// HMRC reveals range of excuses used by employers to avoid paying their staff the National Minimum Wage
// It warned that any employer 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 HMRC has revealed a range of excuses used by employers to avoid paying their staff the National Minimum Wage in the past financial year.
While most employers comply with setting hourly rates based on experience and skills, the tax regulator has highlighted some “ridiculous” attempts to get around the legal requirement.
One employer claimed it was part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first three months so they can “prove their worth”.
Another said they only pay workers when they are serving customers in the shop, not when they are “just on standby”.
“My accountant and I speak a different language” and “she only makes teas” are some of the other excuses employers, the HMRC found.
Other excuses included the employer believing non-British workers do not have the right to be paid the minimum wage, while another said their workers “like to think of themselves as being self-employed and the National Minimum Wage does not apply to people who work for themselves”.
One employer even had staff sign a contract saying that they will not be paid the minimum wage.
HMRC did not name any of the employers or companies behind the excuses.
“This list shows some of the excuses provided to our enforcement officers by less scrupulous businesses,” HMRC small business compliance director Steve Timewell 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.”
He added: “Any employer deliberately or unapologetically underpaying their staff will face hefty fines and other enforcement action.”
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 retailers John Lewis 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-19 pandemic, compared to fewer than a fifth of other workers.
with PA Wires