Coronavirus: Workers describe being hit by job losses and uncertainty

By Francesca Gillett & George Bowden
BBC News

Image caption,
Holly was on a £30,000 salary and 45-hour contract

Life in the UK has largely been put on hold, hitting businesses and their employees hard. Many sectors have already seen widespread redundancies, with firms warning thousands more jobs could be wiped out.

"I'm not angry, I don't blame anyone," says Holly Eyre, 28.

She has moved back home with her parents in Leeds, after being made redundant from her "dream job" of managing a bar and restaurant in Newcastle, where she has lived for the past eight years.

Ms Eyre says around half the staff at the independent restaurant have been let go because of the virus. "Moments after the advice came [to avoid non-essential travel], we started receiving cancellation calls," she says.

"As a brand new member of the team, I'd only been there a couple of weeks," she says.

Ms Eyre, who is also a trained English teacher, says she is going to change jobs. "I don't think the hospitality sector will survive the next few months."

Ms Eyre says the government's plan to pay 80% of wages for staff kept on by employers comes too late. It is understood the plan will apply to firms that have already laid off workers - but only if they are brought back into the workforce by bosses.

"I have been made redundant on Tuesday, as have so many others," she says. "This does not help me."

But she adds: "I'm not in a difficult situation really. I have got my parents to fall back on," she says. "I'm really lucky."

'Don't know how I'll survive'

Image source, Tom Danousias
Image caption,
Tom Danousias says he was surprised at how he was treated by his employer

Among those who are more worried about their situation is Tom Danousias, 23, from south west London, who was also made redundant this week.

"I was in the office and they sent a HR person who informed me I have to go home because of the coronavirus," he says.

Mr Danousias, who worked for a company selling products to the hospitality sector, said: "I feel really bad because I don't know how I'm going to survive the next three or four months.

"I pay £800 for rent and bills. I have got savings. I calculated it and it will last two months maximum."

Image source, Tom Danousias
Image caption,
Mr Danousias received a dismissal letter from HR on Wednesday

Business consultant Bob Donelan, 58, from Rye in Sussex, says he is expecting to be unemployed for around six months.

He does contract work, with his current contract due to run out at the end of March. He says there's a "perfect storm" of coronavirus - plus planned (but now postponed) changes for self-employed workers - which will make life harder for contractors.

"We have rent to pay," he says. "I have estimated [we can afford to live] for four to five months. I'm not even in the gig economy, who must be looking at week for week.

"So it's just a case of hunkering down and not spending."

For James Godwin, a final-year university student, the money he would have made from his Easter holiday restaurant job was going to help him learn to drive to help with his future job prospects. "It's really restricted the sort of job I can apply for," he says.

"Due to customers dropping they don't need me anymore so they told me not to bother coming in," says Mr Godwin, 21, from Oxford studying at the University of York.

Image source, James Godwin
Image caption,
James says he initially felt "like I was on my own", before friends were also made redundant

"I've lost £1,200 because of that in wages, which is a lot considering I am a student who is still privately renting for a flat in York I no longer need.

"It's upsetting to lose that much money and it's been very stressful," he says.

'I applied at 7pm and was hired by 10pm'

While many firms have announced job cuts in recent days, supermarkets have been bucking the trend and have gone on a hiring spree to recruit tens of thousands more staff - and quickly.

Student Tracy Landu, 24, says hours at her university library had been cut back completely as the coronavirus outbreak meant fewer people were on campus.

She submitted a brief online application for a temporary customer service role at a Tesco store in north London at 19:00 GMT on Friday.

Image source, Tracy Landu
Image caption,
Student Tracy Landu says she decided to take things into her own hands

"It was really quick, I didn't put too much detail - I didn't actually upload a full CV - I just thought 'no, I'm not going to upload it'. I just knew they were quite desperate so the main details should be good [enough]."

By 22:00 she was phoned back by the store and - after a two-minute telephone interview - asked to attend her induction on Saturday.

"I spoke to a girl next to me who was called up at 09:00 for training at 12:00," she said.

"I was only on a short-term contract [at the university library] as I'm a student in my final year," she added.

"It made me think 'these hours aren't certain' and I decided to take things into my own hands and get money coming in."

Chains including Tesco, Asda, Aldi, and Lidl said they would hire thousands of staff after hugely increased demand saw shoppers clearing shelves.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged businesses to "stand by your employees", following a £350bn package for businesses by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Mr Sunak also announced the government will pay some of the wages of workers employed by private companies.

Media caption,
Rishi Sunak: "The government is going to step in and help to pay people's wages"

The move is aimed at protecting people's jobs and will see the government pay four fifths of firms' staff salaries, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month.