The Government has “named and shamed” 25 businesses that failed to pay their employees the minimum wage, in what it says is a message to employers who break the law that they will “face tough consequences”.
Yet between them the businesses accounted for just £43,000 of the more than £4.6 million that HM Revenue and Customs says was owed in arrears to people working for less than the minimum wage over the past year – or less than 1 per cent.
The businesses include a hairdressers, a pub and a hotel, while last week it emerged that a Premier League football club that alone owed more than £27,500 to 3,000 workers would remain unnamed.
The TUC’s general secretary Frances O'Grady said that while it was “great that crooks are finally getting named and shamed”, the HMRC should be rolling the new scheme out to “all minimum wage cheats”.
A quadrupling of the fines imposed on those underpaying staff is also yet to take effect, meaning that between them the 25 businesses face penalties of just over £21,000. Under the proposed new plans, a single employer underpaying 10 workers could be hit with fines up to £200,000.
The worst offenders in terms of the sum involved were Christine Cadden and Nicola Banks of Renaissance, Wirral, who failed to pay more than £7,300 to three employees.
Alan and John King of Arthur Simpson & Co in Bradford were named as failing to pay more than £6,400 to a single worker, while Central Heating Services Ltd in Hampshire failed to pay just over £6,200 to four of its employees.
But the HMRC said it held more than 1,400 investigations in the past year which led to arrears being paid to 22,000 workers. Around 650 financial penalties were issued, worth £815,000, recovering an average of £205 per person.
As well as the unnamed Premier League club, other cases included a single recruitment agency ordered to pay more than £167,000 to workers and a social care provider found not to have paid its staff for travelling time.
In a report earlier this year the Government’s Low Pay Commission heard from anecdotal evidence that there has been a “sharp decline” in compliance with the national minimum wage in the past two years, and that the social care sector was one of the worst for offenders.
The TUC’s head of economic and social affairs, Nicola Smith, sarcastically dismissed the protection of the football club’s identity as “government 'naming and shaming' policy in action”.
Asked why the HMRC would not reveal the identities of those involved in these cases, a spokesperson told the BBC: “HMRC has strict rules about taxpayer confidentiality, so we would only name businesses in exceptional circumstances.
“In this particular instance, the decision was taken not to name the businesses specifically.”
Speaking about the 25 businesses named today, Business Minister Jenny Willott said: “Paying less than the minimum wage is not only wrong, it's illegal. If employers break the law they need to know that they will face tough consequences.
“Any worker who is entitled to the minimum wage should receive it. If anyone suspects they are not being paid the wage they are legally entitled to they should call the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368.”
Ms O'Grady said: “It is shocking that some employers - including those who pay certain star staff millions of pounds a year - are cheating low-paid workers out of the minimum wage.”
“Under-paying your lowest paid staff is immoral and illegal. Employers caught in the act deserve to be fined and have their reputation ruined.
“This should send a clear message that dodging the minimum wage does not pay. All minimum wage cheats should be named and shamed, and HMRC need greater resources to catch even more crooks.”
The list of named and shamed businesses in full:
- Christine Cadden and Nicola Banks of Renaissance, Wirral, neglected to pay £7,310.65 to three workers.
- Alan King and John King of Arthur Simpson & Co, Bradford, neglected to pay £6,426.12 to a worker.
- Central Heating Services Ltd, Hampshire, neglected to pay £6,200.28 to four workers.
- Cargilfield School Ltd, Edinburgh, neglected to pay £3,739.58 to a worker.
- A2ZEE Construction Ltd, Cramlington, neglected to pay £3,375.51 to 14 workers.
- Mr and Mrs Balasco of Eugenio, Bristol, neglected to pay £3,037.53 to two workers.
- Mr and Mrs Hampton of The Wheatsheaf Inn, Cheshire, neglected to pay £2,057.88 to five workers.
- Steven Stainton of Steven Stainton Joinery, Cumbria, neglected to pay £1,415.82 to a worker.
- Runbaro Ltd, Swindon, neglected to pay £1,413.88 to a worker.
- Satwinder Singh Khatter and Tejinder Singh Khatter of The Bath Hotel, Reading, neglected to pay £1,237.79 to two workers.
- Richard Last of Classic Carpentry, Godalming, neglected to pay £1,236.72 to a worker.
- We are Mop! Ltd, London, neglected to pay £1,018.05 to two workers.
- Mrs Sue English of Legends Hairdressers, Colchester, neglected to pay £823.40 to a worker.
- Saftdwin Ltd, Hampshire, neglected to pay £806.37 to two workers.
- Master Distribution Ltd, Essex, neglected to pay £718.62 to a worker.
- Perth Hotels Ltd, Perth, neglected to pay £556.80 to a worker.
- Bryants Nurseries Ltd, Hertfordshire, neglected to pay £494.07 to a worker.
- Dove Mill Retail Outlet Ltd, Bolton, neglected to pay £461.84 to a worker.
- Luigi's Little Italy Ltd, Yorkshire, neglected to pay £281.04 to five workers.
- CPS SW Ltd, Exmouth, neglected to pay £261.29 to a worker.
- Mr Gary Calder, Mr Richard Calder and Mr Neil Calder of Avenue Agricultural, Northamptonshire, neglected to pay £256.55 to a worker.
- Dakal Ltd, Northampton, neglected to pay £252.00 to two workers.
- Zoom Ltd, Havant, neglected to pay £242.28 to three workers.
- HSS Hire Service Group Ltd, Manchester, neglected to pay £149.00 to 15 workers.
- Sun Shack Ltd, Hamilton, neglected to pay £134.35 to eight workers.