EXCLUSIVE: Catering company hits back at HMRC over ‘underpaying employers list’ and fines

Corporate cake and biscuit caterer, Image on Food, has accused HMRC of misrepresenting information regarding supposed staff underpayments.

The HMRC list published 6 July said that Image on Food owed 14 members of its 50 strong workforce £3,514.74 in unpaid wages, however the catering company say the issue is “not quite as portrayed”.

Image on Food sales and marketing director, Sarah Hopcroft told Catering Today that due to being a seasonal business, the company paid staff for 30 hours a week even if they were only required for significantly less than that.

Hopcroft says that the hours not worked during off-peak hours would then be banked and worked during peak times such as Christmas and Halloween. She says her company’s payment plan was fully agreed with staff and the company’s HR firm before being implemented.

Image on Food has been fighting a two-and-a-half-year legal battle with HMRC over what is described by Hopcroft as a “very grey area”. Hopcroft said after spending £12,000 in legal fees the company questioned if the case was worth fighting and paid the £3,500 fine.

Hopcroft said HMRC had made the situation look “horrendous” as staff had actually ended up being paid twice for some hours, with Hopcroft adding “we feel very aggrieved”.

Staff at Image on Food have also been negatively affected by the fine and punishments from HMRC as Hopcroft said the company has had to take away perks such as paid breaks in order to comply with HMRC regulations.

Image on Food managing director Tim Hopcroft said: “Our payment arrangements for our staff had been devised to enable a monthly source of consistent income over a 12-month period due the seasonal nature of our business. However, we were later led to believe that this method of payment was in breach of National Minimum Wage regulations and we were required to reconcile our payroll for £3,500 covering a three-year period.

“We have worked closely with the HMRC to ensure that National Minimum Wage Regulations apply to all our employees and the issue was successfully resolved with those affected in 2017.”

Despite the managing director’s comments that the issue had been resolved the company still featured on the HMRC’s list of those with outstanding wage debts to staff.

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