Hays Travel has confirmed 880 staff have been put on zero-hour contracts.

All other employees have had their hours reduced for the next four weeks.

On Thursday, Travel Weekly reported retail staff were being made to work every other week, while some foreign exchange staff and recent starters had their hours reduced to zero as part of new cost-saving measures.

Hays today confirmed the 880 staff affected were those working in Forex, trainees or new starters.

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A statement from owners John and Irene Hays today said: “Despite doing everything in our power to protect the business and retain jobs we have regrettably had to reduce working hours to zero for 880 colleagues, and reduced hours for everyone else for the next four weeks. There have been no redundancies.

“The pandemic has been devastating for our business and the whole industry.

“Four weeks ago we were on an upward trajectory – now we are losing revenue by the hour.

“We have asked government for significant support for salaries to ensure that we can retain our highly skilled staff and a travel industry for when this current emergency passes.

“People are of course very upset but we have had continued support from colleagues who understand this is unprecedented.

“Our main concern is for the health and wellbeing of colleagues, customers and the communities we serve – many of them will be impacted personally and financially.

“We hope the government will make a positive announcement today.

“Meanwhile we continue to encourage people to book their holidays now for next year and we have introduced a Peace of Mind guarantee to help them have confidence in booking now.”

The couple posted a video on social media this afternoon outlining the agency’s Peace of Mind campaign.

Hays recruited 2,300 former Thomas Cook shop staff after taking on the leases to occupy all 553 of its shops following the travel giant’s collapse in September last year. It also recruited 200 additional staff for its head office in Sunderland.

It employs around 5,700 staff overall, including 2,500 shop staff, and currently operates 650 shops across the UK.

The TSSA union urged business secretary Alok Sharma to intervene in Hays Travel’s “jobs massacre”.

General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “The government must learn from its lessons with Thomas Cook and intervene to save Hays Travel.

“Today’s news is a particularly bitter blow for those workers who last September went [through] the trauma of redundancy from Thomas Cook. Now just six months later they’re facing zero hours contracts and the possibility of losing their jobs again.

“The travel industry is in freefall because of the coronavirus crisis. We have already warned the government that without their intervention high street travel shops will be a thing of the past.

“Realistically Hays cannot expect an upswing in their business until the coronavirus crisis is over. Today’s jobs massacre is only the beginning.  The government must intervene swiftly to save our high street travel shops.”