'Unfair' say Shropshire firms fined over minimum wage breaches
Two businesses in Shropshire today cried foul after finding themselves on an official list of employers fined for underpaying minimum wage staff.
Globebrow Limited, trading as Manor Adventure, based in Craven Arms, was described by the Government as failing to pay £33,889.80 to 111 workers.
Penycoed Horse Riding Centre, in Pant, near Oswestry, was fined after it failed to pay £747.9 to four workers.
But in both cases the firms said there were exceptional circumstances and to brand them as paying below the minimum wage was both misleading and unfair.
Manor Adventure's David Constance said that the company, which employs 250 people, was fined £11,000, but that the 'underpayment' was because it had been advised by tax officials to deduct live-in worker's food from their wages.
He said: "Over three years some employees were underpaid because of a technicality in relation to the food invoices for our live-in employees as they lived in and got subsidised food.
"We were advised by HMRC previously to deduct food from the pay but the officer who investigated us recently didn't agree.
"He said we had to invoice after the pay slip had been produced rather than before. It's all been sorted now. We were fined £11,000 and all employees have been paid."
Housing horses at site
Meanwhile, George and James Hanson, trading as Penycoed Horse Riding Centre, were fined after they failed to pay £747.9 to four workers.
But Mr Hanson said this was due to employees' pay being reduced for the costs of housing their horses at the site.
He said: "It is due to deductions we took out of their wage for livery, as a few members of staff kept their horses here. We were deducting £20 out of their wages for it, but as they only worked at the weekends it put them under the national minimum wage.
"We were told we can't do that and I said that the girls were happy with that and they said we've got to pay it back, but it's all sorted now."
Employers who pay workers less than the minimum wage not only have to pay back arrears of wages to the worker at current minimum wage rates but also face financial penalties of up to 200 per cent of arrears, capped at £20,000 per worker.
These businesses were among a list of 179 that were named by the Government for underpaying more than 9,000 minimum wage workers by £1.1 million.
As well as recovering back pay for 9,200 workers, the Government also fined the employers a total of £1.3 million in penalties for breaking national minimum wage laws.
The most prolific offending sectors in this round were retailers, hospitality businesses and hairdressers.
National Living Wage to rise
It comes ahead of the next rate rise on April 1, when the National Living Wage will go up from £7.50 to £7.83 per hour. Apprentices under the age of 19 and those in the first year of their apprenticeship will benefit from a record 5.7per cent rise.
Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said: “The world of work is changing and we have set out our plans to give millions of workers enhanced rights to ensure everyone is paid and treated fairly in the workplace.
“There are no excuses for short-changing workers. This is an absolute red line for this Government and employers who cross it will get caught - not only are they forced to pay back every penny but they are also fined up to 200 per cent of wages owed.
“Today’s naming round serves as a sharp reminder to employers to get their house in order ahead of minimum wage rate rises on 1 April.”
Later this month the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will launch a campaign to raise awareness of the new rates and encourage workers to speak to their employer if they think they are being underpaid.