'Almost a third of UK firms plan to lay off staff over the next three months'

16 July 2020, 06:34

The chancellor announced measures last week aimed at helping firms bring staff back from furlough
The chancellor announced measures last week aimed at helping firms bring staff back from furlough. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Almost a third of UK businesses plan to lay off staff over the next three months in a further sign of the coronavirus pandemic's devastating impact on Britain's job market, according to a report.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BBC) quarterly recruitment outlook reveals that 29% of 7,400 firms surveyed expect to axe jobs over the third quarter - a record high for the study.

The report - compiled in conjunction with Totaljobs - found that 28% of firms polled had already cut roles between April and June.

The study also showed that 41% of large companies and 41% of small and medium-sized firms expect to cut staff over the next quarter, with 18% of micro businesses forecasting workforce reductions.

Recruitment also ground to a halt, with just 25% of firms looking to take on new hires in another grim record for the report.

The figures come amid mounting fears of mass unemployment as businesses shed staff to cope with the fall out from the Covid-19 crisis.

The BCC welcomed Chancellor Rishi Sunak's announcements in last week's summer statement - including a Job Retention Bonus scheme, which will give £1,000 to firms for each furloughed employee they bring back to work.

He also unveiled a Kickstart Scheme and an apprenticeship recovery programme to help shore up the jobs market.

But the BCC and Totaljobs urged him to take more action, calling for a temporary cut in National Insurance contributions to help protect businesses and jobs.

Hannah Essex, co-executive director at BCC, said: "Many businesses are suffering from an historic cash crunch and reduced demand, meaning firms will still face tough decisions despite welcome interventions made in the summer statement.

"The Government should consider additional support for employers before the autumn Budget to reduce the overall cost of employment and prevent substantial redundancies."

She also said the Government could consider support to "upskill and reskill" employees as businesses adapt to changing working practices after the lockdown.

At least 150,000 jobs have already been cut or put at risk at more than 60 major British employers during lockdown, according to recent analysis by the PA news agency.

Overall, around 75,000 job losses were announced last month alone.

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The Office for Budget Responsibility said on Tuesday that Britain could be facing an unemployment rate surging potentially as high as 13% from just under 4% now.

But there are some tentative signs of recovery, according to Totaljobs, which has seen a 30% month-on-month increase in the number of roles being advertised on its website for June.

Sectors benefiting from easing lockdown restrictions saw big rises in vacancies - up 51% across retail, 47% for travel and 23% for hospitality.

A Government spokeswoman said: "Throughout the pandemic, we have acted with speed to safeguard jobs and incomes, with our support package totalling £160 billion so far.

"The Plan for Jobs announced last week, including the Job Retention Bonus and the new Kickstart Scheme, will give businesses the confidence to retain and hire, and to create new jobs in every part of our country."