Six local firms 'named and shamed' for not paying the minimum wage - including Sports Direct and a college

This post first appeared on Nottingham Post. Read the original article.

Six local businesses including Sports Direct and a college have been ‘named and shamed’ by the Government for paying employees less than the minimum wage.

It comes after the Government identified 260 employers around the country failing to pay the minimum wage, now known as the living wage.

The Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy identified £1.7 million in back pay, and fined employers £1.3 million for underpayment.

Locally, Sports Direct, with its warehouse in Shirebrook, was the biggest offender, failing to pay £167,036.24 to 383 workers.

Vernon Community College failed to pay £2532.28 to two members of staff.

Alexsa, a beauty salon in Mansfield, failed to pay £1,566.28 to two employees; and Clippers, a hair salon in Ashfield, failed to pay £1,017.68 to two workers.

Two other offenders were KH Hair, in Ashfield, which also has a store in Nottingham. It failed to pay £465.29 to two workers, while Attenborough Service Station paid one worker £278.39 less than was required.

All the companies involved say the situation has now been rectified.

Conservative Business Minister Margot James said: "There is no excuse for not paying staff the wages they're entitled to and the government will come down hard on businesses that break the rules.

“That’s why today we are naming hundreds of employers who have been short changing their workers; and to ensure there are consequences for their wallets as well as their reputation, we’ve levied millions in back pay and fines.”

Bryan Sanderson, chairman of the Low Pay Commission, said: “The Low Pay Commission’s conversations with employers suggest that the risk of being named is encouraging businesses to focus on compliance.

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“Further, it is good to see that HMRC continues to target large employers who have underpaid a large number of workers, as well as cases involving only a few workers, where workers are at risk of the most serious exploitation. It is imperative that the government keeps up the pressure on all employers who commit breaches of minimum wage law.”

The Government advised workers who were concerned that they were not being paged the minimum wage to contact Acas.

A spokesman for Sports Direct said: "This matter relates to the historical situation in our warehouse that was widely publicised in 2016, for which we apologised at the time.

“We cooperated fully with HMRC to make back payments to Sports Direct staff who were affected.

“We are committed to treating all our people with dignity and respect, and we pay above the National Minimum Wage."

Anne Watts is the principal of the college, and said: “We’re all devastated that it actually happened, but it was an oversight and it’s been deal with.

“They were wonderful members of staff that were doing a great job, and we are a college that supports a lot learners within the community, even if they’re not fundable.

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A spokesman for Alexsa said: "We are proud of the fact that we have a great team at Alexsa, and it has been delivering excellent customer service for many years.

“Due to a genuine clerical error over start and finish times, we underpaid two employees over a period of about three months.

“As soon as we were notified of this, we were mortified, and we worked with the BEIS to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

“We are delighted to say that both staff members are still with us and are valued employees."

Sharon Daniels is the owner of Clippers, in Ashfield, and said the ‘honest mistake’ came when they employed an apprentice. She had been due to start her studies at a college to become an apprentice, but when that fell through, they didn’t realise that they had to pay her as a full-time employee.

Ms Daniels said: “It was an honest mistake and that’s been put right now. It was a genuine mistake, but they have blown it out of all proportion. They just do it to make you feel guilty, but I’ve got nothing to feel guilty about – I was doing someone a favour so she could do an apprenticeship. I was trying to help.”

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A spokeswoman for KH Hair said: “Around a year ago, our Lichfield salon was chosen by the HMRC as part of a routine investigation into the hairdressing industry. They brought to our attention that two of our apprentices appeared to have been paid below the minimum wage. This had occurred because a sum of money had been taken from them which was to repay for the comprehensive and essential set of equipment supplied to them when they joined the company - scissors/combs/dryers/brushes etc.

“This equipment remains their personal property and they have always had the opportunity to pay outright for it or to re-pay in instalments over however long a period they choose, and whatever amount they choose, to make it more easily affordable to them.

“When we realised, in discussions with HMRC, this actually meant the deduction had taken them below the minimum wage, we immediately rectified the situation, apologising to those concerned and refunding all monies owing. Following this discovery, we no longer charge apprentices for their equipment.

“This was a genuine oversight for which we received no fine by HMRC, which was content the situation had been dealt with satisfactorily.

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A spokesman for the service station said: “It was a young student who was working here for the summer holidays. When we realised something had gone wrong, we paid it immediately, and the mistake was put right straight away.”

Nationally, recruitment agency The Best Connection Group Limited was named as having the largest deficit of payment, failing to pay £469,273.83 to 2,558 employees.