More than 200 companies, including retail giants like WH Smith, Marks & Spencer, and Argos, are to be fined by the British government as they failed to pay wages to their lowest-paid staff between 2017 and 2019.
On Wednesday, the government announced that 202 businesses, from big retail giants to small businesses and sole traders, had broken the law by failing to pay around 63,000 workers.
As per a statement released by the government’s Department for Business and Trade, these companies paid a total of 7 million pounds ($9 million) in arrears and fines for the violations.
“Paying the legal minimum wage is non-negotiable and all businesses, whatever their size, should know better than to short-change hard-working staff,” a minister in the department, Kevin Hollinrake, stated.
“Most businesses do the right thing and look after their employees, but we’re sending a clear message to the minority who ignore the law: pay your staff properly or you’ll face the consequences,” Hollinrake further added.
According to the statement, WH Smith, which topped the list and is a mainstay at British train and airport terminals, failed to pay 17,607 employees 1 million pounds. While Sainsbury’s-owned Argos failed to pay out 480,094 pounds to 10,399 workers, M&S failed to pay 5,363 employees 578,391 pounds.
The M&S company’s spokesperson stated that they appeared on the list due to unintentional technical issues that occurred more than four years ago and further clarified that steps were to be taken as soon as they realized this issue.
“Our minimum hourly pay has never been below the national minimum wage, it is currently above it and no colleagues were ever underpaid because of this,” the spokesperson stated further. In April, the revised minimum wages were increased by 9.7% to 10.42 pounds per hour.
While releasing the statement, the government added that, although all minimum wage underpayment was not intentional, it was not an excuse for workers being underpaid.
A spokesperson from Sainsbury’s stated that in 2018, a payroll error was identified affecting some Argos store workers and drivers as far back as 2012 before the company had acquired Argos.
The spokesperson further added that this error was now rectified and that Argos workers’ hourly rate has aligned with Sainsbury’s.
WH Smith responded by saying that it had erroneously interpreted the statutory pay law that had been used to support its uniform policy for staff members working in its store. As a response, the business stated, “This was a genuine error and it was rectified immediately with all colleagues reimbursed in 2019.”
- Published By Team Timeswire