The National Minimum Wage (NMW) has now been in place for more than two decades, and currently stands at £8.91 per hour for adults over the age of 23 (The National Living Wage).
The lowest figure paid out by employers should be £4.30 per hour, for an apprentice.
While a considerable number of breaches will be the result of oversights, errors or mistaken construal of the rules, a few dishonest employers are abusing their position of responsibility and have dreamed up some dubious excuses for not paying the rates dictated by law.
HMRC has published some of the defences employers have made, for non-payment:
- She does not deserve the National Minimum Wage because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors.
- The employee was not a good worker, so I did not think they deserved to be paid the National Minimum Wage.
- My accountant and I speak a different language – he does not understand me, and that is why he does not pay my workers the correct wages.
- My employee is still learning so they are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage.
- It is part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first three months as they have to prove their ‘worth’ first.
- The National Minimum Wage does not apply to my business.
- 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.
- 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.
HMRC says it has issued more than £14 million in penalties to employers who failed to pay the correct rate of the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage in the 2020/21 tax year.
More than £16 million in unpaid salaries was also recovered, which should have been paid to more than 155,000 workers across the UK.
Frances comments: “The National Minimum Wage has been in place for long enough now, that employers should not be trying to justify non-compliance.
“Fulfilling your legal obligations as an employer and respecting the responsibility you have to do right by your employees is of paramount importance. Failing to do so puts you at risk of both financial and reputational damage, and seriously undermines your workforce.
“Aside from an innocent oversight or misunderstanding of the rules, there is really no excuse for not being aware of or not paying the latest rates. If you fear you are at risk of misinterpreting the current legislation, or if you are concerned about processing errors, it may be wise to seek the advice of a payroll professional.”
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