Store manager

Aldi store manager receives £26,000 payout after being ‘forced out of job’

An Aldi store manager who presided over the launch of the new Norris Green branch has been awarded £26,000 after being forced out of his job.

An employment tribunal has heard Barry Williams ‘loves his job’ and was once so well regarded he was recruited to help turn around the discount retail giant’s underperforming stores.

He was also brought in to open new stores, and in June 2015 he opened Aldi’s new store on Lorenzo Drive, Norris Green, which had an on-site training academy.

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However, the court heard that Mr Williams only remained “well regarded” by his employers until around 2018 when his stores’ performance plummeted.

Mr Williams finally quit without notice on February 26, 2019, after 10 years at Aldi, as he became embroiled in a disciplinary investigation.

The court heard Mr Williams was accused of misconduct – but the allegations were ‘exaggerated’ and involved a practice which was ‘largely ignored’ by Aldi bosses if a store was doing well.

Barry Williams, former Aldi store manager in Norris Green

Mr Williams had been accused of hiding price cards, above shelves where product lines were sold out, to conceal the fact that he had not ordered enough stock, which was the kind of practice he ‘Aldi “closed its eyes” if the performance was good.

He had also been accused of changing staff schedules to avoid breaking working time regulations – but the court heard Aldi failed to carry out an objective investigation.

Mr Williams described how he had been under immense pressure and claimed Aldi had used the incidents as an excuse to force him out.

In a written judgment, Labor Judge Dawn Shotter said, “It was [Aldi’s] culture of putting a lot of pressure on managers.

“Unbearable pressure was sometimes exerted by the store manager, who was also under similar pressure, on the store managers.

“All were under enormous pressure to perform well on key performance indicators, particularly productivity, inventory and store availability, which translated into sales.”

Mr Williams was confronted by his regional manager, Peter Seddon, in October 2018 and after initially denying the charge he eventually admitted he ‘didn’t feel safe in his job’ and had deliberately hidden the cards prices to improve the performance of his store.

Barry Williams, former Aldi store manager in Norris Green
Barry Williams, former Aldi store manager in Norris Green

The court heard Mr Williams promise Mr Seddon he wouldn’t do it again and they agreed ‘that was the end of the matter’.

However, Mr Seddon reneged on that agreement and included the prize card incident in an allegation of misconduct, alongside the charges of altering check-in times.

The court found that Mr Seddon, concluding with fellow senior executive Mathew Lipscombe, was “seeking to take the plaintiff out of the business” because Mr Lipscombe believed he was “one of the worst performers”.

Judge Shotter wrote: “Somehow, whether through performance management or misconduct, the plaintiff’s exit from the business was inevitable.”

The court concluded that the price cards allegation had been grouped together with the working time allegation because neither of them would have been capable on its own of justifying a dismissal.

Judge Shotter wrote: “The Tribunal found on a balance of probabilities that if a store manager was performing well, price card removal was ignored, but if there were performance issues and the store was struggling, removal of store cards would be used along with other allegations of underperformance/misconduct to terminate a store manager or the mechanism by which a confidential compromise agreement would be reached.

“Store Managers are paid well for the pressure they are under, ‘Aldi is not for everyone being such a demanding job’ and if the Store Manager was struggling, Managers employed by First Responder would raise issues ranging from historical non-compliance with performance, absence and sickness levels, stock availability and staff grievances as it had in the claimant’s case.

“If a store manager and the store were acting, the directors turned a blind eye if the store was acting for them.”

Judge Shotter found that Mr Williams’ conduct and underperformance contributed to his exit from the company, but ruled that his conduct only warranted a 20% reduction in the award.

She wrote: “Plaintiff had been employed for 10 years with an excellent employment record until the events leading to his resignation, and he knew that even if his actions were against the rules, Respondent would choose to ignore if it suited him, that is, if the service provider and the store he runs were performing well.

“The Tribunal discussed granting a higher percentage reduction, which it would have done had it not been for the particular circumstances of this case, including the pressure placed on the claimant.

“Respondent has fundamentally breached its implied term of reliance and a 100% discount requested by Respondent is improper and was not fair and equitable in all of the circumstances.”

Mr Williams was awarded a total of £26,180 for unfair dismissal.

An Aldi spokesperson said: “Aldi is an inclusive employer and will not tolerate any form of discrimination.

“We are therefore very disappointed with the court’s decision and will now take the time to carefully consider the decision before deciding whether further action is necessary.”

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