Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland firms who paid workers below the minimum wage are revealed

 

By Claire McNeilly

A multinational retailer, a timber company and a sandwich shop are among several Northern Ireland firms that have been named and shamed for failing to pay staff the minimum wage.

The Government has identified £1.7m in back pay for 16,000 UK workers - more staff than in any previous naming round.

Investigators have singled out 260 employers that have now been fined a total of £1.3m for underpaying the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates.

A total of five companies across the province made the list - down eight from 13 firms named on the last one in August.

Together they underpaid their workers by £8,197.93.

Dunnes Stores in Belfast city centre, which was ranked 26 out of 260 UK firms, topped the Northern Ireland list for failing to pay £6,951.17 to 804 workers.

The Belfast Telegraph contacted the store in Cornmarket, where a manager referred us to head office. No-one had responded at the time of going to print.

In second place on the local list - and 167 in the UK - was Forever Warm Homes Ltd in Newry, Mourne and Down, BT35, which failed to pay £535.68 to one worker. Manager Andy Woods said the firm's inclusion was an "oversight", adding that the money had been paid back to the employee in question.

"It refers to a trainee who was supposed to go to technical college and who didn't end up going," he said. "It was a mere oversight on both our parts and he was reimbursed." Courtneys Sandwich Bar in Newry, Mourne and Down, BT34, was number three in the local rankings and 208th nationally, after failing to pay £267.58 to three workers.

Family firm owner Patrick Courtney, who has been in business for 15 years, employing 15 people across four outlets in Newry, said they had made a mistake and repaid the funds.

"We made an error in administration and the problem arose from certain staff members purchasing a second work uniform and which they paid for themselves," he said. "We were not aware of this but when it was brought to our attention we reimbursed the staff the cost of the uniform.

"We are happy to say that the staff members involved remain with us as loyal and committed employees. We have taken steps to ensure this will not happen again."

Belfast hairdressers Reflex Hair Studio failed to pay £227.57 to two workers, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

But owner Maureen Boyd said that this was the result of a "genuine mistake". She added: "It was a misunderstanding that has now been resolved and the girls are still with me."

Mango Direct Marketing Ltd, Ards and North Down, BT19, is down for failing to pay £215.57 to six workers but this has now been referred to the firm's solicitor.

Boss Stuart Lally said: "This is an administration error and it's now a legal matter."

Across the UK, retail, hairdressing and hospitality businesses were among the most prolific offenders. Common reasons for errors made include deducting money from pay for uniforms and not paying for overtime.

Business Minister Margot James said there is "no excuse for not paying staff the wages they're entitled to" adding that the Government "will come down hard on businesses that break the rules".

"That's why today we are naming hundreds of employers who have been short-changing their workers," she said.

"And to ensure there are consequences for their wallets as well as their reputation, we've levied millions in back pay and fines."

If workers are concerned they are not being paid the correct rates then they can seek advice from workplace experts Acas.

Since 2013, the scheme has identified £8m in back pay for 58,000 workers, with 1,500 employers fined a total of £5m.

This year the Government will spend a record £25.3m on minimum wage enforcement.

Number of employers who have been singled out and fined a total of £1.3 million

Amount of back pay identified by Government for 16,000 workers in the UK

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