A Evesham food manufacturer has spoken out after being 'named and shamed' for failing to pay their lowest-paid staff minimum wage.

Over 200 employers have been outed by the government for for a breach of the legal rate.

The 208 employers were found to have failed to pay their workers a total of £1.2 million in a clear breach of National Minimum Wage law, leaving around 12,000 workers out of pocket.

Among them is Westlands, a food and drink manufacturer specialising in edible flowers and microleaf products in Station Road, Offenham.

It was found to be in arrears of £1,039.38 to 23 workers over a five year period from 2013 to 2018.

However, Peter Taylor, general manager at Westlands, said the buisiness appeared on the list in error, citing a series of damage deposits as the reason for Westland's inclusion. 

"When you see things in black and white it doesn't look very good, but actually it is not quite what it seemed," He said.

"We had a survey done by the National Minimum wage office about two years ago, and in going through all the records in our payroll they found we had underpaid 23 workers a sum of around £1000 over five years. 

"That money in fact relates to new starter employees who work with us. We held a damage deposit from them which we deducted from their first pay packet in their first week because they lived in on site accommodation which we provided. 

"The money was held as a bond and then returned to them when they left our employment should the property have been in a good state.

"We've actually never deducted any damage deposits off anyone either. 

"We hadn't realised it actually counted as them being underpaid in that one week they were working for us in the survey.

"So, what we did is repaid every damage deposit that we took between 2013 to 2018 and we no longer take such deposits from employees who live in our accommodation. 

"If you look at the number of people who work for us, it was a very small amount of people which we rectified as soon as we were made aware it wasn't within the guidelines.

"And actually, the taking of a damage deposit is pretty standard practice for those providing accommodation on site."

Other companies named range from multinational businesses and large high street names to small and medium enterprises and sole traders, in a clear message that no employer is exempt from paying their workers the statutory minimum wage.

These businesses have since had to pay back what they owe to staff and also face significant financial penalties of up to 200 per cent of what was owed, which are paid to the government.

The investigations by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs concluded between 2014 and 2019.

Minister for Labour Markets Paul Scully said: ""We want workers to know that we're on their side and they must be treated fairly by their employers, which is why paying the legal minimum wage should be non-negotiable for businesses.

Don't be a scrooge

""Today's 208 businesses, whatever their size, should know better than to short-change hard-working employees, regardless of whether it was intentional or not.

""With Christmas fast approaching, it is more important than ever that cash is not withheld from the pockets of workers. So don't be a scrooge €“ pay your staff properly.""

Who else has been shamed?

You can use the table below to find all businesses in the UK which have been named and shamed by the government.

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