Is naming and shaming always fair?

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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Employers who have failed to pay their workers the National Minimum Wage have been named and shamed. Of the 92 employers named by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills on 5 February 2016, TSS (Total Security Services) Limited, London is the biggest offender, having failed to pay £1,742,655.56 to 2,519 employees.

TSS mainly operates in the retail market and, with a turnover last reported at £65m, it is a significant presence in the industry, occupying the number 12 spot in the Infologue Top 30.

It does strike me that naming and shaming companies that technically, rather than knowingly, breach national minimum wage rules seems a little unfair. And, while ignorance is of course no excuse in itself, closer analysis reveals that an administrative error was to blame. As a TSS spokesperson told FM World:

 “We have always paid staff above the minimum wage and only took part in an HMRC-approved Salary Sacrifice Scheme because it benefitted staff, increasing their take-home pay.”

 “We made an inadvertent mistake when a technical rule in this Scheme changed, (after it ran successfully and compliantly for over three years), and which our professional advisors did not pick up on audit.  As soon as the mistake came to our attention, we withdrew the scheme in 2014.”

As an organisation we have paid very close attention to National Minimum Wage legislation and we have introduced new systems and procedures to comply with the rules.  Yet it is hard to eliminate all potential for administrative oversight. With complex contracts and large payrolls becoming the norm in the security sector, the potential for non-compliance – even by accident, as seems to be the case with TSS – is considerable.

Regardless of how the rules were transgressed, it’s disappointing that security is specifically identified by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills as one of four sectors that has not complied with rules that came into effect in October 2015. Once again our industry is getting bad PR.

It therefore begs a question: where is our regulator, the SIA, in this? TSS is on the Approved Contractor Scheme that the SIA administers. The purpose of the ACS is to “raise performance standards” and I would suggest this therefore demands strict adherence to the rules and regulations, and a need for robust business systems to deal with them.

Yet what, if anything, is the SIA doing to help those on the scheme navigate the legislation?  With businesses wading through so much red tape, how can the SIA and, indeed, the sector’s trade association, the BSIA, best provide guidance to those in the industry?

Finally, what does it say for the ‘joined-up Government’ that is often talked about? Is Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs talking to the SIA, as well as the BSIA, to ensure the sector is fully aware of, and acts on the rules?  We need to know.

Businesses or employees who have any questions about the National Minimum Wage can contact Acas online by visiting www.acas.org.uk/nmw.

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