Pets at Home faces customer criticism for calling staff ‘key workers’

27th Mar 2020

Pet store chain Pets at Home is facing criticism after providing its workers with a drafted letter to help its staff apply for emergency school childcare amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The government has said school childcare will be offered to the children of key workers. However, the government has faced criticism that the definition of a ‘key worker’ is not clear enough.

The letter claims that Pets at Home staff qualify as key workers under the “sale of food and other necessary goods including veterinary medicines”. The chain offers an in-store veterinary service, Vets4Pets.

The document, which was signed by the company’s group legal director, also states that those working at its in-store grooming service, The Groom Room, as well as customer service workers and other office support functions, qualify under the criteria.

The emergence of the letter has led to some people saying they will boycott the chain.

Geoff Barton, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The key worker list is extensive and schools will not be able to cope with the number of children who could potentially arrive on Monday morning.”

He continued: “Schools are working to an incredibly tight timescale to turn round this provision and we would ask everybody to show patience and understanding.”

The company has responded by stating that the letter was intended to help its staff and teachers understand the government guidelines, adding that people relied on the pet store’s services to feed and care for their pets.

“There is no question that the NHS workers and others on the front line are the utmost priority,” said a statement from Pets at Home. “We asked colleagues using this letter to also be respectful of the needs of others and the difficult decisions schools are having to take and to only apply for key worker status if absolutely necessary.”

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