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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: Boots’ move to slash Sunday pay unlawful, rules tribunal


A move by Boots to slash workers’ Sunday pay has been ruled unlawful by an employment tribunal and could see it having to pay out thousands of pounds in compensation.

The retailer cut its Sunday pay rate for employees that were taken on before October 2000 from double time to time-and-a-half last June.
The aim was to bring the Sunday wages of its longest-serving staff members in line with those starting between October 2000 and May 2009. New employees hired after that date are now paid a single hourly rate.
But employees claimed that the action breached the terms of their contracts and was an unlawful deduction of wages without their permission.
Boots argued, on the other hand, that its decision to pay premium rates was “purely discretionary” and that it was entitled to make the contractual amendment if it so chose.
But the tribunal upheld the workers’ claim after a three day hearing in Nottingham, where the retailer is based. The ruling means that it could now be liable for either compensation or a backdated bill that could run into many thousands of pounds.
Three test cases were brought against Boots by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association and Patricia Onuorah, who worked for Boots and represented herself.
John Murphy, the PDA’s general secretary, told the Nottingham Post: “We are delighted that the persistence of our members with support from the union has been vindicated. Boots will need to re-appraise not only its policy of eroding staff’s fundamental contractual rights, but also the way it deals with similar issues in future.”
Boots said that it was disappointed by the ruling, but did not confirm whether it intended to appeal. However, a spokesperson added that a review “to modernise” premium pay rates and reward packages in April 2011 had previously been accepted by 99.4% of the staff affected.
“This review was in line with the marketplace and included both a reduction in certain premium payments from double-time to time-and-a-half as well as a company-wide increase in base pay. We have also included a new bonus for store colleagues who offer exemplary customer care,” the spokesperson added.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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