The boss of JD Wetherspoon has bowed to public pressure, including calls from over a 100 MPs, and has agreed to pay his staff before his company receives financial support from the government’s wage reimbursement scheme.
Yesterday (25 March) the government urged JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin to support his employees after he claimed staff would face delays in payment and “should consider getting a job at Tesco instead”.
Martin said the company would not cover wages from this week and employees would have to wait to be paid through the government’s new coronavirus retention scheme.
However, further to discussions with UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, Wetherspoon said it has made “substantial progress” in the introduction of the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme.
In order to assist the government and UK Hospitality, Wetherspoon revealed it has drawn up its own proposed rules ( as to how the scheme would work and has submitted these to the government for approval.
On the basis that the government approves these rules and, subject to confirmation that reimbursement will be implemented by the end of April, Wetherspoon will introduce the scheme immediately.
Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “As we have already confirmed, Wetherspoon will pay all our 43,000 staff this Friday for the hours worked last week. The first payment under the new scheme will be made on Friday 3 April, subject to government approval, and weekly thereafter.
“Many thanks to Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality and the government for their great efforts in dealing with the logistical issues involved in introducing a complex scheme so quickly.”
UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “All companies in hospitality and leisure are caught in an impossible position whereby they need to make critical decisions about funding pay to colleagues, while enduring a period of zero income and without the certainty of when the promised government help will arrive.
“In the case of our member companies, as graphically illustrated by Wetherspoon, the top priority has been how can we get money into businesses to pay workers, when we collectively have no income and squeezed liquidity. Confirmation of when this scheme will launch into action and cash will flow into businesses so that they in turn can pay their teams, and fully participate in the recovery when the virus subsides and stability returns, would be enormously welcome.”
She added: “We are extremely grateful to the government for stepping in with this support for jobs and business but now we need urgent clarification on the detail of the scheme, particularly as finance from the banks is so slow to arrive, if at all.”