Lancashire companies exposed as pay rogues

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A swanky top-nosh Lancashire restaurant has left a bad taste in the mouth when it comes to forking out staff wages.

Northocte’s has been named and shamed for underpaying its workers.

The company - run by award-winning celebrity chef, Whalley-born Nigel Haworth - is one of more than 350 in the UK exposed as pay rogues for failing to pay the national minimum and living wage.

It has been revealed that Northcote Hotel Limited, Blackburn - which offers a five-course Gourmet Menu at £70 per person - failed to pay £6,621.82 to 22 workers.

Fined £7,000, it was 26th on the full list of 360 employers.

Other failed payers exposed in ‘a record’ number of employers were: Glover’s Bakery, Bamber Bridge (£11,320.33 to two workers) - 16th on the list; Mrs Elizabeth Purkis, The Buttonhole, Chorley (£9,946.28 to one worker) - 17th; C Morris, H S Morris, B J Iddon, K J Locke and H S Murray, Morris’s of Coppull, Chorley (£357.09 to two workers) - 263rd; Holistic Wellness, Preston (£107.26 to one worker) - 356th.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy named the businesses who underpaid 15,520 workers a total of £995,233, with employers in the hairdressing, hospitality and retail sectors the most prolific offenders.

As well as recovering arrears for some of the UK’s lowest paid workers, HMRC issued penalties worth around £800,000.

Business Minister Margot James said: “Every worker in the UK is entitled to at least the national minimum or living wage and this government will ensure they get it.

“That is why we have named and shamed more than 350 employers who failed to pay the legal minimum, sending the clear message to employers that minimum wage abuses will not go unpunished.”

Excuses for underpaying workers included using tips to top up pay, docking workers’ wages to pay for their Christmas party and making staff pay for their own uniforms out of their salary.

Northcote said in a statement to staff: “In 2015 Northcote and Northcote at The Rovers payroll was audited by the HMRC for discrepancies with regard to National Minimum Wage.

“The audit covered the payroll for a 3 year period with a payroll of over £9m for that time span.

“This audit resulted in some areas being picked up by the HMRC that did not comply with their regulations and the Company being fined a sum of £7000.

“This will result in the Company being ‘named and shamed’ in a press release from the HMRC at the end of January.

“The areas that the audit picked up (affecting staff who were near minimum wage levels): where deductions from salary had taken people below minimum wage eg accommodation deposits, knife deposits for apprentices, purchases that staff requested to be deducted from salary, pay back of salary advances from salary, where we let a partner of a member of staff in staff accommodation and have rent deducted from their salary etc our administration systems missed birthday pay increases

Apprentices who did not enrol at college on their first day with us who therefore did not qualify for Apprentice NMW for those dates

“We as a business have worked hard to ensure your hours are kept within contractual and Minimum Wage boundaries and also ensure staff are paid over and above minimum wage levels set by the government along with our practice of contracting all staff for 50hr contracts to ensure no breeches.

“We can assure you that procedures are now in place to ensure these issues cannot happen again.

“Unfortunately this also means that things we used to do such as wage advances, payment for goods at discounted prices etc through salary we have had to cease doing.”

Alf Glover, owner of Glover’s Bakery, said: “It was an administration error, one works as a driver, one works nights. They rent property from me over the shop and asked for the rent to be taken out of the wage. I wasn’t aware we weren’t allowed to do this because technically it was a reduction of the minimum wage and they got the money back.”

Henry Morris, of Morris’s said: “Both employees signed to have £2 taken out of their wage to have their overhauls laundered which took them out of the minimum wage. We don’t charge for that any more. That’s two out of 186 staff.”