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Minimum wage net catches some big fish

17 February 2017

The chairman of Debenhams probably did not expect to have to appear on the BBC's One Show to explain why it had failed to pay some of its employees the correct rates of pay but the retailer was just one of 360 employers who have been named and shamed by the Government.

Previous such exercises by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have tended to feature lists of small restaurants and takeaways but the latest includes a number of household names among the small fry.

Debenhams is the worst offender because it failed to pay nearly £135,000 to 11,858 workers, more than double the amount owed by number two on the list, Pembrokeshire Care Ltd (£55,056 to 154 workers).

Other well-known names include Age Concern (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne), St Mirren Football Club, Subway (Southampton), Lloyds Pharmacy and KFC (Aberdeen). However, employers in the hairdressing, hospitality and retail sectors remain the most prolific offenders.

Overall, nearly one million pounds has been paid back to more than 15,500 workers and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) levied penalties worth around £800,000.

For the first time, the list includes employers who failed to pay eligible workers at least the new National Living Wage rate, which is currently £7.20 for workers aged 25 and over.

Excuses for underpaying workers included that tips were used to top up pay, that workers' wages had been docked to pay for their Christmas party and that staff had to pay for their own uniforms.

Business Minister Margot James said: "Every worker in the UK is entitled to at least the national minimum or living wage and this government will ensure they get it. That is why we have named and shamed more than 350 employers who failed to pay the legal minimum, sending the clear message to employers that minimum wage abuses will not go unpunished."

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