Employers Shamed but Workers Still on Low Pay
Unpaid earnings totalling more than £4.6 million should be paid back by employers to employees following investigations during the last 12 months by the UK government’s tax office.
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) says more than 22,000 workers on the National Minimum Wage (NMW) should benefit from work done by NMW enforcement teams.
“We want to issue a clear warning to employers who fail to pay the minimum wage,” Jenny Willcott, Business and Equalities minister, said in a statement. “Under the Government’s new rules you will be named and shamed and face a stiff financial penalty.”
Many companies avoided being named for reasons which are unclear.
“It is shocking that so many employers – including some who pay their star players millions of pounds a year – are cheating low-paid workers out of the minimum wage,” said Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady. She was referring to an unnamed Premier League football club ordered to pay over £27,500 to more than 3,000 workers. The club had kept back money for travel time and uniforms from staff working in hospitality.
Other unnamed companies that were highlighted by HMRC include a “social care provider”, who was also withholding pay for travel time and other worked hours. This employer repaid over £600,000 to 3,000 workers.
A “recruitment agency” paid back over £167,000 to workers, some of whom it had classified as unpaid interns.
A “multi-outlet retailer” demanded that more than 1,300 employees attend work before and after opening hours. The company paid back almost £77,000.
The reason given by HMRC to the BBC as to why the government office did not name these particular employers was that “HMRC has strict rules about taxpayer confidentiality, so we would only name businesses in exceptional circumstances”.
Of those named, a list of which can be obtained from HMRC, the repayments ranged from a Wirral company who failed to pay £7,310.65 to three workers down to an employer from Hamilton, which failed to pay £134.35 to eight workers.
The NMW now stands at £6.31 per hour for people aged 21 and over. It is due to rise to £6.50 in October this year.
Business Secretary Vince Cable in his speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in September 2013 asked for the minimum wage to regain its value. Chancellor George Osborne backed this in January saying, “I think Britain can afford a higher minimum wage. We have worked hard to get to this point and we can start to enjoy the fruits of all that hard work.”
According to the TUC, one in five people in Britain earn less than the living wage. It also says there are more people below the poverty line who have a job than are out of work.
The organisation points out that the disparity between workers’ pay and executive pay is rising, from chief executives getting 45 times as much as an average worker in 1998, to 185 times as much now.
There have been many demonstrations in the past few months concerning pay and work-related issues, and more are proposed. These industrial actions have not been limited to traditional jobs and trades.
In March, criminal barristers dropped plans for further strike action in favour of temporary concessions from the government.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced on March 27th that changes to the advocates graduated fee scheme will be put back to summer 2015. Many law workers, particularly solicitors, were unhappy to stand down from the long-running disagreement over cuts to legal aid rates.
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association and the University and College Union also agreed on February 21st to have talks about pay and pensions before the 2014/15 bargaining round. The proposal came after walkouts and threatened walkouts focusing on marking students’ work and also a vote of support from the National Union of Students.
Health Workers Industrial Action
On June 21st, doctors will take action over changes to their pension scheme. Emergency care, urgent procedures, labour services or surgery and referrals for cancer will not be affected, according to the NHS Choices website.
On May 23rd, electricians and other construction workers, including members of the Blacklist Support Group, marched down Whitechapel in London with placards and umbrellas to draw attention to “The Umbrella Scam”, where the Construction Industry Scheme has been dropped and agency workers are likely to see their wages drop by 20-25 per cent.
Over the last few years some construction industry employers have been forcing workers into being self-employed and to forego nationally agreed terms and conditions and holiday pay. This has pushed down take-home pay considerably.