In total, 139 businesses have been named on the list published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Investigations by HRMC between September 2016 and July 2018 revealed a total of £6.7m underpaid to over 95,000 workers.
The list records Müller UK & Ireland Group failing to pay £10,702.11 to 54 workers. However, a spokesperson for the company said: “This was a technical infringement of HMRC guidelines which was quickly rectified in 2018 to the satisfaction of all parties. Most importantly, no employee received less than the National Minimum Wage equivalent or was disadvantaged in any way.”
Other offenders on the list from the food industry also include Anjana Bhog Sweets Limited (now dissolved, according to Companies House), which failed to pay one worker £1,020. A range of other food firms, from biscuit suppliers to poultry processors, were also singled out.
Paying the price
This was the first time the Government had named and shamed companies for Minimum Wage breaches since 2018. The scheme was paused in 2018 while its effectiveness was evaluated and it had now returned following changes ‘to ensure only the worst offenders are targeted’, BEIS said.
Employers who pay workers less than the minimum wage are required to pay back arrears at current rates. They also face financial penalties of up to 200% of arrears, capped at £10,000 per worker, which are paid to the Government.
BEIS said each of the companies on the latest list had paid the arrears and penalties. The department also emphasised that one of the main causes of the breaches was low-paid employees being made to cover work costs, such as paying for uniform, training or parking fees.
Also, some employers failed to raise employees’ pay after their birthdays moved them into a different National Minimum Wage bracket.
Business minister Paul Scully said: “Paying the minimum wage is not optional, it is the law. It is never acceptable for any employer to short-change their workers, but it is especially disappointing to see huge household names who absolutely should know better on this list.
“This should serve as a wake-up call to named employers, and a reminder to everyone, of the importance of paying workers what they are legally entitled to. Make no mistake, those who fail to follow Minimum Wage rules will be caught out and made to pay up.”
Bryan Sanderson, chair of the Low Pay Commission, which advises the government on the minimum wage, said: “There can be no excuses for non-compliance with the minimum wage rates. The annual changes are well publicised six months in advance following a well understood process.
“Those affected are among the most needy and vulnerable in our country. The companies concerned should be deeply ashamed of their performance.”