Jo Swinson to name and shame rogue employers who fail to pay minimum wage

Jo Swinson was featured widely in the media yesterday talking about her plan to tackle employers who fail to pay the National Minimum Wage.

The BIS website outlines the plan:

Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson said:

Paying less than the minimum wage is illegal. If employers break this law they need to know that we will take tough action.

This is why I’m making changes so it is easier to name and shame employers who break the law. This gives a clear warning to rogue employers who ignore the rules, that they will face reputational consequences as well as a fine if they don’t pay the minimum wage.

If workers feel they aren’t getting the minimum wage that they are legally entitled to then they should contact the free and confidential Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368. Calls will be referred to HMRC to actively investigate any suspected non-payment of national minimum wage.

This move has been welcomed by the Low Pay Commission. You can see Jo talking about it on Daybreak here.

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  • Eddie Sammon 24th Aug '13 - 4:00pm

    I instinctively dislike this. I am not saying hide the names, but who exactly are the government going to go out of their way to name and shame? People suffering from mental health problems, financial difficulties, disabilities?

    We should not be doing character assassinations on people who we don’t know, just prosecute and be done with it.

  • So the punishment for not paying the minimum wage should be different for employers which are in B2C areas and need to keep a good reputation, compared to employers who are B2B and don’t need to worry as much?

  • Geoffrey Payne 24th Aug '13 - 4:20pm

    If they are breaking the law, why not prosecute them?

  • Now I know the Lib Dem leadership isn’t keen on the rule of law now (just look at the whole David Miranda case where using the courts is so illiberal – much better to have dodgy phone calls from civil servants) but why not actually use the law against these employers. Why is that not Swinson’s focus. Let’s see how many prosecutions there are and what she is doing to get the numbers up.

  • Malcolm Todd 24th Aug '13 - 6:17pm

    “This gives a clear warning to rogue employers who ignore the rules, that they will face reputational consequences as well as a fine if they don’t pay the minimum wage.”

    Seems pretty clear they’re talking about first prosecuting them and then publishing their names, not naming them instead of prosecuting.

  • Malcolm – but what’s the focus. Prosecuting them or ‘reputational damage’? Fact they are either thinking in terms of the latter, which frankly has nothing to do with government, is worrying.

  • Mack(Not a Lib Dem) 24th Aug '13 - 8:48pm

    I could only take this faux outrage seriously if I didn’t know that the Lib Dems support Zero Hours contracts.

  • Geoffrey Payne 24th Aug '13 - 9:44pm

    Good point Malcolm. I think the problem is that the law is not being enforced. On top of that of course the law is undermined by workfare schemes which makes me wonder if the government is that bothered about the minimum wage. I am sure Jo Swinson is, but she can only allocate the resources that her department has, not the overall amount which is decided by the quad.
    The potential fine that a company gets from breaking the law ought to be a deterrent enough but clearly isn’t.

  • If Jo thinks there are too many instances of this, she could focus on prosecution rates, penalties and to increase detection, a scheme to incentivise employees to come forward.

  • Under Labour there were 45000 breaches of minimum wage legislation over more than eight years before there was a single prosecution:

  • As an employer I think this is a good thing. However, I would also like the government to guarantee that any work that they require unemployed people to carry out is paid at this rate. If it is a minimum anyone should be expected to work for then that should mean anyone, even the most unfortunate.

  • Peter Watson 25th Aug '13 - 9:00am

    I’m a bit confused about this. Are successful prosecutions currently kept secret, which sounds completely unacceptable? Or are successful prosecutions already in the public domain, in which case what is the point of Jo Swinson’s comments?

  • robert sayer 25th Aug '13 - 9:04am

    It nevr ceases to amaze me that when a Lib Dem Minister starts to identify a majorproblem ,as with the min.wage, some start criticizing that there is always a better way. The problem with increasing penalties etc is that these companies are not being reported. The positive of ensuring that people know their rights and know that there is a confidential phone line is right. People like Mack would find a reason to criticise whatever is being done or said

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Aug '13 - 9:04am

    Should someone name and shame the Lib Dems for using unpaid interns? What is the principle behind this naming and shaming? Evidently it isn’t paying someone not very much money. It must be doing something illegally, in which case we should be going out of our way to name and shame every person convicted of a crime?

  • Malcolm Todd Wrote:

    “Seems pretty clear they’re talking about first prosecuting them and then publishing their names, not naming them instead of prosecuting.”

    Well, yes. If they’re prosecuted, they’ll be named in the process anyway. Unless we go down the route of secret trials, that is.

    “I could only take this faux outrage seriously if I didn’t know that the Lib Dems support Zero Hours contracts.”

    Mack, you are obviously unaware that Labour councils have Zero Hours contracts. Check out the contracts for casual school governing body clerks in Waltham Forest.

  • David Pollard 25th Aug '13 - 9:18am

    There is a free and confidential help line and HMRC will investigate. If this happens it will be a good thing. Jo Swinson should liaise closely with the Unions. Its a really good example of how that Unions could be a force for good and be shown to be doing a good thing on behalf of working people instead of always being criticised.
    But a someone has said above – the proof will be in the outcomes and there does not seem to be a need for much success to do better than Labour did.

  • Peter Watson 25th Aug '13 - 9:30am

    @robert sayer
    I think the problem in the quotes above is that Jo Swinson starts strongly with “If employers break this law they need to know that we will take tough action.” but then does not appear to offer any action, tough or otherwise, and it all sounds a bit vague. Bigger fines, more prosecutions, etc. would sound like “tough action”. It is not at all impressive simply to remind people about an existing hotline or to plan to make it easier to name and shame if the media is not already bothering to use the information if it is publicly available.

  • Once minimum wage enforcement is wrapped up, let’s have a Living Wage!
    No-one can live on the minimum wage.

  • If the law was being enforced properly there would be no need to ‘name and shame’. Frankly it sounds very new Labour, disguise the fact that little is being done by getting a bit of press coverage. Naming people or companies is easy – getting press coevrage or reputational damage is harder and as for shaming – it is not in the power of naming to create shame. People with big bonuses are ‘named and shamed’, they feel no shame, they think a few days negative press is well worth the money. I can name Tesco for paying crap wages and having almost zero hours contracts – they couldn’t give a toss about it.

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