Greggs will pay staff who need to self-isolate over coronavirus

Greggs said it is prepared for the impact of coronavirus. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Bakery chain Greggs (GRG.L) will pay any of its staff who have to self-isolate because of coronavirus, chief executive Roger Whiteside has said.

“Our default position is that we pay contract hours. We don't have any zero contract hours,” Whiteside told the BBC.

He also said the policy could be reviewed if coronavirus became a “big problem.”

The policy stands out against that of some other UK firms which have said they will only pay sick pay.

Last week Wetherspoons, one of the UK's biggest employers, said any employee required to self-quarantine to prevent the spread of coronavirus would be subject to regular statutory sick pay rules.

Under statutory sick pay rules, an employee is not paid for the first three days of absence, and then only if they earn at least £118 ($150) a week. Statutory sick pay is worth £94.25 per week.

Read more: Hand sanitiser sales soar 255% as UK coronavirus fears grow

The comments come as Greggs profits soared 27.2% to £114.2m. The figures are pre-tax and exclude exceptional items. The company posted a 13.5% rise in sales to £1.17bn in 2019.

The popularity of its new vegan range drove the baker’s success, but the firm saw a notable slowdown in February as storms Ciara and Dennis kept customers from the high street.

Whiteside told shareholders: “We made a very strong start to 2020 in January, but in February saw a significant slowdown in sales growth as a result of the storms that have affected the UK.

There is some uncertainty in the outlook, particularly given the potential impact of Coronavirus.”

Although the bakery chain is likely to suffer if customers start avoiding the high street, Whiteside said the chain is ready for the impact of coronavirus.

“We handle food all the time and have very strict hand washing procedures and have hand washing facilities in all our shops,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.

“It is deeply ingrained in our DNA to do what seems to be the main advice around coronavirus, so we have reinforced that and asked people to be sensible.”