Pret workers short-changed as ‘payroll error’ delays jubilee wages

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Pret a Manger workers are being left short-changed for the jubilee bank holiday after the coffee shop chain said it was delaying their pay until Monday.

A spokesperson for the chain said: “Unfortunately, due to a payroll error, our team members will receive their weekly pay on Monday rather than Thursday this week.

“We’re incredibly sorry this has happened and we’ve offered financial support to any team member who needs it at this time.”

Pret said it would reimburse workers for any costs that may arise from the late payment, promising that “no one will be out of pocket as a result of this issue”.

The company told staff that if they were in need they could contact a helpline to get an advance paid directly into their bank account instantly or apply for salary finance on up to half their pay online on Saturday at the earliest. The online service involves a fee of £1.49 but Pret has pledged to cover that.

Ian Hodson, the president of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, said the late payment was “appalling” and an “irresponsible decision”.

“Whilst Pret suggest this is an IT error there is absolutely no excuse for workers, most who live from one payday to the next, to be left without any wages.

“Is it coincidental that whilst these workers will see footfall increase massively over the next few days their bosses will be enjoying the bank holiday weekend, not having to worry about buying food or paying rent which will unfortunately not be the same for those whose labour is required to maintain the cosy lifestyle of their employers?”

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The error comes after a tricky year for Pret’s workers, who have won two pay rises in recent months after threatening to go on strike when the company said it planned to end pay for break times. That change would have meant someone on an eight-hour shift, including a legally required half-hour break, would receive a pay cut of just over 6% a shift compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Pret initially also planned to permanently halve weekly mystery shopper bonuses to 50p an hour but relented after the Guardian revealed the move, prompting a public outcry.

The chain, which has about 550 outlets around the world, recently said its sales were recovering strongly and had almost returned to pre-pandemic levels.

However, coffee shops have faced hefty cost rises as the price of raw ingredients including coffee beans and milk has soared at the same time as energy prices and labour costs.

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In the group’s accounts, which were signed off in February, Pret’s directors warned there were still “material uncertainties which may cast significant doubt over the group’s ability to continue as a going concern”.

In January the group doubled its “standby facility” reserved to support the business in case of difficulty to £200m, up from the £100m set aside in March last year.

The latest cash call on shareholders came on top of £100m pumped into the business in the autumn and £185m in 2020 when the company first warned of “material uncertainties” as sales were crushed by the pandemic.

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