John Lewis, The Body Shop International, Enterprise Rent-a-Car UK and Pret A Manger are some of the 191 companies named and shamed by the government this week for failing to pay their workers the national minimum wage (NMW).
An investigation by HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) found that a total of £2.1 million was owed to more than 34,000 workers due to NMW breaches taking place between 2011 and 2018.
The employers have since been made to pay back what they owed and fined an additional £3.2 million, in a move HMRC said showed that it is “never acceptable to underpay workers”.
According to HMRC, the decision to name and shame the organisations that had transgressed serves as a reminder to employers that the government will take action against those that fail to pay their employees the minimum wage.
The employers identified previously underpaid workers in a range of ways. The investigation found that 47% wrongly deducted pay from workers’ wages, including for uniform and expenses, 30% failed to pay them for all the time they had worked, such as when they carried out overtime and 19% paid the incorrect apprenticeship rate.
Business Minister Paul Scully said: “Our minimum wage laws are there to ensure a fair day’s work gets a fair day’s pay – it is unacceptable for any company to come up short. All employers, including those on this list, need to pay workers properly. This government will continue to protect workers’ rights vigilantly, and employers that short-change workers won’t get off lightly.”
Chair of the Low Pay Commission Bryan Sanderson added: “These are very difficult times for all workers, particularly those on low pay who are often undertaking critical tasks in a variety of key sectors including care. The minimum wage provides a crucial level of support and compliance is essential for the benefit of both the recipients and our society as a whole.”
Employers that pay workers less than the NMW have to pay back arrears to the worker at current minimum wage rates. They also face financial penalties of up to 200% of arrears – capped at £20,000 for each worker. Since 2015, the government has ordered employers to repay more than £100 million to one million people.
HMRC said a “significant” number of the minimum wage breaches identified affected those on apprenticeships. As a result, the government has published new guidance this week to make clear to employers how to pay apprentice, and all their workers correctly.
Companies that have been fined include John Lewis, which failed to pay £941355.67 to 19,392 workers. Welcome Break Holdings also failed to pay 1,591 workers a total of £49,031.77. The investigation also found that Body Shop International underpaid 959 employees by £34,670.81, while Enterprise Rent-A-Car UK failed to pay £25,438.82 to 65 workers and Pret A Manger (Europe) underpaid 33 employees by £9,679.91.