Chigwell nursery fined for underpaying staff

A nursery in Chigwell has been named and shamed by the Government for underpaying its staff by more than £1,300.

According to an investigation by HMRC, Flying Start Day Nursery failed to pay £1,390.66 to nine workers between 2011 and 2018.

The nursery says bureaucratic errors and unreasonable deadlines meant it could not properly submit staff records for inspection and a more recent enquiry has shown the errors have been corrected.

The staff were repaid and the nursery was fined £700.

Flying Start Day Nursery claims it had been informed its software was not decimalizing the hour – converting 24-hour time into decimal units – and CCTV, paper and fingerprint scanning records would have confirmed the correct hours worked by staff.

A spokesperson said: “A few years back, we had a software which wasn’t decimalizing the hour.

“We have three types of records of entry to how we monitor staff, but because of the time imposed on us by HMRC we had a lack of time to report to them.

“There was so much paperwork we wanted to show them but they weren’t interested. They wouldn’t come down, they were sitting up in Glasgow saying I want everything on this day, that’s it.

“We outsource it to a chartered accountant and there’s no way we’re going to stuff our staff members because they’re the ones who make us. Why would we want to not pay them properly? It’s just ridiculous.”

The nursery says it has since adopted an app system of logging hours and another enquiry from HMRC earlier this year has shown no staff are currently being underpaid.

Not all minimum wage underpayments are intentional, but it is the responsibility of employers to check the guidance, which is available on gov.uk.

Flying Start Day Nurseries is one of 191 companies named by the government last week for paying less than minimum wage. A total of £2.1m was found to be owed to over 34,000 workers across the UK.

In a statement, Business Minister Paul Scully (Con, Sutton and Cheam) 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.”

National minimum wage rates increase on April 1. 2021, to £8.91 per hour for over 23-year olds.

Chairman of the Low Pay Commission Bryan Sanderson said: “These are very difficult times for all workers, particularly those on low pay who are often undertaking critical tasks in a variety of key sectors including care.

“The minimum wage provides a crucial level of support and compliance is essential for the benefit of both the recipients and our society as a whole.”

The Government’s name and shame list can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/employers-named-and-shamed-for-paying-less-than-minimum-wage

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter