How bad is worst? What scaling numbers might reveal

High-street retailer Monsoon Accessorize has topped the government’s name-and-shame list of employers failing to pay the National Minimum Wage. This was reported wildly, such as here from the BBC:

Screen grab of BBC coverage of national minimum wage name-and-shame

They failed to pay workers £104,507.83, nearly four times as much as the £27,151.79 owed by the second on the list.

Failing to pay workers what they have earned is reprehensible. But is Monsoon Accessorize actually the worst in terms of impact on individuals?

Of the 115 employers named, they failed to pay the most. But that was to 1438 workers. On a per-worker (mean) average basis, maybe things look different. Scaling numbers to an appropriate standard unit can reveal good or bad that is otherwise out of sight overall.

So, let’s have a look at what happens on a (mean) average basis. Before we do that, a note of caution. It’s quite possible that there were some individuals who were underpaid considerably more than the average underpayment for their employer would suggest.

This is the table of the top five ordered by total unpaid.

Employer Sum Number Mean
Employer 1 £104,507.83 1438 £72.68
Employer 2 £27,151.79 6 £4,525.30
Employer 3 £23,857.11 18 £1,325.40
Employer 4 £20,535.03 5 £4,107.01
Employer 5 £14,253.66 9 £1,583.74

Source: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; Calculation: numbers in column ‘mean’ are the numbers in column ‘sum’ divided by numbers in column ‘number’

Note that the employer number is their position in the government list. I’ve removed names as the numbers reveal how employers in lower positions are put in the spotlight when scaling takes place.

But reordering by mean amount unpaid this is the top five:

Employer Sum Number Mean
Employer 10 £8,280.45 1 £8,280.45
Employer 6 £14,208.40 2 £7,104.20
Employer 15 £4,629.14 1 £4,629.14
Employer 2 £27,151.79 6 £4,525.30
Employer 16 £4,312.19 1 £4,312.19

Note that only Employer 2 is in both lists. Indeed, in this list Monsoon Accessorize is 112th of the 115.

Looking at employers who owed to three or more employees – ones who might be expected by virtue of size to have good payroll procedures:

Employer Sum Number Mean
Employer 2 £27,151.79 6 £4,525.30
Employer 4 £20,535.03 5 £4,107.01
Employer 9 £9,159.80 3 £3,053.27
Employer 11 £7,516.44 3 £2,505.48
Employer 12 £5,978.17 3 £1,992.72

Employer 2 can now be seen at the top of this list.

This doesn’t take away from Monsoon Accessorize’s transgression. But there will be others on the government list that might be grateful that their own faults are ‘hidden’ by a focus on overall sums involved.

I should applaud the web site, Workplace Savings and Benefits, who did work out the average underpayments.

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