Celebrity chef Rick Stein is refusing to pay the staff at his restaurants which were closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
He has told his employees they will not receive their wages until the government subsidy scheme to help businesses that have shut down comes through.
This will leave his staff without any money coming in for a month.
In a message on the company’s internal message board, obtained by the Daily Mail, managing director Ian Fitzgerald told employees: “We cannot afford to pay anybody after March 21.
“If we were to do that the company will be gone within a few weeks.
“This is a terrible thing to be telling you, but it is the most responsible thing we can do to save your job.”
Fitzgerald added that as soon as the government cash injection comes through, staff will “‘will receive it immediately.”
He added: “If we can find other funding from our bankers and insurers, we will make payments and these things may happen within weeks.”
It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the closure of all pubs and restaurants in a bid to halt the spread of Covid-19.
The government later confirmed a scheme to pay workers up to 80 per cent of their wages to stop struggling businesses from going under.
However, the cash is unlikely to come through until late April at the earliest.
After the closures were announced, Stein, 73, who started his restaurant empire in Cornwall, posted a message on the company’s Instagram page.
He wrote: “It goes without saying, we are in uncertain times and having to make some of the hardest decisions we’ve ever had to make…
Our attention is now on how we get through this challenging time so we can continue to look after our people and customers for many years to come.”
Stein has four restaurants in the UK, including one in London.
He has since released a statement defending his decision not to pay his workers, insisting the government needs to stump up the cash more quickly.
The statement also insisted that if the company continued to payroll staff up until the subsidy comes through, then they might have to shutter for good.
It explained: “Media and public pressure can really help us persuade the Government agencies to implement the payment policy as quickly as possible, and for Insurance companies to payout against the polices we have purchased to stop this hardship that our staff will have to endure.
Rick and Jill are committed to looking after our staff and suppliers and the best way we can do that is to ensure that we still have a company at the end of this terrible time, that our team keep their jobs – our responsibility is for the longterm.
“To do that we have to use the funds we do have to keep the company alive during what is essentially an unknown period.
“We have committed to pay all our staff ourselves up to the date we closed the sites.
“Although the government has acted swiftly in their commitment to cover 80% of salaries for all staff from then, the portal for applications will not be available until the end of April and monies will follow in the weeks after that.
So although it will be paid, it can’t be right now. We have no further detail from the government.
“If we honour all our staff salaries in the meantime the company may have to close permanently and that won’t benefit anyone.
“There could be hope with our insurers or our bankers that we can fund these salaries in the interim but again they will take time to confirm support.
“We look to the strength and power of the media to keep the pressure on the government agencies to implement the policies as quickly as possible so that we can pay our staff and for the insurance companies to work faster to payout the policies we all purchased to protect our staff and our companies.”