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Two breach UK’s National Minimum Wage

Two UK  language schools have been named and shamed by the UK Government for breaching National Minimum Wage (NMW) regulations, the Gazette can reveal.

Anglo Limited, a British Council accredited provider in Bournemouth, was found by the tax authority HMRC  to  have failed to pay nine workers a total of £2,461, according to a Government press released in August last year. 

The second provider named in the release, Anglophiles Academic Ltd (AAL), had failed to pay £575.51 to one worker. Previously accredited by ABLS, AAL is now listed on the British Council accreditation website.

To date, Anglo Ltd has not responded to our request for comment. However, AAL replied promptly, explaining the case dated back some years and emphasising, “staff are fully compensated in line with and beyond National Minimum Wage. 

 In 2012, AAL inadvertently underpaid one tutor. This was corrected immediately upon notification and a full review was undertaken to avoid this happening again,they told us, adding, “HMRC confirmed that it was satisfied that NMW was being paid correctly.” 

Inadvertent underpayment, though common, is “ immaterial” to HMRC, who charge a penalty, currently 200%, on underpaid wages. Common causes for accidental underpayment  include staff undertaking unpaid work-related activities or duties in addition to their main job.

We do not know the cause of the AAL underpayment, but the amount they owed equates to  just 1.75 hours of unpaid working time every week for  a year. 

 All working time must be logged on a company’s National Minimum Wage Records and it’s a criminal offence not to keep them. Are  language schools aware of this?  Do British Council inspectors ask for them as part of the random documentation checks at inspection?

A spokesperson for the Council told us that, as well as inspection checks, the accreditation scheme requires providers to comply with “all applicable UK laws and regulations “ and asks them to  make an annual confirmation of compliance. 

“Any breach of the law will be viewed seriously by the scheme and failure to address any breaches found could result in withdrawal of accreditation.”  

The legal compliance section in the British Council Accreditation Handbook has guidance notes  indicating, “the main areas of law relevant to the ELT sector”. The guidance on health and safety runs to 34 lines. The guidance on employment Law runs to just eight. 

The only reference to NMW reads, “Most workers in the UK have a legal right to the National Minimum Wage.” 

Image courtesy of Pixabay
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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