NHS Test and Trace, TSB and Debenhams cut jobs

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Thousands more job losses have been announced today, with the government stating that it no longer needs 6,000 of its coronavirus contact tracers in England and both TSB and Debenhams planning front-line job cuts.

The NHS Test and Trace system will shed around 6,000 roles by the end of August, following criticism that the scheme was not working at a local level. Instead, the 12,000 remaining contact tracers, who contact those who have tested positive for Covid-19 to establish who they have been in contact with and will need to self-isolate, will work alongside local public health teams.

Dido Harding, the head of NHS Test and Trace, said the integrated localised approach will “reach more people in their communities and stop the spread to Covid-19”.

Meanwhile, Debenhams said it would cut 2,500 more jobs in addition to the 4,000 redundancies that have been announced since May – equating to around one third of its workforce.

The redundancies will affect its UK stores and distribution centre and it said no further stores were expected to be closed. Earlier this year, after it fell into administration, it announced it would permanently close 20 department stores because of the impact the pandemic.

Debenhams said in a statement: “Such difficult decisions are being taken by many retailers right now, and we will continue to take all necessary steps to give Debenhams every chance of a viable future.

“We have to ensure our store costs are aligned with realistic expectations… We have successfully reopened 124 stores post-lockdown, and these are currently trading ahead of management expectations.”

Banking group TSB has also announced plans to phase out cashiers at the start of 2021, due to a reduction in footfall at its branches.

According to Reuters, around 929 staff will be affected and they will either have to retrain, change roles or take voluntary redundancy.

“The way customers use their banks is changing and Covid-19 has significantly accelerated the use of digital services,” TSB said in a statement.

“When customers visit our branches, their needs tend to be more complex and we need a fully multi-skilled and flexible workforce to meet them. This is why we are offering some branch colleagues the opportunity to upskill to take on broader customer service roles or take voluntary redundancy.”

Today the Office for National Statistics revealed that there were 730,000 fewer people on company payrolls between March and July 2020, as the pandemic continued to take its toll on organisations’ ability to trade.

Many commentators have called for an extension to the furlough scheme in order to preserve jobs. Charlotte Pickles, director at the Reform think tank, said: “The threat of a second wave and further local lockdowns will damage the economic recovery, simultaneously scrapping the furlough scheme risks a jobs bloodbath in the Autumn. Extending the scheme with greater flexibility, only for those sectors hardest hit, could provide a lifeline for millions.”

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