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‘A crisis like no other’: one in three practices to cut jobs says RIBA

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Job losses are expected at nearly a third of architecture practices over the next three months, research from the RIBA has revealed

The institute’s April Future Trends Survey found that 31 per cent of respondents anticipated a reduction in permanent headcount at their company by July, as workload expectations hit a record low. 

Covid-19 has hit the profession hard, with widespread furloughing of staff, pay cuts and project cancellations, and social distancing disrupting work on site.

The RIBA said its poll last month uncovered ‘deep concern about what is to come’.

Indeed the future workload index plummeted to -82, by far the lowest number in the 11 years it has been calculated. More than four in five respondents expected to be quieter in July than April.

The threat to jobs is more acute at larger firms. More than half of practices employing more than 50 staff are expected to make job cuts over the second quarter of this year. All firms in this size category predicted workloads will reduce.

Expectations were lowest for private housing work, then commercial, followed by community. Even public sector work – about which respondents were most optimistic – had a record low figure.

All regions were very pessimistic, with a marginally less gloomy view from the North of England than from London.

The RIBA said four in 10 projects had been put on hold since 1 March, while one in seven workers had been furloughed.

RIBA executive director of professional services Adrian Dobson said the profession was facing ‘a crisis like no other’.

‘Workload recovery will depend on the speed and nature of our move out of lockdown, and on how much architectural and construction capacity has been preserved,’ he said.

‘As the sector adapts to new ways of working, the RIBA will lobby for continued protection of jobs and businesses and push the government to invest in the housing and public sector projects the country desperately needs. This also means harnessing the expertise of architects who have the skills to re-mobilise communities and enable safe returns to workplaces and school.’

Earlier this week a director at one AJ100 practice, who asked not to be named, warned that the extension of the government’s furlough scheme was only delaying a major round of job cuts later in the year. They told the AJ: ‘The scheme is masking redundancies which will have to be put in place once this prop is removed.

’It’s difficult to assess the magnitude of this right now, but it’s bound to be significant.’

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