A horse riding charity today defended itself after being included on a Government ‘name and shame’ list for organisations who have not paid some staff the minimum wage.
Tyne & Wear Riding for the Disabled Association, based at Washington Riding Centre, provides about 130 children and adults with a range of disabilities and learning difficulties with riding lessons every week
It has “neglected to pay £27,151.79 to six workers”, according to a list compiled by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.
The association, whose operation is based in Stephenson Road, was second highest on a national list of employers not paying some staff the minimum wage. The current minimum wage rate is £6.70 per hour for those aged 21 and over, £5.30 per hour for 18 to 20-year-olds, £3.87 for 16 to 17-year-olds and £3.30 for apprentices.
But the organisation has hit back, saying the reason it is on the list is an error they made in paying apprentices, who agreed to pay for additional training packages.
A statement read: “Over a period of five years, Tyne & Wear Riding for the Disabled, which is a small charity providing horse riding experiences to disabled and disadvantaged people of all ages, has offered a number of apprenticeship placements enabling candidates to achieve a Diploma in Work Based Horse Care Level 2.
“During that time, Tyne & Wear Riding for the Disabled has paid each person the national minimum wage for all hours worked. In addition to the apprenticeship, the candidates agreed that they would take advantage of the exceptional facilities and would have additional training packages for which there would be a cost.
“During the HMRC inspection, Tyne & Wear Riding for the Disabled were informed that to deduct this from a wage slip was not the correct procedure and we therefore fell foul of national minimum wage legislation.
“Tyne & Wear Riding for the Disabled has paid all of the monies back to each employee and did so at the earliest opportunity. We have enlisted the services of a HR company to ensure that we are always compliant going forward and have changed our practices to ensure no further administration errors occur. The fine we have had to pay to HMRC has had a significant impact on the services we provide for the community resulting in a refocusing of those services. Tyne & Wear Riding for the Disabled will continue to offer exceptional facilities to the disabled and disadvantaged having recently completed upgrading the demonstration area which has enabled people with wheelchairs to be provided not just with riding but stable management experiences.”
The naming and shaming scheme was revised in October 2013, to make it simpler to name and shame employers that do not comply with minimum wage rules.
Concerned businesses can contact Acas at www.acas.org.uk/nmw.