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Sunday, July 14, 2024

New Man United Owner Tells Entire Staff They Can Resign Rather Than Work Remotely

  • Workers were told they have one week to choose between resigning and returning to the office.
  • Employees who resign will receive their annual bonuses early.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Ratcliffe is so strongly opposed to remote work that the Manchester United minority owner is tearing up club boxes at Old Trafford to turn them into office spaces. It’s part of a new plan requiring the club’s entire staff to return to the office or resign, picking up their annual bonus on the way out the door.

“To ensure we have enough space for colleagues to work safely, we will convert the Trinity Club, the Knights Lounge and the 1999 Suite in East Stand into office space,” read a Friday email to staff obtained by The Guardian.

Workers got another email from the club on Tuesday about the decision to stay or go, with a deadline to make a choice by next Wednesday. Remote work will end starting at all locations on June 1. Teams will be based in London, Manchester, and training grounds in Carrington, with some even working in the offices of Ratcliffe’s multibillion-dollar chemical company Ineos.

Ratcliffe criticized work-from-home policies earlier this month, telling his United employees during an all-staff meeting that email traffic at one of his companies dropped 20% when it tried remote Fridays, according to The Guardian. A week before, he toured club facilities including offices and dressing rooms, and told staff over email that he was “struck in many places by a high degree of untidiness,” also reported by The Guardian.

The workforce reduction is part of a move to cut costs after Ratcliffe’s Ineos hired a consulting firm last month, according to The Athletic. The club employs around 1,000 people, and it’s “understood” that the offer is also extended to those already coming into the office, The Guardian writes. Some staffers found Ratcliffe’s hasty changes “bemusing,” especially given the lack of office space, as evidenced by the move to replace suites with offices. Some employees at the club don’t live near either London or Manchester, while others signed contracts that don’t require coming to the office.

A United spokesperson told The Guardian the RTO policy isn’t part of a voluntary layoff or buyout program. “The club recognises that not everyone wants to work from the office full-time so has provided options for staff who don’t wish to return to the office to step away now,” the spokesperson said.

Ratcliffe, whose 25% stake in the club was officially approved in February, is in the midst of leading a postmortem after a historically poor season for the club, which will decide the fate of manager Erik ten Hag. The team finished eighth in the Premier League table, its worst finish in the Premier League era and lowest in any season since 1990, when it came in 13th—although it found some solace in winning the FA Cup on Saturday.

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