A chain of care homes is refusing to pay its staff overtime this Christmas – claiming that it would discriminate against other religions.
The firm said it had an ‘ethical belief in equality’ which means it cannot favour Christmas over ‘other religious festivals’.
Staff were told that it would only pay bonuses for bank holidays, which rules out Christmas Day and Boxing Day this year because they fall at the weekend.
Scores of care workers who provide 24-hour care for the elderly were told of the pay arrangements during recent meetings with Guinness Care and Support.
One member of staff said: ‘We have learned that senior head office management have decided that all staff who work on Christmas Day and Boxing Day will be paid standard, flat-rate wages with no bonuses whatsoever.
‘The management themselves are on two weeks’ annual leave. It has come as a shock and left us all stunned.
Guinness Care and Support said it had an ‘ethical belief in equality’ which means it cannot favour Christmas over ‘other religious festivals’
‘Due to the nature of the work we expect to work festive times and give up our own time with our families knowing we are giving time, care and support to those who are
unfortunate enough to need to live in care homes.
‘But for the management to deem that we do not deserve some sort of bonus, like the majority of other employees at this time of year, is not a reflection of their mantra of care and support in the community. It obviously excludes their own staff.’
Mick Green, senior human resources manager for Guinness Care and Support, said that it was company policy not to pay extra to staff working at Christmas.
He said: ‘We would like to make our position on pay clear. We have a strong ethical belief in equality and diversity and are unable to recognise one religious festival over others.
‘Our policy is not to pay extra when staff work during a religious festival.
‘We would like to stress that many of our office-based staff will also be working over the Christmas period in order to support staff in our homes during this busy time.’
Mr Green said there was a statutory responsibility to recognise bank holidays, and people working on Monday, December 27 and Tuesday, December 28, would receive extra pay
as outlined in their contracts.
Guinness Care and Support runs more than 20 residential homes across Devon looking after hundreds of elderly men and women.
Exeter Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said that he would be contacting Guinness Care and Support for a more comprehensive explanation of the company’s position.
He said: ‘I am surprised at their stance. We are still an overwhelmingly Christian society and Christmas is a religious festival and a public holiday.
‘Other religious festivals are not public holidays and I do not think Guinness is comparing like with like.’
Hugo Swire, Conservative MP for East Devon, added: ‘I can give you my reaction in one word – bonkers.’
Sarah Austin, an employment expert at Foot Anstey solicitors, in Exeter, said: ‘Unless there is a contractual provision to the contrary, employers aren’t actually obliged
to pay more than the standard rate of pay to employees who work on Christmas Day or Boxing Day.