The workplaces which have stayed open during the coronavirus crisis
PUBLISHED: 15:27 26 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:35 26 March 2020
Some firms have kept their offices open during the coronavirus crisis - despite Government pleas to work from home.
Stricter measures to control the spread of the pandemic over the next three weeks means, the Government says, only essential shops including supermarkets, banks, newsagents and pharmacies should still trade.
Staff were also told by the Government on Monday to only travel to work “where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home”.
Since that announcement some companies have asked staff to keep coming in, creating confusion.
Workers who contacted this newspaper said they felt their health was being put at risk by going to work when they were not classed as “key workers” such as health or supermarket staff.
Dobbies Garden Centre at the Hardwick Retail Park in King’s Lynn remained open until Wednesday.
The chain justified its move by stating it was following Government guidance which allows food, home and hardware, and pet shops to open.
But on Wednesday morning it announced a temporary closure, saying: “Following updated guidance from Government, our stores will temporarily close with immediate effect. The welfare of our customers and team members is and always will remain our number one priority.”
Insurance company Adrian Flux, meanwhile, is staffing its office and call centre at East Winch.
A company spokesman said: “The government has recognised that motor insurance is an essential service and it is a legal requirement, making it vital for key workers to be able to get to and from their jobs, and necessary for people to get to the supermarkets and attend medical appointments.
“As such, and in line with the Financial Conduct Authority’s published guidance, we are helping customers who need to administer their policies or make a claim.”
The company added that it was taking “all possible steps” to make sure employees who could work from home did.
They also said contact between staff in its call centre had been minimised.
In Norwich, Open Contact, a call centre on Surrey Street told its 55 workers on Tuesday to still come to the office.
But that changed on Wednesday after it was contacted by this newspaper with staff complaints.
Accountants Aston Shaw, which has offices across Norfolk, said its Norwich office on Rose Lane was still open on Wednesday but only with a skeleton staff.
A spokesman said: “Wherever possible, staff have been working from home. Where staff need to physically be in the office in order to carry out essential roles, we have strict safety measures in place.
“For example, no more than 10 members of staff can be in the office at any one time so as to ensure everyone is always kept two metres apart.”
They added: “If it is absolutely necessary for a member of staff to be present in the office, we have given them the freedom to come and go when they please, encouraging evening visits so that there are as few individuals in the office as possible.
“We have also doubled the frequency in which our office is cleaned.
“Some of the services we provide are essential such as our payroll services.
“We have several clients who work in the care sector, so it is of paramount importance that we are able to continue processing their payroll so they can go on paying staff and essential care services can still be provided.”
Frasers Group, which owns Sports Direct and Jack Wills, had told its staff on Tuesday to keep coming in, but that advice changed on Tuesday afternoon when it closed all its stores.
Staff have been told they will be paid until the end of this month but it is unclear at the moment what will happen after that.
Retail staff at Virgin Media, meanwhile, which has a store in Norwich, said they had discussed on Tuesday with management coming in to closed stores to work on telesales.
One worker said: “We do not believe it is acceptable for them to instruct our store teams to travel in, often on long public transport journeys.”
But a Virgin Media spokesman said it had ruled out asking staff to come in to closed stores and instead they would be working from home.
•Subscribe to our daily coronavirus newsletter, with all the latest from where you live