Repair firm rejects minimum wage ‘slur’

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The owner of a phone and computer repair business is considering legal action against HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) after the firm was ‘named and shamed’.

Julie Ann Wright of the Worx in Bridge Street has accused HMRC of failing to get the facts correct over its payment of the minimum wage.

And she said the shop would now be wary of offering any young people work experience, and urged other businesses to exercise caution when doing the same.

The Worx was one of five Northern Ireland companies identified this week for failing to pay staff the minimum wage. The amount for workers over the age of 21 is £6.50 per hour.

According to HMRC, Julie Ann Wright, trading as The Worx, underpaid a worker by £1,110.60.

However, in a statement released by Ms Wright’s solicitor to the Portadown Times, she said the individual concerned was working for the Worx two days per week, under a government scheme.

The statement claimed it was then agreed between the Worx and the individual that he/she would work for the remaining three days to gain experience, but without payment.

Several months later, HMRC contacted the Worx. The statement added, “The Worx argued its point that this was not an employment but an individual who had agreed to work voluntarily within the Worx ... and that the individual concerned did not fall within the category or definition of a worker in accordance with employment legislation for Northern Ireland for those other three days of the week.

“HMRC refused to accept the Worx’s position. HMRC also contacted the Worx’s accountant and upon the advice of the accountant the Worx paid full wages plus an administrative penalty to HMRC to have the matter resolved expeditiously.”

Ms Wright said the Worx had been operating for a period of five years during which time it had built up a “sterling reputation within the local community for phone, computer and electronic repairs”.

The other firms named were Manleys, Belfast, which failed to pay £3,797.83 to three members of its staff; Phillip and Lorraine Campbell, trading as Supervalu, Kells, which failed to pay £905.86 to two employees; Grove Mechanical Services, Magherafelt, which neglected to pay £107 to two workers; and Kevin and Bernadette Farrell, trading as Derrygonnelly Autos, County Fermanagh, which failed to pay £1,690.35 to an employee.

Business Minister Jo Swinson said this was a clear warning to employers that they will face reputational consequences as well as financial penalties.