GAME furloughs retail staff as COVID-19 lockdown continues

Following the government shutdown that forced non-essential retailers and hospitality businesses to close as part of its effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, UK specialist retailer GAME has furlouged its staff.

A week after the enforced shutdown, GAME staff received an email from owner Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group stating employees would be furloughed on full pay until the end of April.

As reported by Eurogamer, the letter added that it could not guarantee pay nor job security past that date, but did say payment would be based on average earnings and not contracted hours, as the latter is typically less than most colleagues actually work. For those who remain employed at the company post-April, they will receive 80 per cent of their salary as per the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

“We are working in unprecedented times,” the letter stated. “Every day our lives and economy see huge changes. COVID-19 touches every aspect of what we do. All of us are affected, as individuals, businesses and society at large. Our economy is fighting for survival. Retail remains one of the hardest hit sectors. We will continue to do all that we can to ensure that our business remains as strong as possible for the benefit of all of us.

“We must make difficult decisions to ensure that as we move out of the current situation our business is in the best place possible. The work that was once there has fallen away; our business, as with so many others, is smaller. We must respond to these circumstances, including the reduction in work.

“As you know, in light of the UK Government’s latest guidance and most recent stricter curbs on permitted activity, we had no choice but to close all of our stores with immediate effect as at close of trading 23rd March 2020,” it continued. “Because our stores are closed and because your work relates to the trading of our stores, since this date, or shortly after, you have been unable to and have not been working – this is because there has been no work for you.

“Across the business, there are many humbling stories of what our people have done to support us, their colleagues and their communities, national and local – for which, thank you.”

However, the letter also added: “We and you should plan for the next few months getting harder for our business”, with the company stating that it “cannot rule out the possibility of taking such drastic steps; we are in difficult circumstances”.

“It actually gives a lot of people some financial stability for the next month and is a big comfort to many,” one source told Eurogamer under the promise of anonymity. “I can’t speak for everyone of course but I think it’s some good news during these uncertain times. Hopefully by the time they have to reassess next month the world will be on its way to getting back to normal.”

“It is what it is I suppose,” added another. “Full pay till the end of April is fair. I’ve had to apply for Universal Credit and I’m just gonna look for a new job altogether.”

The coronavirus is affecting games all over the world and in a myriad of ways. In response to the pandemic, E3 2020 has been cancelled, as has GDC and EGX Rezzed  – although it subsequently ran as a digital event – and Develop:Brighton 2020 has been postponed to November. Both Mojang and Electronic Arts have cancelled scheduled live events

Gamescom, however, still opens to proceed as planned. BAFTA has confirmed it’s revising the format on its upcoming Games Awards in light of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), too.

Bungie, EA, Nintendo and now Rockstar have all implemented homeworking to minimise staff exposure to the virus whilst Pokémon Go developer Niantic has made changes to the game to enable players to continue participating even whilst in self-isolation. The increase in people working from home and/or self-isolating, however, has put a strain on online services like Xbox Live and Nintendo Switch Online.

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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