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Business Minister warns that “Employers that short-change workers won’t get off lightly”

Business minister Paul Scully is warning businesses that it is unacceptable to pay workers below the minimum wage and that any company doing so “won’t get off lightly”.

His comments came today (Thursday 5 August) as 191 businesses were named and shamed for breaking national minimum wage law.

Following investigations by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, a total of £2.1 million was found to be owed to over 34,000 workers.

The breaches took place between 2011 and 2018. Named employers have since been made to pay back what they owed, and were fined an additional £3.2 million, showing it is never acceptable to underpay workers.

Whilst not all minimum wage underpayments are intentional, it has always been the responsibility of all employers to abide by the law. Clear guidance is available on gov.uk, which all employers should check.

Minimum wage breaches can occur when workers are being paid on or just above the minimum wage rate, and then have deductions from their pay for uniform or accommodation.

The employers named today previously underpaid workers in the following ways:

  • 47% wrongly deducted pay from workers’ wages, including for uniform and expenses
  • 30% failed to pay workers for all the time they had worked, such as when they worked overtime
  • 19% paid the incorrect apprenticeship rate

The business minister said:”Our minimum wage laws are there to ensure a fair day’s work gets a fair day’s pay – it is unacceptable for any company to come up short.

“All employers, including those on this list, need to pay workers properly.

“This government will continue to protect workers’ rights vigilantly, and employers that short-change workers won’t get off lightly.”

Chair of the Low Pay Commission Bryan Sanderson said: “These are very difficult times for all workers, particularly those on low pay who are often undertaking critical tasks in a variety of key sectors including care. The minimum wage provides a crucial level of support and compliance is essential for the benefit of both the recipients and our society as a whole.”

Employers who pay workers less than the minimum wage have to pay back arrears of wages to the worker at current minimum wage rates. They also face hefty financial penalties of up to 200% of arrears – capped at £20,000 per worker – which are paid to the government. Since 2015 the government has ordered employers to repay over £100 million to 1 million workers.

A significant number of the minimum wage breaches identified affected those on apprenticeships. Today the government has published new guidance to ensure employers know exactly what they need to do to pay their apprentices, and all workers, correctly.

The guidance can be accessed by clicking here.

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