Low-wage firms named and shamed in the Capital

Papa John's in South Clerk Street. Picture: Scott Louden
Papa John's in South Clerk Street. Picture: Scott Louden
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A BUILDING firm, pizza takeaway franchise and three hair and beauty businesses from the Capital have been named and shamed by the UK Government for failing to pay their workers the minimum wage.

The five Edinburgh companies were among 22 Scottish businesses to appear on the biggest-ever list of offenders compiled by the UK Government in a bid to stamp out the practice of underpaying workers.

Edinburgh building firm K Construction (Scotland) was revealed to have owed £1916.61 to two workers, while Cheasty, trading as Papa John’s on South Clark Street, was found to have underpaid 19 workers by £1811.33.

Meanwhile, Alison Vallance, owner of Vallance Hair & Beauty on Dalry Road, owed £547.20 to one worker and Thomson ID, trading as Austen Thomson Hair on Great Junction Street, owed £759.32 to one worker. Alison Smith, owner of AMS Hair and Beauty in Costorphine, was on the Scottish list, owing a member of staff £150.

Altogether, the 198 UK firms – including 22 in Scotland – owed £466,219 in arrears across a range of employers, including football clubs, hotels, care homes and hairdressers.

North of the Border, accommodation provider Macdonald Hotels and iconic Fife bakery Fisher and Donaldson were also cited as having underpaid workers, while the worst Scottish offender was a newsagent in Renfrewshire, who owed three staff a total of £12,528. Most of the Edinburgh businesses claimed that the discrepencies had arisen as a result of administrative errors, misunderstandings or after government rules had changed. Papa John’s did not reply to requests for comment.

Nick Kimbell, director of K Construction, said two apprentices had been accidentally underpaid after the minimum rate changed. “It was an administration error and as soon as we realised what had happened, we paid the arrears immediately,” he said.

Ms Vallance said that the discrepancy had happened when an apprentice turned 20 and the rules changed which meant neither she nor her accountant did not realise they needed to increase her salary, while Ms Smith said she believed the amount she had owed to a former staff member was just £1.50.

“I am devastated to be on this list,” she said. “I pay my staff more than I have to.”

Austen Thomson said he had been investigated by HMRC after paying a goodwill payment to someone who was an unpaid intern on placement from a college.

“If I hadn’t paid her at all, I would have been fine,” he said. “But because I had given her some money, it turned out I was essentially taking on responsibility for being her employer. All of our employees are paid well above the minimum wage.

Business minister Margot James said: “We’ll continue to crack down on those who ignore the law, including by naming and shaming them. All of the money owed to workers by the 198 companies on the list has since been paid back to them.