HR · 15 February 2017

Debenhams becomes latest big retailer to be named and shamed

Debenhams named and shamed
Staff at Debenhams were not paid what was owed to them

High street retail brand Debenhams has joined the likes of French Connection, H&M and Foot Locker in being named and shamed by the government for underpaying staff.

In a move which began in October 2013, employers large and small around the UK have had underpayment sanctions taken to a new level through being named and shamed.

The latest crop of companies to be exposed, this time totalling more than 350, have underpaid 15,520 workers a total of nearly £1m. According to the government, businesses in the hairdressing, hospitality and retail sectors are the “most prolific offenders”.

Business minister Margot James said businesses named and shamed will have been sent a clear message that minimum wage abuses will not go unpunished.

“Every worker in the UK is entitled to at least the National Minimum or Living Wage, and this government will ensure they get it,” she added.

The Denenhams offences included failing to pay £134,894 to 11,858 workers, equating to an average of £11.38 per person. While the retail chain’s payments owed to each member of staff were comparatively small, Hull-based Drivecheck failed to pay an average of £4,060 to six employees.

Dental clinic Tasman, located in London, owes £11,799 to a solitary worker, while Glover’s Bakery in Preston underpaid a total of £11,799 to two members of staff.

Find out the difference between the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage

Alongside being named and shamed, the government also revealed the excuses businesses came up with for not paying the right salaries. These included using tips to top up pay, docking wages to pay for a Christmas party and making it a requirement for staff to pay for their own uniforms out of salaries.

This is the first time the naming list includes companies that failed to pay eligible workers at least the new National Living Wage rate. For workers aged 25 and over, this currently stands at £7.20.

HMRC, which recovered arrears for underpaid workers, has issued penalties of £800,000.

Top ten named and shamed employers by amount owed:

  • Debenhams – failed to pay £134,894.83 to 11,858 workers
  • Pembrokeshire Care – failed to pay £55,056.75 to 154 workers
  • Osteria San Lorenzo – failed to pay £53,496.57 to 29 workers
  • Tag Hotel – failed to pay £32,094.17 to 37 workers
  • WH Recruitment – failed to pay £26,418.67 to 143 workers
  • Drivecheck – failed to pay £24,363.36 to 6 workers
  • Nutwood Cottage Day Nursery, – failed to pay £22,082.16 to 11 workers
  • Tiny Turners Nurseries – failed to pay £20,740.90 to 54 workers
  • Community Integrated Care – failed to pay £19,774.78 to 69 workers
  • Fallowfield Country House Hotel –  failed to pay £19,436.88 to 6 workers.

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Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.

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