Wages shortfall caused by ‘human error’, says bakery

Eric Milne, pictured here with Jay Watson (left) and Kathryn Rattray, says the firm prides itself on its relationship with its staff
Eric Milne, pictured here with Jay Watson (left) and Kathryn Rattray, says the firm prides itself on its relationship with its staff

Bosses at a Cupar-based bakery have admitted that it was ‘human error’ that led them to be being named and shamed as a minimum wage offender.

Family-run Fisher and Donaldson was one of almost 200 UK companies to be publicly identified for failing to pay staff the legal minimum wage, along with the Busy Bee nursery in Newport.

It emerged that the nursery, which operates as the Little Beehive nursery, owed over £9000 to seven workers, while Fisher and Donaldson had underpaid six workers by a total of over £574.

The National Living Wage for workers aged 25 and over was introduced in April and, says Business Minister Margot James, it will be enforced just as robustly as the National Minimum Wage.

Fisher and Donaldson director Eric Milne was quick to respond, calling the underpayment ‘an honest mistake’.

He said: “Last year a human error regretfully led to a small number of 16-17 year old employees being underpaid. Unfortunately we were unaware that these employees, despite being below the age bracket, were eligible for the 17-year-old bracket of minimum wage, a mistake which was rectified as soon as we were made aware of it by HMRC. This is one of many complex rules we follow and one which regretfully we did not know about.

“All of our employees are paid fairly and are on permanent contracts. We pay the national living wage or above to all employees aged 25 and over, we follow union rates for all employees (whether they are members of their union or not), we never use zero hours contracts, and we pride ourselves on the valuable relationships we have with our team, which is evidenced through the many people who have worked and continue to work with us throughout their careers, some working with us for up to as long as 45 years.

“Regretfully on this occasion we oversaw a rule regarding teenage employees which meant that a small number of our staff were underpaid. This is something we worked to fix as soon as we became aware of it, and we have since put new systems in place to ensure that any employee that is due to change pay bracket is flagged up in advance on our system so that this does not happen again.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Little Beehives said: “Our trainees undergo a 12 month training programme. We supported a number of our trainees who required their contracts to be extended by a few months to allow them to complete their training. However, if the trainee was over 19 their hourly rate should have changed for this contract extension – we failed to identify this and the payment shortfall occurred. All payment shortfalls have been paid and our systems have been reviewed.”