Waitrose has rowed back on a policy that suggested workers who were self-isolating because of their family would have to make up the hours they owed at a later date.

The grocer had previously said that if staff were “physically well enough themselves to work”, it would explore the option of allowing them to work from home.

Waitrose would pay its staff in full while they remained at home, but its ‘time bank’ system meant workers would need to make up that time by working overtime for no extra pay when they returned to work, covering up to two weeks’ worth of hours missed.

However, last night Waitrose said: “We’re really sorry that we got it wrong. We’ve listened to our Partners and changed our policy.”

It added: “Partners who are self-isolating without symptoms and unable to work from home will no longer be required to ‘time bank’ any of their time. Instead they will be on authorised paid absence from day one.”

Last Friday, Waitrose parent company the John Lewis Partnership said it was giving all frontline staff an additional £25 per week worked during April and May as “a recognition award” for their efforts during the coronavirus crisis.

It meant all full-time workers would receive an extra £200, the equivalent of 11% of an average full-time non-management partner’s weekly pay.

The Partnership also increased the staff discount from 15% to 25% in Waitrose stores – and it will remain permanently at 20% once the pandemic is over.

Despite those moves, Waitrose’s ‘time bank’ policy caused controversy and prompted online backlash from its staff at a time when other grocers have put in place more generous policies.

Upmarket rival Marks & Spencer, for instance, is giving full pay for up to 14 days to all staff members who need to self-isolate.

M&S staff who are pregnant, over the age of 70 or have a health condition that places them in the vulnerable category have been put on leave for 12 weeks with full pay.