Number of pub workers still furloughed 'considerably higher' than across other sectors

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

More than half of pub workers still furloughed in May ONS figures show confidence in sector grows

Related tags Furlough Job Retention Scheme Coronavirus lockdown Pub & bar

Some 55% of pub and bar workers remained on furlough at the start of May, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal.

The data shows that the percentage of the workforce on furlough in pub and bar businesses is considerably higher than that of all other businesses.

At its peak in the November 2020 lockdown, 91% of pub and bar staff were on furlough. This number had decreased to 55% by 2 May 2021.

This compares with overall 8% to 15% of staff on furlough in all other businesses during the same period, indicating the heavier reliance of pubs and bars on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS).

While a downward trend of pub and bar staff on furlough can be seen since restrictions on the hospitality sector began to lift in April, the ONS reports that the percentage of staff that were on furlough has 'remained high', suggesting that where pubs and bars have been open they 'have been operating with minimal staff'.

The figures come as the sector struggles under the weight of a staffing crisis​.

Recent analysis by trade body UKHospitality suggested a current vacancy rate across the sector of 9%; implying a shortage of 188,000 workers.

While the number of workers still being supported by the JRS remains high, the ONS reports a 'revival' of optimism within the sector.

In May 2021, the percentage of pub and bar owners who had 'high confidence' in their establishment surviving the next three months passed 20% for the first time since November 2020.

"This return of confidence could have been the result of the unveiling of the road map out of the pandemic and the subsequent reopening of hospitality," the ONS notes.

While the return of 'high confidence' has shown promising signs of recovery, the drop in the number of pub and bar bosses who felt 'low confidence' in the ability of their business to survive the next three months failed to last

According to the report, 'low confidence' dropped from 63% in November 2020 to 3% by April 2021, but by early May 2021, had risen significantly to 19%.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons Treasury Committee hearing earlier this week, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls warned that the pandemic will leave businesses suffering from 'economic long Covid' without more Government support​ and a timely lifting of restrictions.

She said: “Current Government support is not sufficient to cover the sustained hit on revenues that businesses in the sector have suffered following months of lockdown and more than a year of tough trading restrictions.

"Average hospitality monthly costs are between £10,000 and £20,000, while the average Government support is £3,000 per month.”

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