National Minimum Wage – Fair or Farce?!

Published: 20/09/2021 By Hannah McCormack

It's the law that workers must be paid at least the minimum wage for their age but there are still a few employers who do not believe this is fair. HMRC has recently revealed some of the most outrageous excuses employers have used to express why they feel they shouldn’t be paying National Minimum Wage:

  1. “She does not deserve the National Minimum Wage because she only makes the teas 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 does not 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.”

Although these excuses seem to be shocking, HMRC have stated in the 20/21 tax year they helped more than 155,000 workers recover over £16 million in overdue wages and as a consequence issued more than £14 million in penalties to employers.

The Director of Individuals and Business Compliance -  Steve Timewell  has said now the economy is getting back on its feet, HMRC are ensuring that workers are paid what they are entitled to and are also reminding employers of the appropriate employment laws as well as what help is available to them.

If you are an employee, take this as a prompt to check your hourly rate, equally if you are an employer and are unsure of the rules do get in touch with HMRC as they will be happy to advise you, as if caught deliberately underpaying staff there will be fines and other enforcement action.
HMRC advise anyone not being paid what they are entitled to can complain via GOV.UK or if they want to speak with someone, in confidence, they should 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 or visit the National Minimum Wage guidance on GOV.UK to find out more.