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Coronavirus: Primark to reject £30m for returning furloughed staff to work

Abigail Fenton
·Writer
·2-min read
People queue outside the Primark store on Princes Street in Edinburgh, which reopens today as part of Scotland's phased plan to ease out of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images

Primark will reject about £30m ($37.9m) in “bonuses” from the UK government for bringing furloughed staff back to work, reports suggest.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced last week, as part of the government’s £30bn “plan for jobs”, that companies who take back workers until the end of January will recieve a £1,000 per job “retention bonus”. If every employer applied for every worker, it would cost taxpayers more than £9bn.

Big companies with furloughed staff — such as Primark, which has 30,000 workers on the support scheme — are eligible for these rewards, even if they are not struggling financially.

But the retailer, which could have been looking at a multi-million pound payout, told The Sunday Times it will not claim it.

READ MORE: Is the William Hill share price a millionaire maker?

The move puts pressure on other big firms to not take advantage of taxpayers by accepting the support payments if they do not need to, The Sunday Times said.

Gambling firm William Hill has also indicated it will reject bonuses of up to £7m.

Asked if employers who could afford it should be following Primark’s example and saving taxpayers’ money, Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress said “absolutely”.

She told the Sunday Times: “I think what we are worried about is that there is a risk of getting into gimmicks rather than giving the targeted support that industries need.”

READ MORE: Primark encouraged by post-lockdown sales but profit to slump

She also added that government, industries and unions need to talk about national recovery plans and to help sectors that are “in real trouble” due to the crisis.

“We have to have targeted plans and support to keep them on their feet. The autumn will be too late,” she said.

“We are looking for flexibility and targeted support to get us through this tough period.

“It is a lot easier to hold on to good jobs that we have already rather than to try and create them later down the line. The biggest threat we face now is mass unemployment.”