Dear colleague,

Coronavirus: Immediate Steps – Barretts Group

Temporary suspension of most group operations:

As you all know, following the Government closure of all showrooms from 23 March, the general suspension of MOTs and all but essential travel banned, we have had no option but to suspend most services of the group with effect from 23 March.

Limited continuing services:

We are continuing to provide support to Kent Police and other key workers on essential maintenance of their vehicles. In addition we are providing a limited parts delivery service to existing trade customers.

We have consulted with those who work in areas where there will be limited continuing services so as to agree temporary resource requirements and working arrangements.We will regularly review the feasibility of offering these services and keep all those involved informed.

As you are not currently working in one of the limited continuing services, you should stay at home and follow all government guidance and emergency rules as you and we fight to prevent the spread of this virus.

Pay arrangements for March:

Despite the significant financial pressure on the company from the crisis, we will be paying all staff normal full pay for the whole of March.

Coronavirus job retention scheme:

As you will know, the government announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ("the Government Scheme") a few days ago as an alternative to staff being laid off or their employment ended.

A "furloughed employee" is someone instructed not to come to work and not to undertake any work.Without the Government Scheme, that employee would in practice either receive no pay or their employment would likely be ended. Instead, the Government Scheme provides a way to continue to pay those of our employees who are "furloughed" a proportion of their pay for (currently) up to three months.

In order to save jobs, we propose to furlough all of our workforce under the Government Scheme other than those who will be required to operate the limited continuing services.

We therefore propose to furlough you with effect from 23 March 2020. We cannot yet say how long the period of furlough will last and it may vary in length for different groups of employees. We will however be reviewing it regularly in line with government emergency powers and will do all we can to engage with you and keep you informed.

Whilst on furlough you will remain employed and subject to the normal terms of your employment but will not be required to carry out any employment duties. If we need you to work we will recall you from furlough first. We may need to recall any person from furlough for operational reasons but will always contact you first to inform you of the change of arrangements.

For the furlough period from 1 April 2020, you will receive 80% of your normal pay less any income tax, employee national insurance contributions or other amounts we are required to deduct (subject to an overall cap per employee of £2,500 per month). Normal pay will be subject to government definition.

Alternatives:

We, like so many other organisations, are seriously affected by the necessary government control measures and resultant dramatic slowdown in the economy. It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of the group would be at risk without taking these immediate steps. We do not see any viable alternative.

We want to do everything we can to save jobs and save the group for the long-term benefit of the workforce. We are working hard to achieve that and these steps have not been taken without great heartache, I can assure you. They will also apply at all levels of the group.

We believe that, with the help of the Government Scheme and with the support of our loyal workforce, we can achieve a sustainable future for the group through these essential emergency steps and in the meantime play our role together in arresting the spread of the virus.

Next steps:

Sadly there has been no practical way in the current crisis to carry out the extent of individual or collective consultation that we would have wanted before embarking upon this course of action.

You are not obliged to consent to the proposal to place you on furlough. If however you do not consent, we:

  • may not be able to get access to funds from government to pay you
  • will then have to explore other options for laying you off without pay or terminating your employment.

For practical reasons in these exceptional circumstances, we will treat you as consenting to the proposal unless you email furloughed@barrettsgroup.co.uk by 31 March 2020 confirming your rejection of the proposal.

We do not expect many, if any, rejections. If however you choose to email to reject the proposal then you should set out your full reasons for doing so.

We will do everything we can to keep the company email system working but in addition, we have already asked you immediately to provide your line manager with an email address and mobile on which we can contact you. If you do not have a personal email address, please provide a mobile number and postal address but an email address will be far easier for all concerned.

We understand that this is a hugely unsettling time for everybody. I can assure you however that we are doing everything within our power to protect our employees and customers in the short term and the group and all jobs moving forward. We will be working to provide updated information and documentation as a matter of urgency.

Yours sincerely

Paul Barrett

Managing Director

26th March 2020.