Research shows Leeds is particularly vulnerable as it has the fifth largest hospitality sector outside London, behind tourist areas like Edinburgh and Cornwall.
More than 25,000 people in the city were working in hospitality before the coronavirus pandemic, research by Yorkshire Post owner JPIMedia has found.
Across Yorkshire and the Humber, this figure rises to 153,660 people.
While Chancellor Rishi Sunak introduced measures like promising to pay 80 per cent of workers’ pay, many will miss out because their bosses are not taking advantage of the scheme and are instead making people redundant.
On top of this, many companies are unable to survive any longer with no income while awaiting the government payouts, and are being forced to close.
Unite’s national officer for hospitality, Dave Turnbull, said: “These figures show just how many people rely on the hospitality industry for employment, and the severity of the dangers the coronavirus crisis poses to their livelihoods and the health of local economies in general.”
He warned that many workers in the sector are “never more than a pay cheque away from the breadline”.
Mr Turnbull said the union was already coming across examples of businesses which had decided to lay staff off rather than place them on furlough under the Government’s scheme.
And he said there was “no excuse for companies not to join the scheme and so protect their workforces”.
“For bosses that don’t rehire fired staff or refuse to sign up to the job retention scheme, Unite’s message is clear: We will expose you, we challenge your behaviour and we will take legal action for unfair dismissals.”
Mark Goldstone, head of business representation and policy at West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said he had no doubt that there would be redundancies due to the time it takes for businesses in the city to receive government help.
“On the whole, this is not because employers want to make people redundant, it’s because of a lack of cash.
“Lots of businesses have less than a month’s cash in reserve and hospitality businesses in particular often work to very tight margins. Most companies do everything they can to keep staff.”
He added that research by the British Chamber of Commerce released yesterday showed that nearly two thirds of firms in the UK have three months’ cash in reserve or less.
Julian Pitts, regional managing partner of insolvency practitioner Begbies Traynor in Yorkshire, agreed, adding: "The lead time is an issue, with companies trying to get furloughed staff paid before any government money comes in.
"The uncertainty of when restrictions will be lifted is also a factor."
Hospitality trade association UKHospitality also urged employers to sign up to the wage-support scheme.
Its chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said that “not only will it safeguard jobs, it will also put the sector in a much stronger position to help rebuild the economy after the crisis has passed”.
On March 20, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered all bars, clubs and restaurants to close across the UK as part of the introduction of social distancing measures to limit the spread of coronavirus.
A rescue package for businesses and workers was immediately announced, which included the promise of a wage-support scheme for workers across the UK.
Simon Fogal, who runs Leeds Indie Food, said: “From the smaller businesses the main concerns are how long this (lockdown) can go on and what extra support might come if this does last so long. In Leeds’ scene a few businesses did react before the government announced the extra help for businesses but have gone on and helped staff.
“The other concern is the confidence of the consumers coming back as quickly as soon as lockdown is over.
“As Leeds Indie Food, we want to help the businesses have the confidence that they will have custom after this but also offer that one space where people know how to support businesses doing stuff currently. Our Directory (leedsindiefood.co.uk) is being updated with Indies still doing online deliveries, vouchers online and takeout/ click & collect. We are launching some merch to help us create a fund to help push a campaign in the future. We are also working on a magazine with recipes from your favourite indie and features, to keep them in the mind of people during this horrible time.”
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