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Minimum wage breach a ‘genuine mistake’ claim

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: November 12, 2012

Anthony Blake

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A GARAGE owner has denied exploiting a trainee after being ordered by a court to pay him almost £4,000 in minimum wage arrears.

Anthony Blake, boss of The Forge Garage in Dag Lane, Lullington, spoke after Northampton County Court told him to give 22-year-old Scott Bolton £3,906 ‘for failing to meet legal obligations to pay the national minimum wage’, which stands at £6.19 for workers aged 21 and over.

The 64-year-old businessman was also instructed to pay HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) £222 to cover costs.

Asked if he had exploited Mr Bolton, who lives in Netherseal, Mr Blake said: “I know that’s how it looks but that’s certainly far from the truth.

“I probably do feel a bit peeved about it and the fact it’s come about, but we’ve put our hands up to it and from our point of view I think we’ve probably sorted it out. It was just a mistake.

“I was aware of the claim. We certainly did not disagree with HMRC at all. We gave them all the facts and figures.”

Issued on November 1, the court’s judgement requires the garage to clear the arrears within 28 days or face further legal action.

Mr Blake said his 26-year-old business had already paid Mr Bolton the bulk of the money and was due to give him the £500 balance.

He said it would also clear HMRC’s costs.

Mr Bolton, who has worked at Forge for four years, denied feeling exploited.

“Mr Blake made a genuine mistake and as soon as it came about he corrected it straight away.

“I’m happy with everything.”

The case against the garage was brought under the 1998 National Minimum Wage Act and involved a visit by an HMRC inspector.

Precisely how the authorities were tipped off remains unclear.

Michelle Wyer, HMRC’s assistant director of national minimum wage, said: “Forge Garage failed to respond to the evidence presented regarding its failure to pay the national minimum wage and we are pleased the court has made this judgement in their absence.

“Our aim is to enforce the law and protect vulnerable workers.”

She said employers were welcome to seek advice from HMRC at any time by calling its pay and workers rights helpline on 0800 917 2368.

They could also contact it during any stage of an inquiry to discuss the resolution of outstanding issues.

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