HMRC reveals top 10 excuses from employers for not paying employees minimum wage

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has revealed 10 of the most "absurd" excuses employers have given the organisation for not paying staff the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

When facing queries as to why companies had not paid their staff the NMW, employers responded to the HMRC with a range of excuses, including “My employee is still learning so they are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage” to “The National Minimum Wage does not apply to my business”.

Over the past year, HMRC has helped recover more than £16 million in pay for more than 155,000 employees in the UK. The department also issued more than £14 million in penalties to employers who failed to pay their workers.

10 of the most absurd reasons HMRC has received from employers about not paying employees the National Minimum Wage:

  1. “She does not deserve the National Minimum Wage because she only makes the tea and sweeps the floors”
  2. “The employee was not a good worker, so I did not think they deserved to be paid the National Minimum Wage”
  3. “My accountant and I speak a different language – he doesn’t understand me, and that is why he does not pay my workers the correct wages”
  4. “My employee is still learning so they are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage”
  5. “It is part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first three months as they have to prove their ‘worth’ first”
  6. “The National Minimum Wage does not apply to my business”
  7. “I have got an agreement with my workers that I will not pay them the National Minimum Wage; they understand, and they even signed a contract to this effect”
  8. “I thought it was okay to pay young workers below the National Minimum Wage as they are not British and therefore do not have the right to be paid it”
  9. “My workers like to think of themselves as being self-employed and the National Minimum Wage does not apply to people who work for themselves”
  10. “My workers are often just on standby when there are no customers in the shop; I only pay them for when they are actually serving someone”

“Being underpaid is no joke for workers, so we always apply the law and take action. Workers cannot be asked or told to sign away their rights,” said Steve Timewell, director individuals and small business compliance, HMRC.

“We are making sure that workers are being paid what they are entitled to and, as the economy reopens, reminding employers of the rules and the help that is available to them.”

What are the current National Minimum Wage hourly rates?

The National Minimum Wage hourly rates for 2021 are:

 Anyone not being paid what they are entitled to can complain online, or phone the Acas Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0300 123 1100, who can transfer the call to HMRC. Employers can also contact the Acas Helpline for free help and advice

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