Royal Mail wrong to dock workers’ pay

An employment tribunal has ruled that Royal Mail must reimburse pay it docked from postal workers last August after wrongly penalising them for carrying out unlawful industrial action by working slowly.

The ruling, made by the Croydon Tribunal Office at the beginning of September, means Royal Mail must pay 27 workers at its Streatham delivery office up to £170 each in return for pay that it refused to give them last year.

The postal workers, who were represented by the Communication Workers Union, made a claim against their employer after they had been docked up to two days’ pay shortly after taking part in a union campaign called “Do the job properly”.

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As part of the campaign, postal workers were encouraged to attend work on time rather than coming in early, take proper meal breaks, and not to carry heavy bags or use private cars to deliver mail. The subsequent build-up of mail prompted Royal Mail to punish staff by docking their pay, accusing them of being on a “go slow”.

Kathleen Healy, a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, said that under the Employment Rights Act, employers could deduct pay only if they had received clear consent from the employee to do so or if there had been an accidental overpayment of salary.

“You always have to check that you know what your contractual rights are when you are thinking about deducting pay and you also have to think about the right of employees not to be discriminated against on the grounds of trade union membership. It can have a negative publicity impact if you get it wrong,” she said.