Michael Breda-Blasigh, 27, left Countrywide at the end of February to work as a mortgage adviser for Prudell Financial services, a small north west London-based brokerage. He joined the firm on 9 March.
Simon Redler, director of Prudell Financial Services, had planned to furlough four members of his 13-strong workforce during the crisis. But when he learned that his newest employee would not be eligible, he tried to find an alternative solution.
Too late to qualify
Under the original terms of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme because the broker was not on Prudell’s payroll before 28 February he could not be furloughed by the company.
Under the scheme, a furloughed employee stays at home and receives 80 per cent of their salary paid by the government, up to £2,500 a month. The purpose of the scheme is to stop companies permanently laying off staff during the pandemic.
Redler told Breda-Blasigh about the government’s recent announcement that former employers could rehire staff so they could be furloughed. The company, however, does not have to agree.
When the broker spoke to Countrywide the company said it was were aware of the guidance on rehiring former employees to allow them to receive government support, but it would not carry out his request. Breda-Blasigh said he was told by the human resources team it would take too long to administer the process and they refused to help.
He told Prudell of his predicament, and the business offered him financial support. Breda-Blasigh had not yet been signed off to give advice having only been with the firm for three weeks so instead Redler offered him a temporary administrative role and paid him £1,000 a month.
‘We do right by our employees’
Redler said: “When staff join us they usually stay for years so we like to show them the same loyalty. Michael had only been with us for three weeks but we do right by our employees and it never crossed my mind to leave one of our staff out in the cold without any money. I’d rather reduce my own income before letting that happen.
“I find it unreasonable that Countrywide had the ability to take Michael back and help him but they refused. When he told us, we didn’t hesitate but to step in.”
But yesterday, the government announced it was extending the cut-off date for employees to be eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme from 28 February to 19 March. This means staff on any type of contract who were on a firm’s PAYE payroll on or before 19 March can be furloughed, so Breda-Blasigh could now be furloughed by Prudell.
Breda-Blasigh lives with his parents. His self employed mother is no longer working, leaving his father as the sole breadwinner in the family. His biggest concern before he was offered financial support from Prudell was adding to his family’s financial burden.
Peace of mind
“This has really put my mind at rest,” he said. “I’ll be on 80 per cent of the salary I would earn as a mortgage adviser which has given me a lot more peace of mind.
“I was grateful of the salary Prudell were going to pay me for carry out administrative tasks and the money would have been just enough to cover my bills but nothing else which made me worry about what state my finances would be in when I returned to my normal job.”
Like other brokerages, Prudell has seen business reduce dramatically since the coronavirus outbreak. Enquiries have gone from around 100 a day to just 15. And even those enquiries are difficult to progress during the pandemic.
The slowdown in business has meant four employees, including Breda-Blasigh, are now being supported by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Redler has been trading since 1987. He said over that time has built up a “solid” remortgage book which accounts for around 60 per cent of his normal trading activity, and is now the firm’s main source of income. Redler is confident that the remortgage business is strong enough to see the firm through the coronavirus crisis.
A spokesperson for Countrywide said that after the government’s lockdown announcement, it closed its branches and accelerated the group’s closure programme while identifying the essential activities required to support tens of thousands of landlords and tenants with their housing emergencies to keep them safe and housed.
The spokesperson added: “We welcomed the government’s introduction of the job retention scheme and like most businesses within our industry we made the difficult decision to furlough many of our colleagues in order to protect and preserve the future of the group.
“Our priority is, and will remain, to focus our efforts on supporting our 10,000 plus colleagues who are either furloughed or homeworking to help them navigate this difficult time.”