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John Lewis, Body Shop and Pret among firms shamed for breaking wage laws

Written by: Emma Lunn
The government has named and shamed 191 companies for paying less than minimum wage, with the firms failing to pay £2.1m to more than 34,000 workers.

The public shaming follows investigations by HMRC into breaches which took place between 2011 and 2018. The companies have since been made to pay back what they owed, and were fined an additional £3.2m.

John Lewis was the biggest offender, failing to pay £941,355.67 to 19,392 workers. Body Shop failed to pay £34,670.81 to 959 workers, while Pret-a-Manger failed to pay £9,679.91 to 33 workers.

Other firms on the list include convenience stores McColls and One Stop Stores, motorway chain Welcome Break, car hire firm Enterprise, and Bloomsbury Publishing.

The government increased the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates in April 2021. Every single UK worker is entitled to the National Minimum Wage, no matter their age or profession. A significant number of the minimum wage breaches affected those on apprenticeships.

Whilst not all minimum wage underpayments are intentional, it has always been the responsibility of all employers to stick to the law. Minimum wage breaches can occur when workers are being paid on or just above the minimum wage rate, and then have deductions from their pay for uniform or accommodation.

The employers named today previously underpaid workers in the following ways:

  • 47% wrongly deducted pay from workers’ wages, including for uniform and expenses
  • 30% failed to pay workers for all the time they had worked, such as when they worked overtime
  • 19% paid the incorrect apprenticeship rate

Business minister Paul Scully said: “Our minimum wage laws are there to ensure a fair day’s work gets a fair day’s pay – it is unacceptable for any company to come up short. All employers, including those on this list, need to pay workers properly.

“This government will continue to protect workers’ rights vigilantly, and employers that short-change workers won’t get off lightly.”

Employers who pay workers less than the minimum wage have to pay back arrears of wages to the worker at current minimum wage rates. They also face hefty financial penalties of up to 200% of arrears – capped at £20,000 per worker – which are paid to the government.

Since 2015 the government has ordered employers to repay more than £100m to 1 million workers.

Bryan Sanderson, chair of the Low Pay Commission, said: “These are very difficult times for all workers, particularly those on low pay who are often undertaking critical tasks in a variety of key sectors including care. The minimum wage provides a crucial level of support and compliance is essential for the benefit of both the recipients and our society as a whole.”

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