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524 UK businesses have been found to have failed to pay their workers nearly £16 million (€18.7 million) in minimum wages, UK Government announced on Tuesday (today).

The employers breached the UK’s National Minimum Wage (NMW) law, leaving around 172,000 workers being short-changed.

UK Government stated that the businesses named in the list have since paid back what they owe to their staff and have also faced financial penalties of “up to 200 per cent of their underpayment.” Investigations by His Majesty’s Revenue and Customers (HMRC) were concluded between 2015 and 2023.

The most substantial unpaid sum was by Staffline Recruitment Limited, a Nottingham-based recruiter that failed to pay £5.1 million (€6 million) to 36,767 workers. It was followed by Maidenhead casino company Rank Group Gaming Division Limited, which did not pay 5,629 workers £962,504.92 (€1.1 million) they were entitled to.

Other notable names in the list include Estee Lauder Cosmetics Limited (£894,980.43 or €1 million to 5,933 workers), Easyjet Airline Company Limited (£338,876.46 or €395,797.54 to 3,898 workers) and Greggs plc (£219,129.07 or €255,936.18 to 4,793 workers).

The list goes as far as mentioning businesses which did not pay minimum wages to one or two workers, with the lowest amount being the £515.51 (€602.10) owed by Bradford’s Shimlas Trade Limited to two employees.

The UK’s NMW in 2024 is set at £11.44 (€13.36) for individuals who are 21 or over, £8.60 (€10.04) for those aged 18 to 20, £6.40 (€7.48) for employees under 18 or apprentices, and £9.99 (€11.67) to be paid for accommodation offset.

Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business Kevin Hollinrake said that employees “deserve to get paid properly for the hard work they put in.”

“While the majority of businesses already do the right thing and pay their staff what they are owed, today’s announcement sends a message to the minority who aren’t. That there are repercussions to undercutting hard work from their staff,” he added.

UK Government outlined that while not all minimum wage underpayments are intention, it is crucial that anyone entitled to be paid the minimum wage “should receive it” and that “enforcement action will be taken against employers who do not pay their staff correctly.”

Patricia Rice, Independent Commissioner at the Low Pay Commission, remarked that since the NMW was introduced in the UK almost 25 years ago, it has been “vital in protecting the earnings of the lowest-paid workers in the UK.”

“At a time when the cost-of-living is rising, it is more important than ever that these workers receive the pay to which they are entitled,” she affirmed.

She added that these underpayments do not only “cheat workers of their rightful due,” but they also leave compliant firms undercut by those who do not abide by law, leading to unfair competition.

The UK has been struggling with a cost-of-living crisis over the past few years, fuelled by the effects of Brexit, as well as macroeconomic challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.

A recently published report by Cambridge Econometrics stated that the UK’s departure from the EU has cost its economy around £140 billion (€162.87 billion) so far. Citing the study, London City Hall stated that the average UK resident was nearly £2,000 (€2,336.73) worse off in 2023 due to Brexit, while the average Londoner was almost £3,400 (€3,972.44) worse off.

“By naming the firms responsible for significant underpayment, we raise awareness of the nature and the scale of underpayment and encourage all employers to ensure that they fully comply with the law,” Dr Rice said.

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