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Named and shamed: The employers who failed to pay the minimum wage

PUBLISHED: 07:44 08 December 2017 | UPDATED: 11:36 08 December 2017

The Primark store at the Haymarket, Norwich. The company has been named on the government's list of employers which did not pay the national minimum age in 2016. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Primark store at the Haymarket, Norwich. The company has been named on the government's list of employers which did not pay the national minimum age in 2016. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

A clothing giant, sports retailer and recruitment company are among the companies named and shamed by the government for failing to pay the national minimum wage to thousands of workers.

Sports Direct and recruitment agencies which worked with it have been named on the government's list of employers which failed to pay the national minimum wage. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA WireSports Direct and recruitment agencies which worked with it have been named on the government's list of employers which failed to pay the national minimum wage. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Discount fashion chain Primark, which has stores in Norwich, King’s Lynn, Ipswich and Colchester, underpaid 9,735 employees a combined £231,973, while Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct owed £167,036 to 383 staff.

READ MORE: The full list of businesses which failed to pay minimum wage

However, it was low-level recruiter The Best Connection Group, which has branches in Norwich and Ipswich, which came top of the list published by HM Revenue and Customs.

The company, which supplies workers to the transport, retail and warehouse and distribution sectors, underpaid 2,558 people by a total of £469,273.

Primark said the issue had arisen due to a now-defunct workwear policy which cost employees an average of £23.75.

A total of £1.7 million in back pay was identified for 16,000 workers, with retail, hairdressing and hospitality businesses the most prolific offenders.

Five regional firms have been included on the list owing amounts ranging from £292 to £3,722.

The highest amount was underpaid by Colchester-based hairdressers Alter Ego.

Director Nick Mitchell said it had come about as a result of unpaid time for training and the company had changed how this was carried out.

He said: “We were trying to give people the best possible chance of success in moving from training to a full hair stylist. We let staff come in for training outside of work hours but since this happened we can no longer do that.”

Ipswich-based hair stylist John Olivers also featured, underpaying seven staff by £1,662.

The firm said it had corrected the error when it had been made aware of it. It said: “At no time did John Olivers intentionally attempt to withhold contracted salary payments to any member of staff and those affected were recompensed at the time.”

GST Partners, trading as The Five Bells pub near Bury St Edmunds, owed £3,574 to two workers. It could not be reached for comment.

Care agency Essex and Suffolk Quality Care owed £517 to two people but the firm’s director said she was unsure why HMRC had come to this finding as the firm paid above national minimum wage.

Hemsby Hand Car Wash was also featured for owing £292 to two workers.

Sports Direct and its agencies

Sports Direct was said to have failed to pay £167,000 to 383 workers, which the company said related to an issue in its warehouse, widely publicised last year.

The Best Connection group failed to pay the most of any of the companies named – almost £470,000 to 2,558 workers – while Qualitycourse Ltd, trading as Transline Group, failed to pay £310,000 to 1,421, the Business Department said.

A Sports Direct spokesman said: “This matter relates to the historical situation in our warehouse that was widely publicised in 2016, for which we apologised at the time.

“We co-operated fully with HMRC to make back payments to Sports Direct staff who were affected.

“We are committed to treating all our people with dignity and respect, and we pay above the national minimum wage.”

In a statement The Best Connection said: “The naming of The Best Connection Group concerns the underpayment of a proportion of temporary workers supplied to Sports Direct International to work at its warehouse premises in Shirebrook, Derbyshire during a period ending at the start of 2016. It follows an investigation of Sports Direct by HMRC in 2015 and 2016.

As a result of its working practices, Sports Direct incorrectly recorded the time worked by its own employees, temps supplied by The Best Connection and temps supplied by Qualitycourse, trading as Transline, the other employment business used by Sports Direct.

“The Best Connection paid its temps on the basis of the time records supplied by Sports Direct.”

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