Five Northern Ireland firms named and shamed for underpaying workers

Five firms in the north are among the latest to be censured for discrepancies around paying their staff the proper minimum wage
Gary McDonald Business Editor

FIVE employers in Northern Ireland are among 260 across the UK who've been named and shamed by the government for failing to pay their workers at least the minimum wage.

They range from major retail chain Dunnes Stores, who failed to pay an average of just over £8-a-head to 804 workers, to a timber-frame house builder in Newtownhamilton which allegedly underpaid one member of staff more than £530.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) the rogue bosses failed to pay 16,000 workers the minimum wage rates.

Government investigators identified £1.7 million in back pay for some of the UK's lowest paid workers and fined employers £1.3 million for underpayment.

Retail, hairdressing and hospitality businesses were among the most prolific offenders in this round.

Common reasons for errors made include failing to pay workers travelling between jobs, deducting money from pay for uniforms and not paying for overtime.

The Northern Ireland employers named in the latest round are:

:: Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Limited - failed to pay £6,951.17 to 804 workers.

:: Forever Warm Homes Ltd, Newry - failed to pay £535.68 to one worker.

:: Patrick Courtney and Patricia Courtney, trading as Courtney's Sandwich Bar, Newry - failed to pay £267.58 to three workers.

:: S Boyd and Maureen Boyd trading as Reflex Hair Studio, Belfast - failed to pay £227.93 to two workers.

:: Mango Direct Marketing Ltd, Ards - failed to pay £215.57 to six workers.

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

“That's why we are naming hundreds of employers who have been short-changing their workers, and to ensure there are consequences for their wallets as well as their reputation, we've levied millions in back pay and fines.”

Bryan Sanderson, chairman of the Low Pay Commission, said: “Our conversations with employers suggest that the risk of being named is encouraging businesses to focus on compliance.

“It is good to see that HMRC continues to target large employers who have underpaid a large number of workers, as well as cases involving only a few workers, where workers are at risk of the most serious exploitation. It is imperative that the government keeps up the pressure on all employers who commit breaches of minimum wage law.”

Since 2013, the scheme has identified £8 million in back pay for 58,000 workers, with 1,500 employers fined a total of £5 million. This year the government will spend a record £25.3 million on minimum wage enforcement.

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