Compensation for employee who ‘earned 69p per hour’



Newspaper delivery man receives largest ever individual payout; business blames method of calculation for underpayment

Two newspaper delivery men employed by the UK’s largest independent co-operative have been awarded a total of £18,000 after repeatedly receiving less than the minimum wage for their rounds.

Rodney Sharpe, 64, was paid approximately £3.15 an hour for four years. He was awarded £14,000 – the highest single payout for a breach of minimum pay regulations. Roger Lilley, 66, also received more than £4,000 after complaining that he earned just 69p per hour on some days.

Midcounties Co-op, which employed the men in Maidenhead, Berkshire, claimed the underpayment was due to its previous method of calculating payment by the round – which did not take account of how long employees actually took to make their deliveries. It said it had now changed this system.

In 2014, Lilley complained to his employers that after deducting the £57 a week he spent on petrol, insurance and other expenses, he was earning the equivalent of 69p an hour between Monday and Friday for delivering 46 papers, equating to just over 18p per delivery. The 68kg of newspapers he carried made it impossible for him to complete his rounds by 7.30am without using his car. He claimed that the pay and conditions were more appropriate for children “doing short local paper rounds before school.”

Ben Reid, the chief executive of Midcounties Co-op, said: “The issue that Mr Sharpe and Mr Lilley raised with us was as a result of the way we previously structured this function of our retail operation, and pre-dates our move to central payroll and hourly rates for delivery colleagues.”

An HMRC inquiry also ruled that Lilley was working seven days a week, which breached working time regulations. The chain is now asking previous employees to come forward if they suspect they have been underpaid.

The payment to the men comes as a range of employers face pressure for allegedly paying below the minimum wage, with cases centering around deductions or differing methods of calculation which mean that in reality employees have earned less than their advertised rate.

Most notably, seventeen care workers employed on zero hours contracts have launched legal action against contractor Sevacare, claiming they were paid just £3.27 an hour.

The employees, from north London, argue they were effectively working 24 hours a day. In one case, they lived in the home of an elderly woman with severe dementia for seven days at a time, sleeping in the same room as the woman and caring for her through the night. One employee claimed they were not allowed to leave the house all week and were not paid for travelling between clients.

Sevacare denies the claims, and the case continues.

The national living wage, which currently stands at £7.20 per hour, could cost employers in the care sector £2.3bn per year, People Management recently reported. The Resolution Foundation said greater government funding would be required in the sector, or organisations will be forced to cut jobs or hours.

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