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Job protection update imminent, JDW and Whitbread redundancy plans, The Alchemist’s ‘Culture Shock’

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

People moves: the latest news on people moves, jobs and training from across the pub sector
People moves: the latest news on people moves, jobs and training from across the pub sector

Related tags Jobs Finance Legislation Pubco + head office Wetherspoon Whitbread Portman group

As the Government prepares to address the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme's expiry, nationwide operators JD Wetherspoon (JDW) and Whitbread announced redundancy plans and the Portman Group announced the appointment of a new chair.

Sunak to reveal new job protection plans

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to make an announcement addressing what happens after the furlough scheme wraps at the end of October.  

"I will update the House of Commons on our plans to continue protecting jobs throughout the winter," he tweeted on 23 September. 

According to the BBC, he is understood to be looking at a number of options including a salary top-up scheme similar to those already in force in France and Germany.

Sunak’s update has already been given top billing by Prime Minister Boris Johnson who informed MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions that the Chancellor was working on “creative and imaginative” solutions.

According to CGA’s Business Confidence Survey, more than four in every five (83%) hospitality operators have furloughed at least 90% of their staff​ during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, with 96% of sites putting more than 70% of workers on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. 


Portman Group appoints new chair 

Social responsibility and regulatory body for alcohol, the Portman Group, has chosen former senior civil servant Philip Rycroft to replace Sir Martin Narey as chair. 

Rycroft, who was most recently the permeant secretary to the Department for Exiting the EU, worked at the Scottish Office and the Cabinet Office during his time in the Civil Service as well as serving the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, the Better Regulation Executive and the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office under Nick Clegg between 2012 and 2015. 

He also spent time as the director for corporate affairs at Hong Kong-based former Fortune 500 investment holding company Hutchison Whampoa, and as an adviser to Scottish & Newcastle before its acquisition by Heineken. 

“It is with great pleasure that I join the Portman Group, the first industry regulator committed to supporting moderation and responsible drinking,” Rycroft said of his new role. 

“Like so many industries, drinks producers and retailers are facing into an incredibly tough external environment and I’m keen to play my part, steering the Portman Group to showcase their best practice and commitment to social responsibility.”   

“For the good of the self-regulatory model I hope to maintain and then accelerate the exceptional membership growth of 2020.” 

The Alchemist gives staff ‘Culture Shock’  

Bar and restaurant operator The Alchemist has embarked on a week-long programme to help re-establish its brand values among staff at its 19 sites.

Its “Culture Shock” scheme includes meetings to drive change, updated staff benefits, charitable activations and a focus on sustainability as well as a forum for conversations on pressing issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“After a challenging but successful relaunch of the business in July and a very busy August, this week we launched ‘Culture Shock’ – a week of reconnecting with our teams and our values and opening up conversations on important topics raised earlier this year,” Hannah Plumb, talent and culture director at The Alchemist, said.

“We know what our main thing is but we don’t want to lose sight of our cultural compass – our local and global charity and community work is important to our teams and to our guests and, ultimately, what makes The Alchemist, The Alchemist – is our people.”


Whitbread to make 6,000 roles redundant

As reported by The Morning Advertiser (The MA),​ the operator behind brands such as Brewers Fayre, Beefeater and Premier Inn has announced that as many as 6,000 members of staff​ could face redundancy following a collapse in sales during the coronavirus crisis.

According to reports in The Guardian​​, Whitbread is also close to cutting 15% to 20% of jobs at its head office, a further 150 positions.

The PLC, which said it had begun consultations with staff and hoped the majority of cuts could be made voluntarily, revealed that sales during the first half of its financial year to 27 August slipped by almost 80% due to the forced closure of most sites. 

This comes despite the hospitality giant reporting in August that its total UK sales had improved to just 38.5% down year-on-year with its accommodation division said to be performing ahead of the market and its restaurants "boosted by the positive impact of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme". 

However, Whitbread drew up redundancy plans amid pessimistic footfall forecasts as the Government prepares to introduce new restrictions on the hospitality sector – such as a 10pm curfew​​ on pubs, bars and restaurants as well as mandatory table-service only – to tackle a resurgence in Covid-19 infection rates. 


450 redundancies at JDW airport pubs possible

Staff at JD Wetherspoon (JDW)’s airport pubs have been told between 400 and 450 roles are at risk of redundancy​ due to a nosedive in passenger numbers.

“The company has written to 1,000 people employed in its pubs at six airports (Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Birmingham Edinburgh and Glasgow) to inform them a possible 400 to 450 positions are at risk of redundancy,” chief executive John Hutson said.

“The decision is mainly a result of a downturn in trade in these pubs, linked with the large reduction in passenger numbers using the airports.

“We should emphasise no firm decisions have been made at this stage. The company will listen to suggestions from staff to help avoid or reduce the number of compulsory redundancies, which are required.

“JDW is proposing to collectively consult with employees through an employment representative committee, which will be established for this purpose.”

As recently as 6 August the pub group informed its entire head office workforce​ that a possible 110 to 130 positions were at risk of redundancy.


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