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29th April 2014

HMRC reveals the 10 ‘worst excuses’ given for not paying the National Minimum Wage

To coincide with the 15th anniversary of the National Minimum Wage (NMW), Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has revealed some of the more unusual reasons given by employers about why they don’t pay their employees the legal wage.

According to HMRC, ten of the more elaborate reasons given in the past 12 months were as follows:

•An employer said a woman on the premises was not entitled to NMW as she was his wife. When asked what his wife’s name was the employer said “err.. her name, err what’s your name love?..”

•An employer told HMRC: “I don’t think my workers know anything about the NMW because they don’t speak English.”

•Another employer told HMRC: “When the NMW goes up I do increase the amount I pay a little, even if the total pay is still below the NMW. I don’t think its right to ignore the rises in NMW.”

•A number of employers were paying rates below NMW, suggesting that accommodation they provided workers made up for their shortfall in wages.

•Upon inspection an employer told HMRC: “I know I am paying them too little, but they are happy to work for this amount because they are getting experience.”

•An employee claimed to be just working for a few days with a view to buying the business. When HMRC checked food safety records, the employee’s name was found on historic food temperature records.

•An employer claimed they realised they were not paying employees NMW and had just this week increased their wages… to an hourly rate which was still below the minimum wage.

•An employer told HMRC: “It wasn’t a conscious decision to say ‘I’m not going to pay this’, but I’ve never really considered doing it because I’ve not had people come to me and say, ‘I’m not getting paid enough’ or ‘Is this the minimum wage?’”

•An employee ran out of the premises when HMRC officers arrived to check for NMW infringements. The same employee then returned – minus the work pinafore – pretending to be a customer.

•Another employee claimed to be a friend of the owner and only in the restaurant as they were in the area. HMRC officers returned another day to find the person in the kitchen preparing food.

Jennie Granger, Director General of Enforcement and Compliance, HMRC, said:

“Most employers are honest and pay their staff the correct rate. But this research shows that some still view the National Minimum Wage as a choice and will even try these crazy excuses to avoid paying workers what they are due.”

“Last year, HMRC’s investigations resulted in over 26,000 people getting a share of £4 million in back pay. HMRC investigate all complaints of employers failing to pay minimum wage. We will take action to recover back pay for employees and fine employers who are not playing by the rules.  HMRC officers work hard across the UK to ensure that everyone is paid at least the National Minimum Wage.”

The standard adult rate of the National Minimum Wage (for employees aged 21 or over) is currently £6.31 per hour, although this is set to rise to £6.50 per hour from 1st October 2014.  Other rates apply to employees and workers aged under 21 – with those aged between 18 and 20 entitled to receive £5.03 per hour, and those aged under 18 (but over compulsory school age) entitled to £3.72 per hour.

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