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Tuesday, Apr 07, 2020

Richard Branson must pay staff 'or be judged after coronavirus crisis is over'

The billionaire Virgin Atlantic boss Sir Richard Branson must pay his employees during a proposed break over coronavirus or face being judged for his actions, a Tory MP has said.
Virgin Atlantic staff are understood to have been asked to take eight weeks’ unpaid leave in the next three months to help the airline cope with the impact Covid-19 has had on the aviation industry.

It would leave staff to then claim statutory sick pay from the Government at £94 per week. Richard Fuller MP for North East Bedfordshire told parliament the Virgin Group founder could earn £9.9 million from two per cent interest on his £3.8 billion net worth – leaving him with plenty to cover every employees’ unpaid leave.

He warned bosses: ‘When it comes to looking at the protection of your workers, the time is now’.

The airline is one of many impacted by global travel restrictions and people’s reluctance to fly due to the pandemic which has infected more than 200,000 people worldwide.

Fuller said: ‘To the point of leaders not doing the right thing I think the experience of Virgin Airlines has been raised, that the owner, or partial owner of Virgin Airlines has suggested that they should take eight weeks of unpaid leave. And I decided to look and see how much would that cost.

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‘Well eight weeks at the £94 statutory sick pay would cost £754 per employee. There are 8,571 employees in Virgin Airlines.

‘So if all of them took eight weeks’ unpaid leave that would be a cost of £6.4 million. Sir Richard Branson’s net worth is £3.8 billion dollars.

‘If he’s able to get 2% interest on that money for eight weeks, he will earn the equivalent of £9.9 million.

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‘So I say, Sir Richard Branson, give up your interest on your wealth for eight weeks and pay your employees yourself their unpaid leave.

‘Big or small – in a small village, a leader of a church or a leader of a large business – when it comes to looking at the protection of your workers, the time is now, and we will judge you all by your actions.’

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald urged Sir Richard earlier this week to ‘look to his own considerable reserves’ and row back on asking his Virgin Atlantic staff take unpaid leave to mitigate the economic consequences of the coronavirus.

He trusted the Government to suggest Sir Richard used ‘his own considerable resources’ before offering his company a financial package.

Virgin Atlantic has been contacted about this story.
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