Tuesday 12 January 2021 11:06 am

Exclusive: Ted Baker uses unpaid leave to pressure staff to return to the office

Ted Baker has pressured some staff to return to the office during lockdown, despite official government guidance to work from home if possible. 

Around 50 members of staff working at the retail giant have been asked to work from the office at least a few days a week during the latest national lockdown.

Affected staff typically work in teams dedicated to design, merchandising, studio, buying and production and store design.

City A.M. understands some staff that have been asked to go to the office have been told they can take unpaid leave if they feel uncomfortable doing so. Ted Baker did not deny this.

Unpaid leave is one of the options offered to staff members who the business deems as “business critical”, but do not wish to return to the office yet.

In a statement Ted Baker said the health and safety of its employees was its main priority, and that the majority of team members at head office were working from home. 

“Where their role or specific task cannot be performed at home, a very small number of team members in business-critical functions are being requested to come into the office, which is Covid-secure. This approach is in line with government guidance,” the statement said.

“We recognise that some team members may be clinically vulnerable and cannot attend, or might not feel comfortable doing so, and on these occasions we have been working with individuals on a case-by-case basis to support them with a number of potential alternatives.” 

The retailer said it was working hard to ensure it was operating within government guidelines, and that its measures were constantly under review.  

Yesterday City A.M. revealed infrastructure facility provider Infrastrata had threatened staff with unpaid leave if they chose not to come into the office during the November lockdown. The business has since allowed staff to work from home. 

During the lockdowns the government has urged people to work from home unless they cannot reasonably do so. The government has said employers should take every possible step to facilitate home working.

Like many retailers Ted Baker has had a tough pandemic. Ted Baker’s reported operating loss before tax was £86.4m in the six months ended 8 August, down from a loss of £23m in the same period a year earlier. 

Underlying losses before tax were £38.4m, down from £5.6m a year earlier.