Government gaps will see jobs fall through the cracks
Government gaps will see jobs fall through the cracks
28 SEPTEMBER 2020 7:18 AM

Governments are doing all they can to protect economies and jobs, but as the pandemic moves beyond their initial relief timelines, the strain on finances will lead to holes swallowing up staff.

On Friday, I had a very pleasant conversation with Piers Schmidt, founder of business consultancy Luxury Branding, for an upcoming series of articles Hotel News Now will later publish.

At one point as we talked about furloughs and job losses, he used the phrase “death by a thousand cuts,” and it is this exact phrase I had jotted down in my notes for this blog before I dialed his number.

That confirmed that I was not being a pessimistic bore. Unfortunately, that notion exists, and a lot more job losses will happen, including some that will not make headlines.

The other way jobs are being lost will make the front page, losses such as Whitbread PLC and Premier Inn announced last week that 6,000 employees will be made redundant, 4,500 of those in its hotel division.

Whitbread CEO Alison Brittain said the furlough scheme initiated by the United Kingdom was a huge help and that she welcomed more of the same. That announcement and her comment were made last Tuesday, and the government’s new Jobs Support Scheme—in which it will pay a much smaller percentage of furloughed payroll—was announced two days afterwards.

That is not a two-day gap between business thinking and government policy, as Brittain and her team had been going through the process of reducing staff numbers for more than a month.

We humans have decided the world is to be divided into months and quarters, during which periods things such as payroll, rent and value-added taxes need to be paid, while the government hoped the pandemic would last a few months and their largesse would be more than enough.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, of course, but these gaps will see talent leave the hotel industry.

Brittain said she expects the vast majority of redundancies at Whitbread to be voluntarily taken. Being human, CEOs and others will genuinely take care in their choice of words, and Brittain showed empathy, but she also is trying to keep a company solvent.

I personally fail to see how this idea of accepting a job loss voluntarily can be achieved.

There are too many worrying stories about those affected by a lack of demand trying to find new employment. Stories tell of qualified applicants sending of hundreds of CVs and getting no or little response.

There is an opportunity there, as talent is eager to find work and flourish, but I see so many gaps emerging as governments try to find balance between containing the pandemic, helping the economy and maintaining support of an electorate who probably more than ever view the current ravages through the prism of their own experiences.

A 25 September document from U.K. think tank Resolution Foundation points to many of the gaps in government policy, some of which would always been very difficult or impossible to fill.

Analyzing comments made by Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist, Economic Outlook, my HNN colleague Danielle Hess wrote a piece this week of the situation in the U.S., which is more or less the same but with governments and welfare systems and the like that have evident differences.

In my conversations with hoteliers, globally all are doing their utmost to steer their businesses through this nightmare with an entire crew, but in geographies I warrant possess the same large holes that unfortunately numerous staffers will drop through.

Happy news
There must be some good news, surely.

Yes, there is. I see chains announcing debuts of brands in new markets; I see funds being announced, although this might be gobbling up distress; I see friends saying they are going on vacation abroad, even if there are nerves and concerns; I see online conferences not having become boring due to repetition but being a living, thriving source of conversation and advice; I see additional empathy to what I talked about above between different stakeholders, and I see hope, ultimately.

And just wait to beginning of an Aladdin’s Cave of deals, new thinking and practices, trips, demand, experiences and joy awaiting the world on the other side.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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