This was how she found out she’d lost her job of one and a half years. The shop assistant from southeast London was devastated. “I loved my job so much and I really saw myself growing there long-term,” she tells VICE. “While there always seemed to be a constant cycle of gossip on which retail stores would be next to go into administration, Arcadia was such a huge business that I was certain they’d never collapse.”
Ava wasn’t the only one finding out that she was newly unemployed. The tweet was met with over 1,000 messages of shocked retail staff realising they were losing their jobs as Arcadia Group went into administration. Its subsequent ASOS acquisition did not include retail workers and its new owners did not bear the responsibility of communicating with those staff members. Ava says that Arcadia Group only released a statement after the tweet to say that the business was moving online-only, and that she and many of her colleagues were being made redundant.
“I am still absolutely speechless about how the whole situation was handled,” she says. “Still to this day, I ended up finding out the majority of information through Twitter. It was so upsetting the fact that ASOS couldn’t have waited a few hours for many of us to be told [by Arcadia Group] first.”
Eniye, 25, from Bedfordshire knows all too well the heartache of discovering redundancy via social media post. She had relocated for a role as an assistant trade marketing manager at a beauty brand in December 2019, and was unaware that her company was making cuts until she came across an Instagram post.
“I’d seen a comment from an ex-colleague commenting on an Instagram post from someone else we worked with to say how sorry they were to hear about the redundancies, which up until that point I was unaware of,” she says. “There were a few people including myself that had been furloughed and from March 2020 to September 2020, I was constantly chasing for updates to no avail.” She was let go just a few months later.
Both Ava and Eniye say their mental health has suffered as a result of their shock unemployment. As Ava had only been working for Topshop for under two years, she wasn’t even eligible for redundancy pay.
“My anxiety and stress levels are through the roof each and every day and I now worry about whether I’ll find another job and what I’ll do for money, even though my parents have been so helpful to help me financially at the minute,” she says. “There are people in far worse positions with kids to feed and rent to pay and I really feel for them.”
Rachel, 21, an Irish ex-Arcadia Group employee, was lucky enough to qualify for a payout as she had worked for the company for three years, but she still worries about being able to support herself: “I’m a student who has worked two to three part-time jobs since the age of 16 in order to support myself and my uni fees, now it’s all gone in the flash of an eye and I’m not even sure If I’ll be able to afford to progress on my uni course.”
Like Ava, she worked in a Topshop store as a sales assistant. “There was constant confusion over the last few months, even on our last day in-store before the latest lockdown. Our store was running really low on stock and we were told to clear our lockers out, which was strange as we’d assumed we’d be back after lockdown.”
Even though she is eligible for redundancy money, she says that it isn’t a cure-all. “It’s extremely complicated to understand how to claim it even if you are eligible.”
“The sheer lack of communication was just so unfortunate. I have lost an income and so much more in this pandemic. Finding out through social media that you’ve lost your job, among all of the upset and anxiety is a huge kick in the teeth.”
Both ASOS and Arcadia Group administrators Deloitte declined to comment.
Eniye, meanwhile, has struggled with depression and feelings of shame around being the only one on her team to lose her job. “It felt so embarrassing to know that I’d found out the fate of my job online with that information being aired out to the public,” she says. “I felt as if I hadn't been good enough or valued in my role.”
“Up to this point, it still hasn’t been made clear to me why I was made redundant and the cherry on the cake for me had to be finding out once again through social media that the company was hiring for new positions, not long after I’d been let go.” She is thankful, however, to her partner for being able to support them both during the pandemic and has looked to other avenues of income, including creating a self-care period box called Blob Box.
As we approach the first anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown, we’ll think back to all that has changed within the past year. The death toll of over 100,000 and the constant worry of job losses will loom large in people’s minds. Many will have turned to their social media timelines for some light-hearted distraction – but for people like Ava, Eniye and Rachel, that necessary escape became a redundancy nightmare.