// Boots execs “encouraged” staff to come into Nottingham head office despite rising Covid-19 cases
// The health and beauty retailer denied that staff were put under pressure to be at the head office
Boots has reportedly told staff they were “encouraged” to travel into its headquarters in Nottingham, despite Covid-19 infection rates are their highest in the region.
The message to staff goes against recent government guidelines which advised people to work from home where possible.
Boots employees said messages from senior managers meant they were expected to be at their desks for at least part of the week, The Guardian reported.
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Boots has since verified the messages, including one from its UK boss, Seb James.
However, the health and beauty retailer denied that staff were put under pressure to be at its Nottingham headquarters.
Nottingham currently has the highest rate of infections in England, at nearly 955 for every 100,000 people in the city.
On October 13, Boots human resources chief, Nathan Clements, wrote to staff to “confirm our working from the office guidance” for staff in Nottingham.
He said the Beeston campus will “remain open for colleagues, to spend some of their working week based in the office”.
Nevertheless, the email listed exemptions for people who are shielding, or are displaying Covid-19 symptoms.
In an email sent on September 23, James said the company wanted people to be in the office.
He said the government would revert to the guidance that was in place pre-September; and that people should work from home if they can do so without adversely impacting their business.
James added that about 85 per cent of colleagues have spent some of their week in the office the last few weeks.
Moreover, Boots said it is essential business providing pharmacy, medicines and healthcare essentials to communities, and its support site in Nottingham keeps business running.
On Thursday, Boots parent company Walgreen Boots Alliance said its international pharmacy retail division, which includes the UK chain, recorded a $132 million (£102 million) operating loss that it said was primarily driven by lower UK sales.
The retailer saw group sales drop 16.7 per cent for the three months to August 31, despite a continued online growth.
Meanwhile, like-for-like retail sales fell by 29.2 per cent as footfall “significantly reduced” and subsequently affected high street and travel stores.
However, Boots said this marked an improvement in footfall from the previous quarter, when like-for-like retail sales were 48 per cent lower due to store closures.
Boots’ online sales saw a 155 per cent growth in the fourth quarter, following on from a 78 per cent increase in the previous quarter.