Coronavirus – how is it impacting the job market?

Updated: 18th March 2020

What unprecedented times we live in. Two weeks ago, we were still thinking we would have several weeks, or perhaps even months to prepare before the coronavirus spread really started to impact daily life here in the UK. It’s rapid evolution since then has certainly caught many by surprise and left us all in a state of flux and uncertainty.

Our interpretation of this at Rest Less is that it is now clear that we are looking at a period of significant disruption and uncertainty in the coming weeks and months.

The most important thing, is to ensure that you do all you can to keep yourself and your family and friends safe – especially those who may have underlying health conditions or are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the virus. This can lead to difficult decisions for many of us on whether to visit certain friends and family, as often the most susceptible to the virus are also the most lonely and in need of a visit. You can find the latest official health advice available from the Government and the NHS here which could help you decide how best to proceed.

The next best piece of advice we can offer you is to focus on what you can control, rather than what you can not. You cannot control the spread of the virus, or what Donald Trump will say next, but you can focus on staying safe and using any isolation time to your advantage by refreshing your skills with an online learning course, or by making your CV and cover letters as strong as they can be. The distraction of having something else to focus on, other than the news feed, can be good for our mental health too.

With this in mind, we certainly don’t have all the answers, and the situation is evolving day by day, but we thought it might be helpful to share what we’ve seen in the job market so far, and our thoughts on what might happen in the coming weeks.

Impact of coronavirus on recruitment

Sectors that we know are affected by coronavirus

Travel – It’s perhaps no great surprise that the global travel industry is in real trouble as a result of the virus. Airlines have cancelled hundreds of flights as countries impose travel bans, and fewer people are looking to book any travel for the foreseeable future. Hotels are almost empty due to cancellations and are seeing a similar halt in new bookings. As a result we expect almost everything except essential hiring in the travel sector to be put on hold. Some firms are reportedly asking existing staff to work reduced hours voluntarily. If you are in this situation, we would appreciate hearing from you at [email protected] or on the community forums.

Zero hours contracts – The level of disruption here will vary by sector, but we are hearing reports of those on zero hour contracts being offered fewer hours, or not being compensated after going into self-isolation. If you are in this situation you might consider sharing your experiences with others on the community forum. You may well find that you are not alone.

Hospitality – With the recent recommendation to avoid pubs, bars and other such public places, and with mass gatherings no longer supported by emergency workers, the hospitality industry is clearly suffering badly. Cinemas and theatres have closed temporarily and people simply won’t be socialising as before. This has translated into a widespread pause in hiring in this sector.

Retail –  We expect this to be a mixed picture depending on the type of retail, and also the type of goods sold. For example online retail is surging as fewer people are visiting the high street, but face to face retail is clearly struggling. Food sales and medical/pharmacy stores are seeing surges in demand, whilst non-food and clothing shops are having a hard time and are less likely to be hiring right now.

Areas we believe are increasing their hiring

Online delivery and logistics – With fewer people eating out, we expect there to be a rapid increase in takeaway orders, so companies such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats are seeing a significant increase in online orders. Similarly, as fewer people are visiting shops, we are seeing a significant increase in online shopping. Delivery slots are now harder to find due to capacity constraints, so we would expect this to translate into strong hiring activity in driving, warehouse and logistical roles.

Food retailers and pharmacies – as people are stockpiling goods, and channelling their purchases through the handful of food retailers (rather than eating out) both online and instore we are seeing a huge surge in demand for people to support the leading food retailers such as Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda, Morrisons and the Coop.

Online retail – Amazon is on a massive recruitment drive to ensure it can keep up with the surge in demand it is seeing. We would expect this to be true of most online retailers – however it will vary by industry.

The NHS – It’s too early to tell what is going to happen, but in Wednesday’s Budget, the Chancellor said that the NHS would get ‘everything it needed’ to deal with the crisis. With a dramatic increase in patients and those in need of medical attention – we expect to see an acceleration of hiring in these areas as the healthcare sector responds. Large volumes of 111 call handler roles have been hired in recent weeks to deal with the unprecedented call volumes, for example.

If you are aware of any other sectors that are ramping up hiring in the current climate, please do let us know at [email protected], as we would love to share regular updates that might help your fellow Rest Less members.

Change in interviewing tactics

We have heard from a number of Rest Less members that they have seen interviews postponed, or delayed indefinitely – depending on the industry they were interviewing in. For those that are going ahead, a number of employers have told us that they plan to make more use of telephone interviews or Skype calls – rather than bringing everyone in for face to face meetings – at least for early stage interviews. If helpful, you can read our guide on preparing for a successful Skype interview…

The impact of coronavirus on work and employment

The Chancellor confirmed in the Budget that people who are unable to work due to coronavirus will be able to claim statutory sick pay from day one, rather than the usual day four, as announced earlier by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It can be claimed if you’ve been told to self-isolate, even if you haven’t yet got any symptoms. If this applies to you, you’ll be able to get a sick note. It’s important that you do not visit your GP to get this, as you should be self-isolating. The best place to start is the NHS 111 website.

You must earn at least £118 a week to qualify for statutory sick pay, which is currently set at £94.25 a week. Employers can choose to pay more than this if they want to. Find out more in our guide, Benefits if you have a health issue or disability. Businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be able to get a refund from the Government to cover the cost of providing two weeks of statutory sick pay to staff affected by coronavirus.

The self-employed, who aren’t eligible for statutory sick pay, should be able to claim benefits more quickly and easily the Chancellor announced – with those on contributory employment and support allowance able to claim from day one instead of day eight. He is also temporarily removing the minimum income floor for Universal Credit.

Those who are struggling to meet mortgage payments due to loss of income will be able to have their payments deferred for three months.

It’s too soon to tell what the short term, and longer term impacts will be on the country’s work and employment situation. At the time of writing, we haven’t seen a step up in announcements of large scale redundancies, which is encouraging. However, there is no harm in using it as an opportunity to start making small incremental savings wherever possible to help build up a financial buffer. If you are looking for ideas on how to supplement your earnings, you could read our guides on 21 Ways to Boost Your Income, Popular Side Hustle Ideas and Five Ways Your Home Could Make You Money.

There is a chance that companies may start announcing redundancies in the coming weeks. If you are worried about your situation, one way to help feel in control is to read up on your rights during any redundancy process.

What are the wider financial impacts?

The spread of coronavirus doesn’t just affect our health and employment – it can also have a big impact on our finances too. Stock markets have had a very difficult few weeks, as investors worry about the impact of the virus on consumer demand and there is a growing belief that we are already likely in a global recession.

The Bank of England reduced interest rates last week, to reduce the cost of borrowing and to try and stimulate demand. Last night, the chancellor announced additional emergency measures to help shore up the economy, although at the time of writing we are still waiting for the finer detail of this to come through. One small bright spot for people’s personal finances, is that the oil price has also dropped dramatically, which could feed into lower fuel and energy costs in time.

If you want to read our full assessment (which is constantly being updated in light of new information) on what the coronavirus means for your money, you can read it here:

How long will all this last?

The short answer is that no-one knows, but things are evolving very quickly. There is still a chance that things could recover as quickly as they started, or this could turn into a period of prolonged disruption. Our own view is that it would be prudent to start planning for the disruption to go on for weeks and potentially even months, whilst hoping for a much swifter resolution.

What can I do about the coronavirus?

  • First and foremost, focus on keeping yourself, your family and your friends as safe as possible. Health always has to come first, and whilst the majority of people who catch the virus appear to suffer only mild symptoms, we do know that the virus has proved devastating amongst the elderly and those with existing health conditions.
  • Stay informed, but try not to spend too much time staring at the media news feeds. The media knows that panic and fear gets people reading and clicking, and quite frankly it can breed despair. This doesn’t mean putting your head in the sand. It is important to keep updated as the situation evolves, but focus on high quality sources of information, and try to limit the number of times you check the news each day to avoid a constant loop of negative information. As a reminder, you can find the latest official health advice available from the Government and the NHS here
  • Focus on spending your time and energy on what you can control, rather than what you can not. You cannot control the spread of the virus in Italy, or what Donald Trump will say next, but you can focus on staying safe, and using any isolation time to your advantage. The focussed distraction will be beneficial for your mental health and you could use this time to write that novel; to learn something new; to make your CV and cover letters as strong as they can be or to focus on getting high quality applications into employers and sectors that are still hiring.
  • Whilst there is a chance that things could recover as quickly as they started, it feels like a sensible time to try and start making small incremental savings where at all possible to help build up a financial buffer.

Whatever happens in the coming weeks, the UK and the world will get through this crisis. Stay safe and look after yourselves.

Have you or your employer been affected by the coronavirus? We would be interested in hearing from you at [email protected] or on the community forums

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