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SIR PHILIP Green’s retail empire axed staff on the cheap while taking government furlough handouts, leaked documents reportedly show.
Arcadia Group, which owns a clutch of high-street retail brands, has taken millions of pounds from the public purse to pay workers on furlough.
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The Times reports the company – headed up by Sir Philip, worth £950million -has made 300 staff redundant at its head office and exploited a loophole in official rule to pay a reduced rate in the notice period.
An executive there reportedly told staff the fashion empire needed to take “every penny we can get”.
One employee told the newspaper: “Even by the standards of Philip Green’s Arcadia this has been shocking. The idea that they would get rid of us and not even honour our contracts in a time of financial crisis is just morally and ethically bankrupt.”
Another said the cost saving decision will only negatively impact those made redundant, adding: “It feels like they have no respect for anyone.”
It comes as it was revealed up to £3.5billion has been paid out in wrong or fraudulent furlough schemes, HMRC fears.
The Government rolled out the massive scheme at breakneck speed at the start of the pandemic to help business keep afloat.
But the scheme is now winding down and is expected to end for good next month.
Arcadia Group first planned to pay reduced rates to staff made redundant beyond the end of the scheme, but has now U-turned on that.
In July the law was changed due to concerns companies would take advantage of the scheme to reduce pay for staff made redundant.
But it doesn’t apply to workers who have longer notice periods – which many of the Arcadia staff reportedly do.
In April millionaire Sir Philip came under fire for using taxpayer money to cover the wages of 14,500 employees, with critics saying he should sell his yacht instead.
The disgraced retail magnate temporarily laid off 14,500 employees, most of them shop workers.
Staff said Philip Green should use his private wealth – or even his yacht – to pay for wages.
According to The Sunday Times Rich List in 2019, Mr Green’s private wealth totalled £950million, down from £1.05billion the previous year.
Internal minutes from recent meetings held in the redundancy process detail one employee rep accusing Arcadia of looking “at every legal loophole about how to pay us the minimum”.
A spokesman for Arcadia Group said: “Our actions in response to Covid-19 are no different from most other retailers in the UK. It is essential that we restructure our head office to ensure we can operate through these very challenging times.
“Throughout this process we have worked hard to minimise the number of job losses and at all time are adhering to the government’s guidelines and legislation.”
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Earlier this year Victoria Beckham sparked fury by furloughing 25 of her fashion staff despite her family being worth a reported £335million, before she backtracked.
This week Boris Johnson ruled out extending the furlough scheme beyond next month after launching a new coronavirus crackdown.
He said in response to a question from a member of the public that it wouldn’t continue as “you’re just keeping people in suspended animation”.