Companies ‘Named and Shamed’ Over Pay Breaches

Major retailers fined for failing to pay minimum wage

The government has today (21 June) released a list of over 200 UK companies who have failed to pay their lowest paid employees the minimum wage during the last decade.

These companies have been ordered to pay nearly £7 million in fines, and will also need to pay £4.9 million in reimbursements to affected employees.

Among the firms listed were the well-known retailers WH Smith, Argos and Marks and Spencer. It was found that WH Smith was the worst offender, failing to pay more than £1 million to over 17,600 workers.

These fines come after the national minimum wage and living wage were increased by 9.7% in April.

Companies say the breaches were “unintentional”

Many of the companies fined by the government have released public statements in response.

WH Smith admitted that it had “misinterpreted how the statutory wage regulations were applied to uniform policy for staff working in stores”. They went on to say that this was a “genuine error” that was “rectified immediately”.

Marks and Spencer put their breach of payment down to an “unintentional technical issue”. A spokesperson said: “This happened simply because temporary colleagues were not paid within the strict time periods specified in the minimum wage regulations, and it was remedied as soon as we became aware of the issue.”

Sainsbury’s, which now owns Argos, said that a payroll error in 2012 had affected some Argos store workers and drivers before the company was taken over by the supermarket chain. They identified this issue in 2018 and said it was “put right at the time”.

In the government’s press release, it was acknowledged that not all breaches were intentional. But it also stated that there was “no excuse for underpaying workers”.

Fines send a “clear message” to businesses

Speaking about the fines, Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business Kevin Hollinrake said: “Most businesses do the right thing and look after their employees, but we’re sending a clear message to the minority who ignore the law: pay your staff properly or you’ll face the consequences.”

In the UK, it is against the law to pay employees less than the national minimum wage or national living wage (if they are older than 23).

Where an employer has not been paying staff properly, the issue must be resolved as quickly as possible. This should include backdated pay for employees, regardless of whether they still work at the company.

Employers have a responsibility to keep accurate pay records, and these should be made available on request. If you suspect your employer hasn’t been paying you fairly, the first step would be to raise the issue with them informally.

If the matter isn’t resolved, you could make a formal complaint internally or report your grievance to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Alternatively, you could make a claim to the employment tribunal – this could allow you to claim for pay going back two years.

It can be difficult to know what to do when facing a potential conflict with your employer. But an employment law solicitor could help you to navigate the options available.

We work with solicitors who are experienced in this area. They will work on your behalf to get you the outcome you deserve. To find out more, give us a call on the number at the top of the screen or enquire online.


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