By s1jobs

The UK headlines have been rife so far this new year with the names of “shamed” businesses large and small that, according to the Government, failed to pay their workers the minimum wage. National concerns such as Tesco and Pizza Hut down to local Scottish businesses including Rainbow Room beauty salons, the Cairngorm Hotel and St Johnstone Football Club appeared in the latest rogue’s gallery of those in what the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) described as “flagrant breach of employment law”.

The investigation undertaken by HMRC covered the period between 2016 and 2018 and identified 139 UK businesses that failed to pay £6.7 million to more than 95,000 workers, including nearly £900,000 to more than 11,000 people in Scotland. The case against Pizza Hut, which short-changed nearly 11,000 UK employees to the tune of £846,000, started with an investigation into an Edinburgh branch of the chain.

The publication of the list at the end of December followed a two-year pause in the name-and-shame scheme, which was suspended while reforms were carried out to ensure only the “worst offenders” are targeted. All the companies named have reimbursed their workers, and have been forced to pay financial penalties.

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Compensation for these people was in many cases long overdue, but at least eventually forthcoming. Not so for untold more working for employers who failed to meet the “worst offender” cut-off criteria.

In many cases, employers are not intentionally underpaying their staff. There is a lot of confusion over what pay counts towards the National Minimum Wage, particularly when it comes to overtime. Errors can also arise when dealing with voluntary reductions, or when a birthday moves an employee up the ranks of the four minimum wage bands that apply to different age groups.

Smaller firms with limited payroll resources could be forgiven for such mistakes. With more guidance and support from HMRC, some of these errors could be avoided.

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But the most common cause of minimum wage breaches in this latest investigation by HMRC stemmed from low-paid employees being made to cover work costs such as paying for a uniform, training or parking fees, eating into their pay packet and pushing compensation below the legal minimum.

As a matter of common sense, it ought to be obvious to any employer that staff should not foot the bill for things that are necessary to perform their job. Asking such is not only unfair, but also against the law.