10 bizarre excuses for evading National Minimum Wage

Having an accountant who speaks a different language and only employing foreign workers are among a list of ten of the most bizarre excuses used by companies found to have underpaid workers the National Minimum Wage (NMW), according to HMRC

The list, published at the start of a £1.7m awareness campaign, is compiled from information given to HMRC investigators by employers caught out for underpaying staff.

It includes the claim ‘my accountant and I speak a different language – he doesn’t understand me and that’s why he doesn’t pay my workers the correct wages.’

Other excuses are only wanting to pay staff when there are customers to serve, as otherwise ‘they are on standby’, saying an employee was still learning and so not eligible, and claiming ‘it’s part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first three months as they have to prove their worth first’.

Employers have also told HMRC that an employee was not a good worker and so did not deserve to be paid the NMW, while other bosses said they thought it was OK to pay foreign workers a lower rate as they are not British and are not subject to NMW rules, or reported that an employee did not deserve the NMW ‘because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors’.

One business claimed to have an agreement with its workers that they would not be paid the NMW and said they had understood and signed a contract to this effect, while another said his workers liked to think of themselves as being self-employed and the NMW does not apply to people who work for themselves. Others simply stated that the NMW did not apply to their business.

The list has been published to coincide with a new awareness campaign to encourage workers to check their pay to ensure they are receiving at least the statutory minimum ahead of the NMW and national living wage (NLW) rates s rising on 1 April 2017.

By law, all workers must be paid at least £7.20 an hour if they are aged 25 years and over, or the NMW rate relevant to their age if they are younger.

Business Minister Margot James said: ‘There are no excuses for underpaying staff what they are legally entitled to. This campaign will raise awareness among the lowest paid in society about what they must legally receive and I would encourage anyone who thinks they may be paid less to contact Acas as soon as possible.

‘Every call is followed up by HMRC and we are determined to make sure everybody in work receives a fair wage.’

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