Wagamama, TGI Fridays, Marriott Hotels and Karen Millen are among the companies named and shamed by the government for failing to pay the legal minimum wage.
The latest list, published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, names 179 employers for failing to pay a record 9,200 workers £1.1m collectively.
Underpayers also include the football clubs Stoke City and Birmingham City, the rugby union club London Irish, as well as hairdressers, cafes and car wash firms. The restaurant groups Wagamama, TGI Fridays and the fashion retailer Karen Millen, all said the underpayments related to uniform costs.
Wagamama, which had to repay £133,212 to 2,630 workers, making it the worst offender in the latest naming and shaming list, said there had been an “inadvertent misunderstanding” of how minimum wage regulations applied to uniforms.
“In the past we didn’t realise that asking our front-of-house staff to wear casual black jeans or a skirt, with their Wagamama branded top, was considered as asking them to buy a form of uniform and so we should have paid them for it. Lots of other businesses were also unaware of this regulation around casual wear,” a spokesperson said. “We have gladly made payments to current and previous employees who missed out, dating back from 2016 to 2013. We have also updated our uniform policy and we now pay a uniform supplement to cover the black jeans.”
TGI Fridays, which recently faced criticism over a proposal to redistribute card tips from waiters to kitchen staff in lieu of a wage increase, repaid £59,348 to 2,302 workers in relation to asking them to purchase black shoes as part of a uniform.
Karen Millen, which had to repay £9,847 to 28 workers, or nearly £352 each, said an HMRC audit in 2016 had revealed that a number of staff were paid less than the minimum wage because they were required to wear the fashion brand’s clothing, purchased at a discount.
It said: “We acted quickly to remedy the situation, including arranging to reimburse affected staff and updating our wardrobe policy to ensure there could be no reoccurrence of the issue.”
Marriott Hotels was the second-worst offender on the government list, having to repay £71,723 to 279 workers. It said some hotels had deducted charges for live-in accommodation or late-night taxis from wages, taking their pay below the minimum wage. “We have since updated our payroll system so that this cannot happen again and reimbursed all impacted associates,” a spokesperson said.
The worst non-payer per member of staff, according to the government list, was Hazelwood House, a bed and breakfast near Kingsbridge, in Devon, which underpaid three workers by an average of £16,096 each. The company was not available for comment.
Stoke City, which repaid £1,103 to seven workers, said the underpayment related to an historic practice of allowing staff to pay for tickets and club merchandise via deductions from their monthly salaries.
It said an HMRC audit had found it complied with national minimum wage regulations between 2012 and 2017, apart from these voluntary deductions which are no longer permitted. “As a result, the reported breach will not recur and the club is confident that we are now fully compliant with all current regulations,” a Stoke City spokesperson said.
The business minister, Andrew Griffiths, said: “There are no excuses for short-changing workers. This is an absolute red line for this government, and employers who cross it will get caught – not only are they forced to pay back every penny but they are also fined up to 200% of wages owed. Today’s naming round serves as a sharp reminder to employers to get their house in order ahead of minimum wage rate rises on 1 April.”
The legal minimum wage for over-25s will rise from £7.50 to £7.83 an hour next month, and the business department is aiming to publicise the new rates to workers and employers.