‘Never knowingly underpaid’: John Lewis hits out after being named Britain’s worst minimum wage offender

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A spokesman for John Lewis said that the company’s minimum hourly pay has never been below the national minimum wage - Leon Neal/Getty Images
A spokesman for John Lewis said that the company’s minimum hourly pay has never been below the national minimum wage - Leon Neal/Getty Images

John Lewis is embroiled in a row with the Government after being named and shamed as Britain’s worst minimum wage offender.

A list of 191 businesses that have broken wage laws as far back as 2011, ranging from retailers to football clubs, was published on Thursday by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

It was claimed that investigations by HM Revenue & Customs found about £2.1 million was owed to 34,000 workers across all the companies.

At the top of the list was John Lewis, which was said to have failed to pay more than £940,000 to 19,392 workers, the highest of any business named.

It is understood bosses at the retailer were furious to learn of the public shaming by the Government over a situation that was said to have been resolved years ago.

A spokesman for the John Lewis Partnership said: “We’re surprised and disappointed that [the Business Department] has chosen to report this today.

“This was a technical breach that happened four years ago, has been fixed and which we ourselves made public 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 spokesman added that the company’s minimum hourly pay had never been below the national minimum wage and currently sat 15 per cent above it.

Football clubs also named and shamed

The Business Department said employers were named based on when the investigations closed – which, in John Lewis’s case, was September 2018.

The only previous “named and shamed” list released by the Business Department was in December 2020 and did not name any businesses whose investigations were closed as late as that date.

Other organisations named by the Government included Sheffield United, Oldham Athletic, Crewe Alexandra, Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth football clubs, as well as The Body Shop International, Worcestershire Cricket Club and Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Paul Scully, the Business minister, said: “Our minimum wage laws are there to ensure a fair day’s work gets a fair day’s pay. It is unacceptable for any company to come up short. All employers, including those on this list, need to pay workers properly.

“This Government will continue to protect workers’ rights vigilantly, and employers that short change workers won’t get off lightly.”

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