Record spike in redundancies – highest in the East of England

“Unsurprisingly in the year to August to October 2020, the redundancy rate has increased across the Country but the redundancy rate was highest in the East of England (16.6 per thousand, compared with 4.3 per thousand a year earlier) and the West Midlands (16.5 per thousand, compared with 5.1 per thousand a year earlier). The region with the lowest redundancy rate was Yorkshire and The Humber (7.6 per thousand, compared with 3.9 per thousand a year earlier).

Jeanette Wheeler is a Partner and Head of Employment law for Birketts LLP and also Deputy Chair for the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. She explains;

“The East of England is often overlooked by Government and the focus is more often on the North whose Mayors have been strong advocates of their regions. However these statistics show that more attention and investment needs to be given to the East which is being particularly badly hit by job losses in this pandemic. The numbers are sadly not surprising. Our region’s economy is largely built on SMEs and micro business, many of whom have been hardest hit by the pandemic and who often don’t have the cash reserves or ability to cope with the enormous and long term upheaval that has has occurred this year.  Many other regional business who have not been so directly hit by the pandemic and lock down are being conservative and cautious and over the past 9 months have carried out a range of redundancy and cost cutting measures in order to be fit to deal with the current challenge and those which might arise from Brexit.

Our visitor economy (culture, leisure and tourism) sector accounts for 11% of our region’s workforce (just over 89,000 jobs). We know that these business have been extremely hard hit by the lock downs and disruption and many have had to close just as they approached the start of their busy seasons or remain open at low capacity levels. Likewise we are all aware of the devastating effects on our retail and particularly our hospitality sector. There is evidence that this has had a particular impact on redundancy numbers among younger people, many of whom work in these sectors.

Recovery will not be easy and will take some time once vaccines allow an unlocking of our economy and lives and the New Anglia LEP and its partners are seeking to play a role in supporting this. The LEPs Visitor Economy group launched its sector recovery plan in the summer. This includes a number of projects aimed at reopening and strengthening visitor confidence and a longer-term aim to reimagine the visitor economy and lengthen its season. It also launched its Economic Recovery Restart Plan in June 2020. This outlines a number of commitments from its partners, including a job support programme which provides online resources for those facing redundancy, including support to get back to work, links to training, support for mental health and well being. For businesses the LEP provides free business advice via its New Anglia Growth Hub and in the Spring it launched its Business Resilience and Recovery grant scheme through which more than 100 businesses have already benefited from grants to help them pivot and diversify.

The figures show that the “Furlough” scheme can only go so far to save jobs and when it ends the jobless numbers in this region will continue to rise unless businesses in the East, which is at the forefront of clean energy growth and the tech revolution, are helped with Government money and support to rebuild and build back better. There also needs to be a review of the Apprenticeship levy to ensure we can better train and retrain our young people and give them a more positive future prognosis”.

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