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Thursday31 July 2014

Laid off staff from Jefferson Sheard 'still waiting' for missing pay

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Sheffield-based practice Jefferson Sheard has gone into administration with former staff telling BD they are still owed thousands of pounds in wages and redundancy pay weeks after losing their jobs.

Insolvency specialist P&A Partnership was appointed administrator for Jefferson Sheard Architects (UK) Limited last Wednesday, a month after the firm made around 45 of its 50-strong workforce redundant on July 12.

Now ex-staff have raised fears they will get back just a fraction of what they are owed after it emerged that a new company, Jefferson Sheard Limited, was set up by managing director Tom Jones and fellow directors Mark Fannon and John Hyams at the end of last month.

One ex-employee, who claimed he is owed £3,500, said he had tried repeatedly to find out when he will get his money.

“I would have expected to have it by now,” he said. “It’s been more than a month but I’ve heard nothing. We’ve all taken pay cuts of up to 25% and we’ve seen people made redundant, all in the hope to keep the company going. But when it comes to the crunch we get shafted.”

In a letter sent on July 12, and seen by BD, Jones told staff that their employment was ending with “immediate effect” and added: “Details of any salary and redundancy monies due, together with payment in lieu of notice and holiday entitlement that you may have accrued but not taken, will be sent to you shortly.”

Since then former staff say they have received no further communication from the company – other than to have their P45s sent through the post.

Another former employee, who said he was still owed £2,000, added: “I’ve emailed the directors several times and not heard anything.

“It’s terrible they’ve treated us this way. We’ve done everything we can to save the company and they treat us like this. I suppose the next stage is to try and take them to the small claims court.”

He added: “The workflow just wasn’t there. Nobody was busy. If they had to make redundancies, then fine. But treat people properly.”

Jefferson Sheard was set up in 1958, and as recently as a couple of years ago it employed more than 100 people. As well as its Sheffield base it had offices in Manchester, Peterborough and Edinburgh.

The Manchester and Edinburgh offices are believed to have closed while Peterborough and Sheffield are believed to be being run on a skeleton staff. A fifth office in London, which is listed on the firm’s website as being in Gray’s Inn Road, is understood not to have been staffed for more than a year.

In the absence of any formal explanation, one former staffer said he believed the cancellation of the government’s Building Schools for the Future programme was the main reason for the decision. “I don’t think it was a case of losing jobs they were working on, it was that they lost the chance to bid for new BSF work.”

Staff were first told something was wrong two months ago when Fannon emailed staff asking them to attend a company meeting on June 11.

In his email, also seen by BD, he said the company had incurred “losses during the winter months and this has put further strains on our already overstretched financial position”.

He went on: “We have had a good trading month in May and anticipate having a further good month in June… The problem is we don’t really know if this is the start of an improving trend or whether it is just an upward blip.”

Jones declined to comment.

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Readers' comments (12)

  • Unfortuantely this is not the first firm to do this nor will it be the last. As per usual staff are treated like crap whilst directors take home full salaries and hit the staff for pay cuts, i hope the staff get the monies they are owed and that the directors new practice proves to be very, very unsucessful!

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  • Talk about sharp practice :(
    It's about time that the RIBA stepped in to make it clear that such conduct is unbecoming to directors who call themselves architects.

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  • I completely agree with the previous comment - perhaps the ARB need to determine whether the Code of Conduct has been adhered to appropriately?

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  • It is a shame that the authors of the three earlier comments are unaware of the facts of this matter. Rather than "taking home full salaries", the Directors were not, in fact, paid in July and, moreover, paid the staff salaries for July by making a "loan" to the company knowing that it would be unlikely to be repaid. Judging by the rather vindictive nature of their comments it would appear that the authors would have preferred for everybody to lose their jobs and the practice's clients to be left with unfinished projects. Those employees whose employment has been safeguarded no doubt do not share Paul Carter's rather sour wishes.

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  • I've been through this several times and have full sympathy for the present victims. My advice to employees: as soon as you see the warning signs start looking for another job and don't hang around until the last minute. And don't expect any help from the RIBA as it is powerless and no help to victims of redundancy.

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  • Its strange that the Director 'Tom Rhys Jones' can find time to log on to BD Online and leave comments. Wouldnt it be much better use of his time replying to his former employees emails, rather then ignoring them. As a newly qualified architect, having learnt the RIBA and ARB codes of conducts off by heart, it would seem unbelieveable that they would not step in. Surely you cant just start a different company overnight and make people redundant with no consultations, and not paying their final few months wages.

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  • This comment has been removed by the moderator.

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  • The comment posted as Greg Musi has been removed because the identity and content were considered inaccurate.
    We welcome comments and discussion, but only in accordance with our terms and conditions.

  • Tom the fact that some of your staff have not received their redundancy/salary payment and yet yourself and fellow directors have had time to form a new partnership says it all, i suppose as long as your ok thats the main thing!

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  • It is quite sad to see that Jefferson Sheard have gone into administration.
    I do feel very sorry indeed for the staff concerned but the current market is so hard to gauge at this time. One would have expected JSA to get through these challenging times. Staff are generally protected (and rightly so) from the day to day running of a business and cannot begin to comprehend the responsibilities and financial implications that directors have to deal with on a day to day basis but i totally agree that they should be treated in a fair and honest manner.
    Should JSA be able to continue trading? Yes! Why not?
    I know Tom Rhys Jones and enjoyed a few years at the practice, he has a lot of expertise and experience to offer. I suppose when things start to go wrong you have to look at your team. Some may question certain individuals around him and I suspect that this is more likely to be the source of the problem.

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  • Why is it ok that JSA be able to continue trading by removing their duty to pay staff fair wage / redundancy?! It's a disgusting abuse of an unfair system. Whilst it is fair to note that very few of us are privy to the real situation and detail, the depth of the cuts suggested and speed of transition of assets to 'the new company' indicates this was a formulated plan, with staff kept on by directors knowing this outcome. The company has failed in my eyes; unfortunately the staff have to pay for it whilst the directors can renew seeking profit. I believe the motives to be disrespectful; that this system can exist by law, i find genuinely disgraceful

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