UK postal workers win landmark legal victory over changes to their pay schedule

The Post Office subjected its employees to the unlawful deduction of wages, a tribunal found.

Postal workers in the UK have won a landmark legal victory after an employment tribunal ruled that changes to their pay schedule could not be imposed without their explicit consent.

In a case that is expected to have implications elsewhere, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) took the Post Office to tribunal on behalf of Philip Gower and Julie Donnelly after announcing in 2016 that it intended to move 1,230 employees onto a new monthly salary schedule. It had traditionally paid them on a weekly basis.

Although Gower and Donnelly said they had emphatically rejected the move before it came into effect, the Post Office claimed they had accepted it as both continued to attend work and receive pay. It added that they had implicitly agreed to the change as they had failed to make it clear they were “working under protest” and had accepted loans from their employer.

But the tribunal rejected the argument and ruled that, by not paying its staff members each week, the Post Office had subjected them to an unlawful deduction of wages. It also found that Gower and Donnelly were entitled to be paid every week, and that for every Friday they were not paid, the Post Office was in breach of contract.

The tribunal also ruled that the two defendants were entitled to two weeks’ extra pay on top of their wages as the Post Office had imposed the change without amending their terms and conditions of employment in a valid manner.

After the ruling, CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey said the ruling meant that the Post Office had to obtain agreement from its employees if it wanted to change their contracts. In addition, in order to successfully introduce salary alterations, it would need to compensate those willing to make the shift.

He added that the union was planning to bring other similar claims and urged the Post Office to enter arbitration over the matter, even though it had refused to go to the conciliation service Acas last time.