Coronavirus: Debenhams Fires Some Restaurant Employees

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Some restaurant workers in Debenhams, in crisis, say they will be laid off at the end of the month.

Staff declare that they will not receive severance pay from the company and that they will have no notice.

They learned during a conference call on May 28 that the administrators had decided to close the majority of the store cafes.

Debenhams said she was pursuing a “lighter and more flexible business model” to help her adapt to changes in the retail industry.

The company went into administration for the second time in a year in April.

In an email, restaurant staff were told that because they lost their job on May 31, they were no longer eligible for the government’s coronavirus job retention program, which pays 80% of wages.

In an email seen by the BBC, staff were informed that administrator Geoff Rowley advised “that we cannot keep people on leave if there is no work to go back” .

In a separate email, staff were informed that requests for payment for layoffs should be made through the British government.

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Louise Crowe

Louise Crowe, who worked at the Debenhams restaurant in Barrow-in-Furness, told the BBC that she had no idea that she would be fired during the conference call.

“Many of us were wondering what it would be,” she said. “Would that get us back to work and how we would do it?”

“He told us that the administrators advised us not to reopen the restaurants, so you are all redundant. We will have our last salary [on Friday] and that’s it, our contracts are terminated from May 31.

“In this current climate, there will be many people looking for work, we are all in the same boat.

“Tomorrow I will start to be proactive and hope for the best. Hopefully, when things pick up, there may be more jobs available. “

“Children to feed”

Jessica Riseley said she only worked at a Debenhams restaurant for 16 weeks before the lockout started.

“I don’t fall into the category of layoffs to claim money,” she said. “I have a young family to feed, a mortgage to pay, it’s totally unexpected.

“The government has announced that it will pay leave until October. I don’t understand why he couldn’t keep us on leave until we find a job. “

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Jessica Riseley

She added: “Anyway, it’s a fight with only 80% of your normal salary, but to have nothing … I have three children, my husband is a car salesman, his payment is based on a commission .

“They gave us three days to find a new job. And even when I find a new job, it just waits for the next salary to arrive. “

“It’s going to be difficult, it’s probably going to be a job I didn’t want to have, but I have to do it for the sake of my children. “

“It’s pretty terrible”

Sarah Smith told the BBC that she has been working at a Debenhams restaurant since October 2016.

“Debenhams gets away with not offering anything because she is in the administration,” she said.

“I have looked into this and, due to my age, I will only receive a week and a half of severance pay – half a week for each year I have worked there.

“It is quite disastrous. But I have seen news about the protests in Ireland regarding the lack of a redundancy package, so maybe we will see something similar in the UK.

“I think it’s really wrong that they treat us like this. “

A Debenhams spokesperson told the BBC that, despite restaurant layoffs, it is preparing to reopen “the vast majority of its stores from June 15” after negotiations with the owners of 120 sites.

They added: “In the context of a rapidly changing retail industry, the management team is working on the future shape of the group, with a view to seeking an exit from the administration as a business in operation.

“With a lighter and more flexible operating model, Debenhams will be able to adapt to what is likely to be fundamental change in the future business environment. “

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