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Waitrose apologise after asking staff to pay back time self-isolating due to coronavirus

Waitrose apologises and announces U-turn over coronavirus pay policy which forced staff who were self isolating to make up the hours they were off work

  • Waitrose was making staff work the hours they used to self-isolate at later date
  • Staff furious they had to ‘pay back’ sick days while John Lewis workers weren’t 
  • Supermarket has now apologised saying they ‘got it wrong’ and changed policy 

Waitrose has been forced to apologise after making staff pay back time taken off work to self-isolate – while furloughed John Lewis workers are given their full salaries.

Supermarket bosses sparked outrage yesterday when one employee claimed workers had to pay back up to two weeks’ sick leave if they or someone in their household had coronavirus symptoms.

Waitrose staff were furious and feared infectious colleagues would come back to work at risk of spreading the virus because they ‘couldn’t afford to be off’. 

They also hit out at bosses for ‘treating the two halves of the company differently’, as John Lewis staff who have been furloughed after 50 stores closed, are being paid 100 per cent of their salaries. 

But the upmarket food retailer has now apologised, admitting bosses ‘got it wrong’ and have promised to change their policy.

Waitrose (Milton Keynes store pictured) sparked outrage yesterday after it emerged bosses were making staff pay back any time spent off self-isolating due to coronavirus

A Waitrose spokesman said in a statement: ‘We are really sorry that we got it wrong. We’ve listened to our Partners and changed our policy.’

Previously the chain claimed it was asking staff to ‘time bank’ their sick days, which meant they would still be paid but have to work off their leave at a later date.

But making a full U-turn, the spokesman added: ‘Partners who are self isolating without symptoms and unable to work from home will no longer be required to ‘time bank’ any of their time. Instead they will be on authorised paid absence from day one.’ 

A whistleblower revealed the news to The National on Sunday, saying: ‘Lots of people who have worked with Waitrose for ages and who are self isolating or shielding family members are now getting phone calls saying they will have to pay time back.

‘It’s just a massive kick in the teeth. Most of the staff are really honest but now they will have to lie and come in to work even if they are not supposed to or pay back between 74 and 78 hours if they are full time and self-isolate for a fortnight.’

Waitrose is owned by the John Lewis Partnership, which was forced to put nearly 1,400 staff on furlough after John Lewis closed 50 stores nationwide. 

Both Waitrose staff and shoppers hit out at the supermarket over the claims yesterday

Both Waitrose staff and shoppers hit out at the supermarket over the claims yesterday 

Some have been drafted in to help at Waitrose, but the whistleblower claimed John Lewis staff were not faced with the same ‘punitive’ payback measures as their Waitrose colleagues.

John Lewis staff who are ‘shielding’ at home will get 100 per cent of their salaries for the 12 weeks they are off work.  

One Waitrose employee wrote on Twitter yesterday: ‘Waitrose, John Lewis were in helping us at Waitrose stores and now they’ve been told they can stay safe at home with 80 per cent of their pay.

‘Whilst us Waitrose staff have to go into work and risk ours and our families lives… how is this far? I thought we were ‘one’ partnership?’ 

A shopper wrote simply: ‘Waitrose treat your staff better,’ while someone else posted: ‘Shame on you clawing back salaries for staff self-isolating.’  

Over the weekend it was announced that all Waitrose employees will receive a £200 bonus for continuing to work throughout the deadly virus outbreak. 

Shoppers are pictured queueing outside a Waitrose store in south London

Shoppers are pictured queueing outside a Waitrose store in south London 

Both in-store and through their home delivery, Waitrose has taken a number of measures to protect staff and customers from COVID-19. 

Last weekend it banned couples from shopping together to increase capacity in stores while still maintaining social distancing. 

Like at many other supermarkets, tape has been laid down on the floor to help shoppers stay 6ft apart from one another and queues are being spaced out evenly. 

Waitrose is not part of any workers’ union, but some employees are represented by UDSAW, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. 

They said in a statement yesterday: ‘Usdaw is working with employers to ensure that our members have the support they need to limit the spread of the virus as much as possible. 

‘Some of the measures we have secured include paid time off for sickness and self-isolation, ensuring that staff are not penalised under any absence policies for time off, access to hand washing facilities, hand sanitiser, clean workplaces and appropriate safety equipment. 

‘We are also expecting employers to take appropriate security measures to keep workers safe. Any Usdaw member with concerns should contact the union for advice.’