Travel Counsellors has begun a consultation with about 100 staff at its Manchester headquarters as it battles the impact of Covid-19 on the travel industry.

The homeworking agency group said it is exploring all options to mitigate redundancies, which could affect about a third of its back office team which supports the company’s 1,300 self-employed travel agents in the UK.

It insisted staff reductions would not affect the level of service provided to individual travel counsellors.

MoreTravel Counsellors consults 320 staff about job options [March 20]

To support the staff facing consultation, Travel Counsellors has launched a dedicated programme which focuses on wellbeing, finances and future career development.

It includes a programme to help some support staff to transition to become a self-employed franchisee travel agent with the company.

Travel Counsellors announced a consultation with about 320 staff in March, days before the government unveiled its furlough scheme. It then moved to furlough affected staff through chancellor Rishi Sunak’s flagship scheme.

Chief executive Steve Byrne said: “Since the start of the pandemic, the business has been quick to react and adapt both financially and operationally, with the community coming together to support and look after each other and their customers throughout the crisis.

“As with many other businesses we have been able to take advantage of the Job Retention Scheme to keep a number of our valued support team colleagues within the company whilst we navigated unchartered waters. And whilst we are seeing green shoots and the business is in a strong position to adapt and emerge quickly from this, the ongoing uncertainty in the industry means we have had to look carefully at our costs and identify ways in which we can streamline our structure to support our future.

“As we move beyond the support of the Job Retention Scheme, we have taken the extremely difficult decision to begin the consultation process with a number of our employees, placing just over 100 back office roles in our Manchester-based support centre at risk.

“We deeply understand the profound impact this will have on our people, which is of no fault of their own, and we are 100% dedicated to supporting them by putting every measure we can in place to help these talented people make the right transition for them, and exploring all options to keep as many within the business as possible. We will also continue to support the industry in its call for dedicated support for talented travel professionals and their valued customers.”

The employee support package includes a wellbeing hub, mindset programmes and mental health support. All employees will have access to a 24/7 support service, with the company extending benefits such as Bupa health care beyond people leaving the business.

Impacted staff will be able to access the company’s welfare fund up to six months after leaving the business, as well as financial advice.

Travel Counsellors will also provide learning and development resources in partnership with social network LinkedIn for the next six months, holding weekly career planning clinics and working with third-party agencies to support staff searching for work.

Byrne added: “We entered this situation in a really strong position with consecutive year-on-year growth and sales up by 15% in the four months prior to the pandemic, but of course, we are not immune to the current situation. We are confident these changes will support the long-term future of the company as part of a wider package of measures in place to guarantee we are well capitalised to grow, and ensure the business emerges stronger and even better positioned to support our franchisees’ businesses to thrive in the months and years ahead.

“Throughout this period we have seen our community of over 2,000 people come together and support one another in the most inspiring ways. Our priority throughout this process is, and will continue to be, ensuring each and every talented team member impacted is supported and treated with the respect, care and kindness they deserve, reflective of our values at Travel Counsellors.”

The company launched a support scheme for franchisees in April. The dedicated welfare fund was an extension of its benevolent fund, to help business owners in financial stress due to the impact of coronavirus on their income. It included a TC Support Package with information and initiatives designed to help franchisees continue to run their businesses in the best ways possible during the crisis.

MoreTravel Counsellors consults 320 staff about job options [March 20]