Covid crisis for workers

Economy A bar tender prepares a drink
ViewsDecember 23rd, 2021

Victoria Winckler, Director of the Bevan Foundation, says that the issue facing workers is not a £60 fine but survival. 

The latest Welsh Government restrictions on business activity are provoking a great deal of debate about the impact on hospitality businesses, and on sports, arts and cultural venues. They’re also generating a lot of heat about the possible consequences for employers and employees who do not work from home if they can.

These debates hide the real issue – which is that thousands of workers face losing money and possibly their jobs in the next few weeks.

The new restrictions on hospitality and public events, coupled with public caution, are likely to hit workers hard. The majority of workers in the affected sectors have been in their jobs a relatively short time. Workers in a job for less than two years are cheap and easy to lay-off, and we should be in no doubt that many employers will do this Christmas or not.

We also know that variable hours contracts are rife in hospitality and the arts – making it straightforward for employers to cut shifts.  Twenty per cent of employees in hospitality businesses do not have any guaranteed hours of work, with arts and leisure workers also having high proportions of workers on zero hours. It is easy – and common – for shifts to be cut, often with just an hour’s notice. And we can be sure that employers will do this faced with no customers.

Until September, employers faced with no or reduced demand could make use of the furlough scheme to cushion the blow for their workforce. Workers with no or lower earnings could also claim Universal Credit, benefiting from the £20 a week uplift until last month. 

Those lifelines have now gone, leaving workers facing at best a cut in pay and at worst the loss of their job.  For them, the prospect of any workplace – even with the threat of a fine for not working from home – must be appealing.

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