LEGAL claims are being lodged against a “Scrooge” care company amid claims that it failed to pay staff the legal wage and holiday pay.

Apex Companions Ltd, trading as Apex Care, has a contract with Hampshire County Council to care for hundreds of disabled and frail elderly people in their own homes.

But the union Unison says that carers on zero hours contracts with the Romsey-based company have not been paid properly, while those who have spoken out have been forced out.

Regional organiser Peter Terry said: “Apex Care is publicly funded by Hampshire County Council who as far as I can see has done nothing to ensure they and other care providers comply with the law.

“We have it on good authority that the council was aware of these minimum wage breaches as far back as 2012.

“Unfortunately the county council has refused to consult with us over the content of this and future contracts, despite repeated requests from this union.

“It seems to us that they are more interested in protecting the interests of their contractors than the elderly and most vulnerable in our communities and the low-paid women carers who care for them.”

Despite Apex announcing their intention to pay for travel time last year, Unison claims staff are still not being paid for any time between visits, including travel time.

In many cases, the union says, this brings the hourly rate of pay down to unlawful levels – often less than £5 per hour.

Apex are also said to be refusing to consider any back-pay for previous periods where staff have worked and not received the minimum wage or the rates in accordance with the company’s own stated policy before December 2013. The company is also planning to withdraw their lease cars which, it is claimed, could leave low wage carers without transport.

Unison added that staff were banned from talking to the media or commenting on the company in any unfavourable way on social networking sites.

The legal claims have been lodged at the employment tribunal on behalf of both current and former employees of Apex working from their Romsey, Portsmouth and Winchester (now closed) offices.

As well as claims for non-payment of the minimum wage and holiday pay, it is alleged that Apex unlawfully deducted wages, failed to provide itemised pay statements, “detrimental treatment” because of union membership and unfair constructive dismissal.

Apex was unavailable for comment last night.