Hays Travel has offered its staff voluntary unpaid leave to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus.

The UK’s largest travel agency chain said it was looking to cut “non-essential expenditure” and had asked staff across the company if they wished to take voluntary leave or reduce their hours.

Hays recruited 2,300 former Thomas Cook shop staff after taking on the leases to occupy all 553 of its shops following the travel giant’s collapse in September last year. It also recruited 200 additional staff for its head office in Sunderland.

MoreHays Travel launches ‘Peace of Mind’ guarantee

It employs around 5,700 staff overall, including 2,500 shop staff, and currently operates 650 shops across the UK.

A number of airlines have offered staff unpaid leave as flight capacity is slashed.

A spokeswoman for Hays said the new policy was announced to staff on Wednesday.

“Like all businesses we are taking measures to lessen the impact of coronavirus on our company and at this stage we are simply looking to cut non-essential expenditure and we are asking our colleagues if they wish to take voluntary leave or reduce their hours on a temporary basis,” she said.

“We are reviewing the situation on a daily basis.”

Earlier on Thursday, Hays Travel introduced a ‘Peace of Mind’ guarantee allowing customers to cancel or amend bookings up to six weeks before departure.