High street fash­ion chains Mon­soon and Ac­ces­sorize pub­licly shamed af­ter they didn’t pay min­i­mum wage to 1,400 staff

The Malta Business Weekly - - INTERNATIONAL -

High street stores Mon­soon and Ac­ces­sorize have been pub­licly shamed for fail­ing to pay more than 1,400 staff the min­i­mum wage.

The fash­ion and ac­ces­sories chain owed more than £100,000 to low-paid staff who had not re­ceived their full en­ti­tle­ment, a HMRC re­view found.

It was forced to re­pay the money owed to 1,438 work­ers, as well as a fine of up to £20,000 – re­duced to just £10,000 if paid within 14 days.

The sis­ter brands claimed the pay gap was an ‘un­in­ten­tional breach’ of reg­u­la­tions which af­fected staff work­ing be­tween 2011 and 2013. It did not re­veal last night how much fine it had paid.

By law, all work­ers must be paid the na­tional min­i­mum wage, which went up by 20p to £6.70 per hour for adults on Oc­to­ber 1.

The hourly rate for 18 to 20- year-olds is now £5.30, while it is £3.87 for 16 to 17-year-olds.

Un­der a ‘nam­ing and sham­ing’ scheme in­tro­duced in 2013, the Depart­ment for Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Skills has the power to name com­pa­nies who owe more than £100 to staff paid less than the min­i­mum wage.

Com­pa­nies who fail to pay min­i­mum wage are forced to re­pay any wages owed and are fined 100 per cent of the amount out­stand­ing – up to a cap of £20,000. This is halved if the fine is paid within 14 days.

Busi­ness Min­is­ter Nick Boles said: ‘Em­ploy­ers that fail to pay the min­i­mum wage hurt the liv­ing stan­dards of the low­est paid and their fam­i­lies.

‘As a one na­tion gov­ern­ment on the side of work­ing peo­ple we are de­ter­mined that ev­ery­one who is en­ti­tled to the Na­tional Min­i­mum Wage re­ceives it.’

Mon­soon Ac­ces­sorize Ltd’s code of ethics on its web­site states it has a ‘ com­mit­ment to eth­i­cal trad­ing’ and its min­i­mum re­quire­ments in­clude ‘fair wages’.

It claimed the prob­lem was caused by the firm ‘un­in­ten­tion­ally’ fail­ing to take into ac­count cloth­ing its min­i­mum-wage staff were made to buy to wear at work.

Shop work­ers in Mon­soon or Ac­ces­sorize stores must wear out­fits by the brands, which they can buy at a 25 per cent dis­count. For min­i­mum wage staff, this pushed their to­tal earn­ings un­der the le­gal thresh­old.

Around 7 per cent of the stores’ work­force at the time were on min­i­mum wage and the work­ers re­funded will re­ceive an av­er­age of just un­der £73. The stores now pay all staff more than min­i­mum wage and pro­vide a cloth­ing al­lowance.

+2A spokesman said it had been work­ing with HMRC on its pay­roll prac­tices, adding: ‘ This re­view has re­vealed an his­toric, un­in­ten­tional breach of the reg­u­la­tions in re­spect of its staff dis­count poli­cies for Mon­soon cloth­ing.

‘Mon­soon is pleased that this is­sue has been iden­ti­fied and has al­ready taken prompt ac­tion to rem­edy it.’

The fash­ion chain was named as the worst of­fender on a list of 115 com­pa­nies which failed to prop­erly pay staff a to­tal of £389,000 in wages.

Oth­ers in the worst five in­cluded Tyne & Wear Rid­ing for the Dis­abled As­so­ci­a­tion, which owed £27,000 to six work­ers, Project Se­cu­rity in Don­caster, ow­ing £23,000 to 18 work­ers, Carl Keith Sa­lons, Prescot, Mersey­side, ow­ing £20,000 to five work­ers, and Ex­eter & MacKen­zie Glass Cen­tre, which owed £14,000 to nine work­ers.

The oth­ers named in­cluded hair­dressers, a taxi firm, ho­tels, a nurs­ery school and a funeral di­rec­tor and owed be­tween £104 and £14,000.

Sarah Vero, di­rec­tor of the Liv­ing Wage Foundation, said: ‘The Na­tional Min­i­mum Wage is in­tended as a bench­mark to avoid ex­ploita­tion.

‘It’s sad­den­ing to hear that a num­ber of em­ploy­ers are fail­ing to im­ple­ment this prop­erly and we hope that the en­force­ment of the le­gal min­i­mums con­tin­ues to en­sure that those at the bot­tom of the pay-scale are pro­tected and em­ploy­ers re­gard­less of size are held to ac­count.’

TUC gen­eral sec­re­tary Frances O'Grady said: ‘It's good to see that the Gov­ern­ment is nam­ing and sham­ing more com­pa­nies who pay their em­ploy­ees less than the min­i­mum wage.

‘ How­ever, to­day's list of of­fend­ers is only the tip of the ice­berg. Many more em­ploy­ers are get­ting away with il­le­gal un­der­pay­ment.’

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