Primark turns down £30m windfall from job retention bonus, The Guardian, July 12 2020, Gwyn Topham
How Primark cornered the feel good factor
“Primark will not take up the bonus offered last week by the government for taking back furloughed workers into full employment, declining a potential windfall of about £30m.
The high-street clothing chain, which is majority-owned by the billionaire Weston family, said it “shouldn’t be necessary” for it to take advantage of the scheme unveiled by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, in his summer statement last week.
Under the scheme companies can be paid a job retention bonus of £1,000 for every worker brought back from furlough – the scheme that has already seen the taxpayer pick up the wage bill for millions of workers under extraordinary measures announced in March.”
Through the WI lens
Who would have expected a fast-fashion retailer to be the one capturing the moral high ground? This news story describes how Primark, a company owned by Associated British Foods which is best known for its cheap T-shirts and affordable accessories, has let it be known that it will not be claiming cash from the Government for not making employees redundant. The £1,000-a-head scheme announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak was designed to provide an incentive to companies to hold on to staff who were furloughed during lockdown. But for those who intended to keep them on anyway, it offers an unexpected windfall of the type that few corporate treasurers tend to view askance. So Primark undoubtedly won itself some worthwhile PR brownie points by being the first big company to look this particular gift horse in the mouth, in spite of having lost an estimated £800 million during lockdown. And it has thrown down the gauntlet to every other big business not in dire straits to follow suit. This comes after Ikea publicly vowed to repay furlough money to governments around the world; and it puts the spotlight on what role such moral and public-interest decisions play for the stakeholders of the company in question. First there’s a brand enhancement. Which consumer wouldn’t feel better buying from a company that has shown it is driven by more than profit, and lived up to the values it espouses? Then there are those employees, for whom it signals that it didn’t need a bribe to keep them on, and perhaps there really is an ethos of ‘family’ underpinning the company they work for. And then the decision makers: we all feel better when we act with decency, kindness and humility. On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?
What this article goes on to explain is how positive thinking – described here as ‘thriving’ – can counter the effects that come from the negativity outlined above, from reduced memory to diminished performance. Based on studying people in a series of organisations in different industries, one of the authors has found that people who attain this state are more resilient, experience less burnout, and are more confident in their ability to take control of a situation
“Behind the jargon what this is really about is how we address the challenge of biodiversity under threat, move away from fossil materials like plastic and concrete, and use nature in a sustainable way, all of which could be summed up by “living in harmony with nature”.”
“In the new ‘consensual contract’ between employer and worker, what’s required is a commitment from the employer to safeguard the wellbeing of their people, and a commitment in return from employees to take personal responsibility for their performance of their job.”
“Could loneliness not only be damaging our mental and physical health but also be making the world a more aggressive, angry place? And if so, what are the implications for a cohesive society and democracy?”
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”