Agencies say the government’s revised Job Support Scheme (JSS) will reduce redundancies but an employment expert warned businesses taking no bookings may still struggle to justify keeping staff.

The JSS replaces the furlough scheme from Sunday. Chancellor Rishi Sunak changed the goalposts last week so staff can qualify for salary support when working 20% of hours, rather than the 33% required when the JSS was first announced (see box).

Premier Travel, which has 24 branches, has not made any redundancies to date and plans to move all staff to the JSS.


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Director Paul Waters said: “We recognise the value of our staff and the instrumental part they will play in our recovery.”

He said the new measures were “a bit more complex” and required the company to look again at the distribution of hours to agents.

Kelly Cookes, leisure director at The Advantage Travel Partnership agency consortium, said members had “received it well”. She predicted: “It will save some jobs but not all.”

Lynne Kirby, director at the Elite Travel Group consortium, said the update meant it was “more likely” agents could keep part-time staff. She said some agencies thinking of reducing numbers were “now not”, adding: “It gives a bit of breathing space. It has changed agents’ views positively.”

However, Kirby said the changes “came at the 11th hour”. Her concern was echoed by Miles Morgan Travel chairman Miles Morgan who said: “While it was great news, it was sad in a way because a lot of people have made decisions to make redundancies [based on the previous criteria].”

Lawyer Ami Naru, partner and head of employment at Travlaw, described the updated JSS as “an improvement” but said: “I don’t think the industry has picked up enough to bridge the gap.”

She warned of “a raft of redundancies” this weekend and said she expects about 50% of travel businesses to use the scheme.

“The only redundancies this is going to delay are those of employees already back from furlough and working part-time,” said Naru.

“It’s still quite a hurdle when no bookings are being made. This would have been great in the summer when holidays were starting to pick up. But there are too many other factors now. The 20% limit will probably increase from January when they review it.”

 

At a glance: Job Support Scheme

      Announced September 24, goes live on November 1, replacing furlough.
  • Extended on October 9 to businesses required to close premises for local lockdowns.
  • Extended again on October 22 to businesses not required to close (JSS Open) and the hours employees must work reduced from 33% to 20% of normal.
  • Employees must work at least 20% of normal hours and the employer pay the normal rate. The scheme covers two-thirds of remaining pay. The employer pays 5% plus national insurance and pension contributions. The government pays 61.7% up to a maximum £1,541 a month.
  • Businesses must pay wages and claim JSS payments in arrears.
  • Employees can’t be made redundant or served notice while on the scheme.
  • All SMEs eligible. Employers with 250-plus staff must complete a financial impact test.
  • Scheme to be reviewed in January, ends on April 30.

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