Employers ‘named and shamed’ for failing to pay minimum wage

Experts warn lack of resource could cause ‘inadvertent’ breaches as government publishes list of firms that collectively underpaid more than £6m.

More than 100 companies, including some of the UK’s biggest household names, have been named and shamed by the government for failing to pay workers the minimum wage.

The government investigated claims of failure to pay the national minimum wage (NMW) between 2016 and 2018, discovering that 139 named firms failed to pay £6.7m to more than 95,000 workers in total.

Among those named was restaurant chain Pizza Hut, which failed to pay 10,980 workers the NMW, totalling approximately £845,936. St Johnstone Football Club owed £14,266.74 to 28 workers, 25 of whom were apprentice footballers. A spokesman for the Scottish Premiership club told the BBC the underpayments were related to voluntary deductions from pay and that changes had been implemented following a review of apprentices’ working hours.

Other firms on the list include Superdrug, Müller UK & Ireland Group, Costco Wholesale UK and Tesco, which failed to pay £5,096,946 to 78,199 workers, although the supermarket told the BBC the underpayment was a result of a technical fault and that it had reported the issue to HMRC itself.

This is the first time the government has published the names of companies for failing to pay the NMW since 2018, following changes that mean this will be done more frequently, but only the worst offenders will be targeted.

HMRC, which led the investigation, said preserving and enforcing workers’ rights was a “priority for this government”, and the publication of the list was intended to serve as a warning to “rogue employers that the government will take action against those who fail to pay their employees properly”.

The government said one of the main causes of NMW breaches was low-paid workers being made to cover work costs such as paying for uniforms, training or parking – which would eat into their pay packet and dip it below minimum wage.

Additionally, some employers failed to raise employees’ pay after they had a birthday that should have moved them into a different NMW pay bracket.

Employers that breach NMW legislation have to pay back arrears of wages to the worker at current minimum wage rates. The firms also face hefty financial penalties of up to 200 per cent of arrears – capped at £10,000 per worker – which are paid to the government.

Each of the 139 companies named by HMRC have paid back their workers and were forced to pay financial penalties.

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