We’ve just provided an initial phase of crisis support to a company facing the risk of reputational fallout following an audit by the Government’s HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Although the company has always given its workers basic pay at or above the national minimum wage, in some cases it had also been making payroll deductions – for providing transport to work – which brought them below this level.

At the end of a three-year investigation, HMRC this month ruled that, while it’s fair in principle for workers to pay for transport, the payroll deductions infringed the technicalities of minimum wage rules. It ordered the company to reimburse a thousand workers and pay a heavy fine, hitting it with a bill of nearly £300,000.

With a previously-unblemished 20-year track record, the company rightly recognised it’s of paramount importance to protect its reputation from any perception of deliberate misconduct.

Its MD appointed us to provide crisis communications advice to ensure it’s ready to tell its side of the story if the issue comes to public attention – a significant threat, as HMRC periodically ‘names and shames’ firms it finds in breach of minimum wage rules.

We sat down with the directors to look in detail at the situation and provided advice on the best underlying message on which to base communications.

We’ve drafted statements explaining what happened, and a ‘Hostile Q&A’ to ensure the company’s directors and managers are fully prepared to answer tough questions if they arise.

We’ve helped the firm explain to its workers why it’s reimbursing them for past deductions. And we’re ready to support the company further if HMRC publishes details of the case or it gains attention through other means.

In all of the communications, we’re emphasising that the firm has always paid its workers fairly, that its breach was an accidental technicality, and that — despite an extremely harsh HMRC ruling — it has immediately put matters right.

The company’s Managing Director told us:

“The guidance you’ve given us has been absolutely excellent — thank you. You’ve provided us with the confidence and tools to tackle any hostility in a consistent and professional manner and we’ll have no hesitation in recommending your services.”


If you need support with a difficult situation, see more on our crisis communications services and don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Image courtesy of One Click Group