Belfast Telegraph

13 Northern Ireland companies 'named and shamed' after failing to pay employees the minimum wage

By Rachel Martin

Northern Ireland's largest independent car dealer, a takeaway, five hairdressers, a pig farm and a joinery business have all made it on to the Government's latest list 'naming and shaming' employers who failed to pay staff the minimum wage.

A total of 13 Northern Ireland firms made the latest list, down from 17 named on the last one six months ago.

Together, they underpaid their workers by a total of £29,154.

The largest amount owed by a single business here was £18,575.34.

Across the UK, a record £2m back pay is owed to 13,000 of the UK's lowest paid workers.

Nationally, big names included Argos Ltd, which failed to pay more than £1.46m to 12,176 workers.

And in Northern Ireland, top car dear Donnelly Bros (Belfast) Limited was among those named for failing to pay four workers a total of £771.34. It ranked 123rd nationally.

The firm, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, is Northern Ireland's largest independently owned car dealership and has nine branches here.

The firm, which employs more than 700 people, said the incident was being taken "very seriously".

It added: "The underpayments referred to in this report were an oversight and all staff were promptly reimbursed. Since then, new checks and procedures have been implemented to prevent a reoccurrence."

Making it to fifth place on the UK list - and topping the Northern Ireland list - is Vong's Welcome Limited trading as Vong's Hot Food Bar, Banbridge, which failed to pay £18,575.34 to one worker. The company, which is now trading under new ownership, did not respond to a request for comment.

The second biggest amount owed by a Northern Ireland firm saw two workers underpaid by £1,886.71 at a Newry hairdressers. Joan Greenan trading as Shape 'N' Style hairdressers in Newry declined to comment.

The hairdresser ranked 69th nationally.

Cookstown manufacturing firm CDE Global Limited failed to pay £768.91 to one worker.

A spokesman for the firm, which employs more than 400 people, said: "On this occasion a student from a local college was completing a module of his course on CDE's campus and included in an HMRC audit incorrectly. Companies working with education run a high risk of being penalised under the NMW name and shame regime due to this.

"Despite HMRC's inappropriate disclosure, which we feel extremely aggrieved about, we will not let this matter risk our partnerships with education."

Newtownabbey hairdressers Darling's Hair Salon failed to pay £1,051.96 to one worker. However, the manager at Darling's explained that an "honest mistake" led to an apprentice hairdresser being paid less than what she should have been.

She said: "While she was at college there was a mistake. Some of the wages were paid by the Tech and some of them paid by the salon. It was our mistake but we just didn't realise. She has now been reimbursed in full." Big Tree Joinery Ltd in Lisburn and Castlereagh failed to pay £581.25 to two workers, but business owner Stephen Beattie said the incident was down to misinformation regarding payments for apprentices.

He said: "To be honest, the experience has put me off getting another apprentice."

One instance related to confusion over a loan given to a member of staff experiencing financial difficulties.

Belfast Activity Centre made the list because of an underpayment of £531.68 to one employee. A manager at the charity said: "This related to a misunderstanding regarding some money loaned to an employee during a difficult time. The money was to be repaid on a monthly basis directly through payroll making it look as if employee had been paid less than minimum wage.

"It's a great shame because it makes it more difficult for us to use our discretion to help people."

Gifted Hairdressing Ltd, Newry, Mourne and Down, failed to pay £482.37 to one worker.

Co Armagh pig farm JMW Farms Ltd made the list for failing to pay £392.98 to one worker. Directors at the firm were unavailable for comment.

Beechvale Nursing Home Limited, Killinchy, Co Down, failed to pay £108.70 to three workers.

Richard Porter, managing director of Beechvale Nursing Home, said the firm had tried to appeal the decision, adding that the firm "deeply valued" its staff.

He said: "We pride ourselves on the rates of pay and the terms and conditions of employment, including paying care staff for breaks, which is not common practice in our industry.

"The inclusion of Beechvale in the list is very disappointing and is down to a misunderstanding during the inspection process. Our appeal to HMRC fell on deaf ears due to a technicality in their process."

As well as paying back staff the money owed, employers on the list have been fined a record £1.9m by the Government. Retail, hairdressing and hospitality businesses were among the most prolific offenders.

Belfast Telegraph

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