Yes, these are real excuses that business owners have given HMRC to explain why the law about minimum wage rates simply doesn’t apply to them:
- Her job’s too menial: “She doesn’t deserve the national minimum wage because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors.”
- Do you know who I am? “The national minimum wage doesn’t apply to my business.”
- I’ll pay them properly when they can do the job: “My employee is still learning so they aren’t entitled to the national minimum wage.”
- I have a foreign accountant: “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.”
- It’s not the international minimum wage: “I thought it was okay to pay foreign workers below the national minimum wage as they aren’t British and therefore don’t have the right to be paid it.”
- Because I’m worth it – they’re not: “It’s part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first three months as they have to prove their ‘worth’ first.”
- Performance-related pay: “The employee wasn’t a good worker so I didn’t think they deserved to be paid the national minimum wage.”
- Yeah, but they signed on the dotted line: “I’ve got an agreement with my workers that I won’t pay them the national minimum wage; they understand and they even signed a contract to this effect.”
- It’s not who you are, it’s who you think you are: “My workers like to think of themselves as being self-employed and the national minimum wage doesn’t apply to people who work for themselves.”
- Standby me: “My workers are often just on standby when there are no customers in the shop; I only pay them for when they’re actually serving someone.”
We could provide commentary on WHY all of these bizarre excuses are completely and utterly wrong … But some things just speak for themselves.
It doesn’t matter who the business owner is, what their accounting arrangements are, whether their workers are performing at the desired level, are pieceworkers, home workers, agency workers, commission workers, part-time workers or casual workers. The fact remains that if they aren’t paying minimum wage, they’re breaking the law.
This lame excuses list has been released as part of a nationwide campaign to raise awareness among the low paid about their minimum legal wage and flag up cases of non-compliance to HMRC. Anyone who thinks they may be paid less is being encouraged to contact ACAS as soon as possible, and every call is followed up. HMRC’s enforcement budget, used to fund the number of compliance officers investigating minimum wage complaints, is £20 million a year and will increase by another £4.3 million this April.
The consequences for your business of underpaying staff what they’re legally entitled to receive could be dire: here's more about the level of fines being imposed by HMRC.
As a refresher, the current National Living Wage for all employees aged 25 years and over is £7.20 an hour. The National Minimum Wage rates are currently:
- for employees aged 25 years and over £7.20 an hour
- for 21- to 24-year-olds £6.95 an hour
- for 18-20 year olds £5.55 an hour
- for 16-17 year olds £4 an hour
- for those in the first year of an apprenticeship, £3.40 an hour
The rates rise again a little in April 2017: watch this blog for an update.