Almost 800,000 job cuts planned last year

Jobs are set to be lost at Debenhams after Boohoo bought its brand, but not its shops Eric Johnson Photography /

Some 795,000 redundancies were planned by employers in 2020, although the pace of planned job cuts slowed at the end of the year.

This is according to Insolvency Service figures obtained by the BBC, which showed more than 10,000 organisations notified the government about their plans to make significant job cuts last year.

However, the actual number of jobs lost is not known; employers are only required to notify the Insolvency Service when they plan to make 20 or more people redundant, and some employers may not have gone through with their plans.

BBC analysis showed that the proposed number of job cuts in 2020 was well above the 530,000 seen during the 2010 recession, and the highest number on record.

As parts of the economy began opening up, before coronavirus restrictions were imposed again, the number of proposed job cuts dropped. In December, 23,100 redundancies were planned by employers – the lowest monthly figure for 2020.

Some sectors of the economy have been hit harder than others. Last month, the Centre for Retail Research said 2020 had been the worst year for retail job cuts in 25 years, with almost 180,000 jobs lost.

More job losses are also expected at Debenhams, following the news that online fashion giant Boohoo has bought the Debenhams brand and website, but will not take on the firm’s remaining 118 high street stores or its workforce. Some 12,000 jobs are expected to be lost.

It has also been suggested that jobs at Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and Burton-brand HIIT could be lost, amid reports that Asos was in talks to buy the brands from the Arcadia Group, but not their shops.

Shop workers’ union Usdaw said it was a “terrible day” for the high street and claimed that Debenhams staff had been treated appallingly since it went into administration again last spring.

National officer Dave Gill said: “Nearly 180,000 retail job losses and around 20,000 store closures last year were absolutely devastating and lay bare the scale of the challenge the industry faces. Each one of those job losses is a personal tragedy for the individual worker and store closures are scarring our high streets and communities.

“What retail needs is a joined up strategy of unions, employers and government working together to develop a recovery plan. Usdaw has long called for an industrial strategy for retail, as part of our ‘Save our Shops’ campaign, to help a sector that was already struggling before the coronavirus emergency.”

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