Debenhams, Lloyds Pharmacy and St Mirren Football Club are among a record 359 businesses ‘named an shamed’ by the government for failing to pay either the National Minimum Wage or the National Living Wage.
More than 15,500 workers were repaid £994,685, though the Office for National Statistics believes that 362,000 workers were not paid the national minimum.
Employers in hairdressing, hospitality and retail were among the biggest offenders. Debenhams had to re-pay £134,000 to more than half of its workers –11,000 employees – and was fined £63,000.
The company blamed an accounting error and said that as soon as it was identified all staff affected were reimbursed.
Firms which failed to pay the National Living Wage for those over 25 – introduced on 1 April last year – are now included on the list produced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The NLW is £7.20 an hour. Those under 25 receive the NMW, currently £6.95 for 21 to 24 year-olds, and £5.55 for 18 to 20 year-olds.
Excuses for underpaying workers included using tips to top up pay, docking workers’ wages to pay for their Christmas party and making staff pay for their own uniforms out of their salary.
Business Minister Margot James said: ‘Every worker in the UK is entitled to at least the national minimum or living wage and this government will ensure they get it.
“That is why we have named and shamed more than 350 employers who failed to pay the legal minimum, sending the clear message to employers that minimum wage abuses will not go unpunished.”
The offenders paid a total of £800,000 in fines by union leaders said the fines were not a big enough deterrent and called for more prosecutions.
Tim Roache, GMB general secretary said: “Employers who don’t pay the minimum wage are breaking the law, yet since the Government’s naming and shaming policy was introduced there has not been one criminal prosecution.
“Making companies pay wages they were legally required to pay in the first place as some sort of punishment makes a mockery of the system. It’s simple, employers should pay what they’re legally required to – which let’s face it, is a bare minimum few people can live on to start with – or face the full force of the law.
“If bad employers know they can enhance their bottom lines by not paying even the bare minimum wage, they will. Saying they only have to cough up once they get caught – or maybe face a small fine – isn’t a disincentive – the government needs to get serious and stop fiddling around the edges.”
Peacock Stores, Langholm, failed to pay £2,256.58 to 42 workers.
Crossroads Caring Scotland in Clackmannan failed to pay £17,685.38 to 40 workers.
Herbel (Northern) Limited trading as KFC, Aberdeen, failed to pay £1,068.13 to 23 workers.
Eva (Scotland) Ltd trading as Valentini’s Fast Food Pizzeria, Glasgow failed to pay £403.78 to seven workers.
GHSL Ltd trading as Braeside Services, Glasgow, failed to pay £271.20 to two workers.
Among those that failed to pay one worker (with payment shortfall in brackets):
YESSS Home Improvements, Glasgow (£140.70).
Lotus Encounters trading as Avant Garde, Glasgow (£103.85).
Mr Vahap Firat trading as Café Cockburn, Edinburgh (£398.70).
Caledonia Enterprise Ltd trading as The Tartan Lodge, Glasgow (£380).
St Mirren Football Club (£1,277.10).
John Preston trading as Sculptur, Glasgow (£1,537.70).
NMW and NLW rates are set to increase on 1 April. The National Living Wage rises to £7.50 per hour. The adult rate of National Minimum Wage (21 to 24-year-olds) to £7.05 per hour, for 18 to 20-year-olds to £5.60 per hour and for16 to 17-year-olds to £4.05 per hour.