Next is removing the premium payment scheme for its employees who work on Sundays.
The fashion and homeware retailer, which employs 52,000 workers, paid staff who joined the organisation before November 2001 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for working on a Sunday, while staff who joined between November 2001 and June 2006 were paid at 1.25 times their hourly rate, and those who joined between June 2006 and September 2008 were given their hourly rate plus 10%.
Only employees who started working at Next prior to 2008 were paid the Sunday premium rates.
A spokesperson from Next said: “The rationale for making a change is that Next feels it can no longer justify paying some people up to 50% more than colleagues doing the same work on the same day.
“Next’s proposal to drop the Sunday premium was communicated to relevant staff in February and the proposal has been accepted by 99% of them.
“Less than 10% (800) of all the staff working on a Sunday received a premium, and of these 800 people, only 167 of them got the maximum premium of time and a half because they joined before November 2001.
“Of these 167 people who are the most financially impacted by the change, 90% have accepted the new contract and agreed to the proposed removal of the Sunday premium, nine have decided to take redundancy and the remainder [less than 10 people] are currently undecided either way.
”Also, from this grouping of 167 people most impacted, those who have accepted the new contractual terms have been offered a one-off compensation payment by Next of one-third of the Sunday premium they earned in the past twelve months.
“The key reason behind streamlining pay at Next for working on a Sunday is fairness between colleagues.”
Melanie Stancliffe, partner at law firm Thomas Eggar, added: “Cutting the premium to employees for Sunday working was always going to be polemic.
There’s nothing to prevent an employer offering new terms, whether the contract allows it or not, nor seeking greater pay equality between new hires and those already working in the business. The latter is particularly laudable.
“Big brands will inevitably face allegations that family life is disrespected or religious values discriminated against. That may have its own consequences on its recruitment, retention and consumer allegiance.
“That’s the bad news and one does not know the efforts made to consult staff and resolve the dispute privately. Next must have balanced the cost of the hiatus and short-term impact on its reputation. As the market gets squeezed, time will tell if [it has] cashed in.”