A third of businesses expect to lay off workers this year

Eir NolsoeData Journalist
April 26, 2021, 5:13 PM UTC

One in five companies with furloughed staff say they’re unlikely to keep all of them on

COVID restrictions are easing, and the success of the vaccine rollout has made the International Monetary Fund forecast that the UK economy will grow at the fastest rate since 1988. But despite a growing sense that the country is through the worst of the pandemic, new YouGov data shows that many businesses still consider further layoffs necessary.

A survey of senior decision makers at British businesses shows that a third (32%) say their company will have to let workers go before the end of the year, including 12% who plan to shed a fifth or more of their staff.

Large companies are much more likely to plan redundancies, with half (50%) expecting to lay people off. One in six (16%) say they will have to let a fifth or more of their staff go.

Among small and medium sized enterprises, one in five employers (20%) believe they will have to make redundancies. This includes 9% letting a fifth or more of their workforce go.

A quarter of businesses (25%) are currently receiving government support such as loans, grants or furlough pay for their workers. Among this group, two in five (43%) will make cuts to their workforce, with 17% letting a fifth or more go.

A fifth of employers with furloughed workers say they will need to lose some

Just over a third of businesses (35%) have workers on furlough, including one in ten (10%) who say most or all of their staff are furloughed. Among large businesses, the figure rises to 46%, although the proportion saying their workforce is entirely or mostly furloughed remains at 10%.

Most employers with furloughed workers believe they will retain all of them, with 42% saying it’s very likely, while another 37% say it’s fairly probable. A fifth may have to start handing out redundancies in the next months, however - 14% are fairly unlikely to keep all of their furloughed staff on, while one in twenty businesses (5%) say it’s very unlikely. 

The government expects that around 4.9 million workers were furloughed in February.

Despite some businesses with furloughed staff expecting to lay people off, decision makers are largely happy with when the furlough scheme ends. Half (51%) say it’s appropriate that it concludes at the end of September, while a fifth (22%) say it should end sooner. Only 16% believe it should last beyond September.

See the full results here