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High street chain Wilko to cut sick pay for employees amid coronavirus outbreak

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As the coronavirus outbreak continues to sweep through the country, high street chain Wilko have confirmed they are to scrap sick pay for their employees after their first absence – with the firm claiming that the decision has been made in a bid to stop workers from “taking advantage” of their policy on sick pay.

Wilko, who employ over 20,000 staff members in over 400 stores across the UK, have written a letter to all employees telling them that from the 1st April this year they will only be entitled to one paid period of sick leave per year, according to Mirror Money.

The move comes despite growing fears over the increasing spread of Coronavirus, and just days after the Government announced plans to give self-isolating workers sick pay from their first day off and admitting that up to a fifth of all workers across the country could be forced to take time off sick.

Understandably then, Wilko’s new policy is worrying staff. With the fear of a coronavirus pandemic escalating, as well as employees who need time off to care for children or those with chronic illnesses, Wilko’s impending change to their sick pay policy has encountered criticism.

One employee told the Mirror:

“It’s really worrying knowing you may not get paid. Many workers who have young children and elderly family are especially worried because they can’t afford it. It also means working when you are unwell – and possibly spreading illnesses to workmates.

“It just seems ridiculous to announce this news, when virtually every wall has a notice telling you to self isolate if you have any signs of coronavirus.

“Employees are frustrated and angry with the announcement, especially the timing of it. It feels like anything they can do to save money is being done, Even if it means putting our health at risk.”

Meanwhile in an email to members, the GMB union also criticised the move, calling it “disgraceful” and saying there was “no good reason for the change” other than “saving money“.

GMB also slammed Wilko for the timing of the change, stating:

“It is irresponsible of management to have sick team members at work, spreading colds coughs and viruses to other employees and customers, especially with the threat of coronavirus.”

Wilko – formally known as Wilkinson – had a turnover of £1.6bn last year, but suggested their new sick pay policy was not directly related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Wilko claim the change is “to bring it in line with other businesses”, and, apparently in regards to coronavirus, they would “do the right thing in exceptional circumstances”.

In a statement seen by Mirror Money, Wilko defended the move, claiming:

“We’ve been in talks with our team members and their elected representatives since January regarding routine changes to our company sick pay to bring it in line with other businesses,”

“We’re committed to finding a way forward that provides care for those who need it most, and prevents the minority taking advantage of our policy, company sick pay will remain for any team members who are seriously ill.”

“We’re removing company sick pay from the 2nd absence, and any subsequent absences, within a 12 month rolling period. Therefore, most team members will continue to be eligible for company sick pay and everyone will be entitled to receive statutory sick pay. “

“We’ve offered numerous alternatives and different ways of working to find a solution that is simple and fair for everyone and more importantly, we’ll continue to make sure that team members who are seriously ill, have the support they need and as a responsible business we’ll always do the right thing in exceptional circumstances,”

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