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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Bakery worker, 60, sacked after 44 years’ for accepting cash from elderly customers during pandemic

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A woman who worked at a bakery for 44 years has been sacked for allowing elderly customers without cards to pay in cash during the pandemic.

Megan Metcalfe, 60, who was the Store Manager at Birds Bakery chain in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire was sacked for ‘gross misconduct’ after she accepted cash payments – against company policy.

She says she took around £180 of payments in cash and put them through on her own debit card. 

The bakery chain is only taking contactless and card payments during the pandemic for hygiene reasons.

Megan Metcalfe, 60, was sacked from Birds Bakery in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire for accepting cash from elderly customers who did not have a bank card

Megan Metcalfe, 60, was sacked from Birds Bakery in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire for accepting cash from elderly customers who did not have a bank card

However, Ms Metcalfe said that many of their elderly customers did not have a bank card.

Although she was aware that it was against the bakery chain’s Covid-19 policy, she said she was trying to do the right thing and has kept receipts of the transactions. 

Ms Metcalfe has worked at Birds Bakery for 44 years, including 25 years as a manager.

Speaking to Nottinghamshire Live, Ms Metcalfe said: ‘I realise what I was doing was against company policy but they had picked up the items and already gotten to the till ready to buy them. 

‘There’s no way I could let an elderly man or woman walk away telling them they could not buy it because they didn’t have a card. 

Although it was against the bakery chain's Covid-19 policy, Ms Metcalfe says she took around £180 of payments in cash and put them through on her own debit card as an act of kindness to her elderly customers

Although it was against the bakery chain’s Covid-19 policy, Ms Metcalfe says she took around £180 of payments in cash and put them through on her own debit card as an act of kindness to her elderly customers

‘They had also already handled the stock so that would have to be binned or cleaned.’  

Ms Metcalfe said she was suspended on June 19 and then was sacked for ‘gross misconduct’ after appearing before a disciplinary hearing.  

The bakery chain said it was ‘with regret’ they had to let her go after 44 years of service. 

‘I was just trying to do the right thing. I am really upset by it of course,’ she said.

‘I worked at Birds for 44 years and 25 of them as a manager.

‘I was told I was endangering staff members’ lives by doing what I did.

‘At no point did money transfer hands. It was straight into my purse and then I put the payment through on card and showed them the receipt.

‘I should not have done it but I don’t like to let people down and a lot of these customers depend on us, coming to us every day.’    

A petition calling on Birds Bakery to reinstate or compensated Ms Metcalfe has already been signed by more than 10,000 people in two days. 

People commenting on the petition have vented their anger at the company’s decision.  

One man, Dave Howard, signing the petition said: ‘As a manager you sometimes need to use common sense.

‘Megan will be remembered by the customers for her kindness and help.

‘At no point were other members of staff  endangered and waste was kept to a minimum by selling the goods instead of throwing them away.

‘In my books this makes Megan a good manager.’ 

Birds Bakery said that they dismissed Ms Metcalfe 'with regret' but that they take the safety of staff and customers very seriously and have very tight procedures in place during the pandemic

Birds Bakery said that they dismissed Ms Metcalfe ‘with regret’ but that they take the safety of staff and customers very seriously and have very tight procedures in place during the pandemic

What is legal tender? And can businesses refuse your cash? 

Legal tender means that if you offer to pay off a debt to someone in tender, they can’t sue you for failing to repay.

What’s classed as legal tender varies throughout the UK. In England and Wales, it’s Royal Mint coins and Bank of England notes. In Scotland and Northern Ireland it’s only Royal Mint coins and not banknotes.

There are also some restrictions when using small coins. For example, 1p and 2p coins only count as legal tender for any amount up to 20p.

Many common and safe payment methods such as cheques, debit cards and contactless aren’t legal tender.   

But shop owners can choose what payment they accept – meaning if you want to pay for milk with a £50 note, it’s perfectly legal to turn you down.

As the Bank of England says: ‘If your local corner shop decided to only accept payments in Pokémon cards that would be within their right too. But they’d probably lose customers.’ 

Source: Bank of England 

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Another women, Lara Yule, called for a boycott of Birds Bakery saying: ‘Absolutely despicable behaviour!! 

‘Sacked for being kind, thoughtful and going the extra mile for vulnerable, elderly people!’  

Lesley Bird, chief operating officer at Birds Bakery, said: ‘At Birds, we take the safety of our staff and customers very seriously – and have very tight procedures in place during this pandemic.

 ‘A lot of our customer base are the elderly – many of them vulnerable – and it is our responsibility to keep them, and our staff, safe.

‘Like many other food outlets, during this pandemic we have asked customers to only use debit cards because notes and coins are not clean – and this poses a risk to our staff who are handling that money.

‘In the case of Megan Metcalfe she was taking cash from customers and then making payments with her own card.

‘This contravenes our current health and safety policy relating to Covid-19 and is also against company regulations.

‘It was with regret that we had to ask Megan to leave the business because of those two issues.’    

This comes just days after a 94-year-old woman was turned away from another Birds Bakery store when she tried to buy bread – because she didn’t have a bank card. 

Edna Dalchin was stunned and embarrassed when staff in Birds Bakery in Bulwell, Nottinghamshire told to put her essential items back because they would not accept paper money. 

Mrs Dalchin, from Basford, said she has never owned a bank card and prefers to pay with cash.   

Birds Bakery is a family chain that was founded over 100 years ago in Derby and has over 60 outlets across the Midlands. 

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