Wilko’s decision to cut sick pay for distribution and retail workers has sparked a “massive public backlash” according to the GMB union, which also warns strike action could follow.

The home and garden retailer said its high sickness absence levels were a concern and it wanted to take steps to bring its sick pay policy into line with industry standards.

It said the move was not related to the Covid-19 outbreak.

However, the GMB said the plans were ill-thought-out and employees were horrified.

Gary Carter, GMB national officer, said: “There has been massive public backlash over Wilko’s plan to slash sick pay for tens of thousands of workers – the company needs to listen.

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“On social media there is talk of store boycotts and Wilko is now facing potential strike action by GMB members in distribution centres and stores.

“Wilko needs to recognise the public and their employees are horrified by these plans to cut sick pay - especially with the threat of coronavirus.

“At a time when other employers and government are extending sick pay, Wilko cutting back is out of step and socially irresponsible.”

Carter added: “GMB is calling on Wilko to do the right thing by their employees and customers and withdraw the cuts to sick pay.”