COMPANIES employing staff in Colchester and north Essex have been named and shamed for failing to pay their lowest-paid staff the minimum wage.

More than 200 employers across the country were found to have failed to pay their workers almost £5million in a clear breach of National Minimum Wage law, leaving around 63,000 workers out of pocket.

HMRC investigations into the named businesses, who have since paid back what they owe to their staff and faced financial penalties, concluded between 2017 and 2019.

Thorpe le Soken-based firm Jettco Plastering was found to have arrears for one worker totalling more than £1,900, while an investigation against Great Bentley-based MOT centre The Pit Stop discovered arrears of around £1,400.

Gazette: Business - The Pit StopBusiness - The Pit Stop (Image: Google)

The Pit Stop declined to comment on HMRC’s findings. Jettco Plastering has been approached for comment but at the time of publication, the firm had not responded.

The companies named range from high street giants to small businesses and sole traders, in a clear message from the Government that no employer is exempt from paying their workers the statutory minimum wage.

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Lloyds Pharmacy, Marks and Spencer, Argos, Buzz Bingo, Toolstation, Wren Kitchens, and Whitbread, who all employ staff in north Essex, are also among the 202 firms listed, as is the now-defunct Arcadia Group, which ran popular retailers including Topshop and Dorothy Perkins.

WH Smith, which has stores in Colchester, Halstead, and Clacton, was the worst offender, having been found to have failed to pay more than £1million to 17,607 workers.

The underpayments occurred either by apprentices being paid the incorrect rate, employers deducting pay from workers’ wages, or simply by employers failing to pay their workers correctly for their working time.

While not all incidents are intentional, Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake said there is no excuse for underpaying staff.

Gazette: Minister - Kevin HollinrakeMinister - Kevin Hollinrake

Mr Hollinrake said: “Paying the legal minimum wage is non-negotiable and all businesses, whatever their size, should know better than to short-change hard-working staff.

“Most businesses do the right thing and look after their employees, but we’re sending a clear message to the minority who ignore the law: pay your staff properly or you’ll face the consequences.”

Since 2015, the Government has ordered employers to repay over £100 million to one million workers.