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HMRC has recently published a list of some of the most absurd excuses they have been told by unscrupulous employers who do not want to pay their workers the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or National Living Wage (NLW).

Penalties issued

Although the Government acknowledges that most employers pay their employees at least the National Minimum Wage due to the complex rules even some large well-known high-street names have been caught out. 
During the tax year 2020/2021, HMRC helped over 155,000 UK workers recover over £16 million in underpayments of NMW. They have also issued over £14 million in penalties. However, the list below are examples of employers that simply do not want to pay NMW to their workers and offered HMRC the most ridiculous excuses.

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

No laughing matter

Steve Timewell, Director, Individuals and Small Business Compliance, HMRC, said: “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. We are making sure that workers are being paid what they are entitled to and, as the economy reopens, reminding employers of the rules and the help that is available to them.”

Here is a reminder of the National Minimum Wage hourly rates which apply from the first full pay reference period on or after 1 April 2021:

£8.91 – Age 23 or over (National Living Wage)
£8.36 – Age 21 to 22
£6.56 – Age 18 to 20
£4.62 – Age under 18
£4.30 – Apprentice

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