Sainsbury’s asks staff to delay Christmas parties over omicron concerns

The supermarket says it wants to protect staff and customers – and ‘avoid increased absence’ at the busiest time of the year

Laurie Churchman
Monday 06 December 2021 18:54
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<p>Sainsbury’s Christmas advert 2021 </p>

Sainsbury’s Christmas advert 2021

Sainsbury’s has asked staff to delay Christmas parties amid fears over the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The supermarket wants its workers to hold off until the new year, as Omicron threatens to disrupt 2021’s busiest shopping period.

There are concerns the new strain could leave more staff off work, adding to ongoing labour shortages across the industry.

Sainsbury’s Chief Executive Simon Roberts said he wanted to “protect Christmas for our colleagues and our customers and keep everyone safe”.

He promised workers would not be “out of pocket as a result of this decision.”

Several big firms have chosen to cancel staff Christmas parties, even though No 10 has urged companies not to scrap their festive functions.

There are concerns that Omicron is spreading more quickly than the Delta variant, and could soon become the UK’s dominant strain.

As the new variant takes hold, new rules mean more workers could have to stay home.

Recent contacts of those infected with the Omicron variant must now self-isolate for 10 days even if they are fully vaccinated.

The announcement from Sainsbury’s comes during a turbulent year for the industry. This summer, supermarket bosses warned shelves could be empty at Christmas following supply chain problems and shortages of HGV drivers.

Shoppers are still noticing shortages and supermarkets are having to “scale back” some product ranges, according to industry leaders.

Sainsbury’s, which also owns Argos and Habitat, said: “The industry issues on labour and recruitment are well known and are ongoing and we are doing everything we can to avoid increased absence.”

The supermarket has launched its biggest ever Christmas recruitment drive this year with 22,000 seasonal vacancies, according to The Grocer magazine.

Chief Executive Simon Roberts said in a statement: “We are doing everything we can to protect Christmas for our colleagues and our customers and keep everyone safe.

“As government guidance on face coverings changed on Tuesday, we have gone above and beyond to put safety first and have asked all of our colleagues to wear a face covering both on the shop floor and in all colleague areas.”

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