Councillor backs Court over Benefit change for Children

A local Care spokseperson councillor is calling upon local care agencies to review their procedures after a major HMRC decision has highlighted companies who are paying less than the less than the minimum wage

The major retailer has been fined £1.5 million by HMRC after asking staff to undergo briefings and security checks outside paid working hours. And local Lib Dem Care spokesperson councillor Tony Dawson is concerned that some care agencies working in Southport have been doing the same thing for years.

Argos, which was bought by Sainsbury’s last year,  is now being forced to pay £2.4 million in wages to more than 37,000 current and former shopworkers. Managers wrote to staff on Thursday after  the firm  was found to have effectively been paying less than the legal minimum wage to workers by forcing them to do out-of-ours activity for no pay. However, Argos will only have to pay the tax authority £800,000 because it has been awarded a discount on the fine for paying up within 14 days.

The underpayments of about £64 per person date back to 2014 and were first uncovered last year, just ahead of Argos’s takeover by Sainsbury’s. The supermarket said it had changed processes as quickly as possible after being made aware of the issue, and would be repaying staff at the end of this month. This involves 12,000 current employees and more than 25,000 former staff.

The number of workers underpaid by Argos is much higher than  those shortchanged by Debenhams, which is, to date, the most prolific offender to be “named and shamed” by the government under a system brought in by Lib Dem Ministers in 2013. The department store chain was fined £63,000 and forced to pay back nearly £135,000 to 12,000 workers. The company’s excuse for underpaying staff by an average of £10 each in 2015 was that it had a “technical error in its payroll calculations”.

Argos’s underpayment is also well ahead of the £1 million awarded in back pay to Sports Direct workers after a HMRC investigation last year when about 200 people directly employed by the firm and about 3,000 staff hired through temporary employment agencies were found to have been paid less than the minimum wage over four years.

Councillor Dawson says: ” I  believe Argos is going to be officially ‘named and shamed’ by the government later this year. This is all well and good but it would be better if these shameful underpayments never  occurred.”

” I have received information that some (not all!) care agencies working locally likewise have been calling in employees for training and staff briefings outside their paid hours. There may be other firms doing likewise. I hope that they will review their practices and cease this forthwith. It will, of course, also be open to employees to approach their bosses if they think they have been ripped off in this manner to seek appropriate back pay.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “Every worker in the UK is entitled to at least the national minimum or living wage. That is why we named and shamed more than 350 employers who failed to pay the legal minimum this week, sending the clear message to employers that minimum wage abuses will not go unpunished.”

Dave Gill, a national officer for shop workers’ union USDAW, said: “Our members in Argos are clearly disappointed to have been underpaid and we are seeking safeguards to ensure that this cannot occur again.”