SIR PHILIP Green’s retail empire has cut staff on the cheap while taking government leave papers, according to leaked documents.
Arcadia Group, which owns a handful of mass-market retail brands, has taken millions of pounds from public funds to pay workers on leave.
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The Times reports that the company – run by Sir Philip, worth £ 950million – has laid off 300 employees at its headquarters and exploited a loophole in the official rule to pay a reduced rate during the notice period.
An executive reportedly told staff that the fashion empire has to take “every penny we can get.”
An employee told the newspaper: “Even by Philip Green’s Arcadia standards, it was shocking. The idea that they would get rid of us and not even honor our contracts in times of financial crisis is simply morally and ethically bankrupt.
Another said the decision to cut costs will only have a negative impact on those who are made redundant, adding: “It feels like they have no respect for anyone. ”
It comes as it has been revealed that up to £ 3.5bn has been paid under bogus or fraudulent leave programs, HMRC fears.
The government rolled out this massive program at breakneck speed at the start of the pandemic to help businesses stay afloat.
But the program is coming to an end now and should end for good next month.
Arcadia Group initially planned to pay reduced rates to laid-off staff beyond the end of the program, but has now turned back.
In July, the law was changed because companies feared taking advantage of the scheme to reduce the wages of laid-off staff.
But that doesn’t apply to workers who have longer notice periods – which many Arcadia staff would have done.
In April, millionaire Sir Philip was criticized for using taxpayer money to cover the salaries of 14,500 employees, with critics saying he should sell his yacht instead.
The disgraced retail mogul has temporarily laid off 14,500 workers, most of them store workers.
Staff said Philip Green would have to use his private wealth – or even his yacht – to pay his salary.
According to The Sunday Times Rich List in 2019, Mr Green’s private wealth stood at £ 950million, up from £ 1.05bn the year before.
Internal minutes of recent meetings held as part of the layoff process detail an employee representative accusing Arcadia of looking into “all the legal loopholes on how to pay us the minimum”.
A spokesperson for the Arcadia Group said: ‘Our actions in response to Covid-19 are no different from those of most other retailers in the UK. It is essential that we restructure our head office to ensure that we can function in these very difficult times.
“Throughout this process, we have worked hard to minimize the number of job losses and at all times we adhere to government guidelines and legislation.
“Encouragingly, we now expect the number of head office layoffs to be around 300, well below the 500 we announced in early July.
“We deeply regret the impact this will have on those affected during this difficult time. “
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Earlier this year, Victoria Beckham sparked furor by firing 25 of her fashion workers when her family was worth £ 335million, before turning back the clock.
This week, Boris Johnson ruled out extending the leave program beyond next month after the launch of a new coronavirus crackdown.
He said in response to a question from a member of the audience that this would not continue because “you just keep people in suspended animation”.