Hounslow has the largest number of leave workers in the country, the borough chamber of commerce has revealed.
Sally Smith, the organization’s chief operating officer, said the borough led the country alongside Crawley in using the leave scheme, during a Business Taskforce virtual meeting providing support and advice to businesses and local employers.
Questioning a panel, including Hounslow’s head of council Steve Curran, she said the borough expected a “tidal wave” of unemployment when the leave program ends in October.
Cllr Curran said “huge” amounts of work were being done to protect the borough from the worst effects of the coronavirus.
He said he wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to introduce “airlifts” to end the suffocation of the tourism industry.
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Hounslow’s cabinet members also agreed on a stimulus package last week on how to handle an economic, social, environmental and community rebound in the borough as the lockdown eases.
But he added: “It’s going to be very difficult for everyone in the weeks and months to come. There’s no point in trying to coat this, all predictions are very dark.
The warnings come as analysis from Wagestream, an income stream provider, showed Hounslow recorded a 308.5 percent increase in applicants for Jobseeker’s Allowances from February to May 2020.
The breakdown of figures from the Office of National Statistics means that the borough recorded the second largest increase in the country by local authorities, after Stroud in Gloucestershire of 332.8%.
The neighboring boroughs of Slough and Windsor and Maidenhead also reported increases of 295% and 303.6% respectively.
Business Taskforce panelist John Rose of the council’s human resources department urged borough businesses that layoff “should be the last option”, advising employers to think about what to do differently with employees in the future, such as accessing skills improvement programs.
Discussion at the meeting also recognized the benefits of retaining qualified staff to avoid “expensive” recruitment costs and keeping part-time employees.
Freight forwarder Sound Moves is one of the companies with Heathrow as the ‘lion’s share’ of its business, but its niche market of working with clients such as West End productions overseas has suffered ‘very, very badly’ during the pandemic.
Director Martin Corr said he was “making full use” of the leave scheme, and had to make “tough decisions” to fire people.
In January, the employer had 29 full-time employees, who are now down to two, while all the rest have been put on leave or laid off.
“We had to think about it, we knew it wouldn’t be a quick fix. We had to make tough financial decisions to preserve liquidity, ”Corr explained.
“We knew the start of summer was a loss. We won’t see any significant volumes coming back until this time next year.
The boss also ditched all marketing expenses, investing in IT systems and other business developments during the period he said would be a reserve to be made.
He added: ‘It’s pretty bad, I don’t think we’re any different from any other Heathrow-based freight company, there’s nothing to ship, plus we have the issue of limited flights.
“There are problems moving it [freight], there are big penalties if you miss a flight or run into issues with customers we paid for space we don’t use. Social distancing has caused problems, as has self-isolation for 14 days… It just doesn’t work. “
The company will begin rotating staff on leave who have not worked for months, to keep them up to date, and is “committed” to retaining them as they have built professional relationships with clients and are well trained to. work.
And Mr. Corr hopes that by September and October, staff will be able to start making quotes and planning next year’s activities.
He added: “The leave program has definitely saved some very, very difficult decisions. We’re very grateful for that, but on November 1 we’re not just going to turn on the tap again, but we want to keep our staff that we’ve spent a lot of time training.
Have you been affected by the coronavirus in this part of London? If so, send an email to anahita.hosseinpou r @ reachplc.com