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Retailer says it is conscious of protecting ‘more vulnerable’ staff amid Covid-19 
Brown Thomas Arnotts approached its older workers following the Covid-19 lockdown to offer them a number of options, including voluntary redundancy, it has emerged. 
Once workers reach 65, the fashion chain offers them the opportunity to stay on until their State retirement age, which can be 66 or 67, depending on the individual. 
A spokesman for the retailer confirmed on Monday that it was offering workers above the normal retirement age a number of voluntary options as the pandemic and its effects look set to continue for the foreseeable future. 
He said that the chain was conscious of protecting the health and wellbeing of staff older than the normal 65/66 retirement age, as they fell within “a more vulnerable category of worker”. 
Brown Thomas Arnotts is in talks with trade union Mandate on general voluntary redundancies that could lead to the loss of 150 full-time jobs. The final number could be more as the company employs both full- and part-time staff. 
Gerry Light, Mandate’s general secretary, confirmed that Brown Thomas Arnotts had approached 25 or 26 union members in the older category to discuss voluntarily ending their employment. 
He said that the company was concerned that employees over the normal retirement age fell into a more vulnerable or at risk group, according to public health advice on Covid-19. 
Mr Light confirmed that the union and company had suspended talks on the issue of the older workers while they negotiated the broader voluntary redundancy deal. 
Mr Light pointed out that any voluntary redundancy deal for older workers could not be less than the terms offered to Brown Thomas Arnotts’s 1,000 staff if the talks with his organisation resulted in an agreement. 
He also explained that Covid-19 guidelines “cannot be used to terminate any contract”, as they were not legally enforceable. 
The union official warned that retailing in the Republic was facing a crisis as a result of Covid-19, which has driven more shoppers online. 
“For the last few months we have been calling on the Government to put together a high-level group to look at how we can support retailing,” he said. 
Mr Light argued that the industry employed 260,000 people and would play a central role in any recovery from the pandemic’s impact on the economy. 
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