Wren Kitchens has taken steps to reduce its staff headcount in anticipation of falling economic activity.
The kitchen retail and manufacturing company has let go a significant number of showroom staff as a result of the “economic situation facing the UK in light of the COVID-19 pandemic”, according to reports on social media.
Speculation from former employees suggests the number may be in the hundreds.
Almost 100 of Wren’s showrooms have been closed since Tuesday and in the Humber region, where the factory and HQ are located, it temporarily sent home almost 1,000 people.
A Wren spokesman said: “Following the recent government decision to close retail showrooms, a number of staff have had to be temporarily sent home and will be paid in accordance with the Government’s furloughed employee scheme.
“Prior to that announcement, the company had already anticipated that there would be a reduction in economic activity due to the coronavirus and had identified team members who were underperforming and taken steps to reduce its headcount accordingly.”
Kbbreview has seen a document said to have been issued by Wren Kitchens that has been shared across social media and subsequently sent out by post, which appears to outline the way that staff were made aware that their employment had been terminated.
The document is said to have been read to employees at the end of their shift, or via a phone call, and later sent out, kbbreview understands, by post. The wording in the document we saw reads: “The reason for your dismissal is due to your performance bearing in mind the needs of the business and the economic situation facing the UK in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The document kbbreview has seen suggests that staff were told that following a review of their personal performance, Wren was re-evaluating showroom staffing levels.
The copy of the document seen by kbbreview stated that several ‘options were considered’ and that staff were given one week’s notice, which they would not be required to work, with the last day of employment being March 23, 2020.
At the end of the document, it said: “Once this extraordinary crisis has passed, we would invite you to re-connect with the company.”
Some reports also suggest that those most likely to have been let go would have been working for the company for under two years or were on probation. The total number of employees affected is not clear yet.
Harris Fox, a kitchen designer for Wren’s Huddersfield store, told kbbreview: “On Monday, March 23, at the end of my shift at 5pm, I was brought into the office and the attached script was read to me. Wren has not given me the details in regards to numbers.
“No one else has been let go from my store (Huddersfield). I personally have two little ones and I’m lucky my wife works, but she still doesn’t earn enough to cover our basic living costs and outgoings.”
According to Rachael Richards on LinkedIn, a kitchen designer at Wren, she was one of hundreds of people who was let go. She posted on LinkedIn: “I have just received a phone call that I have been let go from my company Wren kitchens, one of around 600 others in other showrooms, due to the economic crisis.
“If anyone is aware of sales jobs available at the moment, it would be greatly appreciated. I really feel for anyone who has found themselves in the same predicament as myself, staff let go, managers having to make the horrible phone calls, it’s tough, but we will get through this.”
Another Twitter user said: “No letter, no e-mail, no warning, just a phone call to say that I’ve been let go, along with three others in my store. Today they have still made the rest of the store go in and act normal.”
I've just made a new Twitter account for this Piers. I've just been fired by @WrenKitchens. No letter, no email, no warning, just a phone call to say that I've been fired, along with 3 others in my store. Today they have still made the rest of the store go in and act normal.
— Narwhalcorn (@Narwhalcorn2) March 24, 2020
Also writing on Twitter, Danielle Schorah Twitter said that she was let go for “non performance” 10 minutes after she had sold a £12,000 kitchen.
On LinkedIn, Concetta Fenton, a former kitchen designer at Wren, said: “Today I wake up after being let go from Wren yesterday giving myself some space to think it all through and I am honestly still just confused and heartbroken. I finally found somewhere I belonged wholeheartedly. [For] just under two years, the staff were my family. My job was everything, I’d tell everyone. How am I going to get back on my feet after this? ”
In a separate development, Wren has pledged to keep its Barton-upon-Humber kitchen factory open after, according to press reports, workers there had apparently voiced concerns to their local MP about complying with social distancing guidelines.
The Wren spokesman said: “For those that do need to come into the factories and offices we have adopted strict measures. These include closing all sites to external visitors, stopping all construction projects on every site, ensuring all team members have at least one clear desk between them and the nearest other person along with providing sanitiser throughout the office and closing on-site restaurants and gyms.
“We continue to deliver to customers who are desperate for their new kitchen.”
Wren told the BBC that “the latest restrictions do not apply to manufacturing operations”.