Controversial businessman Mike Ashley is topping up his furloughed staff’s salary to 100% this month and says business has been better than expected as he prepares to open his shops on June 1.
After criticism for asking employees to come back to work while on furlough, trying to pay discounted prices for stock and initially refusing to close his stores, the Sports Direct boss has revealed all staff have been paid their full salaries for April and May.
In a video message he gave a ‘special shout out’ to employees at the company’s sprawling warehouse who have continued to work on online orders throughout the pandemic.
Controversial businessman Mike Ashley is topping up his furloughed staff’s salary to 100% this month and says business has been better than expected as he prepares to open his shops on June 1. In a video message, he thanked staff for continuing to work despite the lockdown
And the billionaire said he hoped workers and their families remain safe and healthy during these ‘very uncertain times’.
Ashley, whose stores includes Sports Direct and House of Fraser, acknowledged the ‘sacrifice’ all employees have had to make in accepting initial pay cuts, including the slashing of executive pay to a maximum of £40,000.
But in a more optimistic note he says he hoped that Fraser Group stores could open from 1st June – with appropriate social distancing and safety guidelines in place.
And he praised the group’s online sales teams, particularly warehouse staff at the firm’s sprawling Shirebrook warehouse in Derbyshire, who have continued to work throughout the lockdown.
He wrote: ‘The Frasers Group is nothing without its people, and I thank you all for your continued support and hard work.
‘I want to thank all of those who committed to the revised salary. We find ourselves in exceptionally difficult times, and we know that this sacrifice was not an easy choice to make.’
After criticism for asking employees to come back to work while on furlough, trying to pay discounted prices for stock and initially refusing to close his stores, the Sports Direct boss has revealed all staff have been paid their full salaries for April and May
But he added: ‘Although the retail landscape remains uncertain, we now find ourselves with a little more clarity.
‘The Sunday before last, the Government announced their plans to restart the economy, including their proposal for the phased re-opening of retail stores.
‘Although not guaranteed, it appears we may be able to begin opening our stores from 1 June 2020.
‘If this is the case, we will be prepared for all social distancing and safety guidelines laid out by the Government.’
Ashley, who is worth £1.949 billion according to the 2020 Sunday Times rich list, continues that all staff will receive 100 per cent of their salary for May, as they did for April, including those who have been furloughed.
He wrote: ‘It is, therefore, with much pleasure and relief that I write to you today, to inform all direct Frasers Groups employees that we will not implement any salary reductions for May.
‘Our people will receive their full expected salaries, as they did in April. This applies to both furloughed and non-furloughed employees.
‘We’re very proud to be one of the only retailers to pay everyone 100 per cent of their salaries during this period.’
And in a video to accompany the letter Ashley praises the hard work of his staff, particularly workers at the Shirebrook headquarters in Derbyshire.
He said: ‘Morning everyone, I hope everyone is well and family are well. Just to say thanks for all your efforts during this unpleasant crisis.
Ashley, whose stores includes Sports Direct and House of Fraser, acknowledged the ‘sacrifice’ all employees have had to make in accepting initial pay cuts, including the slashing of executive pay to a maximum of £40,000
‘A special shout out to Shirebrook. I’m telling you they have done an absolutely amazing job.
‘So thanks everyone and I hope to see you soon.’
Ashley was severely criticized at the outbreak of the pandemic in March when he vowed to keep his Sports Direct stores open, claiming selling sports and fitness equipment is essential during the lockdown.
But the billionaire did a U-turn less than 24 hours later after Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove called the decision wrong and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that ‘sports kit is not essential’.
All store staff were then put on furlough.
However online sales of Sports Direct and other Fraser Group stoes continued.
Ashley came under the spot light again in April when he sent a bombshell letter to suppliers asking for a 20 per cent discount on unpaid invoices for stock.
And his Fraser Group attracted fresh criticism earlier this month when managers asked staff to come back to work while they were on furlough.
Staff were asked to go into closed stores and pack up stock so it could be sold online.
At the time the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allowed companies to claim 80 per cent of staff wages from the government but it stated that employees cannot be asked to work during this time.