Next boss calls for Government action on wages and jobs

Next boss Lord Simon Wolfson has joined mounting calls for the Government to step in and protect jobs amid the coronavirus outbreak, warning that businesses need a “concrete and certain” plan.

He said the UK needed to avoid widespread layoffs by following the lead of countries like France and Germany by offering to help cover employee wages for struggling firms.

Former prime minister and chancellor Gordon Brown also separately urged the Government on Wednesday to do “considerably more” in the next 48 hours to save people’s jobs.

A Next store
Lord Simon Wolfson warned Next may be forced to take ‘radical’ action on wages to help cut costs (Yui Mok/PA)

Speaking to the PA news agency, Lord Wolfson said the cost may be high, but would be far less than the economic hit from soaring unemployment.

It comes as he warned Next may be forced to take “radical” action on wages to help cut costs – including redundancies and forcing staff to take time off – in the event of a prolonged closure period and no government assistance.

He said the UK needs a “concrete and certain plan” to save jobs and pay wages.

Lord Wolfson said Next was hoping to avoid job losses, given its strong balance sheet and actions to cut costs in other ways, but cautioned others were not as fortunate.

“Many businesses won’t be in the same position (as Next) and having some certainty for their employees that the Government would protect their income would make an enormous difference to the UK economy,” he said.

He said it would be “vital for the economy as a whole”.

He added it would be “expensive, but less expensive than allowing a domino effect of reduced demand causing firms to make redundancies”.

France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Spain, Italy and New Zealand are among countries to make job protection a condition of financial lifelines for firms.

Canada meanwhile has offered a wage subsidy for hard-hit small businesses, equal to 10% of salary paid to employees, for three months.

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