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John Lewis cries foul as it's placed on list of firms breaching wage rules

By Huw Hughes

5 Aug 2021

Fashion

Image: John Lewis

The John Lewis Partnership has said it’s “surprised and disappointed” to have been placed on a list of companies “named and shamed” by the government for paying their employees less than minimum wage between 2011 and 2018.

In total, 191 companies failed to pay 2.1 million pounds to over 34,000 workers, according to The Department for Business (BEIS). The businesses have since repaid the money and been fined an additional 3.2 million pounds.

Nearly half of the companies underpaid workers by wrongly deducting pay from their wages, including for uniforms and expenses (47 percent), while others failed to pay workers for all the time they had worked, such as when they worked overtime (30 percent), or paid the incorrect apprenticeship rate (19 percent).

John Lewis was at the top of the list, having failed to pay 941,356 pounds to 19,392 workers.

A spokesperson for John Lewis told Sky News it was “surprised and disappointed that BEIS has chosen to report this today” as the breach “happened four years ago, has been fixed” and was made public by the company itself at the time.

"The issue arose because the partnership smooths pay so that partners with variable pay get the same amount each month, helping them to budget,” the spokesperson said. “Our average minimum hourly pay has never been below the national minimum wage and is currently 15 percent above it.”

Other companies on the list include The Body Shop, Pret A Manger and Martin McColl Retail Limited.

Business Minister Paul Scully said it was “unacceptable for any company to come up short” when it comes to paying minimum wage, which “ensures a fair day’s work gets a fair day’s pay”.

“All employers, including those on this list, need to pay workers properly,” he said in a statement. “This government will continue to protect workers’ rights vigilantly, and employers that short-change workers won’t get off lightly.”