Disability Rights Commission condemns ‘voucher payments’

A woman with learning difficulties who was paid in gift vouchers
for five years by a major high street newsagent could have a claim
for back pay, according to the Disability Rights Commission.

Karen Godfrey, 45, who worked at WH Smith in Monmouth, was told
just before Christmas, that she would no longer be able to work at
the store because she was not covered by the staff insurance

She begun working at the branch as part of a paid work placement
organised by Mencap in 1996. When the scheme came to an end in
1997, she was offered gift vouchers in return for working four
hours a week stacking shelves and cleaning lights. She has been
paid in gift vouchers for the past five years.

Labour MP for Monmouth Huw Edwards took up her case and condemned
the company’s actions in an Early Day Motion in the House of
Commons. He also wrote to the Disability Rights Commission
complaining that Godfrey had been discriminated against.

Following the MP’s intervention, WH Smith have offered Godfrey her
job back with full pay and conditions. They said in a statement
that the termination of her employment was the result of a

A spokesperson for the Disability Rights Commission told
Community Care that the case was the worst of its type
that the commission had ever come across. She said that the
commission had offered to take up Godfrey’s case if she wanted them

“We believe that she has a case here even if she does decide to
work for the company again in the future and that she could take
action to recover the pay that she should have received in the
past,” she said.

Mencap said WH Smith had offered to pay Godfrey vouchers instead of
a wage when the store needed to make redundancies.

Liz Neal, Mencap’s director for Wales, said that the charity did
not condone this sort of payment and had offered to find Godfrey
alternative employment, but she had wanted to stay in a job she

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