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Kaplan-owned summer schools named and shamed

Summer school operator Alpadia UK Ltd – now owned by Kaplan – was one of over 500 companies which failed to pay national minimum wage to all of its workers, according to information released by the UK tax authority, HMRC, in its annual ‘Named and Shamed’ list.

HMRC stated: ‘Alpadia UK Ltd, failed to pay £5,668.23 to 17 workers.’ The amount, approximately £333.50 per worker, doesn’t sound like much. However, in 2019 – when the underpayment took place – £333.50 represented a total of 43 unpaid hours of work for those aged 21-24, rising to 54 unpaid hours for someone aged 18-20.

A spokesperson for Alpadia told the Gazette: ‘The processes which led to the underpayment of 17 Alpadia staff members were in place before Alpadia was owned by Kaplan, and continued for approximately one month following the acquisition.

‘As is usual with these transactions, detailed staff payroll information was not provided to Kaplan until the acquisition was complete. Once we learned that some Alpadia staff had been underpaid, we took the necessary steps to correct this.’

The hurdles facing new owners in this scenario are clear. However, a spokesperson for the UK Department of Business and Trade emphasised: ‘whilst we do not comment on individual cases, prior to being named, all companies on this list have been found by HMRC to have broken the law on minimum wage, and have been ordered to repay the underpaid workers as well as being issued with an additional penalty.’

A representative of the TEFL Workers Union said: ‘Sadly, situations like this are all too common – and doubly so in summer schools. Whether through ignorance of the law or disregard for it, too many schools fail to pay even the legal minimum. Remember to always check your payslips and contact a union representative or seek legal advice if something doesn’t look right.’

Summer staff can also make an anonymous National Minimum Wage complaint by phoning the government-backed reconciliation scheme ACAS on 0300 123 1100. Or they can send a written complaint directly to HMRC by filling in the form here. To make a complaint, workers will require a copy of their contract and at least one payslip.

The government spokesperson assured us that ‘HMRC follows up on every worker complaint about a possible breach of minimum wage law, and also carries out targeted enforcement in a wide range of businesses and sectors.’

The Gazette contacted the British Council and English UK for comment but received no reply. Both bodies are involved in the accreditation scheme, but while accredited operations are required to follow British Employment law, this is not routinely checked on inspection. As the Gazette understands it, the British Council will not accept complaints from teachers.

Image courtesy of Ryul Davidson
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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