Eight in 10 workers in the UK accommodation and food services sector have been furloughed, according to a survey.
Research by the Office for National Statistics found that the sector, which covers hotels, restaurants and pubs, temporarily laid off the largest proportion of workers after the lockdown began.
On Monday the Treasury launched the coronavirus job retention scheme, which reimburses companies for up to 80% of the wages for employees who are furloughed rather than made redundant, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
By Thursday 435,000 firms had applied for nearly £3.8bn worth of support to pay the wages of 3.2 million workers.
The ONS figures are based on a survey of 6,150 businesses, which found that together they had furloughed more than a quarter of their workforce.
It said 81% of businesses in accommodation and food services had closed temporarily or ceased trading. That figure was higher only in the art, entertainment and recreation industry, where 82% of firms are not operating. These businesses have furloughed 68% of workers, the ONS found.
Not all workers in the accommodation industry qualify to be furloughed, with those who started seasonal jobs recently or with contracts due to start for the summer locked out of the scheme.
In the construction industry, where work on many sites has been halted, 42% of the workforce has been furloughed.
The hospitality industry has said 1m jobs are at risk without further government support if physical distancing measures continue beyond the end of the year.
The chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, Kate Nicholls, called for a plan of phased reopenings of hotels, bars, pubs and restaurants. She also urged the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to extend the furlough scheme beyond its current end point of June.
“We need a plan of phased opening for our sector. For those businesses that can trade safely with social distancing measures still in place, they should be able to,” she said. “For the many venues where it is not possible, support, such as the furlough scheme, must be extended to make sure these businesses stay alive and jobs kept open.”
The Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, has said pubs, restaurants and hotels will be “among the last” businesses to exit the coronavirus lockdown.
There are some signs that Sunak has in the main succeeded in persuading businesses to retain staff rather than make them redundant. Among businesses responding to its survey, the ONS said those that were still trading or had temporarily paused operations had made less than 1% of their workforce redundant.
As many as 8 million workers could be furloughed in total, according to estimates from the Resolution Foundation thinktank, which said low-paid hospitality and retail companies would be affected most.
The ONS figures, which cover the period from 23 March to 5 April, show that businesses that had paused trading furloughed 78% of staff, while those that were still trading had told 14% to stay at home.
Some companies have furloughed staff who need to look after children, and a separate ONS survey showed the difficulty those still working were having in balancing their jobs with homeschooling. Research done in the run-up to the Easter weekend found that 71% of adults with a dependent child were homeschooling, and 42% felt it was having a negative impact on their job.
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