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A third of head office staff at pub chain Wetherspoon are facing redundancy because of the impact of coronavirus.

Chief executive John Hutson said out of 417 workers at its headquarters in Watford “a possible 110 to 130 positions are at risk”.

He said the move was “mainly a result of a downturn in trade in the pub and restaurant industry” but that “no firm decisions” had been made.

The cuts would not directly affect staff in the firm’s 873 pubs, he added.

In March, lobby group UK Hospitality warned that coronavirus was an “existential threat” to the sector.

Head of UK Hospitality Kate Nicholls called for government support and told the BBC that even some of the largest hotel groups and pub chains would “run the risk of not existing going forward”.

In a statement, Mr Hutson said: “The company has written to all 417 people employed at head office (including those regionally based) to inform them that a possible 110 to 130 positions are at risk of redundancy.

“All head office employees will be affected by the process, with the exception of those working directly in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“The company will listen to suggestions from staff to help avoid or reduce the number of compulsory redundancies which are required.”

He said the decision was also due to “a reduction in the company’s rate of expansion”, as well as a fall in the number of pubs it operates – down from 955 in 2015 to 873 at present.

Most UK pubs have been closed since 20 March, and were allowed to reopen on 4 July as lockdown restrictions relating to drinking inside bars eased.

In May, Wetherspoon said that it planned to invest an initial £11m on the new social distancing measures to protect drinkers and staff.

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