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Coronavirus lockdown: Hospitality workers see 77% collapse in shifts

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Empty chairs and tables at closed bars and restaurants in London. (David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

New figures lay bare the devastating collapse in work in Britain’s hospitality sector, crippled by the coronavirus and unprecedented government lockdown to save lives.

Workers in restaurants, hotels and other venues have seen shifts nosedive by 76.7%, new analysis suggests.

Sales were in freefall even before the government ordered many venues to close and banned large events, with customers staying away. Food and drink outlets have been allowed to remain open for takeaways and hotels for essential trips, but many venues have closed their doors.

The latest data is from fintech firm Wagestream, which lets employers pay wages early. It processes pay for 36,000 staff in the leisure, pub, bar and restaurant industries, who would normally fill around 120,000 shifts a week.

Read more: Hospitality hardship fund overwhelmed and forced to turn away workers

Available shifts last Sunday, two days after prime minister Boris Johnson ordered most venues to shut, were just a quarter of the number available one month earlier.

Yahoo Finance UK revealed last week industry leaders believed 500,000 hospitality jobs had already been slashed, as firms stop trading with no idea when or even if they will restart.

An industry charity also had to turn away hospitality workers from its hardship fund just a day after it launched on Monday, overwhelmed by the number of requests for help. Hospitality Action received more than 30,000 emails in a single day inquiring about its emergency Covid-19 fund for workers in trouble.

The government recently confirmed 477,000 people had applied for the universal credit benefit in just nine days. No data was made available on applicants’ previous jobs however, and the unemployed are not the only people eligible for universal credit.

Read more: UK high street struggling even before the coronavirus hit

But the chancellor Rishi Sunak’s unprecedented offer to fund up to 80% of the wages of staff who would otherwise be laid off has been welcomed.

UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls called it a “generous package” that may have saved up to a million jobs, but said struggling firms needed the cash urgently to survive.