Bakers have hit out at a report naming businesses that have underpaid staff – saying it is ‘misleading’ and has branded ‘honest people’ as criminals.
Three hundred and fifty-nine employers were named by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) for underpaying their workers the national minimum or living wage.
As well as recovering arrears for some of the UK’s lowest paid workers, HMRC issued penalties worth around £800,000.
For the first time, the list includes employers who failed to pay eligible workers at least the new National Living Wage rate, which currently stands at £7.20 for workers aged 25 and over.
British Baker tried to get in touch with all the bakers ‘named and shamed’ by the report – and found the story was not as clear cut as it appeared.
“We have been branded criminals and all this business is guilty of is trying to help people,” said Tony Bain, general manager at Glover’s Bakery in Preston.
“I have worked here for over 30 years – I learnt my trade at Warburtons with Alf Glover, and then he started this business 40-odd years ago. You will never meet a kinder, more caring man. He has been left devastated by this report.”
Glover’s was listed as having failed to pay £11,320.33 to two workers.
“That amount was for two employees to live in a subsidised flat above the bakery – it was deducted at their request,” added Bain.
‘We are not cheats’
“We didn’t know that the money had to be paid to them and then paid back to us for the rent – all we are guilty of here is an administrative error. We are not cheats.
“Mr Glover has been fined over £10,000 for basically trying to help people. Is that what this world is coming to?
“He has in the past given people advances for cars, houses. He does so much charity work. He is beloved by each and every one of his employees for being such a good man and this has left him broken.”
Bain added: “The staff at Glover’s have all signed a card to be given to Alf, telling him how much they appreciate him – they want him to know how valued he is, because right now he feels his staff and customers think he’s a crook.”
Brian O’Loughlin, managing director at Thomas’ Bakery in Dalton-on-Furness, declared the report “laughable” after his business was accused of underpaying a total of £779.75 to nine workers.
“That is the £1 coin our employees put in for tea, coffee and biscuits each week,” he said. “That is only the ones who want to, obviously, and instead of putting a pound in a cup each week, we had the written agreement of each and every one of them that they’d rather it be taken out of their wages. That amounts to £779.75 over two-and-a-half years.
“We thought we were modernising everything by not asking for a pound coin – but we’re now back to putting a pound in a pot.”
O’Loughlin added that he embraced the minimum wage, because it puts him on a level playing field with his competitors.
“In the past, businesses could get away with paying less, but our main competitor around here is Greggs, for example, and I like that they have to pay their staff exactly the same as me.”
He described the attitude of BEIS as “like running a protection racket but without a balaclava”, adding they would have a point if employees were being “diddled out of their money”.
‘Pulled up over tea and biscuits’
“But 2.3p an hour, or £1 a week – that’s what we were pulled up over – for tea and biscuits!”
He added that, although the report was “ridiculous”, it could mean customers would not to trust his business as a result.
“And that is no laughing matter,” he said. “We make some of the best pies in Britain, award-winning, but all that means nothing if your customers don’t trust you.”
Greencore, which was also listed in the report, said it was guilty of an administrative error (it failed to pay £1,675.50 to 22 workers). Michael Evans, group communications manager at the company, said: ““Greencore has been notified the company made an administrative error when carrying out minor wage deductions from a small number of employees at the group’s facility in Hull.
“The company has therefore reimbursed 22 colleagues with an average amount of around £76, and has put measures in place to prevent an oversight of this kind from happening again.”
Bakeries and related businesses on the list include:
- Glover’s Bakery Limited, Preston PR5, failed to pay £11,320.33 to two workers.
- Russell Evans & Lynne Evans trading as Glanmor’s Bakery, Caerphilly CF83, failed to pay £3,959.70 to one worker.
- Greencore Grocery Limited, Hull HU7, failed to pay £1,675.50 to 22 workers.
- Shannons Bakers Limited, Barking IG11, failed to pay £1,227.17 to two workers.
- Brian O’Loughlin Ltd, trading as Thomas’s Bakery, Dalton-in-Furness LA15, failed to pay £779.75 to nine workers.
- The Coffee Shop (Blyth) Limited, trading as Chapel Bakery, Wallsend NE28, failed to pay £313.81 to one worker.
- London Agege Bread Bakers Limited, London SE7, failed to pay £210.00 to one worker.
- Mr Robin Revill, trading as The Crusty Loaf, Coleford GL16, failed to pay £138.62 to eight workers.