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UK facing 450,000 job losses this autumn

Nearly half a million redundancies could be seen this autumn alone in the UK according to estimates from the Institute for Employment Studies (IES).

New analysis of official data released to the IES found that between May and July 2020, employers notified the government of nearly 380,000 staff at risk of redundancy.

This is more than double the peak reached at the height of the last recession, when 180,000 staff were notified as being at risk between January and March 2009.

The IES added that, as employers are required to notify the Insolvency Service of all large-scale redundancies, excepting those where fewer than 20 staff will be made redundant, actual redundancies tend to be higher than the figures covered in official notifications.

Based on an analysis of the relationship between notified and actual redundancies, the IES has therefore estimated that the UK is likely to see around 450,000 redundancies in the autumn and said this figure could exceed 700,000 if redundancy notifications continue to rise.

Either way, the IES said redundancies this autumn are on course to be the highest figure since at least 1995, when the Labour Force Survey started collecting data on redundancies.

Tony Wilson, director of the IES, said the data lays bare the scale of the jobs crisis currently facing the UK.

“The sad reality is that this restructuring cannot be averted entirely, but we can do a lot more to minimise the job losses and support those who are most at risk.

“Our top priority must be to support those facing the prospect of losing their jobs to find new, secure and good quality work as quickly as possible.”

The IES' analysis was based on Insolvency Service data collected from employers planning 20 or more redundancies, which is reported via HR1 forms. The figures were released to the IES following a Freedom of Information request. This was then compared with estimates of actual redundancies, as reported in the Labour Force Survey.

Going forward it called for the government to regularly publish HR1 data, including breakdowns by sector and region, to help areas and industries to prepare for and respond to the crisis.

The institute also requested the government to take various actions in the forthcoming Spending Review.

It wants to see guaranteed ‘rapid response’ services in all parts of the country to provide employment and training support to those facing redundancy, delivered in partnership by Jobcentre Plus, colleges and training providers, recruiters and local government.

It also advised that the threshold at which employers start paying National Insurance contributions be raised to reduce labour costs and support aggregate employment demand.

Additionally, it said it would like to see tightly targeted support for firms and industries facing short-term disruption due to the pandemic but that remain viable in the longer-term – for example in entertainment, leisure and aviation – ideally linked to commitments not to lay staff off.