A Midlands gents' hairdressing company has been subjected to a special investigation by tax inspectors because its workforce has been coming up to expectations too often.
An additional probe was carried out into the finances of UK Barber Shops and Kents Hairdressers, which together claim to make up the largest independent chain of salons, after the HM Revenue and Customs computer queried why so many employees had been off on maternity leave.
After less than a day of checking the figures, the inspection team discovered the reason was probably that 80 per cent of the stylists at the company's 16 salons in the West Midlands, Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire are women.
"I never object to HM Revenue inspecting my books because I have absolutely nothing to hide," said Antony Kent who owns the company jointly with his wife, Patricia.
"Apparently, their computer threw up the statistic that we have an abnormally high proportion of people on maternity leave for a company of our size, but that is hardly surprising. When the percentage of your women employees is three times greater than everyone else's, then the percentage of pregnant employees is likely to be three times greater as well."
The company at present has around 12 per cent of its workforce in various stages of pregnancy or motherhood. Four stylists are expecting babies but still working, three are actually on maternity leave and two have recently returned to work.
A high proportion of mothers carry on working for the company, which was founded 70 years ago by Antony's grandfather, Vic Kent, with a single shop in Yardley, Birmingham, because it still has the family ethos which he encouraged.