Wilko is making changes to employee sick pay - but GMB union says it's unfair

Monday, 25th January 2021, 2:08 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 12:38 pm
Retail chain Wilko is making changes to employee sick pay rules (Photo: Shutterstock)

Retail chain Wilko is making changes to employee sick pay rules in order to bring them “more into line with other retailers,” something which general trade union GMB has disagreed with.

Wilko is making changes to its standard policy meaning, but the company has said these changes are not related to, and will not affect, Covid sick pay.

The retailer has said it will “continue to support those team members most in need including anyone quarantining or absent with a case of coronavirus, anyone with long-term sickness and the extremely vulnerable.”

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Why is Wilko making changes to its sick pay policy?

Wilko said that, early last year, it considered “some necessary changes" to its policy "designed to bring us more into line with other retailers.”

However, it's claimed these changes were put on hold in order to support team members while the company concentrated on keeping stores open as an essential retailer during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wilko CEO, Jerome Saint-Marc, said that after “unsuccessfully” working with its union, GMB, to try to reduce staff absence, the firm is now changing its policy "to reduce abuse of it by some team members.”

He continued: “We support team members who are: vulnerable, on coronavirus quarantine, or who have serious medical challenges. On top of that we pay full pay for a period of sickness absence for any team member in any year.”

However, “going forwards second sickness absences in a year will be covered by statutory sick pay,” Mr Saint-Marc added.

“This still protects our team members and the change protects customer service and the financial health of our business.”

Wilko will continue to pay company sick pay for the first period of absence in 12 months.

Why isn’t GMB in agreement?

Wilko has said it has “been working in collaboration with the GMB to try and tackle non-coronavirus absence.”

However, GMB does not agree with the changes to sick pay Wilko has put forward, and has said it has informed the retail chain that, if these measures go ahead, it "will face a ballot for industrial action.”

The changes mean that “if a Wilko employee has a single day of sickness they will have no further entitlement to company sick pay for the next 12 months,” GMB said.

Although Wilko has said absences after this will be covered by statutory sick pay, GMB believes that “many of these workers are on minimum wage, low hours and also have no entitlement to statutory sick pay.”

'Wilko should be rewarding employees'

GMB also argues Wilko should not be making these changes to its sick pay after employees have worked so hard during the Covid pandemic.

Roger Jenkins, GMB National Officer, said: “Loyal Wilko workers have grafted throughout this pandemic - putting themselves and their families at risk to keep stores open.

“Along with other retail workers, they’ve had to deal with a lack of social distancing, increased threats and abuse from customers.

"Wilko should be rewarding their commitment - but instead they’ve threatened to slash their sickness benefit. “

However, Wilko said it is offering something a lot of other retailers currently aren’t, and that many of its employees will see little or no change to their sick pay.

A Wilko spokesperson said: “To show we care, we think it’s important we continue to support our team members with full pay the first time they’re off in any year, statutory sick pay then applies. Sadly, this isn’t something available in other businesses and whilst this represents a change to the current policy, it is better than most in retail.

“Most of our team members will see little or no change to the protection we provide as most don’t take time off work sick – which we are grateful for and we’ll continue to support team members through Coronavirus and look after the seriously ill as we have done throughout the entire crisis.”