Prime minister Boris Johnson’s call for people to stay away from pubs, bars and restaurants has sparked a call for a hospitality taskforce to support the industry and the thousands of staff who face being laid off.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, today (Tuesday 17 March) called for the establishment of a Covid-19 taskforce for the hospitality sector and also the implementation of a five-point action plan to support the thousands of workers across the UK whose livelihoods are at risk.

Unite said that there was an urgent need for a cross-party working group with the representatives from the UK government, Scottish government, trade unions, and the trade bodies, UK Hospitality and the Scottish Tourism Alliance.

Unite, which represents licence house managers and hospitality workers, warned that it would be ‘the death knell’ for many outlets, unless there is a comprehensive financial support package for the thousands of workers who could lose their livelihoods.

Unite national officer for the food and drink industry Joe Clarke said: “We are very concerned about the prime minister’s advice to stay away from pubs, restaurants and theatres without announcing at the same time a contingency package, including financial support, for staff who may be laid off without any arrangements for their salary to be paid.

“This could have a major adverse impact of their ability to pay mortgages and rent, and provide for their families.

“We fully understand the precarious times we live in with the spread of coronavirus, but it is not enough to be advising the public to stay away from pubs and restaurants where we have many members on low pay.

“This may ultimately result in those workers been laid off with only five days lay-off pay under current arrangements.

“This will mean they then have to wait five weeks for universal credit which is completely unacceptable. If people are to get through this difficult time they need support from government and considerably more support than that offered currently.

“By only advising people to stay away from pubs and restaurants, it puts all the onus on the owners who won’t have recourse to claim from their insurance policies.

“The government should step in more forcibly to provide a financial support system, otherwise it could herald the death knell for many well-loved pubs and restaurants.”

Unite officer with national responsibility for hospitality Dave Turnbull said: “The hospitality industry is under grave threat and that’s why we are calling today for this taskforce to be set up to take urgent action to protect workers in a sector which is a major generator of wealth for the economy. It can’t be sacrificed and the workers must be protected during this period.”


Notes to editors:

The five measures that Unite wants introduced as a matter of urgency are:

  • Removing the £114 threshold for statutory sick pay (SSP)
  • Full company sick pay: 75 per cent from government and 25 per cent from the employer
  • No opportunistic redundancies
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate to the role
  • Engage with workers who know the industry as to how to save it

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065 Email:

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.