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Minimum wage ‘name and shame’

Wagamama and TGI Fridays among employers on new list
Hajera Blagg, Friday, March 9th, 2018

The usual suspects in retail and hospitality topped the government’s latest list of bosses ‘named and shamed’ for failing to pay the minimum wage to its workers.


Household names such as Wagamama, Marriott Hotels and Stoke City and Birmingham City football clubs were included in a list that totalled 179 employers owing 9,200 workers more than £1m altogether.


High on the list in third place was TGI Fridays, an American-based chain restaurant, which has recently come under fire from Unite for its new tipping policy which swipes 40 per cent of waiters’ card tips.


The policy was decided without consultation with the waiters who depend on tips to survive as they eke out a living on the minimum wage of £7.50 an hour.


Now, TGI Fridays has been found to not even be paying some of its workers this legally mandated minimum wage. According to the government list, the chain restaurant was forced to fork over nearly £60,000 to 2,302 workers for making them buy shoes that were part of their uniform.


The news prompted Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull to say that “something is going very badly wrong at TGI Fridays.


“They used to be a model employer when it came to handling tips, but not anymore,” he said. “Now it seems they are also a law breaker when it comes to minimum wage infringments. We’re urging the company to re-discover their business ethics and work with Unite to put things right.”


The worst offender in the government ‘name and shame’ list was chain restaurant Wagamama, which owed £133,212 to 2,630 workers. Like TGI Fridays, Wagamama breached minimum wage rules after forcing its workers to pay for uniforms.


Marriot Hotels, the second worst offender, owed £71,723 to 279 workers – the hotel chain said in a statement that the minimum wage breach came from deducting money for live-in accommodation and late-night taxis from wages.


Hazelwood House, a bed and breakfast in Devon, owed the greatest amount per worker – according to the list, three workers were owed nearly £50,000 between them.


Employers on the list were forced to compensate their workers in addition to having to pay £1.3m in fines to the government.


Minimum wage rate rise

The Low Pay Commission welcomed the publication of the list today (March 9) ahead of a minimum wage rate rise next month to £7.83 an hour.


“As the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates rise on 1 April, it is vital that workers understand their rights, and employers their obligation,” Low Pay Commission chairman Bryan Sanderson said.


“The Low Pay Commission is pleased to see the Government maintaining the momentum of its minimum wage enforcement,” he added.


“The recent announcement that all workers will have a right to payslips stating the hours they have worked – an idea originally proposed by the LPC – is a positive step.”


Name and shame list ‘not enough’

But Unite has warned that while a ‘name and shame’ list can be helpful, it’s not enough to force bosses to pay their due.


“The government needs to crack down further on employers who failed to pay the national minimum wage to some of the most low-paid and vulnerable workers in the country,” said Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner.


“In America, bad bosses are jailed and heavily fined for ‘wage theft’ which is what this is, exploiting workers in such a shameful fashion.”


Turner said the list is “only a small step in the right direction and much more is needed.


“To address growing levels of poverty a genuine living wage must be introduced, sector level collective bargaining introduced and stronger, more effective enforcement funded,” he added.


“This would mean proper resources for the agencies responsible for enforcement and the cuts they have suffered in recent years to be reversed.”

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