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A Zizzi restaurant near Bristol was closed after police investigated reports of staff being allegedly ordered to come into work while awaiting coronavirus test results.
One staff member was also purportedly warned, incorrectly, that they would not receive statutory sick pay of £92 a week if they stayed home after they expressed anxiety over working due to the suspected cases.
The Italian chain restaurant in Clifton village reopened on Monday after deep cleaning following its closure on Thursday afternoon, after staff had raised the alarm to police.
A sign on the door over the weekend said: “Due to a technical issue we are now closed. We do apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
Avon and Somerset police said: “We received a call on Thursday 29 October amid reports of two members of staff at Zizzi’s restaurant in Clifton failing to self-isolate the previous day. Two officers from our Covid team attended and the premises was shut.
“We have made Public Health England and the local authority’s environmental health team aware.” There was no suggestion of any contraventions of Covid guidelines at other Zizzi branches across the UK.
A source familiar with the matter told the Guardian: “A manager told staff to go to work while awaiting test results. One staff member was also told if they didn’t go to work they wouldn’t receive statutory sick pay. One asymptomatic staff member received a positive test result text while they were at work and didn’t go home.”
They said a member of kitchen staff had also been at work exhibiting symptoms of a fever, without being sent him home. Another asymptomatic person continued to work after their partner had tested positive.
The source said the events raised serious questions over the Zizzi branch’s treatment of staff and its apparent lack of consideration about customer wellbeing.
The managing director, Harry Heeley, said in a company update video on Friday: “It is key to remember that our focus as a team and as a business remains to protect the Zizzi team and business through these challenging and difficult times.”
He added: “We must not forget that the majority of our sites are performing comparatively well, demonstrating that where people are able to visit us they still love our brands and our teams, and will keep coming back.”
The Azzurri Group, owner of Zizzi, Ask Italian and Coco di Mama, was taken over by the US investment firm TowerBrook Capital Partners from the UK private-equity firm Bridgepoint in July.
Across the group, 75 restaurants were subsequently closed after cost-cutting, with 1,200 jobs lost.
A spokesperson for Zizzi said: “We have clear Covid measures in place to protect the wellbeing of our customers and our teams, however on this occasion our strict protocols have not been adhered to.
“As soon as we discovered this, we acted decisively to voluntarily close the restaurant, with all team members self-isolating, and there is an ongoing internal investigation into the mistakes that were made.”
Zizzi has not been asked to provide customer details from NHS test and trace or public health to help trace people who visited the restaurant last week. This may be because it has not been identified as the location of a potential Covid outbreak.
Bristol city council was contacted for comment.
Source: The Guardian
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