MORE than 500 businesses were named by the government for failing to pay the minimum wage, including three in St Helens.

Officials say 524 employers were found to have failed to pay their workers nearly £16m in a “clear breach” of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) law, leaving more than 172,000 workers out of pocket.

Employers named across the country include major high street brands, in a clear message from government that no employers are exempt from paying their workers the statutory minimum wage.

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The government says that the businesses named the list which was released on Tuesday (February 20) have since paid back what they owe to their staff and have also faced financial penalties of up to 200 per cent of their underpayment. The investigations by His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) concluded between 2015 and 2023.

Three firms in St Helens were included in the list.

They are:

  • John K Philips Group Limited, St Helens, WA9, failed to pay £679.46 to four workers.
  • Oakfield Pharma Limited, St Helens, WA9, failed to pay £4,152.77 to one worker
  • Mr John David Ogden and Mrs Joan Mary Ogden, St Helens, WA9, failed to pay £1,465.43 to one worker.

Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business Kevin Hollinrake said: “Employees deserve to get paid properly for the hard work they put in.

“While the majority of businesses already do the right thing and pay their staff what they are owed, today’s announcement sends a message to the minority who aren’t - that there are repercussions to undercutting hard work from their staff.”

While not all minimum wage underpayments are intentional, the government has been clear that anyone entitled to be paid the minimum wage should receive it, and that enforcement action will be taken against employers who do not pay their staff correctly.

Independent Commissioner at the Low Pay Commission, Patricia Rice, added: "Since its introduction nearly twenty-five years ago, the national minimum wage has played a vital role in protecting the earnings of the lowest-paid workers in the UK.  At a time when the cost-of-living is rising, it is more important than ever that these workers receive the pay to which they are entitled.

"NMW underpayment not only cheats workers of their rightful due, it leaves compliant firms undercut by those who do not abide by the law. By naming the firms responsible for significant underpayment, we raise awareness of the nature and the scale of underpayment and encourage all employers to ensure that they fully comply with the law."

This year marks 25 years since the introduction of the National Minimum Wage and this year’s increase will see 16–17-year-olds on the minimum wage receive a rise of 21.2 per cent.

This year, the government has also met a manifesto commitment of the National Living Wage equalling two-thirds of median earnings by 2024, ending low hourly pay for those aged 21 and over.