Brighton and Hove Albion tackled the taxman today in a row over “naming and shaming” employers who failed to pay the minimum wage.
The football club appeared on a list of 198 businesses and stood accused of owing £2,861.64 to one worker.
But the club said that it had been paying expenses to someone on work experience and as a result of the row would suspend its work experience programme.
While many businesses do not pay interns or people on work experience, Albion had tried to ensure that those it helped were not left out of pocket. And the club had even taken legal advice to try to ensure it was complying with an area of law that some found confusing.
Revenue and Customs said today (Thursday 11 August): “The largest list of employers to be named and shamed for failing to pay their workers the national minimum wage has been published.
“Between them, the 197 companies named owed £465,291 in arrears, across a range of employers including football clubs, hotels, care homes and hairdressers. All of the money owed to these workers has been paid back to them.
“Since the scheme was introduced in October 2013, 687 employers have been named and shamed, with total arrears of more than £3.5 million.”
Business Minister Margot James said: “This government is determined to build an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.
“That means making sure everyone gets paid the wages they are owed – including our new, higher, national living wage.
“It is not acceptable that some employers fail to pay at least the minimum wage their workers are entitled to.
“So we’ll continue to crack down on those who ignore the law, including by naming and shaming them.”
A similar row followed the publication of an earlier list in February last year when a Hove nursery – Young Friends in Holland Road in Hove – was named. It also contested the way that an honest mistake had been handled by Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Albion said today: “Brighton and Hove Albion are very disappointed that, despite representations to the Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, they have been ‘named’ as a business adjudged by the HMRC as having failed to pay the national minimum wage.
“The case resulted from the club being over-generous in paying the expenses of an individual on a work experience placement at the club two years ago.
“The minor administrative error was corrected by the club as soon as it was established the payments had been made in error.
“The club had acted in good faith, having taken external legal advice and in the belief that it did not breach employment regulations.
“The club is a responsible employer who values its staff, pays all staff over and above the national living wage, provides additional benefits to all full-time staff, including free meals, twice a day, a bonus scheme and other benefits.
“As a result of the HMRC’s decision (to which there is no right of appeal) the club has suspended its work experience programme and has since been forced to close the door to many graduates seeking such opportunities.”
A spokesman for Brighton and Hove Albion said: “As a business we feel our reputation as a responsible employer has been very unfairly tarnished.
“We are one of the few clubs who pays its staff the over and above the national living wage.
“Unfortunately, in light of this, we are now more risk-averse in terms of offering work experience opportunities.
“This means we are unable to give as many valuable on-the-job work experience opportunities to those looking to further their career or break into this highly competitive industry.
“It is a shame because a number of people who’ve spent time with us on work experience placements have gone on to win successful job roles across the football and sports industry at the highest level – here in the Premier League and EFL and others abroad.”
The club was voted by its own staff as the Best Football Club to Work For at the Football Business Awards last year.
It expanded its employee benefits to include a hot breakfast and lunch for every member of full-time staff.
And it added every single member of staff – including all match-day and casual staff – to a promotion bonus scheme alongside the players and coaching staff.
A second local business was included on the Revenue and Customs list published today. Le Nantais Bistro, in Church Road, Hove, was said to have owed £362.44 to one of its employees. The money has now been paid.
The government’s newly named Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The national living wage for workers aged 25 and over was introduced in April this year which has meant a pay rise of more than £900 a year for someone previously working full time on the national minimum wage.
“For workers under the age of 25, the National Minimum Wage still applies.
“It is an employer’s responsibility to be aware of the different minimum wage rates depending on the circumstances of their workers and to make sure all eligible workers are paid at least the minimum rate they are entitled to.
“The national living wage will be enforced equally robustly alongside the national minimum wage.”
The current minimum wage rates are
– National living wage (25 years and over) £7.20 an hour
– National minimum wage
- Adult rate (21 years and over) £6.70 an hour
- 18 to 20-year-olds £5.30 an hour
- 16 to 17-year-olds £3.87 an hour
- Apprentice rate £3.30 per hour
The apprentice rate applies to apprentices aged 16 to 18 years and those aged 19 years and over who are in their first year. All other apprentices are entitled to the national minimum wage rate for their age.