revealed. Jim Harra, permanent secretary of HMRC, said the money had either been voluntarily sent back by companies or was done so after prompts from the department. The returned sum represents only a small part of more than £41bn claimed under the job retention scheme since it started in April but, according to PA news agency reports, £215m had been returned in September. 

Harra, who was speaking in front of MPs on the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday morning, confirmed that £382m had now been returned to the government, but added this was not a complete figure as more money is likely to come back.

9.45am Whitbread to reduce job cuts 

Hotel group Whitbread is set to reduce the 6,000 job cuts it originally proposed in September by half, according to The Times. A consultation process that ends tomorrow should see the group – which includes Premier Inn and Beefeater restaurants – tell staff that a “significant number” of the cuts will no longer be needed. 

Whitbread originally said the planned cuts were in response to the end of the furlough scheme, which had been expected to close in October but will now run through to next year. The Times also suggested that staff have shown a willingness to accept reduced hours or redeployment, which contributed to the revised decision. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on the exact number, adding that it is still working through the “detail and potential implications”. 

8.45am Kickstart scheme creates 19,000 work placements

The government's Kickstart jobs scheme for young people has helped to create more than 19,000 work placements so far, the Treasury has said. Many of the participants are due to start this week. The Kickstart scheme is open to 16 to 24-year-olds who are claiming universal credit.

The £2bn programme aims to create 250,000 work placements, with scope for more if the initiative is a success. The scheme opened for applications in August and began last week. It will run until December 2021, with the option of being extended should the government deem it worthwhile. 

Wednesday 11 November

2.30pm Key workers at risk of losing jobs because of sick pay rules, REC warns

Recruitment firms supplying key workers are being penalised under the government’s coronavirus statutory sick pay (SSP) rebate scheme, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation has warned. Under the scheme, only small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – businesses with fewer than 250 staff – can have their SSP payments reimbursed if their staff cannot work because of Covid-19. This means the vast majority of businesses supplying temporary workers are excluded from the support on offer, the think tank said.

Recruitment companies in particular were missing out on the rebate because, although they are SMEs, they place large numbers of temporary staff in other businesses – including sectors such as logistics, care and education – and are regarded as having more than 250 staff.

12.15pm Can employers forbid use of the Test and Trace app at work?

An increasing number of organisations are asking their people to turn off the NHS Covid-19 app while in the workplace. Helen Farr explores the implications of such a move.

10.15am Shoosmiths cuts 43 jobs

National law firm Shoosmiths has cut 43 roles after "identifying more efficient ways of working" during the pandemic. In October, the law firm announced it would embark on a 30-day redundancy consultation, which could result in the loss of more than 50 jobs. However, the firm said only 43 job cuts would be made after the conclusion of the consultation period. 

A spokesperson for Shoosmiths said: "We can confirm that Shoosmiths announced restructuring proposals in early October as a result of identifying more efficient ways of working in recent months during the coronavirus pandemic, when the firm’s performance has remained strong. In total, 51 posts were placed at risk, with 43 confirmed redundancies following the conclusion of a 30-day consultation period."

9.15am Pandemic slump blamed for 200 job cuts at Grangemouth crude oil refinery

Around a third of the workforce at the century-old Grangemouth Refinery could be lost as production is scaled back in response to the pandemic’s drag on demand for fuel. Bosses at the site, operated by Petroineos, plan to close two production plants that have not been operational since the initial lockdown in March, cutting around 200 roles from the 637 full-time staff.

Franck Demay, chief executive of Petroineos Refining, said: “For almost a century the Grangemouth Refinery has reliably produced high-quality fuels for the domestic market and for export. We firmly believe that only by taking action now will we preserve one of Scotland’s last large manufacturing sites and a significant contributor to the Scottish economy.”

8.45am York Museums Trust axes 43 jobs

York Museums Trust has announced it has made 43 redundancies as it struggles to survive a dramatic loss of income in the wake of the pandemic. The trust – which runs the Castle Museum, the Yorkshire Museum and Museum Gardens and York Art Gallery – said there were 17 voluntary and 26 compulsory redundancies, taking its workforce from 144 to 101 as of the beginning of November, a 30 per cent decrease. 

Reyahn King, chief executive of the York Museums Trust, said she was "devastated” to have had to lose so many people. But, she said: "Without reducing the size of our workforce, we would not be in a position to survive and rebuild after the significant financial impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had, and continues to have, on the trust.”

Tuesday 10 November

1pm Record number of redundancies drives up unemployment, ONS finds

The UK’s unemployment rate rose to 4.8 per cent in the three months to September, up 0.7 percentage points from the previous quarter, official data has shown. The spike was driven by the largest quarterly number of redundancies on record. Redundancies rose to a record high of 314,000 in July to September – an increase of 195,000 from the previous year and 181,000 from the previous quarter – according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

The number of individuals on company payrolls also fell over that time. There were 33,000 fewer payrolled employment in October compared to September, and since the beginning of lockdown restrictions in March the number of payrolled employees had fallen by 782,000, with the biggest falls seen at the start of the crisis. Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said the pandemic continued to “bring turbulence to the UK labour market”.

12.45pm How LSEG pivoted leadership development to tackle the Covid context

Most firms prioritised immediate responses at the start of the pandemic, but building resilient businesses requires a long-term approach to leading virtually, says Jig Ramji.

12.30pm What does the job retention scheme extension mean for employers?

Mark Kaye explains key considerations for firms following the government’s announcement, including rehiring and furloughing workers.

10am Pandemic could help fix Britain’s productivity problem

The coronavirus outbreak has forced UK businesses to focus on productivity, a leading economist has said, with the increase in home working effectively putting a large swathe of the workforce through “eight months of on-the-job technology training”. Writing in The Times, Simon French, chief economist at Panmure Gordon, also said the uptake of home working had reduced commuting times – the most unproductive part of most worker’s day – and could improve labour mobility by reducing the regional differences in the cost of living.

“Together, these factors have the potential to jumpstart the UK economy’s flagging level of labour productivity growth once the immediate crisis has passed,” French wrote.

9.45am University backs down on job cuts following strike threats

Bosses at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have promised to not impose compulsory redundancies after threats of strike action. Union UCU had proposed six days of strike action, the first of which was set for this week, which will no longer go ahead.

According to reports from Socialist Worker, UCU Scotland president Carlo Morelli said workers had won a “magnificent victory against compulsory redundancies in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic”. Full details of why the university backtracked on its decision are not yet available; however, many workers at the university had reportedly taken offers of voluntary redundancy.

Monday 9 November

1.30pm Should employers let staff work remotely from abroad during lockdown?

Home working has undoubtedly caused many employees tired of staring at the same four walls to feel a degree of cabin fever. So it’s understandable some have decided to boost their wellbeing by weathering this period of remote working abroad.

But while the process of employees swapping their UK-based home office for a more exotic location may seem straightforward, there are multiple considerations for both workers and employers. A number of City banks have reportedly warned high-paid executives spending the pandemic at second homes in warmer climates that they could face large tax bills if they don’t return to working remotely in the UK.

So is it time for such employees to come home now England is in lockdown for the next month? What considerations should employers be aware of? People Management asked the experts…

1.15pm Third of employers planning redundancies this year, report finds

Almost a third of employers plan to make redundancies this year, as experts warn of a difficult winter ahead despite the furlough scheme’s extension.

A poll of 1,006 employers, undertaken before the introduction of new lockdown measures in England and the subsequent extension of the coronavirus job retention scheme, found 30 per cent of firms intended to make redundancies in the three months to December 2020 – a marginal reduction from 33 per cent who said the same between July and September.

The research, part of the latest Labour Market Outlook by the CIPD and Adecco Group, also found a slight uptick in hiring intentions. Its net employment intentions figure – which measures the difference between the proportion of employers that expect to increase staffing levels and those that expect to decrease them – rose to -1 per cent, an improvement on the record low of -8 recorded in the last quarter.

12.15pm Scouts to make 100 redundancies

The Scouts has announced plans to make about 100 people redundant as it is "facing a major cash shortage and reserves that are run down". The job cuts will result in a loss of more than 30 per cent of the association's 380-strong workforce, resulting in a net annual saving of nearly £2.27m. This is in addition to the 50 redundancies the Scouts announced in August. 

The Scouts will also be selling two properties: Baden-Powell House in London and the Downe Scout Activity Centre in Kent. In a statement published online, the firm said: "Despite using every means available, including using the government’s furlough scheme, and announcing an increase to the membership fee, further cost-saving measures and ways to increase income are urgently needed."

11.15am Pandora paying all staff in full through pandemic

Jeweller Pandora has said it will continue to pay all staff their full wages despite the pandemic's ongoing effect on the retailer. Speaking to the BBC, Pandora's chief executive, Alexander Lacik, said he had no plans for the permanent closure of any of its stores and that the retailer could "withstand a big drop in sales" before he would consider store closures. 

At the height of the pandemic earlier this year, the firm continued to pay all 28,000 of its staff in full despite 80 per cent of its 2,700 stores globally being temporarily closed. Lacik said the decision to pay employees in full, despite many being unable to work because of government restrictions, was the "ethical thing to do". 

9.45am PwC providing all staff with mindfulness app

PwC has bought all of its 22,000 UK staff a year’s subscription to a mindfulness app to help employees cope with stress and anxiety as England enters its first full week of the second nationwide lockdown, City AM has reported.

In a note to all partners and staff, Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner, said that while the firm had learned a lot from the first lockdown, his main concern going into this second lockdown was people’s wellbeing and mental health. “Darker days and isolation aren’t a great combination. Making sure our people feel supported and connected is key, as well as making sure they have access to the right advice,” he said.

Friday 6 November

4.40pm Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home cut jobs following administration 

The Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) chain and Ponden Home, both part of the EWM group of retailers which employ more than 21,000 people in all, have gone into administration, resulting in more than 800 job losses across the two stores, including 750 Edinburgh Woollen Mill staff and 116 at Ponden Home. Both shops will continue to trade until a decision is made by administrators.

Phillip Day, owner of the EWM group, is expected to return to court to seek more time to save two other brands in the group, Peacocks and Jaeger.

Tony Wright, joint administrator and partner at FRP, said: “Recent months have proven extremely challenging for many retailers, even those that were trading well before the pandemic, including the teams at Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home. The administrations will provide some further protection while we continue our search for buyers to secure the long-term futures for both businesses."

1.55pm How should HR react to the furlough extension?

Even by political standards, the decision yesterday to extend the furlough scheme until March 2021 came as a surprise to many businesses. Although undeniably welcome to employers struggling to survive the economic impacts of Covid-19, it presents a big challenge for HR teams that have spent weeks preparing for the introduction of the job support scheme and the job retention bonus.

With so much being invested in the scheme to try to save jobs, People Management spoke to employment experts to find out how businesses could move forward following this latest development.

12.20pm How Covid has changed the C-suite’s responsibilities

The pandemic has meant new priorities for top executives, says Mark Parrish, but that could mark a development for the better.

11.30am Up to 45 roles at risk as Law Society considers cuts

The Law Society of England and Wales has launched a redundancy consultation, affecting 45 roles. The regulator for solicitors in England and Wales said that it is going to attempt to mitigate possible job losses by proposing 47 new roles as part of a restructuring, which it is yet to confirm. A spokesperson for the Law Society said the consultation is “about how we deliver a number of functions within the Law Society”.

The spokesperson continued: “For the past three years the Law Society has been on a journey of change and transformation. This has been so we can respond more effectively to what our members tell us about the kinds of support they need.”

10.05am Investigation to be held into Covid grant payments in Northern Ireland

An investigation will be held into how more than £4m was paid in error to hundreds of businesses in Northern Ireland through an emergency Covid-19 support grant.

A £10,000 payment was sent automatically to any business in receipt of small business rates relief. However, some payments were made to businesses that were found to be ineligible for the grant, and some of the mistakes included businesses receiving duplicate payments, getting £20,000 instead of £10,000.

Speaking to BBC News NI, Kieran Donnelly, Northern Ireland's comptroller and auditor general, said he would carry out an inquiry into the funding as soon as possible and look into how the Department of Economy would retrieve the lost money. He added the final cost of the payments could total more than £13m. Earlier this week, Diane Dodd, economy minister for Northern Ireland, said all payments made in error through Stormont's emergency Covid grant scheme will be recovered. Dodds said of the 452 payments made incorrectly, 74 have been recouped so far. 

9.40am Ikea to freeze pay for UK staff

Ikea has introduced a pay freeze for UK employees because of dwindling sales figures during the pandemic. The Swedish homeware retailer has made the decision to pause pay reviews and put on hold its plans to become accredited by the Living Wage Foundation – which sets its own living wage higher than the statutory national living wage. It is estimated that over 300 employees were expecting a pay rise in January 2021.

A spokesperson for Ikea said: “We have taken the decision to implement a pay freeze for the next financial year, and have agreed with the Living Wage Foundation that we will not implement any increase in the real living wage, thereby pausing our accreditation this year.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have put our staff first by ensuring all employees were paid 100 per cent for the period they were furloughed, and by providing additional financial assistance for those most severely affected by the pandemic through the launch of our emergency fund, and we will continue to do so.”

9.20am Standard Chartered to let employees choose their own hours

Standard Chartered has told its 75,000 staff they can work when and where they want as part of an overhaul of the way the bank works. As part of a phased approach to hybrid working, from next year around half of the bank’s staff will be able to apply for a formal flexi-working arrangement, with the aim of moving the entire workforce onto the programme by 2023.

Tanuj Kapilashrami, group head of HR, said the bank had been thinking about the future of its workforce for some time, but that the coronavirus crisis had acted as a catalyst, adding: "We also see this as an opportunity to appeal to a wider and more diverse potential future workforce."

Thursday 5 November

5.45pm Rolls-Royce to cut 1,400 jobs as part of ongoing cull 

Rolls-Royce has said it is to cut almost 1,400 jobs as part of its plans to eventually reduce its workforce by 9,000, the BBC has reported. The firm, which is one of several in the aerospace sector to be hit hard by the coronavirus and subsequent travel bans, initially announced its plans to downsize its global workforce in May, including more than 3,000 job losses in the UK.

Of this latest round of cuts, around 950 will be from the firm’s civil aerospace division, while 420 will be across global facilities. "Although we have taken swift action and put many, often painful, mitigation plans in place, we must continue to further reduce our cost base so that we can safeguard the future of Rolls-Royce," a spokesperson said.

1.30pm Furlough scheme extended until March, chancellor announces

The coronavirus job retention scheme, extended at the last minute on 31 October until early December, will now be extended until March next year, the chancellor has announced.

Speaking in parliament this afternoon, Rishi Sunak said that in light of the economic toll England’s month-long national lockdown – which came into effect this morning – was likely to have on the economy, he was extending the scheme into next year.

Sunak said the government would continue to pay 80 per cent of furloughed staff’s wages for hours not worked, with employers only required to make national insurance and pension contributions. He added that the scheme would be reviewed in January to decide whether the economic situation had improved enough to start asking employers for contributions – as they were in September and October this year.

1pm Has Covid decided the future of location-based pay?

Nick Elwell-Sutton explores employers’ options if they want to lower their salary cost base by moving to remuneration based on where workers live.

12.45pm How to help managers unlock innovation

To overcome the barriers to new ideas, team leaders must create time, be more human and build risk-free cultures of experimentation, says Elvin Turner.

9.30am Rishi Sunak expected to further extend furlough

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to make an announcement later today extending the furlough scheme to support businesses that remain closed after the lockdown in England comes to an end on 2 December, The Times has reported. England is expected to go back to the local tiered approach once the national lockdown comes to an end, under which businesses required by law to close were eligible to claim 67 per cent of workers’ normal salary through the job support scheme ‘closed’ system. However, Sunak is expected to increase this to 80 per cent in line with the current furlough scheme.

Sunak is also expected to guarantee Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland furlough money if either of the devolved nations go into another lockdown. The prime minister Boris Johnson had previously pledged this while being questioned by MPs in parliament.

9.15am More than 1,000 Heathrow catering jobs at risk

More than 1,000 catering jobs at Heathrow are at risk, unions have warned. Do & Co, which serves airlines such as British Airways (BA), is planning to make 1,068 staff redundant, leaving just 500 staff at the airport, Unite has said, claiming that the catering firm has decided not to put its workers on the government’s newly extended furlough scheme.

Shereen Higginson, regional officer at Unite, said the company’s refusal to use the furlough scheme meant it risked losing out when BA started to increase flights again. “We want this company to engage in the furlough scheme because these are the caterers who are the invisible army of aviation," she said.

8.15am Clarks to cut at least 700 jobs

Shoe retailer Clarks has announced it will cut at least 700 roles as part of its plans to revamp its shop management structure and store estate. The group is consulting with all 3,929 staff across its 320 shops about potential redundancy. More jobs are also potentially at risk as part of a proposed rescue deal with its landlords, under which some stores could potentially close. This is on top of the 900 job cuts Clarks announced in May.

7.30am Sainsbury's to axe 3,000 jobs

Sainsbury's has announced plans to cut 3,000 jobs amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. A large number of the jobs will go from the group's Argos business, which was bought by the supermarket in 2016. There will also be layoffs in Sainsbury's stores as the chain closes its delicatessens and fresh fish and meat counters. 

Wednesday 4 November

3pm Clinically extremely vulnerable advised not to go to work from Thursday

Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people in England are being strongly advised not to go to work outside their homes during lockdown from Thursday (5 November). Under government guidance updated today, CEV people should only go out for exercise and to attend health appointments during the lockdown. People with stage-five chronic kidney disease, those undergoing dialysis and adults with Down's syndrome are now also advised to follow the advice.

The government guidance also states that CEV people may be eligible for statutory sick pay, employment support allowance or universal credit if they cannot attend work. 

2.45pm John Lewis and Lloyds Bank cut hundreds of jobs

John Lewis Partnership and Lloyds Banking Group have both announced plans to cut hundreds of jobs. John Lewis, which also runs Waitrose supermarkets, says it will cut up to 1,500 jobs at its head office in a bid to help reduce costs by £50m as part of a wider effort to save £300m in annual savings by 2022.

Meanwhile, Lloyds Banking Group has announced that it is cutting a further 730 jobs as part of a major restructuring programme. The cuts will mainly affect staff in its group transformation and retail banking teams and will not lead to any further bank closures. A Lloyds Banking Group spokeswoman said the majority of workers who were told today that their role may be made redundant will "not leave until January at the earliest".

1.30pm What DHL has learned about business resiliency during Covid

Organisations must prioritise wellbeing and be prepared to be flexible in responding to rapidly changing circumstances, says Caroline Andrews.

1.15pm Employers urged to partner with colleges to upskill staff

The CIPD has called on employers to build stronger partnerships with further education (FE) colleges to upskill workers and futureproof businesses’ skills pipelines and workforce planning. 

Reacting to a report from the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, which has called for colleges to gain better support so employers can deliver lifelong education and training in the face of a changing economy and jobs market, Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said upskilling was of “critical economic and societal importance”.

“FE colleges should play a major part in this with their natural community connection and focus on vocational and employability skills, and through enabling lifelong learning. Building stronger partnerships with employers and with proper funding, now is the time to reinvigorate this sector for all our futures,” said Cheese, who is also a member of the Independent Commission on the College of the Future.

1pm More than a million paid less than minimum wage on furlough, ONS finds

A decision by many employers not to top up furlough pay has contributed to 2,043,000 employees being paid less than the national minimum wage (NMW), according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This number is the highest on record since the NMW came into force in 1999, and is a five-fold rise on the 409,000 workers who were paid less than the NMW in 2019.

Even after excluding those employees furloughed at reduced rates of pay, the ONS found the number of people paid less than the NMW had soared to 752,000 in the space of a year. This also meant more than a million workers received less than the NMW as a result of their employer not topping up the minimum 80 per cent rate they were entitled to while furloughed.

11.45am Avoncroft Museum to cut 85 per cent of workforce

Avoncroft Museum, an open-air museum of rescued buildings, is to cut almost 85 per cent of its workforce. According to the Bromsgrove Advertiser, 11 out of the museum's 13 full-time staff are at risk of being made redundant. The museum has claimed more than £300,000 in grants this year. 

In response, Michael Woolley, chair of trustees for Avoncroft Museum, told the Advertiser that the restrictions caused by the pandemic have meant that "we have earned almost no money". He added: "This puts us in an almost impossible position. The government’s latest lockdown restrictions will require the museum to close again. This will further adversely impact the museum’s finances." He said without "radical action" the museum faces "certain insolvency" once the government's extended furlough scheme ends. 

11am What does the furlough extension mean for employers?

Melanie Lane and Tracey Marsden look at the implications for businesses, and explain where clarifications are still needed.

10.45am Plans to axe 140 casual jobs at Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Halls reversed because of furlough extension

Plans to cut around 140 casual staff at Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Halls (BWUH) have been reversed following the extension of the furlough scheme. Last week, the council-owned firm that runs the two venues said it would not be moving workers on to the new job support scheme, which had been due to replace furlough. But on Monday (2 November), it said it would use support under the extended furlough scheme to keep the casual staff members on. 

A spokesperson for BWUH said: "Following the announcement made by the UK government on 31 October about the extension of the coronavirus job retention scheme, and in light of new funding being made available by Belfast City Council, we will avail of the support provided under [the furlough scheme] in relation to our pool of casual workers.”

They added that once the furlough scheme comes to an end, it anticipated casual workers will transfer to the job support scheme or whatever equivalent support scheme it is eligible for.

9.30am Job cuts expected as Poundstretcher closes Huddersfield office

About 30 jobs are at risk as Poundstretcher is set to close its Huddersfield office by the end of the year. The cuts, which have been announced internally and reported by The Grocer, are the latest effort by the budget retailer to shore up the business. It is understood that the Huddersfield staff have been given the choice of being made redundant or relocating to similar functions in Kirby Muxloe, roughly 100 miles away. 

Poundstretcher is in the middle of implementing a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) rescue plan. As part of the CVA insolvency procedure, the fate of 253 of its roughly 450 stores is dependent on each location’s performance and landlord cooperation.

8.30am Hundreds of jobs at risk as Bounty heads for insolvency

Parenting club Bounty is on the brink of insolvency after one of its main revenue streams was cut off by the pandemic. According to a report by Sky News, Bounty is preparing to confirm a pre-pack administration later this week, which could result in as many as 300 redundancies. Bounty's portrait division, which takes pictures of parents with their babies in hospitals, is also understood to be facing closure as restricted access to hospitals caused by the outbreak has led to sales drying up.

Sources told Sky that roughly 40 staff are expected to be retained as a result of the pre-pack deal, with the majority of them continuing to work from home. 

7.45am Job losses expected at Clacton Pier amid ‘severe blow’ of second lockdown

Bosses at Clacton Pier have confirmed the entertainment venue is expecting job losses, saying it would be "impossible" to keep all staff employed during the "severe blow" of a second lockdown in England. Billy Ball, director of Clacton Pier, said that while virtually all staff were kept on during the spring lockdown because of the government’s furlough scheme, it would not be possible this time around. 

“One minute we were preparing for keeping our rides open at weekends and looking forward to a busy winter and then that was all gone – and we don’t know for how long. We are now going into our quietest period and unfortunately the figures just don’t add up,” Ball said. He has not confirmed how many jobs will be lost. 

Tuesday 3 November

5.30pm A third of workers are worried about catching coronavirus

A third of workers (35 per cent) in the workplace in September were worried about catching coronavirus while at work, a poll of workers by YouGov and the Resolution Foundation has found. The survey also highlighted that, while lower earners were more likely to be worried about contracting the virus, they were also less likely to raise concerns or see any complaints resolved.

The charity called for additional funding for the Health and Safety Executive, arguing that a lack of resources has made the watchdog slow to respond to the virus. Lindsay Judge, research director at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Given many workers’ limited ability to get employers to address Covid concerns, the UK needs a strong enforcement regime to ensure that workplaces are as safe as can be. But instead health and safety resources have been cut, inspections have been slow, and Covid-related enforcement notices are few and far between.”

4.20pm More than 400 jobs at Airbus Broughton at risk

Following Airbus’s recent announcement that it will cut 15,000 jobs globally as a result of the impact of coronavirus on production, the firm has revealed more than 400 workers at its Broughton plant are at risk of compulsory redundancy after the firm failed to find enough workers willing to take voluntary redundancy. 

The company had hoped to avoid making compulsory redundancies and offered generous payoffs to workers taking voluntary redundancy or early retirement, Business Insider reported. However, the company still faces a gap between its target reduction in headcount and the number agreeing to leave voluntarily, despite hundreds already accepting offers. Unite declined to comment on the exact figure but told Business Insider it was working to reduce the number of staff at risk. 

1pm Furlough extension FAQs: your most pressing queries answered

Can staff recently made redundant be brought back and put on the scheme? Or those who’ve not been on it before? People Management asked the experts.

12.30pm How are employers reacting to a second lockdown in England?

People Management asked HR leaders in a range of sectors – including hospitality, construction, education and retail – what the latest restrictions mean for them, how they are approaching this and other matters such as shielding staff and the job retention scheme’s last-minute extension. 

12.15pm Can parents attend work if their child is sent home?

Jane Hallas unravels the conflicting messages on self-isolation requirements if a child is not allowed to go to school because of a Covid-19 outbreak.

9.45am Half of businesses now expect to move to flexible working permanently

A survey of businesses by the Confederation of British Industry and Ipsos Mori has found that nearly half of employers expect that flexible working will remain a feature after the pandemic has subsided. The poll of 573 businesses found 47 per cent expect that staff would split their time evenly between working from home and from the office beyond 2021.

In the survey more than three-quarters (79 per cent) of companies said in 2019 their staff were working mostly or entirely in an office or workplace that was not their home, while just 28 per cent of businesses expected that to be the case for them in 2021. 

9.30am Furlough scheme can be extended to Scotland and Wales

The prime minister has said the extended furlough scheme will be made available in the devolved nations if they go into future lockdowns of their own, following complaints from the Welsh and Scottish governments that it was unfair to make extra funding available for England as it goes into a nationwide lockdown when similar support had not been provided for other parts of the UK. When questioned about the disparity in parliament yesterday, Boris Johnson said: “If other parts of the UK decide to go into measures that require the furlough scheme, then of course it is available to them.”

9.15am City firms tell employees to work from home

A number of leading City employers have told thousands of their staff to stay away from the office as England prepares to enter a nationwide lockdown on Thursday, The Times has reported.

Following the prime minister’s announcement over the weekend, Deutsche Bank, which employs about 8,000 people in London and Birmingham, said it would “substantially reduce” the numbers of employees working from the office. Similarly, Goldman Sachs, which has 6,000 staff in London and had been encouraging them to return to the workplace, said that from Thursday only employees “designated as in-office essential” would be allowed into the office. PwC, EY and KPMG have also told their UK staff that home working should be the default going forward unless there is an urgent business or personal reason to come to the office. 

Monday 2 November

5.30pm Prime minister sorry for ‘anguish’ lockdown will cause businesses

Speaking in front of parliament this afternoon, the prime minister reiterated the lockdown measures that will come into force in England on Thursday, including the closure of non-essential shops, hospitality venues and bars and restaurants apart from for takeaways. Boris Johnson added that workplaces should stay open where people can’t work from home, for example in construction and manufacturing, and that while they were not asking the vulnerable to shield in the same way as before, those who were clinically extremely vulnerable should only work from home.

“I am truly sorry for the anguish these measures will impose, particularly for businesses which have just got back on their feet. Businesses across the country who’ve gone through such trouble to make themselves Covid secure, to install perspex screens, to do the right thing – each of these actions has helped to bring the R-number down… but it is now clear that we must do more,” he said. 

1.45pm England’s second national lockdown and HR: what we know so far

England will enter a second national lockdown after a rapid rise in coronavirus cases, the government announced over the weekend. Official figures showed that an estimated 560,000 people in England had Covid-19 between 17 and 23 October. The data collected by the Office for National Statistics found there were an average of 51,900 new cases per day in private households in England during this timeframe. This is up from an estimated 35,200 new cases per day for the period from 10 to 16 October.

In a broadcasted Downing Street news conference on 31 October, prime minister Boris Johnson said the new lockdown restrictions would – pending a vote in parliament on them this week – come into effect on Thursday (5 November) to prevent a "medical and moral disaster" for the NHS as the number of infections rose.

With the new lockdown set to come into effect in a few days, People Management provides the lowdown on whether this means offices closing once again, on shielding employees and more...

1.15pm How will the government’s extended furlough U-turn work in practice?

As part of the government’s announcement of a second nationwide lockdown in England over the weekend, the chancellor has paused the launch of the job support scheme and instead extended the original furlough scheme for another month to support employers affected by new instructions for non-essential businesses to close for a month.

On the surface, the extension is simple. The scheme will now run until the beginning of December, offering the same level of support that was available in August. As such, the government will provide 80 per cent of furloughed workers’ wages up to a cap of £2,500 a month, with businesses only expected to pay national insurance and pension contributions. There is also – similarly to the last few months – a flexible option available. Employers are allowed to claim furlough grants just for the time that employees are not working, and there are no minimum working hours required.

But the last minute nature of the extension announcement has – despite its seeming simplicity – created a confusing situation for employers to now get to grips with, says Simon Jones, director of Ariadne Associates. “While extending the furlough scheme is a good idea, it’s not helpful to make the decision on the day it was due to expire,” he says.

12.30pm Age discrimination update

Adam Penman examines recent developments regarding Covid-19, the new state pension age for women and compensation for the stigma of bringing a claim.

10.15am MPs back UBI trials in wake of pandemic

A cross-party group of 500 MPs, peers and local councillors has called on the UK government to allow local authorities to run universal basic income (UBI) trials in response to mass unemployment triggered by the second wave of Covid-19. One UBI option would be to launch an initial £48 a week payment, although critics of the system argue a UBI would be too expensive to operate or would discourage people from finding work. However, a report for the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce found just 16 per cent of 2,000 adults would oppose a basic income pilot in their area, while 46 per cent would support one. 

10am UK long-term unemployment could hit 1.6 million, report finds

Long-term unemployment in the UK could hit 1.6 million next year, with the youngest and oldest workers particularly at risk of falling out of work for 12 months or more if a second wave of the pandemic hits the country’s economic recovery, according to analysis by the Learning and Work Institute. 

The think tank warned of the impact of long-term unemployment on households and the wider economy, saying it “scars individuals, families and communities for years to come”, lessens the chances of finding work and reduces income in future years. It also demotivates people and undermines their skills, the report added. While long-term unemployment fell to below 300,000 earlier this year, or less than 1 per cent of the workforce, a climb to 1.2 million would represent almost one in 20 working age people.

8am Transport for London secures emergency £1.8bn bailout

Transport for London (TfL) has secured a £1.8bn government bailout, to keep Tube and bus services running until March 2021. The funding will ensure TfL can address its financial shortfall as a result of the loss of passengers because of the pandemic. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the deal was "not ideal", but the government said it was "proof of our commitment".

Khan said he fought hard against the "very worst" proposals, adding: "The only reason TfL needs government support is because its fares income has almost dried up since March." TfL said discussions continue with the government on longer-term sustainable funding solutions. 

7.40am England to enter second national lockdown

England is to be placed under stricter nationwide restrictions from Thursday (5 November) in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus. Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the new measures on 31 October, just after confirming the number of Covid cases in the UK had passed the one million mark. The new restrictions will initially be imposed until 2 December, with the plan to then ease them on a local and regional basis. 

The government has also said the furlough scheme, which was set to end on 31 October, will remain open until the new restrictions are lifted. Under these restrictions, all pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops will have to close to the public. Only takeaway, deliveries and click and collect services are allowed to continue. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have their own restrictions. 

Friday 30 October 

1.30pm One in five Covid whistleblowers sacked, research reveals

One in five (20 per cent) employees who have gone to their bosses with concerns over furlough fraud and breaches of Covid-19 safety rules have been sacked as a result, a report has found. The whistleblowing charity Protect also found one in five (41 per cent) employers simply ignored staff who made disclosures, in what it said was a “systematic response to whistleblowing”.
 
The charity analysed 638 cases related to coronavirus raised between 23 March and 30 September – including complaints about furlough fraud (62 per cent), risk to public safety, including a lack of social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE) in the workplace (34 per cent), and other rights violations (4 per cent) – and compared this to a sample of cases across 2019. Ranjit Dhindsa, partner and head of employment at Fieldfisher, said the findings were evidence that many employers did not have effective procedures in place to address employee concerns. “They should provide sources of help and guidance to whistleblowers; seek to instil a culture in which individuals are encouraged to come forward with concerns; and ensure individuals are protected through a confidential investigation of their concerns,” she said.

12.30pm Why humour is a serious business for leaders facing crisis

A laugh among teams can help build trust, reduce stress and improve relationships, says Greg Orme – especially during difficult times
 
10am  Customer-facing staff at higher risk of catching Covid, study finds

Workers in customer-facing roles are five times as likely to test positive for the coronavirus than colleagues in non-customer facing positions, a study has found.

The study of 104 employees from one grocery store in Boston, Massachusetts, conducted in May by Harvard University, found that one in five (21 out of 104) workers tested positive for the virus responsible for Covid-19. Of the workers that tested positive, 91 per cent had customer facing roles. In contrast, just 59 per cent of those testing negative were in customer facing roles. It also found three out of four testing positive (76 per cent) had no symptoms.

The report said: “This is the first study to demonstrate the significant asymptomatic infection rate, exposure risks, and associated psychological distress of grocery retail essential workers during the pandemic.”

9.15am Waitrose to hire 1,850 employees for its fulfilment centres

Waitrose is to hire 1,850 new drivers and workers for its fulfillment centres to meet increased demand for the retailer’s online shopping service over the Christmas period.

In a statement it said the sale of seasonal items through its online service was already 250 per cent higher than the same time last year. Laura Burbedge, Waitrose director of online, said: “These additional Waitrose.com drivers and pickers will allow us to better support our customers over the Christmas period with their online grocery orders.”

Thursday 29 October

5.15pm Pizza Express to cut 1,300 jobs 

Pizza Express has announced it is to cut 1,300 more jobs across its 370 UK restaurants after sales dipped during the pandemic, according to the BBC. The chain’s announcement comes weeks after it said it would cut 1,100 jobs and close 73 restaurants. It has not confirmed any further restaurants will close. 

Managing director Zoe Bowley said: "Our aim throughout these extremely challenging times has been to keep our team members and customers safe and to retain jobs for as long as possible. Unfortunately, the recent increase in Covid-19 cases is again causing footfall to decline across the UK."

5pm Scottish first minister tells workers to ‘email me directly’ if asked by employers to break coronavirus restrictions

The Scottish first minister has said anyone being pressured to break coronavirus rules by their employer should report the behaviour directly to her, PA has reported. Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon said such behaviour was "completely and utterly irresponsible" and that anyone affected could email her directly.

Sturgeon’s remarks were in response to allegations from Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie that a “well known pub chain” was forcing members of staff with coronavirus symptoms to continue working until they received a positive test result.

“Any business that was behaving in that way is risking making the situation worse, and risking restrictions having to be in place for longer, risking the health and safety of the workers and the wider community, and making the impact on businesses more severe and longer lasting,” the first minister said. "To workers across the country: if you are being put under pressure by an employer to act in any of these ways, get in touch with your local MSP, get in touch with the local environmental health office, email me directly.”

12.30pm The latest on how the job support schemes will work

Melanie Lane and Tracey Marsden outline the differences between the two types of funding, including new detail on eligibility and penalties for non-compliance.

12.15pm How Chegg has maintained culture during Covid and home working

The education technology firm launched initiatives such as virtual fitness sessions, summer coding camps for employees’ children and ‘no meetings Fridays’, reports Debra Thompson.

9.30am Economists call for further extension of business support

Economists have called on the chancellor to extend support for business beyond the additional measures announced last week, the Guardian has reported. Lord Robert  Skidelsky, emeritus professor of political economy at Warwick University, said the government needed to extend the furlough scheme, warning that even with “generous support” there would still be redundancies as the economy slows.

Similarly, Lord Jim O’Neill, former City economist and Treasury minister, said Sunak’s job support scheme should be dropped and replaced with a simpler scheme based on assessments of companies’ incomes. “Many of these firms have already taken on huge debts to get through the year. If the government says it will replace their income, then they stand a chance of making it through the winter as well,” he told the paper.

8.30am Boeing to cut 20 per cent of workforce by end of 2021

Boeing is to cut another 7,000 jobs in the wake of the pandemic. The US planemaker, which had already gone through a round of job cuts, said it expected to have a workforce of 130,000 by the end of 2021, down from 160,000 before the pandemic. This represents a 20 per cent cut in the firm's workforce. 

Dave Calhoun, Boeing’s chief executive, said: “The global pandemic continued to add pressure to our business this quarter, and we’re aligning to this new reality by closely managing our liquidity and transforming our enterprise to be sharper, more resilient and more sustainable for the long term."

8am 1,700 employers planned redundancies in September, BBC finds

Some 1,734 employers notified the government of plans to cut 20 or more posts, according to a BBC investigation, close to the peak levels seen in June and July. According to figures released to the BBC after a freedom of information request, a total of 82,000 positions were notified as at risk of being made redundant in September.

However, this was still lower than the levels of job cuts seen in June and July. The investigation revealed 1,888 UK employers made plans to cut nearly 156,000 jobs in June. In July, 1,784 firms began the process of making nearly 150,000 roles redundant. Just 966 British employers planned 58,000 redundancies in August. 

Wednesday 28 October

2.45pm Non-essential businesses to reopen in Wales early November

The Welsh government’s chief law officer, Jeremy Miles, has said non-essential shops and gyms in Wales will reopen at the end of the ‘firebreak’ lockdown on 9 November. Speaking at a press conference, Miles confirmed that churches and places of worship could resume services, and that bars and restaurants would be able to start serving customers again. However, it was not clear whether pubs and restaurants would be able to reopen fully or whether some restrictions would remain. 

Miles said: "This firebreak will end on 9 November. When we come out of this, our shops will reopen. People will go back to work, churches and places of worship will resume services. Bars and restaurants will serve customers and people will be able to exercise and train in gyms."

1.15pm Review calls for duty to report occupational coronavirus infections and deaths

A major review has called on the government to create a duty for employers to report occupational infections and deaths from coronavirus, stating that its failure to ensure workplaces were Covid secure has had a disproportionate impact on ethnic minority workers.

This new duty would be in line with existing health and safety requirements for other deaths and injuries at work, with the review also recommending the government create “a legal requirement for employers to publish their Covid-19 risk assessments on a central government portal”.

The review on the impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minority communities, by Baroness Doreen Lawrence and commissioned by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, said the virus had “thrived on inequalities that have long scarred British society”, and called on the government to do more to protect employees. 

12.45pm The role and rights of health and safety representatives

Covid-19 has brought the importance of staff taking on such duties to the fore, say Victoria Albon and Kate Coppack – but what protections apply?

12.30pm Young and ethnic minority workers hardest hit by post-furlough job cuts, report finds

Young and ethnic minority individuals are being hardest hit by post-furlough job losses, a report has found, warning that the winding down of the job support scheme could lead to a dramatic rise in unemployment across the UK. The report by the Resolution Foundation found that nearly a fifth (19 per cent) of young people aged between 18 and 24 who were furloughed during lockdown were unemployed in September.

For ethnic minority workers this figure was 22 per cent, compared to just 9 per cent of the general population. A similar number (22 per cent) of those furloughed from insecure work during lockdown were also unemployed in September.

Kathleen Henehan, senior research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said unprecedented government support had cushioned many people from the initial economic impact of lockdown. But as support started to wind down, “the true nature of Britain’s jobs crisis [was] starting to reveal itself”, she warned.

11.45am More than 100 staff test positive for Covid at Norfolk meat packing plant

More than 100 members of staff at a Norfolk meat packing plant have tested positive for coronavirus. Watton-based Cranswick Country Foods said that, out of 333 workers tested, 144 were found to be positive for the virus, all of who were asymptomatic and self-isolating. It said all 1,000 members of staff would be tested.

A spokesman for the firm said: "We are continuing to work cooperatively with Public Health England, the Health and Safety Executive, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Norfolk County Council, but envisage there will be disruption to the full operation of the plant in the short term." Norfolk County Council said the positive test rate at the plant was a "cause for concern".

Cranswick is one of several meat processing plants that have experienced an outbreak of coronavirus among staff. Turkey product producer Bernard Matthews has been affected as a small number of workers at its site in Great Witchingham, Norfolk, tested positive. Banham Poultry in Norfolk closed for two weeks in August and September when more than 120 staff had the virus.

10.30am Almost half of Scottish workers had pay cut during pandemic, report finds 

A new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research Scotland found just under half (45 per cent) of all workers in the devolved nation experienced a drop in pay between April and June. The think tank also warned the pandemic would still pose a “significant threat to lives and livelihoods across Scotland for some time to come”, and called for urgent action from the Scottish and UK governments to tackle the problem.

“As we look ahead to the rest of this year and the prospect of unprecedented levels of unemployment, it is clear that this pandemic will continue to pose a significant threat to lives and livelihoods across Scotland for some time to come,” the report said, urging the government in Westminster to make temporary increases in benefits permanent and consider how it can provide additional support for families with children. 

10am Fewer than half of manufacturers taking on new apprentices

Fewer than half of the UK’s manufacturers are planning to take on any new apprentices in the next year, a research by Make UK has found – the lowest levels since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy. Reported by the Financial Times, the industry body found that just 44 per cent of manufacturing businesses planned to hire an apprentice, a fall from 74 per cent the same time last year.

In the survey just 11 per cent of companies polled said they were in a position to make use of the government’s coronavirus apprenticeship support scheme – which offers £2,500 for every new apprentice hired under the age of 25, and £1,500 for every new apprentice over the age of 25.

Research in May by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers found the coronavirus crisis had halted a large number of apprenticeship starts. A survey found three-fifths (60 per cent) of employers had stopped all new apprenticeship starts since the start of the pandemic.

Tuesday 27 October 

4.30pm RSHP to cut 30 jobs 

Architecture firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) have announced up to 30 job cuts, citing coronavirus and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit as the main drivers for its decision. According to a statement, RSHP will make between 25 and 30 staff redundant by the end of November after several projects were put on hold because of “the combination of the global pandemic, the possibility of a no-deal Brexit and a general lack of confidence in the market”. It added: “We will be doing everything we can to manage this process as compassionately as possible to help the staff affected and the entire studio through this difficult period.”

Reports from Architects’ Journal said a recent survey revealed 48 per cent of medium-sized and large architecture practices were expecting to reduce their permanent staffing levels in the next three months.

4.15pm Most employers back tougher worker protection

Research by the Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP) has found that 64 per cent of businesses would support tightening existing labour market regulations and increasing the minimum wage to protect employees from insecure work and in-work poverty during the coronavirus outbreak. The poll of more than 600 businesses also found 40 per cent felt more responsibility to offer staff secure job contracts in response to the outbreak.

Rosie Stock Jones, senior research analyst at CPP, said the pandemic had underlined the value of key workers, including carers, cleaners and couriers, who were often on insecure contracts. “Long before Covid, we saw the emergence of a labour market in which too many people depended on precarious jobs. But the current crisis has increased the risk of poverty to those working in them,” she said.

“Maintaining a system that legitimises the exploitation of society’s most important workers and contributes to rising levels of in-work poverty can no longer be acceptable.” 

3.30pm CIPD relaunches mentoring programme in response to rising youth unemployment

In response to rising youth unemployment caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the CIPD has relaunched its Steps Ahead Mentoring programme. The scheme will match young people with CIPD members who will act as mentors giving advice on job searching, writing CVs and applications and interviewing. Mentors will also help their mentees improve their confidence, build their professional networks and set career goals.

First launched in 2012 to help parents and carers returning from a career break, Jemeela Quraishi, social impact and innovation lead at the CIPD, said the mentoring programme was “needed now more than ever”. “With research showing that youth unemployment can have a long-term impact on mental health, earnings and career progression, we’re pleased to direct the focus of Steps Ahead where it’s needed most,” she said.

CIPD members interested in becoming a mentor through the programme can find out more here.

1.15pm Disabled workers facing coronavirus ‘jobs crisis’, survey shows

Disabled people are facing a ‘jobs crisis’ caused by coronavirus, a charity has warned, with the outbreak discouraging employers from hiring such individuals.   

According to a report from Leonard Cheshire, seven in 10 disabled people (71 per cent) in employment in March this year were affected by the pandemic, either through a loss of income, being put on furlough or being made redundant. This increased to 84 per cent for those aged 18 to 24.The poll, which surveyed 1,171 working-age disabled people and 502 employers, also raised concerns that the pandemic was negatively impacting employers’ inclusivity practices.

Gemma Hope, head of policy at Leonard Cheshire, said the report’s findings were “stark”, and urged both employers and the government to take action. “We must stress that prompt, decisive action can stop the trends we have identified from becoming more serious,” she said.

12pm Managing the end of furlough

As the job retention scheme draws to a close, Alana Penkethman and Molly Dilling explain how to accommodate employees’ varying needs. 

11.45am We must get beyond the home vs office debate to reinvent work

Now is the time for all stakeholders to come together and design a new model fit for the 21st century, say Chris Kane and Eugenia Anastassiou.

10.30am Young workers twice as likely to have lost their job, research shows

More than one in 10 people aged 16-25 have lost their job, and just under six in 10 have seen their earnings fall since the pandemic began, a study has found. Of the 10,000 people surveyed, 5.4 per cent had lost their job and a further 7.3 per cent reported they were still in work but on zero hours, meaning 12.7 per cent were ‘workless’. This rate of worklessness was higher for those aged 16-25 (18.3 per cent) than for those aged 26-65 (11.9 per cent).

The survey, conducted by the London School of Economics and Exeter University through September and October, also found employment and earning losses were more pronounced for women, the self-employed and those who “grew up in a poor family”.

Stephen Machin, professor at the LSE and one of the report authors, said: “These are very significant hits to the labour market for young adults in particular. There is a real concern that people who have lost their jobs are moving onto trajectories heading to long-term unemployment, the costs of which are substantial.” 

8.45am Home working poses threat to productivity, says Bank of England chief economist

The chief economist for the Bank of England has warned that fewer face-to-face conversations and meetings posed a risk to productivity “that may not yet be fully visible”. In a lecture released by the central bank yesterday, Andy Haldane argued virtual discussions could not recreate the same opportunities that arose from informal conversations, and said remote working “cannot be done indefinitely”.

“Home working means serendipity is supplanted by scheduling, face-to-face by Zoom-to-Zoom,” he said. “What creativity is gained in improved tunnelling is lost in the darkness of the tunnel itself. I imagine some people will have used lockdown to write that creative novel they always knew was in them. I doubt many will become modern day classics.”

Haldane added that on a personal level he wasn’t sure he was happier working from home. “I feel acutely the loss of working relationships and external stimuli,” he said.

Monday 26 October

1pm Helping employees self-manage conditions such as long Covid

Workplace support for those with long-term ill-health is currently insufficient, says Sally Hemming, but must now be viewed as essential.

12.45pm How HR can prepare for insolvency

Raoul Parekh and Ben Smith explain what people professionals need to consider when faced with potential administration buy-outs.

12.30pm What benefits should you be providing to home workers?

Office perks such as free food or a gym membership are often seen by employees as a major benefit – and sometimes even the major attraction – of joining an organisation. A free hot meal, fresh fruit and Friday drinks are welcome bonuses that some staff came to expect pre-Covid.

But such workplace perks are of course difficult to deliver for many businesses during a pandemic, and could disappear altogether where firms roll out long-term home working or even decide they don’t need an office space at all. There’s evidence employers are giving the matter careful thought, however. A recent survey of 144 employers by Howden found almost three in four (72 per cent) were planning to review their employee benefits provision as a direct result of the pandemic, and more than a third (38 per cent) felt they were now ‘much more important’ than pre-Covid.

So People Management asked experts if benefits should be rethought, and if so what now-obsolete offerings should be replaced with, including the pros and cons of more generous expense policies to support staff working from home.

9.30am Local lockdowns could worsen job recovery, says think tank 

Deserted high streets caused by local lockdowns are damaging the British job market recovery, according to the Centre for Cities. New research from the think tank has found urban areas in Scotland and southern England have seen the biggest declines in job postings, and vacancies have failed to return to pre-pandemic levels across all 63 of the UK towns and cities it analysed. Aberdeen has recorded the steepest fall, because of a struggling oil industry, with a 75 per cent decline in job vacancies at the beginning of October, compared to the same time last year. It is followed by Edinburgh at 57 per cent, while Belfast and Crawley were at 55 per cent.

Centre for Cities said the drop in hiring was concentrated in sectors affected by Covid-19 restrictions such as retail, arts and leisure. This could have potentially catastrophic long-term consequences for both people and the economy, said the think tank’s chief executive, Andrew Carter. “The government has told us to expect a tough winter and while local lockdowns are necessary to protect lives, it is vital that ministers continue to listen and reassess the level of support given to help people and places to cope with the months ahead," he said.

7.30am Royal Mail seeks record number of Christmas temps

Royal Mail is looking to recruit a record number of temporary seasonal jobs as a result of a surge in online shopping during the pandemic. The mail carrier said it aims to hire 33,000 additional workers for the Christmas period – two-thirds more than usual at this time of year. Royal Mail typically employs between 15,000 and 23,000 extra staff between October and January. It said that a higher number of workers was needed to help sort Christmas deliveries of letters, cards and parcels this year because many consumers are staying at home under Covid-19 restrictions and shopping online. 

More than 13,000 temporary mail centre sorting posts are available in England, about 1,400 posts in Scotland, 700 posts in Wales and 500 posts in Northern Ireland. The temporary workers will support more than 115,000 postmen and women in permanent roles. About 1,000 of the new recruits will work for the company's new Covid-19 testing kit collection team.

7.15am Lloyds staff to work from home until next spring

Lloyds Banking Group will ask staff currently working from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic to continue doing so until at least spring 2021. The group said the decision was in line with government guidance, which recommends people work from home where possible to limit the spread of Covid. 

The majority of Lloyds Banking Group's 65,000 staff are presently working from home. Although staff continue to operate in high street bank branches. A spokesperson for Lloyds Banking Group said in a statement: "In line with guidance from the UK and national governments, and given the majority of our colleagues are working from home, we have asked them to continue to do so until at least spring."

Friday 23 October 

5.50pm Test and trace app users won’t get self-isolation payments

Users of the official NHS Test and Trace app in England and Wales who are told by the app to self isolate will not be eligible for government support, the BBC has reported.

Low-income individuals told by the NHS to self isolate via a phone call can claim a £500 payment from their local authority. However the Department of Health has said that because the app is anonymous, there is currently no way of issuing individuals instructed to self-isolate through the app with the payment. The government has said it is looking for a way to change that.

While it is currently an offence to ignore an instruction from NHS Test and Trace to self isolate, with those failing to comply facing fines of up to £10,000, the government has previously acknowledged that the anonymous nature of the app means there is no way of knowing who has been told through the app to self-isolate. This means any instruction to self-isolate given by the app would be voluntary.

2.30pm KFC to create 5,400 jobs in the UK and Ireland

KFC says it plans to create 5,400 new jobs in the UK and Ireland by the end of 2020. The chain, which has 965 restaurants across the UK and Ireland, says some of the new jobs will be funded by the government's Kickstart scheme, which is designed to help employment prospects for young people at risk of long-term unemployment. The new posts will be in addition to the 4,300 new recruits that KFC says it has taken on since March.

Paula Mackenzie, KFC’s general manager for the UK and Ireland, said: "This year is going to be even more challenging for young people looking for job opportunities. But we know that all the skills the hospitality sector teaches – the importance of hard work, delivering great service and working as part of a team – will hugely help them in the long run."

1.30pm One in 10 furloughed staff asked to work, report finds

One in 10 furloughed employees worked for their employer while on the scheme, a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has found – a clear breach of furlough that could see companies face prosecution. In the report, the NAO warned billions had been lost to furlough fraud. In addition to the 9 per cent of employees who were asked to work despite being on furlough, 4 per cent were paid less than 80 per cent of their wages, it found.

The report estimated that the level of fraud could affect up to 10 per cent of those on the scheme. With the job retention scheme expected to cost £54.5bn, this equated to around £5.45bn. However, the report stated: “HMRC will not know the actual levels until the end of 2021 at the earliest.”

1.20pm The new job support scheme: what's changed for employers?

With less than two weeks to go before it was due to launch, chancellor Rishi Sunak has completely overhauled his new job support scheme, slashing the contribution employers will be required to make and reducing the minimum amount of hours short-time employees are required to work to be eligible,

So with employers given just nine days to get up to speed with the new system, People Management takes a look at what’s new and any grey areas created.

12.15pm New changes to employment tribunals

With the pandemic putting the system under continuing pressure, recent updates aim to significantly reduce the backlog of cases, as Laura Farnsworth explains.

11am Over half of SMEs fear for their survival, poll shows

More than half (55 per cent) of small firms in Europe expect to shut down by September next year if their revenues remain at current levels, a McKinsey survey of more than 2,200 companies in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK has found. Small and medium-sized companies – defined as those with 250 or fewer staff – together provide jobs for two-thirds of European workers. The poll was conducted in August, before the new wave of coronavirus cases hit Europe.

10.20am More than nine in 10 Sussex Food staff at risk of redundancy

The majority of staff at Sussex University’s catering provider Sussex Food have been warned that their roles are at risk of being made redundant, according to the Sussex Tab. Chartwells Higher Education, which runs Sussex Foods, announced that 51 of the current 55 workers (92 per cent) were at risk of redundancy. The proposed changes were announced earlier this month as Chartwells said its business has been heavily affected by the pandemic. 

A spokesperson for Chartwells said: “Due to the reduction in demand for catering on campus as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the introduction of subsequent social distancing requirements, our food service operations have been significantly impacted. While we have worked hard to do all that we can to protect jobs, we have unfortunately had to enter into redundancy consultation with some of our colleagues working across our catering provisions at the university.” The restructure is set to finish on 17 November.

10am Gap considering UK and Europe store closures 

Fashion retailer Gap is considering closing all of its 129 company-owned stores in Europe and a distribution centre in Rugby next year, potentially putting hundreds of jobs at risk. The company, which has more than 70 stores in the UK and four in Ireland, as well as outlets in France and Italy, said it now wanted to operate in Europe through “partnerships”, potentially both online and in stores. Currently the group has 158 franchise stores in Europe, on top of the company-owned outlets, and said that was where its focus would lie. The company also said it was reviewing its warehouse and distribution model and its Gap and Banana Republic-owned e-commerce operations in Europe.

Thursday 22 October

1.50pm Covid causing ‘perfect storm’ of outstanding tribunal cases, report warns

Whistleblowers sacked for raising concerns about employers breaching Covid-19 guidelines are among those being denied justice because of a record backlog of cases at employment tribunals, according to a new analysis of government data. It warned outstanding claims were set to exceed half a million by spring next year, amid a "perfect storm" of rising demand and restricted capacity.

The Tribunal trouble report, released today (22 October) by Citizens Advice, also revealed that, in the first half of this year, nearly three in 10 (29 per cent) unfair dismissal cases were abandoned by employees who faced average waits of more than nine months to get their cases heard. “The increased delays to redress arising in the pandemic threaten to effectively deny redress altogether. Some claimants may conclude that withdrawing their case now is preferable to a lengthy limbo period and an unknown outcome at tribunal,” the report said.

1.30pm Chancellor slashes job support scheme employer contributions

The chancellor has made the job support scheme more generous following complaints that businesses affected by local lockdown restrictions but not told to close were missing out on vital financial aid. In a statement to parliament this morning, Rishi Sunak cut the contribution that employers on the scheme will be required to make, and reduced the minimum number of hours employees would have to work to be eligible.

Originally businesses were required to contribute 33 per cent of the wages for the time that employees on the scheme were not working. However, this will now be reduced to just 5 per cent, while the government’s contribution will increase to 62 per cent of hours not worked. 

Similarly, the minimum number of hours employees would need to work to be eligible has been reduced from 33 per cent of their normal hours to 20 per cent. The more generous job support scheme would be made available to eligible companies regardless of which of the government’s three tiers they were covered by, Sunak said. 

12.40pm Supporting parents should be for life, not just parental leave

Covid has had a huge impact on working mums and dads, says Lucinda Quigley, so now is the time to reassess how businesses help them.

11am 170,000 jobs in UK's live music sector 'will be lost by Christmas'

The UK’s live music sector is facing the loss of 170,000 jobs – almost two-thirds of its workforce – as the hard-hit industry approaches a “cliff edge” after the winding up of the government’s furlough scheme at the end of the month. The research, conducted on behalf of Live, the umbrella group representing the live music industry, estimated that the live music sector would see an 80 per cent decline in revenues this year as a result of the pandemic. 

The research predicted that 64 per cent of the sector’s 262,000 workers would be out of a job by Christmas. Of the 52,200 permanently employed staff, half are predicted to lose their jobs when the furlough scheme ends. But the hardest hit will be the 210,000 self-employed and freelance workers who have full-time equivalent roles, with 144,000 expected to lose their jobs. Chris Carey, economist and co-author of the report, said: “From the artists on stage to the venues and the many specialist roles and occupations that make live music happen, this research shows clearly that the entire ecosystem is being decimated.”

10.45am How has coronavirus changed the role of HR?

Allison Crabtree explores the ways the pandemic has affected people professionals’ responsibilities and priorities.

10.15am Up to 65 jobs to be axed at Ports of Jersey

Up to 65 jobs could be lost as Ports of Jersey reshapes its business in the wake of plummeting demand for travel because of the pandemic. Ports of Jersey has begun a consultation process aimed at cutting around 15 per cent of its 420 in-house staff through a combination of voluntary redundancy and early retirement. This would equate to a £3m reduction in costs.

Matt Thomas, chief executive of Ports of Jersey, said the decision to cut jobs had been put off for as long as possible, but that rising infection rates that had affected the whole of Europe in recent weeks meant the process could no longer be avoided. He said: "When the borders opened in July, we started to move back towards sustainability, but couldn’t continue that progress once we reached September. We could ride one wave, but the second wave has meant we’ve had to take these steps – sadly we are not immune to the effects of the virus."

10am More than 100 jobs at risk at Leeds Bradford Airport

Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) has confirmed that it has entered into a consultation process with 158 staff regarding redundancies, with 107 permanent positions set to be cut. LBA said the decision was made as a result of the challenges of the global pandemic, and said it had been operating in "extraordinary circumstances". The airport said cuts were necessary for the business to survive the short-term impact of the crisis, but that the decision was separate to its "long-term aspirations", which include a £150m expansion.

A spokesperson for LBA said: “We are deeply saddened to be consulting with a number of colleagues because of the impact of the global pandemic. Like most businesses, we are operating in extraordinary circumstances and this has led to some difficult decisions. The long-term prognosis for aviation is very different to the short-term constraints our business faces and we regrettably must act to safeguard the business.”

9.30 Chancellor to increase support for businesses in tier two areas

The chancellor is expected to announce new job support measures for employers in tier two areas. Rishi Sunak is due to give a statement in parliament this morning where he is likely to provide an update to the job support scheme following criticism that many businesses in England have been economically affected by new restrictions but have missed out on support because they have not been told to close.

As it currently stands, only employers in tier three areas that have been told to close are eligible for the extended furlough scheme – which pays two-thirds of employees wages and does not require any employer contributions. However, many companies under tier two lockdown, particularly in the hospitality sector, face additional restrictions but are denied access to the more generous furlough scheme.

9am HSBC to cut 300 jobs in UK commercial banking restructure

HSBC has reportedly launched a restructuring of its commercial banking branch in the UK, which will lead to around 300 jobs being lost, according to reports by City A.M. The restructure is part of a wider overhaul announced by HSBC earlier this year as it seeks to cut costs in the wake of the pandemic, global economic uncertainty and squeezed margins. The three-year plan aims to cut $4.5bn (£3.4bn) in costs and will result in the loss of 35,000 jobs worldwide. 

An HSBC spokesperson said: “In line with the group strategy announced in February, we continue to restructure and review the roles required to transform the bank." However, the bank would not comment on specific figures for the job losses.

Wednesday 21 October

3.45pm More than half of supermarket workers say business is better placed to deal with second wave

More than half (60 per cent) of retail workers have said their businesses are now better placed to deal with the second wave – increasing to 66 per cent when looking at just supermarket workers – a poll has found.

The survey of 2,000 frontline retail workers, conducted by Axonify, also found the sector had faced a large amount of employee churn. Nearly two-fifths of retail staff (39 per cent) had taken on new roles during the crisis, rising to 65 per cent among supermarket staff.

Carol Leaman, chief executive of Axonify, said: “It is no question that the grocery and retail industries have been directly in the eye of the storm, so they have certainly been dealing with more chaos than the average employer.”

1.30pm The government’s three-tier system: how five employers are responding

People Management spoke to HR leaders in ‘high’ and ‘very high’ alert areas to find out whether this has affected their approach to home working and staff safety.    

1.15pm Key HR considerations of the move to remote working

Hannah Netherton and Anna Cope explore whether employment law can keep pace with the home working revolution.

11.30am Evening Standard makes further cuts to workforce 

Evening Standard journalists revealed online that at least 16 newsroom colleagues have been made redundant over the past week because of Covid-19 restrictions. According to a report from the Press Gazette, the London paper expects to lose 69 editorial positions – a 40 per cent cut to newsroom staff – as part of wider redundancies that could see a total of 115 job losses. 

An Evening Standard spokesperson said in August: “The proposed restructuring underway at the Evening Standard is a result of the difficult market conditions that have affected the entire media industry over recent times; these challenging conditions have been further accentuated by Covid-19.”

10am UBS to give lower-paid staff coronavirus bonus

UBS has said it would give its lower-ranking staff an extra week’s pay as it reported increased profits through the crisis. The bank said the one-time payment was a “sign of appreciation” for their contributions during the outbreak, and in recognition of the fact that many of its lower-paid employees may have been financially impacted by the virus. It said the bonus would cost the company $30m (£23m).

Sergio Ermotti, the bank’s group chief executive officer, said: “I am proud of the contributions all of our employees have made day in and day out over the years, particularly in the current challenging environment.”

Tuesday 20 October

4.40pm More than 1,800 Greater Manchester pubs set to close as government enforces tier three restrictions 

The government will impose tier three restrictions on Greater Manchester as week-long negotiations with local leaders failed to come to an agreement before today’s midday deadline. It is estimated that more than 1,800 pubs and 140 wine bars will close. 

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick advised the prime minister that discussions between the government and northern leaders over funding “concluded without an agreement”, as the proposed support package offered by central government fell £15m short of Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham’s request of £65m.

The collapse of the talks will likely result in the closure of pubs and bars and other non-essential businesses for 28 days. It is not yet confirmed when this will come into force.

12pm What does effective leadership for remote working look like?

Overseeing teams that don’t meet face to face isn’t easy, and requires the ability to engage, enable, empower and trust, says Niall Eyre.

10am Travellers flying from Heathrow to Hong Kong to be offered rapid Covid tests

Passengers flying from London Heathrow to Hong Kong will be given the option of paying for a rapid coronavirus test before boarding their flight. The test will cost £80 and promises to provide a result within an hour. Speaking to the BBC, Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said the test would likely appeal to business travellers but that he hoped the price would eventually drop.

“For business passengers £80 is probably quite competitive but we've certainly said to the government in terms of introducing a test on arrival in the UK anything from £50-£60 would be better,” he said.

Hong Kong requires any travellers to show they have had a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of their arrival. The test is not being offered to people travelling to the UK and arrivals are still expected to follow the quarantining rules; however, transport minister Grant Shapps has separately said the government was hoping to introduce testing of international arrivals alongside shorter quarantine periods by December.

Monday 19 October        

4.50pm Remote working sees Deloitte close four UK offices 

Deloitte is planning to close its Gatwick, Liverpool, Nottingham and Southampton offices over the coming months as remote working has reduced its need for office space. Around 500 employees at those sites will be offered full-time remote working, the Financial Times reported, with the firm “continually reviewing” the rest of its estate portfolio. 

Stephen Griggs, Deloitte’s UK managing partner, told the FT: “Covid-19 has fast-tracked our future of work programme, leading us to review our real estate portfolio and how we use our offices across the UK, including London.”

He added that all employees at the four offices due for closure would “continue to be employed by Deloitte” and that the changes would not impact its presence in the regions. 

4.20pm Hospitality and retail businesses to shut in Wales from Friday 

Pubs, restaurants, hotels and non-essential shops must shut in Wales from Friday until 9 November under new “firebreak” lockdown rules. In response to rising cases in the region, first minister Mark Drakeford said the time-limited lockdown would be a “short, sharp shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and buy us more time". The new restrictions will also see a ban on mixing between households, whether indoors or outdoors, and all non-essential cross border travel in and out of Wales prohibited for the duration.

1.20pm Nine in 10 employees will need to reskill by 2030, report finds

Nine in 10 UK employees will have to reskill by 2030 as a result of the pandemic accelerating changes to the world of work, according to a report from the Confederation of British Industry. The report, based on analysis by McKinsey, found that in the next decade 26 million workers would require upskilling to keep up to date with technological and business developments as their role evolved. Meanwhile, another five million would go through a fundamental job change and require retraining, it discovered.

Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive at City & Guilds Group, said coronavirus had created a hugely challenging environment for employers and workers, adding that automation had forced “millions of people into unemployment” without adequate skills to form a new career. Donnelly said: “With unemployment set to rise above 3.4 million by the end of year and potentially a no-deal Brexit on the horizon, what we need now is a clear vision for lifelong learning that is focused on helping people to identify the transferable skills they have and develop the new skills they will need both now and throughout the rest of their working lives." 

1pm Exclusive data on HR’s reaction to the reopening offices U-turn: how do you compare?

After a month of encouraging employers and staff in England to start repopulating their offices – with one minister even suggesting workers who continued to work from home might be more likely to face redundancy – in the closing weeks of September the prime minister pulled an abrupt U-turn. Facing a surge in the rate of infections, Boris Johnson said those who could should go back to working at home, before stressing that workers who were unable to – including those in the construction sector – could still go in, as long as their workplace was Covid secure.

The situation has escalated since then. The daily rate of infections is now on a par with the height of the outbreak in May, and the government recently announced a new tiered local lockdown system in England – bringing it more in line with the stricter rules in Scotland and Wales. Meanwhile Northern Ireland has announced a two-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown that would see schools close again.

However, the change in advice in England on working from home is still just that – advice. There is no legal obligation for employers to shut their offices as long as they are confident they are Covid secure. And many employers are in fact not closing their offices again, a People Management poll of 232 readers has revealed. While 42 per cent said they were keeping their offices open but discouraging their use, 51 per cent said their workplaces were open with no new restrictions in place. Just 7 per cent said they had shut their offices entirely.

12.40pm “After contracting coronavirus in March, I’m still ill – HR must support people like me”

Employers should prepare for staff with ‘long Covid’, says Judith Grant, who has suffered chronic symptoms including fatigue, difficulty breathing and a racing heart. 

12pm University of Leicester employees warned of potential compulsory redundancies 

The University of Leicester had written to some 3,800 employees, warning of wide-ranging job losses as it seeks to secure its future as a "world leading" establishment. In a letter seen by LeicestershireLive, the university cautioned thousands of staff members about potential compulsory redundancies as it seeks to "disinvest" in some areas.

The university declined to say how many posts were at risk but, in a letter to staff, vice chancellor Professor Nishan Canagarajah said: "I recognise this will be a difficult period for those colleagues involved in any future changes. I do not underestimate the impact this will have on colleagues across the university. I am not doing this lightly." The vice chancellor said he would work with trade unions and the student unions as the plans developed over the coming months.

9.30am Boots staff ‘encouraged’ to return to Nottingham HQ 

Boots employees have revealed they were “encouraged” to return to its Nottingham-based headquarters, despite government advice to work from home where possible. 

According to the Guardian, messages from senior managers indicating that staff were expected to be at their desks for at least part of the week have been criticised by employees, as Nottingham has the highest rate of infection in England. A spokesperson for Boots said the Nottingham site remains open “in line with government guidance”, but because of social distancing measures it is “suggesting a blend of home and office working”. 

“Colleague safety remains paramount and we have comprehensive measures in place across all our workplaces to ensure they are Covid-secure and that they more than meet government guidelines. We recognise, however, that for some colleagues it remains appropriate – or necessary – to work from home full time, and we are happy to support individuals to do this,” it said.

7.20am NEC Group to axe 450 jobs

Almost 450 jobs are to be cut at the NEC Group, which has reported "almost zero revenue" as a result of coronavirus. The proposed redundancies equate to 55 per cent of the Birmingham-based firm's permanent workforce. The NEC Group said the decision had been "extremely difficult", but it had no option but to "reduce our cost base significantly".

Paul Thandi, CEO of the NEC Group, said he had hoped the group's venues would be able to reopen for trade exhibitions and conferences from the start of this month, with strict safety measures in place, but this has been prevented because of the new restrictions. He also said the business was unable to access emergency funds from the government, which had left the NEC Group in an "unsustainable position". 

Friday 16 October

12.40pm Furlough fraud caused by scheme being ‘hastily drawn up’, report finds

A group of MPs has criticised the level of fraud happening through the furlough scheme, and called on the government to publish a list of all the companies receiving money through the system.

A report by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), published today (16 October), confirmed an estimated £3.5bn of furlough payments may have been fraudulent, and warned that the full effects of the outbreak on taxpayer compliance was yet to be seen.

HMRC had “understandably” carried out fewer investigations since the start of lockdown as it prioritised the implementation of the job retention scheme and other coronavirus support measures, the report said. However, this had led to a “large backlog” of furlough fraud cases and “significant fraud and error” in the scheme. Commenting on today’s report, a government spokesperson said the scheme was “designed to minimise fraud from the outset” and that thousands of fraudulent claims had been rejected

12.35pm Pret A Manger and Edinburgh Woollen Mill to cut jobs

Both Pret A Manger and Edinburgh Woollen Mill have announced job cuts today. Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, which also owns fashion chains Peacocks and Jaeger, confirmed that 50 stores would shut because of the negative impact of the pandemic on the business. The closures are expected to result in a loss of 600 jobs. Last week, the firm put its 21,000 workers on standby saying that their jobs were at risk because the company was close to collapse.

Meanwhile, Pret A Manger said it is closing six stores and cutting 400 jobs in reaction to the worsening Covid-19 conditions. Clare Clough, Pret's UK managing director, said: "We must adapt to the new situation we find ourselves in." Pret A Manger blamed "the worsening Covid-19 situation" for its fresh cutbacks. It has already axed almost 3,000 workers two months ago because of the coronavirus crisis.

12pm Is remote working here to stay?

Joe Nicholls explores whether the coronavirus pandemic will lead to a long-term revolution in home working, and the implications for employers

9.35am Face coverings now mandatory in Scottish workplaces 

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

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

9.30am Dunelm to return £14m in furlough payments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 15 October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.50am Liverpool establishes local furlough scheme 

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

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

8.40am Marstons to cut up to 2,150 jobs

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 14 October 

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

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

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

12.45pm Misconduct in the time of Covid-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

11am Northern Ireland to shut restaurants and suspend schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.30am One week remaining to disclose incorrect furlough claims 

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

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

Tuesday 13 October 

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

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

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

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

12pm Can employers make contact tracing apps compulsory?

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

10.30am How managers can successfully lead remote teams

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

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

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

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

7.40am Mitchells & Butlers consulting on job cuts

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

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

Monday 12 October

4.30pm Prime minister confirms three tiers of local lockdown measures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.20am BA CEO steps down amid Covid job cuts row

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

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

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

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

9.40am Coronavirus accelerating the rise of automation, report warns

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

Friday 9 October

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

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

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

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

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

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

People Management explains what we know so far.

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

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

11.45am The pros and cons of the job support scheme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8am National Trust to cut 1,300 jobs

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

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

Thursday 8 October

5pm School travel company PGL to cut 670 jobs 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11am Almost 900 Manchester Airports Group jobs at risk 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.45am UK hiring activity increases in September as lockdown eased

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

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

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

Wednesday 7 October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12pm Royal Shakespeare Company announces 158 job cuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.40am How to stop virtual meetings taking over your day

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

10.20am Women’s legal rights during job cuts

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

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

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

Tuesday 6 October

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

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

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

2.50pm Nottingham City Council to cut 154 jobs

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

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

2.40pm ExxonMobil to cut 1,600 jobs in Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.50am How has Covid-19 affected working women?

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

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

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

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

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

8.40am Odeon to open weekends only at some cinemas

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 5 October

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

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

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

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

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

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

10am Freelancers see pay drop by 30 per cent

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

7.30am Cineworld confirms thousands of jobs at risk with closure

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

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

Friday 2 October 

3pm Sheffield Forgemasters plants to cut 95 jobs

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

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

1.30pm Tribunal claims surged during lockdown, official figures show

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

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

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

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

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

12.30pm Why trust is key to leading in challenging times

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

12.20pm London transport 'will shut without second bailout'

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 1 October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12.20pm H&M to close 250 shops worldwide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 30 September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.50am How to help redundant employees become entrepreneurs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.50am Shell to cut up to 9,000 jobs

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

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

Tuesday 29 September

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

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

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

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

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

12.15pm Supporting brain injured employees in the workplace

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

10.50am Greggs hints at job cuts when furlough scheme ends 

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 28 September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1pm Will the new job support scheme really work?

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

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

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

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

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

10am Aldi to create 4,000 UK jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 25 September

1.50pm How will the job support scheme actually work?

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

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

1.20pm Lockdowns announced for Cardiff and Swansea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 24 September

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

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

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

1.30pm Chancellor announces job support scheme to replace furlough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.10am Stobart Aviation Services plans job cuts at Stansted Airport

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 23 September

5pm Chancellor hints at furlough replacement 

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

3pm Hundreds of NEC Group jobs at risk 

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

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

The consultation process with employees will begin next month.

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

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

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

1.30pm Should workplaces stay open despite changed advice?

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

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

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

12.40pm Can employers reduce pay for permanent home working?

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

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

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

11am The transformative nature of furlough

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

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

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

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

9.15am UK considering German-style furlough replacement

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

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

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

8.20am Macmillan to cut 310 jobs due to funding crisis

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

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

7.40am Bank of England boss calls for furlough 'rethink'

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

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

7.10am Barclays asks staff to return to working from home

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

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

Tuesday 22 September

1pm Prime minister confirms a return to working from home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.40am Do self-isolating employees qualify for SSP?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9am Work from home if you can, says Gove

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

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

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

8.30am Whitbread cuts 6,000 jobs

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 21 September

4.15pm Businesses take staff testing in-house

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

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

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

2.50pm Local lockdowns confirmed for four more Welsh counties

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.40pm Can employers make masks mandatory?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12pm Investec to cut 210 London jobs

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

7.50am Businesses voluntarily return £215m in furlough cash

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 18 September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12pm Avoiding coronavirus-related discrimination claims

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

9am Next boss voices concerns over home working

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

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

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

8am Majority of London office staff thinking of leaving city

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

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

Thursday 17 September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.35pm Recruiters’ legal obligations when workers switch occupations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.30am Nicola Sturgeon optimistic about furlough scheme extension 

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

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

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

11am Teachers may face half-term coronavirus travel ban

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.40am Historic Royal Palaces proposes 145 redundancies

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

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

7.40am Help for Heroes to cut 143 staff

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

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

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

Wednesday 16 September

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.50pm Second county in Wales will go into lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12pm Planning job cuts in the age of coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 15 September

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

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

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

4.50pm Translink to cut 54 staff 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.50am Emirates consider cutting 600 UK workers

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

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

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

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

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

11.20am Managing Covid-related holiday accrual

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

11.15am How to combat Zoom fatigue

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

11am Lack of Covid tests causing NHS staff absences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.20am Labour leader to call for furlough scheme replacement

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

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

Monday 14 September

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

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

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

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

1.10pm London City Airport to cut a third of jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.50am How HR can revolutionise strategies post Covid

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

11.40am How might lockdown improve flexibility for working fathers?

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

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

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

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

10am Hundreds of jobs at risk at Bangor University 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 11 September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.50am How are people teams responding to coronavirus?

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

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

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

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

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

11.30am BMW factory in Oxford delays job cuts

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

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

10.20am Norwich Theatre cuts 165 jobs

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

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

8.40am Face masks in shops to be mandatory in Wales

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 10 September

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.20pm Cancer charity announces second round of redundancies

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

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

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

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

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

12pm British Airways job cuts hit 8,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.30am KPMG staff demand compensation for Covid pay cuts

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

9.15am Lawyers switching to work at virtual firms

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

9am Goldman Sachs to reopen offices with a rota system

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

7.30am Pizza Hut to cut 450 jobs

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

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

Wednesday 9 September

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

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

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

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

2.50pm Lloyds to cut hundreds of UK jobs

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

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

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

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

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

1pm How probation can streamline recruiting during a recession

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

12.50pm How CPP Group is approaching reopening its offices

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

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

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

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

11.30am Concrete manufacturer to create 95 jobs

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

9.40am Health secretary won't rule out second lockdown

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

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

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

9am Return to work slow in City of London

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

8.50am Iceland to create 3,000 jobs 

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

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

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

Tuesday 8 September

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

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

2.50pm Morrisons to make thousands of temporary staff permanent

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

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

12.30pm Remote working has negative effects, says Netflix boss

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

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

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

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

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

11.10pm Avoiding disputes arising from Covid-19 

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

9.15am Transport use increases as some staff return to workplaces

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

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

8.45am Law firms reluctant to return employees to the office

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 7 September

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

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

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

4pm Bloomberg offers staff returning to the office expenses

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

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

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

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

12pm National living wage could be frozen amid Covid uncertainty

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

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

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

11.30am New legal risks for recruiters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.30am Foreign secretary urges employees to return to offices

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

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

8.10am Up to 200 jobs could go at Haribo factory

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

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

Friday 4 September

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

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

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

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

2.40pm Fashion retailer Jigsaw to cut 200 jobs

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

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

1.15pm Virgin Atlantic to cut 1,150 more jobs

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

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

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

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

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

1pm How to support bereaved employees returning to the workplace

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

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

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

12.20pm Northern Ireland employers offered apprentice cash support 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 3 September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.45pm How should HR approach post-lockdown commuting?

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

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

12pm Amazon bucks retail downturn by increasing UK workforce 

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

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

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

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

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

11.40am Supporting workers’ mental health during Covid

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

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

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

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

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

7.30am Heathrow seeks pay cuts

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

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

Wednesday 2 September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.30pm Eden Project to cut 169 jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.20pm The legalities of face coverings in the workplace

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

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

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

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

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

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

12.45pm Financial services firms planning gradual office returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9am Government opens Kickstart scheme to applications

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

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

Monday 1 September

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

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

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

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

1.50pm Shaw Trust to recruit more than 600 new workers

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

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

1.40pm Scottish government to announce 'national mission to create jobs'

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.15pm Government urged not to pressurise staff back into offices

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

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

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

1.05pm Eight West Midlands Asda workers test positive for coronavirus 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 28 August

5.20pm Scottish government will not follow English return to work campaign 

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will “not countenance” any campaign to encourage workers back to the office, according to The Scotsman. With UK ministers reportedly planning a widespread advertising campaign encouraging workers back to the office, arguing that employees not returning to work would put themselves at risk of redundancy, Sturgeon has declared she will not follow the same course of action. 

She said: “I will not countenance in Scotland any kind of narrative around this that is seeking almost to intimidate people back to work before as a country we have taken the decision that that is safe.

"People should not be told if you don’t get back to work in an office right now, if you are still working from home, you might be at greater risk of being made redundant or sacked, I don’t think that is the kind of approach we want to take here.”

3pm New government campaign will encourage employees back to work 

In an advertising campaign expected to launch next week, the government will emphasise the benefits of returning to workplaces alongside encouraging businesses to make their premises Covid-secure. 

Speaking to Sky News, transport secretary Grant Shapps said: "What we're saying to people is it is now safe to go back. Your employer should have made arrangements which are appropriate to make sure it is coronavirus-safe to work. You will see some changes, if you haven't been in for a bit, as a result."

1.25pm Handling disciplinaries and grievances in the age of coronavirus

As your business continues to adapt to remote working, disciplinary and grievance procedures may be the last thing on your mind. However, even employees working from home can act inappropriately, which can lead to disciplinaries and grievances. Mary Goldsbrough explains what systems businesses should have in place to successfully manage performance issues remotely.

1.10pm How to handle high numbers of job applications

Examples of hugely inflated numbers of hopeful candidates have been appearing in the media since widespread redundancies began occurring, with the situation further exacerbated by the imminent winding down of the furlough scheme in October. It may signal good news for those looking for a new hire, but it could also prove to be an overwhelming task for unprepared employers.

People Management looks at what HR can do to make the process as smooth as possible.

1pm Majority of public in favour of continued home working, poll finds

A YouGov survey of 2,592 British adults found just under a third (31 per cent) thought that businesses who have had staff working from home during the coronavirus outbreak should now start asking them to return to the office. In comparison, 41 per cent of respondents said workers should not be encouraged to return, while 22 per cent said they were unsure.

The figures come a day after Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), urged UK businesses to bring staff back to the office or risk turning commercial centres into “ghost towns”. “The UK’s offices are vital drivers of our economy. They support thousands of local firms, from dry cleaners to sandwich bars… Some of our busiest city centres resemble ghost towns, missing the usual bustle of passing trade,” she said.

9.40am Health minister has ‘no idea’ how many department staff are working from home

The health minister, Matt Hancock, has said he has “no idea” how many of his staff are working from home, saying all that matters is that they are performing effectively. Speaking on Times Radio yesterday, Hancock said “What I care about is how effectively people work and obviously people should come back to the office if that is what they need to do their job.”

Hancock added that it was up to employers to make sure their workplaces were Covid secure, but went on to say: “But what I care about is that people perform and so the people I work with, some of them have been working from home, some come in sometimes, some are in full-time, and what matters to me is that they deliver and, frankly, they’ve been delivering at an unbelievable rate.”

His comments appear to be a break from the government’s usual line to encourage people to return to the office amid increased fears from business groups that a lack of footfall could do lasting damage to businesses in commercial centres reliant on office workers.

9.30am Coffee chain Pret to cut 3,000 jobs

Pret a Manger is to make 3,000 jobs – more than a third of its workforce – redundant, the BBC has reported. The coffee shop chain has said most of the job cuts would be made in its stores, which have been badly hit by the drop in the number of  commuters and office workers caused by lockdown. It said 90 roles would also be lost at its support centres.

Pano Christou, the firm’s CEO, said: “Although we're now starting to see a steady but slow recovery, the pandemic has taken away almost a decade of growth at Pret.” He added that the firm had managed to protect many jobs by making changes to the way shops are run and the hours staff are asked to work.

Pret had previously announced it would be closing 30 stores permanently because of the outbreak.

Thursday 27 August

5pm Poultry plant workers self-isolating following outbreak 

At least 350 people and their households will have to self-isolate after 75 Norfolk poultry plant workers tested positive for coronavirus. The Banham Poultry site has been partially closed and all staff who worked in the cutting area of the factory are now in self-isolation after seven workers caught the virus from an unknown source. 

The number of infected workers reached 46 by Wednesday and further tests revealed a total of 75, with one worker being admitted to hospital. Other areas of the plant are to remain open, but the outbreak is due to be reviewed by the government today, according to the BBC. A deep clean of the affected area is now underway, however the plant, which employs 1,100 people, remains open for production. 

1.40pm What would a second Covid-19 wave mean for HR?

The spectre of a second national spike still looms large over employers and, while firms are arguably more prepared than they were the first time round, another lockdown and the uncertainty that brings would not be without its challenges. What would happen, for example, to the furlough scheme – ministers have already ruled out any extension past its planned end date in October.

People Management spoke to industry experts to find out what a second wave could mean for HR departments, and what they can do to prepare now.

1pm Half of employees reluctant to return to work despite firms spending millions on preparation, poll reveals 

More than half of workers are still reluctant to return to the office over fears they might contract coronavirus, despite employers spending hundreds of millions of pounds per month in an attempt to make workplaces ‘Covid secure’, a study has found.

A poll of 5,000 UK workers and 2,000 employers conducted by Huma found more than half (54 per cent) of workers were still reluctant to return to work because of concerns they could catch the virus. This is in spite of employers collectively spending £674m a month on preparations to return their staff to the workplace, according to the research, including new hygiene protocols, purchasing PPE and changing office layouts to aid social distancing – equating to an average of £58.55 per month per employee. HR consultant Gemma Bullivant said the return to the workplace was creating “one of the most complex [health and safety] challenges” ever faced, and this was placing additional pressure on the HR profession.

11am Has coronavirus caused a rise in protected disclosures?

Whistleblowing for Covid-19 health and safety breaches are becoming a growing legal and reputational risk for employers, as Paida Dube explains

9.15am Low-paid workers to get government support to self-isolate

Workers in low-income parts of England who are unable to work from home and have been asked to self-isolate will be able to claim up to £182 a week in financial support as part of a new government scheme.

The scheme, which will be piloted in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Oldham, will allow eligible individuals who test positive for the virus to claim up to £130 to cover their-10 day self-isolation. Eligible members of their household will also be able to claim £182 for their two weeks self-isolation, while contacts who are not part of the infected individual’s household will be able to claim £13 a day to a maximum of £182.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said the scheme would “help people on low incomes and who are unable to work from home to continue playing their part in the national fight against this virus”. However, critics, including the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, have said the payments go nowhere near far enough to support those unable to work because they are self-isolating.

Wednesday 26 August

5.10pm Gatwick Airport to cut a quarter of workforce

Gatwick Airport plans to axe 600 of its workforce, its chief executive has announced, after an 80 per cent reduction in passenger numbers. Stewart Wingate blamed the “devastating impacts” that coronavirus had had on the travel industry.

This follows a cut of 200 jobs announced back in March.

According to the BBC, around three-quarters of staff are currently on furlough, with the airport currently running at just a fifth of its usual capacity for August.

5pm Linklaters staff will work remotely up to half the time after Covid

Law firm Linklaters has rolled out a new global agile working policy that will allow employees to work remotely up to 50 per cent of the time, even after the coronavirus pandemic has abated. Other kinds of flexible and agile working are also being discussed, including flexible start and finish times, modifying daily ‘core’ hours, and modifying hours to allow for commitments outside of work. 

Andrea Arosio, managing partner in Italy and member of Linklaters’ global people committee, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic and our enforced remote working experiment has given us an opportunity to take stock and revisit how we approach agile and remote working. Our recent experience has demonstrated that, while we are a people-focused business and collaboration is key, remote working has worked remarkably well and we can deliver high quality work whilst working remotely.” 

Meanwhile, JP Morgan has told staff in London and on Wall Street that they can continue to work remotely on a part-time basis. Daniel Pinto, head of JP Morgan's investment banking arm, told CNBC that staff will in future cycle between office-based shifts and home working.

3pm Hundreds to lose jobs at Mini car factory in Oxford

BMW-owned Mini is set to cut 400 of its 950 onsite agency staff at its Oxford factory, as well as a “small amount” of core staff. A substantial fall in customer demand during lockdown has informed the decision at the Cowley plant. The firm will move from a three-shift pattern to two shifts in mid-October while operating five days a week. The agency personnel affected, employed by Gi Group, will be kept on according to criteria such as length of service, individual skills and disciplinary records, with decisions finalised in mid-September. The company will also reduce the number of core employees and consider voluntary redundancies and early retirement. HR director Bob Shankly told the BBC the decision was made "after close discussion with trade union representatives. He added the business was “aware that [its] plans will have an impact on people during an uncertain and worrying time”. 

1.30pm Employees switching occupations and entire industries amid Covid upheaval, data shows

The number of employees switching occupations is up on last year as a result of the impact of coronavirus on the economy, official data has revealed. In the first half of this year, 6.1 per cent of employees changed occupations, compared to 5.7 per cent over the same period last year, according to research from the Office for National Statistics. More than half (52.5 per cent) of those who changed occupation also switched industries entirely. 

Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive of City & Guilds Group, agreed the data hinted at a shift that would likely become much more pronounced in the coming months. “While the increase is limited, it is interesting to see that just over half of those workers who switched occupations went into completely different sectors from their main industry – we expect that this a sign of what’s to come, in particular as the furlough scheme draws to a close,” she said. 

1.15pm  How should HR deal with requests to ‘home work’ from overseas?

Steven Cochrane and Andrew Quayle explain the key legal points businesses must consider if an employee wants to work remotely when abroad.

11.40am Most employers have no plans to return staff to the office full time, BBC research finds

The BBC has reported that 50 of the UK’s biggest employers have no plans to return all staff to the office full time in the near future. The report by the BBC showed that 24 firms had no plans whatsoever to return workers to the office, but 20 had opened up the workplace for staff unable to work from home. 

The sample of businesses, which ranged from banks to retailers, cited their main reason for not returning workers as being unable to “see a way of accommodating large numbers of staff while social distancing regulations were still in place”. Major firms such as Facebook have said they do not plan to return employees until July 2021. The BBC reported some smaller businesses were going even further, reporting that a Birmingham-based PR agency had decided to abandon its offices altogether. 

9am Recruitment firms predict drop in incomes

A majority (80 per cent) of recruitment companies expect a fall in full-year income in 2020-21 as a result of the coronavirus crisis, a survey by HSBC’s professional services team has found. HSBC UK’s head of professional services, Chloe Clift, said: “Recruitment does tend to be a great barometer of what’s happening in the wider economy. It is not surprising they were hit hard very quickly. 

“November and March and the furlough scheme coming to an end will be pinch points not just for recruitment but for the entire economy, and it will be interesting to see how resilient those companies remain when they have to start bringing back workers and fronting that full cost themselves.”

8.30am Civil servants reluctant to return to the office

A majority of UK civil servants are expected to continue working from home until at least the end of the year, according to officials and trade unions, in a blow to Boris Johnson’s attempts to revive ailing city centres. Downing Street had previously called on civil servants to set an example to other office workers by coming back to their desks from mid-July. But Dave Penman, head of the FDA union, told the Financial Times the government had realised it was difficult to persuade some officials to return following a spate of Covid-19 outbreaks and local lockdowns across the UK. “In most [government] departments the numbers [of civil servants returning to the office] are steadily going up but it’s not going to be huge numbers, it’s not going to be a majority [by the end of the year] – we’ll probably get to 30 or 40 per cent over time,” he said. “Politically [ministers] have realised they have missed the boat on this when you’ve got a series of local interventions because of rising infection rates… trying to force civil servants to go in is not going to be helpful.”

Tuesday 25 August

5pm Co-op Bank to axe 350 jobs

The Co-operative Bank has said it will cut 350 jobs and close 18 branches as a result of the current "economic uncertainty" and the shift to online banking. As well as jobs lost from branch closures, the cuts also include middle management and head office roles. The bank said that, where possible, it would look to redeploy colleagues. The Co-op Bank's chief executive, Andrew Bester, said he was "very sorry" for the cuts, which he also blamed on the current record low interest rates. "We're not immune to the impact of recent events, with the historically low base rate affecting the income of all banks and a period of prolonged economic uncertainty ahead, which means it's important we reduce costs and have the right-sized operating model in place for the future," he said.      

4.45pm UK retailers cutting jobs at fastest rate since 2009, research finds

Retailers cut jobs during the year to August at the fastest rate since 2009, with an even sharper decline anticipated for the figures to September, according to a CBI survey. Its monthly distributive trades survey found the outlook was expected to deteriorate in the autumn after more than half of retailers said they expected to reduce the number of employees in the next three months. 

The survey featured 63 retailers among its 128 respondents and found the balance of employers saying they would reduce their headcount was -20 in May before weakening to -45 in August and -52 for the three months to November. Alpesh Paleja, the CBI’s lead economist, said: “The furlough scheme has proved effective at insulating workers and businesses in some of the worst-hit sectors during the pandemic, but these findings reinforce fears that many job losses have been delayed rather than avoided.

4.30pm Exclusive data on returning staff to the office: how do you compare?

Boris Johnson’s plans to encourage more people back into the workplace have met a mixed response. The prime minister had hoped that, by putting the onus on to employers for deciding whether it was safe to ask staff to return in England, organisations would start to get back to normal.

Despite the controversy that Johnson’s decision caused, a poll of HR professionals, conducted by People Management, found the majority welcomed being given the freedom to choose. So when do employers anticipate asking staff to return to offices? And how do they intend to keep them safe? People Management’s exclusive data reveals...

1pm Employer support on alcohol and drug misuse lacking, report finds

Research from the CIPD has revealed that people are drinking more during the pandemic but many businesses don’t offer employees proactive support on drug and alcohol misuse.

Only 27 per cent of employers provided information for staff on how to disclose a problem with alcohol or drugs, according to the CIPD’s Managing drug and alcohol misuse at work report. The survey of almost 800 HR decision-makers found only a quarter (26 per cent) of businesses trained managers to recognise the symptoms of drug and alcohol problems.

“The coronavirus pandemic and the current period of economic uncertainty could make people feel more anxious or vulnerable, which has led to concern about whether people may be more likely to use alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism,” said Jill Miller, senior policy adviser at the CIPD.

12.15pm Staying GDPR compliant during Covid-19

The crisis has raised questions around whether firms can ask for information on symptoms and diagnoses, and whether they can store this data. Amanda Beaumont advises.

12pm What Covid has taught us about culture – and what needs to change

The pandemic has amplified the gap between more and less adaptive workplaces, but turning things around may prove difficult even where the case is clear, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.

11am NHS risks losing female staff to stress and exhaustion as a result of Covid, survey finds

A survey of 1,300 women working across health and care in England has found that almost three-quarters (72 per cent) felt their job had a greater negative impact than usual on their emotional wellbeing as a result of the pandemic, and more than half (52 per cent) had suffered a negative impact on their physical health. 

The study, carried out by the NHS Confederation’s Health and Care Women Leaders Network, has raised concerns of burnout across the sector. Samantha Allen, chair of the network and chief executive of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said the results “hammer[ed] home” the toll of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of female staff. “Now more than ever, women across health and care must have access to the right support,” said Allen. 

10.30am Government to urge employers to roll out workplace Covid tests

The UK government is urging employees who want to return to the workplace to put pressure on their bosses to make sure their work environment is safe. It has said businesses have an obligation to offer staff ‘Covid-secure workplaces’ if they cannot work from home. 

The government is also set to urge companies to launch regular workplace testing. Meetings have been taking place between business leaders and Whitehall officials over how to ramp up the use of mobile testing units in factories and offices around the country. Some employers could be allowed to stay open even if there are fresh local lockdowns in their area if they are conducting regular testing of their staff, according to the Financial Times. But the British Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors raised concerns about costs, particularly for smaller businesses. At present, each standard test costs about £100, which is why only a handful of wealthy companies – such as Formula One, the Premier League and some City of London employers – have introduced regular staff tests.

9.15am UK workers most reluctant to return to the office

UK workers are the most reluctant to return to the office, a survey of 8,000 adults from eight countries by ManpowerGroup has found. US workers were also noticeably reluctant to go back to the office amid fears of a second wave of infection. Seventy-three per cent of the workforce had negative feelings about returning to the workplace in the UK and US, compared to 54 per cent in Germany and 56 per cent in Italy. 

Chris Gray, UK director of ManpowerGroup, said: "Many offices across the UK have returned throughout the summer, in slightly less capacity than before, but we're hearing every day that people are keen to get back in some way to the workplace. What is key for employers is to find the balance and not paint all employees with a broad-brush; just as many individuals who want more remote working would like it with the option of a physical workplace a few days a week."

9am Arcadia proposes to base notice pay on furlough rate rather than normal salary

Arcadia Group is proposing to base some workers’ notice pay on their furlough earnings instead of their full salary – a potential breach of employment law in its redundancy terms. The company, which owns Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, Evans, Wallis, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, is making up to 500 head office staff redundant. While some of those workers will receive full notice pay, furloughed workers who are contractually owed more than the government’s statutory minimum have been told that their payments will be based on the 80 per cent of pay they received on the scheme. Statutory notice pay is equivalent to one week’s pay for staff with fewer than two years’ service, and a further one week’s pay for every year worked after that, up to a total of 12 weeks’ pay.

Arcadia’s plans come weeks after the government rushed through legislation intended to prevent this. A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “We urge businesses to do right by their employees and pay staff what they are rightly entitled to. Those who do not could find themselves in front of an employment tribunal.” In a letter to workers seen by the Guardian, Arcadia acknowledged there were “differing views in the circumstances” on basing notice pay on furlough rates, but said that, based on the latest guidance and its own legal advice, it was confident it was acting lawfully, fairly and reasonably.

8.45am Businesses and CIPD commit to prioritising mental health post Covid

Thirty-three companies have pledged to prioritise mental health as employees in the UK return to work. An open letter detailing the commitment was signed by Unilever, Barclays, Lloyds, Morgan Stanley, Santander, the CIPD, Deloitte UK, Edelman and Eversheds Sutherland among others following research by Mind that showed more than a third of workers were struggling. The letter was also backed by the CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses. “The coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact on the mental health of UK employees... Employers need to prioritise psychological safety as well as physical safety,” the letter said.

Monday 24 August

2pm Tesco to create 16,000 permanent roles citing increase in online deliveries

Tesco has said it will create 16,000 permanent roles, citing an increase in its online delivery business during the pandemic. The retailer said it would first offer these positions to the temporary workers taken on at the start of the outbreak when demand for online services suddenly spiked, and that it expected the majority of these new roles to be filled by temp workers who now want a permanent position.

The new roles include 10,000 pickers who will assemble customer orders and 3,000 delivery drivers. Jason Tarry, CEO of Tesco, said the store had more than doubled its online capacity and was now serving nearly 1.5 million online customers a week. “These new roles will help us continue to meet online demand for the long term, and will create permanent employment opportunities for 16,000 people across the UK.”

Tesco has also said it plans to offer 1,000 young people roles as part of the government’s kickstart scheme, but said the details of this were still being finalised.

1.30pm Six million furloughed staff continued to work from home, study suggests

A major academic paper has found that nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of furloughed employees have admitted to continuing to work from home while on the job retention scheme, with many explicitly asked to do so by their employer.

The study, by academics from the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Zurich, used real-time survey evidence of UK workers between April and May and found that prohibition against working while on furlough was ‘routinely ignored’, with furloughed staff working an average of 15 hours per week. Men on higher incomes were most likely to flout the terms of the scheme.

Nearly one in five furloughed workers (19 per cent) reported being explicitly asked to work by their employer despite this being against the rules of the scheme. This increased to 44 per cent among those working in computer and mathematical occupations, and 35 per cent of workers in the IT sector.

1pm Lockdown has shown some people processes can be abandoned – but not all

Several standard HR activities haven’t been missed by the business during Covid-19, says Graham Salisbury, but others should be maintained to avoid issues long term.

9.30am Permanent remote working plans shrink demand for office space

Vacancy rates at City of London office buildings will rise from 6.5 per cent this year to 7.2 per cent next year, before peaking at 8 per cent in 2022, estate agency Savills has predicted.  The forecast comes as businesses shrink their headquarters in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in response to workers proving they can work from home productively. Many companies have already announced a permanent change to higher levels of remote working. PwC has said most of its 22,000 UK staff will work flexibly after the pandemic and KPMG has announced staff will be allowed to spend part of the week working remotely permanently. Anna Purchas, head of people at KPMG UK, said: "This is a chance to break free from engrained, traditional routines, and say goodbye to presenteeism.” 

9am Job losses will worsen regional inequality, warns Labour

Job losses triggered by the coronavirus pandemic will hurt some parts of the UK more than others and deepen regional inequality, Labour has said. It said its analysis of official data showed that more than 10 per cent of the workforce in north west England was employed in retail – the highest proportion in the UK, followed by Wales and the north east. Almost 13 per cent of the East Midlands workforce was employed in manufacturing, it said. Meanwhile, the report said London was likely to be worst affected by redundancies in aviation and travel – sectors that previously employed more than 60,000 people. Labour said the figures suggested the government's blanket approach to ending the furlough scheme risked worsening regional inequality.

8.30am Covid crisis could claim 18 per cent of travel sector jobs, says Abta 

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) has said 39,000 people in the UK travel industry had already lost their jobs or been told their role was at risk, representing about 18 per cent of the sector’s jobs, warning that thousands more tour operators, travel agents and airline jobs could be lost. The industry trade body said more than 90,000 roles in travel and related industries had already been affected by the pandemic, and 78 per cent of businesses expected to consider job cuts, although they had not yet discussed redundancies. Abta has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak pleading for a package of measures to support the industry. Its member survey showed that 90 per cent of travel companies have taken advantage of the government’s furlough scheme, and Abta wants the government to extend support to businesses that have not seen a significant recovery in revenues, as has been introduced in Australia.

Abta’s call comes amid a string of closures and redundancies across the industry, including STA Travel, which told customers on Friday (21 August) that it had gone bust, putting about 500 jobs in 50 high street branches at risk. Family-owned tour operator Hays Travel announced at the start of August that it was cutting almost 900 jobs.

 

Friday 21 August

5pm AO.com hires more staff to meet Covid home shopping surge

The online electrical goods retailer AO.com is hiring 650 staff after a surge in home shopping during the coronavirus pandemic. The company said it was recruiting for a variety of roles from software developers and a TikTok specialist to gas engineers, delivery drivers and a fridge recycling shift coordinator. The jobs are based in various locations, including Manchester, Bolton, Telford, Thatcham and Crewe. Last month the parcel delivery company Hermes said it wanted 9,000 more couriers, most of whom are classed as self-employed, and 1,500 full-time staff. The delivery company DPD said in June it would hire 6,000 workers, including HGV drivers, warehouse staff, managers and support staff such as mechanics.
 
3.20pm Greencore sandwich factory to close following coronavirus outbreak 

The Greencore Factory which supplies Marks and Spencer sandwiches has made the decision to close for at least two weeks. On Thursday 13 August the company revealed that an outbreak at its Northampton premises had infected 299 workers, but a spokesperson assured that production was "continuing as usual" with no concerns about its products. However, the business announced today after consulting with Public Health England (PHE) that all 2,100 staff would go into isolation and the premises temporarily closed. The firm said in a statement that, after consultation with “the Department of Health & Social Care, PHE and other government bodies”, it would temporarily cease production at the Northampton facility from the end of today, with some production moved to other sites. 
 
1pm Experts warn coronavirus job insecurity could exacerbate lying at work
 
Nearly half of UK employees have lied at work, a poll has revealed, with many doing so to hide mistakes or keep their bosses happy. A survey of over 1,000 workers by Glassdoor found 49 per cent admitted to lying at work. Of these, 44 per cent said they did so to avoid getting into trouble, over a third (34 per cent) lied to hide mistakes, two in five (40 per cent) lied because it was “easier to agree with the majority,” and almost a quarter (24 per cent) said they lied because their boss or colleagues did not “like to hear diverse opinions”. 
 
Paul Holcroft, associate director at Croner, said authenticity and organisational culture had become “arguably all the more crucial” since the coronavirus outbreak had shaken the world of work “to its core”. He warned staff could now be even more inclined to lie in some circumstances because of fears about losing their jobs.

12.50pm How BAT has kept 53,000 employees engaged remotely during Covid-19

A 24-hour virtual get-together for all staff, fun activities such as at-home workouts and regular comms have all been key to maintaining a sense of connection and morale, reports Ali Phillips.
 
10.50am Ground-handling companies warn of more job losses and call for new system when furlough ends

Airport ground-handling companies have warned of further steep job losses unless the government offers specific support for the aviation sector over the coming months. The UK’s four biggest air services groups  Swissport, Menzies Aviation, WFS and dnata wrote to senior ministers including Treasury chief secretary Stephen Barclay this week calling for a new system to protect jobs once the furlough scheme winds down in October. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has previously defended the plan to end the job retention scheme this autumn, although he has not ruled out an extension. The four aviation companies employ 30,000 people across the UK and provide airport services from check-in and baggage handling to catering and fuelling. 
 
9.30am One in six workers have returned to the office

One in six UK workers have returned to the office, according to Centre for Cities analysis. It showed that worker footfall in cities was just 17 per cent of pre-lockdown levels during the first two weeks of August, despite government advice giving firms the green light to get staff back into the workplace in England by placing the onus on them to ask workers to return when they the employer deemed it safe to do so. The report, which looked at Britain's 63 largest cities, found that employee footfall in London was 13 per cent of pre-lockdown levels, while in Cardiff and Edinburgh it stood at 14 per cent. Belfast’s rate stood at 18 per cent. Andrew Carter, chief executive of the Centre for Cities, warned that shops, restaurants, pubs and other city centre businesses faced “an uncertain future while office workers remain at home”

9.20am Estée Lauder plans up to 2,000 global job cuts

Estée Lauder is planning to cut up to 2,000 jobs worldwide as it shuts stores and department store beauty counters after a slump in sales and profits during the coronavirus pandemic. The makeup, skincare and perfume company, which also owns brands such as Joe Malone, Clinique, La Mer and MAC, said it intended to shut between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of its freestanding stores, with job cuts amounting to about 3 per cent of its global workforce.

7.20am Brewery gets more than 1,000 applications for single role

More than 1,000 people have applied for a single packaging job at Northern Monk Brewing Company in Leeds, the BBC has reported. The company said it received 1,021 applications for one packaging vacancy. Sophie Lennon, HR manager for the brewery, told theBBC that she had spoken to people who had been made redundant, but also people on furlough who were unsure if they would be brought back to work. "When we posted the job within the first day, we had a really high number of applicants," Lennon said. "We advertised the job for three weeks, and at the end of that time, we'd had 1,021 applicants for the job – which is way above what we'd usually see." 
 
Thursday 20 August 

5.20pm High street jobs will be lost unless rents are adjusted to reflect Covid impact, warns House of Fraser owner

House of Fraser's owner Frasers Group has warned of continuing job losses on the high street, with more store closures “anticipated.” The chain has closed about 10 of the 59 stores bought out of administration in 2018 but warned more could follow if landlords would not agree to move to rents based on sales figures impacted by Covid-19. It said Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic had led to “the most challenging year in the history of the company”. 
 
Chris Wootton, finance director of Frasers Group, told BBC Breakfast: "The high street as a whole is absolutely in a mess. Business rates certainly contribute to that. Unless the government does something, thousands and thousands of jobs and businesses will go. House of Fraser was paying double, treble, quadruple the rates they should be, and that's not sustainable." 
 
1.45pm One in eight workers still on furlough, official data shows
 
Just under one in eight UK workers are still on furlough, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with the majority having their wages topped up by their employer. In its fortnightly survey on the impact of Covid-19 on firms, the ONS found that 12 per cent of the workforce was still furloughed between 27 July to 9 August. Of these workers, 67 per cent were having their furlough pay topped up by their employer.
 
The ONS figures also showed a slight drop in the volume of online job adverts between 7 and 14 August 2020, falling from 62 per cent of the 2019 average to 58 per cent. This partially offset the large increase seen in the weeks preceding this period. However, the volume of job adverts was still higher than it had been in the two months prior, when this was closer to half the 2019 average.
 
1.30pm Return to office hampered by commuting and work-life balance concerns, poll finds

Employees are concerned about their commutes to work and work-life balance when returning to the office, a survey has revealed. The poll of 100 UK workers conducted by e-days found that while concern about their health was the most common reason respondents cited for not wanting to return to the office, given by one in four (40 per cent), many had other reasons for not wanting to go back to their place of work.
 
Almost as many respondents (37 per cent) said their biggest concern was the impact of a return to the workplace on their work-life balance, while another 34 per cent said they did not want to go back to commuting.  Similarly, research from Roadmender Asphalt found that two-thirds (65 per cent) of 2,083  Brits no longer felt comfortable commuting to work via public transport, while a third (35 per cent) felt that travelling to work would have a negative impact on their mental health.

1.20pm Can employers rehire redundant workers on different terms?
 
Alana Penkethman and Molly Dilling explain the potential pitfalls involved in dismissing and re-recruiting employees on new contracts.

1.00pm HMRC writing to employers who may have claimed too much through furlough scheme

HMRC has said it is writing to selected coronavirus jobs retention (CJRS) scheme claimants who it thinks may have claimed too much through the furlough scheme. The tax body said it would start contacting about 3,000 employers a week from today (20 August) to ask them to check their claims.
HMRC said it would contact the employers "where the information we hold suggests there may have been a mistake". This could include claims which are different to the PAYE information provided to HMRC for recent months. 

12.40pm More House of Fraser store closures anticipated

Department store chain House of Fraser has warned that more of its stores will close than previously anticipated. The chain, which is part of Mike Ashley's Frasers Group, has closed 10 of the 59 stores bought by the businessman when the retailer went into administration in 2018. In a statement about the impact of the pandemic on the business, the group said: "There are anticipated to be further closures over the coming period, the number of which will depend on the outcome of lease negotiations."
 
10.45am Female leaders performed better in tackling Covid, research finds
 
Nations led by women fared “systematically and significantly better” in combating coronavirus, according to analysis of 194 countries by developmental economists from the universities of Liverpool and Reading. Their report showed these countries saw lower death rates and rolled out lockdowns more swiftly, with women leaders reacting “more quickly and decisively in the face of potential fatalities”. The data suggested “women were less willing to take risks with lives but were more willing to accept risks in relation to the early lockdown of economies”, noting that female-led nations locked down earlier “in almost all cases”.
 
“While this may have longer-term economic implications, it has certainly helped these countries to save lives,” it said, praising in particular the leadership styles of Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister, Sanna Marin, the prime minister of Finland, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.
 
10.30am Austrian Airlines execs to hand back bonuses after Covid-bailout outcry

The management board of Lufthansa subsidiary Austrian Airlines has said they will hand back bonuses after Austria’s finance minister said the payments were “unacceptable” for a company being bailed out with government funds following the coronavirus pandemic prompting a collapse in air travel. The firm, which was granted €450m in grants and loans, handed 200 managers €2.9m in bonuses for their performance last year, with the four-man management board awarded €500,000 in total.
 
9am British Gas faces threat of strike over ‘fire and rehire’ plans

Workers at British Gas are threatening strike action in response to the energy giant’s ‘fire and rehire’ plans. According to the GMB union, more than two-thirds of its 10,000 members took part in a consultative ballot, which secured a 95 per cent vote in favour of industrial action. Union representatives have accused British Gas of forcing its 20,000 employees to accept worse employment contracts or lose their jobs. 
 
Centrica, owner of British Gas, has been in talks with unions about simplifying its employment contracts and plans to cut 5,000 jobs to help the energy company survive the pandemic. A spokesperson for Centrica told The Guardian that the company was committed to reaching a negotiated settlement with union representatives “but simplifying and modernising working practices and their terms is essential if we’re to become more flexible in delivering for our customers”.

Wednesday 19 August 

3pm Health secretary says UK 'not considering' compulsory face coverings in workplaces

The UK government is 'not considering' making face coverings mandatory in workplaces, the health secretary has said, following France announcing that face masks would be compulsory in all workplaces from 1 September. Currently, face coverings are required in some indoor settings in France including for customers in shops and on public transport. When asked on BBC Breakfast whether the UK would follow France, Matt Hancock said the government was not considering this. 
 
He told the BBC: "And the reason is that the evidence from NHS Test and Trace for where people catch the disease is that, very largely, they catch it from one household meeting another household, usually in one of their homes. And so it's that household transmission that is the core group of passing on this virus in this country. The amount of people who have caught it in workplaces is relatively low we think from the evidence we've got." 
 
2.55pm Red Funnel to cut jobs after passenger downturn

Up to 50 jobs are to be cut at ferry company Red Funnel as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Red Funnel has been running a limited timetable for key workers and essential suppliers since lockdown restrictions were put in place. It said the cuts would be made across head office, support and operational functions.
 
Fran Collins, chief executive of Red Funnel, said the pandemic had a "far bigger and more sustained impact than we anticipated", citing a "prolonged downturn in passenger numbers" as the main reason for the cuts. Red Funnel, which currently employs 508 people, said 50 posts were at risk of being made redundant. However, it said a further 12 roles would be created in the coming months. 
 
1.40pm Employers urged to do more as data shows depression has doubled during Covid

The number of adults in the UK with depression has doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, official data has shown, prompting calls for businesses to prioritise support to avert a looming mental health crisis. One in five (19 per cent) people experienced some form of depression in June this year, almost double the 9.7 per cent with symptoms in the nine months leading up to March, according to a report by the Office for National Statistics.
 
The research, which surveyed 3,527 UK adults over a 12-month period, revealed that one in eight (13 per cent) had developed moderate to severe depressive symptoms during the pandemic. Of those experiencing some form of depression, a majority (85 per cent) said feeling stressed or envious was most strongly compromising their wellbeing.
 
12.30pm Six ways HR can help staff embrace an uncertainty mindset

People teams must redesign jobs to be modular not monolithic and set expectations that roles will continually evolve, says Vaughn Tan.
 
12.15pm Charity sector could lose 60,000 jobs

Over half (58 per cent) of charities are expected to cut back on their services because of the coronavirus, putting at risk some 60,000 jobs across the sector, a report has warned. The latest Charity Sector Tracker, published by Pro Bono Economics, estimated the outbreak had created a £10bn funding gap.
 
The report, which surveyed 455 charities, found 19 per cent had already made redundancies, and that 23 per cent expected to make further cuts to headcount when the government’s furlough scheme comes to an end. The situation was worse among larger charities, the report found, with nearly one in 10 (8 per cent) of the UK’s largest charities expecting to reduce headcount by 25 to 50 per cent.
Pro Bono Economics said while 5,600 redundancies had been officially announced by charities since the pandemic started, the real number of job losses in the sector could be closer to 25,600, and that another 34,100 jobs could go by the end of the year.
 
8.45am Blood cancer charity announces restructure and potential job cuts

Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan has announced it will begin a restructure process in response to the pandemic and loss of income the organisation has experienced. The proposed changes would enable Anthony Nolan to continue its services and research while reducing costs. It estimated that 29 roles across the charity are at risk. 
 
Henny Braund, chief executive of Anthony Nolan, said the demand for their work has not stopped, but the "world in which we are operating is changing at a pace and scale that no one could have predicted". As such, Braund said the charity had to "evolve" to ensure they will be able to operate in the future. The proposed restructure is set to conclude in October. 
 
7.30am PizzaExpress to close 73 restaurants

PizzaExpress is to close 73 restaurants, putting almost 1,100 jobs at risk as the outlets close. The chain, which has 454 locations across the UK at the moment, said the store closures had been part of a deal to reduce rent costs. Earlier this month, PizzaExpress had announced it was looking to close 67 outlets as it looked to put the business on a "stronger financial footing in the new socially distanced environment".
 
Zoe Bowley, PizzaExpress's managing director for the UK and Ireland, said: "Unfortunately, the impact of the global pandemic has meant that we have had to make some incredibly tough decisions to safeguard PizzaExpress for the long term." Bowley said, in most cases, the stores selected for closure are near another PizzaExpress that has already reopened or will be reopening soon.

Tuesday 18 August

5.30pm Coronavirus adding to employment tribunal backlog, expert warns

The coronavirus outbreak has led to a significant increase in the backlog of tribunal complaints facing the courts, a law firm has said. Alan Lewis of Constantine Law estimates the number of unheard tribunal clases is increasing by 1 per cent for every week, and cautioned that this was likely to increase as the end of the government’s furlough scheme leads to more redundancies.

Prior to lockdown, there were 30,600 unheard employment tribunal cases as of March 2020, rising to 36,600 in June. “Much of this backlog has been caused, not by the Covid-19 crisis, but by a huge lack of funding in the courts and tribunals service over recent years,” said Lewisl. But, he added: “The fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has brought these issues to a head.

“It is worrying to see that cases brought mid-2020 in the South East will now not be heard until 2022, creating more uncertainty for employees and businesses alike. The system is in danger of being completely overwhelmed, particularly when the coronavirus job retention scheme comes to an end. More resources are urgently needed, including more judges.”

2.55pm Another 95 Bombardier jobs at risk of redundancy in Northern Ireland

Aerospace firm Bombardier has said an additional 95 jobs are at risk of redundancy at its Northern Ireland operations following the announcement in June that it was cutting 600 jobs in the country due to interruptions and challenges caused by the pandemic. The company employs around 3,500 workers across Northern Ireland. 

In a statement, Bombardier said it regretted the impact the additional cuts "will have on our workforce and their families", but it said it is "essential we align our business with current market realities to ensure we have a sustainable long-term future".

1.25pm Two-fifths of firms have sacked staff for cybersecurity breaches during Covid, poll shows

Almost two-fifths of business decision-makers (39 per cent) have dismissed employees because of a cybersecurity policy breach since the pandemic began, a survey has found. The research, conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Centrify, polled 200 UK business decision-makers and found more than half (58 per cent) of firms believed that working from home made employees more likely to circumvent security protocols – including through the use of personal laptops and failing to change passwords.

To combat poor employee security practices, more than half (55 per cent) of those surveyed had banned, or planned to ban, staff from using personal devices to work from home. Meanwhile, 57 per cent were implementing more measures to securely authenticate employees, including biometric data checks such as fingerprint and facial recognition technology, and multi-factor authentication steps to access certain files, applications and accounts.

12.25pm UK unemployment rate could be worse than official figures suggest, academics warn

The UK’s unemployment rate could be far worse than official figures have estimated, a group of academics has said, warning that the country could be facing the “biggest unemployment shock since at least the 1980s recession”. A paper from the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) said the government’s furlough scheme was skewing unemployment figures, and that the real level of unemployment could have fallen by 15 per cent between February and June this year – much higher than the official figure.

The report argued that because the job retention scheme was keeping individuals with no work in employment, a more “realistic” measure of unemployment would be the proportion of people working no hours. By this measure, the number of workers in employment who did not work any hours was only about 1.3 per cent in February, but increased to 30 per cent in April before falling to 26 per cent in May and 21 per cent in June.

11.30am France to make masks compulsory for some office activities

France is set to make masks compulsory at some business meetings and in other office activities in an effort to prevent a second wave of coronavirus cases. Employment minister Élisabeth Borne will this week meet with employers and unions and will propose compulsory masks in collective workspaces. Masks are already compulsory on public transport, in shops and all other indoor public places, but the government’s main advisory council on health has recommended making masks compulsory in all common indoor spaces. This comes after France reported 3,310 new infections at the weekend – the highest 24-hour total since the national lockdown was eased on 13 May – and the country was added to the list of countries UK nationals should self-isolate after visiting.

11.15am Carlyle staff told not to use public transport to commute and to self-isolate if using in their own time

Staff at public equity company Carlyle, which is reopening its London office next month, have been told not to come into the office for 14 days if using public transport at the weekends. Employees have been advised that returning to any of the company's 31 worldwide offices is "entirely voluntary" and that if they do so they should walk or cycle. A spokesperson said: "The safety of our employees remains our highest priority. Returning to the office is entirely voluntary and our global policy, which includes encouraging workers not to use public transportation, is designed to protect the health and wellbeing of every colleague. As the situation continues to evolve, we are asking everyone to take an approach that works for their personal situation."

9.55am Two-thirds of commuters will not travel to work because of shift to home working, watchdog warns

As many as two-thirds of commuters who regularly travelled to work by train before the pandemic would not do so in future because of the shift to working from home, a watchdog has warned. In its report, Transport Focus suggested an even greater proportion of commuters from the South East, who account for almost 70 per cent of UK train journeys, do not plan to return to the office full time. 

As such, Transport Focus called for an increase in rail fares set to be announced tomorrow (19 August) to be scrapped as part of the UK's shift towards flexible working. It called for the widespread introduction of season tickets for two, three or four days a week to appeal to those with flexible working arrangements. 

8.10am More than 70 Covid-19 cases at Nottinghamshire dessert factory

More than 70 staff at the Bakkavor dessert factory in Nottinghamshire have tested positive for Covid-19. On 7 August, the firm said all of its 1,600 staff would be tested after 39 cases were detected. That figure has now risen to 72 positive cases after 701 employees were tested. Testing will continue until Wednesday (18 August) to enable Bakkavor's full workforce to be tested at an on-site station run by the NHS. 

7.30am M&S to cut 7,000 jobs over next three months

Marks & Spencer has said it will cut 7,000 jobs over the next three months across its business. The retailer said it expected a "significant proportion" of the jobs to go through voluntary redundancy and early retirement. 

It said the pandemic made it clear there had been a "material shift in trade" as in-store sales of clothing and home goods were "well below" 2019 levels, but online and home deliveries remained strong because of social distancing rules. In a statement, M&S said it was "too early to predict with precision where a new post-Covid sales mix will settle. We must now act to reflect this change".

Monday 17 August

5.30pm PwC and Schroders will allow staff to work from home after lockdown

Accounting firm PwC has predicted that the majority of its 22,000 staff will move to an even split of office and home working on a permanent basis. It hopes to have its offices at 50 per cent capacity on a voluntary basis by the end of September, if it is safe to do so.

Meanwhile, management company Schroders has told staff they will not be required to return to the office full time, even after the pandemic has passed. Prior to the crisis, staff had the flexibility to work from home one day a week, but under the new plan they are free to agree working patterns with managers and no expectations will be made on total days in the office. Schroder’s HR boss Emma Holden told the Guardian: “Rethinking the rulebook on flexibility will ultimately prove a huge shot in the arm for productivity in the long term.”

2.45pm Furlough scheme extension could save two million jobs, says think tank

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) warned that up to three million jobs will “still be on life support” when the coronavirus job retention scheme ends in October, but said that extending the scheme and offering more support to businesses could make two-thirds of these jobs sustainable in the long term.

In a report, the IPPR suggested the government replace the current coronavirus job retention scheme with a new coronavirus work sharing scheme (CWSS) that would encourage firms to keep employees in work rather than putting them on furlough.

2.30pm Is it legal to record video meetings?

With many employees still working from home, it may be necessary to carry grievances, performance and absence meetings, consultations and even dismissals remotely via video call. Kathleen Morrison explains the circumstances in which employers and employees can lawfully record virtual disciplinary meetings.

1.10pm River Island to cut 350 management and senior sales roles

River Island said it will undergo a restructure which cut 350 jobs across its store management and senior sales teams. The news comes after the fashion retailer announced last month that it would make 250 head office staff redundant after the pandemic triggered a fall in sales and footfall. River Island said this latest restructure would allow it to simplify its store management structures. 

Will Kernan, chief executive of River Island, said the retailer needs to make sure "we have the right structures in place" to continue to deliver the in-store experience that customers "know and love". He added: "With a heavy heart, I can confirm that these changes will potentially impact up to 350 store management and senior sales roles. Whilst this is an incredibly difficult decision, these actions are crucial to ensure that our stores continue to effectively play their hugely important role in our omnichannel future."

12.20pm Second self-employment grant scheme opens 

Millions of self-employed workers in the UK who have been affected by the pandemic will be able to apply for a second support grant, the government has announced. The second self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) grant, which opened for applications this morning (17 August), will pay up to £6,750 for each person eligible for the scheme. More than three million people are thought to be eligible for the second grant, and chancellor Rishi Sunak said 95 per cent of all self-employed workers were able to be covered by the scheme. 

The first round in May saw £7.7bn in grants claimed by 2.7 million self-employed workers. HMRC said over 39,000 successfully made claims had been made by early this morning. The window to make claims under this second grant is initially open for a four-day period, but the HMRC said anyone who thinks they may be eligible and hasn't been contacted by the tax body, has until October to make a claim.

9.45am Theatre producer makes 200 staff redundant

Theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh has made approximately 200 employees redundant. A spokesperson for his operations said a redundancy process, announced in June, had been completed and staff had been notified. They declined to give an official number, but a report by the Daily Mail estimates the number to be around 200. 

Mackintosh owns eight theatres in London’s West End, and has previously complained that the UK government has offered no "tangible, practical support" to the arts and theatre sector. The spokesperson for the group said: "It is a very sad time for everyone affected by this thankless situation, one we could never have imagined would have been forced on the industry."

8.50am National Trust for Scotland awarded funding boost to save jobs

197 jobs have been saved at the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) after it was awarded £3.8m by the Scottish government to help it recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The funding boost will also help NTS open 33 historic sites and buildings this year: five more than the charity had planned. 

Despite the funding, NTS said it still expected to make 232 redundancies. The conservation group said it had lost £30m – half its expected income – as a result of the lockdown and subsequent restrictions. In May, NTS said it would look to sell off non-heritage land and property, making 429 staff redundant. 

8.30am Debenhams hires liquidator to start contingency plans 

Debenhams has appointed a firm to draw up contingency plans for a possible liquidation of the department store. The retailer, which is in administration, said last week it would axe 2,500 more jobs on top of the 4,000 job cuts announced in May. Despite the recent cuts, Debenhams said it was "trading strongly", and the appointment of a new firm did not mean a liquidation was likely. 

In April, Debenhams filed for administration and is currently examining options to exit the process. These options include the current owners continuing to run the chain, a sale of the brand or a joint venture with new or existing investors. But if the administrators fail to find a buyer or new plan, Debenhams may face liquidation which would put 14,000 jobs at risk. 

Friday 14 August 

4.30pm Restaurant chain YO! Sushi announces closures and staff cuts

 YO! Sushi has announced it will close 19 restaurants and cut 250 staff due to changes in consumer behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic. A company-wide restructure has prompted a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), which allows it to shut loss-making sites. 

YO! Sushi boss Richard Hodgson told the BBC: "While we have already taken measures to reduce costs, rents remain an issue. In the current climate, it's just not viable for us to keep any sites that no longer perform."

4pm Job postings reach highest point since start of lockdown

The number of job adverts rose to its highest since the start of lockdown in the first week of August, with 126,000 new roles posted between 3 and 9 August, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has said, bringing the total number of job postings to 1.1 million. However, this is still below the 1.35 million active job postings available in the first week of March.

The REC said there was a notable increase in listings for gardeners (up 23.7 per cent), construction workers (up 15.8 per cent), painters and decorators (up 14.1 per cent), bricklayers (up 13.3 per cent) and lorry drivers (up 14 per cent).

Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC, said that while there would be more redundancies over the coming months, these figures showed that “a recovery was underway”.

2.30pm Managing neurodiverse workers remotely

Amid the rise of long-term home working, Amanda Beaumont outlines how employers can meet the needs of neurodivergent employees.

2.15pm How to fill the gap left by peer-to-peer learning

We’re missing out on informal training while remote working, says Helena Sharpstone – but there are ways to overcome what’s lacking.

2pm Targeted changes could reduce workplace spread of Covid-19, report argues

A report from the Royal Society has said targeted changes to the workplace and an increase in statutory sick pay (SSP) could reduce the spread of coronavirus in the workplace. It called on employers to introduce rotation schemes – where the workforce is divided into groups which attend work at different times – or split shifts, which have been shown to have an “exponential impact” on infection rates.

The authors also warned against an “abrupt and premature lifting of lockdown”, and said the UK needed policies that were sensitive to both possibility of a second peak in the virus and a double dip recession.

9.50am Lockdown rules to ease in England from Saturday

Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that bowling alleys, casinos and soft play centres will reopen from Saturday. Close contact beauty treatments will also be permitted, alongside small wedding receptions and live indoor performances. The government will also increase fines for those refusing to wear a face covering when required from £100 (reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days) up to a maximum of £3,200.

Johnson told the BBC: "Most people in this country are following the rules and doing their bit to control the virus, but we must remain focused and we cannot be complacent. That is why we are strengthening the enforcement powers available to use against those who repeatedly flout the rules."

Thursday 13 August

5pm Nearly 300 sandwich factory employees test positive for Covid-19

Almost 300 workers at a sandwich factory in Northampton are self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, the director of public health for the county has said.

Greencore, which supplies sandwiches to M&S and employs 2,100 workers, proactively started testing staff for the virus after an increase in cases in the town. 299 employees tested positive – 220 through the firm’s testing and 79 via the national system – and are now self-isolating at home.  

A spokesperson for the company told the BBC that production was "continuing as usual" and it had no concerns about its products.

4.15pm Pregnant women incorrectly sent home on SSP during Covid crisis

Many pregnant women who were supposed to be sent home on full pay if their workplaces could not be made Covid secure when the lockdown was imposed in March, were instead put on statutory sick pay (SSP), according to research by Labour. The party said this could also result in cuts to their statutory maternity pay (SMP) as pregnant women must have earned at least £120 a week on average during an eight-week lead-up period to qualify. But SSP is just £95.85 a week, meaning women shielding on that level of pay for eight weeks or more would miss out on SMP.

4pm Home workers split commuting time between work and leisure

People working from home during the pandemic have split the hours previously spent commuting to and from the office almost evenly between work and leisure, research by Atlas Cloud has found. With this trend extrapolated across a year's work, researchers estimate that employees would do an extra month's work each year and gain the equivalent of almost 26 days in time off if they maintained this habit. Remote working "can be a win-win for employees and employers," said Pete Watson, chief executive of Atlas Cloud. "The pandemic has transformed the way that Britain's workers think about the workplace, but it is by no means the death of the traditional office – it is the birth of hybrid working."

1.55pm Return to work could worsen health and safety inequality, study suggests

A think tank has called on the government to make injury prevention a public health priority as research shows lower-earning workers could be most at risk of injuries as they return to the workplace. A report from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) – Better than cure: Injury prevention policy – found that lower-earning workers were twice as likely to be physically injured or become ill at work as higher earners, making the need to protect staff as they returned to the workplace a “matter of fairness”.

It said individuals in the top 10 per cent of hourly earners had a physical injury and illness rate of just 2.1 per cent, compared to 4.9 per cent among the bottom 10 per cent of earners.

1.10pm UK productivity drops at fastest rate since records began

Productivity fell at its fastest rate since records began during lockdown, official figures show, as millions of people stopped working and economic activity dropped. Labour productivity, measured by output per hour, fell by 2.5 per cent between April and June, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This was a two-fold decrease in productivity compared to the 1.3 per cent fall recorded in the first three months of the year, and it was the sharpest fall in productivity since records began in 1991.

During the same period, output per worker – measured as the total output divided by the number of workers employed – fell to -22 per cent: a drop of 19.9 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2020 (-3.1 per cent). The ONS said the large disparity between the output per hour and output per worker figures was largely because of the government’s furlough scheme, which left millions of workers employed and on payrolls but working zero hours.

12.30pm National Express to use government jobs bonus to cut fares

Coach operator National Express said it will use £4m from the government's job retention bonus scheme to cut fares on its West Midlands and Dundee bus routes. It said the move would help boost demand and support local economies. The bonus scheme will pay firms £1,000 for each employee brought back from furlough and employed until January.

The announcement suggests that National Express will bring back 4,000 workers from furlough. It said a "sizeable proportion" of its remaining 3,000 staff had also been furloughed, and some had already been brought back to work. National Express said it currently had no plans to cut jobs.

11.55am As remote working continues, trust is key to maintaining momentum

With working from home looking more like a long-term reality than a short-term solution, Jenny Perkins explains how employers can keep workers engaged.

8.50am Thousands of BP staff may switch to remote working permanently

BP is considering a radical reconfiguring of its offices, which could see its almost 50,000 employees combine home working with the occasional trip back to the office in the wake of the pandemic. Bernard Looney, chief executive of BP, told the Guardian that the oil giant expects to move to a "more hybrid work style", which will be a mixture of home and office-based hotdesking. As part of this plan, BP could almost halve its property portfolio as more staff switch to digital working in the long-term.

BP employs almost 70,000 workers across 79 countries. Earlier this year, the company revealed plans to cut its global workforce by 15 per cent by the end of 2020, representing almost 10,000 jobs. This cut will shrink the number of office-based employees by a quarter, and BP said the remaining office workers will be asked to embrace its new hybrid working arrangement. 

8.40am Fred Olsen Cruise Lines to cut third of staff

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines says it will cut a third of its UK head office staff because of the pandemic's impact on the travel and tourism industries. The cruise firm employs 150 people as part of its shoreside operations in Ipswich. Peter Deer, managing director, said it was a "sad" decision", and the business still "don't know when we can sail again, with the government still advising against cruising". 

7.30am Dr Martens repays UK furlough cash after strong lockdown sales

Dr Martens has said it has repaid its furlough cash to the government after strong shoe sales during lockdown. The footwear brand said sales rose nearly 50 per cent in the year up to June. Kenny Wilson, chief executive of Dr Martens, said it had been a year of "exceptional growth", and he was confident in the brand's future despite difficulties caused by the pandemic.

Wilson said: “Looking ahead, while we are currently in a volatile and uncertain trading environment, we have a very clear strategy in place supported by a strong brand and consumer connections, and I am confident in the outlook for the business.”

Wednesday 12 August 

5.30pm Natwest to cut 550 jobs in branches

Natwest Group is cutting 550 jobs in branches across the UK and closing one of its remaining offices in London, it has announced. The bank told the BBC the cuts had been on the cards since before the pandemic as it had seen a steady decline in branch transactions in recent years. However, it has seen more of its customers turn to online banking during the coronavirus pandemic, it said. Exacerbating this, many of its branches had reduced their opening hours before lockdown restrictions were eased, while some shut temporarily due to staffing issues. Separately, Natwest is closing its Regents House office in London, which had space for 2,500 workers. It said it will reconfigure its other offices in Bishopsgate and on the Strand.

2.15pm FAQs on collective consultation

As the furlough scheme begins to wind down, many businesses will be contemplating large-scale redundancies. Sarah Austin offers answers to some key queries around this issue.

2.00pm Young workers opting out of pensions because of Covid crisis, poll suggests

Two-fifths of younger workers have either reduced their pension contributions or stopped saving for retirement altogether as the lockdown squeezes their personal finances, research has suggested.

A poll of 2,000 people by Royal London found 28 per cent of those aged between 18 and 34 had reduced their pension in June, with a further 12 per cent stopping their contributions altogether. In comparison, just 16 per cent of those aged 35 to 53 either stopped or reduced their pension contributions. Lorna Blyth, head of investment solutions at Royal London, said the coronavirus outbreak had “put a real strain on many people’s finances”.

“Research shows many are looking to reduce their outgoings by cutting or even stopping contributions,” she said.

1.45pm Half of managers fear staff are burning out because of Covid-19, report finds

Half of managers in the UK believe workers may be at an increased risk of burnout following a change in working patterns and behaviours caused by the global pandemic, a report has found. A poll of 2,000 workers and 500 managers, conducted by Robert Walters, found nearly half (47 per cent) of managers thought their employees could be at risk of burnout because of this.

Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser for the CIPD, warned new work demands and working arrangements, including working from home, could put staff at risk from stress and burnout. She said employers needed to be alert to signs of unhealthy working practices such as “digital presenteeism”, and ensure employees took breaks and maintained boundaries between their work and home lives.

1.15pm Tate to make half of commercial workforce redundant

Tate galleries has announced 313 redundancies across its commercial enterprises, which include staff who work in publishing and in gallery shops, cafes and restaurants in London, Liverpool and St Ives. The figure – almost half of the 640-strong workforce – is bigger than the 200 redundancies that had previously been speculated on. Tate Enterprises staff who are members of the PCS union last week voted for industrial action, which could result in more than 100 workers going on strike from 17 August.

Concerns have also been expressed that the job cuts could disproportionately affect black and ethnic minority employees. But in an email to staff announcing the redundancies, Tate director Maria Balshaw and chief operating officer Vicky Cheetham said: “First of all it is important to say that we do not yet know the outcome until selection processes are completed. However, it is likely that the proportion of BAME colleagues across Tate Enterprises will remain broadly the same at the end of the process.”

1pm UK in recession for first time in 11 years

The UK economy suffered its biggest slump on record between April and June, shrinking 20.4 per cent compared with the first three months of the year, meaning coronavirus lockdown measures pushed the country officially into recession. This is the UK’s first technical recession – defined as two consecutive quarters of economic decline – since 2009. Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the BBC that the government was "grappling with something that is unprecedented" and that it was "a very difficult and uncertain time". But shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds blamed prime minister Boris Johnson for the scale of the economic decline, saying: "A downturn was inevitable after lockdown – but Johnson's jobs crisis wasn't."

9am HMRC miscalculates coronavirus grants for self-employed

HMRC has admitted that more than 16,000 grants given to the self-employed to help them through the coronavirus crisis were either too high or should not have been paid. Integrated Dispute Resolution, a legal services firm that highlighted the error, called on HMRC to be transparent about how much the errors had cost. A spokesperson for HMRC said: “The self-employment income support scheme has been delivered at an unprecedented pace and has protected the livelihoods of 2.7 million self-employed people in the UK. The vast majority of grants were paid correctly but in a very small number of cases not all the information held on a tax return was taken into account when calculating eligibility and grants.”

8.40am RSPCA to make 269 redundancies

Animal welfare charity RSPCA has announced it will make 269 job cuts as part of a restructure accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. The charity, which employs more than 1,600 people, said in June it would need to make up to 300 people redundant. It said it would be reviewing all of its activities as part of a new 10-year strategy, but the need for change had been heightened by the pandemic.

The RSPCA is also closing services at the Putney Animal Hospital and Southall Clinic in London, as well as two rehoming centres in Surrey. The charity is forecasting a deficit of up to £25m this year, rising to a potential £47m deficit over the next three years. Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, said the organisation had considered "every single proposal submitted and will be exploring some of the cost-saving measures suggested by staff".

8.30am NHS test and trace to axe 6,000 jobs

The NHS test and trace service is cutting 6,000 contact tracer jobs, allocating roles to regional teams to work with councils. The government announced on Monday (10 August) that local and national teams would work together following criticism by local authorities that the centrally run system was failing to tackle local outbreaks. The change means the number of national contact tracers will be reduced from 18,000 to 12,000 on 24 August.

Currently, the national system is used to contact those who are at risk of having contracted the virus after being in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. The change will mean tracers will focus on specific areas, and if they cannot make contact with a resident, local public health officials can use the data provided by NHS test and trace to follow up. 

7.45am Pubs, restaurants and leisure centres in Oldham could close as cases spike 

Oldham is facing full lockdown measures as a result of its number of Covid-19 cases nearly doubling despite social contact restrictions. Katrina Stephens, director of public health for Oldham Council, told the Guardian it was discussing the closure of bars, restaurants and gyms following a “sudden increase” of cases in the Greater Manchester town, but added it required national powers to enforce. 

“Those discussions are taking place to start preparing for that, should it be needed. However, we are not at that point yet and if people take these actions we really, really hope that will bring down the rate and that won’t be needed,” said Stephens. She confirmed a full government-ordered lockdown could take place within days unless social restriction rules are adhered to. 

Tuesday 11 August

2.10pm Three-quarters of a million have fallen from company payrolls, ONS finds

Almost three-quarters of a million jobs have been dropped from company payrolls since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the latest official figures have shown. Early indicators for July 2020 suggested the number of UK employees on payrolls was down by 730,000 compared to March 2020, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The data showed the total number of weekly hours worked between April and June 2020 was down a record 203.3 million hours on the previous year, and down 191.3 million hours on the previous quarter. Employment levels have also decreased, with 220,000 fewer people in jobs compared to the previous quarter, marking the largest quarterly decline in a decade since the financial crisis in May to July 2009, with both men and women seeing decreases on the quarter.

12.50pm Thousands of older staff dropped out of the workforce during lockdown, figures show

Nearly 200,000 people over the age of 50 have dropped out of the workforce or become economically inactive since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK, analysis of official figures has found. The analysis of Office for National Statistics data by jobsite Rest Less found that, since the start of lockdown, there has been a greater increase in economic inactivity among this age group than any other demographic.

Economic inactivity for the over-50s rose 1.4 per cent from 13.9 million to 14.1 million between the three months to February and the three months to May – equating to 198,000 older workers leaving the workforce through the course of the pandemic. By comparison, economic inactivity increased just 1 per cent among those aged 35 to 49, and actually fell 1 per cent and 0.8 per cent among those aged between 25 to 36 and 18 to 24 respectively.

12.45pm Debenhams to cut a further 2,500 jobs 

Debenhams has announced plans to cut another 2,500 jobs in the latest blow to the high street. These redundancies are additional to the 4,000 job cuts made by Debenhams since it went into administration in April.

The high street retailer is reducing the number of shop assistants as trading has remained low since reopening 124 of its stores after lockdown. It will also remove the roles of sales manager, visual merchandise manager and selling support manager. The Guardian reported that staff affected by redundancy have been informed.

11.55am Beware the office politics of hybrid workplaces

If people are given the choice to come back without firms learning to measure outputs, those most able to return will be at an unfair advantage, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.

11.45am How will Covid-19 affect gender equality?

The accelerated move towards flexible working brought about by the crisis may benefit women, but risks offices becoming ‘men’s dens’. Gillian MacLellan and Abbie Harley explain how employers can mitigate this.

9.30am Waitrose and Co-op give staff bodycams amid growing concerns of customer abuse

Waitrose is to provide its staff with bodycams to help protect workers from assaults. The move comes after Co-op gave the devices to workers in 250 stores when the chain recorded 990 incidents of antisocial behaviour and verbal abuse in the week that the wearing of face masks in stores became compulsory. Retailers and retail bodies, such as the British Independent Retailers Association, have recently reported a growing level of abuse towards staff from customers, and concerns were expressed when mask wearing in shops was made mandatory that retail staff should not be expected to enforce this. Waitrose said the 50-store bodycam trial was to make staff feel “safe and supported” but highlighted that the decision had been under consideration before the lockdown measures. 

9.20am Coronavirus accelerates shift to remote working, survey finds

A survey by PwC has found that almost nine in 10 UK chief executives expect the pandemic to prompt a permanent shift towards remote working. Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC UK, said: "While a large majority of UK and global CEOs believe Covid-19 has accelerated a long-term shift to more remote working, a blend of office and home working is most likely to be the future norm. There are many benefits of people coming together face to face, particularly when it comes to learning and innovation." PwC announced in July that its own offices would hopefully operate at at least 50 per cent capacity by the end of September. Ellis said this was because “bringing people together safely is important for teams, good for communities and good for the economy”. The company has introduced a raft of safety measures such as sensors that allocate desks.

The PwC survey also found that UK business leaders were more likely than their international peers to provide financial assistance to staff and support the mental health and wellbeing of workers.

9am Coronavirus-fuelled shift to digital puts nearly 1,000 TSB jobs at risk

More than 920 frontline staff at TSB will have their jobs phased out next year, with cashiers told they must retrain, change roles or take voluntary redundancy. The bank blames a steep decline in branch visits because of lockdown. "The way customers use their banks is changing and Covid-19 has significantly accelerated the use of digital services," a spokesperson for TSB said. "When customers visit our branches, their needs tend to be more complex and we need a fully multi-skilled and flexible workforce to meet them. This is why we are offering some branch colleagues the opportunity to upskill to take on broader customer service roles or take voluntary redundancy."

7.50am More than 10.5 million meals claimed through government scheme in first week

10,540,394 meals have been claimed through the government's ‘eat out to help out’ scheme in its first week, the Treasury has said. The scheme is intended to boost the struggling hospitality secretary by offering a 50 per cent discount for a meal eaten at a cafe, restaurant or pub on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. The discount, which is due to run through August, can be claimed back by participating retailers from the government. 

The Treasury estimates that the average claim is close to £5 per person, making the cost of the scheme around £50m so far. The government has set aside £500m to fund the policy. Chancellor Rishi Sunak described the figures as "amazing", adding those using the scheme were helping support the hospitality sector.

7.30am About 80 jobs at risk at Welsh National Trust sites

Approximately 80 jobs at the National Trust in Wales could be made redundant because of the pandemic. Historic sites, gardens and shops managed by the charity have been closed since March, but the National Trust has warned many properties may have to remain closed for years, despite being able to reopen some sites. 

Rebecca Williams, assistant director of the National Trust Wales, said the lack of income being generated by visitors meant the trust had to make "very difficult decisions". Williams said the charity had taken out loans, frozen recruitment and cut expenses, but it had come to the point where job cuts were needed to "ensure the long-term security of the organisation". The National Trust had previously announced about 1,200 jobs would be cut across the UK as a result of anticipated losses of £200m because of Covid-19.

Monday 10 August 

4.20pm Websites providing artificial office noise surprisingly popular in lockdown

Sites that provide background noises of things like printers and coffee machines, as well as people chatting, have attracted millions of hits during lockdown, the BBC has reported. When widespread home working was enforced, a number of experts set up office noise websites largely as a bit of fun, but many workers have found them useful.

Belgian research engineer Stéphane Pigeon, who created Office Noise Generator, told the BBC: "When the pandemic hit and people started to work from home, I released an office noise generator, really as a joke. I didn't think anyone would listen.” But he says his page has racked up 200,000 views since April. The Sound of Colleagues has done even better, attracting more than a million page views, including 164,000 from the UK.

12.45pm Lessons from government on petty rule-making

HR and managers need to recognise that overly controlling instructions without fair and effective enforcement are pointless, says Martin Tiplady.

12.30pm One in three employers planning to reduce headcount by end of September, poll finds

Out of the 2,000 organisations surveyed by the CIPD and Adecco Group as part of their quarterly Labour Market Outlook, 33 per cent said they planned to make redundancies in the third quarter of this year. This is a 50 per cent increase in the number of companies expecting to make redundancies compared to the previous quarter.

Private sector firms were twice as likely as public sector organisations to be planning redundancies. Nearly two in five (38 per cent) private sector employers said they were expecting to reduce headcount, compared to less than one in five (16 per cent) in the public sector. Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser at the CIPD, said this quarter’s outlook was one of the “weakest sets of data” for several years. “Until now, redundancies have been low – no doubt because of the job retention scheme – but we expect to see more redundancies come through this autumn, especially in the private sector, once the scheme closes,” he said.

12pm Pret A Manger to cut staff hours

Pret A Manger has confirmed it has asked thousands of staff to work fewer hours as part of a post-pandemic restructuring. Despite the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, trading continues to be slow as many office workers are still at home. Employees in stores have been asked to work about 20 per cent fewer hours than before. A Pret spokesperson said: "Our biggest priority is to do everything we can to save jobs. With footfall in our shops still significantly below normal levels, we have had to review the hours team members are contracted to work each week – although of course we hope to increase these hours as trade improves.”

11.45am Unions agree to reopen schools but say staff must be protected

Teaching unions have committed themselves to reopening schools next month but remain at loggerheads with the government over routine coronavirus testing and tracing. The National Education Union (NEU) echoed a call by Anne Longfield, children’s commissioner for England, for a robust testing system. At the start of the lockdown, teaching unions were criticised for advising caution about members returning to school until their demands were met. The NEU defended issuing a checklist of almost 200 items, saying it was common sense. The demands include assurances that staff will not have to work longer days and that they should receive support for trauma anxiety. It also wants schools to agree that staff forced to quarantine as a result of holidays booked before the government’s quarantine announcement should be able to work from home or receive paid leave.

9.25am Gyms, swimming pools and play centres reopen in Wales 

Gyms, swimming pools, leisure centres and play centres in Wales will reopen today with strict rules in place. In leisure centres, saunas and steam rooms will remain closed, while hard to clean areas in soft play centres such as ball pits will also remain closed. Businesses are urged to maintain high levels of hygiene and maintain two metre social distancing where possible. 

The Welsh government said businesses were legally required "to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus" on their premises, according to the BBC, which includes measures such as social distancing. Failure to comply could see local authorities issue improvement notices or, in the case of a serious breach, an order to close. 

Friday 7 August

4.45pm Thousands of BA staff to find out if they’ll lose their jobs

Thousands of long-serving cabin crew at British Airways are expected to find out today whether or not they will be made redundant in the airline's measures to combat a significant downturn in passenger numbers amid the coronavirus pandemic. Staff will be told they are either being made redundant, that they have a role but will have to sign a new contract – most likely with lower pay and worse terms and conditions – or that they will continue in the same role with the same contract. Staff who are being made redundant will have the option of entering the airline’s priority return talent pool and will be fast-tracked into any new roles that become available. The airline said more than 6,000 staff across the business have accepted voluntary redundancy.

Unions have condemned the plan as an attempt to “fire and rehire”. It is being used to push the 30,000 employees who will still have jobs on to downgraded terms and conditions, they say. The plan has also been heavily criticised by MPs, with the chair of the transport select committee Huw Merriman describing it as "the equivalent of putting a gun to someone's head".

1.45pm Return to work and redundancy worries affect more than half of workers, survey finds

More than half of UK employees’ wellbeing has been negatively affected over the past month, according to a survey, as many employers start cutting jobs and asking staff to return to workplaces. The report by Perkbox found that 58 per cent of employees said changes to the furlough scheme and future uncertainty over the world of work had negatively impacted their mental health, leaving them with rising levels of stress and anxiety.

Almost half (46 per cent) said they felt disconnected from their team and business over the past month, while 38 per cent said their physical wellbeing had been affected by the continued pandemic. Only 15 per cent of the 6,273 UK employees surveyed had experienced no negative impacts on their wellbeing in the past month. 

1.30pm Bank of England governor backs ending furlough in October

Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey has supported the government’s plans to wind down the furlough scheme, saying it was important workers were allowed to “move forward” instead of being kept in unproductive jobs – even if this meant some jobs were made redundant. 

His comments came as the bank published new analysis of the impact of lockdown on the economy, which said that while the effect on jobs had not been as severe as predicted in May, unemployment was still likely to increase.

It said that despite the winding down of the government’s support schemes, the majority of workers exiting the furlough scheme were likely to return to work. Because of this, the report said that the impact of unemployment on households would likely be less severe than during the 2008 financial crisis, particularly when looking at levels of household debt.

12.55pm What do the Spanish quarantine rules mean for employers?

With people returning to the UK from Spain required to self-isolate for two weeks, David Sheppard answers key questions around the implications for workers.

12.50pm Carlisle Lake District Airport staff face job cuts

Over half of the workforce at Carlisle Lake District Airport could be at risk of losing their jobs because of the impact of the pandemic on the aviation industry. The airport announced 30 of the airport's current 50 roles could be cut. Last week, Carlisle Lake District Airport said it would not be resuming passenger flights. 

John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle, said the announcement was "very disappointing", but it was "not unexpected". He added: "We had great hopes. A year ago, everything was set for a very successful airport." However, airline Logainair grounded passenger services in March and said it had no plans to restart them at the Carlisle Lake District Airport. 

12.30pm Evening Standard to cut 115 jobs

The Evening Standard has announced it plans to cut 115 jobs – approximate a third of its staff – as the paper sees a drop in advertising because of the pandemic. The freesheet relies on advertising for 80 per cent of its revenue. In April, the Evening Standard imposed a 20 per cent pay cut on some staff and enrolled others in the government's furlough scheme. It also halted the publication of its weekly magazine ES until September. 

12pm Third of JD Wetherspoon head office jobs at risk of redundancy

A third of head office jobs at Wetherspoons are at risk of being made redundant because of the coronavirus pandemic. Chief executive John Hutson said a "possible 110 to 130 positions are at risk" out of the 417 workers stationed at the pub chain's headquarters. He said the move was "mainly a result of a downturn in trade in the pub and restaurant industry", but that "no firm decisions" on the number of jobs to go had yet been made. 

8.40am RSA to cut hundreds of jobs

Insurance company RSA has announced it will cut 300 jobs from its UK operations as the business seeks to further reduce running costs after the pandemic. It announced on Wednesday (5 August) a range of measures including a voluntary redundancy programme and offering staff the opportunity to request reduced working hours. RSA employs 5,300 people across the UK. 

Scott Egan, RSA's UK and international CEO, said the firm is committed to making sure it is in the best possible shape to "be there for our customers in a more certain future". In addition to the redundancy programme, he said: "We are taking a range of actions to reduce [operating costs] over time, including rethinking our physical office space, modernising our IT infrastructure, and simplifying our products and services." 

7.50am Welsh government confirms reopening of gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools

The Welsh government has confirmed the planned reopening of gyms, leisure centres, fitness studios and swimming pools will go ahead on Monday (10 August). Children's play centres will also be able to reopen next week, but areas that are not easy to clean – like ball pits – must remain closed to the public. 

The government said businesses will be legally required to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus on their premises, and councils will be given extra powers to enforce these requirements. 

7.30am Travelex cuts 1,300 jobs in UK

Foreign exchange firm Travelex announced it will cut more than 1,300 jobs in the UK as it entered into an administration deal. In January, Travelex was held ransom by hackers after a cyber attack forced it to turn off its systems. PwC, which was appointed administrators for Travelex, said this cyber attack followed by the Covid-19 crisis had hit the firm hard. It also said that a "pre-pack" administration deal had been reached which had saved 1,800 Travelex jobs across the UK. 

As part of the deal, Travelex airport branches and high street shops that were closed during lockdown will not reopen. Toby Banfield, joint administrator at PwC, said the deal had also ensured a further 3,635 jobs globally around the world. He added: "Unfortunately, as the majority of the UK retail business is no longer able to continue trading, it has regrettably resulted in 1,309 UK employees being made redundant today [6 August]."

Thursday 6 August

5pm Manchester Royal Mail delivery office hit by outbreak

A Royal Mail delivery office in Manchester has been hit by a coronavirus outbreak after 19 workers tested positive for the virus, according to the Communication Workers Union. The union said it expected all staff to be tested within the next three days and contract tracing had begun. A mobile testing unit was being set up at the Manchester delivery office on Oldham Road and the centre remained open, with employees continuing to work, according to the BBC. 

The announcement followed a major incident being declared on Monday (3 August) in Greater Manchester after a spike in coronavirus cases in the region. A Royal Mail spokesperson told the BBC the organisation had put a range of “preventative measures” in place and the site had been extensively cleaned. They added that Royal Mail was working with Public Health England to test all staff and that workers had been briefed on social distancing measures.  

4.30pm Bank of England boss backs end of furlough scheme

The Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, has backed the government's decision to end its furlough scheme in October. He told the BBC it was important that policymakers helped workers "move forward" and not keep them in unproductive jobs, saying coronavirus would inevitably mean that some jobs became redundant. "It's been a very successful scheme, but [chancellor Rishi Sunak is] right to say we have to look forward now," he said. "I don't think we should be locking the economy down in a state that it pre-existed in." The bank said it expected unemployment to almost double from the current rate of 3.9 per cent to 7.5 per cent by the end of the year as government-funded support schemes come to an end. It said more workers faced a pay cut or freeze in 2020, adding: "In many cases, bonuses have been scaled back or withdrawn altogether for this year."

1.40pm Record number of Brits looking for work, study shows

Recruiters are seeing the steepest rise in the number of Brits seeking work since the 2008 financial crisis, according to research, as companies start to make redundancies in the wake of the furlough scheme winding down. The latest Report on Jobs survey, by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG, found the increase was particularly acute among those looking for temporary work, with numbers for this group rising in July at the fastest rate since records began in 1997.

The REC’s latest temporary staff availability index – based on a survey of recruiters and where a score more than 50 indicates an expansion in the number of jobseekers, while a score below 50 indicates a contraction – rose to 85 in July. This compared to 83.9 in June, and was also a marked rise compared to before the pandemic, with the index scoring 48.5 in February.

12.45pm Parents, carers and disabled twice as likely to face redundancy, report finds

Parents, carers and those with disabilities are twice as likely as the rest of the population to be at risk of redundancy, a survey has found. A poll of 6,000 people, conducted by Citizens Advice, found more than a quarter (27 per cent) of people with a disability were facing redundancy – increasing to 37 per cent among those who said their disability had a large impact on their day-to-day life – while 39 per cent of parents and carers were at risk of losing their job.

This compared to just 17 per cent of the working age population, suggesting that while the risk of redundancy was widespread, the most vulnerable were likely to bear the brunt of the downturn. The report, An unequal crisis, also found that half (48 per cent) of workers classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus and had, until the start of this month, been advised to shield, were now at risk of redundancy.

While acknowledging that most employers wanted “to do the right thing”, the report said the data showed many were not, raising concerns about fair redundancy processes, automatic unfair reasons for redundancy and discrimination.

12.30pm Bank of Ireland to cut 1,400 jobs

The Bank of Ireland has said it will aim to cut 1,400 jobs across the UK and Ireland after launching a group-wide voluntary redundancy programme. Francesca McDonagh, chief executive of the Bank of Ireland, told The Irish Times she had not set a limit for employees exiting under the redundancy scheme, but her target was to reduce the bank's workforce to below 9,000. However, she said, it was likely she could not meet this goal until after 2021. 

Currently, the bank employs almost 10,400 workers. Its voluntary redundancy scheme is set to close on 23 September. 

12.20pm Can employers enforce tests for Covid-19?

Lloyd Davey and Sarah Taylor explain the circumstances under which workplace coronavirus testing is legal, and what organisations should consider.

9.10am Arsenal to make 55 staff redundant

Football club Arsenal has announced its intention to make 55 employees redundant. The Premier League Club said it had been severely impacted by the pandemic and cited the move to reduce staff numbers as a necessary measure for the club's future. In a statement released on Wednesday (5 August), Raul Sanllehi, Arsenal's head of football, and Vinai Venkatesham, managing director of the club, said the main reasons for the proposal were severe decreases in broadcast, matchday and commercial revenues. 

The statement said the reduction in income made it clear Arsenal needed to reduce costs to "ensure we are operating in a sustainable and responsible way, and to enable us to continue to invest in the team". It read: "Our aim has been to protect the jobs and base salaries of our people for as long as we possibly can. Unfortunately, we have now come to the point where we are proposing 55 redundancies." It is understood the job cuts will be dispersed across some football departments as well as commercial and administrative roles. 

9am M&Co to close 47 stores and cut 380 jobs

Scottish fashion retailer M&Co has confirmed plans to permanently close 47 stores and cut 380 jobs. M&Co said it would continue to operate with 218 stores and 2,200 employees after completing a restructuring exercise. The redundancies, which have been made with immediate effect, consist of shop floor workers and staff at M&Co's offices in London and Glasgow. 

M&Co said its reduced network of local high street stores would strengthen its position for the future, “with the coronavirus outbreak reducing appetites to travel longer distances on public transport”. Chief executive Andy McGeogh said the retailer took a "huge financial hit" after shutting stores in March because of the lockdown. He said: "We reopened most stores in June and have been exploring every possible option, but it was obvious that the business, as previously structured, would remain under severe pressure from the ongoing challenges of Covid-19."

8.45am Aecom to cut up to 500 jobs

Construction consultant Aecom is to cut up to 500 jobs across the UK and Ireland as a result of the pandemic. Aecom employs around 7,000 people across the UK. A spokesperson for the company’s UK and Ireland arm said the pandemic heavily impacted Aecom's clients and competitors, and it would be undergoing a restructuring programme to ensure the future of the business. The spokesperson added: “As a result of this we have taken the difficult decision to reshape our business to better meet the demands of our markets and help us continue to provide the best services for our clients. In support of this restructuring, we are beginning a consultation process across the region, which may affect up to 500 roles.”

7.40am Hotel chain LGH puts 1,500 jobs at risk

Hotel management giant LGH has announced almost 1,500 staff in England and Scotland are at risk of redundancy because of the coronavirus crisis. LGH manages 55 properties, including some Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Hallmark hotels, and about 2,500 employees on behalf of the hotels. The company said more than half of these roles were at risk. Joanne Monk, group people and development director at LGH, said no final decisions had been made about the number of jobs that would be cut. But she said LGH hotels were being run by a small number of staff at present, and this was likely to continue for some time. 

7.30am Two-thirds of shielders happy to return to work

Two-thirds (68 per cent) of people shielding from coronavirus who worked before the outbreak would be comfortable returning to the workplace so long as the proper safety measures were in place, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have found. The data, released today, showed that just 6 per cent of clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people had no intention of returning to work in the next four months.

In England, 2.2 million people were classed as CEV, and the ONS estimated that about a third of these people worked before receiving advice to shield.

Wednesday 5 August

3pm Local lockdown in Aberdeen as Covid cluster grows

First minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that lockdown restrictions are being reimposed in Aberdeen as a result of a rise in coronavirus cases in the city. People are being told not to travel to the city, and those living in Aberdeen face travel restrictions. Additionally, pubs and restaurants will have to close from 5pm tonight (5 August). 

Sturgeon said there were now 54 cases in the "significant outbreak", and that community transmission could not be ruled out. People living in the Aberdeen city area are being told not to travel more than five miles for leisure purposes. Travelling for work or education is permitted, but other travel is not advised. 

The restrictions will be reviewed next Wednesday (12 August) and may be extended further if necessary. 

1.40pm Back to the office FAQs: how should HR approach returning staff to their desks?

From 1 August, the government changed its longstanding advice that employees should work from home if possible, instead telling employers in England that it would be up to them to decide whether it was safe for staff to return to workplaces.

This has signalled something of a green light for businesses considering asking staff to return to offices, with some announcing employees will be returning over the coming weeks. But what steps can HR take to ensure workplaces are safe? And what should employers do if staff don’t want to come back to the office? People Management asked employment lawyers and HR professionals for their advice on best practice.  

12.50pm Coronavirus exec pay cuts ‘superficial or short term’, says CIPD

No FTSE 100 company making cuts to executive pay during the coronavirus outbreak has changed its long-term incentive plan, the latest annual high pay report from the CIPD and the High Pay Centre has said, branding the measures “superficial or short term”.

Out of the top 100 companies listed in the UK, just 36 made cuts to CEO pay in response to the economic downturn caused by Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown. The most common action, taken by 14 firms, was to cut salary by 20 per cent, with two companies announcing they were deferring their CEO’s salary increase. However, the report said, salary was often only a small portion of a CEO’s full pay packet.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said the coronavirus outbreak had proved not to be an “inflection point” for executive pay. “The bulk of cuts made so far appear to be short term and don’t signify meaningful, long-term change,” he said.

12.30pm Metro Bank office staff can work from home until 'after flu season'

Metro Bank has said it will not ask staff to return to the office until the winter flu season is over, citing the potential for a rise in coronavirus cases during the winter months. This means the firm's 1,400 head office and back office employees will not be expected back in the workplace before 2021. The bank added that the success of flexible working meant staff were unlikely to ever return to offices full time, with an internal survey finding just 4 per cent of its office staff wanted to return to workplaces five days a week. 

Chief executive Daniel Frumkin said: "Everybody tells me flu season will be difficult, and it doesn’t seem prudent to let people back in the office in October, staring into a winter that could be very difficult. It seems much more prudent to revisit the topic once we see what the winter unfolds like."

12.05pm The implications of furlough abuse

Richard Fox explains the consequences employers can expect to face if they have intentionally or accidentally misused the job retention scheme.

12pm Creating a return to work culture

Liz Beck outlines the key areas businesses need to focus on as they start to welcome employees back into the workplace.

11.40am WH Smith to consider cutting 1,500 jobs

WH Smith is considering cutting 1,500 jobs after lockdown caused sales to plummet. The company, which employs more than 14,000 people, saw a 92 per cent drop in revenue from its shops in airports and rail stations during the first month of lockdown. Its best-performing division – its 612 high street shops – were still down 25 per cent on the previous year in July – after lockdown had eased. 

Carl Cowling, chief executive of WH Smith group, said that while there had been some progress since the relaxation of lockdown, footfall had dropped because of the pandemic. "We now need to take further action to reduce costs across our businesses. I regret that this will have an impact on a significant number of colleagues whose roles will be affected by these necessary actions," he said.

8.10am William Hill to close 119 shops

William Hill has announced it will not reopen 119 high street betting shops closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, saying it did not expect customers to return to its physical venues in the numbers seen before the pandemic. The company, which has 1,500 outlets, did not say how many jobs could be affected, but said the majority of staff would be redeployed within the business.

The betting company also confirmed it would be repaying the £24.5m it received from the government’s furlough scheme, citing the firm’s strong financial performance since the easing of lockdown. 

Tuesday 4 August

1.20pm Furlough fraud reports rise by 53 per cent in three weeks, official data shows

The number of reported cases of fraudulent coronavirus job retention scheme reports has risen steeply, official figures show, as the government starts to wind down this support. As of 22 July, HMRC had received 6,749 reports of ‘furlough fraud’, compared to around 4,400 at the end of June. This represents a 53 per cent rise in reported cases in just three weeks.

The rise came as official figures showed more than 9.6 million jobs have been furloughed as of 2 August, with 1.2 million employers using the scheme. While the latest figures have added to concerns about abuse of the scheme, experts warned that many employers might also be inadvertently falling foul of furlough rules. Matthew Sharp, senior associate at Fieldfisher, told People Management he doubted much of the reported furlough fraud was intentional. He said the lack of clarity around the scheme, coupled with employers “rushing to save jobs and plan the future of their business”, was inevitably going to lead to mistakes. 

12.40pm Dixons Carphone to cut 800 store management jobs

Dixons Carphone has said it plans to cut 800 jobs as part of efforts to streamline its in-store management. The chain, which owns Currys PC World, said it was "not an easy decision", but the move would allow a "flatter management structure" as it adapts to rising online sales because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mark Allsop, chief executive of Dixons Carphone, said: "We'll do everything possible to look after those colleagues we can't find new roles for, financially and otherwise." 

Dixons Carphone had already made a round of redundancies before lockdown when it closed its 531 Carphone Warehouse shops and the company shifted its mobile phone sales to its Currys PC World stores.

11.30am 1,100 jobs at risk as PizzaExpress plans to close restaurants

PizzaExpress has said it plans to close around 67 restaurants around the UK, 15 per cent of its 449 branches, putting up to 1,100 jobs at risk. The chain blamed the move on a "significantly more challenging environment" caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and said it hopes to launch a restructuring deal in the near future.

The company said the deal would help protect the majority of staff by putting the business on a "stronger financial footing in the new socially distanced environment", and insisted the final outcome of the plan had "yet to be decided". 

9.10am Girlguiding starts redundancy consultation

Girlguiding has announced it has begun a month-long consultation with staff as it faced a £4m drop in funding as a result of the pandemic. In a statement, Angela Salt, chief executive of Girlguiding, said the charity's activities and services had been severely impacted by the crisis and it was now acting to "secure the long-term sustainability" of the organisation. 

The charity was unable to confirm the number of roles at risk of redundancy, saying the final number would not be known until the consultation concluded, but it would attempt to minimise job cuts where possible. Salt added: "We are deeply saddened that we are in this difficult financial position, like many others as a result of the impact of Covid-19, and are now having to take cost-saving measures to sustain us for the future. We are not alone in the charity sector in needing to make valued staff redundant and reduce costs."

8.40am M&S to reopen 102 cafes for government 'eat out to help out' scheme

M&S has announced it is reopening more than 100 more cafes across the UK to encourage footfall as part of the government's ‘eat out to help out’ scheme. The scheme offers customers a 50 per cent discount up to £10 a head on food and non-alcoholic drinks from Monday to Wednesday. The government hopes this will help revitalise the hard-hit food and drink sector. 

M&S said it now has a total of 303 cafes across the UK open for dine-in services, and a further 17 cafes open for takeaway only. 

Monday 3 August 

3.50pm Hays Travel to axe almost 880 jobs

Travel agent chain Hays Travel has announced it is to cut up to 878 jobs as a result of the negative impact the global pandemic has had on the travel and leisure sector. The independent chain has a total workforce of 4,500 people across the UK. In a joint statement, Hays Travel owners John and Irene Hays said the decision by the UK government to ban travel to Spain and the changes in the furlough scheme meant they have had to re-evaluate how the business operates, which has led to the need to cut jobs.

They said: “We are also devastated for everyone who may lose their job, and we will do all we can in consultations to help them, as we focus on retaining as many people as possible and rebuilding consumer confidence through our renowned friendly and knowledgeable customer service.”

1.50pm More than half of furloughed employees have returned to work, analysis suggests

More than half of furloughed workers have now returned to work, according to an estimate produced through analysis of official figures. Figures from HMRC showed that, as of 26 July, 9.5 million people had been placed on furlough. However, analysis by the Resolution Foundation suggested fewer than half that number were still on the job retention scheme today.

The research, based on three separate surveys by the Office for National Statistics, estimated that the actual number of people on furlough as of the beginning of August was likely to be below 4.5 million and could be as low as three million. The release of these figures coincided with the beginning of the next phase of the furlough scheme. As of Saturday (1 August), employers were required to pay national insurance contributions for furloughed employees. This is set to increase again from 1 September, when employers will also be asked to contribute at least 10 per cent of furloughed employees’ wages, going up to 20 per cent in October, the last month of the scheme. 

1.30pm Baby boomers suffer largest coronavirus earnings drop, study finds

Baby boomers have suffered a larger drop in earnings because of coronavirus pay cuts than younger workers, and are just as likely to have been furloughed, a study has found. Research by the Financial Conduct Authority, the UK’s financial watchdog, found baby boomers – defined as those born between 1946 and 1965 – saw on average a 23 per cent decrease in earnings because of the coronavirus crisis. 

This compared to a 19 per cent drop in earnings among millennials – born between 1981 and 2000 – and a 17 per cent reduction for generation X, defined as being born between 1966 and 1980. However, although older workers’ earnings fell more sharply, they were still less likely to be in financial difficulties than their younger counterparts as they tended to have higher incomes to start with and more savings.

12.20pm DW Sports falls into administration leaving 1,700 jobs under threat

Sports retailer and gym group DW Sports has announced it will go into administration after its income was negatively affected by the closure of stores and gyms during lockdown. The company operated 73 gyms and 75 stores across the UK, employing almost 1,700 staff across both sides of the business. 

The retailer announced plans to shut 25 of its stores last month. But the company said it will now wind down its retail business for good, with its website ceasing trading with immediate effect and closing-down sales starting at its 50 remaining stores. It said it plans to protect as many jobs and gyms as possible through the restructuring process. 

11.55am How to support shielding employees as they return to work

Businesses should communicate effectively with their more vulnerable staff, and ensure they prioritise their emotional wellbeing, says Brendan Street.

11.50am What does the government’s latest return to work guidance change?

Melanie Lane and Catherine Taylor look at what recent clarifications from Westminster mean for employers considering bringing workers back to the office.

11.45am London risks no longer being a 'fun' place to work, economist says

London could have lost its aura as a ‘fun’ place to work, particularly in the digital and creative industries, as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, according to Pablo Shah, senior economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). “We had a management meeting in the office last Tuesday and were able to see what London looks like as the lockdown eases. To be frank, it looked like a ghost town,” Shah told the Guardian. “London last week did not look very attractive to the talent it needs.”

Since Saturday (1 August), employers in England have been allowed to judge whether staff can safely return to offices, but many are taking a cautious approach. The CEBR has predicted that, in 2021, the ‘new normal’ will be 30 per cent of London-based employees still working at home on any one day, equating to £178m lost spending on lunch, after-work drinks, coffee/tea, snacks, stationery and other office equipment each month, with London faring even worse and the effect on its GDP potentially “a huge multiple of this”, according to Shah.

10.30am Furloughed workers three times as likely to default on a payment, Which? finds

Furloughed workers are three times more likely than other employees to have defaulted on a payment last month, according to a survey by Which? It found that 13 per cent of those furloughed, put on enforced leave or forced to reduce their hours because of the coronavirus crisis have defaulted on at least one payment, compared to 4 per cent of those still working as normal. Additionally, 6 per cent of workers on the scheme reported that they had missed a loan or credit card payment in the previous four weeks. Of those with a mortgage or renting, 5 per cent had already defaulted on a housing payment – twice the default rate for the normally working population.

Richard Piggin, head of campaigns at Which?, said: “Despite extensive action being taken by the government and the banking industry, it’s very worrying that people currently on the furlough scheme have reported experiencing much higher levels of financial difficulty than those who are working as normal. With just a couple of months until the scheme comes to an end, there is real concern that this gap could widen even further.”

9.30am Senior managers forced to take pay cuts, CMI report finds

Just under one-fifth of senior UK managers took pay cuts during the pandemic and almost half said business had suffered as companies were forced to put operations on hold. A poll of almost 2,000 members of the Chartered Management Institute on behalf of the Financial Times showed almost all companies had asked employees to work from home during the crisis and one in five said none of their staff had yet returned. More than a third said they had started to bring workers back to offices and a similar proportion said they would do so before the end of the year. One-fifth reported having to make redundancies and more than two-fifths of those where business had been affected said trading had still not returned to normal. 

9am British Airways pilots vote to accept pay cut and jobs deal

British Airways pilots have voted to accept a deal that will temporarily cut pay by 20 per cent and result in 270 job losses, according to pilots union Balpa. The pay cut will reduce to 8 per cent over two years, eventually returning employees to pre-pandemic pay levels. The union said the deal would also prevent a “fire and rehire” scheme whereby staff were let go and returned on new contracts with “worse conditions”. 

Brian Strutton, general secretary of Balpa, said BA staff made a “pragmatic decision in the circumstances”, but the fact that “we were unable to persuade BA to avoid all compulsory redundancies is bitterly disappointing”. BA proposed to make 12,000 staff redundant, with 1,255 pilot jobs at risk. Balpa said the deal would result in an estimated 270 compulsory redundancies, although it said the number was “likely to fall” as BA would be working with the union to mitigate the impact of the changes.   

8.45am Quarter of Comic Relief staff at risk of redundancy 

Comic Relief has announced it is undergoing a consultation process to manage the fallout of Covid-19, which will result in the charity making 25 per cent of its workforce redundant. The fundraising charity told Third Sector that it was looking to save more than £5m in running costs following the pandemic. It anticipated 60 members of staff would be made redundant following the consultation, which began in early July and will end this month. 

The restructure will impact all levels of staff across Comic Relief and reduce costs by more than £3.2m. Ruth Davison, interim chief executive of Comic Relief, said: “I feel personally responsible for the staff, who I know are very worried about losing their jobs in this economic situation, and many of whom are my friends. I feel accountable for them and worried for them. But ultimately we have to do what is right for the charity beneficiaries and for our funded organisations.”

8.30am British Heart Foundation places 300 jobs at risk 

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has put up to 300 jobs at risk of redundancy as a result of projections that it will lose half of its expected annual income because of the pandemic. The charity announced on Friday (31 July) it would be consulting with staff on cost-saving measures as it said it could take “many years” for its funding to return to pre-pandemic levels. BHF had to close its 750 shops and cancel most fundraising events because of the lockdown. 

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, BHF’s chief executive, said the charity had “left no stone unturned” to find new ways of generating income and reducing costs, but it must consider reducing the size of its workforce. Griffiths added: “This has been an incredibly difficult decision and it will be even harder for those people who may leave our BHF team. We deeply regret the impact this may have on those colleagues who are affected and will explore every avenue to minimise the number of job losses, including through the re-allocation of roles within the organisation.”

Friday 31 July

3.15pm Opening of close-contact businesses delayed for ‘at least a fortnight’

In an update this afternoon, prime minister Boris Johnson announced that planned business reopenings for 1 August would be delayed for “at least a fortnight” due to a spike in cases in the north east of England. 

Venues such as casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks will have to delay opening, and beauty salons will have to postpone offering treatments that involve the face such as eyelash tinting and eyebrow threading. 

Indoor performances will also not resume and pilots of larger gatherings in sports venues and conference centres will not take place. Additionally, the planned expansion of wedding receptions to allow up to 30 people will not be permitted.

1.30pm Charities urge employers not to return shielding staff to work

Shielding workers could find themselves in an “impossible position” from next week, with some employers potentially demanding vulnerable staff return to work before it is safe to do so, an open letter to the chancellor has warned.

With the scheme to protect shielding individuals coming to an end, 15 charities have written to Rishi Sunak warning that workers could be forced to choose between their health and jobs if asked to return. The group, including Age UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and Diabetes UK, warned that vulnerable employees may be placed at risk of redundancy and called on the government to protect these jobs.

“Our concern is that, especially as [the] furlough arrangements start to unwind and the shielding scheme is paused from next week, some of these workers will find themselves in an impossible position,” the letter stated.

1pm Safeguarding BAME employees when returning to work

Research shows ethnic minorities are being disproportionately affected by Covid-19. Rebecca Hayes explains how employers can make sure they protect workers going back to the office

9.30am Property agents report signs of remote working revolution

Landlords and property agents report that a mass exodus from UK offices may be on the cards as the coronavirus lockdown drives a remote working revolution. Nine in 10 agents and landlords said they expected companies to scale back on office space in the next two years, with rents set to decline as firms opt for smaller, cheaper sites, according to a survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics). The poll showed that more than half of respondents expected more businesses to base themselves in suburban offices rather than city centres. Rics said office rents were likely to fall by between 4 per cent to 7 per cent in the next 12 months, while the dip in demand could see retail rents decline by up to 14 per cent.

Meanwhile a Guardian analysis has shown that many of England’s biggest businesses are set to defy the government’s push to get workers back into offices in August, with many big businesses sticking to home working arrangements or delaying a partial return until September at the earliest. Law firms, insurers, energy providers and tech firms are among those reacting cautiously to the change in government advice, which means from tomorrow (1 August) employers can decide whether staff can safely come back to offices. Some companies, such as Google and NatWest Group, are allowing workers to stay at home until 2021.

9.15am Boeing warns of further job cuts

Boeing, which in May said it would cut 10 per cent of its 160,000 strong workforce, has warned that it is considering further job cuts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In a letter to staff, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said the impact of the pandemic had caused “further reductions in our production rates and lower demand for commercial services, meaning we’ll have to further assess the size of our workforce.” The Chicago-based company had 161,100 workers at the start of the year.

9am Labour launches campaign against ending furlough

Labour has launched a campaign over mass coronavirus job losses, saying the gradual removal of the furlough scheme is a “historic mistake”. Labour leader Keir Starmer will officially launch a ‘Jobs, Jobs, Jobs’ campaign today with a visit to a company in Peterborough. His party will argue that the job retention scheme should be changed so it continues to support the worst-hit industries beyond October. Labour’s plan also calls for an increase in sick pay, investment in new jobs based around green technologies, and more money to help struggling businesses and shops, with particular assistance for areas put into local lockdowns.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds, said: “The chancellor’s refusal to abandon his one-size-fits-all withdrawal of furlough is a historic mistake that risks a python-like squeeze on jobs in the worst-hit sectors. The reward for months of hard work and sacrifice by the British people cannot be a P45. It’s not too late for the chancellor to see sense, change course and support the businesses and sectors that need it most. But even if he does, there is still much to do. The government should back viable businesses that are still impacted by coronavirus, support the self-employed and come up with a plan to drive job creation as we emerge from the pandemic.”

8.30am Tui moves hundreds of high street store staff to home working

Tui is to shut 166 stores in the UK and Ireland and shift staff to a home working operation, as the coronavirus pandemic speeds up the trend of booking holidays online rather than on the high street. The store closures would affect 900 staff, the tour operator said, adding that its strategy would save the vast majority from losing their jobs. The company, which specialises in package holidays, said about 630 of the workers affected would move into a remote sales and service team, with some moved to vacancies at its remaining high street stores. UK staff will avoid job cuts, with the remaining 270 roles to be cut through the closure of overseas customer service centres outsourced to third party providers, said Andrew Flintham, managing director of Tui UK & Ireland. “We have world-class advisers at Tui, so we hope many of them will become homeworkers and continue to offer the personalised service we know our customers value,” he said.

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