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Cumbrian joiner’s shock over minimum wage name and shame

A joiner “named and shamed” by the government for paying an apprentice less than the minimum wage says his only alternative would have been to sack him.

Steve Stainton photo
Steve Stainton

Steve Stainton’s name appeared on a list of 25 employers who collectively underpaid workers by £43,000.

Tough new rules mean that any employer found to have paid below the minimum wage – £6.31 an hour – will face having the fact paraded as a deterrent to others.

But Mr Stainton, 51, whose business is based in Cockermouth, said he has been wrongly been portrayed as a bad employer when all he tried to do was keep on his apprentice for a third year so he could gain a full qualification.

His business faced a cash crisis because another firm for whom he worked over a four-month period failed to pay him £10,000.

Even now, a year after the money should have been paid, he has only recovered £3,000 of the cash.

Mr Stainton, of Challoner Street, Cockermouth, said: “I was between a rock and a hard place. The apprentice had been with me for two years, and without the money I was owed I had a hard choice.

“I could either make him redundant, which would have meant he would not qualify at NVQ level three; or I could keep him on at a reduced rate.

“I thought I was doing what was best for him.”

Over the year in question, Mr Stainton underpaid the apprentice by £1,400. When he was asked by officials to hand over the extra cash to make up the wage he did so immediately.

Mr Stainton fully agrees with the minimum wage but argued that small employers were vulnerable to bad debt, yet they get no help when they take on apprentices. He said: “This will only put people off taking on apprentices because you get no support.

“After 36 years as a joiner, I have a massive amount of knowledge but I can’t pass that on now.

“I’d never take on another apprentice.

“I wanted to give the lad a chance.

“Now I’ve been made to feel like a criminal.”

Have your say

As a recent apprentice, people who are commenting this man backing should be ashamed of themselves

Apprentice wages are lower than the national minimum wage between the ages of 16 and their 19th birthday. Once they turn 19 then they are entitled to national minimum wage for a 19 year old.

Small businesses are given a government grant, currently to the tune of 1500 pounds for taking on an apprentice. To my knowledge this used to be higher but I am unsure of the amount.

College fees are also paid by a separate government grant. During the period of the course you are not allowed to leave your employment / current employer. Doing so means you must leave the course and as such lose your part earned qualification.

In my circumstances and some of my colleagues on the course. Our employers knew we could be used to there advantage ie short notice sick cover and unsociable hours etc. We were in the position where the qualification was often worth more than the poor wage we were paid.

As an apprentice the thing that used to annoy me the most was knowing that I was charged out on jobs at a qualified tradesman's rate without the knowledge of the customer.

Posted by jay on 10 June 2014 at 21:46

Tony Skillen at 04:13
He may have had the funds to pay immediately, but consider this - perhaps the money he used was to pay a supplier, possibly me or you! And now I/you haven't been paid! Everything isn't always black or white!
News and Star, I don't know why you single out and have these 'comment' pages on individual businesses like Steve it's just not necessary. Just report the facts of the story and leave it at that.
Otherwise - please open all stories up for comment, i.e. criminals, care home nurses, Appleby horse fair, politician's etc etc

Posted by FJ on 10 June 2014 at 16:18

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