Last week, Business Minister Jo Swinson publicly named and shamed 48 more employers which have paid their employees below the UK’s statutory minimum wage.
The companies span the fashion, retail, hospitality and publishing sectors and are located right across the UK. They include the likes of the esteemed French Connection in London and Toni & Guy in Cheshire on the one hand, and the almost similarly well-known 99p Stores Ltd in Northampton and Crazy Divas Ltd in Colchester on the other.
The highest figure is the failure by G1 Venues Ltd, trading as Arta Restaurant, Glasgow to pay £45,124.00 to 2,895 workers. 2,895? What must their staff turnover be for one bar and club to get through nearly 3,000 people? It may be no wonder that one Yelp review describes the service there as “sluggish and utterly impersonal”. Not being paid even the minimum wage will do that to you, I guess. Collectively, the 48 companies named owe over £162,000 in arrears.
Since the Government revised the rules in 2013 to allow it to name and shame companies that underpay staff, the total number of named employers has reached 210, accounting for total arrears of over £635,000 and total penalties of over £248,000. The stricter regime seems to be having an effect of sorts. One of the employers named in the previous round in January 2015, estate agent Kings Group was found to have underpaid £53,808.91 to 53 workers and has now changed the way it pays staff. As minimum wage compliance is assessed over a four-week period, Kings decided to pay its employees the same amount of commission, but on a more regular basis to spread payments more evenly and to ensure that the National Minimum Wage regulations are strictly complied with. Not sure the employees would see that as a triumph, really.
Under the new scheme, the Government will name all employers which have been issued with a Notice of Underpayment setting out the wages to be paid by the employer, along with the penalty for non-compliance. Employers will not be named if they meet one of the exceptional criteria or have arrears of £100 or less, i.e. that:
- naming by The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) carries a risk of personal harm to an individual or their family;
- there are national security risks associated with naming; or
- other factors which suggest that it would not be in the public interest to name the employer.
Alongside naming and shaming companies, Swinson said that the Government is cracking down on employers which ignore the minimum wage rules by increasing the penalty fines and boosting the resources available to investigate non-compliance.
The Government announced on 17 March that the adult National Minimum Wage will increase by 20p an hour to £6.70 from October 2015, along with increases in the hourly rates for younger workers (currently £5.13 per hour for 18 to 20-year-olds and £3.79 for 16 to 17-year-olds) and for apprentices (currently £2.73).