LONDON: The government of the United Kingdom has “named and shamed” more than 350 companies after being fined for not paying their employees either the national minimum wage or the living wage.
A total of 360 employers, including large numbers of hair salons, hotels, care homes and retailers, failed to pay either the national minimum wage or the national living wage to more than 15,500 workers, according to the list published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Excuses for underpaying workers included using tips to top up pay, docking workers’ wages to pay for their Christmas party and making staff pay for their own uniforms out of their salary.
More than 1000 firms have now been publicly shamed for underpaying staff since the name and shame system was introduced in 2013. They have underpaid their staff by a total of more than £4.5m, while fines of more than £2m have been imposed.
The number of offenders surged as it includes the first group named for failing to pay the national living wage of £7.20 an hour for those over 25 which was introduced last year.
This includes a care firm which underpaid more than 150 workers by an average of £357 each. The Pembrokeshire Care Limited stumped up £55,000 too little affecting 154 workers.
The most prominent on the list is fashion retailer Debenhams who failed to pay £134,900 to almost 12,000 employees across the UK. The company hit with a £63,000 fine said it had underpaid staff by an average £10 each in 2015 because of a “technical error in its payroll calculations”.
General Secretary of the Wales Trade Union Congress, Martin Mansfield, took aim at those who deliberately underpaid their staff. “It’s a complete disgrace that in 2017 employers still think it’s acceptable to unlawfully pay workers below the minimum wage,” he said.
“Worse still, no employer in Wales has ever been prosecuted. We need stronger enforcement to ensure unscrupulous employers can no longer get away with treating staff so unfairly.”
Assistant general secretary Steve Turner of Unite, the biggest trade union in England and Ireland added that “The government needs to crack down further on employers who failed to pay the national minimum wage to some of the most low-paid and vulnerable workers in the country.
“The fact that the government has mounted only 13 prosecutions for non-compliance since 2007 is pathetic. In America bad bosses are jailed and heavily fined for ‘wage theft’, which is what this is, exploiting workers in such a shameful fashion.
“The fact that an established household name like Debenhams is on the list is appalling. This is a major retailer with a large HR department – how could such non-payment be overlooked for so long?”
UK 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.”