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Supermarkets have gone on a hiring spree as demand surges as a result of the coronavirus crisis.Tesco, Asda, Aldi, and Lidl said they would hire thousands of staff after hugely increased demand saw shoppers clearing shelves.

 

That move came before the government said it would pay the wages of workers at firms affected by the pandemic. And Sainsbury’s has asked shoppers to stay 1m away from shop staff if possible, to help keep them safe.

Supermarkets have been overwhelmed by a wave of panic-buying as shoppers rush to stock up amid the coronavirus pandemic.

 

To combat the stockpiling, in recent days the major British supermarkets imposed limits on how much of each item shoppers can buy.

Along with other measures to cope with the increased demand, some of the chains have embarked on big recruitment drives for a total of more than 30,000 jobs.

Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket, wants to take on 20,000 temporary workers “to help feed the nation”, it said.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented increase in demand for food and household products,” the chain said.

“At Tesco, we’re working around the clock to help ensure families have access to the shopping items they need.

“We launched our recruitment drive online on Wednesday and since then we have already been overwhelmed by support from the public and thank everyone who has applied to work with us in stores.”

It added that “over the coming days thousands of new colleagues will join us”.

The chain also announced on Saturday it will give all its workers across stores, distribution centres and customer engagement centres a 10% bonus on their hourly rate until 1 May – backdated to 9 March.

Frontline salaried managers will receive a 10% bonus on actual hours worked, it added.

Asda said it wanted to recruit more than 5,000 temporary staff from among people whose jobs have been impacted by the virus.

Discounters

Aldi announced it was looking to fill 5,000 new temporary posts and take on 4,000 permanent new workers for jobs in all its stores and distribution centres.

And Lidl said it would create about 2,500 temporary jobs across its 800 stores in the UK.

The discounter said it was hiring to “help with an extremely busy time for stores”.

Lidl GB chief executive Christian Haertnagel said staff were doing an “incredible job at keeping our shelves stocked, and serving communities during an extremely challenging period”.

“Temporarily expanding our teams is one way we can help support our colleagues and customers, whilst providing work to those that have had their employment affected by the current situation.”

 

Earlier this week, Morrisons announced it was creating 3,500 new jobs to expand its home delivery service, about 2,500 pickers and drivers, plus 1,000 staff in its distribution centres.

It said it would make more slots available and also set up a call centre for those without access to online shopping.

Morrisons said the move would help “at a time of national need”.

As well as introducing social distancing measures, Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe said the store would prefer customers to pay with a card rather than cash.

He also said Sainsbury’s would be expanding its reserved 08:00-09:00 slot for elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers to NHS and social care workers.

Consultant cardiologist Dr Lisa Anderson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this would lead to cross-infection.

She said: “It’s not just about the risk to ourselves and our family; we’re travelling home on the Tube and on buses, we’re cross-infecting everybody at the moment.”

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the programme he agreed the move by supermarkets could pose a risk.

He said: “We’re going to have to learn as we go along about these unintended consequences.”

On Friday, at his daily Downing Street briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would be chairing a meeting with supermarket bosses on Saturday to discuss the situation.

In an environment that was already tough for the High Street due to higher costs and changes in shopping habits, the coronavirus crisis has added a huge burden for retailers as many people avoid their stores.

Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia retail group, which includes Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, and Miss Selfridge, said on Friday it was closing all its stores.

The company said it would focus on its digital and social platforms. Staff were to remain employees and receive their full pay for March, but it was not clear what would happen with staffing beyond then.

However, this news came before a massive UK intervention in which Chancellor Rishi Sunak will pay the wages of employees unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The radical move is aimed at protecting people’s jobs.

Lay-off threats

A number of travel operators have outlined measures they have been forced to bring in, due to the outbreak:

  • Holiday park operator Butlin’s said it would have to lay off 10,000 seasonal workers if it did not get enough state aid to pay their wages. Owner Bourne Leisure, which owns 50 Butlin’s, Haven and Warner parks has approached the government for help
  • Hay’s Travel, which took over Thomas Cook’s shops, has cut 880 jobs out of a workforce of about 5,000 to reduce costs
  • The Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents bus companies including Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead, National Express, and Stagecoach, says “tens of thousands” of jobs could go within weeks

However, all these warnings and job cuts were made before the latest government announcement – and it is now unclear whether those moves will still hold.

As well as the wage payments, it is understood the government wage subsidy will apply to firms where bosses have already had to lay off workers due to the coronavirus, as long as they are brought back into the workforce and instead granted a leave of absence.

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