Recruiters on ‘name and shame’ list for underpaying NMW

Three recruitment agencies have been named in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s latest list of firms found to have underpaid workers the National Minimum or Living Wage.

This latest list names 233 businesses that have underpaid workers. As well as repaying the money owed, employers on the list have been fined a record £1.9m by the government. 

While retail, hairdressing and hospitality employers were among the most prolific offenders, three recruitment agencies also made the list.

These agencies include Pearson Anderson in Leicester, found to have failed to pay £49,800.41 to 169 workers; Airport Placements in Solihull, who failed to pay £4,557.43 to 50 workers; and Skills Direct in Wiltshire, who failed to pay £489.91 to two workers.

Explaining his agency’s inclusion on the list, in a statement sent to Recruiter Airport Placements’ managing director Kevin Wells said: “As soon as HMRC identified that the scheme being run by [Airport Placements Ltd] fell short of the legislative requirement, all monies owed were repaid immediately. 

“The situation arose through a programme put in place whereby a small deposit was withheld from the initial week’s wages to cover a deposit for specialist clothing. It was not a deduction as it was always due for repayment at the end of the work placement. 

“When the HMRC inspector visited in 2015 the scheme’s intentions were praised but it was confirmed that it breached the minimum wage legislation. As soon as this ruling was made the money was repaid to all workers immediately and in full.”

Wells added the agency was “horrified” to find itself on the government’s list on this list, as the agency’s mistake was an innocent one.

“At the time we were assured [by HMRC] that we would not be included on any naming and shaming because we had acted in good faith and complied fully with the recommendations. It’s quite a letdown to find ourselves in this position today.

“This incident happened prior to APL becoming part of HR GO plc in October 2016. One of the benefits of joining a larger group is that we have easier access to specialist advice on pay, tax and HR issues. We are confident that an issue of this kind could not arise again.”

Meanwhile, commenting on its inclusion on the list, a spokesperson for Skills Direct told Recruiter the case refers to two Romanian drivers, who came over from Romania to work in Yorkshire. They had no accommodation and so were provided with rented accommodation.

“We agreed the costs with the rent, the electric, gas etc. We agreed to pay up front and then they would pay us back. We agreed to this – we did it all correctly.

“The way we made them repay was the problem. We deducted rent and electric – all the other bills at the end of each month. They were paid weekly and because they were paid weekly the deductions we took off them for the rent and utilities put them below the minimum wage on two separate months.”

The spokesperson added the drivers have since been repaid the money.

Recruiter also approached Pearson Anderson for comment. This story will be updated upon receipt of their response.

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