Some staff at Dunelm’s two huge warehouses are returning to work today – after the homeware-giant re-opened its doors following an eight-day closure.
Dunelm closed its warehouses at Sideway and Campbell Road, Stoke – along with its retail stores and online operations – last week, following the government lockdown announcement.
But now the facilities are back up-and-running again so customers can order products online for delivery.
The shops will remain closed.
StokeonTrentLive understands that warehouse workers have continued to be paid in full since the closure last Monday night, with a selected number of ‘at risk’ employees receiving 80 per cent of their pay via furlough and the Government’s Job Retention Scheme.
Other employees have also been told to work from home.
But warehouse staff who are still required to work on site say they are now being ‘forced’ to return – or not be paid.
An anonymous Dunelm worker – who is currently furloughed – said: “The distribution centres in Stoke have been closed since the government’s announcement last week, but all of a sudden they have been re-opened again.
“All of the relevant staff have been contacted and told that they have to go into work and if they don’t turn up they will be marked down as absent and not paid.
“Dunelm has re-opened its website for online sales which is why staff are required to go into work, they will be getting the orders ready for delivery.”
The employee added that Dunelm has introduced a number of measures at the warehouses to ensure staff are kept safe on their return to work – including the introduction of a one-way system to avoid staff coming into contact with each other and face masks and gloves for employees who work in close proximity.
Dunelm has confirmed that it has re-opened its Stoke-on-Trent warehouses following a full evaluation and the implementation of new practices.
A spokesman for the company said: “At Dunelm, one of our key principles is to Do The Right Thing.With that in mind, we are working very carefully to balance the health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues, which remains our priority, with the need to protect the business and the jobs of everyone involved in Dunelm.
“The Government has encouraged online retail and its supply chains to keep moving, where it is safe to do so, and we are following that guidance in a sensitive manner.
“Last week we closed all of our stores and online operations, whilst we fully evaluated the situation and considered our next steps.
“After a full assessment and implementation of new practices, we are now confident that we are in a position to take orders online and can process and deliver these in a way that keeps our team safe.
“We have introduced new ways of working which ensures strict social distancing and hygiene measures, which we have developed in consultation with NHS professionals.
“These practices have also received positive feedback from Trading Standards during a recent site visit.”
The new measures introduced at Dunelm include:
- improved communication around the importance of health and safety in the current situation;
- re-organised processes right through the business to guarantee two-metre social distancing in all areas;
- staggered start times and breaks with reduced numbers of colleagues on site at any time to avoid unnecessary contact;
- introduced a one way system for colleagues arriving and exiting;
- given personal hygiene equipment to every colleague;
- enhanced our cleaning regime and hygiene protocols for all personal employee equipment and across all common areas;
- closed off locker areas and brought in extra toilets to ensure they can be regularly cleaned;
- dedicated senior managers responsible for implementing all new protocols; and
- put marshals in place to ensure all new protocols are being followed.
The spokesman added: “In order to ensure the safety and well-being of our teams, all employees categorised as high-risk or vulnerable have been furloughed to allow them to self-isolate in line with Government guidance, alongside single parents with childcare responsibilities.
“We have contacted all of our colleagues to educate them on the changes we have made in advance of them returning to work.
“We are following all government advice and guidelines and will continue to do so as they develop in the coming days and weeks.”