Waterstones Booksellers Limited has been ordered to pay £8,689.54 back to workers who’s wages fell below the national legal minimum. Image: Flickr / Tony Monblat
A host of big name high-street stores have been named and shamed for failing to pay workers the minimum wage, with employers facing penalties totalling nearly £2 million.
Clarks, Schuh, and House of Fraser are among the biggest names, as well as Waterstones and The Tanning Shop. All have been approached for comment.
The companies were named on the list of 208 employers released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), ranging from multinational businesses and large high street names to independently-owned firms.
“Paying the legal minimum wage should be non-negotiable for businesses,” said business minister Paul Scully in a statement released with the figures.
Many employers owed tens of thousands to their staff, either because they were not paid the wage they were entitled to or because they had things like uniforms or food costs deducted from their pay.
The two biggest reasons found for underpaying staff were when employers deducted food and uniform costs from pay or not paying staff for time spent travelling or training.
Some 33 employers did not pay apprentices the legal minimum, and 22 businesses refused to increase workers’ pay according to their age category or the most up-to-date rates.
The Tanning Shop (registered as The Feel Good Group Limited) owed almost £35,000 to staff, second only to Rupert Galliers-Pratt, who owns an engineering company in the north east and owes staff more than £60,000.
“The Feel Good Group Limited breached the minimum wage rules due to a technical issue regarding the deduction of a Petty Cash float and training expenses,” a spokesperson from The Feel Good Group Limited said.
High street book shop Waterstones failed to pay nearly £8,700 to 58 workers.
A spokesperson for Waterstones responded: “The breach was a technical one caused by salary sacrifice arrangements with employees in the period 2016-2018. It was remedied immediately that it was identified.”
“We support without reservation the principle and practice of the Minimum Wage. To name and shame companies who flout it is fair. To name those who, for historic technical breaches caused only by processes that favoured the employee, does not seem fair,” they continued.
The 208 employers are up from the 191 released in August – Labour criticised the government for not doing enough to stop employers underpaying their workers.
“The fact that we are seeing so many employers and household names flouting the minimum wage shows the Government simply aren’t taking this issue seriously enough,” said Justin Madders, shadow employment rights minister.
“There have been laws on the minimum wage for over 20 years now so there should be no excuse for this level of breaches,” she continued.
However the fines have been branded as too low by the Resolution Foundation, that found that naming and shaming has little impact overall because consumers “always favour cheaper prices over ethical concerns.”
“There is little economic incentive for rule-breaking employers to change their ways,” said Hannah Slaughter, economist at the Resolution Foundation.
A company found to be paying workers under the minimum wage would need to be fined around 700 per cent of overdue wage payments to counteract the savings the company made in docking pay, the Foundation found in a three-year study.
And of course, “naming dodgy firms only works when they are caught in the first place, so more widespread enforcement is needed,” Slaughter continued.
Household names including John Lewis, The Body Shop and Sheffield United Football Club were named and shamed in August.