Does anyone really believe major firms like retailer H&M and Welcome Break, the service station operator, when they say that staff were paid below the minimum wage as a result of 'time logging errors' (H&M) and an 'IT problem' (Welcome Break)?
That is just complete rubbish, and as far as I'm concerned these companies, and by these I mean the 37 who have just been collectively fined a paltry £51,000 for paying below minimum wage, should be coughing up much, much more.
Seriously, if these company bosses are struggling to work out an hourly rate on a calculator, you have to wonder how they manage to guide these multi-million pound operations to ring up such large profits. The answer is they can't be arsed, and they just don't care. Which I suggest is a situation that could easily be altered with a couple of CEOs (or 37 of them) getting a 12 month stretch at her majesty's pleasure.
I do think it's great that the Government is attempting to crack down on businesses who fail to pay a minimum of £6.50 an hour to any staff aged over 21. But the fines of just £1,400 for each of the businesses in question are pathetic, especially when H&M racks up more than £600million in profit in three months alone.
The fact that these businesses have been named and shamed and their reputations muddied probably does them more damage than any financial penalty, however I'm eagerly awaiting the Government's proposed Small Business Bill, which will increase the level of fines to up to £20,000 and will be based on the number of employees underpaid. It's vital these rogue employers are held to account.
As a patron for The Prince's Trust and a responsible employer, I have made it my mission over the last few years to get people off benefits and back into the work place. The Government have put a huge amount of resource into this. Businesses that avoid paying the minimum wage are undoing all that hard work, because what incentive do our young people have to go out and get a job when their employers rip them off and they are underpaid?
In our country there are millions who are officially in poverty, and what's making it even more shocking is that more than half of those people are in work. For me, if you go to work every day you deserve a decent reward, no exceptions!
I don't pay the minimum wage at Pimlico Plumbers for two reasons. Firstly, because £6.50 an hour doesn't get anyone anywhere in London. Therefore we've had to pay a version of the living wage for some time - it's a consequence of doing business in the Capital that I accept.
Secondly, paying more attracts better and more productive workers who want to get up in the morning to put in a hard day's work for a more than fair day's wage. They are motivated people that I probably, for each one of them, get more productivity from than two low paid workers.