Countrywide has strongly denied claims made to Estate Agent Today that some people have felt obliged to work at an admin centre against their wishes, with inadequate social distancing and other safety measures.
The claims were made on emails to EAT and in some social media posts seen by EAT; we understand that the emails and posts were from Countrywide insiders.
They relate to a major Countrywide admin centre at Annesley, Nottinghamshire, which is chiefly concerned with handling lettings issues.
The claims - which we could not independently confirm - suggested that some of the 100 or so staff working there felt uncomfortable at being asked to come into an office.
They were working at the centre after the lockdown announcement made on the evening of Monday March 23 and up to at least Friday March 27, having been told that their work could not be undertaken from home. Some staff remain working at the centre now.
There were also claims that there were insufficient social distancing measures taken and that there was insufficient hand sanitiser available at the premises.
A statement given to EAT by Countrywide last evening categorically denied the claims. It says:
“Our priority remains to do the right thing by our colleagues, support our customers and preserve our business as we work together to navigate through this unprecedented situation.
“Following the [lockdown] announcement on 23 March, Countrywide closed all branches and accelerated the Group’s orderly closure programme. In parallel the Group identified the essential activities required to support our tens of thousands of landlords and tenants with their housing emergencies to keep them safe and housed.
“Those colleagues who continue to support essential business, and can work from home, are doing so. A small number of colleagues remain in our centre as we expedite home working capability. Local Police and environmental agencies were contacted to advise that the centre would remain open to support this in the short term, with colleagues following strict social distancing and hygiene measures in accordance with UK Government guidelines.
“We have not, and will not, insist or encourage ANY colleagues to work if they are uncomfortable in doing so.”