Primark rejects Rishi Sunak's £30m bonus to bring back staff from furlough

Harriet Brewis
·3-min read
Primark has opted out of the Government's Job Retention Bonus scheme, saving the public coffers some £30m: PA
Primark has opted out of the Government's Job Retention Bonus scheme, saving the public coffers some £30m: PA

Primark has turned down around £30million in bonuses from the Treasury for bringing back furloughed staff, it has been revealed.

During his summer statement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that all businesses will receive £1,000 for each employee they bring back.

The high street chain placed around 30,000 workers on the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme as lockdown forced stores to close.

But it has now decided to decline the state handout despite bringing all of its employees back.

"The company removed its employees from government employment support schemes in the UK and Europe in line with the reopening of the majority of its stores," a spokesperson for Primark's owner Associated British Foods told the BBC.

"The company believes it should not be necessary therefore to apply for payment under the bonus scheme in current circumstances."

The move is set to heap pressure on other businesses to decline the £9billion grants from the Treasury.

Gambling group William Hill has also indicated it will reject the bonus payments, according to The Sunday Times.

M&S, which is gradually bringing back 27,000 workers from furlough, stands to receive £27million if each of them return. The retailer said it “welcomed” the support measures, according to the paper.

Tim Martin’s pub chain Wetherspoons, which put 43,000 on furlough, has not yet commented on its plans.

Currently 9.4million are enrolled on the Government's furlough scheme, meaning that if they all return to work, it could cost the public purse more than £9billion.

Announcing the Job Retention Bonus during his economic update in the Commons, the Chancellor said: "One of the most important things we can do to prevent unemployment is to get as many people as possible from furlough back to their jobs."

Under the scheme, all companies are eligible to receive the £1,000-per-person grant if they bring back an employee for at least three months after furlough ends in October.

It has already proved controversial, with HM Revenue & Customs boss Jim Harra refusing to sign it off because it could not be shown to be value for money.

Meanwhile Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested it was putting money in the pockets of businesses that would have brought back employees anyway.

General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady, has urged businesses that can afford to do so to follow Primark’s example and save taxpayers' money.

She told Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “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.”

She suggested 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.

She told the programme: “We have to have targeted plans and support to keep them on their feet. The autumn will be too late.

“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.”

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