Almost 500,000 redundancies planned since start of pandemic

Employers in Britain were preparing to make 58,000 redundancies in August, taking the total to 498,000 for the first five months of the Covid-19 crisis.

Figures released to the BBC in response to a freedom of information request show that during August a total of 966 employers told the UK Government of plans to cut 20 or more jobs, compared with 214 last August.

Under legislation that applies in England, Scotland and Wales, employers must notify the Insolvency Service if they plan to make 20 or more workers redundant in any single “establishment” using a form called HR1.

The 58,000 positions at risk in August represents an improvement from both June and July, when employers planned to make 150,000 job cuts.

Following the record economic downturn earlier in the year as lockdown was imposed across the country, the UK economy recovered somewhat in the summer as employees were encouraged urged to return to the workplace and schemes such as Eat Out To Help Out enticed consumers to spend more.

“There was a sense of optimism in August, we were starting to see more spending and more activity, there were hopes for a quick recovery,” Rebecca McDonald, senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation think tank, told BBC News. “That seems a lot less likely now.”

The high numbers for June and July may also have been partly caused by firms initiating redundancy processes ahead of the end of the furlough scheme on 31 October.

According to official data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), employers made 156,000 redundancies from May to July, up from 107,000 in the previous three-month period.