Wagamama and TGI Fridays named and shamed for NMW failures

High street names including Wagamama and TGI Fridays are among 180 employers listed and fined for underpaying more than 9,000 minimum wage workers by £1.1m

As well as recovering backpay for 9,200 workers, the government also fined the employers a total of £1.3m in penalties for breaking national minimum wage laws. The most prolific offending sectors in this quarter’s listing were retailers, hospitality businesses and hairdressers.

Wagamama Ltd was found to have failed to pay £133,212 to 2,630 workers, while Marriott Hotels Ltd, failed to pay £71,722 to 279 workers, and TGI Friday’s owed 2,303 workers £59,347.

The noodle chain blamed ‘an inadvertent misunderstanding’ of the rules on staff uniforms, saying in a statement the company had asked front-of-house staff to wear black jeans or a black skirt with their Wagamama-branded top. This was considered as asking them to buy a form of uniform, so employees should have been paid for it.

Wagamama said: ‘We have gladly made payments to current and previous employees who missed out dating back from 2016 to 2013. We have also updated our uniform policy and we now pay a uniform supplement to cover the black jeans.

‘Our people are the heart and soul of Wagamama and we take great pride in supporting and helping them to build their careers with us.’

TGI Fridays owned up to a similar issue relating to a shoe alliance and said in a statement: ‘This is a historic payment which was paid last year, and we have since reimbursed team members for the purchase of their black uniform shoes.’

Others on the list included the National Society For Epilepsy which failed to pay £55,251 to 26 workers, and Bridge End House Nursery in Calderdale, which owed two workers £41,938.

On 1 April the national living wage (NLW) will go up from £7.50 to £7.83 per hour. Apprentices under the age of 19 and those in the first year of their apprenticeship will benefit from a 5.7% rise.

Later this month the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will launch a campaign to raise awareness of the new rates and encourage workers to speak to their employer if they think they are being underpaid.

Business minister Andrew Griffiths said: ‘There are no excuses for short-changing workers. This is an absolute red line for this government and employers who cross it will get caught - not only are they forced to pay back every penny but they are also fined up to 200% of wages owed.

‘Today’s naming round serves as a sharp reminder to employers to get their house in order ahead of minimum wage rate rises on 1 April.’

The government’s good work plan, announced last month, includes the right to a payslip for all workers, which it says will benefit around 300,000 UK workers who do not currently get a payslip. For those paid by the hour, payslips will also have to include how many hours the worker is paid for, making pay easier to understand and challenge if it is wrong.

This was the 14th naming and shaming list for NMW violations. Since 2013 the scheme has identified more than £9m in back pay for around 67,000 workers, with more than 1,700 employers fined a total of £6.3m.

Report by Pat Sweet

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