Workers on the minimum wage at an Argos warehouse in Essex have been offered an 80p an hour pre-Christmas bonus – but only if they don’t take time off sick. The 80p an hour bonus applies to temporary agency workers employed for Argos by agencies across all its distribution centres.
The workers at the depot were told about the new system in a note which said:
"Agency colleagues will not lose the 80p uplift if they go home due to no work etc, but they will lose it if they go sick or don’t attend for work. If they go sick or don’t attend on one day, they lose their uplift for all of that week, but they then start fresh the next week with another opportunity to earn the uplift.”
An Argos spokesman confirmed the note had been circulated to workers at the Basildon depot and said: “We do not tolerate discrimination and fully comply with the Disability Discrimination Act*.” [*Note: The DDA is now actually enshrined in the Equality Act 2010]
“As we prepare for our peak Christmas trading period it is a business priority to increase our temporary workforce to help meet higher demand and deliver an unbeatable customer experience. Additional resource is at a premium in the run-up to Christmas so to ensure we attract, retain and increase the attendance of our temporary workers, we offer an attendance bonus of 80p per hour, which applies to all agency staff across all of our distribution centres. We take the treatment of all staff – whether directly employed by us or indirectly via a third party agency – extremely seriously.”
Comment: On the face of it one may say this was reasonable. However, employers have to be careful with this approach - anyone with a chronic illness or disability that caused them to take sick days was not paid the extra 80p an hour, could face a legal challenge for indirect disability discrimination since the apparently neutral measure would impact workers with disabilities more than others, who may not be able to help regular absences. Hence employers should always look at the individual circumstances of workers with disabilities to see whether they should get the uplift, to ensure that the reason that they were not getting the payment was not their disability and prevent any challenge to the measure.