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Over 200 employers named and shamed for paying below minimum wage

Branches of Waterstones and Matalan are among 208 businesses called out by the government this week for failing to pay employees the minimum wage between 2014 and 2019.

The underpayments have racked up a total of £1.2 million in unpaid work, affecting around 12,000 people across the UK.

This is despite a marked uptick in the number of employers paying the Real Living Wage this year.

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Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation, told HR magazine: “It is really disappointing to see that over 200 firms are responsible for failing to pay the legal minimum to over 12,000 UK workers, especially at a time when rising living costs are putting an extra squeeze on households.

“In contrast, we have seen record numbers of employers signing up to pay the real Living Wage, going further than the minimum wage to provide security and stability to their staff.

“These employers recognise that even in these hard times, an investment in people is an investment in business.”

Employees at large, medium, and small businesses have all been affected, though the ways in which they underpaid varied.

In the majority (37%) of cases, the minimum wage was undercut by work-related deductions, such as having to pay to comply with a certain dress code.

Three in 10 (29%) of the listed employers left staff unpaid for mandatory training, trial shifts or travel time, 16% failed to pay apprentices correctly and 11% paid the wrong minimum wage rate, either failing to account for government national minimum wage rises or not paying people the right amount dependent on age.

While recognising deliberate minimum wage underpayment should have its repercussions, Sarah Loates, director of Loates HR Consultancy, said that unfortunately some smaller businesses will have fallen through the cracks due to lack of resources.

Speaking to HR magazine, Loates said: “I do sympathise with those employers who have inadvertently fallen foul of the regulations and are tarred with the same brush.

“In my experience it's areas such as uniforms and the calculation of ‘working time’ that trip employers up. Many of our clients are micro businesses or SMEs and have neither the resources nor time to digest reams of HMRC guidance. 

“I would like to see more government support for these businesses to advise on their specific circumstances and mitigate inadvertent breaches.”

Businesses that underpaid workers have since had to pay the wages owed and face fines of up to 200% of what they had to pay back.

The full list of employers found paying below the minimum wage was published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy here.