Name and Shame
Name and Shame

Tech Giants paying less than minimum wage excluded from UK’s government’s name-and-shame list

Guest Articles | 22nd Sep, 2021


Uber, Amazon, Deliveroo were left out because drivers are grouped as self-employed, but legal professionals find it unfair

The UK government has been under fire for failing to name-and-shame tech giants who pay below the minimum wage.

The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial strategy named and shamed about 200 firms who violated the minimum wage laws from 2011 to 2018.

Some companies on the list, like John Lewis, the national retail chain, and Pret A Manger, owe £2.1 to over 34 000 employees. They had been charged an extra £2 over seven years.

Since the UK government first published the list in 2013, tech giants like Amazon, Deliveroo, and Uber are excluded from the list, who pay their employees below the minimum wage.

Inspection of thousands of riders by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals that one in three Deliveroo employees was discovered to be earning below the minimum wage. Some riders earn as low as £2 every hour. Deliveroo claimed that they paid their riders over £10 every hour in 2019.

Amazon has accordingly followed suit. Some of its self-employed delivery drivers were discovered to be earning less than the minimum wage.

Some sub-contractors hired by these companies informed a news channel that they earn as low as £1.8 an hour after deducting expenses like hiring a van, fuel, etc. The informers complained that they were projected to supply up to 250 parcels a shift and were not paid for the one they could not deliver.

Amazon responded that they provided a 24/7 mobile number for drivers to share their grievances. The tech giant also reminded the public of its commitment to ensuring that people hired by its independent delivery benefactors are paid fairly and treated with dignity.

March was the happiest time for Uber workers. A court judgment forced Uber from handling its drivers as self-employed but as employed staff along with benefits like paid holidays and pensions and paying them above the minimum wage.

“I know many observers won’t pat us on the back for taking this step, which comes after a five-year legal battle. They have a point, though I hope the path we chose shows our willingness to change,” said Uber chief executive, assuring his workers of guaranteed earnings.

However, legal professionals have suspected Uber of disregarding the court ruling by paying minimum wage only when riders play by their rules (i.e. accept a trip) rather than the whole shift period. Kate Robinson, an employment advocate, believes that drivers deserve better.

US studies reveal that up to a third of the time drivers spend on the wheel can be used to wait for customers.

 “The government has named and shamed itself by leaving out big violators of the minimum wage like Uber,” said Nader Awaad, the private hire drivers leader of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain to an independent global media organization. “Even before this farce, the burden was already on workers to enforce their own rights. If the government does not radically overhaul its enforcement regime, more companies will take the risk, and precarious workers will continue to pay the price.”

Uber rival Bolt and Handyman app Taskrabbit are among the minor complaints found to pay below the minimum wage. Oxford University account on 11 of the UK’s major freelancing platforms discovered only two had provided evidence that their workers were paid above the minimum wage.

Employment legal partitioners advised individuals to implement the minimum wage themselves. Still, they may not know that companies are taking advantage of them by grouping them as self-employed rather than workers.  

Robinson said. “If you are someone who is classified by a company as a self-employed contractor, it’s very difficult to challenge that and say, ‘Actually, I work in a way that means that I should be paid the national minimum wage,’”

“The only way that people can do that is through bringing a claim in the employment tribunal, which is expensive and time-consuming. And so what happens is you do have a situation where people may very well be working in line with the way that an employee works but are classified as self-employed contractors,” she further said.

The quantity of employers on the government’s list covers only a segment of those who have paid their workers below the minimum wage. The Low Pay Commission approximates that 300,000 to 580,000 people are short-changed annually. HM Revenue and Customs, which is in charge of investigating abuses of minimum wage rule, forced companies to pay wages to just 155,000 workers the previous year.

In the past six years, only six employers have been brought to book for paying their workers below the minimum wage, notwithstanding tax authorities discovering over 6,500 defilements.

The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy was reached to remark on its ‘name and shame’ strategy but directed an independent news organization to HMRC.

“All businesses, irrespective of size or business sector, are responsible for paying the correct minimum wage to their staff. We won’t hesitate to act to ensure that workers receive what they are legally entitled to. Anyone not being paid what they are entitled to can complain online. If they want to speak with someone, they can phone the Acas Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0300 123 1100, who may transfer the call to HMRC,” An HMRC representative said.



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