MORE than 2,000 furloughed workers just two weeks away from a scheduled return to pubs across the country are now facing redundancy.

Marston’s said it is currently consulting on 2,150 UK at-risk jobs but it will also seek to keep staff on with reduced hours, as the weight of the wider impact of coronavirus on the country added yet more strain to the hospitality sector .

The company could not say at this stage how many of the 497 employed at its 21 sites in Scotland would be affected.

It comes after fellow industry giant Mitchells and Butlers said it would cut an as yet undisclosed number of staff, and Greene King, which owns Belhaven, said it is to axe 800 jobs.

Marston’s, which owns the McEwan’s Lager brand, put the blame squarely on the recent nationwide measures to tackle the surge in Covid cases, which have seen curfews placed on hospitality venues and the closure of sites not serving food in high-risk areas south of the Border.

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Scotland has imposed a raft of further restrictions including closures in places and a 6pm curfew elsewhere, while the 10pm shutdown in England has now been followed by a new three-tier lockdown system.

Marston’s said: “Inevitably, and regrettably, recent restrictions will impact jobs.

“Government support over the summer was vital, and around 10,000 colleagues have so far returned to work.

“However, because of the recent additional restrictions, we have reluctantly concluded that around 2,150 pub-based roles currently subject to furlough are going to be impacted.”

Ralph Findlay, chief executive of Marston’s, said he “very much regrets” the move, “but it is an inevitable consequence of the limitations placed upon our business”.

He said: “We will be looking at our cost base further in the coming weeks.”

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Marston’s claimed the new rules “undermine consumer confidence and create uncertainty”. It said: “The introduction of these further restrictions and guidance affecting pubs is hugely disappointing in view of a lack of clear evidence tying pubs to the recent increase in infection levels, and our own data which suggests that pubs are effective in minimising risks.”

Willie Macleod, UKHospitality executive director for Scotland, said: “Marston’s is another massive blow to the hospitality and licensed trade not just in Scotland but throughout the UK.”

He said the £40 million Scottish Government support package for the sector is “totally inadequate”.

“Compulsory closures in the central belt and the trading restrictions elsewhere are biting hard. Consumer confidence is also low which means revenue is down and cash flow reduced”, said Mr Macleod. “Businesses need cash in order to survive and keep as many of their employees as possible in jobs.”

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Shadow business minister Lucy Powell said she fears “this will just be the tip of the iceberg for hospitality businesses as new restrictions begin to bite”.

Details of the job cuts at Marston’s comes as its annual results showed pub sales tumbled 34 per cent to £515m in the year to October 3, impacted heavily by the lockdown earlier this year. Since pubs reopened in July, like-for-like pub sales were 10% lower over the 13-week period, helped by the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out meal discount scheme in August.

Brewery sales were 22% lower over the year at £306m, though sales in retailers and off-licences lifted 23% as pubs were forced to close.

Marston’s announced a deal in May to merge with Carlsberg’s UK arm to form a joint venture worth around £780m. The tie-up will create the Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company and is set to complete at the end of this month.

Shares in Marston’s closed 0.64p lower at 44.2p.