Dozens of Scottish businesses named for not paying national minimum wage

A Michelin star chef's restaurant, a popular garden centre and a NHS health board are among the employers who failed to pay workers properly.

Dozens of Scottish businesses named for not paying national minimum wage by UK Government Getty Images

A restaurant spearheaded by a Michelin star chef’s restaurant, a popular garden centre and a NHS health board are among the employers named for not paying the minimum wage.

A total of 47 businesses in Scotland were named on a UK-wide list by the government for being in breach of the national minimum wage law.

The companies feature in a list of 542 firms across the UK forced to repay more than £16m to 172,000 workers in underpayments since 2015, some of whom were also fined.

It follows an investigation by HMRC (His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) which concluded between 2015 and 2023.

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The national minimum wage, which is due to rise in April to £11.44, is currently £10.42 per hour for over-21s and £7.49 and £8.60 respectively for 18 to 20 year olds.

Breaches included making employees pay for their uniforms out of wages, and deductions illegally made to cover PPE, food, childcare and training costs.

Workers were also underpaid for their time, with hours rounded down, or travel time, mandatory training and trial shifts excluded from payment.

Celebrity chef Martin Wishart’s The Honours Brasserie, which has since closed, Dobbies Garden Centre and NHS Highland were amongst those on the list.

Scotland’s worst offender was 2 Sisters Poultry Group in Blairgowrie, which failed to pay £126,714.50 to 335 workers, followed by NHS Highland which failed to pay £88,756.52 to 23 workers.

The UK Government said while not all minimum wage underpayments are intentional, it has been clear 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.

Minister for enterprise, markets and small business Kevin Hollinrake said: “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.”

Since its introduction 25 years ago, the national minimum wage has been a key policy for both Labour and Conservative governments.

Independent commissioner at the Low Pay Commission, Patricia Rice, said: “Since its introduction nearly 25 years ago, the national minimum wage has played a vital role 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.

“NMW underpayment not only cheats workers of their rightful due, it leaves compliant firms undercut by those who do not abide by the law. 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.”

An NHS Highland spokesperson said: “We accept that we made an error in relation to the national minimum wage scheme. This related to a very small number of staff who were in staff accommodation and had their rent deducted from their pay which brought them below the threshold.

“We are very sorry that this happened. All employees affected have been correctly compensated and we have put processes in place to ensure it does not happen again.

“We would like to reassure everyone that we are committed to meeting our responsibilities on paying the national minimum wage. This was an error which we have corrected.”

A spokesperson for Dobbies Garden Centres said: “A HMRC investigation completed in 2019 found a number of instances of technical non-compliances in relation to national minimum wage requirements at Dobbies Garden Centres. Upon becoming aware of these, we paid colleagues immediately, and in full, the amounts they were due.  

“The issue arose from rounding errors in time recording equipment and the timings of colleague security checks between 2014-2018, when Dobbies was under previous ownership. We have since implemented a new, more accurate time recording system to ensure all hours worked are fully and appropriately recorded. 

“At Dobbies, our colleagues are of the utmost importance to us and we support fair employment practices for all of our 4,000 people. We are committed to working with HMRC to ensure that we continue to uphold the high standards that we, our colleagues, and our customers expect.” 

A 2 Sisters Poultry Group spokesperson said: “None of the 335 employees affected were from Scotland, but came from our 15,000-employee workforce at other locations across the UK.

“It dates back more than six years, and occurred due to a misinterpretation of how minimum wage rules applied at beginning and end of colleague shifts in relation to the putting on and removal of PPE, an issue faced by many other employers. 

“This was a genuine error and an unintentional misunderstanding of new and emerging regulations related to NLW legislation. Once highlighted in 2018 it was rectified immediately and all colleagues paid correctly.”

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