HMRC exposes worst minimum wage excuses

HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) has published details of the most outrageous excuses it has heard from firms for not paying their staff the minimum wage.

Excuses heard from employers it investigated ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. One employer said: “She doesn’t deserve the national minimum wage because she only makes tea and sweeps the floors,” while another said: “The employee was not a good worker, so I did not think they deserved to be paid the national minimum wage.”

Other reasons firms provided were that their employee was “still learning,” while one said that staff had signed a contract to the effect that they know they won’t be paid a minimum wage.

While sounding preposterous, an HMRC spokesperson said the list it has published hides the very serious issue of substantial numbers of firms simply not abiding by minimum wage rules.

It revealed that in the 2020 to 2021 tax year, HMRC helped more than 155,000 workers across the UK recover more than £16 million in pay which was due to them, and also issued more than £14 million in penalties.

Steve Timewell, director individuals and small business compliance, HMRC, said: “The majority of UK employers pay their workers at least the national minimum wage, but this list shows some of the excuses provided to our enforcement officers by less scrupulous businesses.”

He added: “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.”

As it stands, all workers over the age of 23 should be paid at least £8.91 per hour.

One firm exposed by the HMRC said: “The national minimum wage does not apply to my business,” while another said: “It is part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first three months as they have to prove their ‘worth’ first.”

Timewell said: “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.”

He added: “Any employer deliberately or unapologetically underpaying their staff will face hefty fines and other enforcement action.”