Few furloughed arts and admin staff back at work


A deserted Shaftesbury Avenue in London’s West End in May Yau Ming Low / Shutterstock.com

The government is facing a further call to extend the furlough scheme struggling sectors, after it was revealed the majority of employees in the arts and in administrative roles had not returned to work.

Just 29% of furloughed employees in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector and 28% of furloughed staff in administration and support services have been brought back to work, according to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

Only 19% in professional, scientific or technical activities had re-started work, and only 22% of the number furloughed in health and social work – a figure that is likely to be low due to their key worker status – have returned.

However, many sectors have been able to bring staff back to work quickly; 74% of furloughed retail workers, 70% of construction employees and 60% of furloughed hospitality staff have returned to work.

Across all industries, only 56% of staff who were furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme had re-started work.

Fabian Wallace-Stephens, a senior researcher at the RSA, said the figures could indicate that significant redundancies were on the horizon in some sectors unless the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was extended beyond October.

“The return to work is encouraging news for the millions of workers in sectors like hospitality and construction. However, for some sectors such as the arts and entertainment, the numbers are worrying low and may prove to be the warning signs of significant redundancies,” he said.

“The government needs to give continued, focused support for these sectors of the economy, linked to a clear recovery strategy.”

The RSA noted that while some other sectors had benefited from government initiatives to stimulate recovery, such as the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, many businesses in the arts, entertainment and leisure sectors such as gyms, cinemas and theatres, were still struggling to operate.

On Saturday, theatres, casinos and bowling alleys in England were allowed to reopen with social distancing measures, while tattoo studios, beauty salons, spas and hairdressers were able to offer additional services including face treatments.

Stephen Burns, chief executive of Hollywood Bowl Group, said: “It’s a great relief to finally have clarity on when we can reopen after such unexpected and long delays. We’ve been ready to reopen in the fully government approved Covid-secure way for many weeks and our trained teams are eager to get back to work.”

The RSA compared Office for National Statistics Labour Market Survey data with figures from the ONS Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey

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