Since the start of lockdown the unemployment rate in the UK remains relatively unchanged. So far so good. However, scratch the surface and a far more worrying picture begins to emerge. Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that UK company payrolls fell by 649,000 between March and June, a 16.7% fall. The reason for this is obvious, people have remained employed through the furlough scheme but are not on their company’s payroll. Many experts believe we will not see the full effect this could have until the scheme ends in October.
However, The Office for Budget Responsibility has recently published a report warning that unemployment was likely to rise to a record 12% by the end of this year, falling back to 10% in 2021, and we have already seen several high-profile companies let staff go.
Oasis and Warehouse made 1,800 jobs redundant in April after being bought out of administration in April and later sold to Boohoo Group in May. Luxury fashion and accessories brand Mulberry cut 470 UK job cuts in June, a quarter of its global workforce.
So what has been the Government’s response to this looming crisis? Well they have committed to paying a job retention bonus of £1,000 for each furloughed member of staff brought back. This is courtesy of Rishi Sunak’s summer economic plan outlined last week. But will it be enough?
Two businesses who could be affected in very different ways are Dart Group a (Fundamental AIM portfolio holding) and Young & Co.
Dart Group, the owner of Jet2 airline, announced in April that it had placed 80% of its workforce on furlough and asked them to take a 30% pay cut during this time. However, reducing the cost associated with staff has done little to outweigh the impact of a mass cancellation of flights and travel restrictions and the firm has seen an 11 per cent decline in profits in the year to March 31. Virgin Atlantic, Easy Jet and British Airways have all confirmed they will be making significant redundancies and Jet2 is expected to follow suit. Considering the long term impact the pandemic will have on the travel industry it remains to be seen if the retention bonus will have much impact here.
Young & Co, which owns 220 pubs around the UK, announced in March that it would not be paying its final dividend and would furlough the majority of its staff. However, as pubs begin to reopen and early reports suggest patrons are all too willing to absorb any risks for a good pint, Sunak’s plan may be just enough to keep the bar staff pulling pints.
These measures will work for some businesses and not others and time will tell if they will be enough to keep Britain working.