Tesco keeps on 13,000 Christmas staff for Covid cover

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Tesco has revealed that around 13,000 temporary Christmas staff have been kept on to help it cope with staff absences due to Covid-19.

The UK’s biggest supermarket said nearly half of the 30,000 temporary staff taken on over Christmas have been hired until at least the end of January as it battles with surging staff sickness levels due to the Omicron variant.

Chief executive Ken Murphy said absence levels had been higher than normal over the past six to eight weeks, but were “manageable” and well below those seen in the early days of the pandemic.

His comments came as Tesco reported a 0.3% rise in like-for-like sales over the six weeks to January 8 compared with a year earlier, when trade was boosted by coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Read more: Tesco nudges profit forecasts to £2.6bn following a strong Christmas

The news comes as UK health secretary Sajid Javid is expected to cut the self-isolation period to six days, as businesses and services struggle under the pressure of increasing staff absences due to Omicron.

Many NHS leaders, businesses and government ministers are in favour of reducing this further to just five full days, the timescale used in a number of other countries. Government scientists have warned this would mean that people would be more likely to still be infectious on their return to work.

A decision will be made this afternoon.

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