Rodney Sharpe delivered daily and Sunday papers on a 21-mile round in Maidenhead for Midcounties Co-op for over two decades. 64 years old, he suffers from diabetes and walks with a stick. Each round took around 4 ½ hours to complete.
While classed as a ‘worker’ by the co-op, Rodney received no paid holiday or sick pay. He realised that he was earning well below the minimum wage, as little as £3.15 an hour, about £85 a week. Initially reluctant to mention his concerns out of fear of being told to leave, he eventually submitted a complaint to HM Revenue and Customs.
An internal review overseen by an HMRC Treasury low-pay inspector found that Rodney had been underpaid for four years. The co-op admitted to its mistake, awarding Rodney £14,000 in back pay, the largest single payout to a worker for breaching minimum wage rules.
Shortly after this, another delivery worker made a separate complaint to HMRC, saying that he took home as little as 69p an hour on some days. The co-op began looking into 200 other possible cases of illegal low pay.