Nine companies in Northern Ireland have been publicly criticized by the government for violating the minimum wage law. These companies owe a total of £55,200 to 534 workers following investigations by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs since 2017.
The companies in Northern Ireland that failed to pay their employees the correct wages are:
- Victor Foster Poultry Services in Markethill, owing £33,045 to 284 workers.
- Avondale Foods in Craigavon, failing to pay £9,007 to 149 workers.
- Hatch Brothers, trading as Genesis Crafty (now under new ownership) in Magherafelt, owing £4,439 to 7 workers.
- Reahs Restaurant, trading as The Portmor in Blackwatertown, failing to pay £3,292 to 8 workers.
- O’Connor’s Bar and Restaurant in Dromore, Omagh, owing £2,413 to 1 worker.
- WGAB Limited, trading as Excel Clothing in Newtownards, failing to pay £2,369 to 18 workers.
- Curran Court Hotel in Larne, owing £2,003 to 63 workers.
- 727 Your Store in Craigavon, failing to pay £580 to 1 worker.
- Edenmore Golf & Country Club in Magheralin, owing £506 to 11 workers.
In total, 202 employers across the UK have been ordered to repay workers and face penalties of nearly £7 million. These breaches have left 63,000 workers out of pocket.
The worst offender, according to HMRC, is high street retailer WH Smith, which failed to pay around £1 million to 17,607 workers. The company attributed this failure to an error related to its company uniform policy. Other prominent retailers, including Marks & Spencer and Argos, are also on the list.
Pat Harrington, General Secretary of the Solidarity union, emphasizes the importance of paying the legal minimum wage and condemns the anti-social and wrong nature of not doing so. Harrington states, “Paying the legal minimum wage is non-negotiable, and all businesses, whatever their size, should know better than to short-change hard-working staff.”
The employers named on the list were found to have underpaid workers through various means, such as deducting pay from workers’ wages (39% of employers), failing to pay workers correctly for their working time (39% of employers), and paying incorrect apprenticeship rates (21% of employers).
Bryan Sanderson, chair of the Low Pay Commission, further emphasised the significance of the minimum wage as a guarantee to ensure all workers receive a decent minimum standard of pay. Sanderson asserts that when employers break the law, they not only harm their staff but also undermine fair competition between businesses. Sanderson believes that regular naming rounds serve as a crucial tool in raising awareness of underpayment and safeguarding the rights of minimum wage workers.
The government has made it clear that anyone entitled to receive the minimum wage should be paid accordingly, and it is determined to take robust enforcement action against employers who fail to comply. Since 2015, the budget for minimum wage enforcement has doubled, and the government has ordered employers to repay over £100 million to 1 million workers.