Nursery boss banned for under-paying staff

THE owner of a nursery business, who despite a fine and repeated warnings failed to pay staff the minimum wage, has been banned as a director.

Joanne Ward, 43, from  Prestwich ran Cygnets To Swans Limited from 2002 until it was placed into liquidation in October 2015, agreed to a six-year disqualification after an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

The Insolvency Service said she failed to ensure that the company complied with its statutory obligations under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 to ensure that employees were paid the minimum wage.

It added: “Following visits from HMRC national minimum wage enforcement officers in 2012 and 2013, it was discovered that 12 employees had not been paid the minimum wage dating back to 2010 and the company was issued with a £5,000 penalty, the maximum fine at the time, which remained outstanding at the date of liquidation.

“Additionally, whilst Ms Ward was not paying staff the minimum wage, she received personal benefits from the company totaling £157,601 in the form of wages, dividends and through an overdrawn directors loan account.”

Robert Clarke, group leader, insolvent investigations North, said: “The Insolvency Service rigorously pursues directors who break employment laws. Not paying staff the national minimum wage is a clear breach of a director’s duties. 

“The public has a right to expect that those who break the law will face the consequences. Running a limited company means you have statutory obligations as well as protections, and this should serve as a warning to other directors who are tempted to underpay staff.”

Cygnets To Swans traded from premises at 42 Whittaker Lane, Prestwich. Accounts for years ending April 2011, April 2012, April 2013 and 30 April 2014 show that Mrs Ward received benefits, in the form of wages, dividends and an overdrawn directors’ loan account, of £157,601.

When the business was placed in liquidation it owed creditors £65,195, which included the £5,000 penalty imposed by HMRC for non payment of the National Minimum Wage.