Remember the good companies?

People will remember who looked after their staff and who didn't

Financial Times

Virus puts responsible capitalism to the test

Crises make reputations - or destroy them. One of the lasting outcomes of the 2008 financial crisis was the casting of the world's bankers as villains for their part in the collapse of the banking system. Today's health pandemic is of a different magnitude, and big business is not at fault. What matters, though, is capitalism's response to the crisis. Companies will be split into two camps: those who treated staff and others well, and those who tried to take advantage.

Before the coronavirus gripped economies, business leaders had promised to espouse a new, more caring type of capitalism.

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Will people remember how businesses behaved during the pandemic?

By Joe Harker

While there is a lockdown in place due to coronavirus many businesses have been forced to close their doors and many jobs have been put at risk or already been lost.

The government has announced measures designed to tackle the pandemic including protection for wages and employers but some have been finding out how far they can push things.

Some Brits are compiling lists of the companies which have looked after their workers during the crisis and the ones that didn't. What impact might it have once all this is over?

The Claim:

The prime minister urged businesses to "stand by your employees" but a number of them rushed to cut jobs immediately and have tried to stay open despite a lockdown being enforced.

Among the brands people have been encouraged to boycott are Wetherspoons and Sports Direct.

Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin told his staff they wouldn't be paid and told them to go and get a job at a supermarket instead, though he has since relented and said staff will receive payments under the government's job retention scheme.

A number of Spoons pubs across the UK have been vandalised with the message "pay your staff", suggesting people won't forget Martin's first reaction.

Sports Direct stayed open after the lockdown was imposed, with staff told to come in because the company decided it was essential to keep the UK fit during the pandemic.

Company owner Mike Ashley eventually relented and released a public apology after being told by the government that his business was not essential to tackling the coronavirus.

Once again the apology and change of course from a business has done little to mitigate the anger of the public. People know what happened and they know the bosses only backed off after being told they needed to change.

Will people remember how businesses acted during the coronavirus crisis? The answer looks like a resounding yes.

The Counter Claim:

Other businesses have been praised for acting responsibly towards staff, guaranteeing their wages and following lockdown rules to protect them from the virus.

Those who have stepped up and done the right thing without needing a significant shove in the right direction by the government have seen their reputations increase, the public have been as keen to highlight responsible bosses as they have to highlight those who put their interests before the new pandemic rules.

For some it can be a fine line to tread between protecting employees and ensuring they have an employer to come back to once the pandemic is over, but those who tread it and looked after their people during difficult times arguably should be rewarded in the end.

It is a good thing that people are making an effort to remember who was responsible and who was selfish, those companies which protected their staff should feel as though they made the right decision in the end.

Once the pandemic is over many things will be different, perhaps the relationship between businesses, their employees and their customers will have changed significantly too.

The Facts:

The Guardian has been compiling a list of the businesses which have done well during the pandemic and which ones haven't. You can read the list here and know the reasons why some employers are getting are getting criticised at the moment.

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