AN extended period of social distancing measures could cost a million jobs in the hospitality industry unless measures to protect businesses are put in place, the Government has been warned.

UKHospitality said pubs and other businesses would not be able to operate profitably if social distancing had to be observed.

After a warning by chief medical adviser Professor Chris Whitty that social distancing measures could last beyond 2020, UKHospitality has written to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, recommending a plan to help the country’s hospitality businesses reopen following the crisis and save jobs and businesses.

The letter stresses the need for a phased approach to avoid a “yo-yo effect” of openings and closings which could see businesses fail and up to a million jobs lost.

The plea came as it emerged that a North-East hotel has furloughed 458 of its 600 staff, while almost 100 others on zero-hour contracts will not be placed on furlough leave, despite their roles being eligible for government support.

The Northern Echo:

Some staff members at Ramside Hall Hotel, Golf and Spa resort in Durham, have criticised owners Ramside Estates, saying they had been left in the dark since the business closed its premises for lockdown.

Casey McCall, a 21-year-old student nurse and part-time waitress at the hotel’s Fusion Restaurant, said staff had been left “trying to guess” whether they would receive pay.

Ms McCall, whose part-time role helps fund her studies, said it was not until this week that she was told she would not be furloughed.

She said: “After we closed for lockdown, I emailed HR asking whether I should be expecting pay and didn’t get a response.

“I told them I cannot guess whether I am getting paid or not and then they replied saying it was their stance not to pay any zero-hour staff anything and it was to protect the business.

“The hardest bit was you didn’t know anything. I’d been trying to guess.”

The Northern Echo:

An internal email forwarded to The Northern Echo confirmed hotel bosses chose not to furlough zero-hour staff due to cash flow issues and to protect the future of the business.

Under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, employees on any type of contract, including a zero-hour contract or a temporary contract, can be furloughed.

Labour MP for Durham, Mary Foy reacted to concerns raised at Ramside Hall: "It doesn’t matter whether staff are employed in zero hours arrangements or not, at this time, I don’t think it’s right for companies to let them go.

"The Government guidance is quite clear on this, and it’s something that many Labour MPs have pushed for. Zero hours contracts are to be treated as any other contracts, and those on them can be furloughed as with any other worker.

"Of course, I understand the strains that businesses are under, but there is a very real, human cost to this, which I hope employers understand. That contract, zero hours or not, may be a lifeline for someone and to undergo the stress of losing your job in the middle of a pandemic is a very serious matter, which the legislation is there to avoid.”

A spokesperson for Ramside Estates said: “Ramside Estates has furloughed 458 of its 600 staff.

“We have kept 43 essential staff who are working in areas such as our market garden, greenkeepers, security, maintenance, marketing and accounts on full pay.

“The remaining staff, who are mainly casual, zero hours contract staff will unfortunately not be furloughed.”

UKHospitality’s six-point plan sets out the level of support the sector needs to reintegrate into the economy, to avoid mass redundancies and to ensure local businesses and high-street brands can survive.

Recommendations included extending the Government’s furlough scheme beyond the end of June for hospitality businesses, and legislative intervention on rent payments.