Penna has categorically denied it told Barkers to make at least 60 staff redundant just days before it purchased the company, as part of a “deal clincher” to avoid shelling out redundancy pay.
Barkers recruitment advertising firm went into administration and was bought out by HR consulting group Penna on Monday. The £8.6m deal covered the whole group, including recruitment firm TCS, which merged with Barkers in 2004. The deal saved 240 jobs, and the employees who transferred across did so under the same terms and conditions.
However, scores of posts on a recruitment website’s forum pages by people claiming to be former employees have alleged that Barkers made at least 60 staff redundant on 25 June, knowing that they would not receive the monies owed to them as the group went into administration and was bought out just days later.
One post on ri5.co.uk alleged: “The deal clincher here for [Penna] is to take on a business with no liabilities and no redundancy payments to make. So, they tell Barkers to make the staff redundant – then two days later, Barkers goes into administration and Penna buy the operational bit for a knock-down price.” Another post read: “To get rid of 60 people last week knowing that they wouldn’t receive any redundancy should be shocking.” Other posts claimed that redundant employees would not receive their pension.
However, several posts on the site defended Penna, stating the firm had nothing to do with the redundancies.
One said: “Many people at TCS and Barkers… will tell you that they’d rather Penna had bought the business and saved 240 jobs, rather than the whole thing go under. Penna is not to blame. BNB/Barkers was already in administration. The poor people who were made redundant last week were not made redundant because of Penna. In fact, Penna is trying to find out what can be done to help them, even though, technically, they are not responsible for their welfare.”
A spokesman for Penna told Personnel Today: “There is a clear line in the sand between the redundancies that took place and us taking over. We were not involved, and we cannot be held responsible for what was held before.
“I can absolutely categorically say that Penna was not involved in terms of talking about, being involved in or suggesting any redundancies prior to the deal taking place,” he added.
Penna became aware of the chance to buy Barkers on 14 June, and fought off other interested parties to become the best bidder.
Administrators Chantrey Vellacot were unavailable for comment this morning.