The worst excuses for not paying minimum wage

Minimum wage exists for a good reason – it’s the baseline rate that all employers are required to pay their staff, and as such, at least in theory, it guarantees a certain standard of living for the working people of Britain.

But in some cases, the wage is simply not being paid – and part of HMRC’s remit is to enforce the standard.

The public body recently released some of the worst excuses they have been given by employers who fail to pay the full amount. We can presume that they have done this in order to demonstrate to businesses that there exists no good reason to deny workers a fair, living wage – and we are doing our bit to spread this information by sharing some of those excuses here.

  • An employer gave this excuse: ‘When the national minimum wage goes up I do increase the amount I pay a little, even if the total pay is still below. I don’t think its right to ignore the rises.’ This person may not have ignored the law outright, but neither did he make much effort to follow it.
  • ‘I don’t think my workers know anything about the national minimum wage because they don’t speak English.’ Rights are of course granted even to those who don’t know they exist.
  • In the same vein: ‘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?”‘ Workers may not know their rights, or they may simply fear losing their jobs if they cause a fuss. The law does not apply only to those who have the clout to ask for a raise.
  • Another 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.’ Workers must be paid the minimum wage except in select circumstances, for example, as part of a formal course of education.

‘Most employers are honest and pay their staff the correct rate,’ said Jennie Granger, director general of enforcement and compliance at HMRC. ‘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 forced back-pay of £4 mn to workers who had not received their wages in full. The minimum wage is currently £6.31 an hour for those over 21.

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