Asda has begun consultations with 5,000 staff set to be affected by a major restructure in response to the boom in online shopping.
As part of its plans to expand its “in store pick” model – where online orders are picked by store employees rather than in warehouses – it plans to create 4,500 new roles in store-based online operations.
If the proposals are taken forward by the supermarket, it intends to move as many staff as possible into alternative roles within Asda, with redundancy used as a last resort.
Asda CEO Roger Burnley said: “We know that these proposed changes will be unsettling for colleagues and our priority is to support them during this consultation process. Our plans to transform the business will result in more roles being created than those we propose to remove and our absolute aim is to ensure as many colleagues as possible stay with us, as well as creating the opportunity to welcome new people to our business.”
It has begun a collective consultation on proposals to restructure three parts of its business.
Around 3,000 staff will potentially be affected by plans to simplify back office functions, with cash office, administration, people and training tasks set to be completed by “one multi-skilled back office colleague”.
Secondly, it wants to restructure some store management roles, including deputy store manager and section leader positions. These will be replaced by two new roles – operations manager and online trading manager. Some 1,100 staff would be affected by this decision, but Asda said the changes would see an overall increase in store-level management roles.
Finally, 800 staff would be affected by plans to close its Dartford and Heston home shopping centres. Online orders in the regions they serve will be picked from local stores, which Asda said would increase opportunities for customers to utilise services such as same day delivery, express one-hour collection and Uber Eats delivery.
Burnley said: “The pandemic has accelerated change across the retail sector especially the shift towards grocery home shopping and our priority is to serve customers in the way they want to shop with us. The last 12 months have shown us that businesses have to be prepared to adapt quickly to change and I am incredibly proud of the way we demonstrated our agility and resilience through the pandemic.”
Almost 180,000 retail job losses were seen last year, according to the Usdaw union.
A Kings College London study into the British public’s attitudes towards inequalities has found that almost half (47%) of people believe those who lost their job during the pandemic were likely to have been underperforming. Only 31% put it down to luck.
“There is a strong belief in meritocracy in Britain – that hard work and ambition remain key drivers of success, and this colours views, even during a pandemic,” the report said. “Despite the exceptional circumstances, Britons are more likely to think that job losses caused by the crisis are the result of personal failure than chance.”
Unemployment rose to 1.74 million people in December, its highest level in five years.