Wetherspoons has U-turned and will now pay its staff up to 80% of their wages

After a barrage of criticism, pub chain JD Wetherspoon has agreed to pay around 43,000 workers up to 80 per cent of their wages while the company's bars remain closed.

The chain was forced to close all 850 of its pubs after a government announcement on Monday 23 March, ordering all restaurants, pubs and bars to stop trading in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus.

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Wetherspoons 'couldn't afford to pay staff'

Company owner, Tim Martin, then came under fire after failing to assure staff that their wages would be paid while they were unable to go into work. Instead, he told his workforce (over 40,000 people) that they might want to consider taking up jobs at supermarkets, such as Tesco and Waitrose, to cover any wage losses.

In a video for employees, Martin said, "If you’re offered a job - if you think it’s a good idea, do it.”

He said that Wetherspoons had lost all of its trade to supermarkets during the Covid-19 crisis and that with "no money coming in through the tills" the business could not afford to pay staff until their wages were reimbursed by the government.

U-turn on pay decision

Many staff and members of the public expressed their anger at this decision online, and one South London Wetherspoons bar was even vandalised with the words "pay your staff". A total of 95 MPs also signed a petition, urging Mr Martin to compensate his staff.

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As of Wednesday 25 March, the pub chain made a U-turn on its original stance, and agreed to introduce a scheme for paying its workers. This will see up to 43,000 staff paid up to 80 per cent of their wages.

Employees who are unable to work as a result of the coronavirus crisis will see their first payment on 3 April. The company has also agreed to pay any hours owed to staff before the closures were announced, with this payment arriving on 27 March.

"As we have already confirmed, Wetherspoon will pay all our 43,000 staff this Friday for the hours worked last week," Mr Martin told the BBC.

"The first payment under the new scheme will be made on Friday 3 April, subject to government approval, and weekly thereafter."