Home Grown Hotels, the hotel group founded by Robin Hutson that includes The Pigs, has hit back at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for ‘defamatory language’ that was used as part of its National Minimum Wage Naming Scheme.
The hotel group was among 138 ‘rogue employers’ found by government to have failed to pay workers the national minimum wage between 2016 and 2018. The likes of Tesco and Pizza Hut also appeared on the list, released last week.
The list stated that Home Grown Hotels failed to pay £13,790.44 to 25 workers and was fined by the BEIS as a result of the underpayment.
Home Grown Hotels had a National Minimum Wage audit in 2016 and the process highlighted a ‘technical breach’ on staff accommodation and uniform deposits, a discrepancy which came as a result of the inconsistent hours worked.
This is often the case when low-paid employees are forced to cover additional costs such as uniforms, training fees and accommodation.
The technical breach materialised due to Home Grown Hotels offering company subsidised housing (unavailable on the open market) to the group’s lowest paid members of staff. The financial shortfall to staff was something HGH were already in the process of correcting when the audit took place.
Home Grown Hotels says that its case to the team at National Minimum Wage Naming Scheme was ‘ignored’ leaving it ‘defenceless’, and says it is ‘unjust for them to be named alongside employers who have deliberated flouted the rules’, calling for the ‘full facts’ to be reiterated.
The hotel group claims that the National Minimum Wage’s communication with the press includes defamatory and provocative language including ‘rogue employers’, ‘short-changed their employees’, ‘offending firms’ and ‘completely unacceptable breach of employment law’ yet in the next breath admit that ‘not all breaches of minimum wage rules are intentional.’
After the breach by Home Grown Hotels was discovered in 2016, chairman Robin Hutson said he was ‘entirely satisfied’ with the swift approach taken by the company’s accounts and HR teams.
The group has put in place a refreshed system where a review of proposed accommodation charges is based on employees’ salaries before they are agreed, and charged to ensure they fit with HMRC guidelines.
Additionally, uniform deposits are now spread over consecutive months so that no member of the team slips under the NMW.