The government has named and shamed 360 businesses across the UK for underpaying over 15,500 workers.
According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, hundreds of firms, listed in in their report, failed to pay either the national minimum wage or the national living wage rate to employees.
The most prolific offenders were employers in the hairdressing, hospitality and retail sectors. The list includes well-known companies such as Debenhams, Subway, and Lloyds Pharmacy.
Debenhams topped the list. The retailer was forced to repay £134,894.83 to 11,858 workers – more than half of its shop staff – after a mistake in an accounting left the employees £11 short in wages. The company was also fined £63,000.
A spokesperson was quoted by the BBC as saying: “As a responsible employer Debenhams is committed to the National Minimum Wage, and as soon as the error was identified by a routine HMRC audit last year, we reimbursed all those affected.”
The new National Living Wage rate of £7.20 for workers aged 25 and over was introduced last year.
In addition to recovering arrears for some of the UK’s lowest paid workers, the businesses are being faced with HMRC penalties worth around £800,000.
Why were businesses underpaying staff?
The government found that 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.”
Government will work to ensure workers in the UK receive proper pay
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.”
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP said:
“The National Living and Minimum Wage, which every worker is entitled to, is an essential part of building the higher wage, lower welfare, lower tax society that the UK needs.
“Thanks to government investigations more than 15 and a half thousand of the UK’s lowest paid workers are to be back paid as we continue to build a Northern Ireland, and wider United Kingdom, that works for everyone.”