Rotherham supermarket accused of illegal business practices and underpaying staff

by | Dec 8, 2023

Image: Sprouts Supermarket

A former employee of a Rotherham town centre supermarket has accused the business of paying her less than the National Minimum Wage, claiming a manager told her “this is the norm here”.

The employee, who wished to be anonymous and will be referred to as Jane, started working at Sprouts Supermarket on Wellgate in August this year as a cashier, when she was 17. 

As well as being paid less than the legal minimum wage, she claims cash shortfalls were taken out of her pay packet, and the stress of the job left her “crying all the time”.

Jane, who is now 18, said: “I was told the salary will be £5 an hour on the day I went in for an interview and that it would increase with time if the managers thought I worked hard enough. It was only my second job so I didn’t know it was illegal.”

It was only after she checked the National Minimum Wage rates that she realised she was being underpaid. 

Anyone under 18 is entitled to be paid £5.28 an hour under the current rates, which increases to £7.49 an hour at age 18, and £10.24 at 23.

Jane turned 18 a week after she joined the business, and brought up the issue of pay with one of the managers then.

She claims she was told her rate would not be increasing, and that “it’s just what everyone here gets”.

Jane claimed a manager told her that her pay would only increase when managers saw that she was “working good”.

Two other cashiers, both women well into their late twenties, were also paid £5 an hour, Jane claimed. 

One, who had been working at Sprouts for a year, told Jane: “Don’t expect them to increase your salary.”

Jane claims she was also told she would be paid partly in cash, with the rest sent to her by bank transfer, to “show the government we pay you”.

If a customer’s transaction didn’t go through, due to a fault in the payment system it would be deducted from cashiers’ salaries, Jane claimed.

The first time, £30 was deducted and Jane asked the manager why her salary was short. After the manager explained “that’s just the way it is”, she was given back £15 of the deduction.

She said: “I asked them to give me the copy of the unauthorised payment receipt but they kept delaying it, asking what I would do with it.”

It was when it happened a second time, this time for £70, Jane decided she’d had enough. 

“I was crying because I was so drained because of it. Because I do check, even though they always say I make mistakes,” she said.

In this instance, the money was not deducted after the customer returned to the store after noticing the payment had not gone through.

But due to the stress and upset of the incident, Jane felt she had no choice but to resign – just seven weeks after starting work at the store. 

On her last day, she confronted a manager about the salary issues. 

She claims she was told: “If you want to get paid the National Minimum Wage this isn’t the place for you.”

The Reveal approached Sprouts Supermarket, and its parent company Goldens Birmingham Ltd, about the allegations.

Manager Althaf Mohammad declined to comment, but said the member of the management team Jane referred to in her allegations had since left the business.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “HMRC will always take action against employers who fail to meet their legal obligations, but it’s really important that people who think they may be being underpaid report it.”

To report an allegation to HMRC visit here.