Rolling list: Bad business practices during the coronavirus crisis

The government has announced lockdown measures in response to the coronavirus crisis in the UK, including guidance that everyone should be working from home wherever possible.

The Chancellor has also allowed employers to keep furloughed workers on the payroll by using public funds to pay 80% of their wages up to £2,500 a month.

But a number of businesses have continued to force their employees to do non-essential work, made it impossible to practice social distancing, and sacked workers or urged them to use their holiday days instead of paying them.

Below is a rolling list of companies that have been identified as behaving badly towards their employees during the crisis. Last updated: 4pm, March 27th.


Workers in warehouses of the technology giant Amazon have complained of crowded conditions without hand sanitiser or personal protective equipment. Employees have reported being left in crowded rooms of 200 to 300 people, sharing equipment with several others with no means to sterilise. (Source: GMB).

Asos, the online clothes retail business, has been accused of “playing Russian roulette with people’s lives” as it has refused to enforce social distancing in its warehouses. There are up to 4,000 people still working at its site in Barnsley. (Source: RetailSector, HuffPost).

Live-in staff at one of the Britannia Hotels were sacked and evicted, along with homeless residents, from their accommodation when the health crisis hit – workers were informed their “services were no longer required”. The hotel chain claimed this was an administrative error and apologised following the backlash. (As reported by BBC News).

The restaurant business Carluccio’s has informed staff in sites across the country that they will receive a 50% pay cut for March, despite the government guaranteeing 80% of their wages. (Source: BirminghamLive).

Chivas Brother, a Dumbarton whiskey plant, continued to require workers to go into the site as usual without implementing social distancing practices or providing protective equipment. The plant paused work temporarily after a backlash from staff, but unions are calling for them to close for the duration of the coronavirus crisis. (Source: Dumbarton Reporter).

A rider for Deliveroo has reported being left without pay after having to self-isolate. The company has said that it is financially supporting its workers, however this rider stated that he “hasn’t seen a penny” for the time he spent unable to work. (Source: Left Foot Forward).

Easyjet’s CEO Johan Lundgren appealed to the government, and the taxpayer, to provide it with a loan to support the business from bankruptcy, while it simultaneously planned to pay shareholders dividends of £170m later the same week. (Source: Express).

Workers at Elis Laundry, an outsourced service provider for the NHS, in south London are not being given proper sick pay or isolation pay. Lambeth UNISON has launched a petition, available here. (Source: Lambeth UNISON).

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay laid off 500 employees when the government instructed bars and restaurants to temporarily close. This came the day after he paid tribute to his staff in an Instagram post, in which he said: “By supporting each other through this terribly challenging time, we will come through this stronger than ever!” (Source: indy100).

Footage has emerged of staff in the distribution centre of JD Sports Manchester continuing to work without protective equipment and in close contact with each other. The company closed its shops when the health guidance instructed people to only go into the workplace for essential work, but has maintained operations in its warehouses. (Source: BirminghamLive).

Workers at a Matalan distribution centre in Knowlsey have reported that they are being forced to continue working in cramped and overcrowded conditions as the company fails to comply with public health guidelines. (Source: Liverpool Echo).

Online designer fashion retailer Net-a-Porter has been accused of flouting instructions on social distancing in its south London logistics warehouse, where 550 people continue to work through the health crisis. (Source: GMB).

A leaked email has revealed that Next told its employees to take “unpaid time off” or to use their holiday days if they don’t feel comfortable coming into work. It closed its shops but its online service was kept running, which means warehouses have been operating. But a campaign led by local Labour representatives was effective, and it was confirmed on Thursday evening that Next would be closing. (Source: BuzzFeed News).

Norse Medway – which provides cleaning, refuse and other services for Medway Council in Kent – has refused to pay wages to those self-isolating, leaving staff to instead claim statutory sick pay. The company has also reportedly not made provisions for all its employees to be able to practice social distancing while working. (Source: Unite).

Pets at Home argued that its staff are key workers, as those providing “veterinary medicine” are on the government’s list. But it stated that all of its staff – including non-veterinarian workers such as shop assistants and customer service workers – should go into work, putting them at risk of infection. (Source: The Guardian).

Online clothes shop Pretty Little Things has continued to keep work going in its warehouse in Sheffield. Workers have complained of a shortage of hand sanitiser and said that it is “impossible” to remain a safe distance from one another. (Source: BBC News).

Customer service agent for John Lewis Sitel has been accused of failing to introduce social distancing before March 24th. One employee stated that they are “extremely worried” and being forced to continue working despite it not being “essential”. (Source: Left Foot Forward).

Retailer Sports Direct made an announcement to all of its staff that its stores would be remaining open just 30 minutes after the PM made his lockdown statement. The organisation then U-turned and CEO Mike Ashley was forced to apologise. But the company’s warehouses and factories are continuing to operate. (Source: The Independent).

Travelodge gave homeless families and key workers resident in its hotels just two hours to vacate their accommodation as it pressed ahead with closures of 360 hotels, despite requests from local and central government to continue housing these guests. (Source: The Guardian).

The airline Virgin Atlantic told its workers to take unpaid holiday when Covid-19 began to spread and business went downhill. (Source: Sky News).

Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin told workers that he would only pay staff up until the date that the pubs were last open until the government to fulfil its pledge to pay 80% of their wages. He suggested that people apply for jobs at the supermarket Tesco. The pub chain has since U-turned and agreed to pay its workers weekly. (Source: BBC News).

Homeware store Wilko intends to cut sick pay for its workers. The company said it’s losing money as a result of staff taking time off work when not actually ill. Under the plans, many of its employees would have had to rely on statutory sick pay – £94.25 per week – from April 1st. Following pressure from unions and the public, these changes have been postponed until September. (Source: Left Foot Forward).

Wren Kitchens designer and showroom staff at multiple locations across the country have reported being sacked amid the shops’ temporary closures. The company told the workers: “The reason for your dismissal is due to your performance bearing in mind the needs of the business and the economic situation facing the UK in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.” (Source: Plymouth Live, Lincolnshire Live).

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