According to HMRC one employer claimed that it is ‘part of UK culture’ not to pay young workers for the first three months, this is one of a number of awful excuses for not paying staff the minimum wage.
Steve Timewell, director of individuals and small business compliance, HMRC, said: “This list shows some of the excuses provided to our enforcement officers by less scrupulous businesses. 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.”
Mr Timewell added: “Any employer deliberately or unapologetically underpaying their staff will face hefty fines and other enforcement action.”
HMRC did not name any of the employers or companies behind the excuses.
The National Minimum Wage starts at £4.30 an hour for an apprentice and £4.62 per hour for those aged under 18, rising to £6.56 for those aged 18 to 20, £8.36 for those aged 21 to 22 and £8.91 per hour for anyone aged 23 or over.
Earlier this month the HMRC revealed that 191 companies, including John Lewis, Pret A Manger and The Body Shop, failed to pay £2.1 million to more than 34,000 workers between 2011 and 2018.
New research last month also found that around 3.7 million people are “trapped” in low-paid and insecure work, often receiving less than 24 hours’ notice for their shifts.
The Living Wage Foundation said its analysis of official figures showed that almost half of insecure, low-paid workers were away from work, mainly due to being furloughed, during the height of the Covid crisis, compared to fewer than a fifth of other workers.
The top ten most ridiculous excuses for flouting the law included:
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “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.”