According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of people employed in the UK rose by 83,000 last month and has fallen by 726,000 since February 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic.
Workers are concerned about their jobs after the prime minister’s announcement as some companies won’t be able to reopen before the end of the vacation program, union leaders warned.
TUC Secretary General Frances O’Grady said it could take a few months for workers to know if they still have a job.
“The government needs to stop shaking and procrastinating and extend the full vacation program for at least the remainder of 2021, and it urgently needs to support the self-employed.
“With jobs and livelihoods in balance, there is no need to keep workers and companies waiting.
“We need a plan to support the parts of the economy that are hardest hit by repeated lockdowns, such as the hospitality, retail, aerospace and creative industries.
“The ministers cannot watch from the sidelines as companies hit the wall.
“If the Prime Minister is to make sure we are never locked up again, he must improve the safety of people when they return to work in large numbers.
“That means improving workplace safety guidelines to reflect the latest science and taking action against employers who put employees at risk,” she said.
Manuel Cortes, Secretary General of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, said: “While there is light at the end of the tunnel, the Prime Minister today has left many industries with ongoing questions and support needs.
“As we continue to live with coronavirus, public transport capacities will remain limited for the foreseeable future, while social distancing measures will be maintained.
“The government needs to be clear about how it will support our trains, buses, subways, trams and ferries, which are the main public transport links our country depends on.
“What support is given to keep them going until the social distancing is gone and people can return to their normal jobs instead of working from home?
“And will the government undertake to bring the rail into public ownership where it rightly belongs?”
Unison Secretary General Christina McAnea said taking a cautious approach is the right way to get the country moving again and limit the spread of viruses.
“It is clear that the restrictions were relaxed too quickly last time and that there can be no repeat errors.
“By ensuring that employees are encouraged by their employers to receive the vaccine and that wages are paid in full if they need to be isolated, ministers can further reduce infection rates.
“The government should also follow the example of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in applying the steady approach to schools with gradual reopening rather than going broke.
“Together with heightened security measures, this is the way to protect employees, students and everyone else.”
Usdaw union general secretary Paddy Lillis said reopening non-essential stores is a lifeline for many retailers.
He added, “This is good news when it comes to safeguarding jobs, but the virus is still out there. It is important that the tests set by the government prior to reopening are followed so that stores will only reopen if the data suggests they are safe.
“When we reopen, we expect employers to take the necessary security measures, including staying two meters away, and to ask customers to follow the rules and respect employees.
“Regrettably, during this appalling pandemic, cases of shop worker abuse have doubled. It should never be just part of the job and the salespeople have to be respected.
“Retail workers work with the public every day and face not only increased abuse, but a higher chance of catching Covid-19. This must be taken into account when setting the priority lists for vaccines.
“The government must prioritize vulnerable occupations in the second phase of vaccine deployment and reflect the risks they face.”