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Royal Mail faces wave of employment tribunals over delayed Christmas pay

Scores of temporary sorting office workers claim they are still owed money and dispute calculations in their wages

Royal Mail could be facing a wave of employment tribunal claims from temporary sorting office workers who say they have been subjected to serious delays and miscalculations in their pay packets over Christmas and the new year.

The Guardian has received dozens of complaints from casual workers, some claiming Royal Mail owes them money for hours worked before Christmas. Many dispute the number of hours worked logged by Royal Mail, while others say they have been paid at different hourly rates to those advertised.

The problems stem from failures within Royal Mail’s new in-house recruitment agency, Angard Staffing Solutions, which struggled to cope with the 110,000 applications it received for 18,000 temporary Christmas jobs.

A Royal Mail spokesman admitted there had been payroll problems but claimed the “vast majority” of its temporary workers had been paid correctly and on time.

However, Liam Nam, the administrator of Royal Mail Chat, an internet message board not affiliated with the company, said temporary workers had visited his site in their thousands as frustration grew over the range of issues faced and difficulty in contacting Angard to resolve them.

“I estimate that over 5,000 people have come to the site looking for answers,” said Nam. “A few hundred per month is normal, but not thousands. The site has crashed twice because of the number of people coming on.”

Chris Bailey, a pensioner taken on at the Cambridge mail centre, said he was still awaiting payment for a week he worked in early December.

“As a pensioner with only the state pension, I was relying on this extra money for Christmas expenses and to pay bills, but after six weeks I have still not been paid correctly or even had the problem acknowledged by Angard,” Bailey said. “I had to borrow from my mother to pay my share of the gas and electric bill.”

A Royal Mail spokesman said the company was “very conscious of the need to ensure temporary workers were paid during the Christmas period”.

Some temporary workers were surprised to receive letters telling them they owed money to Royal Mail, a problem it said was related to emergency post office vouchers handed out to some unpaid casual workers in December.

“When it was clear that an individual would not receive payment through the normal method directly into their bank account, we arranged for an emergency payment to be made in the form of a voucher,” said the spokesman.

“The usual value was £350, [which was] in many cases, more than the gross amount of pay due. We carefully explained in a letter that we would be making future deductions for income tax and national insurance against the value of the voucher to reclaim any overpayment.”

Earlier this month Royal Mail set itself an internal deadline – Wednesday 11 January – by which time any outstanding payments to temporary workers ought to have been processed.

“To the best of our knowledge, any outstanding pay – and the vast majority had already been paid before last week – has now been paid. But if anyone has any queries, they should contact the helpline number (0845 460 7318) as we are determined to resolve any queries as quickly as possible,” the spokesman said.

But many temporary workers say they have not resolved their issues with Royal Mail and a growing number are now considering employment tribunal claims, which must be made within three months of a disputed issue taking place.

Philip Landau, an employment lawyer with Landau Zeffertt Weir solicitors, said if it could be proved that Royal Mail had failed to pay wages properly owed to workers, it could be considered an unlawful deduction.

“Any temporary Royal Mail worker who this applies to should initially write to Royal Mail setting out why it is considered an unlawful deduction has occurred and asking for the shortfall to be rectified within a short period. If no satisfactory response is received, a claim can then be made to an employment tribunal,” Landau said.

Case study

Simon Noble, 59, from Gosport, Hampshirem has worked casual shifts for Royal Mail since 2003. After hearing of problems experienced by colleagues at the Portsmouth mail centre this Christmas, he noticed the rates he was being paid were significantly lower than those stated when he applied.

The advertised hourly rates for casuals at Portsmouth were £6.08 for a 6am-10pm shift Monday to Saturday; £7.84 for 10pm-6am Monday to Saturday; £8.18 for 6am-10pm Sunday; and £9.94 for 10pm-6am Sunday.

However, the hourly pay rates he received for these respective shifts were: £6.08, £6.58, £7.58, and £8.58. When he queried them with a line manager, he was told he should have been getting the higher rates.

His letters to Angard asking for an explanation went unanswered but he eventually spoke to a phone operator, who had no answer to his question. “It looked as though I had been given a sort of default pay rate as a guestimate,” he said.

After learning of Noble’s case from the Guardian, Royal Mail investigated and admitted it had made an error.

“He has, in error, been paid for his work at the national Angard rates when he should have been paid at higher local rates,” a spokesman admitted. “We are making adjustments to the pay he has earned and are fast-tracking to him an additional payment of around £80.

“Royal Mail is grateful to Mr Noble and to all our temporary workers for their hard work in the success of Royal Mail’s Christmas operation. We do not believe his case is at all typical.” © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds