With the National Minimum Wage due to rise 19p to £6.50 per hour in October, HMRC has published a top-ten list of the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) excuses it has received from employers failing to pay staff the correct amount.

HMRC’s Director General of Enforcement and Compliance, Jennie Granger, reminded employers the NMW is not optional:

“Last year, HMRC’s investigations resulted in over 26,000 people getting a share of £4 million in back pay. HMRC investigate all complaints of employers failing to pay the minimum wage. We will take action to recover back pay for employees and fine employers who are not playing by the rules.

“HMRC officers work hard across the UK to ensure that everyone is paid at least the National Minimum Wage, and anyone who isn’t should call us.”

The taxman’s top ten excuses are:

  1. An employer said a woman on the premises was not entitled to NMW as she was his wife. When asked what his wife’s name was, the employer said: “Err, her name? What’s your name, love?”
  2. One employer told HMRC: “My employees don’t speak English, so they’re not entitled to it.”
  3. An employee ran out of the premises when HMRC officers arrived to check for NMW infringements. The same employee then returned – minus the work pinafore – with the employer claiming they were a customer.
  4. Another employer told HMRC: “When the NMW goes up I do increase the amount I pay a little, even if the total pay is still below the NMW. I don’t think it’s right to ignore rises in NMW.”
  5. Upon inspection, an 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.”
  6. An employer said his employee was just working for a few days, with a view to buying the business. When HMRC checked food safety records, the employee’s name was found on historic food temperature records.
  7. An employer claimed they realised they were not paying employees NMW and had just this week increased their wages…to an hourly rate which was still below the minimum wage.
  8. An employer told HMRC: “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?’”
  9. One employer claimed an employee was just a friend, and only in the restaurant as they were in the area. HMRC officers returned another day to find the employee in the kitchen preparing food.
  10. A number of employers claimed that accommodation they provided workers made up for their shortfall in wages.

HMRC urges workers who believe they are not being paid the Minimum Wage to alert them by calling the Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368.

Photo by David Goehring