Chester Zoo charity named for failing to pay minimum wage

13 Mar 2024 News

Pair of lions at the Zoo

By Luigi Petro/Adobe

A charity that manages Chester Zoo has been named by the government for failing to pay the minimum wage.

The North of England Zoological Society, which had an income of £50.7m in 2022, failed to pay a total of £7,906 to 67 workers, the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) reported following HMRC investigations.

A Chester Zoo spokesperson said: “Following a review with HMRC in 2019, it was brought to our attention that a calculation error resulting from salary sacrifice deductions had led to a breach in the regulations with a small number of zoo employees.

“Those affected were, of course, immediately reimbursed as soon as we became aware and we’ve since introduced a number of monthly checks to avoid this error happening again.”

In total, DBT named 524 employers in breach of national minimum wage law last month, all of which were ordered to repay over 172,000 workers nearly £16m plus an additional financial penalty.

Scotland-based charity Jericho Benedictine Society was listed as failing to pay £5,610 to five workers.

The religious charity, which recorded an income of £1.63m last year, has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Investigations by HMRC concluded between 2015 and 2023 show that those listed have since paid back the owed wages and faced penalties of up to 200% of their underpayment.

Minister: ‘Enforcement action will be taken’

Business minister Kevin Hollinrake said: “Employees deserve to get paid properly for the hard work they put in.

“While the majority of businesses already do the right thing and pay their staff what they are owed, today’s announcement sends a message to the minority who aren’t – that there are repercussions to undercutting hard work from their staff.

“Whilst not all minimum wage underpayments are intentional, the government has been clear that anyone entitled to be paid the minimum wage should receive it, and that enforcement action will be taken against employers who do not pay their staff correctly.”

This comes as minimum wage rates are set to increase next month, as announced in November’s autumn statement, which have been predicted to cost charities nearly £200m over six years.

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