Asda attacked as 'Scrooge'

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Labour Editor

Asda stores chief Archie Norman was branded a "Scrooge" yesterday after withdrawing Christmas bonuses from women who have taken maternity leave.

As part of a crackdown on absenteeism, management is reducing or withdrawing the festive pay-out to anyone who has taken time off within the last six months.

The company has made no exception for pregnant women and could now be taken to court for sex discrimination by the GMB general union. The fact that fathers who have taken paternity leave could also lose their bonus, will prove no defence to any lawsuit, employees' representatives argue.

Donna Covey, national officer for the GMB general union at the stores group, predicted that the company would tomorrow report a 20 per cent increase in half-yearly profits and said it was the worst case of "penny- pinching" she had seen.

Management grants a pounds 20 Asda voucher to staff who work more than 15 hours a week and pounds 10 to those who work less than 15 hours. Employees will not be paid the bonus if they have an absence rate within the last six months of 3.4 per cent - approximately four days on a 37.5 hour shift. Those with an absence rate between 0.1 and 3.3 per cent will lose half the payment.

Ms Covey said: "Asda are hugely profitable and can easily afford to give all their staff the pounds 20 vouchers.