BUSINESS chiefs in Dorset have been left reeling by the news that Hays Travel is to cut a significant amount of its workforce.

The company has branches in Weymouth, Dorchester, Bridport, Wareham, Swanage and Sherborne which are potentially affected.

As reported, the Sunderland-based firm has announced plans to cut up to 878 jobs out of a total workforce of 4,500 people.

Cllr Gary Suttle, Dorset Council's cabinet member for Economic Growth said: "The travel industry has been hit hard during the pandemic - this news is a huge blow and enormously disappointing for Hays, which has been a stalwart of our high streets for many years - I feel really sorry for them.

"I know how hard the couple who run the business worked to save branches of Thomas Cook last September and helped keep as many people employed as possible.

"With no cruises and restrictions on travel, it doesn't matter how much you advertise - the industry has been absolutely devastated by Covid."

He added: "I am sure that the uncertainty of everything will have added to their problems - if they knew cruises were going to restart in October, for example, that might take some of the pressure off, but with nothing set in stone and with the possibility of a second wave, it is incredibly hard for the industry - you've got to feel sorry for them during these difficult times, and I very much hope staff in our local branches are not too badly affected."

According to Hays' website there are around six staff members working at the Weymouth branch and the same number in Dorchester, as well as a further six employees based in Bridport.

Five are understood to be employed at the Sherborne branch; three in Wareham, and two in Swanage.

The company is yet to respond to the Echo's request for information on whether Dorset branches will be affected by the redundancies.

Craig Oakes, President of Weymouth & Portland Chamber of Commerce, said: "This is very sad to hear and it is a very difficult time for the travel industry in general.

"Hays Travel seems like a great company and did an amazing job picking up Thomas Cook’s stores previously.

"We hope that those affected are able to find sustainable employment moving forwards.”

Phil Gordon, who is project director of Dorchester BID, said: "My approach to announcements of this type is to hope for the best and plan for the worst.

"I very much hope the Dorchester branch is going to remain open, but if it is to close then I wish staff all the very best.

"Just because the company is going to close some branches it does not necessarily mean ours will be affected so let's hope this is not going to impact Dorchester."