Spicerhaart has been heavily criticised over the weekend as the extent of a sudden decision to close dozens of branches and lay off ‘hundreds’ of staff across its network via a conference call leaked out.
This includes an unprecedented statement from eProp Services CEO Jon Cooke, who tweeted over the weekend: “SHAMEFUL! As industry leaders we all know tough decisions may need to be taken to secure our businesses BUT to not wait and factor in government support shows the true culture of an organisation shame on you Paul Smith.”
Late on Friday evening a sales consultant working for its Haart branch in Camberwell told a national newspaper that she had been fired at 5.45pm, just minutes before the government announced that it will soon launch a scheme to help companies retain staff by paying for them to go on temporary leave of absence.
Amanda Hayes (left), who was one of three people working at the branch, has accused the company of being ‘callous and inhumane’ after initially offering her a promotion before she and other staff were summarily told they were being made redundant. This includes being fired without confirmation of whether she will be paid this month.
Several sources have told The Negotiator that 40% of Spicerhaart’s 180+ branch network is being closed.
Part of the reason for the cull is a weaker-than-expected performance of 19-branch estate agency Butters John Bee, which Spicerhaart bought in September 2017. The family of agents affected by the cull include 10-branch Chewton Rose, 11-branch Darlows, 120-branch Haart, 12-branch Felicity J Lord, 10-branch Haybrook as well as 19-branch Butters John Bee.
Like Amanda Hayes, many staff given their marching orders on Friday have not gone quietly, angered that Spicerhaart would get rid of them as the government announced a support package for struggling businesses.
“How come you chose to fire so many of us today (leaving us all completely screwed as nobody else will be hiring) when the government have just said they will pay for 80% of our salaries and you would only need to contribute 20% of that,” one former employee tweeted.
Another employee, who lost her job from Haart’s Blaby office, said: “A mountain of hard working individuals and bright talent, lost in one fell swoop with no notice or answers to pay or where we stand. Myself along with others have mortgages, families, and commitments but were left completely shell shocked with no answers.”
Spicerhaart says the branch closures and headcount reductions were part of ‘cost reduction’ measures designed to mitigate the effect of the business downturn resulting from the Coronavirus outbreak, and that it was ‘desperately sorry’ about the redundancies.
Message of support have flooded in from across the industry for the staff affected including on social media.
“Sad news coming out from our colleagues at Haart Estate Agents and subsidiaries like butters John bee etc and, all competition and rivalry aside, I hope all the great people find suitable roles quickly to help support their families,” said Awais Ahmad (left), founder of West Midlands agency AP Morgan.
Could the branches be bought?
Several companies are thought to be interested in acquiring the branches shut down by Haart including Connells, whose CEO David Plumtree was busy on LinkedIn over the weekend making contact with some of the key staff made redundant on Friday.