Asda employees are having to skip household bill payments, take out loans, and even use food banks to get through the month due to regular payroll errors that have seen some underpaid by £500 or more.
The scale of the problem emerged after the private equity-backed company admitted to members of the Scottish parliament that its external payroll firm had made nearly 11,000 errors in recent months, affecting the wages of 5,500 staff.
In Scotland, local press reports have highlighted the issue, including a recent one in the Falkirk Herald that claimed staff working in the town’s superstore were using food banks and payday lenders because of inaccuracies in their pay.
Supermarket staff told the GMB union they were getting increasingly desperate as monthly payments could be short by anything from under £100 to over £500. Others reported that overpayments, clawed back the following month, had resulted in their benefits being cut.
The errors had left staff “dreading” rather than looking forward to payday, telling the union they were skipping meals, visiting food banks and taking out loans when their wages were short. Others had had to miss bill payments, with the resulting black marks affecting their credit score.
“Paying staff for the work they do is an utterly basic responsibility of employers,” said Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, of the company which was bought by petrol station billionaires Mohsin and Zuber Issa and TDR Capital last year.
“Asda knows it is a massive issue, but sadly isn’t doing enough to put this right – they refuse to invest the money needed in the payroll operation to sort this out.
“The stories we have heard from our members are heartbreaking,” added Houghton. “During a cost-of-living crisis, low-paid workers must be able to rely on a level of decency from their employer that ensures they are paid for the work they do.”
One depot worker, who declined to be named, said that over the last six months their pay had been wrong on multiple occasions, including a shortfall of more than £500. “I have struggled and had to use food banks and food pantries to be able to feed myself and my daughter,” they said. “To be working for a living but using food banks and charities to eat, clothe and get through life is absolutely humiliating.”
Another employee, based in a store in Greater Manchester, said the pay errors led to their benefits being cut, because when the shortfall was made up the following month it looked as if they were earning more. “I have to borrow money just to pay my rent and feed my children,” they said. “I wouldn’t have to do that if my pay was right.”
The number of employees affected by payroll issues was outlined in the company’s written response to several MSPs who raised the issue with them. In its response, Asda said its payroll provider, SD Worx, had made 10,806 errors, affecting 5,529 staff.
An Asda spokesperson said: “It is imperative that our colleagues are paid correctly and on time and we are sorry this has not been the case for some of them.
“As soon as we were aware of this issue, we took action to ensure that nobody was left out of pocket. We are working closely with our payroll partner and have provided additional support to stores to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”
July 15, 2022 at 10:51AM Zoe Wood