Monday 11 January 2021 3:30 pm

Exclusive: Shipping boss threatened staff with unpaid leave if they worked from home during lockdown

The CEO of infrastructure facility provider Infrastrata told colleagues to defy government guidance and work from the office during the last national lockdown, or face unpaid leave.

In an email sent to colleagues on 4 November and seen by City A.M., CEO John Wood told colleagues that anyone wishing not to come into the office during the lockdown would be able to discuss a period of unpaid leave.

“We are a small team and need to work from our various office’s [sic], should anyone not wish to work from the office then we will be able to discuss a period of unpaid leave,” Wood wrote.

Infrastrata, which has an office in the City of London and is listed on the London Stock Exchange, eventually told staff to work from home on 14 December, ahead of England’s current and third national lockdown. 

November lockdown

In November England entered its second national lockdown, which saw all non-essential shops shut and workers told to go to work only if it was “not reasonably possible for [them] to work from home”.

In the letter to staff Wood also said the firm’s preference was that employees did not holiday abroad until April 2021, and that if they chose to do so they would have to factor any mandatory isolation period into the leave, or discuss unpaid leave with a line manager. 

The business, which ended its 2019 financial year with a net loss before tax
of £1.18 million, said any colleague with a commute of more than three hours on public transport would be permitted to work from home “if absolutely necessary.” 

Today Wood told City A.M.: “Infrastrata employees have been working from home since Monday 14 December, when COVID 19 risk levels increased and since the national lockdown commenced our London office has been closed.”

He stressed the company takes the care and well-being of its staff seriously. “As such, [we] have invested in stress resilience training to help all members of our team to cope with the additional pressures that the COVID 19 pandemic has placed on their mental health.”

Outside of the pandemic, the company provides private healthcare which includes mental health support and private gym membership to its employees to encourage mental and physical health and fitness. “Infrastrata will continue to consider the health and wellbeing of its staff and work in a Covid-secure way,” Wood concluded.