THE Pig hotels group has defended its position after being “named and shamed” by the government for failing to pay workers the minimum wage.
The Lyndhurst-based group, which owns seven Pig hotels across the south including the one at Brockenhurst – where the chain began – was one of 139 companies slammed for the breaches.
Home Grown Hotels was fined £6,000 for short-changing 25 of its staff across its hotels, including Lime Wood at Lyndhurst, by nearly £14,000 between 2016 and 2018.
However, a spokesperson for the firm said it had “mistakenly” fallen foul of “complex legislation”.
The government said while the majority of businesses follow the law and uphold workers’ rights, the publication of the list is intended to serve as a “warning to rogue employers” that the government will take action against transgressions.
Among the list of offenders were Tesco, Pizza Hut, Superdrug and the Lowry Hotel in Salford, along with dozens of smaller companies.
Business Minister Paul Scully said this should serve as a “wake-up call” to employers of the importance of paying workers what they are legally entitled to.
“Paying the minimum wage is not optional, it is the law,” he said. “It is never acceptable for any employer to short-change their workers, but it is especially disappointing to see huge household names who absolutely should know better on this list.
“Make no mistake, those who fail to follow minimum wage rules will be caught out and made to pay up.”
One of the main causes of breaches was low-paid employees being made to cover work costs, which would eat into their pay packet, such as paying for uniform, training or parking fees.
The Home Grown Hotels spokesperson said its violation came about through offering subsidised housing to staff who worked inconsistent hours, and deposits for uniforms.
“The financial shortfall to staff was something we were already in the process of correcting when the audit took place,” they said.
“We think it’s unjust to be named for what we regard as inadvertent breaches of very complex regulations, particularly as we are named alongside employers who have deliberately flouted the rules – the distinction is not obvious to the public.”
Group chairman Robin Hutson said employees’ pay was not always as straightforward in the hospitality industry as other sectors because of “inconsistent hours worked from one month to the next”.
Home Grown Hotels has now reviewed its systems to ensure accommodation charges are in line with employees’ salaries and HMRC guidelines.
Uniform deposits will also be spread over consecutive months so that no member of the team slips under the national minimum wage.
Each of the companies named has paid back workers what they were owed.