Butcher hits back at government over minimum wage fine

St Ives butcher Stephen Alsford

St Ives butcher Stephen Alsford - Credit: Archant

The owner of a butchers in St Ives said he almost had to close his doors after being forced to pay out thousands of pounds to staff following a government crackdown.

A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) report named 359 companies across the country which, it said, had failed to pay the national minimum wage, which currently stands at £7.20.

On the list, three firms in Huntingdonshire fell short of paying six employees more than £6,000.

One of those was Stephen’s Family Butchers, in Station Road, which says it has been penalised for failing to pay £3,542.90 to three workers.

Owner Stephen Alsford said: “We are a small family business and we have been heavily penalised, as master butchers we were trying to teach people to learn our trade but instead it almost shut us down.

“We were employing the workers as apprentices because butchery is a trade and there isn’t a college course to do this. We pay somebody for their skills and these employees were coming into no skills but they [BEIS] didn’t see that.”

Along with paying back the owed wages to the former employees, Mr Alsford said the business was also fined £4,000 which, he said, was staying taking its toll.

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“Once that money has gone it is gone, a sum like this puts a hole in your business – this will take us a few years to recoup,” added Mr Alsford.

Also on the list is St Neots-based ADR Care Homes Limited which failed to pay £164.24 to one worker.

Another business in the town that failed to pay £2,640.06 to two employees was Beaumont Healthcare Limited, based on Colmworth Business Park.

According to the company, the fault was as the result of the accommodation offset rule, which allows employers who provide accommodation to their workers to count up to a specified amount as payment towards the minimum wage.

Beaumont said the error related to staff from Portugal form whom, in 2013, Beaumont paid rent in advance which, it added, was reimbursed via a payroll deduction.

ADR Care Homes did not respond to a request for a comment.